Saturday, June 26, 2004

The DOJ press release for Operation Big Coon Dog

Here is the press release from the government prosecutors on Operation Big Coon Dog, the Buchanan County bribery case.

Still more on Operation Big Coon Dog

More articles and comment on the federal bribery case from Buchanan County include:

Profiting from tragedy never right, Bristol Herald-Courier

Some in Buchanan County not suprised by latest scandal, Bristol Herald-Courier

Arrival of 'suits' surprise to small community, Bristol Herald-Courier

Earlier county board faced prosecution, Bristol Herald-Courier

Storm of 2002 left county in need of aid, Bristol Herald-Courier

A good coonhound good as gold to many in region, Bristol Herald-Courier

Buchanan scandal: More arrests anticipated, Bluefield Daily Telegraph

'Operation Big Coon Dog' buzz bemuses, angers Grundy folks, Roanoke Times;

For champion coon hounds,dollars come thick as ticks, Roanoke Times

Sabato: The most corrupt region is Southwest Virginia

Among the "Big Coon Dog" coverage in today's Bristol paper is this article ("Former special prosecutor, analyst cite past corruption," 6/26/04) with comments from U.Va. government professor Larry Sabato and from lawyer Gerald Gray about political corruption in Southwest Virginia.

In the article, Professor Sabato is quoted as saying: "I have family in Southwest Virginia and I love Southwest Virginia, and it’s painful to accept one reality. . . . The most corrupt region is Southwest Virginia. Over the years, more indictments for political and public office corruption have happened in this region than all other parts of the state combined."

I think Professor Sabato is great, but this sounds like hyperbole from the most quotable of all Virginians. The examples he cited are spread pretty wide in time and space - Sheriff Honaker in Bristol, Sid Clower in Henry County, William Harris and others in Buchanan County in the 1990s, and some matter in Wise County. I would think that the City of Richmond has had more local government officials prosecuted per square mile, at least since 1980.

More painful were these words. "Sabato, the UVa professor, said he often encourages his students from Southwest Virginia to go back home to improve the quality of life. Incidents like Thursday's arrests don’t help make the case that they should, he said."

"What does this say to them? It says, 'Get the heck out of there.'"

These words also suggest to me the question - what are the former Sabato students who did come back to Southwest Virginia doing?

Friday, June 25, 2004

On Brown and Simple Justice

The New Republic Online has this article on Brown v. Board of Education and Richard Kluger's Simple Justice.

Regarding the latter, it says in part: "For those who wish to read in one volume a learned and enthralling narrative that features the key actors in the school desegregation cases, there is nothing like Richard Kluger's magisterial book."

Suffolk winds up with $150,000 in attorneys' fees to pay in firefighter speech case

The Daily Press reports here ("Suffolk must pay in suit by firefighters," 6/26/04) that the City of Suffolk will have to pay $88,781 in attorneys' fees and costs to the plaintiff, in addition to the fees paid for its own counsel, in an federal case over the free speech rights of City firefighters.

William & Mary law professor testifies against stripping federal appeals courts of jurisdiction over gay marriage cases

The Washington Times reports here ("GOP eyes taking marriage from courts," 6/25/04) on a congressional hearing regarding proposed legislation that would tinker with the jurisdiction of the federal appeals courts in cases involving same-sex marriage. The hearing included testimony in opposition to the measure from William & Mary law professor Michael Gerhardt.

Perhaps some members of the Virginia General Assembly will respond with a measure seeking to deprive law professors at nominally state-funded institutions from jurisdiction to give testimony at legislative hearings about same-sex marriage matters.

Kids at law camp get the word from former Va. Supreme Court Chief Justice Carrico

According to this wild article in the Leesburg paper, they've got something called "Law Camp" up in Loudoun County, a creation of Circuit Court Judge Thomas Horne, and former Chief Justice Carrico gave a speech for the campers this week.

School custodian in Chesapeake brings overtime case in E.D. Va.

