Saturday, January 25, 2003

The N.Y. Times has this report on a Virginia criminal defendant soon due for release, who may be held for additional time if funding is found for the state's 1999 law allowing civil commitment of sexual predators.
Evidence continues to be lost and found in connection with a Virginia rape trial in Hanover County. The case centers on DNA evidence that exculpated one man, leading to his pardon by Governor Warner, and incriminated another, 19 years after the crime was committed, according to this report.
One of Senator Wampler's proposals has drawn criticism among the saltwater fishermen on the Eastern Shore, as reported here. Fishermen of Saltville's water are not affected by this proposed legislation, but eating the fish from Saltville waters is still not recommended, as described here.
This article reports on what it describes as the "loophole" created by the Virginia Supreme Court for corporate counsel practicing in Virginia.
The Kingsport and Bristol papers are reporting here and here that Senator Wampler's cable bill has passed the Senate.
As reported in the N.Y. Times and the L.A. Times (both sites requiring free registration) and in this CNN story, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Commonwealth's appeal of this Virginia Supreme Court case involving the First Amendment and the trespass policy of a Richmond public housing authority. The state supreme court agreed with the en banc Court of Appeals, which issued this opinion, which disagreed with the trial court and the original panel of the Court of Appeals.

By my count, the circuit court judge in Richmond voted for Hicks' conviction, the first appeals panel voted 2-1 for Hick's conviction (with the dissent of Judge Coleman), the en banc appeals court voted 6-5 for reversal (after Judge Coleman's retirement), and the Virginia Supreme Court vote was 5-2, so my tally among the Virginia judges is something like 8 for conviction, 11 against.

Friday, January 24, 2003

A House bill requiring pre-litigation disclosure of insurance coverage limits has made it out of the Courts of Justice committee.
The Scott County paper has this article on Terry Kilgore's candidacy for the W.D. Va. judgeship.
The Norfolk paper cited recent examples from Southwest Virginia in detailing how the denial of Judge Askew's bid for reappointment was not exceptional, in this article. The Washington Post, on the other hand, described the Askew matter as "politics at its ugliest," in this article.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

25% of Governor Warner's appointments were from Central and/or Southwest Virginia, according to this report.
Governor Warner's seatbelt proposal failed to get out of committee in the House, according to this report.
The former executive director of the Virginia Republican Party has been indicted by a federal grand jury in the E.D. Va., as reported here.
Just in case you were wondering, President Bush's head of the OMB was born in Bristol, TN, according to this article in the Washington Post.
The next hearing on the issue of the competency of the defendant in the Appalachian School of Law murder cases has been rescheduled to March 13, as reported here.
One of the municipal cable television bills sponsored by Senator Wampler is evidently going to pass the Senate, S.B. 875.
A panel of Judge Niemeyer, Judge Karen Williams, and Judge Traxler from S.C. today decided this appeal from a district court's summary judgment in favor of N.C. law enforcement officials on a wrongful arrest claim.

What do these three judges have in common? Each was a panelist in one or more of these three of my favorite section 1983 cases appealed from the W.D. Va. - this one decided in 1999, this one decided in 2000, and this one decided in 2002.
In this opinion issued today, the Fourth Circuit applying Virginia law rejected various efforts by a life insurance company to prove the decedent's bad health as a basis for denying coverage.
Some Virginia legislators are seeking to add a law that would require the clergy to report child abuse, according to this report.
A Senate committee passed this proposal allowing felons who were sentenced to death or life in prison a limited right to file a post-trial petition based on new evidence, as reported here.
The Fourth Circuit ruled last week in this case out of Maryland that newspaper publishers had a First Amendment claim against local public officials who tried to buy up all the copies of a newspaper criticizing them.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Judge Wilkins from S.C. is to succeed Judge Wilkinson as chief judge of the Fourth Circuit, says this report.
The House committee voted against renomination of Judge Askew, the only black woman serving as circuit court judge in the state. Supporters of Judge Askew accused her opponent of racism, according to this report.
In another article on the W.D. Va. vacancy, Del. Terry Kilgore stated that his interest was based in part on a desire to "make sure that Big Stone Gap (federal courthouse) stayed open," as stated here.

