Monday, December 29, 2008

Bristol paper declares against cheap power, expensive power

Online today from the Bristol paper, one story denouncing the cost to consumers of electricity, another story bashing the coal business and looking forward to the "post-carbon era."

Meanwhile, the NYT reports here that burning coal at home is making a comeback, while declaring in favor of a gas tax.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On government officials

The NYT opines here that prosecutors should say less about the Illinois governor.

Reports here and here say the Page County sheriff gets to keep his title for now.

In Norfolk, a lawsuit has been filed to bar the vice mayor from serving as chief deputy treasurer, claiming there is some conflict of interest.

On coal

Coal is my worst nightmare, says the next Energy Secretary.

In Kansas, they are litigating over a coal power plant.

In Surry, there is opposition to a proposed coal power plant.

In Abingdon, they are getting a Clean Coal and Natural Gas Energy Center.

In West Virginia, there is skepticism about a $3 billion coal to gas plant.

Some lending institutions are talking about divesting from coal, as if it were the new apartheid.

Thomas Jones recollects his parents' working in the mines.

In Harrisonburg, it's hard to get a lump of coal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More on dissemination of judicial evaluation data

"With respect to dissemination of information on performance evaluation, two lessons can be drawn. First, transparency about the evaluation process and specific evaluation results benefits both the public and the judiciary. The public benefits because it is able to develop an appreciation for the role of the courts beyond the outcome-based information it is likely to receive from the mainstream media or special interest groups, and can make more informed votes in judicial elections. The courts benefit because increased public awareness of the proper modes of judicial measurement fosters an appreciation for the challenges judges face, as well as the high caliber of judges in the community. It also makes judicial elections less likely to be decided by specific issues or case outcomes, and ultimately creates a public atmosphere more accepting of judicial independence.

The second lesson is that broad dissemination is almost always preferable to limited dissemination. Making information about individual judges available to the public allows ordinary citizens to become more familiar with the judges who serve them, and to appreciate the individual strengths and weaknesses of each judge. Good judges rightly will be praised, and weaker judges will feel appropriate pressure to improve their performance. More importantly, broad dissemination allows the public to evaluate judges on neutral, relevant criteria, rather than having to rely on reports about specific case outcomes. Even summary information about the state of the judiciary as a whole assists the public in understanding the relevant metrics for measuring judicial performance. By contrast, maintaining the confidentiality of performance evaluations fails to educate the public about appropriate measurements, allows less reliable or less comprehensive surveys to fill the void (with potentially unwelcome results), and arouses public suspicion about the real quality of the judiciary.

There is some question as to whether transparency can hinder the self-improvement function of JPE. Some judges, particularly those new to the bench, may benefit from a confidential evaluation early in their service, to allow them privately to improve upon areas of weakness. There may be other occasions in which a judge’s improvement on the bench may be promoted by keeping his individual evaluation confidential. Too much confidentiality, however, may provide less incentive for judges to improve; release of information to the public is a great motivator. Therefore, even if evaluations are occasionally kept confidential, more often than not they should be made publicly available. All states should develop a dissemination strategy that maximizes transparency without sabotaging self-improvement."

Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, "Shared Expectations: Judicial Accountability in Context," accessed via the National Center for State Courts Judicial Performance Evaluation Resource Guide.

What I get out of this and like articles is that judicial evaluation when based on the proper criteria should get the widest-possible distribution to promote a more rational and principled discussion of retention issues, as opposed to some of the nonsense we have observed from time to time. The article suggests that judicial independence is most threatened when decisions about judges are made in the absence of informed debate.

In other words, the only people who have to worry about sunlight on these judicial evaluations are the judges whose evaluations are bad and legislators who ignore what the evaluations say. And so, the question arises, why wouldn't the Virginia Supreme Court want the General Assembly to be both empowered - and constrained - in its evaluation of judges by objective information of the best and most relevant kind - in a way that the public also can decide whether the legislators are doing the right thing? One would expect that failure to disseminate information about bad judges mostly has the effect of protecting the employment of bad judges, to the detriment of everyone else. Dissemination of positive information about good judges would make it harder for legislators to fail to keep them.

Jefferson might have agreed that what Justice Brandeis wrote in Whitney v. California - that the remedy for bad speech is more speech - applies as well to judges, but then again he might have said that Federalist idiot John Marshall sucks and we need to run him off the first chance we get.

The end of the Sierra Club case

Here is Judge Williams' opinion at the end of the Sierra Club case.

And, we won the case, so I guess there nothing more to be said.