The Norfolk paper reports here ("Chesapeake school custodian sues over overtime pay," 6/26/04) that a school custodian at a high school in Chesapeake has filed a class action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, claiming she and others similarly situated were not paid overtime for four to six hours per week for the last three years.

More on Operation Big Coon Dog

The Roanoke paper has this article ("Prosecutors: Buchanan County officials participated in scam," 6/25/04), the Richmond paper has this article ("County bribery scheme alleged," 6/25/04), and the Bluefield paper has this article ("Scandal in Buchanan: Officials accused of personal profit from flood funds," 6/24/04) on the federal bribery case out of Buchanan County.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Winner of prize for e-mail from greatest distance

When you go to a show at the Barter Theater in Abingdon, the director comes out beforehand and repeats his standard monologue, including finding out who came to the show from the greatest distance. "Anyone from LA?" he says, meaning "lower Abingdon."

In today's Hotmail, I got a message from a fellow blogger, who is in tune and in uniform in Iraq. His blog is here. If he comes to hear some picking in Southwest Virginia, I'll buy the tickets, even if it is to hear the Joe Smiddy Band.

It has been a bluegrass day. I also got a CD from a lawyer in New York.

Federal grand jury issues indictments regarding Buchanan County contracts

The AP has this story that federal indictments were announced today by U.S. Attorney John Brownlee of the W.D. Va. against former Buchanan County officials and contractors for a bribery scheme related to contract work for flood disaster relief in the area of Hurley, Virginia.

The Bristol paper has this account, with this link to a copy of the indictment. The article notes that the investigation was called "Operation Big Coon Dog," because one of the bribes involved coon dogs.

Statement from Gate city election plaintiff

The Scott County paper has published this statement from one of the litigants in the Gate City election case.

Some history of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

In this article on the decline of affirmative action, the following snippet of the history of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is retold:

"AA began on June 19, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy sent a Civil Rights Act (CRA) to Congress to counter racial discrimination in the work place. The CRA, intended primarily for blacks, met stiff political opposition. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated. His successor Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed, "No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long." But opposition was still stiff.

On February 8, 1964, Congressman Howard W. Smith of Virginia made a colossal miscalculation in the House of Representatives. In an attempt to block the CRA, he suggested inserting the word 'sex' after the word 'religion' whenever it appeared in Title VII, which guaranteed 'fair' employment practices. By tying it to the then controversial women's movement, Smith hoped to kill the CRA.

In his book "Freedom Will Conquer Racism and Sexism", J. Edward Pawlick, comments on reaction in the House."[T]he laughter became too great... and Congressman Smith had to stop." Disingenuously, Smith assured the House that he was serious. The bluff backfired. The CRA passed.

Within decades, government had imposed de facto quotas and fair practice standards for women (and minorities) throughout the work place and academia. That had not been Kennedy's intention."

Senate confirms Kelley for E.D. Va. judgeship

As a beneficiary of the peace pact over non-controversial judicial nominations, the E.D. Va.'s Walter Kelley was unanimously approved by a Senate vote this week, as reported here ("Norfolk lawyer confirmed as federal court judge," 6/24/04) by the Daily Press.

Of Venus, Johnny, Andy, Bailey, Herb, Mr. Carlson, Les, and Jennifer, who should run for Mayor of Richmond?

A group of Richmond citizens are thinking they and actor Tim Reid, formerly of "WKRP in Cincinnati," were always meant to be, and they are promoting him as a candidate to be the next mayor of Richmond, according to this report ("Richmond group urges actor Reid to run for mayor," 6/24/04) in the Richmond paper.

This page describes the greatest WKRP episode ever, in which Mr. Carlson says, "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!!!"

