Saturday, July 14, 2007

On George Brett

In the case of Central Manufacturing, Inc. v. Brett, the Seventh Circuit's opinion begins:

The Pine Tar Incident

It’s undisputed: George Brett was a great baseball player. The statistics from his 21 years in The Show, all with the Kansas City Royals, seal the deal: 3,154 hits, 317 home runs, and a career batting average of .305. Only three other players—Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays—ended their careers with more than 3,000 hits and 300 home runs, while still maintaining a lifetime batting average over .300. Brett’s selection to the Hall of Fame, on the first ballot in 1999, was richly deserved. Yet for all his accomplishments, many who love baseball will always think of the “Pine Tar Incident” as the capstone of his career. It is a joy to recall.

It was July 24, 1983, and the Royals, trailing 4-3 to the New York Yankees, had a man on first but were down to their final out in the top half of the ninth inning. Brett was at the plate. The Yankees’ ace closer, “Goose” Gossage, was on the mound. And Brett crushed an 0-1 fastball over the 353-foot mark into the right field seats, giving Kansas City the lead, 5-4. Pandemonium broke out in the Royals’ dugout. The Yankee Stadium crowd fell silent. But things were about to change.

While the Royals were celebrating, the Yankees’ fiery manager, Billy Martin, walked calmly (unusual for him) to home plate where he engaged the umpire, Tim McClelland, in quiet conversation. Martin pointed to an obscure rule (and we sometimes think the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure are obscure!), which provides that any substance (including pine tar) that a player might rub on his bat handle for a better grip cannot extend more than 18 inches. See Major League Baseball Official Rules § 1.10(b). Martin, pointing to a lot of pine tar on the bat Brett left behind as he circled the bases, asked McClelland to check it out. McClelland, using home plate as a ruler, determined that pine tar covered 24 inches of the bat handle. So the bat, McClelland ruled, was illegal.

With his ruling ready for delivery, McClelland took a few steps toward the jubilant Royals’ dugout and gave the signal: for using an illegal bat, the home run was nullified, and Brett was out. Game over. Yankees win 4-3. And all hell broke loose. An infuriated George Brett charged out of the dugout and rushed McClelland as Martin, who looked like the cat who ate the canary, stood off to the side. It was one of the great all-time rhubarbs in baseball history. And that’s how it ended, at least for July 24, 1983.

But baseball, like our legal system, has appellate review. The Royals protested the game and, as luck would have it, American League President Lee MacPhail (to use a phrase with which we are accustomed) “reversed and remanded for further proceedings.” The game resumed three weeks later with Kansas City ahead, 5-4. It ended after 12 minutes when Royals’ closer Dan Quisenberry shut the door on the Yankees in their half of the ninth to seal the win. The whole colorful episode is preserved, in all its glory, on YouTube, at (last visited June 6, 2007). See also Retrosheet Boxscore, Kansas City Royals 5, New York Yankees 4, at (last visited June 6, 2007).

Lawyers miss hearing, assessed costs, because spam filter ate a hearing notice e-mailed from federal court

Via Jim Calloway, this story tells of some lawyers in Colorado who missed a hearing in federal court because they had ratcheted up their spam filter and it started treating the federal court notices as spam.

Calloway says you must white-list the courts no matter what.

The cheapskate that I am, I/we use as our spam filter a program called SpamBayes, which has no white-listing feature, and here's why. The FAQ says in part: "If you really need whitelisting, consider implementing rules in your mailer to intercept the messages before they're passed to SpamBayes." I suppose it would not be too hard to write an Outlook e-mail rule for ECF/CMF messages. Or, we might break down and buy something like InBoxer.

Why more questions is a bad thing

This HOWT post weighs proposition, the side that gets the most questions will probably lose.

Arguing an appeal is a rare thing for me, but in the trial courts usually the judge if he or she has read the papers or the cases is going to ask somebody, doesn't this fact or this case mean that you lose?

And, sometimes the answer saves the day, but more often it doesn't. The worst situation is when the court stops asking questions, because they've made up their mind and are no longer interested.

Unfortunately, in state court, where the judges have larger dockets and smaller staffs, the questions are generally less incisive.

On motions to dismiss and the Bell Atlantic case

Via this post, this article explains why the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly will lead to more motions to dismiss being granted, even outside the area of anti-trust law.

More on the proposed new bar passage requirements for accredited law schools

The NLJ via has this article, in which various law school deans blast the ABA's proposal, referenced here, to make specific bar passage rates a mandatory condition for continued accreditation.

Only successful prognostication in the past two years

Earlier this month, a split panel of the Sixth Circuit reversed the ruling of the District Court in Michigan on the constitutionality of the NSA's terrorism surveillance program, in the case of ACLU v. NSA.

