Thursday, May 08, 2003

Former CEO of medical lab firm charged with loan fraud of $8.5 million

The former head of the NE TN pathology firm that recently filed for bankruptcy has been charged by federal authorities with "fraudulently obtaining more than $8.5 million in loans" according to this report, which says that law enforcement officials are saying that accused "secured the loans without the company’s knowledge, using documents that bore . . . forged signatures."

"The Robert E. Lee gentlemanly ethic is something that every W&L graduate gets"

So says this Leesburg lawyer, a Washington & Lee law graduate, who is also the current chairman of the Loudoun County GOP, and is profiled here.

Profile of new president of law tech firm based in Richmond

This article profiles the new president of Trialnet, a Richmond-based firm which claims to provide "a suite of web-based law management tools that can meaningfully improve the quality of defense litigation on a global basis, while significantly reducing fees and expenses."

BB&T must sell off 13 First Virginia sites for merger

So says the Justice Department, via former Hunton & Williams litigator Hew Pate, in this report.

The article does not answer what we really want to know, which is whether if the bank entered into a joint venture with Lloyd's of London, the result would be called "BLT."

More on Fourth Circuit's Rashwan decision

The AP has this report, titled "Appeals court rejects man's appeal on fraud convictions," on the today's Fourth Circuit case, noted here.

"Miners protest proposed changes in coal dust rule"

That's the headline on the AP report regarding changes in the federal law for dust monitoring in coal mines.

Virginia defendant claims "The Matrix" made him do it

A young man who killed his parents with a shotgun in Oakton is claiming mental illness, centered on his obsession with the movie "The Matrix," according to this report, which notes that the defendant "wore a trench coat like the one worn by actor Keanu Reeves in the movie, possessed the same entire outfit worn by Reeves, had a giant life-size poster of 'The Matrix' on his bedroom wall, and had the same type of weapons used in the film, including a shotgun similar to the one depicted in the movie."

Home Depot: we're not a "retail store", we're a "facility"?

In Fauquier County, the board of zoning appeals is not buying that interpretation, which would allow Home Depot by-right (rather than by special use permit) to build a big new "facility," according to this report, which explains the difficulties in appealing a decision of BZA under Virginia law.

Virginia's Roger Coleman case still the target of death penalty opponents

Reuters has this report as further evidence of the absurdly successful publicity machine of those who think that Roger Coleman was innocent and that the DNA samples still frozen in California might someday prove it. Coleman was convicted of raping and killing his young cousin in Buchanan County and he was executed in 1992.

The question I'd like to have answered is - how do these people manage to keep this story in the news? Is this the best case anywhere in the United States for claiming that an innocent man was executed? If that is so, then the system works pretty well, because there were a lot of reasons to think that Coleman was guilty, even if he wasn't, and regardless of what further DNA testing in the Coleman case might show, the availability of more sophisticated DNA testing now would be seem to further decrease the likelihood of innocent men being executed. Coleman did have a form of DNA testing done before his death and the results showed that he was more likely rather than less likely to have committed the crime.

Why the new law for renegotiating a school superintendent's contract in Virginia

The legislature added the following this year to Va. Code § 22.1-60:

"Whenever a superintendent's contract is being renegotiated, all members of the school board shall be notified at least 30 days in advance of any meeting at which a vote is planned on the renegotiated contract unless the members agree unanimously to take the vote without the 30 days notice. Each member's vote on the renegotiated contract shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting."

Why bother? This story in the Connection papers explains how it is a problem in Fairfax County.

Immigrant commits "marriage fraud" to stay in U.S., gets to stay 8 years in U.S. prison

In U.S. v. Rashwan, in an opinion by Judge Wilkinson, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence of an Egyptian national who conspired to find a American woman and marry her as a fraud on the U.S. government.

Summary judgment affirmed on former DoD employee's race, sex, and retaliation claims

In King v. Rumsfeld, in an opinion written by Judge Luttig, the Fourth Circuit upheld the dismissal of the discrimination claims brought by an African-American man regarding his employment with the Department of Defense, where the man was a teacher who used too much profanity and not enough lesson planning, or so his employer claimed.

Judge Gregory wrote a separate opinion, dissenting on the question of whether the plaintiff had put forth enough evidence to create a question of fact on pretext with regard to his retaliation claim.