Monday, December 15, 2008

On evaluating judges


Part of what it says is this:

"Guideline 3-4. When judicial evaluations are used to inform decision makers regarding the continuation of judges in office, results should be made readily available to those responsible for continuation decisions, including voters, governors, legislatures, and commissions.
-4.1. Those responsible for reappointing, reelecting, or retaining judges should be provided with objective summaries of evaluation results for each judge and an explanation of how to interpret the results.
-4.2. If evaluation results are provided to an individual or entity responsible for continuation decisions, and those results include assessments of a judge’s overall performance or recommendations as to whether a judge should be continued in office, judges should have an opportunity to review and respond to the evaluation report before it is disseminated.
-4.3. If evaluation results are publicly disseminated, and those results include assessments of a judge’s overall performance or recommendations as to whether a judge should continued in office, judges should have an opportunity to review, respond, and meet with members of the evaluation body before the results are made public."

Something else the paper says is this:

"Judicial evaluations based on appropriate criteria and reliable and valid methodology . . . pose no threat to the independence of the judges being evaluated."

The VLW Blog has this post which suggests the making of a constitutional crisis, as the Chief Justice and the General Assembly dicker over the limitations on the use of judicial evaluations in Virginia. Under Va. Code 17.1-100, "The Supreme Court, by rule, shall establish and maintain a judicial performance evaluation program that will provide a self-improvement mechanism for judges and a source of information for the reelection process. By September 1 of each year, the Supreme Court, or its designee, shall transmit a report of the evaluation in the final year of the term of each justice and judge whose term expires during the next session of the General Assembly to the Chairmen of the House and Senate Committees for Courts of Justice."

I have filled out a bunch of these judicial evaluation forms, including most of the circuit court judges in the 28th, 29th, and 30th circuits. If the General Assembly can't use them, then what a waste - maybe I should just start throwing them in the trash.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

On federal questions

Here from the Weekly Standard is another article commenting on the comments of Judge Wilkinson of the Fourth Circuit and Judge Posner of the Seventh Circuit on the Supreme Court's D.C. gun decision in Heller.

Here is somebody's account of the Fourth Circuit's decision last year in U.S. v. Buckner, regarding search of a home computer, and affirming a decision by Judge Wilson of the W.D. Va.

Judge Richard Williams ruled against the Commonwealth in the case of the soldiers' ballots from overseas, according to articles such as this one. This story says the General Assembly is going to modify the laws prohibiting the wearing of campaign stuff in the polling place, which laws might otherwise violate the First Amendment.

Here is a goofy Washington Post story on squabbling among my good friends on the Sixth Circuit, and here are here are comments on the Post's story.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Judge Paul

Here you can see from the Time/Life archives a photo from 1958 of Judge John Paul of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

This is surely one of my favorite pictures of W.D. Va. judges, along with this one of Alexander Rives and this one of Alfred Barksdale.

Who are the best D.C. lawyers?

Here's former VBA president Glenn Lewis on the cover of the 2009 edition of Washington DC's Best Lawyers.

Glenn Lewis is about as interesting a fellow as I ever expect to meet.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

If a tree's rights are violated in the woods but nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

In Hedgpeth v. Pulido, the U.S. Supreme Court explained yesterday in essence that when the trial court commits certain kinds of error with regard to the jury instructions, the appeals court should consider "whether the flaw in the instructions 'had substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict.'"

On used books

Not too long ago, I finally went to Mr. K's used books in Johnson City - an amazing place, until you consider, for example, all the bookshops in Charlottesville.

We love free stuff

Years ago, I bought a copy of the Manual on Complex Litigation, because it was referenced in some order I had in case that was transferred as part of multi-district litigation.

More recently, I discovered that the later edition is downloadable for free from the Federal Judicial Center website.

There's a lot of forms and other good stuff in there, worth consulting even when you aren't in a case that is totally too big and complex.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Surviving the plunging numbers

The stock market? No, the .500 or less records at Michigan, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Arkansas, Auburn, UCLA, and Texas A & M, with LSU, Clemson, and West Virginia not much better - doesn't that sound like a list of the usual suspects from about 1950 to 2000? Has there been a "realignment" in college football, in the language of political theorists?

On being a criminal defense lawyer at age 88

The Atlanta paper has this fun article on an experienced lawyer in Georgia.

Should the Bar disciplinary hearing docket be online?

