Saturday, April 10, 2004

NYT commentary on the Earl Washington case

The New York Times has this commentary on the Earl Washington case, concluding: "What Mr. Washington now deserves is his good name back, devoid of further asterisks put next to it by brazenly inept criminal authorities. What the public deserves is an honest vetting of the judicial process that allowed his name to be sullied in the first place."

Alteration of what was W&M summer program for incoming minority students

The student paper at the College of William & Mary has this article on the alteration of the College's summer program that formerly targeted incoming minority students.

Plea agreement in Grayson County murder case

The Roanoke Times has this report ("Murder conviction leaves questions," 4/10/04) on the unanswered questions following a plea agreement in a Grayson County murder case.

Police officer wins $50,000 in malicious prosecution case

The AP reports here that a Virginia Beach police officer, against whom an arrestee took a warrant for allegedly scratching the arrestee's vehicle, has won a malicious prosecution verdict for $25,000 compensatory and $25,000 punitive damages.

Coming July 1 - a state-law remedy in general district court against do-not-call violators

The Richmond paper has this report ("New state law targets violators of do-not-call list," 4/10/04) on a new Virginia law that creates a state-law remedy against telemarketers who make calls to numbers entered in "Do not call" registries. The text of the new law is here, and can be enforced by way of an action under Va. Code 59.1-515.

Fourth Circuit rules in indemnification case

I can't do better than this post from the Insurance Defense Blog in describing how the Fourth Circuit, applying Virginia law, ruled in St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. American International Speciality Lines Insurance Co., an opinion by Judge Luttig, joined by Judges Wilkinson and Traxler, dealing with insurance contracts.

Friday, April 09, 2004

On black lawyers in West Virginia

The Charleston Gazette has this very instructive report ("2% of state lawyers are black: Is that enough?," 4/8/04) on the experiences of black lawyers in West Virginia.

Why one person wants to go to law school at Regent

Via the Regent professor at Ninomania, here is one blogger's explanation about why she is going to law school at Regent.

Virginia Supreme Court's orders in the Orbe case

Just posted on the Virginia judiciary site are the orders of the Virginia Supreme Court denying relief in the Orbe execution case. Orbe tried to litigate, among other things, the constitutionality of execution by lethal injunction. Here are the summaries as written by the website:

040598 Orbe v. Johnson 03/31/2004
Petitioner's federal constitutional issues, raised for the first time in his petition for rehearing of the Court's order denying his appeal, are barred pursuant to Rule 5:20 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, and his petition for rehearing to set aside the judgment is denied.

040673 Orbe v. Johnson 03/31/2004
The trial court did not err in refusing injunctive relief staying appellant's execution because it lacked power to grant such relief and because a declaratory judgment action could not serve as the vehicle for obtaining such relief, due to the removal of appellant's claimed constitutional issues from actual controversy by operation of a statute under which he was deemed to have selected the method of his execution. Appellant's appeal and his request for a stay of execution are denied.

040597 Orbe v. Warden 03/30/2004
A petition for writ of habeas corpus attempting to challenge the constitutionality of Virginia's lethal injection protocol is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction where the petition failed to challenge petitioner's death sentence and either the fact or the duration of petitioner's imprisonment, and did not seek a determination that petitioner was entitled to an immediate or speedier release.

040598 Orbe v. Johnson 03/30/2004
The trial court correctly dismissed appellant's declaratory judgment action seeking an adjudication that Virginia's lethal injection protocol violates the Constitution of Virginia and a permanent injunction preventing the use of such protocol in carrying out his execution where appellant was deemed, by operation of statute, to have selected lethal injection rather than electrocution as the method of his execution. Appellant's petition for appeal and motions attendant thereto are denied.

Obscure presidential candidate jailed in Fredericksburg

The AP reports here that a character running for president is in jail in Virginia for threatening a police officer and a police dog.

Gilmore, Church acquitted 15 years and two month trial in W.D. Va.

After 15 years, and in a trial that began in February, Charles Gilmore and Pete Church were acquitted by the W.D. Va. jury yesterday, as reported here ("Gilmore, Church acquitted on all charges," 4/9/04) in the Bristol paper, here ("Not Guilty: Gilmore and Church cleared of triple homicide," 4/8/04) in the Bluefield paper, here ("Jury acquits Pocahontas' ex-mayor in murder trial," 4/9/04) in the Richmond paper, and here ("Ex-mayor, W.Va. man not guilty in 1989 slayings," 4/9/04) in the Roanoke paper.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Virginia appeals constitutionality of RLUIPA

The Roanoke paper reports here ("High court petitioned in religious-rights case," 4/8/04) that Attorney General Kilgore's office has decided in the case originally decided by Judge Turk of the W.D. Va. to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the issue of whether a federal statute protecting the religious rights of prisoners is unconstitutional.

