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Monthly Archives: February 2009

Friday morning docket: The Supremes return

supremeleftWith so much news out of Washington lately, it’s almost hard to believe that Congress and the Supreme Court have technically been in recess. But the justices’ break ends today as they return for a private conference in advance of next week’s oral arguments. They could add more cases to their docket today, and opinions are likely to be handed down next week. Congress also resumes its session next week.

President Barack Obama is back from his first official international trip, where he met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss free trade issues.

Meanwhile,

DNA SOS: A newly-released report says that forensic science labs across the country have serious deficiencies and that the reliability of many forensic techniques offered as legal evidence is lacking. (Lawyers USA)

Obama to weigh in on IP law: Obama make In March, we should find out Obama’s view of the constitutionality of the controversial Copyright Act. (Wired’s Threat Level blog)

Un-fixing the books: By stopping accounting gimmicks that make deficit projections look smaller, the budget will appear $2.7 trillion deeper in debt over the next decade, according to administration officials. (NYT)

Safety standard disagreement: As investigators continue to probe the cause of last week’s plane crash in New York state, the FAA and the NTSB don’t see eye to eye on just what the proper safety standard should be for operating turboprop planes in icy conditions. (AP)

RESPA reform: Starting next January, all lenders and mortgage brokers must comply with revisions to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. (Lawyers USA)

Holder’s ‘cowards’ statement causes a stir

The federal government’s top attorney, in his first public address since his confirmation, gave a stinging assessment of race relations in the country during a Black History Month celebration at the Justice Department yesterday.

Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, told the crowd that although the country “has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

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Holder went on to say that social segregation remains stubbornly persistent in the country, but there are few open and honest discussions about bias among Americans. After the program, Holder told reporters that he wasn’t calling for specific policy change. “It’s a question of being honest with ourselves and racial issues that divide us,” Holder told reporters. “It’s not easy to talk about it. We have to have the guts to be honest with each other, accept criticism, accept new proposals.”

Holder’s remarks have blown up on the blogosphere, where even some who share his overall assessment question his use of words. “I would not call us a ‘nation of cowards’ as Eric Holder did,” said All About Race blogger Carmen Dixon. “I think it is too harsh and too sweeping of an assessment. But, the truth is that we don’t talk about race in the most productive or honest ways.”

Conservative bloggers were much more pointed. “This seems like a fairly smug charge from a man who is serving as the first black attorney general and at the pleasure of the first black American president,” said Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb.

Holder’s ‘cowards’ statement causes a stir

The federal government’s top attorney, in his first public address since his confirmation, gave a stinging assessment of race relations in the country during a Black History Month celebration at the Justice Department yesterday.

Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, told the crowd that although the country “has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

YouTube Preview Image

Holder went on to say that social segregation remains stubbornly persistent in the country, but there are few open and honest discussions about bias among Americans. After the program, Holder told reporters that he wasn’t calling for specific policy change. “It’s a question of being honest with ourselves and racial issues that divide us,” Holder told reporters. “It’s not easy to talk about it. We have to have the guts to be honest with each other, accept criticism, accept new proposals.”

Holder’s remarks have blown up on the blogosphere, where even some who share his overall assessment question his use of words. “I would not call us a ‘nation of cowards’ as Eric Holder did,” said All About Race blogger Carmen Dixon. “I think it is too harsh and too sweeping of an assessment. But, the truth is that we don’t talk about race in the most productive or honest ways.”

Conservative bloggers were much more pointed. “This seems like a fairly smug charge from a man who is serving as the first black attorney general and at the pleasure of the first black American president,” said Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb.

Mukasey in a New York state of mind

mukaseysmileMukasey has landed.

While the bad economy has apparently made it hard for his predecessor to find a job, it took former Attorney General Michael Mukasey very little time to find a new gig. He will join the New York office of Debevoise & Plimpton, the firm has announced. He’ll begin his tenure as a partner in the firm’s Litigation Department later this month.

Mukasey will focus his practice primarily on internal corporate and other investigations, independent board reviews, corporate governance, and other similar areas, according to the firm. In a statement, Mukasey expressed excitement, saying the practice will “provide an excellent platform for challenging and exciting work.”

