Saturday, October 23, 2004

Rick returns to Richmond

In this post, Rick Klau reflects on the origins of the University of Richmond law school's Journal of Law & Technology, which describes itself as, among other things, "the first exclusively online law review," now into Volume XI.

Fourth Circuit nominee Haynes and the rewriting of military law

The New York Times has this story ("After Terror, a Secret Rewriting of Military Law," 10/24/04) about the rewriting of military law after 9/11, including the role of Fourth Circuit nominee William J. Haynes II.

Legal discrimination in the University's purchases?

Via this post from Discriminations, I see this article from the Charlottesville paper about a new requirement for purchases made by the University: for each purchase, a written quote must be obtained from a minority-owned or woman-owned firm. (Notwithstanding the example Cincinnati, and the reasoning of Professor Davis, Appalachian-owned firms are not included in this policy.)

"The point is to correct the state’s 'legal discrimination' against minorities and women, said Edward L. Hamm Jr., the minority agency’s director." Presumably, however, "discrimination" based on race or gender would not be "legal discrimination."

The article goes on to say "the charter-university proposal promoted by UVa, Virginia Tech and the College of William & Mary leaves some wondering what will happen to the schools’ commitment to diversity in purchasing. In exchange for less state money, the colleges would have greater control over many business functions, including procurement."

Who will rural Virginians choose?

The Newport News paper has this report ("Election wild card," 10/23/04) speculating that "Virginia's rural voters may play a significant role in the Nov. 2 election, as new data show Sen. John Kerry closing in on President Bush statewide but still lagging behind among voters who live in the country."

I'm not sure that this article is particularly insightful, and certainly it is not as much fun as this column about the election, titled "Monkeys may fly Nov. 2."

VHSL says the rule is clear, those yellow wristbands are banned as jewelry

On Friday, the Virginia High School League restated its view that those yellow Lance Armstrong wristbands are outlawed as jewelry, according to this AP report.

The article quotes the executive director of the VHSL as saying: "We're not contesting the cause--the issue is a wristband, whether it's save the whales, LiveStrong or gay rights."

Media General to petition Supreme Court for review on FCC cross-ownership rules

The Johnson City paper, which competes against Media General outlets Channel 11 in Johnson City and the Bristol Herald-Courier newspaper, has this article which begins: "Media General is turning to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of continuing to operate newspapers and television stations in the same markets — including the Tri-Cities."

The article notes: "WJHL and the Herald Courier have become part of Media General’s plan to converge its media outlets in several markets. Through the convergence plan, the television station and newspaper share resources, including reporters and research capabilities."

Voter empowerment cards for Virginia voters

Hugh Lessig has this piece describing the distribution in Virginia by the NAACP and ACLU of "voter empowerment" cards, with this information.

The card says, among other things:

"If you are not allowed to vote because you don't have an ID, ask for an Affirmation of Identity form. You have a right to vote if you sign this form. (VA Code 24.2-643(b))."

"If you have moved since the '03 election, you should have notified your local registration office by now and received a new voter card. If you did not notify the registrar, you have a right to vote in your old precint in this year's elections. (VA Code 24.2-401)."

"If you believe you are registered but a poll worker says you are not, ask the poll worker to contact the local registrar. If the registrar is unavaiable or cannot find your name, ask for a Conditional Ballot. You have a right to cast a conditional ballot even if your name is not on the voter list. However, your vote will only be counted if the electoral board finds that you are currently registered to vote in that precinct. (VA Code 24.2-652-653)."

"If anyone challenges your eligibility to vote even though you are on the list of registered voters, ask for an 'Affirmation fo Eligibility' form. You have a right to vote if you sign this form. (VA Code 24.2-651-651.1)."

Computer files, special ed expert out as evidence in Virginia sex abuse case

The Potomac News has this article ("Computer porn can't be used in teacher's trial," 10/23/04) a range of evidentiary rulings made by the trial court judge in a sex abuse case against a school teacher in a Virginia county.