I expect that the opinion will be cited often by employers, to show that the kind of evidence Judge Gregory cited does not defeat a summary judgment motion.

Dish Network to provide "local in local" service to Tri-Cities

Here are reports from the Kingsport and Bristol papers.

State senator Bill Bolling kicks off campaign for lieutenant governor in 2005

Here are reports from the Roanoke Times and the Associated Press.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Virginia has 180 different specialized license plates had to count them, to offer this report, which says legislators put forth proposals for 43 new license plates in the latest legislative session.

More on reforming the 21-day rule

It's a tricky business, according to Senator Stolle, as stated in this report on the efforts of the commission trying to reform the rule.

Republicans don't like to have one Republican calling another a "Nazi"

That the message to Senate candidate Paul Jost, according to this report.

Virginia county's chamber of commerce cannot be liable for officer's defamatory statements

That was the circuit court's ruling in a case in Winchester, described here.

Combined meetings behind closed doors

Someone is bound to litigate this plan, described here, for the county board of supervisors and the county school board to meet, each with less than a quorum, behind closed doors.

Top Ten - make that Fifteen - favorite graduation speeches available online

I liked everyone one of these. . . .

Albert Einstein, Swarthmore, 1938
Barbara Bush, Wellesley, 1990
Guy Kawasaki, Palo Alto H.S., 1995
William Kunstler, University of Buffalo, 1995
Justice Stephen Breyer, Stanford, 1997
Bob Newhart, Catholic University, 1997
Patrick Buchanan, The Citadel, 1999
Tom and Ray Magliozzi, MIT, 1999
Conan O'Brien, Harvard, 2000
George W. Bush, Yale, 2001
Scott Turow, Northwestern, 2001
Al Franken, Harvard, 2002
Fred Rogers, Dartmouth, 2002

My own graduation speakers, I think, were Ted Turner, whose remarks evidenced no particular preparation, and Judge Merhige, who said he enrolled (briefly) in William & Mary law school thinking it was in Richmond

Prosecution's psychiatric evidence based on defendant's statements admissible where defendant claims mental problem

In U.S. v. Curtis, written by Judge Widener, the Fourth Circuit held that the prosecution's psychiatric evidence based in part on defendant's statements in connection with competency examinations did not violate the defendant's right against self-incrimination.

FMLA claim falls for lack of adequate notice and information to employer

In Peeples v. Coastal Office Products, a panel of the Fourth Circuit including Judges Widener, Wilkinson, and Motz affirmed summary judgment for the employer in a case under the Family and Medical Leave Act, where the plaintiff who took off for three weeks because of anxiety and depression had failed to give adequate information to the company about what his problem was. (I didn't see any discussion of whether someone with anxiety and depression might somehow blame those conditions as the reason for their failure to comply with the Act's notice requirements.)

On the need for damages caps

Blue Ridge Business Journal has this report, which quotes various Roanoke lawyers, including Matthew Broughton, John Lichtenstein, and Kevin Oddo.

Delegate Marshall's world view

The AP has this commentary, which says that in Delegate Robert Marshall's world, "public school kids would salute God and the flag, and more kids would be educated at private schools or at home, as his children have been."

Another commentary on Hicks - trespass rule tramples liberty

The RIchmond paper has this column by A. Barton Hinkle on the Virginia v. Hicks public housing trespass case now pending before the Supreme Court.

Proposal to limit attorneys' fees in cases settled before trial

The Richmond Times has this report of a proposal by a group called "Common Good" put to states including Virginia to change their ethics rules to limit how much lawyers can make in cases that are settled on the quick and the cheap.

Harvard Law School creates the L. Anthony Sutin Public Service Summer Fellowship, named after late, great ASL dean

The Richmond paper reports here on this memorial to the former dean of the Appalachian School of Law. In addition, the AP has this report, and the HLS website has this statement.

Still more on the court of appeals decision in the Riner case from Wise County

Local press accounts are here and here from the Bristol and Kingsport papers.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Report on the "Pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Appalachia"

The Catholic Herald has this report.

Text of circuit court ruling on motion to suppress in Malvo case

From Findlaw, here is the text of Judge Roush's order and letter opinion, for the Fairfax Circuit Court.

As noted here in the Coalfield Progress, Judge Roush is one of the panelists for the Big Stone Gap annexation case.

