Saturday, January 01, 2005

Northern Virginia Delegate to miss General Assembly session due to illness

The Washington Times reports here ("Ill Van Landingham to miss next session," 12/31/04) that Del. Marian Van Landingham will miss the upcoming session of the General Assembly due to illness.

The article mentions that she is an artist who has been involved with the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. I would never have heard of, seen, or gone to the Torpedo Factory had I never met my wife, who somehow sort of knew this woman with a studio there.

2005 Virginia preview

Will Vehrs has this worthwhile Polstate post describing the upcoming year in politics in the Commonwealth.

Anna Nicole done in by probate exception to federal jurisdiction

In Marshall v. Marshall, that is, the Anna Nicole Smith case, the Ninth Circuit held, among other things, that "all federal courts, including bankruptcy courts, are bound by the probate exception to federal court jurisdiction and that we are required to refrain from deciding state law probate matters, no matter how the issue is framed by the parties." (You can add that one to the list of favorites, along with Younger and Princess Lida and Rooker-Feldman and Heck v. Humphreys.)

Anna Nicole famously married a rich old guy, who gave her a bundle during his life but nothing on his death, so she sued and lost in state court, sued and won millions somehow in the bankruptcy court, but then lost it again on this appeal.

Dobson threatens 6 Democrat Senators including Byrd over judges, Colson and Mark Earley disagree

In this story, James Dobson of Focus on the Family says he and his lot will go after six Democratic Senators up for re-election next year, including Robert Byrd of West Virginia, if they support filibusters to prevent an up-or-down vote on federal judge nominees.

The article goes on to say that Charles Colson and Mark Earley's group does not approve religious figures making deals with politicians (or something like that).

Practicing cruciverbalist

As a crossword nut, I enjoyed this Research Buzz post with a link to CrosswordPuzzleGames.Com.

Back in our college days, the Cavalier Daily (I think it was) had the NY Times crossword, and you could pick these up anywhere on the Grounds all day long, so by the end of the day, from time to time, we would have more or less memorized the puzzle and would debate the answers (the wild men that we were).

Good place to eat on the road to Richmond

Finally, I've checked out this place on Rte. 60 in Cumberland, and it was good (and yes, I've got a new digital camera). Posted by Hello

Friday, December 31, 2004

On the retirement of a distinguished Roanoke general district court judge

The Roanoke paper has this interesting profile of Judge George W. Harris, Jr., retiring after nearly 20 years as judge of the General District Court.

The article provides, in part:

"Harris graduated from all-black Dunbar Senior High School in Lynchburg in 1955 and was one of the first blacks to attend the University of Virginia.

Social pressures at UVa during the late 1950s forced him to transfer out after two years.

At Virginia Union University in Richmond in 1960, he was arrested for trespassing during a civil rights sit-in, but his conviction was later overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court.

With a bachelor's degree in business administration, Harris set out to find a job, but the only job he was offered was as an assembly line worker at General Electric. Instead, he decided to go to law school.

Three years later, in 1967, Harris had obtained his law degree and passed the bar exam on the first try. He set up a general practice in Roanoke, taking over the practice of a black lawyer who had died.

. . .

After gaining a reputation as a tireless adversary of the school board and school administration, Harris was named to the Roanoke School Board in 1980.

"I think if a devil's advocate is needed, yes, I'll be one," he said in a 1980 interview with The Roanoke Times. "If I feel that basically the board is doing the best it can, I guess you could classify me an establishment man."

But few could really call Harris an "establishment man." He remained a watchdog of the school administration and, when it was time to hire a new superintendent, was one of a minority on the board who voted against hiring Frank Tota.

When Harris was considered for a judgeship, he received the honor of being endorsed by both the Roanoke and the Salem-Roanoke County bar associations, something that does not happen with regularity. Even Tota agreed that a judgeship would suit Harris."

