Quantcast
Home / 2008 / July (page 2)

Monthly Archives: July 2008

Friday morning docket: hot off the presses

The weather is hot in DC, and so is the legal news:

Lawmakers have introduced a bill aimed at changing the process by which firms are selected to supervise corporate white-collar criminal defendants who have settled their cases with the government, a move lawmakers said was necessary to stamp out self-dealing and conflicts of interest. (Lawyers USA)

Court rulings on Thursday cleared the way for the first trial at the American detention camp in Guantánamo Bay. (NYT)

The 2010 Census will not count same-sex marriages, saying the Defense of Marriage Act bars the agency from recognizing same-sex marriages, even though they are legal in Massachusetts and California. (AP)

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she is pushing for about $50 billion in a second election-year economic stimulus package being shaped by Democrats in Congress. (Reuters)

Lawmakers want to make executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to have their pay packages subject to government approval as part of a bill give a helping hand to the mortgage lenders. (AP)

As the EPA warns that global warming will be a “substantial” threat to human health in the coming decades, former Vice President Al Gore said the U.S. must make as much of an effort toward using renewable energy by 2018 as it did in the 1960s to put a man on the moon. (WaPo).

Lawmaker charges Supremes with “Courting Big Business”

Leahy

Leahy

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy isn’t so happy with some the decisions the Supreme Court handed down this term. So he had scheduled a hearing next week titled “Courting Big Business: The Supreme Court’s Recent Decisions on Corporate Misconduct and Laws Regulating Corporations.”

In announcing the hearing, Leahy said that the recent decisions in Exxon Shipping v. Baker and Stoneridge Investment Partners, LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta evidence the Court’s pro-business leanings.

“In June, the Judiciary panel examined recent Supreme Court decisions that have preempted several state laws established to protect Americans, including laws to shield Americans from illegal hiring practices, medical liability, and predatory lending practices,” reads Leahy’s press release announcing the hearing.

“The July 23 hearing is expected to feature a witness who will testify about the lasting effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska on the livelihoods of hundreds of fishermen and sailors, as well as witnesses who will testify about how the January Supreme Court ruling in Stoneridge Investment Partners, LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta, Inc. impacts senior citizens, and the widespread effects of Supreme Court rulings in the area of binding mandatory arbitration.”

Lawmaker charges Supremes with “Courting Big Business”

Leahy

Leahy

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy isn’t so happy with some the decisions the Supreme Court handed down this term. So he had scheduled a hearing next week titled “Courting Big Business: The Supreme Court’s Recent Decisions on Corporate Misconduct and Laws Regulating Corporations.”

In announcing the hearing, Leahy said that the recent decisions in Exxon Shipping v. Baker and Stoneridge Investment Partners, LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta evidence the Court’s pro-business leanings.

“In June, the Judiciary panel examined recent Supreme Court decisions that have preempted several state laws established to protect Americans, including laws to shield Americans from illegal hiring practices, medical liability, and predatory lending practices,” reads Leahy’s press release announcing the hearing.

“The July 23 hearing is expected to feature a witness who will testify about the lasting effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska on the livelihoods of hundreds of fishermen and sailors, as well as witnesses who will testify about how the January Supreme Court ruling in Stoneridge Investment Partners, LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta, Inc. impacts senior citizens, and the widespread effects of Supreme Court rulings in the area of binding mandatory arbitration.”

Exxon fights for its interest

The Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989

The Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989

The ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker cutting the punitive damages award in the case arising from the notorious 1989 Valdez oil spill off the Alaskan coast did not bring an end to the legal drama.

Now the oil company is seeking more relief from the Court, asking it to rule that the company does not have to pay interest on the $507 million judgment. Interest would nearly double the amount Exxon would pay.

Attorneys for the company submitted a nine-page brief to the Court yesterday, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

“Exxon does not agree that there is any sound basis to award plaintiffs what they seek — approximately $488 million over and above the $507.5 million that this Court determined was the legally proper amount to punish and deter,” the filing reads.

The Court has wrapped up its term. Although some petitions are considered by the justices during the summer months, it is unclear whether any action on the filing will occur before the Court officially reconvenes in October.

Thinking of the next Supreme Court justice

We know that the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are a healthy, spry bunch - even though two-thirds of the justices are age 68 or higher. Even the most senior members show no signs of slowing down, with Justice John Paul Stevens still enjoying tennis and swims in the Atlantic Ocean at the age of 88, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg regularly hitting the elliptical trainers in the Court’s gym at the young age of 75.

But it is a presidential election year, and that means that members of the campaign teams of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain are talking about who might be considered for the bench, should a seat become vacant.

“Regardless of who is elected president, there will be strong sentiments in favor of appointing a woman or someone who would reflect other elements of diversity such as an Hispanic or African-American,” veteran Supreme Court litigator and former U.S. solicitor general Theodore Olsen told Bloomberg News. Olsen is an advisor for McCain’s campaign.

So who might be on Obama’s judicial short list? Experts quoted in the Bloomberg piece point to potential candidates like former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, now a partner at WilmerHale, and and Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan.

McCain’s high court list may include names like former United States Deputy Solicitor General Maureen Mahoney, now a partner at Latham & Watkins, a lawmaker like Texas Sen. John Cornyn, or 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Michael McConnell.