Methadone case argued in Fourth Circuit

The has this report on a case land-use issues related to a methadone clinic in Maryland, now on appeal and to be argued today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Hold on to your tobacco money

Another tobacco fraud law suit against Philip Morris - Altria has been filed in the same venue in Illinois, according to this story in the Washington Post.

Separately, financial analysts are downgrading tobacco bonds again, as reported here.

Home schooling case to be argued on Friday in the Fourth Circuit

The Home School Legal Defense Association says here that a home schooling case from Calvert County, Maryland will be argued by former Virginia politician Mike Farris in the court of appeals on May 9. The same site has this description of the proceedings so far, and has this profile of attorney Farris, who was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 1993.

Unrelated to anything, in this story on, it was reported that Farris and other social conservatives were not happy about supporting President Bush in 2004.

Why William & Mary is still a "college"

In this story in the Washington Post, it is noted that the royal charter from 1693 says the school "shall be called and denominated forever" the College of William and Mary in Virginia, which is what it says on my diploma from there.

More on the Riner case

The AP has this report on today's court of appeals opinion in the Charles Riner murder case from Wise County.

[Update - the first version of this had an interesting typo as it referred to the "court fo appeals," which might be defined as "the place to go fo an appeal."]

Capital murder case upheld

The AP has this report on the Fourth Circuit's decision today in Walker v. True.

Another earthquake strikes Virginia

Having read this report, I'm wondering whose fault was it, anyhow. The USGS explains the faults here.

E.D. Va.'s Judge Morgan taking senior status

Judge Henry C. Morgan, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has elected to take senior status, according to this report.

Virginia law prohibiting fraudulent solicitations

The Richmond paper has this report.

Virginia's SOLs "fifth-best testing system in the country"

So says this report in the Virginian-Pilot.

Future ham on the lam

The AP has this report on a fugitive pig in Botetourt County.

AG Kilgore urges drug testing in Virginia schools

The Norfolk paper has this report. Also, as reported here, the U.S. drug czar applauded Virginia's new law for student drug testing.

Unruly TN lawyer who was arrested then acquitted now threatening suit

The Knoxville paper has this report.

Reversal in W.D. Va. wrongful termination case

A panel of the Fourth Circuit reversed Judge Glen William's decision to grant summary judgment for the defendant in King v. Donnkenny, Inc., where the plaintiff claimed wrongful discharge and other tort claims. The Fourth Circuit remanded the case for consideration of the issue of whether or not the release of claims signed by King at the end of her employment was void as a matter of law, and therefore could not have any preclusive effect on the claims raised in her lawsuit.

Mary Lynn Tate represent the plaintiff, while attorneys from Woods Rogers represent the defendant. The panel included Judges Michael, King, and Traxler, none of whom are from Virginia, and all of whom were appointed by President Clinton. I suspect that the Clinton appointees from other states are likely to be more sympathetic in employee rights cases than many Virginia trial court judges (state or federal) and the Republican appointees on the Fourth Circuit.

On the subject of being reversed, Judge Williams told me years ago that he took some comfort in the fact that on those very few occasions when one of his decisions went all the way up the the Supreme Court of the United States and they decided he was wrong, the vote had always been 9-0; that way he knew for sure that he had missed it by a mile, and that a little more work on or greater clarity of expression in his opinion would not have made any difference.

Moonshiner loses motion to suppress in W.D. Va.

In U.S. v. Echols, Judge Wilson denied the defendant's motion to suppress the evidence of untaxed liquor found when he was stopped on the road by police. The stop was justified on a call from an informant, who said the defendant was going to deliver a load of "moonshine" from a car dealership in Franklin County.

Va. S.Ct. grants petition in another nonsuit case

The question presented in FORD MOTOR COMPANY v. MARGARET JONES is whether the Circuit Court of Fairfax County, by Judge Jane Roush, "erred in granting plaintiff's voluntary nonsuit over Ford's objection when the nonsuit was taken after the case had been decided by a jury and all claims had been finally adjudicated by the trial court." It sounds like error, if that's what actually happened - but with Robert Hall and others on the other side, there's probably more to the story.

