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Friday morning docket: The privileged edition

As the nation’s presidential focus shifts from Sen. Barack Obama to Sen. John McCain, back in Washington, federal officials are focusing again on the attorney-client privilege:

The Department of Justice said yesterday that waiver of the attorney-client privilege is officially off the table during corporate prosecution negotiations. (CNN).

A congressional report found that 2.5 million federal employees in 17 agencies and the Postal Service were absent from work without leave on at least one occasion. (WaPo)

After a judge refused to delay an order compelling former White House counsel Harriet Miers to testify before Congress, President George W. Bush plans to take his case that White House aides are protected by the executive privilege to a federal appeals court. (AP)

Patients – and lawsuits – are linking smoking-cessation prescription medication Chantix to serious psychiatric symptoms, including erratic behavior and suicidal thoughts. (Lawyers USA)

A government safety group is warning parents not to use a Pennsylvania company’s baby bassinets after two babies were trapped and strangled in the product. (AP)

A former congressman who played a major role in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton has been named to Florida’s highest court. (NYT).

Moot Court competitors at the University of Florida Levin College of Law will have a tough judge in the fall: Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. (NLJ)

Biden calls Court a Supreme campaign issue

Hours before speaking at the Democratic convention last night, vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden called the selection of Supreme Court justices a main campaign issue.

“Other than ending the war in Iraq, the single most significant thing that Barack Obama can do – and I hope I’ll be able to he help him – will be to determine who the next members of the Supreme Court are going to be,” Biden told a roundtable of voters yesterday.

Citing life expectancy rates, Biden said the next president could appoint as many as three justices in his first term – appointments that could make a crucial difference on many issues.

“It’s not merely the woman’s right to choose (to have an abortion) which is at stake,” Biden said. “It’s whether or not you are going to be able to have a fair shot at a fair wage. It’s whether or not you are going to able to demand that you are treated equally in every aspect of your life.”

Ledbetter calls on Dems to pass equal pay act

Lilly Ledbetter, the plaintiff who claimed 19 years of unequal pay based on her gender and won a jury award which was later thrown out by the Supreme Court as time-barred, took the podium at the Democratic National Convention to urge Democrats to make legislation restarting the limitations clock with every unequal paycheck a reality.

In her speech, she blasted the Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., handed down in the Spring of 2007. “They said I should have filed my complaint within six months of Goodyear’s first decision to pay me less, even though I didn’t know that’s what they were doing,” she said.

“In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the ruling made no sense in the real world. She was right,” Ledbetter continued, decrying the failure of the Ledbetter Equal Pay Act in Congress. “The House of Representatives passed a bill that would make sure what was done to me couldn’t happen again. But when it got to the Senate, enough Republicans opposed it to prevent a vote.”

Ledbetter said presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama “has promised to appoint [Supreme Court] justices who will enforce laws that protect everyday people like me,” she said. “But this isn’t a Democratic or a Republican issue. It’s a fairness issue. And fortunately, there are some Republicans-and a lot of Democrats-who are on our side.”

Judge: No delay for Miers

White House officials seeking to avoid testifying before Congress on matters they say are privileged are running out of options, as a federal judge yesterday declined to delay his order that former White House counsel Harriet Miers and testify on the Hill.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates denied a request to delay the order while Miers appeals. Miers, along with chief of staff Joshua Bolten, were found in contempt in Contempt of Congress earlier this year for refusing to testify before a House panel about the firings of several U.S. attorneys. Miers, Bolten and the White House contend that executive privilege precludes their testimony.

Bates also ruled that the White House “has supplied no justification, and the court cannot fathom one, for its failure to turn over non-privileged documents to the committee.”

House officials also held former White House advisor Karl Rove in contempt for refusing the testify about the firings.

Senate Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Jr. said hearings would be scheduled promptly.

Supreme Court connections at DNC

While the headliner tonight at the Democratic National Convention in Denver will be Sen. Hillary Clinton, some other speakers tonight have connections to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lilly Ledbetter, the former tire plant worker who took her unequal pay lawsuit to the Supreme Court – which ruled in 2007 that her claim was time-barred, and that the statute of limitations was not restarted with the issuance of each unequal paycheck – will speak.

Ledbetter has appeared to speak at several hearings and events in Washington over the last year pushing for legislation that would overturn the ruling. A bill sponsored by a number of lawmakers, including Clinton, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Edward Kennedy, who spoke at the convention last night, was blocked by GOP lawmakers last year.

Also among the speakers tonight is Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a longtime friend of Obama. Patrick has been repeatedly mentioned as a potential nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court is Obama were to occupy the Oval Office when the vacancy on the Court occurs.

Monday status conference: Conventional games edition

The Olympics are done, but the games are just beginning for the Democrats as they officially unveil their Double J.D. presidential ticket (Obama, Harvard ’91; Biden, Syracuse ’68 ) in Denver this week.