Judge to decide whether to ban public and press from Marcus Vick trial

The Roanoke paper reports here ("Judge to rule on accessibility of Vick trial," 4/8/04) that a Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court judge in Montgomery County is weighing requests from the prosecution and the defense to close the trial of the criminal charges against Virginia Tech football player Marcus Vick and two others.

Things are tough all over

The Cincinnati paper has this report on the budget woes of the federal courts, particularly those in Ohio and Kentucky.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Removing the not-quite Title VII case with no right-to-sue letter

Ah, more than once I have tried to do more or less what the defendant did in Forrest v. Transit Management of Charlotte - remove a case when plaintiff in state court claims some reliance on federal employment discrimination law, then try to get the case dismissed for lack of a right to sue letter, and so far, it has never worked any better than it did in the Forrest case, which was a per curiam opinion decided by the panel of Judges Michael, King, and Shedd. (Actually, I only tried this once in Virginia and once in Kentucky.) My theory was (1) plaintiff says her claim is based on Title VII, so it is removable, but (2) for lack of right to sue, claim should be dismissed on the merits, not for lack of jurisdiction. Apparently, this argument is not working out.

MTV questions Williamsburg registrar

MTV has this article ("Is Williamsburg Giving College Students The Shaft?" 4/6/04) questioning the decision on voting rights of college students in Williamsburg.

Lawsuit challenges vote on sewer project in Blacksburg

The Roanoke paper reports here ("Lawsuit filed to halt sewer project," 4/7/04) on a legal challenge to the validity of a bond issue for a sewer project in Blacksburg.

The article notes: "The charter requires that five of the seven council members approve any measure to incur debt. But with only a 4-3 majority supporting the sewer, four council members voted to issue bonds under the authority of the Virginia Public Finance Act, which requires only a majority vote."

Richmond and Roanoke law firms to merge

The Roanoke paper reports here ("Roanoke,Richmond law firms to merge," 4/7/04) on the merger of two of the aggressive young law firms in Virginia, the Flippin Densmore firm in Roanoke and the LeClair Ryan firm in Richmond. The lawyers from Flippin Densmore are mostly a group that split off from Woods Rogers a few years ago.

Ceremony for Judge Kirksey

The public ceremony for the investiture of Judge Larry Kirksey of the 28th Circuit will be Friday at 4:00 in the Bristol courtroom, with welcoming remarks to be delivered by the current president of the local bar (me).

Bristol was incorporated in 1890, and the 1890 charter provided for a corporation court. The first judge to sit in Bristol was William F. Rhea, who served as judge from 1890-1896, won a fiercely contested election to the 9th District seat in Congress (which involved litigation and shootings), lost his re-election campaign in 1902, served on the State Corporation Commission from 1908 to 1925, and is buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, the final resting place of Presidents Monroe and Tyler, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Jr.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Tri-cities area makes the most unwired top 100

According to this Intel-sponsored survey, the Tri-cities of Kingsport, Johnson City, and Bristol VA/TN is No. 100 in the list of "most unwired" cities in America - the only place on the list that touches Virginia besides D.C., Tidewater, and Richmond.

New DNA tests in the Earl Washington case

Lawyers for Earl Washington are claiming new DNA testing show that he is innocent, according to this report ("DNA Tests Clear Ex-Va. Inmate, Lawyers Say," 4/6/04) in the Washington Post. Washington's lawyers claim that the Virginia state forensic lab committed serious errors regarding DNA testing.

The DNA expert cited by Washington's lawyers is Edward Blake, who is most famous for his involvement in the O.J. Simpson case and the Roger Keith Coleman case. In the Coleman case, Coleman's lawyers found themselves in the position of trying to impeach the conclusions of their own expert Blake, conclusions which were cited by Judge Williams in denying post-conviction relief. See Coleman v. Thompson, 798 F. Supp. 1209 (W.D. Va. 1992).

George Welsh to College Football Hall of Fame

It says here that former Virginia football coach George Welsh "will be named today as a member of the 2004 class of the College Football Hall of Fame and will be inducted in December."