The Riner case from Wise County and other Virginia court of appeals cases posted today

In today's Court of Appeals opinions:

In Riner v. Commonwealth, written by Judge Elder, the court affirmed the convictions for murder, arson, and petit larceny of Charles Riner, who was apprehended in Panama after his wife's death. Interestingly, the court granted Riner's motion to enlarge his petition for appeal, over the Commonwealth's objection, to include his venue arguments, which were then rejected in part for failure to preserve them in the trial court and also rejected on grounds that the publicity about the case was not that far wrong about Riner's trip to Panama. Riner also raised issues about juror misconduct, the participation of a private prosecutor, the admissibility of pawn shop records about rings allegedly sold by Riner. Riner is represented by Roger Groot and Tom Scott.

In Cary v. Commonwealth, written by Judge Robert Frank, the court held the trial court did not err in denying the defendant's motion to suppress his confession, despite his arguments that he was an ignorant juvenile at the time of his confession.

In Powhatan Correctional Center v. Mitchell-Riggleman, written by Senior Judge Coleman, the court remanded a workers' compensation case for redetermination of whether the claimant was entitled to cost-of-living-adjustment benefits.

In Norman v. Commonwealth, written by Judge Humphreys, the court rejected defendant's argument that he could not be convicted of after having been adjudged a habitual offender since his driving privileges had been restored prior to his arrest. (The short answer was that his driving privileges had not really been restored.)

In Blackson v. Blackson, written by Judge Walter Felton, the court affirmed the trial court on the issue of whether it had subject-matter jurisdiction of the divorce case, based on the wife's domicile and residency in Virginia, and on the issue of the trial court's personal jurisdiction over the husband, despite his claim that the wife's fraud lured him into Virginia, on the trial court's division of the husband's military pension, applying the Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, and finally on the trial court's award to the wife of $20,000 in attorneys' fees.

In Montague v Commonwealth, written by Judge Frank, the court affirmed a conviction for unauthorized use of an automobile, in a case where the trial court said after a bench trial regarding the defendant that "I wouldn't believe him if he told me it was daylight."

What service must be offered for there to be a "service station"?

That's the issue in the Carter County, TN, zoning dispute, described here.

Claude Allen has no less judicial experience than did J. Harvie Wilkinson or Roger Gregory

So notes Jeff Schapiro in this week's column on contradictions in Virginia politics.

Limited speech rights of city's community television director

The First Circuit has this opinion issued May 1 which says that the city's cable TV director could be fired for speaking out on how the PEG channel dealt with access for political candidates - an interesting thought, considering the fact that government as content provider has plenty of First Amendment worries.

Judge Alexander joins Judge Roush and Judge Horne on BSG annexation panel

The Virginia Supreme Court has appointed Judge William Alexander to the Big Stone Gap annexation court, as reported here and here. Judge Alexander was most recently in the news for his rejection of the jury's recommendation of a death sentence in a murder case, as noted here.

Monday, May 05, 2003

SWVTC/Boucher dinner and tech talks

This year's dinner with Congressman Rick Boucher and the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council included as speakers Congressman Boucher, Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, Steve Kaplan - the chancellor of the University of Virginia-College at Wise, Delegate Joe May, and a representative of Secretary Newstrom. Also on the scene were Delegate Bud Phillips and Senator William Wampler.

Virginia county adding $3 charge on cell phone service

USA Today mentions this new charge in this report.

History of Virginia's cross-burning statute

Then-future Governor Mills Godwin was the driving force behind the Virginia cross-burning statute that was the subject of the recent U.S. Supreme Court case, according to this report, which notes that at the time, Godwin "was a promising but little-known member of the House of Delegates from Chuckatuck."

Bush 41 to Virginia's golfers - "hit the darn thing and get on the next hole"

The Richmond paper has this report, on the remarks of former President George H.W. Bush at a public golf course dedication. He also said the President of the United States gets a lot of "gimmes" on the greens, as reported here.

Del. Bryant on the Republican Party's "embarrassment of riches"

This commentary appears in the Roanoke Times.

California joins Virginia in requiring notice of subpoenas to ISP customers has this report.

Another commentary on the nominations of Claude Allen and Allyson Duncan

The Washington Post has this item, titled 'Conservative Values' Guide Court Appointee, regarding Claude Allen and Allyson Duncan, whom President Bush has nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The article quotes former Senator Gartlan as saying that Allen in Virginia government "was a typical ideological, Gilmore appointee," and "[t]hat's the worst kind of mind you could put on a court, in my opinion." The article also quotes William & Mary law professor Michael Gerhardt as saying that Allen has the "profile of a young ideologue without much of a legal or practice paper trail."

