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Monthly Archives: April 2008

I killed the witness, so don’t admit her statement?

Today, the Supreme Court takes up the question of whether a defendant on trial for murder can assert a Confrontation Clause challenge to statements made by the victim because the victim is unavailable for cross examination.

In Giles v. California, set for oral arguments this morning, the petitioner urges the Court to adopt a view that Confrontation Clause challenges are only barred if the defendant in the case made the witness unavailable for the purpose of keeping him or her from testifying at trial.

Although the defendant, the petitioner in the case, admitted to killing his girlfriend, he said since there were no charges pending against him when he killed her, her prior statements should not have been admitted.

California appellate courts upheld his conviction, and the state urges the Court to adopt the view that a defendant who kills a witness automatically waives any Confrontation Clause objections, no matter the reason for the killing.

More on the case – as well as on any other newsworthy orders and decisions – on this blog and Lawyers USA’s website later. Subscribers can click here for LUSA’s preview.

I killed the witness, so don’t admit her statement?

Today, the Supreme Court takes up the question of whether a defendant on trial for murder can assert a Confrontation Clause challenge to statements made by the victim because the victim is unavailable for cross examination.

In Giles v. California, set for oral arguments this morning, the petitioner urges the Court to adopt a view that Confrontation Clause challenges are only barred if the defendant in the case made the witness unavailable for the purpose of keeping him or her from testifying at trial.

Although the defendant, the petitioner in the case, admitted to killing his girlfriend, he said since there were no charges pending against him when he killed her, her prior statements should not have been admitted.

California appellate courts upheld his conviction, and the state urges the Court to adopt the view that a defendant who kills a witness automatically waives any Confrontation Clause objections, no matter the reason for the killing.

More on the case – as well as on any other newsworthy orders and decisions – on this blog and Lawyers USA’s website later. Subscribers can click here for LUSA’s preview.

Supreme Court lifts execution stays

Executions may resume in a host of states after the U.S. Supreme Court denied the appeals of death row inmates from Mississippi, Alabama and Texas today – a move that came days after the Court’s fractured decision in Baze v. Rees that the method of lethal injection used in Kentucky (as well as in the other states) does not violate the constitution.

The appeal denials leave inmates Thomas Arthur of Alabama, Earl Wesley Berry of Mississippi and Carlton Turner of Texas facing possible imminent execution. Capital sentences are free to resume in other states as well, but most do not have immediate executions scheduled.

Monday status conference: The Supremes, one week only

This week, the Supreme Court will hear the last oral arguments of this term. See this post for more details. Updates on newsworthy decisions, orders or other news can be found here this afternoon.

In the meantime, here’s a peek at some of the stories in this week’s issue of Lawyers USA. Subscribers can click the links following each item to see the whole story:

A Colorado dairy and five of the nation’s biggest retailers have been hit with lawsuits alleging they mislabeled milk as organic so they could charge customers higher prices. The milk fight is being closely watched in the organic food industry as a harbinger of potentially costly legal battles for the hearts and wallets of organic food shoppers. More here.

As a wide-ranging debate about immigration policy continues to rage in the U.S., new data from the EEOC suggest that complaints against employers over “English Only” workplace policies may be on the upswing. More here.

Some lawyers don’t just take work on vacation – they take their colleagues too. Here’s the story of one firm whose partners vacationed together with their families, often going to exotic parts of the world, partly for the pure fun of it and partly as a way to develop a deeper relationship as business partners. More here.

Meanwhile, in other legal news from inside the Beltway:

The patent bill appears to be all but dead. (WSJ)

Lobbyists are finding ways to get around the new ethics law. (NYT)

While Congress continues to debate a permanent measure, President Bush signed a one-week extension of current farm law. (AP)

The Justice Department is taking heat for strategy that may prevent attacks but rarely brings convictions. (WaPo)

Friday Morning Docket: Court readies to hear last arguments of term

The warm days make it feel almost like summer, but school’s not out yet for lawmakers in Congress, who will have a busy week next week taking up legislation including the bill that would restart the statute of limitations for equal pay claims with the issuance of each paycheck – a bill that responds to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

The justices of the Supreme Court will hold a conference today, and I’ll post updates about any newsworthy orders that may emerge this afternoon.

Meanwhile, next week the Court holds its last week of oral arguments this term.

The week kicks off with arguments in Sprint Communications v. APCC Services Monday morning, a case considering whether a plaintiff assigned the right to pursue a legal claim has established standing under Article III, even though the plaintiff will not recover any judgment.

Then the Court will hear attorneys in Engquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture, which considers whether the decision in Village of Willowbrook v. Olech allows so-called “class of one” equal protection claims against government bodies in the context of employment discrimination.

Tuesday the Court will hear Davis v. Federal Election Commission, a case seeking to determine whether the Millionaire’s Amendment to the 2002 campaign finance law, which raises the contribution limit for those running against a self-financed candidate, violate free speech clause of the First Amendment and the equal protection principle of the Fifth Amendment.

Then in Giles v. California, the Court will hear arguments on whether, under the Confrontation Clause, a defendant who admitted killing his ex-girlfriend forfeit his right to confront her about her statements on a previous domestic incident.

On Wednesday, in Metlife v. Glenn, the Court considers whether insurance carriers have the right to represent to a court that an individual is disabled when the insurance carrier separately determines for other purposes that the individual is in fact not disabled.

And finally, the Court will hear arguments in Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Lab, the Court will consider whether the burden of proving whether the reasonableness of adverse employment decisions occurring as part of a claim for age discrimination under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act rests with the employee or the employer.

