Friday, May 04, 2007

Senators send names for E.D. Va. vacancies

This BLT post says that Senator Webb and Senator Warner have sent to the White House seven names for the two vacant district court judgeships in the E.D. Va., and they are:

"Joanne Alper, a circuit court judge in Arlington; David Novak, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District; Jeri Somers, an administrative law judge at the Department of Transportation; Jonathan Thacher, a circuit court judge in Fairfax; and Anthony Trenga, a partner at D.C.'s Miller & Chevalier. The two downstate candidates are Mark Davis, a circuit court judge in Portsmouth, and Dennis Dohnal, a magistrate judge in the Richmond-based office of the Eastern District."

Dohnal is the subject of this interesting interview, Alper is profiled here, and a short bio of Thacher appears here.

The VLW blog had this post.

VLW also has an article that says Justice Lemons of the Virginia Supreme Court was the most widely-endorsed candidate for the vacancies on the Fourth Circuit, along with Charlottesville litigator Thomas Albro.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

On law school attendance

This post discusses whether people skip class in law school.

The only strict attendance policy I can recall from way back when was the criminal law class taught by Walter Felton, now Chief Judge of the Virginia Court of Appeals.

Podcast on liability issues from Virginia Tech murders

Here is a link to a Lawyer 2 Lawyer podcast on liability issues related to the Virginia Tech shootings.

One of the references is to the new Virginia statute that prohibits colleges from giving the boot to students on account of attempted suicide, which is surely as ill-timed as any "civil rights" measure in history.

The statute says:

"The governing boards of each public institution of higher education shall develop and implement policies that advise students, faculty, and staff, including residence hall staff, of the proper procedures for identifying and addressing the needs of students exhibiting suicidal tendencies or behavior. The policies shall ensure that no student is penalized or expelled solely for attempting to commit suicide, or seeking mental health treatment for suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Nothing in this section shall preclude any public institution of higher education from establishing policies and procedures for appropriately dealing with students who are a danger to themselves, or to others, and whose behavior is disruptive to the academic community."

Regarding the statute, a new article in C-Ville Weekly has this commentary:

"The law, no doubt intended to let students feel free to seek help, leaves a sour taste following the Virginia Tech shootings. Could such a law have been used to keep an ill student like Cho in school?

Delegate Al Eisenberg of Arlington, the bill’s patron, says, No: 'The bill is very clear. First of all, the policies...they're not proscriptive policies. Each college and university has to decide for itself how it wants to address the problem. Secondly, the legislation makes clear that if a student is a danger to himself or herself or others, or disruptive in any way, the institution can take action… I think that pretty much closes the circle.'

Delegate David Englin, one of many legislators to support the bill, says, 'The goal of this legislation is to ensure that kids who need help get help.'"

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

One for HOWT

It says here a blogging judge in Texas might run for the Texas Supreme Court.

The only appeals court bloggers I ever heard are whoever writes Have Opinion Will Travel and of course Judge Posner.

Best lawyer on Piedmont Avenue as to qualified immunity

Here Milbarge cites an exchange comments between us on his blog related to qualified immunity, about which I think a lot, for whatever good it does anybody.

On gendered judging

This Balkinization post says there is research showing that male appeals court judges tend to vote more favorably toward the alleged victims of discrimination when they have a woman appeals court judge deciding the case with them.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

No joy for Commonwealth on first appeal to U.S. Supreme Court in dispute over applicability of Vermont law

The VLW Blog has this link with news that the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert in the Miller-Jenkins case, including a link here to the amicus brief filed on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

So, why'd I get that ticket?

According to a new paper posted on SSRN -

"Speeding tickets are not only determined by the speed of the offender, but by incentives faced by police officers and their vote maximizing principals. Our model predicts that police officers issue higher fines when drivers have a higher opportunity cost of contesting a ticket, and when drivers do not reside in the community where they are stopped. The model also predicts that local officers are more likely to issue a ticket when legal limits prevent the local government from increasing revenues though other instruments such as property taxes. We find support for the hypotheses. The farther the residence of a driver from the municipality where the ticket could be contested, the higher is the likelihood of a speeding fine, and the larger the amount of the fine. The probability of a fine issued by a local officer is higher in towns when constraints on increasing property taxes are binding, the property tax base is lower, and the town is less dependent on revenues from tourism. For state troopers, who are not employed by the local, but the state government, we do not find evidence that the likelihood traffic fines varies with town characteristics. Finally, personal characteristics, such as gender and race are among the determinants of traffic fines."

Best link this week

You can find a link to this blog on the web page for the It's All Good Cafe in Clintwood.

More on the Hoos for Hokies

The Chronicle for Higher Education has this take on the U.Va. reaction to the Virginia Tech tragedy.

Big bank whiffs on first swing at removal

In Schlegel v. Bank of America, Judge Moon of the W.D. Va. held (without a remand motion?) that the bank's notice of removal was deficient in that it failed to use the right buzz words to show diversity of citizenship and it failed to allege that the citizenship of the parties was diverse both at the time when the suit was filed in state court and at the time of removal.

Monday, April 30, 2007

On the legal aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings

This article on quotes Abingdon lawyer Mary Lynn Tate, among others.

On the influence of Regent law school in the Bush administration

I missed this article from the Boston Globe about Regent law grads working for the Bush administration.

The article says in part:

"Still, [the law school's Dean] Brauch said, the recent criticism of the law school triggered by [DOJ employee Monica] Goodling's involvement in the US attorney firings has missed the mark in one respect: the quality of the lawyers now being turned out by the school, he argued, is far better than its image.

