Saturday, December 10, 2005

On buying local stuff

A new one on me is this site, where you find things to buy that were "Grown, Crafted and Manufactured in Northeast Tennessee & Southwest Virginia."

The Virginia State Board of Election's standards for recounts of Virginia elections

Revised as of November 28, 2005, the State Board of Elections has promulgated these standards for the conduct of election recounts in Virginia, with these ballot examples for manual recounting.

On hourly rates

On, they are reporting that Hourly Billing Rates Continue to Rise, including discussion of one partner at the Venable firm who charges $1,000 per hour for some matters.

I don't know anything about Mr. Civiletti, but the several lawyers I've met from Venable earn their money; they're as stout a bunch as any I've come across.

RLUIPA show and tell

This cross beside the interstate must be 30 feet high. Posted by Picasa

I always wonder when I drive past it whether they had to apply for some kind of permit under the zoning ordinance, and if it had been denied, whether they would have had a claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Watch what you ask for

Here are the press reports on the first big ruling in the Attorney General recount:

The AP - Court rejects Democrat's argument in contested AG's race
The Free Lance-Star - Ballots will not be rescanned
Richmond Times-Dispatch - McDonnell gets preliminary court victory
Roanoke Times - McDonnell wins panel decision on recount
Virginian Pilot - Panel's recount ruling goes McDonnell's way
Washington Post - Judges Exclude 26% of Ballots in Va. Recount

The issue was whether all of the "optical scan ballots" in the state would be rescanned. The panel ruled that only where the computer tapes were illegible or contested would the Court consider recounting of individual ballots in those jurisdictions. Optical scan ballots are but one of the several methods of balloting used in the Commonwealth.

The Court's ruling will have the effect of reducing the number of ballots that will be recounted by hand. The secretary of the State Board of Elections indicated that if the 500,000+ optical scan ballots were to be individually recounted, more than 130,000 of those would have to be recounted by hand, because "machines used in nine jurisdictions -- including Martinsville -- could not be reprogrammed to count only the votes in the attorney general's election." The Roanoke article explained: "If they could be reprogrammed, the machines could set aside for inspection any ballots in which there were write-in votes, no votes or more than one vote in the attorney general's race. Without reprogramming, recount officials would have to count each ballot by hand."

The Deeds campaign cited the undervote in Chesterfield County and Virginia Beach. I would not have thought that new votes found in Chesterfield or the Beach would be likely to decrease the margin favoring McDonnell.

The Deeds campaign based its arguments on the magnitude of the undervote. As described here, there are always fewer votes case for Attorney General than for Governor, and a spread of 5 points between the percentage of ballots recording a vote for governor and the percentage of ballots recording a vote for Attorney General is not uncommon, in the figures shown in Larry Sabato's Virginia Votes 2001, available for download here from the Center for Politics website. In other words, the existence of a 40,000 vote undervote is not surprising - the lack of such an undervote would be more surprising, if not unbelievable.

Also, I can't get out of my mind the conclusions from one commenter to this post on Rick Sincere's blog, where he concludes:

"If you examine the undervote rate -- that is, the number of people who went to the polls but didn't vote in a given race -- for the Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General you see that the average rate for optical scan systems was 2.8% for each race. The undervote rate using DRE machines, though, was 50% higher in each case: around 4.0 - 4.2%. A statistical analysis of varaince [sic] shows that the only significant factor to explain this increase in voter apathy is the technology used, NOT 'voter satisfaction' or even locality size."

The comment links to this site, with analysis of the Virginia vote, which suggests that that 99% of the voters who turned out cast a vote in the Governor's race, 97.16 % cast a vote in the AG's race, 97.01 cast a vote in the LG's race. The site has this summary of the undervote for AG, broken down by type of voting machine.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Rule 11 sanction for filing meritless recusal motions

In Givens v. O'Quinn, Chief Judge Jones imposed a sanction of $250 and a reprimand against a local lawyer for filing what he determined were meritless recusal motions.

In the opinion, the Court observes, with a degree of understatement, that "it is hard to imagine that any other attorney practicing before this court would believe it appropriate to file the present motions."

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Living the dream in Abingdon

The Bristol paper reported today that the Town of Abingdon has won the 2006 American Dream Town Award.

Judge Kirksey from Bristol is on the McConnell-Deeds recount panel

From this Commonwealth Conservative post, I see this Washington Post article, which says among other things that the Virginia Supreme Court has appointed Judges Wilford Taylor Jr., of Hampton and Larry B. Kirksey of Bristol to join Judge Markow of Richmond on the panel that will decide the recount in the Attorney General's race.

Judge Kirksey's background is discussed here.

On more money for representing the poor in criminal cases

This free article from Virginia Lawyers Weekly says: "Statewide bar groups and Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr. are expected to lobby vigorously for more money for the representation of criminal defendants, and commission members see the session as a crucial one to make the system credible. Virginia court-appointed attorneys fees are the lowest in the country, and studies have shown that public defenders are underpaid and overworked as well."

I also read in VLW of 11/21/05 that Chief Justice Hassell will not be acting on the proposed family court system this year. That article noted that "Hassell had said initially that he hoped to have the General Assembly approve the concept of a family court in 2006, with funding and operation to begin in July 2007."

New standing order for assignment of cases in the W.D. Va.

I just noticed this new standing order, dealing with the assignment of cases in the W.D. Va., entered on November 28, 2005.

I think it leaves the mix in Abingdon and Big Stone Gap unchanged.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Another odd engineer from Virginia Tech

The Roanoke paper reports here that Henry Morris, who was on the engineering faculty at Virginia Tech from 1957 to 1970, published in 1961 a book about creationism that is still influential today.

Mr. Morris told the paper that he enjoyed his time at Tech. The reason why the professors from other departments did not give him much grief was explained this way: "Faculty in biology regarded Morris and his anti-evolutionist views as almost comical, dismissing him as another odd engineer."

A murder mystery featuring gun rights?

This account describes the efforts of a long-time Culpeper lawyer to write a novel, on themes including the Second Amendment.

Virginia Business Magazine - Legal Elite 2005

The December 2005 issue of Virginia Business has this year's listings of the Legal Elite, and it includes this profile of John H. OBrion Jr., regarding his mediation practice. A while back, I did a little research project, contacting a bunch of people I know and even a few who didn't know me, to get a mediator in Richmond, and OBrion was the consensus choice. We went with him, and he was great.

On the decline of peremptory challenges

Marcia Oddi links here to this AP story which begins: "Judges in Michigan cannot use a person's race, sex, religion or nationality to select jurors under a new rule approved by the Michigan Supreme Court."