There is also a new issue of Lawyers USA out today, and here are some of the highlights:

Not settling for less: Plaintiffs’ lawyers who feel their clients have more incentive to go to trial than settle are in for a rude awakening. A new study has found that a majority of plaintiffs who reject a settlement offer and proceed to trial are awarded less money than if they had taken the initial offer. See the full story today for free.

Surfing the Web for lawsuits? The founder of a new legal matching website called WhoCanISue.com is touting it as a revolutionary development that eliminates common pitfalls of attorney-client pairing services. But critics charge that the provocatively named venture is giving the legal profession a bad name. See the full story today for free.

Bankruptcy boom: The foreclosure crisis is fueling an increase in bankruptcy litigation over a variety of issues between lenders and homeowners. Residential foreclosures rose 55 percent just in the last year, with an estimated 1 million foreclosures by the end of the year. Subscribers click here for more.

Being picky can stave off malpractice suits: Experts say one of the best ways to reduce your malpractice risk is to know how to identify client who are likely to become disgruntled. The next step is to resist the temptation, even more powerful in a down economy, to take them anyway. Subscribers click here for more.

Meanwhile in other news:

Double run: Sen. Joe Biden isn’t just running for vice president, he’s running for reelection to the Senate. (AP)

Court says S-O is OK: An appeals court upheld the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, dismissing arguments that the government’s attempt to protect investors from repeats of the scandals at Enron and WorldCom gave federal overseers unchecked power. (WaPo)

Not just about document searches anymore: Life of a summer associate includes trapeze lessons, karaoke, rock climbing and laser tag. (ABA Journal)

Friday morning docket: The big (Ivy) League edition

While Harvard undergrad alums celebrate being alone at the top of the U.S. News & World report rankings for the first time in more than a decade, here’s a look at legal news in and around Washington:

Fit to be tied: Note to attorneys: if you argue before the DC Circuit, wear a tie. (WSJ Blog)

As the firm downturns: This could be the worst economic year for law firms since 2001. (American Lawyer)

In court, off the stump: A federal judge ruled that Sen. Ted Stevens cannot move his corruption trial from Washington to his home state of Alaska, a decision that could hamstring his re-election bid. (AP)

Vitter legal battle: Sen. David Vitter can use campaign funds to pay for some of his legal fees stemming from an escort service scandal, the Federal Election Commission has decided. (AP)

Oh, never mind: The federal government will scrap a program for illegal immigrants to turn themselves in for deportation after only eight people volunteered during a nearly three-week trial. (NYT)

Conflicting reports over ailing congresswoman

UPDATE: CNN reports that Tubbs Jones passed away this evening. More here.

Soon after print and television reports that Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones died today in an Ohio hospital after suffering an aneurysm, a news conference just concluded in which a spokesman said she was in critical condition, but still alive.

Tubbs Jones chairs the House ethics committee and is a Democratic superdelegate who was expected to attend that Democratic Convention in Denver. She was found yesterday unconscious behind the wheel of her car.

CNN is reporting that a Congressional staff member informed lawmakers that Tubbs Jones had died earlier today.

Heller makes it legal

Dick Heller, the man who successfully took his fight to keep a handgun in his District of Columbia home all the way to the Supreme Court, registered that gun yesterday.

Just two months after the court stuck down the district’s handgun ban, Heller rode his bicycle a district police station yesterday to register his gun for the first time, according to DCist.com. According to the New York Times, Heller said “Victory!” as he emerged from the police station with his run registration form bearing a stamp of approval.

No word yet on whether the handgun he registered is the commemorative revolver gunmaker Smith & Wesson announced it would present to the named plaintiffs in the case, DC v. Heller.

Heller is currently suing the district again, claiming that its current gun regulations still violate the constitution.

McCain’s switch on Souter; Obama: Thomas isn’t too bright

The candidates for president have been asked repeatedly which Supreme Court justices they admire. This weekend, at a forum hosted by Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., they were asked which justices they would not have nominated.

Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, named the four jurists of the Court’s liberal bloc: Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and David Souter – even though McCain voted ‘yea’ along with 89 of his Senate colleagues to confirm Souter, a nominee of President George H.W. Bush, in 1990.

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Democratic presumptive nominee Sen. Barack Obama, unsurprisingly, picked several of the Court’s conservative jurists, although the reason he gave for one was a bit surprising.

Naming Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justice Antonin Scalia, Obama said he disagreed with their views, but respected their intellect. When it came to Justice Clarence Thomas, on the other hand, Obama said he didn’t think the justice was the sharpest tack in the box.

“I don’t think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation, setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretations of a lot of the Constitution,” Obama said of Thomas.

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Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito managed not the get the hook from either candidate.

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