Friday, February 27, 2004

Where were the Virginia coalfields of 1845?

I just got a book from my wife's uncle, a history of Virginia written in 1845, and the big coal producing territory in Virginia at that time was in Chesterfield County, not far from where my in-laws live now.

So, I'm off to the coalfields, optimistically taking the golf clubs along, and no more blogging until Sunday night.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Supreme Court denies qualified immunity in seach warrant case

In Groh v. Ramirez, issued on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court held that an ATF officer was not entitled to qualified immunity for the violation of the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights resulting from the execution of an invalid search warrant, where the warrant did not satisfy the requirement that it must particularly describe the person or things to be seized.

ACLU sues for William & Mary student to vote in Williamsburg

The AP reports here that the American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit in the E.D. Va. seeking relief on behalf of a student at the College of William & Mary whom the registrar for the City of Williamsburg would not allow to register to vote there. The plaintiff is originally from Hanover County, which is relatively close by to Williamsburg (not that it makes any difference, I suppose).

Judge enters dismissal in park murder case

The Roanoke paper reports here ("Rice murder charges dismissed," 2/26/04) and the Richmond paper reports here ("Murder indictments against Rice tossed," 2/26/04) that Judge Moon of W.D. Va. has ordered the dismissal of the murder charges against the defendant in the case of two women killed in the Shenandoah Park. The Richmond paper said Judge Moon refused to bar further prosecution, but characterized as remote the prospects of reindictment.

Deal imminent in law school murder case?

The Roanoke Times reports here ("Law school killings case may end with plea bargain," 2/26/04) that the families of the victims of the murders at the Appalachian School of Law have been told that a possible plea bargain is in the works in the case of Peter Odighizuwa.

Virginia lawyer convicted of adultery to make constitutional challenge to adultery law

Via VLW, the Richmond paper reports here ("Attorney contests his conviction in adultery," 2/26/2004), the AP reports here, and the Washington Post (registration required) reports here ("Va. Man Challenges State's Adultery Law," 2/26/04) that the lawyer from Luray who was convicted of adultery will appeal his conviction on the grounds that the prohibition against adultery is unconstitutional.

Ban on college admissions for illegal aliens upheld

The AP reports here and the Washington Post reports here ("Va. Colleges May Bar Illegal Immigrants," 2/26/2004) that Judge Ellis of the E.D. Va. has upheld the Virginia ban on admission of illegal aliens to the public colleges and universities. Attorney General Kilgore has this comment on the ruling.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Convictions under Henrico nudity ordinance reinstated

In Boyd v. County of Henrico, the Court of Appeals en banc, with Judge Kelsey dissenting, reinstated the convictions of the defendants for violation of the Henrico County nudity ordinance.


In Doe v. Chao, the Fourth Circuit was affirmed, not reversed. (And I call myself a lawyer.) That's what I get for running off of memory rather than the actual text.

Comments on proposed FRAP 32.1 regarding unpublished opinions

Denise Howell has this post regarding a new website called Secret Justice, which advocates the proposed new FRAP 32.1 regarding unpublished opinions. Posted on the website are at least some of the comments received on the proposal, including mine and that of Roy Jessee from Norton.

Reading through the list, I see that Fred Bartlit and Stephen Yagman, a couple of real lawyers if ever there were, have offered comments and both take the opposite view from mine. Reading over their comments and others, I guess I have a happy and simple life as a lawyer, never worrying much about anything but the law of Virginia and the Fourth Circuit, and always hoping to find the golden case.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

U.S. Supreme Court agrees with Judge Williams in ADEA case

In General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, the majority of the Supreme Court agreed with the dissenting opinion in this case by Judge Glen Williams of the W.D. Va., sitting by designation on the Sixth Circuit, when he concluded in that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") provides no claim for discrimination against the young in favor of the old.

I guess that makes it a red-letter day for Judge Williams, a two-fer, since the majority of the Court also bought into his position on the Privacy Act in the Doe v. Chao case.

In an earlier post, I linked to this commentary by James J. Kilpatrick, who likened the views of Judge Williams in the Cline case to Alice in Wonderland.