The move to the Big Apple will both a personal and professional homecoming for the Bronx native. He was a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York for 18 years, and the court’s chief judge for six years. One of the trials he presided over was that of Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheik convicted of plotting to blow up New York landmarks.

DC Dicta asks: Does it take a judge to be a justice?

Every single current Supreme Court justice is a former federal appellate judge. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. likes it that way.

cjrobertsThe high court has been an all fed-bred team since Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a former state judge and state legislator, retired. By contrast, when Roberts’ predecessor Chief Justice William Rehnquist took the center seat, former federal judges were in the minority.

But since that time, Roberts said, the Court has become more efficient, with the justices approaching issues in a relatively similar way. “The practice of constitutional law – how constitutional law was made – was more fluid and wide ranging than it is today, more in the realm of political science,” Roberts said in speech at the University of Arizona’s Rehnquist Center, as reported by The New York Times‘ Adam Liptak. But since then “the method of analysis and argument shifted to the more solid grounds of legal arguments. What are the texts of the statutes involved? What precedents control?”

But apparently President Barack Obama doesn’t agree, meaning Roberts’ beloved bench of federal alums may not last too long. Obama’s “new” vision of Washington means he’s likely be looking in more places than the federal judiciary for Supreme Court picks – after all, his solicitor general pick Elena Kagan, who has never been a judge or even argued before the Supremes, is still on the list of potential picks.

Others said to be on Obama’s mind include Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Harvard Law uber-academic Cass Sunstein.

But is experience more important than having justices from a diversity of experiences who approach legal analysis in different ways? What do you think?

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Monday status conference: ABA live blogging edition

President Obama is set to sign the stimulus package into law tomorrow, and Washington types are lining up already ready to take credit if it succeeds and pass blame if it fails. The Supreme Court is still on break, but Court watchers are buoyed by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s good prognosis.

keyboardcloseBut best of all, Lawyers USA‘s own Justin Rebello will live-blog the ABA House of Delegates Meeting this morning starting at 8 a.m. Follow along at this link throughout the day for updates  on the debates and proposals that could affect lawyers this year 2009.

Meanwhile,

No car czar: the Obama administration has decided against naming a White House official devoted to overseeing the restructuring of U.S. car companies. (WaPo).

A shift in drug arrest policy? The anticipated selection of Gil Kerlikowske as drug czar has given hope to those who want national drug policy to shift from away from an emphasis on arrests and prosecution. (NYT)

Smile, you’re on lawsuit camera: Thinking of using “victim videos” designed to showcase exactly what your plaintiff client experienced following an accident or injury?  Read this first. (Lawyers USA)

Some representation with that taxation? The Senate has set a preliminary vote for Feb. 24 on legislation to grant the District of Columbia full voting representation in the House of Representatives. (AP)

Contempt ruling in Stevens case: Four U.S. Justice Department attorneys were held in contempt on Friday for failing to turn over documents to the legal team representing convicted former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. (Reuters)

Good news on Ginsburg

rbginsburgToday Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was released from the hospital, and she is now recuperating from last week’s pancreatic cancer surgery at home, according to the Supreme Court’s press office.

The Court also reports that cancer “has been determined as TNM Stage 1″ by doctors at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, meaning that it had not spread to other parts of Ginsburg’s body. Also, all her lymph nodes have tested negative. During the Feb. 5 procedure, Ginsburg’s spleen and parts of her pancreas were removed.

The Court’s announcement also notes the lucky twist that led to Ginsburg early discovery of the cancer. “Extraordinarily, the approximately 1 cm lesion revealed on a late January CAT scan, the discovery of which led to the February 5 surgery, proved benign,” the statement said.  “But in searching the entire pancreas Dr. [Murray] Brennan identified a previously undetected single, even smaller, tumor which upon examination was found malignant.”

‘Tough’ TV sheriff facing heat from lawmakers over bias claims

He’s purportedly called “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and is on a reality television show called Smile…You’re Under Arrest which features wanted fugitives being lured by elaborately absurd ruses and ultimately snagged by the cops.

arpaioBut members of the House Judiciary Committee think that Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio may be a racial-profiling, segregating, rule-breaking bully who targets and abuses members of the Latino community, costing the city millions in lawsuit settlements over inmates who were injured or who died under his watch.

