Thursday, November 04, 2004

More on the Virginia spam case

From the Loudoun Times-Mirror: After conviction, judge to take second look at spam law

Washington Times: 2 N.C. residents convicted of spamming

Leesburg 2day: Spammer Jailed, Fines Issued In Landmark Case

Welcome to the ignorant prognosticators club

In this article from the Charlottesville paper, Professor Larry Sabato welcomes Governor Mark Warner and other Virginia Democrats to the "inaccurate prognosticators club" for their prediction about the presidential vote in Virginia.

Reversal of fortune for off-track betting in Greene County

The Charlottesville paper reports here that the election officials changed their mind about the outcome off the off-track betting referendum in Greene County.

How not to plead a government liability claim under section 1983

Appellate Practice has this post describing an Eighth Circuit opinion affirming dismissal in a case under 42 U.S.C. 1983 where the plaintiff sued the government entity but failed to allege any facts from which it could be inferred that the constitutional violation was the result of the government's custom, policy, or practice, as required by the Supreme Court's ruling in the Monell case.

This sounds like the kind of argument that always occurs to me but I don't always have the nerve to make. It seems that my great ideas about ways to win motions to dismiss and demurrers are only about half as good as I think they are.

U.Va. Law alumni in Congress all re-elected

It says here that every single one of the graduates of the University of Virginia law school who are members of Congress were re-elected.

The odds of that happening were, well, almost 100%.

9 year sentence in the Virginia criminal spam case

Reuters has this report on the outcome of the first Virginia criminal case against spammers.

Bloggers stole the election

Talk Left has this post noting discussion about whether bloggers are to blame for skewing the outcome of the election by leaking early exit polls.

This is funny for several reasons:

1. People don't believe what they read on the internet.
2. People don't believe polls.
3. Most people don't even read blogs.
4. Most people never knew about the exit poll data before they voted.
5. It is not clear to me that knowledge of exit poll data would change the behavior of anyone who had not voted.

Rogue WV elector returns to straight and narrow

The AP reports here that the rogue elector in West Virginia has decided to go for Bush after all.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Election reflections

On the big day, we got out and voted, which we often have not done. E-voting has not reached Washington County, instead we have mechanical voting machines. My wife was amused to report that she was not entirely sure she had flipped the right switches. Does the little red x appear under or over the name you wanted, she wondered. Hmm, I thought, I'm not sure, maybe I flipped the wrong switch, too. Fortunately, the Electoral College vote was unaffected by our ineptitude. At least we left no chads dangling.

During the day I spoke with a lawyer and got to telling stories as usual and so I reminded him that in my office for almost 10 years I've had the same small bottle of bourbon, with the seal unbroken, that someone brought me in connection with a discussion of election day beverages in Southwest Virginia. We lamented the shabbiness of a last minute mailer in the Congressional campaign. He said as he rang off that he was heading out to the polls to keep an eye on the Republicans.

Another friend of mine called me after dark, as I was still sitting at my desk and he was driving to vote. He said he would flip the switch for Bush, even though he is mostly a Democrat, and even though he mostly aspires to Christian charity and good will, because there are two things he can't abide, and those are gay marriage and Arab terrorists. (Actually, his phrasing was somewhat more colorful, and it made me recollect the comedian who declares, there are three things I can't tolerate: bigotry, intolerance, and midgets.)

As I was leaving our building, a couple was going in as I was going out and I asked them if they had voted. "I don't vote," the woman declared. No? Since they live down in Tennessee, I told them that all I knew of the Congressional race on that side of Bristol was that the challenger's voice on the radio sounds just like Mr. Sulu from Star Trek, and they laughed as I gave them my best impression of George Takei discussing Saddam Hussein.

At home I took out the old dog and looked up the street and observed the lights in all the houses, and I thought it was like the Super Bowl when everyone in the neighborhood is watching the same thing on TV except that there was no halftime. During the day I sneaked a peak at the exit poll numbers on Wonkette and elsewhere. That early impression of a Kerry blow-out gave a sporting aspect to a long night of clicking through the channels, as if Bush made a big comeback between 3 pm and 3 am.

My plan was to watch whomever was likeliest to say something stupid, so early on I watched mostly Fox News until the trend for Bush was clear, then switched to Brokaw and Mathews and Rather and Jennings, eventually focusing on the latter two as the worst of the lot, who stayed in character by insisting on not calling Ohio. While the commentators yakked on, I started looking to see who was winning the West Virginia Supreme Court race and the Lee County circuit court clerk's race and what were the details of the Virginia vote. Did Bush really get 75% in Rockingham County? Holy catbirds. Dickenson and Buchanan counties went for Kerry. Boucher won everywhere, but maybe by fewer votes than usual in Washington County.