This article in the Daily Press says that Bar counsel want a reversal of the Supreme Court's decision that the docket of upcoming hearings on disciplinary charges against Virginia lawyers should be accessible online to the public.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Funky Boucher-Wampler campaign of 1982 video clip

You can see Congressman Boucher, ex-Congressman Wampler, and some famous lawyers back when their hair was much different in the video clips that can be found on this page, with a report on the recount from the 1982 Ninth District Congressional campaign.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

So not worth it

It says here, I think, that a judge lost his position (and his silk) because it was discovered that he lied about a traffic infraction, claiming that someone else was driving, only it turned out the someone else had died before the incident.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Paige v. Fishwick

Here, Vivian Paige answers the question, who is John Fishwick?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Worst idea for a movie ever

Last night, I went home and there was an old yellow Labrador who came out to see me and wanted in the car. The kid next door told me the dog's name is Gus and pointed out the house where Gus lives. When I saw him again later, I grabbed the line he was trailing and coaxed him back up the street. To me, he seemed kind of old and underweight and confused - but still wanting to chase those cats.

I own the book Marley and Me, but I wouldn't take money to go see the movie.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On Ms. Epps

I read the obituaries (here and here) and then some of the online words of Rozanne Epps.

I liked this quote - "She considered commas an inscrutable art form."
and especially liked this photograph.

There are a lot of people out there who were affected by Ms. Epps - even those who never heard of her before this week.

Golf rules

Check out this story about how J.P. Hayes is as honest as we like to think we are. It says he turned himself in for actually using an unapproved ball, which knocked him out of Q School, which is sort of like turning yourself into the bar examiners upon discoverying after the fact that you were not using a No. 2 pencil on the multi-state.

Every one of the regular readers should read this book

I just finished The Wettest County in the World, by Matt Bondurant. It is an excellent book, sort of historical semi-fiction, mostly about the Bondurant family who figured in the 50-day moonshine trial in the Western District of Virginia against Franklin County officials including the sheriff and the Commoonwealth's Attorney.

You have to play to win

This report on the lawsuit against the Virginia Lottery suggests that the plaintiff if he is totally successful might get a few dollars.

On musical chairs

The Williamsburg paper has this account of the upcoming judgeship maneuverings in that area. It is a shame that our old teacher Judge Zepkin was never made a circuit judge there, he should have been, and almost was.

The best and the worst

Jon Copper, profiled here, was Virginia's best man on defense these past three years - an undersized overachieving and devout family man who earned his scholarship the hard way and led the team in tackles ever since.

Without disrespecting him, you'd hope that there would be more of the same character among the players who are actually recruited to play for the Cavaliers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Did we ever make one of these before?

On Tuesday we tried a case to the Court in the W.D. Va.

And, per usual, I did some prep on the Rule 50 motion, only come to find out, Rule 50 does not apply to bench trials.

So, I made a motion for judgment on partial findings, under Rule 52(c). I've had a few evidentiary hearings in federal court on preliminary injunctions and such, but don't remember making a motion under Rule 52(c) before - perhaps I should have done.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No - thank you

In response to this post, I received this:

"Steve - I was checking something on Google tonight and saw your post. It sure meant a lot to me. The race on saturday was my third marathon but my first in 10 years. It was very hot (77 deg) and humid - and I found myself badly dehydrated by mile 20. At mile 22 it was so bad I was unable to continue running and had to walk for a bit - but it wasn't long before another played the role of inspirer and got me going again. I got 8 cups of water down at the next stop and came back to life (a bit) and made the last three miles. The last few hundred yards were as emotional of an experience as I've had.

So it was my slowest marathon of the three, but easily the most rewarding.

I thought you might like to see the newspaper story that ran about my dad when he died, by the way.

All the best to you, and bless you for your note.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Boucher hosed because of long-held IP positions?

This piece says that rather than give Congressman Boucher the chairmanship of a sub-committee with control of intellectual property issues, on which he has taken a pro-consumer, anti-industry stance over the years, instead House leaders have dissolved the sub-committee.

The red and the blue

This article in The Nation is set against Barack Obama's June visit to Bristol, as evidence of "A New, Blue Dixie."

This article by Daniel Gilbert from today's Bristol paper points out that Bristol and the rest of Southwest Virginia mostly voted against Obama.

On growing up Beamer

"He knew everybody in the hospital and what was wrong with them."

- Barnett Beamer, talking about his brother Frank's hospitalization as a boy recovering from being burned, quoted in this article about the siblings of the football coach.

Best of the day

I've read two newspapers at the house and a few online, but this is the best item I've seen today, titled Why I will run the marathon Saturday, a son writing about his father, and it begins:

"This Saturday I will run to honor those who help another get to the finish line, whatever that finish line may be. My father, the Reverend Robert H. Steilberg, did this with his life – as the founder of a high school, a faithful comforter and provider to the homeless of Richmond, and a generous minister to any in trouble, sorrow, need, or any other adversity."

The website says that Matthew Steilberg finished on Saturday in 4:09:42.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sounds like it would be good on salad

This BLT post describes the appearance of the word, "romanette," in oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.