Among other things, the judge ruled that pornography found on a classroom computer could not be used as evidence, where the Commonwealth could not prove that the defendant was responsible for it. The material was accessed using some kind of file-sharing service. The article notes that the school system has since installed a method of blocking the use of file-sharing with the school's computers.

The witnesses in the case include some special education students. The judge rejected a request that these witnesses be allowed to testify by way of closed circuit video. The judge also rejected the defense request for appointment of an expert witness, whom the defendant sought to explain the "cognitive difficulties" of the special education students.

12th civil commitment of a sex offender in Virginia

The Winchester paper has this report ("Judge Halts Sex Offender’s Release," 10/23/04) on the "12th person in Virginia to be committed under the Sexually Violent Predators Act, which the General Assembly started funding in 2003."

On the Dole-Gore debate in Virginia

The Newport News paper has this tame report and the AP has this somewhat livelier report on the debate between Al Gore and Bob Dole at Regent University on Friday.

VMI man sues to avoid extension of his eight years in the U.S. Army

Newsday reports here that a former student at the Virginia Military Institute has filed a legal challenge in federal court in New York to the extension of his military service beyond his 4 years in the Army and 4 years as a reservist.

Virginia county wins FOIA case, in part because no one knows what new part of FOIA means

One Culpeper paper has this article about the resolution in favor of a Virginia county in a Freedom of Information Act case brought by another Culpeper paper, challenging the propriety of a closed meeting by the county board of supervisors.

Interestingly, a rationale for the closed meeting was the county's adversarial position in relation to the country school board over the construction of a new high school.

The article also says: "A relatively new element of FOIA states that motions to convene closed sessions must identify the subject matter to be discussed, as well as the purpose of the meeting. The provision further states that a 'general reference' to the subject matter is not sufficient." The court ruled that the identification of the subject matter requirement had not been violated, partly because there are no precedents applying this requirement. Va. Code 2.2-3712 says: "A. No closed meeting shall be held unless the public body proposing to convene such meeting has taken an affirmative recorded vote in an open meeting approving a motion that (i) identifies the subject matter, (ii) states the purpose of the meeting and (iii) makes specific reference to the applicable exemption from open meeting requirements provided in § 2.2-3707 or subsection A of § 2.2-3711."

On this point, the FOIA advisory council has explained: "The subject need not be so specific as to defeat the reason for going into closed session, but should at least provide the public with general information as to why the closed session will be held. For example, a public body might state that the subject of a closed session would be a discussion of disciplinary action against a employee, which goes a step beyond just stating that the purpose of the meeting is to consider a personnel matter." Opinion for Lucy Phillips, AO-45-01.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Serious obstacle to my relocating to AL, GA, ID, IA, MI, MN, MS, OK, SD, or WA

This Volokh post says these states all have statutes prohibiting lawyers from having one (or more) "offensive personalities."

Political expression and student dress codes in Virginia schools

Via this Volokh post (citing Becky Dale), the Culpeper paper has this article ("Do clothes make the kid?" 10/21/04) on kids wear clothes to school with political messages and how they hate the idea of dress codes and uniforms.

Charlottesville registrar expecting returned ballots from Iraq, Antarctica

The best part of this article from the Charlottesville paper about absentee ballots was this comment on the registrar: she "gets as excited about the process of voting as most people get about the candidate."

Tobacco tales

In this report from Iraq, it is said: "While they wait -- Marines talk, smoke -- but most of all, they dip. The most common sound around Camp Abu Graib, next to a weapon being cleared or an incoming rocket (usually one per day) is the sound of a can of tobacco being tapped loose for the next pinch."

Tapped loose? Having studied these matters for 20-some years, I always thought the point of smacking the can was so that yer Skoal or whatnot gathered in some depth on the low side, facilitating the pinch. (That's the kind of language mostly used by tobacco-fanciers: pardon me, while I facilitate my pinch.)