A dog not unlike my own Posted by Hello

Roanoke lawyer sues Army Secretary Brownlee, claiming unlawful policy limiting reservist lawyers

Via JSW, the Roanoke paper has this article ("Reservist lawyer files federal suit over practice rule," 6/24/04) about a legal challenge brought by a Roanoke lawyer who is a U.S. Army reservist against a government policy prohibiting private practice of reservists who have been called up. The article notes that the current secretary of the Army is coincidentally the father of the W.D. Va.'s U.S. Attorney, John Brownlee, himself a reservist.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

ACLU may challenge new Virginia law against teen nudist camps

The Washington Times reports here ("Teen nudist law faces challenge," 6/22/04) that the American Civil Liberties Union may bring a legal challenge against a new Virginia statute which outlaws teen nudist camps, in some circumstances.

Eavesdropping case can proceed, with damages limited to $10,000

The AP reports here on rulings by Judge Spencer of the E.D. Va., who denied in part the motions to dismiss of the defendants in the lawsuit brought by a group of Democrats regarding ilegal eavesdropping on their political strategy meetings in march of 2002.

Judge Moon rules the confession of Earl Washington was not coerced

The AP reports here that Judge Moon of the W.D. Va. has ruled that the confession of Earl Washington was not coerced.

Depositions in the Gate City mayor's race case

The Kingsport paper has this article ("Depositions begin in lawsuit challenging Gate City election results," 6/23/04) on the discovery in the litigation regarding the mayor's race in Gate City.

WV Supreme Court of Appeals justice to be featured in Bashman's 20 Questions

As shown in this post, Justice Starcher of West Virginia is going to be part of Howard Bashman's "20 questions" series.

Issue of improper ruling in impeachment waived when the impeachment did not occur

In Smith v. Com., the Virginia Court of Appeals in an opinion by Judge Annunziata, joined by Judges Bumgardner and Clements, held that the defendant had failed to preserve his objection to the trial court's ruling that if the defendant called witnesses to testify about his truthfulness, the Commonwealth could introduce evidence to the contrary, when the defendant was scared off by the ruling and never put on the testimony of his witnesses.

4th circuit reversed summary judgment for retailer in section 1981 case brought by consumers

In Williams v. Staples, Inc., the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Shedd, joined by Judge Michael with Judge Widener concurring, reversed the entry of summary judgment by Judge Wilson of the W.D. Va. in a case brought under 42 U.S.C. 1981 by an African-American who claimed that he was discriminated against on account of his race when a Staples store in Winchester refused to take his personal check.

The AP has this report on the opinion.

In this post, Howard Bashman juxtaposed Judge Shedd's opinion against an op-ed written by Professor Chemerinsky, who claimed that Judge Shedd was no good on civil rights issues.

Judge Wilson denies motion to dismiss rescission claim under Truth in Lending Act

In Cook v. Aames Funding Corp., Judge Wilson refused to grant the defedants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claim for rescission based on the Truth in Lending Act.

Virginia schools take conservative approach on issues of racial preferences

The Roanoke paper has this report ("Race fades as factor in academic community," 6/23/04) which says that Virginia's public colleges and universities are being cautious about racial preferences following last year's Supreme Court rulings in the University of Michigan cases.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

More on SW Virginia's Congressman Boucher and the DMCA

This CNet interview with Congressman Boucher about his fight to reform the Digital Millenium Copyright Act asks the question: "You represent a rural district in the corner of southwest Virginia near Tennessee. What's turned you into a technology activist?"

To which Boucher replied:

"I see the use of advanced information technology as a way to build a bridge between parts of the nation where development is a priority and economic growth, and job creation is a priority in my district and in the American economic mainstream. It is a fact that businesses get a bargain when they locate in rural areas.

Historically, a lot of businesses simply could not do that, because they had to be physically proximate to their clients and their suppliers and their customers. That is not true with the Internet. Now a company can operate portions of its business just as effectively from the most rural place in the United States as it can from the building next to its corporate headquarters."

