Saturday, March 22, 2003

A real two-time loser, plus Judge Widener's "Alice" reference

On Tuesday, in a lengthy and complex opinion, a panel including Judges Niemeyer, Motz, and King affirmed a federal death penalty conviction, relating to a murder in the national forest near Asheville, NC. Among other issues was the defendant's claims of double jeopardy and vindictive prosecution, as he had entered a guilty plea in state court and been sentenced to 31 years for the same offenses, unaware of the possibility of a federal prosecution some years later. Another issue was the admission into evidence of a rambling television interview given by the defendant, as rebuttal evidence in the sentencing phase of the case to his mother's testimony about his life and character. Also on Tuesday another panel affirmed in this opinion the conviction of a defendant also known as "cock-eyed Carl."

On Wednesday, in this published opinion, a Fourth Circuit panel considered the question of "whether a person convicted of a [crime of domestic violence] but never stripped of his civil rights under state law is thereafter subject to prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9)." Judge Wilkinson and Senior Judge Hamilton said yes, Judge Widener said no, with a fairly scathing dissent. Judge Widener's opinion contains this Alice in Wonderland reference: "Upon first glance, it might seem that the majority’s reading is correct: construing the word "restored" over-literally, the defendant’s civil rights were never revoked, therefore, there was nothing to restore and the restoration exception is inapplicable as it pertains to him. But this is like the offer of 'more' tea to Alice who yet had had none. See Alice in Wonderland, Carroll, Grossett & Dunlop, 1980, p. 79." Also on Wednesday by this per curiam opinion, the Court affirmed summary judgment against the plaintiff who had sued the Roanoke Airport for sex discrimination.

On Thursday, in this unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit affirmed a Maryland district court's dismissal of a declaratory judgement action over insurance coverage for a dog-bite claim in favor of proceedings before the state insurance administrative agency. In another opinion, the Court sanctioned someone named Barbara Bush $500 for bringing a frivolous pro se appeal.

On Friday, the Fourth Circuit affirmed in this opinion the ruling of E.D. Va.'s Judge Spencer granting summary judgment in a copyright and Lanham Act case where the plaintiff could not prove damages. In this unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit affirmed judgment as a matter of law for Wal-mart in an E.D. Va. case about plaintiff's altercation with a store employee.

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