My friend Yvonne Griffin from Charlottesville posted it on the VTLA list serv, and much comment of various kinds ensued.

Less spam, really?

Reports like this one and this one suggest that worldwide spam has been reduced when a couple of ISPs shut down their links to an outlaw hosting service.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New York paper reporting on Melungeons in November 1894?

The Melungeon Historical Society Blog has this post, with an article on a mysterious race of citizens in North Carolina, from the New York Sun, dated November 15, 1894.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fourth Circuit news

In this post, the Fourth Circuit's opinion in Sierra Club v. Simkins Indus., Inc., 847 F.2d 1109 (4th Cir. 1988) is debated, in relation to a motion to recuse Judge Chambers from the mountaintop mining litigation, because of his past affiliation with West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

In this article, one of many speculating about the Fourth Circuit, the ubiquitous professor from Richmond suggests that perhaps Barack Obama will nominate U.S. District Court Judge Andre Davis from Maryland to fill one of the vacancies.

Why not allow hydroelectric dams as well?

This article says that wind power has been legalized in Suffolk, where there is no wind:

"Federal government estimates of Suffolk’s potential to use wind as an energy resource are not kind to the idea. The U.S. Department of Energy rates the city as a 1 on a scale of 7 for its resource potential. In fact, most of Virginia receives the same 'poor' ranking, as wind power and speed are relatively low in all portions of the state except for the Chesapeake Bay and coastal areas."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Worth reading, from soup to nuts

This month's VBA News Journal features very useful litigation articles, such as:

Civil Conspiracy: An Analysis of Common Law and Statutory Business Conspiracy Claims Under Virginia Law, by David N. Anthony & Megan C. Rahman

Exclusionary Motions Require Exercise of Discretion: Has John Crane Run Astray? by Roger T. Creager

Federal Rule of Evidence 502: New Safeguards and New Questions Concerning Waiver of Attorney-Client Privilege and Work-Product Protection, by Jon M. Talotta

On living in Appalachia

From the Richmond paper, Frank Kilgore explains Why Living In Appalachia Beats Just About Anywhere Else.

And, Frank would have you read this piece, which begins: "Virginia has established itself as a leader in land conservation by being one of only two states nationwide that has transferable state income tax credits as incentives for landowners who are interested in protecting their land from development."

Notable opinion in detainee death case

Notwithstanding the tragic facts, Judge Conrad's opinion in Harvey v. Roanoke Sheriff's Office is worth reading, for the wide range of issues addressed.

I wondered about a few that were not addressed, like the Eleventh Amendment, and how it is that the "sheriff's office" is an entity that can be sued - perhaps those were taken up in the earlier opinions.

On raising more than the one eyebrow

There are few editorials like here and here nailing Governor Kaine's funky remark about the demise in 2008 of "Ol' Virginny."

So, Ol' Virginny elected him? Or was it done gone before then?

The intramural season begins

There are few articles out there about Democrat vs. Democrat, and conservative vs. conservative, in the struggle to define who has the power and who gets the blame.

Friday, November 07, 2008

On Al Gore and civil disobedience in Wise County

According to this propaganda from Time magazine, Al Gore has been telling people to commit criminal acts like the ones for which people arrested lately at the Virginia City plant site in Wise County.

Truth is stranger than fiction

While the outcome is still being written in the Fifth District, speaking of fiction and that part of the Commonwealth, the New Times has a review here of The Wettest County in the World, a new novel by a fellow named Bondurant, about moonshiners in Franklin County.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Who will win Virginia? How will the vote go in the Southwest Virginia counties?

I'll be chatting up some people during the day.

I remember hearing the exit polls during the afternoon, four years ago, and it was all Kerry.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Rare day

The best two stories in today's Bristol paper are this one about roller derby in Johnson City and this one about Billy Wagner.

All stories about roller derby or Billy Wagner are good, but I also like the report on the Haysi game and the Wasps' game. I must be going soft in my old age, when the sports section of the Bristol paper starts looking good.

Friday, October 31, 2008

On registering the poor to vote in Virginia

This report describes efforts to get the government of the Commonwealth to get more poor people registered in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act.

Another provocative Daniel Gilbert story

This story in the Bristol paper lets the reader decide whether the son of a circuit court judge got some kind of preferential treatment in the handling of his DUI case. The odd part seems to be not the outcome - which is credibly explained by the prosecutor - but rather the conduct of the hearing in a different room away from the usual assembly of the huddled masses in district court - that's evidently what caused some editor to put this story on the front page, a decision which in itself is interesting and questionable.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

If you write a lot of briefs and use Westlaw and Firefox like I do

You ought to try CiteGenie - it does what it claims to do.