Seven years ago, 60 percent of the class of 1999 -- Goodling's class -- failed the bar exam on the first attempt. (Goodling's performance was not available, though she is admitted to the bar in Virginia.) The dismal numbers prompted the school to overhaul its curriculum and tighten admissions standards.

It has also spent more heavily to recruit better-qualified law students. This year, it will spend $2.8 million on scholarships, a million more than what it was spending four years ago.

The makeover is working. The bar exam passage rate of Regent alumni , according to the Princeton Review, rose to 67 percent last year. Brauch said it is now up to 71 percent, and that half of the students admitted in the late 1990s would not be accepted today. The school has also recently won moot-court and negotiation competitions, beating out teams from top-ranked law schools.

Adding to Regent's prominence, its course on 'Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and National Security' is co taught by one of its newest professors: [former Attorney General John] Ashcroft.

Even a prominent critic of the school's mission of integrating the Bible with public policy vouches for Regent's improvements. Barry Lynn, the head of the liberal Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said Regent is churning out an increasingly well-trained legal army for the conservative Christian movement."

Speaking of Ms. Goodling, the ACS blog reports here on the extraordinary delegation to her by AG Gonzalez of the power to run off those U.S. attorneys.

Today's qualified immunity opinion

In Scott v. Harris, the Supreme Court of the United States, by a vote of 8-1, concluded that a Georgia law enforcement officer was entitled to qualified immunity with respect to the section 1983 claim brought against him by a driver who was left paralyzed after the deputy ran him off the road to end a high-speed chase.

The case is interesting in part because the Court concluded that the video of the chase shows that the appeals court opinion is unsupportable, and the video is accessible on the court's website with the opinion. (Wonder what they'll do with that in the U.S. reports?)

And, there is some talk about the chicken and egg problem of qualified immunity. Justice Breyer in his concurring opinion says it should not be necessary for the courts addressing qualified immunity to always answer first the question of whether or not the defendant has violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights, before proceeding to the question of whether the plaintiff's rights were clearly established. Norm Pattis mentions this issue in this post, from his attendance earlier in April at the Georgetown University Law Center's section 1983 litigation conference, which I have attended a few times in the past. Norm said that Professor Chemerinsky had suggested that "The case of Morse v. Frederick, as yet undecided, could shed new light on qualified immunity. In this case, a student was suspended for posting a sign that read 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' along a parade route. Chemerinsky wonders whether this case will yield a more aggressive qualified immunity standard which encourages courts to decide the immunity issues without reaching the underlying merits of the claims."

How to be a law school teacher

This article available on SSRN explains "Strategies and Techniques of Law School Teaching." One of the authors is a Harvard law grad on the faculty of the new law school in Charlotte, having taught previously at George Washington University, Tulane University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Pittsburgh, George Mason University, Northern Illinois University, Howard University, Widener University, Cleveland State University, and the University of Bridgeport (now Quinnipiac).

In the introduction, the authors carefully note: "The advice contained in this article can be employed regardless of your ideological perspective and regardless of whether you teach from that perspective. Our approach neither advocates nor discourages the incorporation of such perspectives as feminist theory, critical race theory, or law and economics."

Lawyer sanctioned for shopping

The Norfolk paper reports here on the case of the lawyer who drew a public reprimand for going on "a shopping excursion" when she had told a judge she had to be in court somewhere.

Is the Virginia law regarding viatical settlements an unconstitutional interference with interstate commmerce?

In Life Partners, Inc. v. Morrison, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Niemeyer, joined by Judges Michael and Traxler, held "that the sale of life insurance policies by terminally ill patients directly and substantially affects the business of insurance and that the Virginia Viatical Settlements Act 'relates to' such business and was enacted 'for the purpose of regulating' such business," and therefore the federal McCarran-Ferguson Act "saves the Virginia Act from preemption of the Commerce Clause and renders it constitutional."

UPDATE: A few minutes after this was posted, somebody called me to ask me about the opinion. Do you practice in this area of the law? No, I don't. What was your interest in the case? I am always interested in the intersection of Virginia law and federal law. What else was interesting about the opinion? It is always interesting when "liberal" and "conservative" members of the Court agree on constitutional issues, of any kind.

Gas company drops ad campaign with claim that coal is dirty

This report from West Virginia says that a natural gas company has decided against an ad campaign denouncing its coal competition as "filthy".

Judge call VSB on information that prosecutor has claims to have information that they acted illegally

This report from the Norfolk paper sounds like a mess.

It begins:

"In a highly unusual move, all nine Circuit Court judges have filed a complaint with the Virginia State Bar against Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey Bryant.

The judges have asked the bar to investigate whether Bryant violated State Bar ethical rules during a Republican breakfast at the Beach on Feb. 3.

. . .

According to Harvey, the judges' letter, dated Feb. 7, stated in part: 'During his speech, Mr. Bryant reportedly criticized the Virginia Beach judiciary and made the statement that he was keeping a record of all the 'illegal conduct' of Virginia Beach judges 'until I need it.''

. . .

The complaint has no merit, Bryant said Friday night.

'The judges are taking the word of some unknown person, and I have more than 15 written letters on my behalf,' he said.

The judges checked 'with no one in the party and no one who was actually there,' he said. 'I call on the person or person who told a judge or judges that I used the words ' illegal conduct' to come forward immediately.'"