Meanwhile,

Even as he voted in support of keeping Kentucky’s lethal injection death penalty method, Justice John Paul Stevens renounced capital punishment, The New York Times’ Linda Greenhouse wrote. (NYT)

President Bush is pushing for a national goal of halting the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 – a voluntary target – mostly by curbing power plant pollution. (WaPo)

The head of the union that represents 6,000 federal food inspectors told a congressional committee Thursday that the Agriculture Department tried to intimidate him and other employees who reported violations of regulations, an allegation denied by the agency. (AP)

Death penalty takes center-stage at the Supreme Court

Today the U.S. Supreme handed down one of the most anticipated opinions of the term, holding in a plurality decision that Kentucky’s use of a three-drug “cocktail” does not constitute “cruel and unusual” punishment in violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment, despite the fact that one of the drugs may render the inmate unable to indicate if he or she is suffering pain. The decision in Baze v. Rees can be found here.

What is clear – even among the six justices whose opinion and concurrences protected the state’s ability to continue using the execution method – is that the decision seems to complicate, rather than clarify, the standard for Eighth Amendment death penalty analysis.

The decision presented a “battle of the standards” of sorts. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who authored the opinion joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Samuel Alito, said the standard should be whether an execution method creates a “substantial” or “objectively intolerable” risk of serious harm.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurrence joined by Scalia, offered a different test: an execution method can only be found violative of the Eighth Amendment if is “deliberately designed to inflict pain.”

Justice Breyer set forth another standard of whether the method creates a “significant risk of unnecessary suffering.”

Justice John Paul Stevens, who concurred in the judgment, but was highly critical of the way the decision was rendered, wrote that the Court did more to further the debate over the death penalty than to clear it up.

“I assumed that our decision would bring the debate about lethal injection as a method of execution to a close,” Stevens wrote in his concurrence. “It now seems clear that it will not. . . . Instead of ending the controversy, I am now convinced that this case will generate debate not only about the constitutionality of the three-drug protocol, [but] also about the justification for the death penalty itself.”

The Court also heard oral arguments in a case considering whether the death penalty as punishment for child rape constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. I’ll have more on that coming up.

Court ponders constitutionality of death penalty for child rape

Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on whether the death penalty can be used for a non-homicide offense – namely child rape – or whether such a punishment constitutes unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment in Kennedy v. Louisiana. I’ll bring you the highlights from the arguments on this blog and on the web edition of Lawyers USA.

Meanwhile, ABC News has a preview of the case here.

Tax day at the Supreme Court

The fact that today is April 15 was not lost on the U.S. Supreme Court this morning.

“Remarkably enough, we have two tax cases to announce today,” said Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. at the beginning of today’s session, drawing laughs from the audience.

In the first case, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, a unanimous Court threw out a state court ruling that allowed Illinois to tax a portion of Ohio-based MeadWestvaco Corp.’s capital gains from the 1994 sale of Lexis/Nexis. More on that case, MeadWestvaco v. Illinois Department of Revenue, No. 06-1413, here from CNNMoney.

In another case, penned by Roberts, the Court limited to three years the time frame that coal mining units of TECO Energy Inc. can get tax refunds in their dispute with the federal government over coal export tax payments. More here from the Wall Street Journal on U.S. v. Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Co., No. 07-308

Court to consider cases on prosecutorial immunity, Clean Air Act

Can a wrongly-convicted person sue the district attorney and other high-ranking supervisory prosecutorial officials for civil rights violations?

That is what the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider this morning in the case Van de Kamp v. Goldstein.
In that case, a man wrongly convicted for murder seeks to sue the prosecutors for relying on evidence of a jailhouse information who testified that he received nothing in return for his testimony. It was later revealed he testified in a myriad of cases as part of a deal he struck for a lighter sentence.

The Court of Appeals let the defendant’s lawsuit claiming civil rights violations go forward, but the prosecutors in the case argue that they are immune from liability arising out of their work as prosecutors.

The Court also agreed today to consider whether the Clean Water Act authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to compare costs with benefits in determining the “best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact” at cooling water intake structures. That cert grant is for the consolidated cases of Entergy Corp. v. EPA, PSEG Fossil v. Riverkeeper, and Utility Water Act Group v. Riverkeeper.

See today full orders from the Court here.

Monday status conference: The Pope and the tax man cometh

This week, as countless Americans rush to get their tax returns (or extensions, at least) filed by tomorrow night’s deadline, President George W. Bush is preparing to fete Pope Benedict XVI on his first visit to the U.S. The president will even greet the leader of the Catholic Church at the airport Tuesday – something no other president has ever done.

Oral arguments resume this week at the U.S. Supreme Court. Check this earlier post for summaries of the cases before the justices this week. Also the Court may release some grants of certiorari and other orders today, so stay tuned for any newsworthy developments.

Meanwhile:

It’s hard out here for Alberto: Former Attorney General Gonzales is having a tough time finding a job, sources tell the New York Times. (NYT, via ABA Journal)

Speaking of taxes, if you are dying to know, President Bush and his wife paid $221,635 in federal taxes on an adjusted gross income of $923,807 for the year 2007. (AP).

The White House, Congress and federal agencies have all come up with plans they say will help stem the housing crisis. Now the presidential candidates are weighing in as well. (AP)

Meanwhile, world economic leaders say that the food crises is a far bigger problem than the credit crisis. (NYT)

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