I read a lot of late-night craziness on the left-wing blogs, where there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Many of the bloggers with whom I have corresponded are of the left, so I watched them sort of like I watch a Virginia Tech football game, sympathetic but not too sympathetic. I switched back to Chris Mathews, who seemed to be having the most fun of the network people, and fell asleep with the TV on but without my sleeping hat.(My wife always laughs whenever she finds me at any hour of the day or night with all the lights on, the television blaring, and I'm sleeping while wearing a golf hat.)

The stuff people try to bring into the courthouse

The Norfolk paper has this interesting article ("Court screeners see it all," 11/3/04) on what courthouse security screeners see in their daily work.

More on the argument in the Muhammad appeal

The Richmond paper reports here ("Muhammad influence over Malvo at issue," 11/3/04) and the Washington Post reports here ("Sniper Case Goes Before Va. High Court," 11/3/04) on the oral argument before the Virginia Supreme Court yesterday in the sniper Muuhammad case.

Grand jury takes on Gate City election

The Kingsport paper (registration required) reports here ("Grand jury agrees to investigate Gate City election," 11/3/04) that a grand jury in Scott County is investigation allegations of criminal misconduct in connection with the Gate City town election in may.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Get down 50,000 words this month

Via BoingBoing, the NaNoWriMo contest challenges people to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.

I once filed a 24,000 word brief, having worked on it off and on for about two years.

Oral argument before the Virginia Supreme Court in the sniper Muhammad case

The AP has this report on the oral argument Tuesday before the Virginia Supreme Court in the appeal of convicted sniper John Muhammad.

The Virginia Supreme Court has this page with links to the briefs in the Muhammad case, and a page about the seating arrangements for the oral argument.

Proud to be part of a growth industry

It says here: "the Crohn's disease drug market will experience dynamic growth of 73% by 2013."

Should defendant sentenced based on amount of cocaine in package as it was shipped or as it was received

In U.S. v. Fullilove, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Chief Judge Wilkins, joined by Judge Traxler and District Judge Titus from Maryland, held that the trial court erred when it based the defendants on the .37 gram of cocaine base that was received by the defendant, rather than the 26.71 grams of cocaine base that was in the package before it was intercepted by law enforcement and emptied out and replaced by a tracking device.

Does a mix of self-funded and insurance-funded benefits put a plan outside ERISA preemption of Virginia's anti-subrogation statute

In State Farm v. Smith, Chief Judge Jones of the W.D. Va. took on the interesting question of whether ERISA preempts the Virginia anti-subrogation statute (Va. Code 38.2-3405) with respect to a mostly self-insured employee benefit plan that also provides some benefits with insurance, and the answer is, yes it does.

Petition granted in case about government liability in domestic violence cases

Charles Lane of the Washington Post writes here that: "The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will decide whether victims of domestic violence have a constitutional right to sue local governments that fail to protect them from abusers."

Monday, November 01, 2004

PACER subscribers can now access unsealed criminal filings in W.D. Va. cases

According to the revised administrative procedures for electronic filing in the W.D. Va., as of today: "Documents in unsealed criminal cases are now available to all PACER subscribers via the internet."

In October, I made an inquiry on this very point, and wound up spending the better part of an afternoon reading the criminal docket entries from a computer in the foyer of the clerk's office at the courthouse in Abingdon.

UPDATE: Well, no joy yet, perhaps this change is not retroactive.

Where is a national banking association located for purposes of federal jurisdiction?

In Wachovia Bank v. Schmidt, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Luttig, joined by Ninth Circuit Senior Judge Beezer with Judge King dissenting, held that a national banking association is "located" wherever it has local branch banks, and therefore there was no diversity jurisdiction for a case between South Carolina residents and a national banking association with branches in South Carolina. The opinions acknowledge that there is a split between the circuit courts on this issue, with the Seventh and Fifth circuits going the other way. Both sides pull out the stops in their arguments over statutory construction.

The disagreement between the majority and the dissent centers on the meaning of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion which by its very name is Bougas.

Another Virginia town may fire up telecommunications network

Culpeper is contemplating entry as an "MLEC" into the telecommunications business, according to this report, which says among other thing that the Virginia laws allowing municipalities to provide telecommunications services aare about to be changed yet again.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

My mom's aunt Mildred

My mom's mom (born a Poff) had one brother and a gaggle of sisters. The brother was married to Mildred, who is remembered here ("She was a world traveler, family woman," 10/31/04) in the Roanoke paper.

