Thursday, January 24, 2008

Judge Farmer out?

This VLW Blog post said that Senator Puckett has declared his opposition to the reappointment of Judge John Farmer of the J & DR court in the district of Buchanan, Dickenson, Tazewell, and Russell counties.

Nobody's told me who will get the circuit court job for that same area, maybe because nobody knows. As evidenced by the hold up on the reappointment of Judge Farmer, the selection of a judge for the 29th Circuit is even more complicated now than it was in the circumstances of last year, when the Republicans evidently could not agree on a successor to Judge Williams from Grundy.

In case you missed it

It says here:

"A warming global ocean — influencing the winds that shear off the tops of developing storms — could mean fewer Atlantic hurricanes striking the United States according to new findings by NOAA climate scientists."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rhythm and Roots 2008 - Doc Watson and Ralph Stanley

The word is out that the 2008 Rhythm and Roots Reunion in downtown Bristol will feature both Doc Watson and Ralph Stanley.

On John Cook

It says here that John Cook of the Caskie and Frost firm in Lynchburg is up for a circuit court judgeship, and he has been rated well qualified by his local bar.

He can tell others that I am 100% for him or against him, whichever will do him the most good.

Dismissal in section 1983 case upheld on grounds of lack of state action

In German v. Fox, the Fourth Circuit in a per curiam opinion for the panel of Judges Motz and Duncan and District Judge Brinkema affirmed the dismissal of a section 1983 claim related to the plaintiff's dismissal from employment with a private, non-profit organization. Judge Conrad of the W.D. Va. had held that the plaintiff had failed to state a First Amendment claim, but the panel decided the complaint failed to plead state action.

Even though I mostly litigate these cases on the government side, this seems like an odd decision on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, how much are you supposed to say about state action? I guess the real problem was that he pleaded too many facts, which happens sometimes - pleading unnecessary details leads to dismissal when those details show you cannot have a claim.

I'm Spartacus! No, I'm Spartacus!

In Horace Mann Ins. Co. v. General Star Nat'l Ins. Co., the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Traxler, joined by Judges Niemeyer and District Judge Wilson of the W.D. Va., decided the competing claims of two insurers to the exalted position of the "excess" carrier, and reversed the decision of the District Court (the N.D. W.Va.), in a rare published opinion dealing with purely state law issues that includes a discussion of "the nature and operation of primary and excess liability insurance policies."

Funky place where we ate in Williamsburg

One place where we ate in Williamsburg last weekend was the Opus 9 Steakhouse - the two of us ate for $125, so it was not Shoney's. The place is in New Town.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What I remember seeing in Nice and Monaco

There was some effort made to influence my decision regarding the purchase of some lavender in Nice, and just outside that same market, I did see some substantial crookedness - on display alongside the main road by the beach, in broad daylight. In Monte Carlo, we saw the courthouse - with "LEX" over the front door - but no judges, and it seemed a far less impressive building than the casino.

Post No. 7,000

In the category of "Now it can be told"

The Chicago Tribune has this story of two public defenders who kept the secret of their client's murder confession, until his recent death.

Closer to home, a Virginia lawyer who represented a co-defendant in the Daryl Atkins case came forward with information that created doubt about his client's confession and led the circuit court to change Atkins' sentence to life in prison, as described here in the New York Times and here in the Washington Post. A timeline of the case is here.

Back in West Virginia, the justice who dined with Don Blankenship in the Riviera decided to recuse himself, after all, as described here in the New York Times.

Interesting stuff

The New York Times has the photos of West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Maynard, hanging out with Don Blankenship in Monte Carlo, while the appeal of the $50 million verdict in favor of Harman Mining and against Blankenship's company was unresolved. (For the record, when I was in Nice and Monaco in 2007, I didn't see any judges I knew there.)

The Norfolk paper reports here that just because Judge Payne of the E.D. Va. called former Virginia lawyer Thomas E. Smolka "an embarrassment to the legal profession," that was no reason to overturn his federal convictions, according to a recent Fourth Circuit opinion.

Here is the story of the guy who after his conviction was overturned, wrote a letter telling more about his wrongdoing to the Commonwealth's attorney in Prince William County, who used it on the re-trial to get him a death sentence.

This article from Inside HigherEd says the University of North Carolina paid $385,000 to settle the sexual harassment case against their famous women's soccer coach. The settlement included a letter of apology from the coach. The Fourth Circuit's en banc opinion in the case is here.

Here's a wacky article on the City of Charlottesville's opposition to the coal power plant being built in Wise County. It says - there is no good power, we want the cold and the dark. I understood the 2007 Virginia Energy Plan to say that even with massive and expensive conservation efforts, Virginia's energy consumption will continue to increase.

J&DR judges

The House of Delegates has named some juvenile and domestic relations district court judges, including:

The Honorable Florence A. Powell, of Washington, as a judge of the Twenty-eighth Judicial District for a term of six years commencing February 1, 2008.

The Honorable John M. Farmer, of Dickenson, as a judge of the Twenty-ninth Judicial District for a term of six years commencing April 1, 2008.

The Honorable Jeffrey S. Hamilton, of Scott, as a judge of the Thirtieth Judicial District for a term of six years commencing February 1, 2008.

Judge Hamilton, I suppose, fills the seat left vacant by former Judge Shull. Judge Powell was a circuit court pick, confirmed for the first time by the legislature. Judge Farmer was left out of the Senate bill.

The bills adding judgeships to the 30th Circuit and the 28th and 29th districts are continuing, although Senator Wampler on the Finance Committee voted against both, as shown here and here.

Any means any

Today in Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Supreme Court in an opinion by Justice Thomas concluded that the exclusion to the waiver of sovereign immunity in the Federal Tort Claims Act for "claims arising from the detention of property by 'any officer of customs or excise or any other law enforcement officer'" is not limited to "law enforcement officers enforcing customs or excise laws," but includes prison officials.

So, I guess our old Missouri case is still one of the few in which "any" did not really mean "any," or at least not any fish.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What Justice Koontz said at the VBA meeting

Justice Koontz talking about brief-writing said one thing the appellee should do is to organize its brief in the same way as the appellant's brief, no matter how inane, so that the brief readers can do a side-by-side analysis of the issues, one by one.

He also said think about why the Court granted the petition (which would be great if only they would tell us).

He said shorter briefs are better and acknowledged that the Court has been changing the Rules to require shorter briefs.

He said that in a case where the Court awards an appeal, before the argument, every brief gets read by every justice.

He said all else equal, footnotes are bad.

I didn't have the nerve to cross-examine him about, well, you know.

The transcript from Virginia v. Moore

Here is the transcript from the argument before the Supreme Court in the case of Virginia v. Moore, about which I had this post earlier.

The people I talked to in Williamsburg seemed to think the argument went well for the Commonwealth, but then the ones telling me this all had a rooting interest.

My old U.Va. and William & Mary contemporary who works on staff for the Court of Appeals was supposedly there, I suppose if she had been arrested for disorderly conduct I would know how her judge's position had fared before the High Court.

Boucher picks Obama

As reported here in the Kingsport paper and here in the Richmond paper elsewhere, Southwest Virginia congressman Rick Boucher has endorsed Barack Obama.

In 1998, Congressman Boucher made this statement about President Bill Clinton, which says in part: "He has diminished his personal dignity and that of the office of the presidency. He has brought the presidency into disrepute and impaired the image of the president as a role model for younger Americans.... I share the public's deep disdain for the actions of the president. And I'm truly concerned that if Congress takes no action, many troubling unanswered questions will remain with regard to the example that his conduct sets."