This subject matter has caused me to recollect a Government Services Administration report on the federal courthouse at Big Stone Gap, which opened around 1920 and reopened around 1980, and this report (compiled in the late 1980s) included a letter from an early clerk to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, and the gist of the letter was could you please send us here in Big Stone some more spittoons, at the last session of court everyone was chewing and spitting their tobacco juice on the floor and it was quite a mess. (I imagine the administrative office still gets letters like that almost every day.)

I've never seen anyone spit tobacco juice at the Big Stone Gap courthouse - at least not on the floor. That GSA book was a very interesting book and I've been secretly plotting to get a copy for myself, if that's possible, from the GSA through FOIA or by some other means, but it may not be possible. One of my law school classmates is some kind of GSA lawyer but I've not yet got up the nerve to raise the matter with her.

As the pre- or post-modern alternative to Copenhagen, this BoingBoing post describes betel nut chewing.

No dirty dancing pledge leads to student protest

The Washington Post reports here on how a Virginia school's efforts to limit suggestive dancing at school dances has somewhat misfired into a student protest against censorship.

Judge Doumar speaks on the Hamdi case

The Norfolk paper has this very interesting article ("Norfolk judge has case of a lifetime," 10/22/04) with the perspective of the E.D. Va.'s Judge Robert Doumar on being the judge in the case of Yaser Hamdi.

Even if you never heard of Judge Doumar or Yaser Hamdi, I recommend this article.

What to do with reinstated doctor

In the case of the reinstated state doctor, his employer isn't sure yet what to do with him, according to this report ("Fired internist not allowed to work," 10/22/04) in the Richmond paper.

By the West Virginia definition, maybe I've argued before the U.S. Supreme Court

Via How Appealing, the West Virginia papers like this one are reporting that one of the candidates for the West Virginia Supreme Court is claiming that he has "argued" many cases before that court, even though he has only actually appeared for oral argument in one case.

So, whereas I thought I had argued only 8 appeals (two state and six federal), by this guy's logic I have actually argued more than 20, including my written arguments in amicus briefs (and a cert petition some years ago) filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Protected class in Cincinnati

Sometime ago, I heard that Cincinnati, OH, prohibits discrimination against Appalachians, and this may even be true, according to this ordinance, where the word "discriminate" is defined to mean "to unlawfully segregate, separate or treat individuals differently based on race, gender, age, color, religion, disability status, marital status, or ethnic, national or Appalachian regional origin."

The Hillbilly Sophisticate notes here that Appalachian cities should pass similar ordinances protecting "ferners" on account of their "ferness."

Commentary on electoral politics in West Virginia

The BBC has this story on West Virginia, which says, among other things, that "the going rate for a vote these days is $15 or a pint of whisky."

The article also notes why absentee voting is on the rise, quoting one individual as saying: "A party activist can come over to someone's house and either watch the person vote or vote for them. Then they know exactly how the person voted so they know how to pay them."

Step-father turned in for stealing donation jar

Channel 3 in Norfolk reports here that a fellow turned in his step-father for stealing a jar of money with donations for a girl needed a lung transplant.

More on defending the poor in Virginia's courts

The Leesburg paper has this piece, which begins:

"A task force studying Virginia’s indigent defense system has recommended a list of wide-ranging reforms aimed at changing the way poor people charged with crimes are represented in this state that has been criticized by some for not taking the issue seriously. "

Judge Williams of the W.D. Va. grants summary judgment in age case brought by school employee

In DeBord v. Washington County School Board, Senior Judge Williams of the W.D. Va. granted the motion for summary judgment of the School Board on the plaintiff's claim that her employment was terminated unlawfully on account of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The opinion includes a footnote which says this:

"DeBord also cited remarks allegedly made by Jim Rector, then Director of Personnel, where he advocated replacing older women in the office where DeBord worked with younger women “like Monica Lewinsky.” (DeBord Affidavit at 7.) While these remarks are reprehensible, Rector was not the individual who obtained the termination of DeBord. On January 6, 2000, Lee recommended that the School Board terminate DeBord’s contract. At the time, the School Board was composed of James Wallace, Kathryn Roark, Elizabeth Lowe, Jim Bishop, Bucky Boone, Bill Brooks, and Kevin Downs. Motion for Summary Judgment at 9. The School Board voted to terminate DeBord’s contract that day. (Lee Affidavit at 5.) Rector was not a decision-maker with respect to DeBord’s termination, and, thus, his remarks do not comprise evidence that DeBord was terminated for reasons having to do with her age."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Dickenson County to pull the plug on wireless broadband service?

The Coalfield Progress reports here that Dickenson County has voted to sell its wireless internet system, because it has cost the county too much money. The article is somewhat ambiguous as to whether the fault is with one-sided contracts the county signed in connection with the wireless network.

Bizarre reports from Pat Robertson

The AP has this article ("Robertson says Bush told him there would be no war casualties," 10/20/04) on a series of incredible statements attributed to Virginia's own Dr. Pat Robertson, the impresario of the 700 Club and Regent University and an alumnus of Washington & Lee.

From the archives, an old trial tale

I wrote this in 2001:

Some years ago I tried a case in Kentucky with local counsel. The judge has since passed away.

When I appeared before him to be admitted to practice pro hac vice, the judge said that my partner was ok but he'd have to hear oral argument on whether I should be allowed to appear in the case, and started asking questions. He asked where I went to law school and was told William and Mary. The judge commented, "That must be a co-ed school." We were bewildered at the counsel table. The judge explained, "well, you've got both your William and your Mary, that makes it co-ed."

Later on, recalling that I was from out of town but not that I was also from out of state, the judge asked me with which of the Lexington firms did I work. Lexington is the "big city" in Eastern Kentucky. When I reminded him that I was not from Lexington at all, he said it was all right then. After he made the connection that we were from a town with a popular NASCAR track, he told us how much he liked going to the races there.

En route to a motion hearing in the case, I was running late and got stopped for speeding, and called ahead telling them to try to move us back in the docket until I got there. As it turns out, I got there in plenty of time, but someone had already told the judge that I had been ticketed. When I rose to argue the motion, the judge said, "Mr. Minor, in light of your recent brush with the law, have your civil rights been restored to where you are able to argue this motion?" "Judge," I said, "I'm innocent until proven guilty."

Our client was a company in the food business. At trial, one of the essential company witnesses, a nice woman who worked in the bakery/deli, was very shy and nervous and I wanted to get her on and off the stand as quickly as possible. After a minimal cross-examination by plaintiff's counsel, I jumped up and declared the witness was free to go. Detecting my anxiety, the judge said "Not so fast, the Court has some questions." My heart sank. The judge turned to the witness and said, "Are you the woman who makes those fried chicken livers on Saturdays? I go up there
every weekend and spend all my money there." When the woman left the courtroom and went out where the other witnesses were waiting, she exclaimed, "He asked me about my chicken livers!"

In the same trial I tried to question another witness, who was a licensed attorney working in-house for the company, about what he heard the plaintiff say at the earlier hearing on her claim for unemployment benefits. We expected some arguments about the admissibility of this evidence, but no one mentioned the statute I had in mind. Instead, the lawyer on the other side objected on the inscrutable grounds that the witness "was going to testify about something he heard while he was a lawyer." Before I could say anything in response, the judge ruled, even more inscrutably, "Objection sustained, the witness can answer." I told the judge I didn't understand his ruling. He pointed back to the table where our local counsel was still seated and said, "go back over there and find out." I thought he meant I could get the answer from local counsel, who of course had no idea what the judge meant. As it turns out, the judge meant for me to ask more questions, that the witness could say what he heard but that the unemployment hearing transcript (which we had not yet tried to introduce, but the witness held in his hands) would not be allowed into the case as an exhibit.

