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Monthly Archives: August 2008

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.

Monday status conference: Supreme summer orders

As Congress continues its recess, the U.S. Supreme Court could issue orders this morning on pending cases, petitions for rehearing, or other matters. We’ll keep you posted on anything newsworthy. Meanwhile, as you kick of your week and check the Olympic medal standings (the USA is in second, right behind China), here is the legal news inside the Beltway:

Stay out of the kitchen? Granite countertops are coming under fire after a flurry of complaints to the Environmental Protection Agency claiming they can decay over time and emit radon, a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. (Lawyers USA).

High stakes bias suit: Legal watchers are paying close attention to a transgender job bias suit against the Library of Congress, which moves to trial Tuesday in a Washington, D.C. federal court, because of the potentially major implications it could pose for federal anti-discrimination policy. (NLJ)

BPA ok, says FDA: The FDA said the trace amounts of bisphenol A that leach out of food containers like baby bottles and sippy cups are not a threat to infants or adults. (AP)

Doctors back right to sue: A group of influential doctors – current and former editors of the New England Journal of Medicine – have filed an amicus brief backing the plaintiffs in the closely-watched Supreme Court case Wyeth v. Levine. The doctors say plaintiffs suits serve as an important check to protect patients. (WSJ Health Blog)

Workers keep it civil: Just because Attorney General Michael Mukasey said no charges would be filed in connection with politicized hiring practices at the DOJ, that is not stopping the civil suits. (LT)

Friday morning docket: the ‘Bigfoot’ edition

While the world waits with bated breath to see whether Bigfoot is real, here’s a look at the legal news in Washington:

U.S. v. Stevens: The Justice Department is unveiling details about its case against Sen. Ted Stevens, who goes to trial next month charged with failing to disclose gifts and contributions in his campaign finance records. (AP)

Boost for AAJ: Language that would have prohibited state law claims of unsafe child safety seats that have been tested by a federal government-approved method has been removed from a final rule promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – and the AAJ is very happy about that. (Lawyers USA)

Spies like who?!: What did Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, TV cooking guru Julia Child and presidential advisor Arthur Schlesinger have in common? They were spies! (AP)

Judging the judge: A packing house floor supervisor who is facing criminal immigration charges stemming from the largest immigration enforcement operation at a single workplace has asked the federal judge hearing his case to recuse herself, claiming she is not impartial. (NYT)

Get the lead out: President Bush on Thursday signed consumer-safety legislation that bans lead from children’s toys, imposing the toughest standard in the world. (AP)

Friday morning docket: the ‘Bigfoot’ edition

While the world waits with bated breath to see whether Bigfoot is real, here’s a look at the legal news in Washington:

U.S. v. Stevens: The Justice Department is unveiling details about its case against Sen. Ted Stevens, who goes to trial next month charged with failing to disclose gifts and contributions in his campaign finance records. (AP)

Boost for AAJ: Language that would have prohibited state law claims of unsafe child safety seats that have been tested by a federal government-approved method has been removed from a final rule promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – and the AAJ is very happy about that. (Lawyers USA)

Spies like who?!: What did Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, TV cooking guru Julia Child and presidential advisor Arthur Schlesinger have in common? They were spies! (AP)

Judging the judge: A packing house floor supervisor who is facing criminal immigration charges stemming from the largest immigration enforcement operation at a single workplace has asked the federal judge hearing his case to recuse herself, claiming she is not impartial. (NYT)

Get the lead out: President Bush on Thursday signed consumer-safety legislation that bans lead from children’s toys, imposing the toughest standard in the world. (AP)

Exxon’s Supreme bid to cut interest payments runs aground

The Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989

The Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989

Just weeks after slashing the punitive damages award granted to fisherman injured by the massive oil spill from the Exxon Valdez, the U. S. Supreme Court has declined to consider how much the oil company must pay in interest on the punitive damages award.

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order saying that matter should be decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Exxon had asked to Court to decide whether the interest on the damages award, which was cut from $2.5 billion to about $500 million by the Court, should be calculated from the date of the 1994 jury verdict in the case, or from the date of the Court’s June 25, 2008 ruling in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker.

Exxon said that it would pursue the matter with the 9th circuit. Interest calculated since 1994 would add an estimated $488 million, boosting awards to individuals from roughly $15,000 to about $29,400.

Exxon’s Supreme bid to cut interest payments runs aground

The Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989

The Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989

Just weeks after slashing the punitive damages award granted to fisherman injured by the massive oil spill from the Exxon Valdez, the U. S. Supreme Court has declined to consider how much the oil company must pay in interest on the punitive damages award.