The partial birth abortion case

Here is a Findlaw article on the rehearing in the case over the Virginia partial birth abortion statute, which was also described here in the Richmond paper.

And, I'm guessing the Fourth Circuit will go along with the district court and the panel decision.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

When you must plead who

In U.S. ex rel. Radcliffe v. Purdue, Chief Judge Jones made a number of interesting rulings, including the issue of pleading fraud under Rule 9(b).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Should teachers be allowed to wear their Obama pins at school?

Julie Hilden opines here that they should.

She writes:

"Rather than pretending to a false neutrality, teachers should put their views on the table and let students challenge them. Otherwise, we'll be in the anomalous position of having English and History teachers instruct students about how writers and speakers convey their political views, explicitly and implicitly -- while at the same time forcing the teachers to falsely deny that they themselves ever hold or convey such views."

That would be fine, except that the teachers always get the last word - grades, the starting lineup on the ballfield, etc.

Oates, J.

They got John Oates as a last minute substitute for tonight's World Series game.

I wish that Johnny Oates had been there instead.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Thanks, Paul and Peter and Sherma and Deborah and Alan and the rest at VLW, for a great event.

To the rest of the Virginia blogosphere, especially my friends from the meetings way back when in Charlottesville and Martinsville, I say hey, look, a trophy for blogging!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Going to see some people

Here (again) is the list of people I might see this evening in Richmond - an impressive group:

• David Baugh. Took job as capital defender for Central Virginia.

• Mark D. Braley, Legal Services Corporation of Virginia. Sought filing fees statute to produce money for legal aid.

• Frank O. Brown Jr. Provided advice, delivered lectures on closing a practice.

• Jane Chittom, Appellate Defender. Successful efforts before Supreme Court of Virginia.

• Julie M. Cillo, Hall & Hall PLC. Work in collaborative law, bar activities including presidency of Metro Richmond Family Law Bar.

• Terrence L. Graves, Sands Anderson Marks & Miller. First African-American president of the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys.

• Frank Kilgore. Community activism and environmental work.

• Gary D. LeClair, LeClairRyan. Firm growth within the past year.

• John E. Lichtenstein, Lichtenstein, Fishwick & Johnson PLC. Work with criminal bar groups, handling of high profile cases.

• Darrell Tillar Mason. Chaired Virginia State Bar mandatory insurance study committee.

• Jennifer McClellan, Verizon Corporation. Work as a member of the House of Delegates and as chair of the VSB Young Lawyers Conference.

• Wiley F. Mitchell Jr., Willcox & Savage. Pro bono work on behalf of a client in the wind farm case before the State Corporation Commission.

• David A. Oblon, Albo & Oblon. Community activities and firm development.

• W. Taylor Reveley III, College of William & Mary. Selection as the new W&M president, work on War Powers Commission.

• Carol Schrier-Polak, Bean, Kinney & Korman. Led effort to change therapist testimony statute.

• Mark E. Slaughter, Troutman Sanders LLP. Work on behalf of the Virginia Beach Bar Foundation, including organization of Law Day gala.

• Stephen E. Smith, Brain Injury Law Center. Leadership in field and work on behalf of brain injury clients.

• Rodney A. Smolla, Washington & Lee law school. Developed innovative third-year program at W&L.

• Thomas E. Spahn, McGuireWoods LLP. Chaired Virginia Bar Association Commission on Professionalism.

• Jacob P. Stroman IV, Spotsylvania County Attorney. Chaired committee that published pro bono manual for Local Government Attorneys.

• John L. Walker III, Williams Mullen. Work to establish Nuremberg courtroom at the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

• Jay M. Weinberg, Hirschler Fleischer. Work to establish Nuremberg courtroom at the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On the case in the Sixth Circuit

In the case I argued for a Title VII plaintiff last month in Cincinnati, the Sixth Circuit has now issued its decision, reversing the District Court and sending the case back for trial.

The opinion by Judge Clay is here.

Someone asked me which did I prefer, the Sixth Circuit or the Fourth Circuit. And, the answer at least for this week is the Sixth Circuit, but that will wear off.

Friday, October 17, 2008

On representing plaintiffs

Here's an opinion by Judge Turk in a Title VII case denying in part the defendants' summary judgment motion, where we represent a fellow from Pulaski who has become a good friend of mine.

Oh, well

I talked to my mom this morning and she said they were going to what I understood her to say was an "Artesian center" wherever it is they are this week, but she seemed pretty cheerful about it.

I thought, hmm, maybe Dad is carrying his long-time hobby of getting water to the farm at Jonesville a bit too far, if he has found some kind of hydrology museum.

Mom went on to say, however, it's a crafts place, like Tamarack in West Virginia. Ah, that kind of artesian.

