Tuesday, July 08, 2003

On the road again

I am leaving in the morning to attend this municipal telecommunications seminar in Baltimore, but alas, there is no baseball there this week. It might be possible, though, while we are there, to Eat Bertha's mussels (or not).

Back in a few days.

Today's opinions of the Virginia Court of Appeals

In Quesenberry v. Com., the court in an opinion by Senior Judge Willis joined by Judges Benton and Clements held that a flare gun is a firearm for purposes of Va. Code 18.2-308.2.

In Fairfax County School Bd. v. Humphrey, the court in an opinion by Chief Judge Fitzpatrick joined by Judges Annunziata and Clements held that the memorandum of agreement signed by the claimant was sufficent to make her workers' compensation claim timely, even though the employer later backed out of the deal.

In Lucas v. Federal Express, the court in an opinion by Judge Felton joined by Judge Kelsey and Senior Judge Willis concluded that there was no error in the conclusion that the claimant was not entitled to workers' compensation for injuries allegedly sustained when her delivery truck was struck by lightning.

In Robinson v. Com., the court in an opinion by Judge Frank joined by Judge Humphreys and Senior Judge Hudges affirmed the criminal contempt convictions of a lawyer.

Judge Kiser denies motion to dismiss complaint against former corrections chief

The Roanoke Times has this report on the decision of Judge Kiser of the W.D. Va. to deny the motion to dismiss of former Virginia Department of Corrections chief Ron Angelone with regard to the claims concerning the death of an inmate from inmate who died after being shocked with a stun gun at the Wallens Ridge prison in Wise County.

Tax reform talks to start out with FOIA violation?

The AP's Bob Lewis says here the first meeting of the governor and legislators to talk about tax reform will be held in private, apparently in violation of Virginia's Freedom of Information Act.

Republican eavesdropper gets 3 years probation and $5,000 fine

The Virginia GOP official who dialed in to a Democrat conference call was sentenced today to probation and a fine, as reported here in the Virginian-Pilot. The AP has this timeline on the case.

Murder charge dropped against inmate serving life sentence

The Bristol paper has this story, the Kingsport paper has this story, the Roanoke paper has this story, and the Coalfield Progress has this story on the decision by the interim Commonwealth's attorney in Wise County to drop the murder charge against a Red Onion inmate who allegedly murdered his cellmate.

Pocahontas reacts to Ashcroft approval of seeking death penalty against Gilmore

The Bluefield paper has this article detailing the reaction of Pocahontas residents to the news that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has authorized prosecutors in the W.D. Va. to seek the death penalty in the Charles Gilmore case.

Monday, July 07, 2003

C-SPAN replays Chief Justice's remarks at Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference

The 15-minute speech delivered by Chief Justice Rehnquist was replayed Saturday on C-SPAN's "America & the Courts" and can be viewed online (for a couple of weeks at least) via the C-SPAN website at this link (click on the program for 7/5, the segment with the Chief Justice begins around 10 minutes into the video).

My recollection of the cases he discussed is here.

Rule 11 sanctions reversed for failure to follow required procedures

In Brickwood Contractors, Inc. v. Datanet Engineering, Inc., the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Widener joined by Judges Wilkinson and Michael reversed an award of $15,000 in sanctions under Rule 11 because the moving party waited under the end of the case and failed to comply with the 21-day advance notice provisions required by Rule 11.

I guess what the defendant should have done in the case was to send out the Rule 11 notice at the same time as its motion for summary judgment. (And why not? It doesn't get filed.)

I think the only time that I sent out a Rule 11 notice was in a case with a pro se plaintiff, where Judge Turk had more or less told the plaintiff that if she did not drop the case, and then lost at trial, the defendant (whom I represented) would be asking for sanctions. So, I served the papers on the plaintiff, to set up a later motion under Rule 11, explaining what a bunch of nonsense the case was and how much money we would want from the plaintiff. In reply, she wrote to the Court, saying if these papers were meant to intimidate her, it worked, and she was dropping the case - an outcome I would never have expected.

What happens to student during pendency of litigation under IDEA when service provider quits

In Wagner v. Board of Education of Montgomery County, Md., the Fourth Circuit in a majority opinion by Judge Luttig, joined by Judge Niemeyer, with Judge Widener dissenting, held that the section of IDEA requiring that students "stay put" during the pendency of litigation did not authorize the district court to require the school board to find some alternative service provider when the approved provider quit providing services.

Guess who's coming to dinner at the ACC president's club

This article on college presidents notes regarding University of Miami president Donna Shalala that "as chancellor of University of Wisconsin in the 1980s was the architect of its descent into diversity delirium, and who as secretary of HHS for Clinton steered her department into all-quotas-all-the-time" and concludes that she was "an actively destructive force who inflicted lasting damage at the University of Wisconsin by ushering in an era of ideological rule, but who is unleashing a different kind of turmoil now."