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order saying that matter should be decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Exxon had asked to Court to decide whether the interest on the damages award, which was cut from $2.5 billion to about $500 million by the Court, should be calculated from the date of the 1994 jury verdict in the case, or from the date of the Court’s June 25, 2008 ruling in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker.

Exxon said that it would pursue the matter with the 9th circuit. Interest calculated since 1994 would add an estimated $488 million, boosting awards to individuals from roughly $15,000 to about $29,400.

Mukasey: ‘Not every violation of the law is a crime’

Attorney General Michael Mukasey said yesterday that no charges would be filed against Justice Department officials who discriminated against job applicants for career positions for political reasons.

Mukasey said the findings of two internal watchdog audits revealed that officials did use political leanings at a litmus test for hiring applicants for the posts, which are supposed to be non-political. But that the findings did not rise to the level of warranting charges.

“Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime,” Mukasey explained yesterday in remarks to the American Bar Association in New York. “In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws.”

Mukasey’s predecessor, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, resigned amid revelations of politicized hiring practices and allegations that nine U.S. attorneys were fired for political reasons.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy was not pleased with Mukasey’s decision. “The Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, seems intent on insulating this administration from accountability,” Leahy said in a statement after Mukasey’s remarks, adding that he believed Mukasey’s decision was premature given the ongoing congressional investigation into Justice Department’s hiring practices.

Mukasey: ‘Not every violation of the law is a crime’

Attorney General Michael Mukasey said yesterday that no charges would be filed against Justice Department officials who discriminated against job applicants for career positions for political reasons.

Mukasey said the findings of two internal watchdog audits revealed that officials did use political leanings at a litmus test for hiring applicants for the posts, which are supposed to be non-political. But that the findings did not rise to the level of warranting charges.

“Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime,” Mukasey explained yesterday in remarks to the American Bar Association in New York. “In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws.”

Mukasey’s predecessor, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, resigned amid revelations of politicized hiring practices and allegations that nine U.S. attorneys were fired for political reasons.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy was not pleased with Mukasey’s decision. “The Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, seems intent on insulating this administration from accountability,” Leahy said in a statement after Mukasey’s remarks, adding that he believed Mukasey’s decision was premature given the ongoing congressional investigation into Justice Department’s hiring practices.

La. Gov. still wants death penalty for child rape

The Supreme Court’s ruling that the death penalty cannot be imposed for child rape where it did not result, and was not intended to result, in the victim’s death has not put the issue to rest in Louisiana.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said he is working with state lawmakers to enact a law reinstating capital punishment for child rapists that would pass constitutional muster despite the Court’s ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana.

“If there is any crime (other than murder) that merits the death penalty, it is rape,” Jindal told applauding delegates to the 71st annual meeting of the Louisiana Municipal Association, according to a report by the Times Picayune.

The state has already petitioned the Court to reconsider its decision in Kennedy. The ruling invalidated the death penalty for child rape in Louisiana and five other states with similar laws.

Jindal told reporters that he and his aides had met with district attorneys and others in an effort to find a way “to craft legislation we think will stand their (the justices’) scrutiny,” including age limits for victims.

Monday status conference: Go Team (Lawyers) USA!

While you root for Team USA as the athletes compete in Beijing, here’s a look at what’s in this week’s issue of Lawyers USA:

If you build it, the lawsuits will come: Construction litigation has become a booming area of the law as the economy continues its downward spiral. Check this story out today for free!

HRT suits stalled by USSC: Hormone-replacement therapy litigation has stalled while judges await a U.S. Supreme Court ruling next term in a key pharmaceutical product liability case.Trials in Texas, Florida and Alabama have been postponed while judges await the Court’s ruling in Wyeth v. Levine. Subscribers can read more here.

Economy down, malpractice claims up: At the same time the declining economy is threatening the bottom line of law firms, it is also creating an increased liability risk for attorneys.Over the last 25 years, each dip in the economy has produced a notable increase in legal malpractice claims. Subscribers can read more here.

Minding your DNA Ps and Qs: Employers, health insurers and their attorneys must start planning for a new federal law that will force them to protect genetic privacy.The new law imposes privacy and record-keeping restrictions on employers and insurers, who are accustomed to exchanging health care information freely. Subscribers can read more here.

Anything you say on Facebook can and will be used against you: An increasing number of attorneys, both criminal and civil, are using information gleaned from social networking sites to undercut the testimony of opposing witnesses. Subscribers can read more here.

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