Fun items

Liberty's law school is bragging on its 90+% bar passage rate from this summer, as shown here.

The Episcopal Church vows here to endeavor to persevere, meaning more church law for the rest of us.

This post describes an ERISA case that went to the Fourth Circuit over a $40 dispute.

This post says John Fishwick is talking up a run for Attorney General; imagine a race between Fishwick and Brownlee, Roanoke v. Roanoke. I met John Fishwick just the other day in Charlottesville.

This article
on Jim Gilmore says that when he was in high school, all he cared about was music. It is well-known that band geeks make better Senators.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On biking in the Shenandoah National Park

This piece says - don't ride two abreast in the Park.

No problem, I'm sure there's no one I could keep up with anyway.

On the J. Dickson Phillips Distinguished Professor of Law

Here the UNC Law School makes an announcement of the new J. Dickson Phillips Distinguished Professor of Law. Judge Phillips chaired the panel in my first federal appeal, fifteen years ago or more, and made me a fan.

More on the timber case

Here is the Bristol paper's report on the opinion from Magistrate Judge Sargent in our Wise County timber harvest case, including what strikes me as absurd statements from a Sierra Club lawyer.

In this case, the state agency was bypassed, and suit was filed to get the federal court to second-guess the federal agency's determination, and then plaintiffs' counsel accuses the defendants of taking advantage of a loophole in the law? I mean, really.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Sierra Club case

Here is the latest recommendation and report from Magistrate Judge Sargent, in our timber-cutting case out of Wise County.

It begins dramatically:

"To a child of Appalachia, to see the mountains laid waste, whether by clear–cutting or strip mining, is to witness a dagger plunged into the very bosom from which you sprang and which has sustained you. Nonetheless, this court’s role in this case is not to pass judgment upon the policy decisions which allow such activities. Instead, its role is to decide the issue presented in this case – whether the court should issue a permanent injunction preventing continued logging activities on this property without a valid surface mining permit. For the reasons outlined below, I find that it should not, and I further recommend that the court vacate the preliminary injunction entered on August 4, 2008."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On being a "Leader in the Law"

Here the announcement was made that Virginia Lawyers Weekly has included me on a list of Leaders in the Law, with many distinguished people - because of this blog.

This kind of makes me wish I'd written something more interesting lately.

I thank the readers, old and new, including those at VLW.

Monday, October 13, 2008

That LA Times article on Obama and race in Southwest Virginia

I forgot to post here this LA Times story from October 5, titled "Frank talk of Obama and race in Virginia." The dateline is Whitewood, in Buchanan County, and the story begins:

"The isolated towns of Virginia's Appalachian coal region are home to strong labor unions and Democratic political machines that date back generations. Yet voters here who eagerly pushed Democrats into the Senate and the governor's office are resisting Barack Obama."

Back in May, Obama got less than 10% of the primary vote in Buchanan County.

On that cheesy guy from the Times winning the Nobel Prize

Here is Luskin's post on the announcement that Paul Krugman will get the prize.

That seems so wrong, to give a distinguished prize to a political shill, who looks so horrible on television.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

On setting books free

According to this press release, an author from Bristol has a new book, called Murder Takes The Cake, and has set free one volume of it at the Bristol Starbucks, in the manner of

On the late Judge Matney

Via Nancy and VLW, I saw this article in the Bluefield paper on the memorial for Greg Matney, a district court judge. I never knew him except as a voice on the telephone in a couple of cases.

If you wanted to be a judge and only got to be one for a short time, would that be better than not at all? I think so. I have reached similar conclusions about other life goals - even a little of the real whatever is better than none.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

On having another birthday

It means that from yesterday until next February, I have the same years as Sarah Palin.

UPDATE: And, just as my birthday was October 6, the next day was the birthday of NOLA's own Ray Ward, of Minor Wisdom and the (new) legal writer.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"It's . . the bar exam!"

is the LA Times article on the passing of law professor and bar review lecturer extraordinaire, Charles Whitehead.

The article says in part:

"Evidence of the professor's popularity can be found in a Facebook group called 'Charlie Whitebread Rocks My World.' It has more than 1,600 members, some of whom discovered him through lectures he often gave for a popular bar-exam preparation course."

Another voice heard from

"The Virginia Supreme Court’s recent declaration that the state's anti-spam law is unconstitutional was flat-out wrong."

Ken Magill, in this commentary - which is somewhat at odds with the net neutrality principles usually espoused here.

Two more mostly negative takes on the opinion in the spam case can be found here and here.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Judge Goodwin denies class certification in DuPont case

Yesterday, in Rhodes v. DuPont, Judge Goodwin of the S.D.W.Va. denied class certification to a claim about an alleged contamination of the public water supply.