Judge Jones gives enforcement to forum selection clause in lease

In Mid Atlantic Paper LLC v. Scott County Tobacco Warehouses, Inc., Judge Jones of the W.D. Va. dismissed the federal case without prejudice based on the forum selection clause contained in the lease, which provided that the place for a suit to be filed was "the Virginia courts of Washington County, Virginia."

Tennessee Supreme Court declares its own rule unconstitutional

David at ethicalEsq has this great post on the ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court that its own rule on the confidentiality of lawyer disciplinary proceedings is unconstitutional.

At the risk of sounding stupid, now why wouldn't the Court just change its rule? Is that the next step? Will it hold itself in contempt if the rule is not changed?

U.S. Supreme Court affirms Judge Williams in Privacy Act case

In Doe v. Chao, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Judge Glen Williams of the W.D. Va. and disagreed with the majority decision of Judges Karen Williams and Luttig of the Fourth Circuit (with Judge Michael concurring in part), in holding that there is no statutory damages claim for violation of the federal Privacy Act without proof of actual damages.

The transcript of oral argument is here. Thanks to Howard Bashman for this post about the case. SCOTUSblog has this post about the case.

Special grand jury blasts Sussex County government

The Richmond paper reports here ("Panel blasts Sussex County government," 2/24/04) on a rare use of the special grand jury, this one targeted at waste, fraud, and abuse in the government of Sussex County.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Tobacco companies duke it out over sticking small fry with settlement

The Richmond paper reports here ("Cigarette makers deadlock in battle over legislation," 2/22/04) on the dispute between large and small tobacco companies on legislation proposed by Delegate Kilgore and Senator Puckett from Southwest Virginia that would have the effect of making smaller companies pay more towards the national tobacco settlement.

U.Va. law hosts symposium on Brown v. Board of Education

The Cavalier Daily has this report on the recent symposium held at the law school of the University of Virginia on the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision, from 50 years ago.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

North Dakota trying to horn in on Lady Luck?

The AP reports here that there is the possibility of litigation over North Dakota's plan to promote its lottery with "Lady Luck," when Virginia has been using "Lady Luck" for 14 years as the spokeswoman for its lottery.

On the declining use of gavels in the courtroom

This delightful story on the declining use of gavels in the courtroom comes from South Dakota but could have been written in Southwest Virginia.

One of the South Dakota judges explained that his only use for a gavel was to let kids play with them while he held adoption hearings involving small children.

I once heard Judge Glen Williams say the only time he took the notion to use a gavel to bring the courtroom to order, he looked around the bench and couldn't find one.

1,000+ Wise County auto accidents mapped

My Wise has this story on the mapping of the locations of almost 1,200 recent auto accidents in Wise County.

I played with this a bit - one of the hotspots was the cloverleaf this side of Norton, where Alt 58 joins 23; no surprise there.

Homeowner suing Danville official over glass door that allegedly broke zoning rules

The Danville paper reports here ("Danville's 'Door War' continues," 2/19/04) on a section 1983 lawsuit against the zoning administrator for the City of Danville brought by a homeowner who claims he was wrongfully prosecuted for violating the city's zoning ordinance by his choice of material and design for the front door on his house.

On gender and prison time

This article ("Women often avoid prison," 2/22/04) in the Lynchburg paper addresses between the prison sentences or lack thereof as between male and female convicts.

Lack of ban on open containers costs Virginia millions in federal road money

The Lynchburg paper reports here ("Virginia paying a price for open-container law," 2/22/04) that Virginia's failure to enact a law banning open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles has cost the Commonwealth roughly $14 million per year in federal road money.

I understand why some states dislike these anti-state power, anti-libertarian federal spending clause carrots, but who can say that passengers drinking in moving vehicles is a good thing?

Rather switch than fight - one teacher gives up public school over SOLs

From the Washington Post (registration required), a former public school teacher offers this account of why he chucked it all and moved to a private school because of the Standards of Learning tests.