Appeal granted in accessory use case

In the case of Capelle v. Orange County, the Virginia Supreme Court has granted the petition for appeal on the following issue:

"The Orange County Board of Supervisors, without legal authority and in violation of Virginia law and local zoning ordinances, illegally burdened a designated limited residential zoning district with mining and trucking uses of an adjacent agricultural zone by accepting, as an accessory use, the use of a private road through such limited residential district to serve the mining truck hauling uses of the agriculturally zoned parcel."

Ah, now, I thought an accessory use typically would be a use that is otherwise unlawful but for its character as accessory to a lawful use - if it has to be a lawful use in the first place, then what difference does it make whether it is "accessory" to another lawful use?

Fourth Circuit affirms Chief Judge Jones in Grundy condemnation case

In U.S. v. 100.01 Acres of Land in Buchanan County, the Fourth Circuit in a per curiam opinion for the panel of Judges Wilkinson, Niemeyer, and Traxler affirmed the rulings of Chief Judge Jones in a federal condemnation case related to the Army Corps of Engineers' project which is ongoing at Grundy.

Tom Mullins from the Street firm argued the case for the appellant.

Review of new rule on citation to unpublished authority leads to further review

How Appealing has this post with the low-down on the decision of the Advisory Committee for the federal rules to get more study on the new proposed rule for citation to unpublished cases.

Roy Jessee's comment on this topic is still available online right here.

Certification of class action against Wal-Mart for sex discrimination

George's has this post with links and Jurist has this post with more links (including the order) about the certification of a class action against Wal-Mart for sex discrimination on behalf of 1.5 million women.

Geez, that's awful, 1.5 million - awful if there was so much discrimination, and also awful to deal with such a case - sex discrimination as mass tort.

Heck, around here, I get excited if there are two plaintiffs in a case (or at least, more than 1 and less than 6).

Outspoken Mass. federal judge declares sentencing guidelines unconstitutional

Via TalkLeft, this post, and also via Jurist, this post, says Judge William Young of the D. Mass. has in some context declared the federal sentencing guidelines unconstitutional -- or at least he declared they were bad.

Why the Supreme Court shouldn't cite foreign law

Via this post from Instapundit, here is a piece by Judge Posner on why the courts should not use foreign law.

Strangely, Judge Posner almost said in one of his points the same thing I did, why cite foreign cases when you can't even cite all the U.S. of A. cases (i.e., the unpublished ones).

Ethics charge against former Judge Askew dismissed on the merits

Via VLW, the Richmond paper reports here ("Complaint against judge dismissed," 6/22/04) that the ethics charge against former Circuit Court Judge Verbena Askew has been dismissed, for lack of clear and convincing evidence of misconduct. The charge was brought by Senator Stolle in connection with the sufficiency of Judge Askew's disclosures to committees of the General Assembly.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Alumna of Virginia Tech, George Mason becomes member of NTSB

The AP has this report on the newest member of the National Transportation Safety Board, a woman named Deborah Hersman, who has degrees from Virginia Tech and George Mason.

US DOJ says OK to citywide election for mayor of Richmond

The AP reports here that the U.S. Department of Justice has approved the plan for the citywide election of a "strong" mayor for the City of Richmond, "rejecting claims that it would dilute the political might of the city's largely black electorate."

Internet service provider not directly liable for copyright infringement

In CoStar Group, Inc. v. Loopnet, Inc., the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Niemeyer, joined by Judge Michael with Judge Gregory dissenting, held that an internet service provider is not directly liable for copyright violations of its subscribers, who used the service to violate plaintiff's copyrights.

In his dissent, Judge Gregory was of the view, in essence, that the ISP was not passive enough to avoid liability.

This seems like one of those opinions that you will eventually read about Denise Howell's blog or Donna Wentworth's blog. The only professional commentary I can offer is that I did notice that appellant's counsel was a Hacker (actually, J. Hacker of O'Melveny & Myers in D.C.).

ERISA defendant in default must pay pension benefits prospectively

In Jackson v. Coyne & Delany Co., an ERISA case, Senior Judge Michael found the defendant in default, and entered judgment which, among other things, requires the defendant to pay pension benefits to the plaintiff for the rest of his life.