The article goes on to describe an occasion when Judge Harris put a then-young assistant prosecutor in jail:

"One day in May 1988, [Ray] Ferris, then a prosecutor, showed up for court a half-hour late. Harris responded by reducing the defendant's felony charge to a misdemeanor.

"Judge, you don't have the authority to do that," Ferris said. "Either dismiss the case or certify it."

Ferris was warned, then found in contempt and thrown in jail. Sixteen years later, he says he learned quite a lesson from Harris that day."

No law against having a dog on the roof

In this NC story about a dog that apparently hangs out on the roof of a house, a law enforcement official is quoted as saying, there's no law against it.

When we lived on Valley Street, the dog back in her fit and trim days would go up the back stairs, through the porch railing, onto the kitchen roof, and at least once, my wife was at the sink in the bathroom and looked up to see the dog looking down at her through the sky light in the bathroom ceiling.

Washington County has more wrecks than Wythe County?

In this AP article about the decision by Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman to patrol Interstate 81, it says that there were more wrecks on the interstate in Washington County than in either Smyth County or Wythe County.

Missing woman not missing

Yesterday, the Bristol paper had a story about a missing local woman. Today, the paper had TriCitiesthis article that says the woman called into the police and denied that she was missing.

Virginia's Status for 2005

Not that anyone has any better knowledge than anyone else, but this lengthy MyDD post with a series of comments takes a look with the MyDD-Democratic-slant at the 2005 Kilgore-Kaine campaign.

Suppression orders reversed

In U.S. v. Perez, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Traxler, joined by Chief Judge Wilkins and District Judge Titus, reversed the district court's ruling on a motion to suppress, concluding that the good faith exception to the requirement of a search warrant supported by probable cause applied.

In U.S. v. Dickey-Bey, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Niemeyer, joined by Judge Luttig and Senior Judge Hamilton, reversed the district court's suppression order, concluding that there was probable cause to arrest the defendant where he showed up to take delivery of packages that contained cocaine and that the defendant's vehicle could be searched incident to his arrest.

John Dean takes on Fourth Circuit nominee Haynes

In this Findlaw article, John Dean considers ther nomination of William J. Haynes to the Fourth Circuit.

Dean, famous for his role in the Nixon administration, says this: "Plainly, the case in favor of Haynes's nomination - extremely poor even before the torture memoranda came before the public eye - is now appallingly poor. So why in the world is Bush renominating Haynes?" His answer seems to be that Haynes was renominated so the Democrats can exorcise themselves of their indigation over "Torturegate" in dealing with Haynes, thereby taking the heat off of others.

The best I can make of this article is that it does sound like something from the stereotypical thinking attributed to the Nixon administration.

Judge Conrad rules for bank on negligence and conversion claims

In Terry v. Bank of America, N.A., Judge Conrad of the W.D. Va. granted the bank's motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' negligence and conversion claims, concluding in essence with respect to money that was withdrawn from an account, the bank had no duty to the plaintiffs and the money in the account belonged to the bank and could not be converted.

New book by Helen Prejean takes on a Virginia murder case

The Christian Science Monitor has this review of a new book by Helen Prejean called The Death of Innocents, which includes her account of the Virginia case of Joseph Roger O'Dell.

From the Amazon page, one review says: "O'Dell was denied appellate review by the highest court in Virginia because his lawyers typed one wrong word on his petition's title page."

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The proposed Virginia Litigation Reduction and Consumer Personal Responsibility Act

The Fredericksburg paper has this article about the proposed "Virginia Litigation Reduction and Consumer Personal Responsibility Act of 2005," which is online as HB 1617, and provides, in part, as follows:

§ 8.01-44.7. Product liability; products containing open and obvious dangers.

A. A product liability action may not be brought in any federal or state court under Virginia law against any manufacturer or seller of a qualified food product where the claim arises from an injury, potential injury or death resulting from a person's consumption of a food product and weight gain, obesity or any health condition that is associated with a person's weight gain or obesity.