The Court observed: "The fact that a public health risk may exist is more than enough to raise concern in the community and call government agencies to action, but it does not show the common individual injuries needed to certify a class action."

Another W.D. Va. opinion on causation

In Boysaw v. Purdue Pharma, Chief Judge Jones granted summary judgment on claim against the manufacturer of OxyContin, because the plaintiff could not prove causation. The opinion cites the earlier ruling in McCauley v. Purdue Pharma L.P., 331 F. Supp. 2d 449 (W.D. Va. 2004).

They said it

"To do a decent job, the president of the United States needs to be vastly more educated and knowledgeable than the average American."

Paul Campos, here in the Rocky Mountain News.

"Our leaders are making up their responses from day to day because old ideas of how the economy works have failed them."

Robert Samuelson, on Real Clear Markets.

So, perhaps being "vastly more educated and knowledgeable" - isn't everything?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The Bristol paper has this account of the post-trial rulings taking away the verdict in favor of Buchanan County in the Big Coon Dog case, with various philosophical quotes from me.

Not too long ago, Chief Judge Jones took away a verdict on my motion, in another case. Such is the ebb and flow of this profession.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Why Montgomery County is suing over the proposed intermodal facility at Elliston

This press release states the County's position.

The constitutional provision at issue, Art. X, section 10, provides:

"Neither the credit of the Commonwealth nor of any county, city, town, or regional government shall be directly or indirectly, under any device or pretense whatsoever, granted to or in aid of any person, association, or corporation; nor shall the Commonwealth or any such unit of government subscribe to or become interested in the stock or obligations of any company, association, or corporation for the purpose of aiding in the construction or maintenance of its work; nor shall the Commonwealth become a party to or become interested in any work of internal improvement, except public roads and public parks, or engage in carrying on any such work; nor shall the Commonwealth assume any indebtedness of any county, city, town, or regional government, nor lend its credit to the same. This section shall not be construed to prohibit the General Assembly from establishing an authority with power to insure and guarantee loans to finance industrial development and industrial expansion and from making appropriations to such authority."

They'd better watch what they ask for, as some people think that this part of the Constitution is most commonly violated by . . . cities, towns, and counties, doing economic development deals.

On that Kansas City firm

This article on the Shook Hardy firm explains the firm's origins:

"The firm traces its roots back to 1889, when Frank Payne Sebree, a Marshall, Mo., lawyer looking to build his practice in a bigger city, moved to Kansas City and set up shop in a third-floor walkup with another solo practitioner. Over the years, the firm attracted a small stable of lawyers, including name partner Edgar Shook, who joined in 1934, and name partner Charles L. Bacon, who came on board in the mid-1950s.

However, it was David R. Hardy, a skilled trial lawyer with a larger-than-life personality, who did more to change the firm’s fortunes than anyone.

Hardy made a name for himself in the late 1950s by winning a $200,000 verdict—then a state record—on behalf of a motorcycle cop who had been badly injured in a collision with a cement truck. And when the first anti-smoking suit against a tobacco company in Mis­souri went to trial in 1962, Hardy was asked by Philip Morris to lead the defense."

My good friend and college roommate Sam Sebree, and his dad and brother - two more Frank Sebrees, have worked for this firm, and so I root for it and for them.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

That's one theory

This article in the Washington Post ("After Va.'s Losses In Court, a Flurry Of Finger-Pointing," by Jerry Markon, Saturday, September 20, 2008; Page B01) suggests that a string of successful constitutional challenges to recent Virginia statutes could be either a coincidence or the result of "the General Assembly's willingness to pass aggressive measures that are more likely to face a constitutional challenge."

It's hard to generalize from the three cited cases. On the spam statute, the majority of the Supreme Court was for it before they were against it. On the partial birth abortion statute, the Fourth Circuit has granted rehearing. The transportation funding case is the one that makes you scratch your head and wonder how they thought that would ever work.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Comparing the financial markets and the telecom markets

This article says - if you leave the telecommunications companies to their own devices on net neutrality, they will screw things up as bad as the financial companies have done, for the same reasons - because the laws are relics of the Depression era, and inadequate in the modern age to ensure some minimum protections for the public.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

On arguing in the Sixth Circuit on Tuesday

All I can say is that it was really fun, arguing an appeal is about the most fun you get as a lawyer, the opportunity to see if you can for a few minutes respond effectively to sharp questions from strong judges.

In the Sixth Circuit, you are told the makeup of the panel in advance. I wondered what to do with this information. The question was reduced in scope somewhat by the fact that the panel included a brand new judge, who had not written any opinions at all, and specialized in other areas of the law during his private practice.