Eventually, the judge grew tired of our evidence. The claim was about hostile environment sexual harassment. After several of the plaintiff's co-workers recounted incidents in which she was the one telling detailed and unusual stories in the workplace about sexual matters, the judge called me to the bench and let me know that no more such evidence would be allowed. "This is a court of law," the judge said, "and we're not going to have any more of that kind of talk in here."

When the jury retired, immediately upon the closing of the door to the jury room, all of them laughed together so loudly we could hear them as we were packing up in the courtroom. Some minutes later, the jury brought back a the defense verdict, so we can laugh when these stories are retold. As the day was fine, the local lawyer and I retired to the golf course, and got in about 15 holes before dark, then I left to drive back to Virginia.

I love playoff baseball

These last three nights of baseball have been fantastic - and so is this account of being there as a Red Sox fan:

"These weren't just baseball games. They were life experiences. They broke you down in sections. They made you question God, the meaning of life, whether sports should possibly mean this much. On Sunday night, I stewed in my seat vowing never to raise my kids as Sox fans. On Monday night, I skipped out of Fenway wondering if any other team could possibly mean this much to a group of people. . . . I can't imagine there have ever been two straight playoff games like that, not with these stakes, not with that much emotion, not after everything that happened last season and the 80-plus seasons before it. For a miracle to happen, you need a shift in momentum that borderlines on the surreal. Games 4 and 5 were surreal. There's no other way to say it."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The relevance of reasonable reliance to retroactivity

In Olatunji v. Ashcroft, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Luttig, joined by Judge Michael, with Judge Baldock from the Tenth Circuit dissenting, ruled against the government in an immigration case, concluding that provisions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act passed in 1996 could not be applied retroactively to provide for his deportation based on his plea of guilty to federal offenses in 1994, regardless of whether the petitioner could show reliance on the prior law.

The dissent says Judge Luttig got it wrong on the relevance of reliance and also got it wrong on whether applying the IIRIRA as was done to the petitioner even involves a question of retroactivity.

18 months not reasonable notice to auto insurer

In Virginia Farm Bureau v. Sutherland, Judge Wilson granted summary judgment in a declaratory judgment action brought by the insurer, where the accident took place in November 2000 and the insured notified the insurer in July 2002.

No state law claim based on MSHA violations

In King v. Island Creek Coal Co., Chief Judge Jones of the W.D. Va. granted summary judgment for Island Creek, concluding that it did not have any (or did not breach any) legal duties toward a worker whose employer was on the premises without Island Creek's knowledge or consent. The fatal accident resulted in MSHA sanctions against Island Creek as owner of the property, but the Court held that the MSHA laws did not create a legal duty, at most they could be used to define the standard of care where a duty exists under state law.

More on electing judges

Waldo has this interesting post in response to the Ed Lynch column about how he thinks Virginia ought to have elected judges.

One interesting thing about it is that Waldo and I are mostly in agreement.

Judge Conrad of W.D. Va. sentences two men for hate crimes

The Roanoke Times has this report ("2 sentenced for hate crime," 10/19/04) of the sentencing in federal court of two men for vandalizing a black church in Roanoke.

One swingy district, says Virginia Tech student

Talking about how John Kerry can carry the Commonwealth, a Virginia Tech student explained that here in Southwest Virginia, "we've got a very swingy district," as quoted in this article from the Virginia Tech paper.

Does that rhyme with "dingy" or "dinghy"?

More on Virginia, the Supreme Court, and eminent domain

The Norfolk paper has this article ("Localities await Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain," 10/1904) with opposing views on whether the eminent domain case to be heard this term by the U.S. Supreme Court will affect the substantive of eminent domain in Virginia.

Lawyers, doctors, unemployed people, all sorts of people

Who will be hanging out at the polls in Virginia on November 2? According to this report, the answer is "lawyers, doctors, unemployed people, all sorts of people," especially lawyers.

Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission files on Albemarle County circuit court judge

The Charlottesville paper reports here ("Panel: Judge warrants penalty," 10/19/04) on the filing by the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission in the Virginia Supreme Court against a circuit court judge from Albemarle County.

Sign bandit knocked senseless

The old sign-stealers among my readers (and they know who they are) will be amused by this post from the Virginia Young Democrats about a thief of Democratic signs who was caught red-handed (as opposed to blue-handed) after he knocked himself unconscious while scurrying from the scene of the crime with his ill-gotten booty.

William & Mary law stuff

The latest mailer I got from the law school dean at my alma mater said that this year they are celebrating 225 years as a law school, which is debatable, but this was the first I'd heard of it. The dean will have a do in honor of this occasion on November 12.

(On the oldest law school issue, the Dean himself has written article and cites Dean Griswold of Harvard, who supposedly said: "Though Wythe and Tucker were professors in a university, without being set up as a separate 'law school,' the difference is simply one of definition. There can be no doubt that Wythe and Tucker and their successors at William and Mary were engaged in a substantial, successful and influential venture in legal education, and that their effort can fairly be called the first law school in America." Reveley, W & M Law School Came First. Why Care?, 35 U. Tol. L. Rev. 185, 187 (2003)).

Prior to November 12, a panel of the Fourth Circuit will here these cases at the law school on October 29. That never happened in my day, an appeals court sitting at the law school. The same day, another panel will be hearing these cases in Morgantown, WV, at the law school there.

Why not arm the women at George Mason University

The Rule of Reason has this post questioning part of the program to empower women at George Mason University in Fairfax County, Virginia, does not include encouraging them to carry firearms for self-protection, noting that the offices of the National Rifle Association are not far away, if additional information about guns is required.

When I went to the Clemson game with my wife, as we passed the Rotunda walking across from the Corner to the football game, she recalled that we have seen a couple of fistfights right there in daylight, before the very eyes of the statue of Jefferson. I suppose these would have ended differently if the students involved had weapons.

Time to elect judges in Virginia?

Via How Appealing, I see that Ed Lynch has declared in this column in the Roanoke Times that judges should be elected in Virginia. He says it would "prevent judges from ignoring us without penalty."

That's absolutely wrong. The courts serve more than the voters. You'll never convince me that judicial competence and independence are enhanced by making judges chase votes and, even worse, chase money for their campaigns. The quality of the federal judiciary is certainly none the worse for NOT being the product of local elections.

Bashman also has a link to this AP article, about how the West Virginia bar is appalled by the excesses of the ongoing campaign for seats on the state supreme court.

Why I'm nervous about working the fax machine

Overlawyered has this post about a lawyer who faxed a brief with the wrong side up (or down), sending 100 blank pages to the court, causing his side to lose 100-million euro case by default.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Drilling boom for natural gas in Appalachia

The AP reports here that energy companies are drilling like crazy for natural gas in Eastern Kentucky.

Virginia teenager conditionally pleads guilty to killing his father

The Norfolk paper reports here ("Chesapeake teenager pleads guilty to killing his father," 10/18/04) and the AP reports here that an 18 year-old entered a conditional plea of guilty today in Chesapeake Circuit Court to first-degree murder in connection with the death of his father.

The conditional plea will allow the defendant to appeal the trial court's ruling that the defense would not be allowed to use evidence that he was the victim of sexual abuse.

The AP article notes that after the father was killed, the defendant eventually headed to the western part of the state:

"The slaying was discovered after hikers on the Appalachian Trail in southwestern Virginia found a confession note in a backpack on May 8, 2003. The note had been left in a shelter and was signed with the name Shane Cubbage, according to authorities.

The note's author described how he had killed his father in Chesapeake and escaped to the mountains near Roanoke, according to court records."

