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Monday status conference

The Senate meets today, resuming debate on matters including the FAA Reauthorization Act, while House members get back to the office tomorrow. The Supreme Court will likely issue some opinions and may also grant some certs today, and we’ll keep you posted on that.

Meanwhile:

States including Texas and Mississippi already have scheduled executions after the Supreme Court’s decision in Baze v. Rees that the method used in lethal injection executions is not unconstitutional. But Ohio is moving much slower, meaning it could be months before death row in mates there – including an inmate who may become the first woman executed in the state in 54 years.
(WHIO/Columbus Dispatch)

Lawyers who represent suspects in terrorism-related investigations fear their clients are being secretly monitored by the U.S. government. (NYT)

Could nearly two-thirds of patent appeals judges have been unconstitutionally appointed? That is a question the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to consider. (NLJ)

Former Washington D.C. city workers are claiming, in a federal lawsuit, that they and other employees were fired in violation of law that protect whistleblowers from retaliation. (WaPo)

Still haven’t gotten enough of Justice Antonin Scalia? Check out his interview with the ABA Journal, where he gives attorneys preparing to argue before him some tips. Here’s a hint: never use legislative history, and never answer a hypothetical with “that’s not my case.”
(ABA Journal)

Friday morning docket: the Supremes are back

The justices of the Supreme Court head back to work today, where they are scheduled to conference for the first time this month. They could grant some petitions for certiorari or issue other orders today, and this blog will be updated with news on that front.

Next week, after the President’s Day holiday Monday, oral arguments resume, and two cases on the court’s docket involve employment retaliation claims. (As always, links go to the case summaries by the Oyez Project).

Tuesday, the Court will consider whether a federal employee, who has complained of age discrimination and was later fired, can bring a retaliation claim against her employer under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in Gomez-Perez v. Potter, No. 06-1321. In Wednesday’s oral argument in CBOCS West, Inc. v. Humphries, No. 06-1431, the justices will consider whether an employee, fired after complaining that his supervisor used racial slurs, can bring a retaliation claim under 42 U.S.C. §1981 (the Civil Rights Act of 1866).

Tuesday, The Court will also consider whether the government can allow utility companies to renegotiate long-term contracts with wholesale energy suppliers in Morgan Stanley Capital Group v. Public Utility District No. 1, No. 06-1457, consolidated with Calpine Energy Services v. Public Utility District No. 1, No. 06-1462.

Meanwhile,

Lawmakers in the House don’t like the wiretap bill. (WaPo)

Lawmakers in the Senate don’t like waterboarding. (NYT).

Unhappy with the FDA’s performance, Michigan Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak called for agency Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach’s resignation. (AP)

One lawmaker is pushing to give banks immunity from patent infringement lawsuits. (WaPo).

Rep. Tom Lantos is remembered. (SF Chronicle)

White House on patent reform bill: Thanks, but no thanks

The White House really wants a law reforming and modernizing the U.S. patent system. But it really doesn’t like the idea of limiting federal judges’ discretion in handing down patent infringement awards.

So the Bush administration has decided to oppose the “Patent Reform Act of 2007,” S. 1145, in its entirety because its damages provision does just that, it says.

In a 6-page letter sent Monday to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Nathaniel F. Wienecke, Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Commerce Department, said the damages provision of the bill would discourage innovation and encourage patent infringement.

“Unless [the provision] is significantly revised, as we believe the resulting harm to a reasonably well-functioning U.S. intellectual property system would outweigh all the bill’s useful reforms,” Wienecke wrote in the letter, which you can see here. [PDF file]

In a joint statement issued yesterday, Leahy and ranking Judiciary Committee member Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had worked together with the administration and patent stakeholders worldwide to come to a consensus on the legislation, which is scheduled to go to a Senate vote some time this month.

“A critical piece of the Patent Reform Act addresses how courts determine damages for patent infringement,” the statement said. “Since its passage in committee, we have been working to strike the right balance to ensure patent holders obtain appropriate compensation in infringement cases. We have worked and will continue to work with the White House as the Senate prepares to consider this important legislation.”

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