B. In a product liability action, a manufacturer or seller shall not be liable under Virginia law where the claim arises from an injury to or the death of a voluntary user of the product that is directly caused by an open and obvious danger of the product.

It's ludicrous to think a terrorist will attack a rural courthouse in rural Virginia

So says a critic of homeland security spending quoted in this article from the Daily Press, which looks at what Virginia localities have been able to buy with homeland security money.

What would Bill Hobbs say about this - Tennessee imposes income tax on sale of Illegal Drugs

The Bristol paper has this AP report that says: "Beginning Saturday, a new law will require drug dealers to pay taxes on the drugs they sell."

In fact, here is what Bill Hobbs said, which included the following:

"While I'm generally opposed to tax increases, I would heartily support the legislature raising the excise tax on the sale of illegal drugs to 100 percent. They also ought to require drug-pushers to charge sales tax, and penalize them if they don't."

More on ignorance, the Internet, and the election

Somebody at the Volokh Conspiracy in this post cites Mickey Kaus' take on the commentary from ABC News in August that it was "Kerry's election to lose," a conclusion which turns out to have been completely bogus.

Kaus concludes:

"How could brilliant genuine experts like Mark Halperin & Co. get it wrong? Because at some level they were conned by their peers and their Dem campaign sources (who were probably conning themselves) in a way I doubt they could be conned by Republican sources. ... And Halperin is known as a relatively non-partisan straight-shooter. What does this tell you about the rest of the press corps? ..."

I told Jim Elliott not long after Election Day, this campaign year is going to be the death of expertise, every stupid thing any of the pollsters and pundits said is going to live forever on the internet and henceforth when they opine, the 2004 election is going to be a black mark against every one of them.

More on ASL settlement

This press release from the Appalachian School of Law describes the settlement in the shooting cases.

UPDATE: I've removed some of my earlier comments, which were inappropriate.

Virginia Politics News Review

Via Waldo, Virginia Politics News Review is added to the line-up of Virginia blogs.

Those Elizabeth Minors

This story about Republican dominance in the Winchester area caught my eye because it mentioned that the mayor of Winchester is a woman named Elizabeth Minor, which was also the name of my grandmother.

Not too long ago, I went to a little seminar on networking, and fired up with ideas about the need to meet and greet, I proceeded to a cocktail party and dinner with a bunch of lawyers and their wives and decided to try out the techniques that had just been instilled in my brain. Instead, I spent the biggest chunk of my time telling stories about Elizabeth Minor to the wife of a Richmond lawyer, but at least she was not bored. Grandma was not boring.

More on medical malpractice reform talk in Virginia

The Washington Post has this report ("Premiums Also an Issue For D.C. and Va.," 12/29/04) on efforts to change damage limits in medical malpractice cases in Virginia and elsewhere.

Settlement expected today in law school shooting case

The Bluefield paper reports here ("Settlement expected today in law school shooting civil suit," 12/29/04) that Judge Weckstein, sitting by designation, is expected to approve the settlement of the civil cases brought against the Appalachian School of Law and others related to the shooting deaths at the school in January 2002.

5-year statute of limitations applies to misdemeanor bad check charge

In Foster v. Com., the Virginia Court of Appeals in an opinion by Judge Bumgardner, joined by Judges Benton and Kelsey, held that the five-year statute of limitations for petit larceny applied to a misdemeanor charge under the bad check statute.

Court of appeals finds no Miranda violation in case of college student convicted of murdering her baby

In Aldridge v. Com., the Virginia Court of Appeals in a lengthy opinion by Judge Humphreys joined by Senior Judge Coleman held. among other things, that the police did not violate the 18 year-old defendant's Miranda rights when they questioned her about the death of a newborn baby, whose body was found in a rented storage facility, and that the Commonwealth had met its burden of proving that the baby had lived and was killed. Judge Benton dissented on the Miranda and corpus delicti issues, based on which he would have reversed the defendant's conviction.