Virginia county contemplating switch back to appointed school boards

The Fredericksburg paper notes here that among other local issues, one Virginia county will decide on Tuesday whether to go back to an appointed school board, instead of an elected school board: "If voters decide to change, the King George School Board would be the first in Virginia to revert to appointments since the state law was changed in 1993 to allow elected school boards, said Frank Barham, executive director of the Virginia School Boards Association. Of Virginia's 134 school boards, just 30 are appointed."

Last Virginia county with all-paper ballots

The Staunton paper reports here that Highland County is happy to be holding on to its paper ballots.

Official poll results from Williamsburg area mock election

Never mind Bush v. Kerry, the Virginia Gazette reports here: "The potato beat the cucumber as the school's favorite vegetable."

Staunton paper says Bush

The News Leader offers this endorsement of President Bush.

Another electoral board member resigns in Scott County, citing illegality

The Scott County paper has this story about the resignation of another member of the electoral board, who wrote that "she could no longer supervise an election where 'those charged with conducting the election refuse to comply with Virginia law.'"

The Hokie Bird book

The Richmond paper has this delightful article about how a woman and her husband, a Virginia lawyer, came to write a series of books for children about the Virginia Tech Hokie Bird and other mascots. The Tech book is called Hello Hokie Bird.

The ties that bind between the Bush campaign and NASCAR

The Roanoke paper has this piece ("Turn left, lean right," 10/31/04) on the efforts of the Bush campaign to get NASCAR drivers to make public declarations of support.

The article quotes noted NASCAR aficionado, Professor Larry Sabato from the Dominion Power AOL Time Warner Norfolk Southern Smithfield Foods Center for Politics, who said helpfully, "NASCAR, it's a cult. It's partly a cult and those drivers all have their individual cults."

Two of three defendants in Virginia spam case may be acquitted on Monday

Leesburg2day reports here that the trial court judge in the Virginia criminal spam case will rule on Monday morning whether to grant the motions to strike of two of the three defendants, and already he has "said he does not believe the commonwealth has proven its case against defendants Richard Rutkowski and Jessica DeGroot."

Virginia case hinges on constitutional right to hunt

The Louisville paper has this report which begins: "Orion Sporting Group LCC and Orion Estates, a planned 450-acre hunting preserve and sport-shooting estate in rural Virginia, have challenged government officials in Nelson County, Va., for allegedly infringing on the group's state-guaranteed hunting rights."

The article continues: "A news release issued by Orion stated that a zoning appeal by the group was dismissed recently by a Virginia circuit court, but Judge Michael Gamble held that the complaint sufficiently alleged violation of Virginia's constitutional right to hunt, clearing the way for the case to go to trial."

More on labor shortage in coal business

This AP article describes the efforts of coal companies in the midst of the current coal boom trying to find new employees.

Rumor of police at the polls looking to arrest fugitives who vote in Virginia

This article from the NY Postsays: "in Virginia, rumors have circulated that police are setting up sting operations at polls to find any voters who are also on the outstanding warrants list."

More on the crime lab backlog in Virginia

Periodically, I read an article that says criminal cases are being woefully delayed because of the backlog of work at the state forensics lab, the latest such article being this one ("Crime lab backlog delays justice system," 10/31/04) from the Newport News paper, which says: "The backlog - the largest in at least the past six years - is causing prosecutors to drop cases because they can't meet the deadline for the state's speedy-trial law."

Virginia voters gone round the bend

The Newport News paper has this article ("Virginia race might be closer than voters expect," 10/31/04) which shows, if nothing else, that emotions have run away with many Virginia voters as they contemplate the election on November 2.

The Virginia governor's youngest cabinet member

The Richmond paper had this interesting interview with Eugene Huang, who has taken as Secretary of Technology at age 28.

More on the case against Judge Peatross

The Richmond paper has this story ("A battle in court over 'the truth,'" 10/31/04) which begins: "A recommendation to censure or remove an Albemarle County circuit judge over the way he handles criminal cases is providing a rare look into the agency that investigates complaints against judges."

A member of the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission was quoted as saying that the judge "acted vindictively towards attorneys where he felt that his authority was questioned."

The article also notes the judge was cited for discussing his case with Chief Justice Hassell of the Virginia Supreme Court, which will decide what to do about the charges against the judge. "Although Peatross testified later that he did not intend at the time to take his case to the Supreme Court, the commission said it was improper for him to talk about it with a member of the high court, which is the final authority on matters of ethics for state judges."

Touch screen voting debuts in many Virginia jurisdictions

The Roanoke paper points out in this story ("Get set to touch screens Tuesday," 10/31/04) that "touch-screen machines will be used for the first time in Roanoke during the presidential election Tuesday."

Anatomy of a qui tam suit

The Roanoke paper reports here ("Light shines on HCMF lawsuit," 10/31/04) on what it has found about regarding a qui tam suit against a Southwest Virginia company which owned a group of nursing homes.