Bill to add circuit court judgeships still alive

As reported here ("Bill to add judges gets second chance in Senate," 2/21/04) in the Norfolk paper, legislation that would add five new circuit court judgeships, including one for the 29th Circuit including Buchanan, Dickenson, Tazewell, and Russell counties, is still alive in the Virginia Senate, though it was rejected by the House for lack of money.

In the 29th Circuit, there is no resident judge in Tazewell County, with Judge Vanover in Clintwood, Judge Williams in Grundy, and Judge Moore in Lebanon. (This fact evidently does not mean that the new judge, if there is one, will be from Tazewell County.)

1,200 bills waiting disposition this General Assembly session

This AP story says that Virginia legislators have 1,200 other things to consider besides the budget in the remainder of this session.

The Washington Post (registration required) has this article ("Virginia Bills Aid Lone Firms, People" 2/22/04) describing the single-industry focus of many bills introduced in the General Assembly.

Juvenile court conviction not predicate for federal gun offense

In U.S. v. Walters, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Duncan, joined by Judge Niemeyer and Judge Williams, concluded that juvenile adjudications in Virginia could not be the predicates for the federal gun offense involving possession of firearms by persons who had been convicted of offenses involving punishment of more than a year.

What does while mean in an insurance policy

In Allstate Ins. Co. v. Bridges, Judge Jones of the W.D. Va. granted summary judgment for Allstate on the issue of whether the policy did not coverage "to an owned vehicle being operated by the insured at the time of the accident because the vehicle was not described in the policy."

Race and execution in Virginia

The Richmond paper reports here ("Study examines race and execution," 2/20/2004) on a new study which shows that the chances of a black person being sentenced to death for killing a white in Virginia are 18 times greater than those of a black person who kills another black, and are roughly three times greater than for a white person who kills a white or a white who kills a black.

Appomattox County to pay $225,000 in fees for illegal biosolids ordinance

This report says that Appomattox County has agreed to pay $225,000 in attorneys' fees to farmers who successfully challenged the County's biosolids ordinance before Judge Moon of the W.D. Va.

Revision of Virginia's criminal laws didn't quite work out

The Richmond paper reports here ("Revising crime laws in Va.," 2/22/2004) that the Virginia Crime Commission did not accomplish its goal of rationalizing the penalties for criminal offenses in Virginia, instead realizing a watered-down revision that was constrained by political realities.

Three get federal sentences from W.D. Va. for property scheme

The Roanoke paper reports here ("3 men sentenced for roles in bizarre property scheme," 2/21/2004) on the sentences issued by Chief Judge Wilson of the W.D. Va. to three men who had a scheme to sell timber off land they didn't own in Southwest Virginia.

Burrow case to be tried some place other than Roanoke or Lynchburg

The Lynchburg TV station reports here, the Roanoke paper reports here ("Burrow trial may be moved," 2/21/04), the Richmond paper reports here ("Fraud trial over D-Day memorial will move," 2/21/04), and the AP reports here that Judge Turk of the W.D. Va. has agreed to the prosecutors' request that the retrial of the D-Day fundraiser Burrow will be held in Abingdon, Big Stone Gap, or some place in the W.D. Va. other than Roanoke or Lynchburg.

Oral argument fun in the Seventh Circuit

How Appealing has this delightful post, and Denise at Bag & Baggage reposted it here, on the perils of talking about a sexual harassment case at oral argument.

I tried a sex harassment case in Kentucky one time where after a while, the judge told me, "Mr. Minor, this is a court of law, and we're not going to have any more talk about sex in this trial."

More on the Earl Washington case

Peter Neufeld, the DNA expert lawyer, representing the wrongfully-convicted Earl Washington, argued before Judge Moon of the W.D. Va. that the records of Washington's case should be made public, to prevent similar mistakes in the future, according to this account ("Ex-Death Row Inmate Seeks Evidence Release," 2/21/2004) in the Washington Post, this AP story, and this story in the Richmond paper ("No charges near in crime tied to key case," 2/21/04).

The Washington case is the subject of a speaker scheduled to appear in Abingdon at the BLI conference in March.