24,000 home schooled children in Virginia

This article ("Home is where the lesson is," 6/21/04) in the Norfolk paper says the percentage of school-aged Virginians who are home-schooled is about 2%.

More on the state-federal struggle over whether AEP can join regional power group

The Roanoke paper has this article ("U.S. says it can force AEP to join regional company," 6/19/04) with the latest salvo fired between state and federal energy regulators over who controls whether American Electric Power can join the PJM regional power distribution group, which AEP wants to do, but Virginia regulators have not yet approved.

More on Chief Judge Jones' damages ruling in the DirecTV cases

The Roanoke paper has this article ("DirecTV's legal strategies raise eyebrows," 6/19/04) about the DirecTV litigation in the W.D. Va. and elsewhere.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

On probation violations in Virginia

The Richmond paper has this article ("Prison terms to be reviewed," 6/20/04) on the attempt in Virginia to reduce the number of Virginians sent to prison for violating the terms of their probation or parole.

Judges appear in re-enactment of Brown v. Board of Education arguments documentary

In this piece ("OMBUDSMAN: Readers quick to complain about any 'sins' of omission," 6/20/04) in the Richmond paper, it is reported:

"For the Brown v. Board of Education film documentary, produced by New Millennium Studios in Petersburg, the paper in fact did publish two short items on the production, on May 1 and May 14. One announced the studio was seeking extras to appear in the film, sponsored by the Martin Luther King Commission, and the other announced the film would be shown at the Carpenter Center on May 16.

However, the items did not include names of the judicial "actors," and the T-D published no follow-up account or review. The film was shown the one time to an invited audience, but it was free and open to the public.

A Virginia Supreme Court spokeswoman provided a rundown on the cast. Judge Roger L. Gregory of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals portrayed Thurgood Marshall, and Judge James W. Benton Jr. of the Virginia Court of Appeals played Spottswood Robinson.

Nine retired circuit or district court judges, including Turlington, participated. Other retired judges in the cast, she said, were Donald Hall Kent, William R. Shelton and William B. Wimbish, of Richmond; W. Park Lemmond Jr., Petersburg; Marc Jacobson, Norfolk; Alfred D. Swersky, Alexandria; Paul F. Sheridan, Arlington, and Tristram T. Hyde IV, Heathsville."

LA Times' take on new Virginia law dealing with same-sex contracts

The LA Times (registration required) has this article ("Major Reversal in Gay Rights Looms in Virginia," 6/20/04) which begins:

"When it comes to adapting state laws to reflect social change — such as women's suffrage, school desegregation and gay rights — Virginia has always been a laggard."

Regarding the new statute, the article says:

"Critics say the law — which takes effect July 1 and reaffirms the state's ban on gay and lesbian marriage — could negate powers of attorney, wills, leases, child-custody arrangements, joint bank accounts and health insurance granted by companies that recognize domestic partnerships."

The article doesn't say what are the other interpretations of the new law, which goes into effect July 1.

Mike Vick's Virginia Beach lawyer for marketing deals

The Daily Press has this article ("Keeping business close to home," 6/20/04) on the Virginia Beach lawyer who represents Atlanta Falcons (and former Virginia Tech) quarterback Mike Vick in his marketing deals.

Some (mostly Southwest) Virginia webcams

I read an article in today's Roanoke paper protesting the installation of a webcam at Radford University.

Already there are other webcams on Virginia campuses and elsewhere: the RotundaCam, looking up the Law at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville; the webcam with a view of the Drill Field at Virignia Tech; this view of Lexington from VMI; this view of W&L; the Channel7 cam in Roanoke; this cam in Botetourt County; this cam showing the Walling park in Bristol; this cam at Honaker; this cam at Lebanon; and, from over in Tennessee, this cam from the WCYB transmitter; and this cam from Lynchburg.