Governor Warner endorses sovereignty for six Virginia Indian tribes

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has the story, which inspired Virginia News Source to declare that "Gov. Warner endorses bill turning country back to the Indians."

Legal struggles of bear houndsmen in Virginia

The Roanoke Times has this report.

Virginia school system sued by psychologist for denying students federall-mandated counseling services

The suit alleges that the school psychologist has been pressured her by the assistant superintendent for three years "to accept illegal new rules limiting the participation of disabled students in special education programs," according to this report from Loudon County.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Last week's earthquake not a fluke

According to this report, "[t]he Eastern Tennessee seismic zone, which extends from southwest Virginia to northeast Alabama, is the second most active earthquake area in the U.S.

Tax reform talk worries officials of Virginia counties

The Dillon Rule stops counties from new revenue sources, while the General Assembly gives counties less money and more mandates for spending, according to this report.

"It's hard for people outside Virginia to believe that in the Old Dominion, tobacco is the equivalent of motherhood and apple pie"

That's a quote from Professor Larry Sabato, in this report on the move of Philip Morris-Altria's headquarters from NYC to Richmond.

What will become of the Virginia high school students who don't graduate in 2004 because they can't pass the SOLs?

That's the question asked in this commentary in the Lynchburg paper, titled "Will SOL tests produce a new underclass?".

The "dance of legislation" in Virginia

A staffer of a U.S. Senator from Montana wrote a book called the "Dance of Legislation" which I had to read as an undergraduate and a copy of which sits somewhere in a box in my basement. Schoolhouse Rock used to have a cartoon singing "I'm just a bill, and I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill, but someday I'm going go be a law, I will, but today, I am still, just a bill."

The Lynchburg paper has this account of the dance of legislation in Virginia, as a court case revealed a loophole in the law, which sparked an idea for a new law, which became a bill and was assigned to a committee, where it was amended several times then passed, then voted through and signed by the Governor.

Commentary on judge's decision not to go with jury's recommendation of death sentence

The Danville paper says here that "[w]e don’t understand [the judge's] decision to sentence Inge to life in prison — and we don’t agree with it."

Having lost $2.4 million, Virginia bank sues businessmen over alleged check-kiting scheme

The Daily Progress has this report.

"[S]cientific studies of the mind may one day be widely used in courts as evidence for the defense"

So says this report in the Charlottesville paper on a man who lost all inhibitions because of a brain tumor.

The article cites U.Va. philosophy professor George Thomas, whose chose freely often to wear jogging shoes while he taught classes on Free Will and Determinism during my undergraduate days at the University.

City council and school board feud over board's mass e-mailing to parents about spending cuts

As the Washington Post reports here, the school board in Alexandria e-mailed 1200 parents about the city's proposed cuts in education spending, which has angered the city council members.

It seems like I got several such messages from the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary during the General Assembly session, this year and last.

18 studies show independence of cities in Virginia is no good, 19th will be the same

That the conclusion drawn by the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot in this commentary.

"If it wasn't for mining, Southwest Virginia would be farm land"

So says the chairman of a committee behind the new Coal Miners' Memorial, to be unveiled on May 17 in Richlands, as reported here. The memorial will list the names of 1,135 miners killed in Buchanan, Tazewell, and Russell counties.

Another opinion on the alien tuition bill

The Roanoke paper opines here that Governor Warner's veto was good for the economy, good for Democrats, and good government.

That seems a bit overboard to me, since there has been some talk that illegal aliens already don't qualify for in-state tuition.

Maybe now she needs an IP lawyer to protect her trade secrets

A Virginia woman after 20 tries finally won the 24th Virginia State Championship Chili Cook-Off with an entry called Cowgirl Chili - a red chili made with beef, dried spices and canned ingredients - as reported here.

Why football failed at ETSU

Both the Kingsport Times here (in a column by attorney Bill Bovender) and the Johnson City Press here are guessing at the reasons for the demise of East Tennessee State University's Division I-AA football program that played in the Mini-Dome, in spite of modest success on the field.