Monday morning briefing: The Supreme edition

A brand new issue of Lawyers USA is out this morning, and here are previews of some the stories inside. Subscribers can click on the links for the full stories:

New online health accounts that give consumers a way to store and track their medical data are the newest frontier in the unregulated terrain of electronic health records.These accounts fall outside HIPAA requirements, leaving them in a murky legal area with few laws. More here.

Medtronic, Exxon and Heller - oh, my!

Take a look back at the Supreme Court term that was, which was marked by a number of significant cases that boosted the rights of criminal defendants, gave employees greater options for seeking redress, buoyed businesses and made federal preemption the presumptive law of the land. More here.

One of those decisions, the ruling to drastically slash a punitive damages award against Exxon over the 1989 Valdez oil spill from $2.5 billion to $500 million, has lawyers debating whether the ruling will have an impact on punitive damage awards beyond maritime cases. More here.

The Court’s recent ruling striking down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban did not close the door on lawsuits aimed at the gun industry. More here.

Defense attorneys declared victory in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that a murder defendant does not forfeit his right to keep the victim’s prior testimonial statements out of evidence unless the defendant killed the victim to prevent trial testimony. But victims’ rights legal advocates say the decision could be a blessing in disguise for prosecutors – particularly those seeking to convict accused domestic abusers. More here.

In other news:

Mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are set to get a big helping hand from the feds. (WaPo).

President George W. Bush remembers former press secretary Tony Snow. (AP).

Friday morning docket: the privileged edition

It’s Friday, and here’s a look at what’s happening on the Hill:

As members of Congress grilled him on the issue of the attorney-client privilege, Attorney General Michael Mukasey told lawmakers that the McNulty memo is out, and denied that politicking is afoot at the DOJ. (BLT Blog, McClatchy)

More than a year after the Supreme Court ruled that the agency has the authority and obligation to regulate greenhouse gases, the EPA said that won’t happen before the President Bush leaves office. (WaPo)

As expected, former White House advisor Karl Rove ignored a subpoena to testify before Congress about political firings in the Justice Department, meaning yet another contempt of Congress charge could be coming. (CNN)

The military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is facing its latest perplexing challenge: how to handle detainees who insist on representing themselves. (NYT)

Legislation aimed at helping fix the nation’s mortgage mess keeps moving along in Congress, despite the possible veto waiting for it at the White House. (AP)

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told Congress to make major changes in the oversight of Wall Street firms and other financial institutions. (WaPo)

Kennedy returns to Senate amid cancer treatment

Sen. Edward Kennedy, who is currently being treated with chemotherapy after surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor last month, is returning to the Senate for the first time since the surgery today to cast his vote on the Medicare bill.

“I return to the Senate today to keep a promise to our senior citizens – and that’s to protect Medicare,” Kenendy said in a statement to the press today. “Win, lose or draw, I wanted to be here. I wasn’t going to take the chance that my vote could make the difference.”

UPDATE: A veto-proof majority of the Senate joined Kennedy in passing the bill, which will prevent cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors. More here from CNNMoney.

Justice Breyer’s info exposed in data breach

Not even a Supreme Court justice is immune to from potential identify theft risks.

Justice Stephen Breyer is learning that now after some of his confidential information was inadvertently made available to the public in a data breach.

The Washington Post reports that it all started when an employee at a Virginia-based investment company innocently signed on to file-sharing service LimeWire, which allows users to share music, movies and other files. Little did he know, a little glitch in the system allowed the files – which include personal information like names, birthdates and Social Security numbers – of the clients of his firm, Wagner Resource Group, to be viewed by the public. Breyer is among those firm’s 2,000 or so clients.

What’s more, the breach wasn’t noticed until six months later when a reader of the WaPo blog Security Fix found the information, giving the newspaper a big scoop.

Breyer’s spokesperson said the justice had no comment on the breach.

Campaign issue of the day: Bankruptcy law

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has unveiled his proposal to change bankruptcy laws. And his plan includes doing something Congress declined to do earlier this year: allow bankruptcy courts to renegotiate the terms of mortgages.

A similar provision in an early version of Congress’s housing rescue plan was dropped in April after the White House and some lawmakers opposed the plan.

Obama’s proposal would also remove some of the bureaucratic hurdles to filing for personal bankruptcy that were imposed in 2005, establish a nationwide “homestead” level of equity that would be protected from creditors, and impose a 120-day moratorium on credit reporting agencies reporting negative credit information.

In a speech in Powder Springs, Ga., Obama said the plan would particularly help military families and elders, creating a “fast-track bankruptcy practice” for military families, cutting paperwork and red tape for bankruptcy filing, and allowing elders to more easily keep their homes, which he called ” the cornerstones of a secure retirement,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Robert Lawless, an expert cited in Obama’s policy paper, but unconnected to the campaign, told the Wall Street Journal that the plan is ambitious.

“This goes as far as anybody who’s had the ability to get things enacted into law has proposed,” Lawless said to the WSJ. (Sub. Req’d). “It is more targeted, rather than saying, ‘I want to go in and undo the 2005 bankruptcy law.’ I don’t’ think there’d be any political interest in doing that.”

Tucker Bounds, spokesman for Republican opponent Sen. John McCain responded in a statement to the Associated Press: “Eighteen Democrats and John McCain worked together on the bipartisan Senate bankruptcy bill, and Barack Obama’s rigid partisanship and self-promoting political attacks show that he’s a typical politician – which is the problem in Washington, not the solution.”

Scroll To Top