Chief Judge Jones dismisses Stanley suit against Judge Stump and Wise County clerk of court

In Stanley v. Smith, Chief Judge Jones of the W.D. Va. dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the claims brought by computer guy and sometime fugitive David Stanley against Wise County Circuit Court Judge Robert Stump and the Clerk of Court for Wise County, Jack Kennedy, related to the handling of his probation. Judge Jones concluded that Mr. Stanley could make his points in his ongoing state court proceedings, which are now assigned to retired Judge Persin.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Chief Judge Jones enters stay of execution

The Washington Post has this report ("Federal Judge Stays Jan. 7 Execution of Va. Inmate," 12/28/04) on an order entered by Chief Judge Jones of the W.D. Va. staying the execution of a Virginia man convicted of murdering a police officer. The stay was entered to allow the defendant to take his federal appeals.

Del. Bryant removed from Appropriations committee

The Lynchburg paper reports here ("Del. Bryant removed from Appropriations Committee," 12/29/04) that Delegate Preston Bryant has been removed from the Appropriations Committee, of which he was a member for seven years. The move is apparently in retaliation for his support of last year's tax increases.

Another rocket docket crashes?

This article says, among other things, that after intellectual property cases flooded the E.D. Va., the judges advised lawyers to go elsewhere, so they went to Texas, which is now overburdened with IP cases.

Why does Virginia matter?

Redstate has this very interesting post on the national political implications of a possible 2006 showdown between Mark Warner and George Allen in Virginia.

Cert petition filed in Virginia redistricting case

Votelaw reports here that the losers have filed a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court in a Virginia congressional redistricting case. The petition is here, and it involves an appeal from a Fourth Circuit ruling on the application of the Voting Rights Act to Virginia's 2001 redistricting of the Fourth Congressional District.

The mediation

Rufus has this true-to-life account of a day-long mediation from the perspective of in-house counsel.

It sounds authentic to me.

Circuit court judge claims JIRC was biased against him

The Richmond paper has this remarkable article with the details of the opposing legal positions presented to the Virginia Supreme Court in the case of Judge Peatross' appeal from the findings against him made by the Commonwealth's Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Ruth Greiner story

The Bristol paper had this story on the millions of dollars bequeathed by Ruth Greiner, whom I knew as a court reporter here in Bristol.

With no disrespect intended, I often retell the story that I was more or less afraid of Ms. Greiner until at one deposition I told a mildly off-color joke (something about a spelling contest between Dan Quayle, Bill Clinton, and Clarence Thomas, which I heard told by Professor Erwin Chemerinsky at a section 1983 litigation seminar at the Georgetown University Law Center), and she found it to be delightful, and asked me to repeat it every time thereafter when we met for depositions.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Another Virginia politics blog

Virginia Progressive is another blog about Virginia politics. I'll add it to my list, whenever the list shows up again.

I suspect there will be more Virginia political blogs before the New Year is out, what with the big statewide elections and all. In fact, sooner or later, the candidates will not only have websites, but might even have blogs.

I bet if Chad Dotson was running for re-election in 2005, he would have a blog.

Predictions from the savvy bloggers

Adam Smith, Esq., has this interesting year-end post with comments from his selection of "Savvy Bloggers" on the future of the law business.

There is too much interesting stuff there to describe it.

Bush to renominate Haynes and Boyle to Fourth Circuit, perhaps not Allen

It's old news now, but ACS has this post on the plans of President Bush to renominate Judge Boyle of North Carolina and William J. Haynes, II, late of the Defense Department to the Fourth Circuit in the next Congress.

Howard Bashman deduces here that Claude Allen, like Judge Kuhl from California, may not have wanted to be renominated. Mr. Allen faced opposition from the two Democratic Senators from Maryland, who complained among other things that a Maryland lawyer should be the replacement for the late Judge Francis Murnaghan.