The calendar for the federal court indicates that courtroom video display equipment was to be installed in the Big Stone Gap courthouse this week, although in fact the installation has been delayed to February. According to this article, the courthouse at Big Stone was completed in 1912 at a total cost of $94,000.
Local pig-out places have cause for a sigh of relief, as a federal court in New York dismissed the "fat food" case against McDonalds, in this opinion. "Obesity is a particularly acute problem in the eastern South Central states and in the economically depressed Appalachia region," according to this article, which described one West Virginia's hospital's upgrade to operating tables that would accommodate persons weighing as much as 1,000 pounds.
Delegate Jackie Stump, for the second straight year, was part of a successful effort to limit what he viewed as excessive proposed extensions of Virginia's seatbelt laws, as described here and here. Unresolved is whether the Senate or the House will pass the proposal to allow law enforcement officials to stop drivers for seatbelt violations, as reported here.
As described here, the Town of Big Stone Gap filed suit against Wise County to resolve their annexation dispute.
Bristol's own Senator William Wampler made the top-10 list of General Assembly members who filed the most bills this legislative session, according to this report.
What's relevant about the inquiries into Judge Annunziata and Judge Askew? Some Democrats charge this year marks a change into deciding who gets judgeships based on personal and political beliefs, rather than judicial integrity and competence, according to this article. Last year, former judge Donald McGlothlin expressed the view, as in this article, that his reappointment was denied for personal rather than professional reasons. Former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Penny White is still the poster-child for judicial independence, and travels the country telling of how she was voted out in 1996, as described in this article.
The General Assembly has elected Judge G. Steven Agee of Salem to the Virginia Supreme Court, as reported here. His appointment creates a vacancy on the Court of Appeals, for which several candidates from Southwest Virginia have been identified, as reported here.
One of the legislative proposals allowing municipalities, such as Bristol, to serve as cable television providers passed a Senate committee, as described here and here. At the same time, Wise County officials are reported here as saying they don't want to get into the cable business. A cable company lawyer said here that the legislation, regardless of the details, is a bad idea.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The Roanoke Times reports here that the Fourth Circuit will hear oral argument today in the case over the dinner prayer at Virginia Military Institute, which Judge Moon of the W.D. Va. held was unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause, in this opinion.
The House Courts of Justice committee approved reappointment of Judge Annunziata after all, as reported here. Still unresolved is the status of a Newport News circuit court judge, as reported here.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court held in this case that "shall" means "may" in the context of the deadline for the assignment of beneficiaries under the Coal Act, with means one less potential defense for present and former coal companies seeking to limit their Coal Act obligations.
Delegate Bud Phillips has proposed a five-year moratorium on annexation by Virginia towns, according to this report.
Terry Kilgore says Judge Steve Agee from Salem is likely to be appointed to the Virginia Supreme Court, according to this report.

Monday, January 20, 2003

The potential of this legislative proposal to designate coal as "the official rock of the Commonwealth" will apparently go unmined.
The Washington Redskins are seeking an exemption from Virginia's workers' compensation laws in this session of the General Assembly, as reported here and here. On January 10, in this opinion, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against the Redskins in a comp case involving former offensive lineman Jeff Uhlenhake.
A Virginia legislator claims that the placement of a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Richmond would violate a state law prohibiting the commingling of union and confederate monuments, according to this report.
According to this report, Regent Law School has settled the claim of a former law student who sued after his fellow students told him that he had a "demon" because of his facial tic.
O'Donna Ramsey wrote this account of a lawsuit against Ernie Benko's Gateway Television business in Wise County.
On Friday, the Fourth Circuit issued this opinion, written by the W.D. Va.'s Judge James P. Jones. Judge Jones sat on some appellate panels in December.
The stun-gun wrongful death lawsuit against the Va. Department of Corrections regarding a death at the Wallens Ridge facility in Wise County has been transferred from Richmond to Roanoke, as explained here.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

The Virginia House of Delegates has delayed reappointment of Judge Annunziata of the Court of Appeals, as reported here. One of her two controversial opinions appears here.

Southwest Virginia's circuit judges Keary Williams and Colin Campbell made the list for reappointment, which did not include the retiring Judge Quillen. The House bill listing general district court judges included Judge Lewis from Lee County, Judge Combs from Tazewell County, and Isaac Freeman from Smyth County, who will take the position which has been held by George Warren of Bristol following the retirement of Thomas Hutton last summer.
The Wise County website reports here on the retirement of Judge Ford Quillen from the 30th Circuit.
The Roanoke Times reports here that Senators Warner and Allen have submitted the names of Magistrate Judge Glen Conrad and attorneys Maryellen Goodlatte, Doug Guynn, and Terry Kilgore for the vacancy on the W.D. Va.