Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Those pesky law professors and students

Three times in the past, I have gone to Baltimore (and not Richmond) to argue in the Fourth Circuit, and each panel included Judge Niemeyer or Judge Murnaghan or both. On one of those days, Judge Murnaghan in the weak but charming voice of his later years, elaborately greeted a third-year student and the law professor who sponsored him, and then proceeded to take the student's legal position apart, politely and thoroughly.

I thought of that day when I read the opinions in Strong v. Johnson and Williams v. Ozmint.

In Strong, a Virginia case, the issue was whether the petitioner's counsel had improperly failed to note an appeal requested by the petitioner, and the Court concluded on the limited record that the petitioner had agreed not to appeal. Judge Gregory dissented, concluding that a letter from petitioner's counsel to the State Bar should not be considered evidence that would overcome the petitioner's sworn affidavit.

In Williams, a death penalty case, the petitioner claiming ineffective assistance got his writ in District Court, but the Fourth Circuit reversed.

Williams was argued by Professor David Bruck of Washington & Lee. Strong was argued by Geoff Clemens, Student Advocate, Charleston School of Law, sponsored by then-Professor Lorri Unumb, who had that television show, "The Law with Professor Lorri."

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