Virginia with no exclusive claim to treason indictments on Aaron Burr

As reported here by the AP, clerk's office employees cleaning out the federal courthouse in Cincinnati have found official records related to the indictment for treason in Ohio in Aaron Burr, who was also indicted and then tried for treason at the federal courthouse in Richmond, Virginia.

Supreme Court to consider ban on financial aid for theology majors

The Virginia Tech student paper has this AP article on the Supreme Court's decision to hear a case involving a theology student who lost his scholarship when he decided to major in theology as well as business administration.

On hiding those cell-phone towers

The Richmond-Times Dispatch has this article on how the opposition to cell phone towers is muted by creative concealment of towers to make them less conspicuous where they can be seen at all.

Applying the new Virginia terrorism law to the D.C. snipers

The Virginian-Pilot has this report on how the Malvo and Muhammad cases are the first to apply new Virginia laws that were aimed at international terrorism following 9/11.

Fast-food bandit released from prison by mistake

A prison inmate who was sentenced to serve an additional 12 years for robbing fast-food restaurants in Northeast Tennessee was released by mistake when the official record of his latest sentence did not reach the penitentiary where he was serving time for earlier crimes, according to this report.

Predicting a do-nothing legislative response to Supreme Court rulings

This column in the Daily Progress predicts that mostly nothing will happen in the upcoming Virginia legislative session as the result of the Supreme Court's decisions in June - the sodomy laws will stay on the books, and the legislators will not try to make new rules for college admissions.

Does no guns in school include t-shirts?

As reported here in the Daily Progress, parents of an Albemarle County middle school student have filed suit over their son's "right" to wear a National Rifle Association t-shirt to school, and appealed the denial by Judge Moon of the W.D. Va. of their motion for a preliminary injunction against the school board, with the somewhat unlikely combination of the American Civil Liberties Union and the office of Attorney General Jerry Kilgore joining in support of the appeal.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

TN inmate uses lawyer's name to have marijuana mailed to him in jail

The Knoxville News-Sentinel has this report on a Tennessee inmate who got the idea that since the mail from his lawyer was not opened by the jailers, his friends could send him marijuana by labeling the packages to make them appear as though they were sent from the lawyer.

On candidate Kilgore's ties to the legislature

Jeff Schapiro has this column considering the strategy underlying Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore's appeals for money to support his gubernatorial campaign, specifically whether he aligns himself too closely with the Republicans in the legislature, a move which Schapiro implies would be bad for Kilgore, if the Democrats ever find the moxie to raise a fuss about it.

More golfball litigation in Virginia?

A Henrico County car owner is protesting the damage to his Mazda caused by a wayward golfball, as reported here in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The course pro was quoted as saying, "If you move in next to a golf course, you're going to get golf balls."

On moving Grundy out of the flood zone

The AP had this report earlier in the week on the progress of the effort to move the Town of Grundy in Buchanan County, Virginia, out of reach of the floodwaters of the Levisa River.

Jousting over the evidence in SW VA inmate murder case

O'Donna Ramsey of the Coalfield Progress has this article on the disputes over the evidence preliminary to the trial of a Wallens Ridge charged with murdering his cellmate, allegedly because the cellmate was homosexual.

Still more of the local view on the Supreme Court's sodomy ruling

The Roanoke Times has this article which questions whether the Supreme Court's ruling in the Lawrence case provides a basis for pardoning Virginians who were convicted of private, consensual sodomy.

From last month, the Kingsport Times-News had this editorial blasting the Supreme Court's Lawrence decision, concluding that it "not only subverts the democratic process, it makes a mockery of the moral standards of the overwhelming majority of Americans," while the Roanoke Times had this editorial concluding that "citizens should be relieved that even though their own General Assembly refused to act, the Supreme Court has overturned a law that fostered government meddling in Americans' private lives." (Just in case you wanted a measure of the difference between the two papers.)

Local view of new wage and hour rules

The Kingsport Times-News has this article on the proposed new wage and hour regulations, with comments from area employers including hospitals, as nurses are one group of employees who may be affected by the new rules.

Using computers to teach writing

Amy Clark of UVa's College at Wise has this interesting commentary in the Bristol newspaper on the use of computer software to grade the writing of students.

Maybe there ought to be similar software for law students (or even lawyers). A topic of the law school deans at the judicial conference (still fresh in my mind) was the inability of law students to write. I would not have thought that this was exactly a new problem, but one of the deans posed the interesting point that maybe as the law schools devote more energy to teaching writing, at the same time the problem of incoming students who can't write is increasing, and so the law schools aren't making progress so much as staying even.

In my own work, I observe some strange or not so strange mechanical rules for writing briefs that work for me, and one is that every paragraph must have three, four, or five sentences. 2 is too few and 6 is too many. Every person who has ever heard me say this laughs out loud, but judge for yourself - here is a brief of mine available online.

VCEDA and others speak out on forest plan before comment period ends

The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, the Clinch Coalition, and other Southwest Virginia groups offered differing views on the Jefferson National Forest during the comment period on the forest management plan, which has now ended, as reported here.