And, that's what I thought would happen, although I didn't think it would go down for lack of standing.

Watch what you ask for

ACSBlog has this amusing post about how Vice-President Cheney's effort to claim that his office is outside of the Executive Branch might re-open the cases where he has claimed some form of privilege because his office is within the Executive Branch.

On Monroe Jamison

Bluegrass picker, coal lawyer, defender of the poor, Monroe Jamison died this week, at the too young age of 52.

He and his music buddies played on the front porch at my sister's outdoor wedding. He was a mainstay of live music in Abingdon, working on the Highlands Festival for years. He was in Kiwanis with my dad. I tried a hard-fought case against him in Scott County, not too long ago, and he won it. He was a fine fellow, a good lawyer and much more than a lawyer.

The Bristol paper's obituary says, and I believe it, he leaves behind his family and "a grieving community of musicians, colleagues and close friends who cherished his intelligence, warmth, generosity, quick wit and abundant talents.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Would the Democrats put a Richmonder on the Supreme Court?

SCOTUSBlog has made a list of people who might get picked for the Supreme Court if the next president is a Democrat, and the list includes Chief Justice Hassell and Judge Gregory of the Fourth Circuit.

But, they're not on Tom Goldstein's short list.

Bad plan

The Roanoke paper reports here on the criminal case against a woman who decided to her boyfriend out by plotting to tamper with the car of the judge on his case, so the judge could not show up for court.

The article says in part:

"A woman who plotted to cut the brake lines on a judge's car was released from jail Thursday after several of the charges she faced were dropped.

. . .

At a preliminary hearing in January, a man testified that Dunford asked if he would help her find Showalter's Montgomery County home. After he pressed her, she admitted she wanted to cut his brake lines, he said.

Dunford's boyfriend, Christian Skye Crockett, was in jail on drug charges and Showalter wouldn't grant him bond. Dunford wanted to keep Showalter from showing up for court so another judge would hear Crockett's case, the man testified."

The trial judge in the girlfriend's case is retired Judge Quillen from the 30th Circuit.

Falling down in Pocahontas

This article reports on the collapse of the general store in Pocahontas.

One more on the bandwagon

Here is an editoral from Wheeling, WV, saying that the White House and the Senate need to act now to fill vacancies on the Fourth Circuit.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

On wireless in Harrisonburg

Via Jim Baller, here is an update on a recent setback in the plans of the government in Harrisonburg to establish a wireless network.

Downtown Harrisonburg is kind of funky, with the courthouse on its own island in the middle of town, sort of like one of the squares in Savannah. I can't say that I ever did much good the few times I was in there, but I enjoyed being there.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On the late Lady Bird Johnson

When I was born, the President was Johnson and the First Lady was Lady Bird.

In 1965, while she was still First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson came to Abingdon, stayed at the Martha Washington Inn, and, as noted here, "bartered a potted plant for a ticket" to the Barter Theatre.

Or, so I've always heard. Actually, this version from Time Magazine says this:

"At Abingdon, the tourists attended the Barter Theater's performance of Julius Caesar, and the First Lady presented the theater's annual award to Presidential Arts Adviser Roger Stevens for his contributions as a Broadway producer. In keeping with the little theater's name, the group bargained its way past the box office: Lady Bird unwrapped another White House seedling, and Mrs. Humphrey brought a bucket of vegetables—'not to be thrown.'"

30th anniversary ignored

This article begins "The State Bar of Arizona last week had no comment regarding the practice of lawyers advertising, nor did it want to say anything about the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the matter."

On Eugene Derryberry

Here from the Roanoke paper is a story on the life and times of Eugene Derryberry, who was a business lawyer with the Gentry Locke firm.

The article says in part:

"Prominent Roanoke lawyer Eugene E. Derryberry would often sing and play his guitar in the middle of the afternoon to lighten up the office.

"When Gene would sing, everything in the world would be all right," said Mike Pace, a managing partner at Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore. Derryberry worked at the law firm for 34 years and was known as a mentor and a strict grammarian with a love for teaching."

I didn't know him, but I understood that he was the wise counselor for the family business of my mom's cousin's family business in downtown Roanoke. It seems to me that the Roanoke bar has (or had) a lot of interesting characters.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Lexis buys Juris

Having bought CaseMap, et al, a while back, now LexisNexis has bought Juris, as reported here.

I told the money lady that soon we will get down to two vendors, West and Lexis.

The usual challenges when these vendors get bought is whether the good customer service will continue, and whether the prices will go up.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Another corner heard from

The Bristol paper opines here that it is past time to fill the vacancies on the Fouth Circuit.