Betting on the ponies in Southwest Virginia

Bloodhorse has this report on the opening of a new off-track wagering facility in Vinton, Virginia.

The article notes that this is the first such facility in this corner of the state: "In the past, area horseplayers in the southwestern part of the state would either make the three-hour trip to the OTB parlor in Richmond, or venture out of state to Charles Town Races & Slots in West Virginia."

Two Media General newspapers decline to make a presidential endorsement

The AP reports here that Media General newspapers in Tampa and Winston-Salem are not endorsing anybody for president this year (unlike the MG paper in hometown Richmond).

Commonwealth sues out-of-state cigarette companies

The Norfolk paper reports here ("State suing 46 cigarette firms," 10/18/04) that Virginia suing companies to make them pay into a fund for the medical costs of smoking.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Peace people parodied

Perusing these pictures of peace people, I was not too amused until I got down to the "night-school spelling course" but laughed out loud at the "prayer for a Weed Whacker."

On pro bono

Tort et travers has this post which says among other things that every year he must report to the Florida bar the number of his pro bono hours. The post continues with a discussion about whether pro bono work is a good thing.

I have no doubt that pro bono work (as I understand it) is a good thing, that the legal aid organizations cannot cover all the unmet needs of the poor, and that many country lawyers (like me) do a fair amount of pro bono work almost in spite of themselves.

In Virginia, the VBA now is administering the Community Service Program, one goal of which is to develop data about the pro bono activities of the members of the Virginia State Bar. I've heard this program described about 10 times now, and the first 2 or 3 times I had no particular sense of what it is that makes anyone excited about it. The last few times I've thought (including Thursday and Friday) that perhaps I would like to sign up so that when the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there.

When I was a somewhat younger lawyer, I did some court-appointed criminal work, the point of which I must confess was more to get experience in the courts than anything else. In the course of that work, some of my clients became my friends, and they still call on me from time to time to help them with their legal problems, which are remarkable in quality and quantity. I think that counts as pro bono work; maybe it doesn't.

Soering blames the Commonwealth for death of sex offender in prison

In this article from the Hook, inmate Jens Soering explains why he blames the Commonwealth for the death of Richard Ausley, a convicted sex offender who was murdered in prison, allegedly by another inmate.

The two constitutional questions on this year's Virginia ballot

There are two somewhat obscure constitutional amendments Virginia voters will consider on November 2:

1. Shall Section 6 of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to provide that members of the United States House of Representatives, Virginia Senate, and House of Delegates who are serving in the year following a new United States Census, when decennial redistricting is required, shall complete their terms of office and continue to represent the district from which they were elected for that term of office and that any vacancy during the term shall be filled from the same district that elected the member whose term is being filled?

2. Shall Section 16 of Article V of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to provide for additional possible successors to fill the office of Governor in the event of an emergency or enemy attack and until the House of Delegates is able to meet to elect a Governor?

The Connection newspapers have this article explaining what these two issues are about. The first adds three more offices to the order of succession if the governor, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, and the speaker of the House of Delegates all can't be governor as the result of a terrorist attack. The second has to do with the circumstance of filling vacancies to legislative offices that were redistricted, whether the voters of the old district or the new district get to chose the new legislator. The Roanoke paper opines here that both are good ideas.

Rewriting the history of the Pittston strike

This article from Workers World offers the following account of the takeover of the Moss 3 prep plant:

"On Sept. 17, 1989, the UMWA had seized the property of the Pittston Coal Co.'s Moss 3 preparation plant in Carbo, Va. Ninety-eight miners and a minister, outfitted in camouflage, pushed aside shocked Vance security guards and occupied the property. A giant spotlight propelled by a generator focused on the Pittston walls, where a giant sign spelled out 'United Mine Workers of America.' When the light went on, over 200 miners and supporters cheered and thousands more came forward to bar state police from entering the grounds.