Committee Chairman John Conyers., Jr. and several other committee members have called on Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to investigate Arpaio for alleged misconduct in the sheriff’s office in the county that includes Pheonix. The lawmakers said they are concerned about allegations that Arpaio’s office conducted racially-motivated raids in residential neighborhoods under the guise of immigration enforcement, segregated immigrants to a certain area of the county’s “tent city” jail while inviting the media to watch, and subjected minority inmates to other abuses.

Although he may be known for his humorous television show, lawmakers said, the allegations are no laughing matter. “Racial profiling and segregation are simply not acceptable.” said Conyers. “Media stunts and braggadocio are no substitute for fair and effective law enforcement.”

In a letter to Holder and Napolitano, the lawmakers said “Arpaio’s actions have triggered numerous civil rights lawsuits, including federal action in the 1990s and a recent lawsuit by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund for racial profiling of Latino citizens and legal residents.  However, his repeated course of conduct, which values publicity opportunities over the civil rights of residents of Arizona, is too disturbing to leave enforcement of the civil rights laws to private litigants.”

‘Tough’ TV sheriff facing heat from lawmakers over bias claims

He’s purportedly called “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and is on a reality television show called Smile…You’re Under Arrest which features wanted fugitives being lured by elaborately absurd ruses and ultimately snagged by the cops.

arpaioBut members of the House Judiciary Committee think that Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio may be a racial-profiling, segregating, rule-breaking bully who targets and abuses members of the Latino community, costing the city millions in lawsuit settlements over inmates who were injured or who died under his watch.

Committee Chairman John Conyers., Jr. and several other committee members have called on Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to investigate Arpaio for alleged misconduct in the sheriff’s office in the county that includes Pheonix. The lawmakers said they are concerned about allegations that Arpaio’s office conducted racially-motivated raids in residential neighborhoods under the guise of immigration enforcement, segregated immigrants to a certain area of the county’s “tent city” jail while inviting the media to watch, and subjected minority inmates to other abuses.

Although he may be known for his humorous television show, lawmakers said, the allegations are no laughing matter. “Racial profiling and segregation are simply not acceptable.” said Conyers. “Media stunts and braggadocio are no substitute for fair and effective law enforcement.”

In a letter to Holder and Napolitano, the lawmakers said “Arpaio’s actions have triggered numerous civil rights lawsuits, including federal action in the 1990s and a recent lawsuit by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund for racial profiling of Latino citizens and legal residents.  However, his repeated course of conduct, which values publicity opportunities over the civil rights of residents of Arizona, is too disturbing to leave enforcement of the civil rights laws to private litigants.”

Friday (the 13th) morning docket

As investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board make their way from Washington to northern New Your State to begin investigating the cause of the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 lastcapitol3 night, President Obama is reeling from yet another withdrawal of a cabinet nominee: this time commerce secretary pick Sen. Judd Gregg.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers in both houses are preparing to vote on the stimulus bill today, and across the street the Supreme Court building remains quiet as the justices continue their midterm break.

Meanwhile,

Break in the link: The plaintiffs in three cases alleging a causal link between childhood vaccines and autism have failed to show a connection, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims has ruled. (Lawyers USA)

Mediate and arbitrate, at 98 we all rotate: Carrying over a battle that put consumer advocates and trial attorneys on one side and business groups on the other, a bill that would ban pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer contracts was introduced in the House Thursday. (Lawyers USA)

Enron exec wants Supreme opinion: Former Enron Corp Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling will ask for U.S. Supreme Court review of his 2006 felony conviction. (AP)

Extending the long arm of the law: The Justice Department is seeking expanded powers to prosecute offshore tax evasion and other financial crimes. (NYT)

Foreclosure intervention? The Obama administration is trying to come up with some sort of mortgage modification plan for homeowners in peril of losing their homes, but it remains unclear what form such aid may take. (NYT)

Bloody Thursday: Yesterday nearly 800 big firm attorneys lost their jobs. (ABA Journal)

Blogging the ABA: On Monday, February 16, Lawyers USA will live-blog the ABA House of Delegates Meeting. Follow us throughout the day as we update you on the debates and proposals that could affect you and your practice in 2009. Click here to follow it starting at 8:00 a.m. on Monday!

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