Virginia court of appeals writ panel in Bristol

A panel of the Virginia Court of Appeals will indeed sit in Bristol next week to hear arguments on petitions for appeal.

One question to which I don't know the answer: is there any connection between the panels that hear the petitions and the panels that hear the merits?

You could write a multi-volume treatise on what I don't know about the workings of the Court of Appeals.

Who will blink and how hard?

Today's Bristol paper has an editorial that says Virginia's legislators should follow the recent opinion that says Virginians are willing to pay more taxes. Ben Domenech says here and here that's nonsense. Commonwealth Commonsense says here that the half-cent increase in the sales tax is not enough.

Monday, April 05, 2004

You knew this was coming

How Appealing points out here that this Fourth Circuit opinion was issued three years and ten months after oral argument.

Sheriff not a person in California

The Supreme Court of California held in Venegas v. City of Los Angeles that county sheriffs in California at least with respect to law enforcement activities are considered arms of the state and therefore not a "persons" who can be sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for civil rights violations.

Why Kenton Edelin is still my hero

Doug Doughty has this great article ("Looking for its place in history," 4/5/04) on the 1984 University of Virginia basketball team that went to the Final Four (20 years ago this month) in what was my first year and the year after Ralph Sampson graduated.

Virginia's Sen. Allen on broadband taxation

This NY Times article ("Cable or Phone? Difference Can Be Taxing," 4/5/04) cites Sen. George Allen among others on the topic of how taxation of broadband varies between cable and telephone.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

The tale of the Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise County

The Richmond paper has this wild account ("On the trail of Lonesome Pine Airport," 4/4/04) reporting that "state and federal aviation officials have been at odds with Lonesome Pine Airport over long-standing practices giving nearby landowners special access to the mile-long runway."

The article begins:

"Terry Page will never forget the first time he flew into Lonesome Pine Airport.

'When we landed on the runway, a car was coming very fast down a taxiway toward us,' said Page, a Federal Aviation Administration official who works with Virginia airports.

'He did not appear to see the airplane,' Page said of the approaching motorist.

The plane's pilot started to veer off the runway onto a grass siding.

At the last minute, 'The car slammed on the brakes and stopped before he got to the runway,' Page said."

The article quotes Emmitt Yeary from Abingdon: "Emmitt F. Yeary, an Abingdon lawyer who represents Southwest Virginia on the board, called Lonesome Pine an example of 'insider giveaway of public property by public officials.'"

Father petitions Va. S.Ct. to overturn his convictions related to death of daughter

The Manassas paper has this article on the efforts by a Manassas man to defend himself against charges that he was criminally responsible for the death of his infant daughter who was left in a closed van and died from the heat.

The defense lawyer explains why he is appealing the adverse decision of the Court of Appeals, and one of the stated reasons is the "lack of legal citations in the later pages of the decision."

Is it too rare that Virginia lawyers are disbarred?

The Daily Press has this article ("Bad lawyers will face the bar," 4/4/04) on the lawyer disciplinary system in Virginia.

UPDATE: Ah, the link to the article has been fixed, although I am discovering (sadly) that registration may be required to access parts of the Daily Press, which is part of the Tribune Company, and so what it wants the same login and whatnot as for the Chicago Tribune.

Funding for education at the heart of the logjam?

This Washington Post article ("Education Is Va. Lawmakers' Sticking Point ," 4/4/04)concludes that funding for public school education is the main remaining difference between the Senate and House budget thinking. The article cites Professor A.E. "Dick" Howard on the issue of whether the state is required to pay its share under the state constitution: "There is an implicit mandate to fund those standards, once they are set," said A.E. Dick Howard, a professor of law at the University of Virginia and chief architect of the state's revised constitution in 1970. "But it does stop short of a judicial mandate . . . it's more of a moral obligation."

In the Fredericksburg paper, the county school superintendent offers this explanation ("Virginia lawmakers routinely underfund public school systems," 4/4/04) of the effect of underfunding from the state on education in Stafford County.

Elsewhere, the Richmond Times includes this review of The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America's Middle Schools, a book by a former Virginia education official on the subject of why middle schools are a bad thing.

Next sniper trial may be hostage of budget impasse

According to this Paper Chase post, which cites this AP story, a decision on whether to have another trial of the sniper Muhammad may be on hold pending resolution of the budget impasse in the General Assembly. The Washington Post has this article ("Va. Budget Woes Stall Sniper Prosecution," 4/4/04) on the same story.