Cecil Roberts, then vice president of the UMWA, addressed the crowd: 'Welcome to ... class warfare in southwestern Virginia.' For over three days they held the property, until Pittston agreed to a contract protecting jobs and other benefits. Pittston feared that the miners were planning to run the Moss 3 plant."

My understanding is that the strikers left the plant because of Judge Williams' orders of September 20 and 21, 1989, and that the strike continued through the winter and did not formally end until February 1990. See generally Clark v. International Union, UMWA, 752 F. Supp. 1291 (W.D. Va. 1990).

Post finds progress in Virginia criminal justice and bar discipline systems

The Washington Post, checking up on Virginia after its scathing editorials from this summer, on Saturday had this editorial citing the progress made by the Virginia Court of Appeals and the Virginia State Bar in responding to the several issues raised by the Post.

It notes that Virginia Court of Appeals has a new policy of referring botched appeals to the state bar's disciplinary authorities, "as a matter of course," every month.

The Post goes on to opine, however, that the rules need to be changed to that substantive rights of criminal appellants are not lost because of their lawyers' neglect.

Federal death-penalty efforts are 0-for-Virginia

This article on the federal death penalty notes, among other things: "In Virginia, for example, the Justice Department is 0-6 in its effort to win death verdicts."

I don't know whether this figure includes the case last week in Charlottesville, where the jury declined to impose the death penalty.

Man accused of stabbing pregnant woman could be tried under new law protecting unborn children

The Potomac News reports here ("Stabbing suspect could be first tried under new law," 10/17/04) that a man accused of stabbing and killing a woman who was four months pregnant "could be the first man in Virginia to be tried under Laci and Conner's Law."

The article notes: "The law, enacted federally in March 2004 and adopted in Virginia on July 1, makes it a capital crime to harm an unborn baby during the commission of other crimes. It was named after Laci Peterson, and her unborn son Connor."

The Virginia statute is Va. Code 18.2-32.2.

Blasting the birth-related neurological injury program

The Richmond paper has this article ("Quagmires, not help," 10/17/04) blasting Virginia's Birth-related Neurological Injury Compensation Program.

The lawyer in the D-Day fundraising case punished for good deeds

The Roanoke paper reports here ("Lawyer talks about 'huge ordeal'," 10/17/04) on the Bedford lawyer who wrote a legal opinion and faxed it to a banker, for which he wound up facing federal prosecution, making a plea agreement to testify against Richard Burrow, and may yet be disciplined by the Virginia State Bar. The article notes that the fellow has done a lot of pro bono work, and that he "charged the foundation $140 for the legal opinion that got him into this situation, and that cost was mainly to cover office expenses."

JMU seeks dismissal of lawsuit challenging gun ban

The Harrisonburg reported here that the Attorney General's office on behalf of James Madison University filed papers seeking dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the gun ban on campus for lack of an actual case or controversy, or at least lack of any showing of irreparable harm that would justify injunctive relief.

Virginia newspapers taking sides

Via this post from John Behan, I learn that the Richmond paper has endorsed Bush and the Roanoke paper has endorsed Kerry.

I think the Winchester paper has endorsed Bush, the Harrisonburg paper has endorsed Bush (although I've lost the link), and the Fredericksburg paper has unenthusiastically endorsed Bush. The Cavalier Daily endorsed Kerry.

This article describes some of the endorsements outside Virginia.

Will all the Media General papers follow the Richmond paper? Will the Newport News paper follow the flagship of its parent company, the Chicago Tribune, which endorsed Bush?

Judge hits man with big news - he passed the Virginia bar

The Fredericksburg paper has this delightful story of a paralegal who sat for the Virginia bar in July and found out the results in open court.

Here is the list of names of people who passed the July 2004 Virginia bar exam. Missing from the list is the name of the one fellow I know who took the exam this summer, which is even more disappointing than that lousy football game I watched earlier this evening. What a bummer.

When FDR came to Roanoke

The Roanoke paper has this fine account of when President Roosevelt came to Roanoke 70 years ago.