After court, I followed my GPS on some obscure route through Southeastern Ohio to Charleston, West Virginia, where I was supposed to have a deposition, and made it the rest of the way home yesterday.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Article by Judge Wilkinson

Legal Theory Blog has this post about an article by Judge Wilkinson of the Fourth Circuit, now available on SSRN. The title is Of Guns, Abortions, and the Unraveling Rule of Law.

On arguing tomorrow in the Sixth Circuit

It says here that the panel who will hear my argument (right here in Cincinnati) tomorrow includes Judges Clay and Kethledge, and District Judge Oliver from the N.D. Ohio.

Having requested oral argument in this Title VII case, and feeling lucky to get it, I can only hope that the opportunity to advance the case is not wasted.

And, I did eat the chili at 7th and Vine (but only a three-way).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Don't squeeze the officers

Read this article ("Beach lawyers advised to stop patting officers on the back") and every one of the comments, about the "problem" of familiarity between defense lawyers and traffic cops.

The judges not the officers are the ones I watch.

I remember one time sitting in the courtroom and Judge Brown dismissed a case and called the old trooper up to the bench and said essentially this, I thought we both were going to retire before I dismissed a single one of your cases, meaning to compliment the trooper but leaving me somewhat discouraged.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Another story on the Buchanan County case

People who ask me what came of the Buchanan County case can read the latest in this story by Daniel Gilbert.

Chief Justice Roberts and James Madison

USA Today reports here that the Chief Justice will speak at the ceremony marking the restoration of James Madison's home called Montpelier, on September 17.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Highlight from last week

Last week, I had a hearing before Judge Turk, in his library in Roanoke.

And, Baby Girl was right there with us, checking the scene, echoing the judge's sentiment that it was good to see us all.

That would be the way to do it, be a judge and take the dog to court.

Monday, September 01, 2008

And, Jerry Fuhrman said . . .

"Do you suppose the Washington Post would have written this (in "Mr. McCain's Choice") if Tim Kaine (who has no more political experience than Sarah Palin does) had been chosen to be Obama's running mate?"

- from this From on High post.

She said it

"Smith makes women feel like they can do anything. . . . Randolph-Macon used to do that."

Mother of former student at Randolph-Macon, one of the plaintiffs in the litigation against the school, quoted here.

On picking up the deer that ran away

It says here:

"Virginia is the only state that has a right to retrieve law, allowing hunters to do so."

Wow, not even close

I was there for the U.S.C. Trojans game, and it was the worst I've seen in person since the 1980s.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Do it like they do on the Travel Channel

Tomorrow, after court and in the middle of the day, I'll be driving up the road past Lexington and Berky's Restaurant at the Lee Hi truckstop, and I did see their story on the Travel Channel.

Crohn's patients' voices

I listened to everyone of these, patient voices on the New York Times website.

Fortunately, what similar tales I have mostly are no longer told in the present tense.

Knock on wood.

Monday, August 25, 2008

On the late Rogers Stuart

Here is the obituary for George Rogers Clark Stuart, a former VBA president and long-time Southwest Virginia lawyer.

It says in part:

"George Rogers Clark Stuart, age 83, a well-known Abingdon resident, died Aug. 23, 2008.

Mr. Stuart grew up in Abingdon, which was his lifelong residence. His college training was interrupted by three years of military service during World War II, including 18 months with the 1st Infantry Division in Belgium and Germany. During that time, his unit participated in the famous battles of the Bulge and the Bridge at Remagen. Returning home, Stuart completed his education at the University of Virginia Law School. He then engaged in the active practice of law for 40 years, first from 1950 to 1952 with the firm of Burns & Lively in Lebanon, and then with his family firm of Penn, Stuart & Phillips and successors in Abingdon. His specialty was litigation.

During his productive years, Stuart was very active in community affairs. He served as a member and/or officer of the following boards: Industrial Development Authority of Washington County, Barter Foundation, Washington County Red Cross Unit, Glenrochie Country Club, Johnston Memorial Hospital and Washington County National Bank. For 20 years, he was attorney of the Industrial Development Authority, which has been responsible for much of the industrial development in Washington County, Va.
Mr. Stuart served two terms (1970 to 1973) in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1969, he was elected to the presidency of the Virginia Bar Association. He was a member in the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Bar Foundation and the American Law Institute."

Two mysteries

Here are two things I wonder:

1. Why doesn't the website for the Attorney General's office have on it some convenient directory like this one?

2. Why is this directory of lawyers in the Attorney General's office in the local court rules section of the Richmond bar website?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

From the archives

A real live e-mail exchange, with a member of the press from years ago:

From: O'Donna Ramsey []
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2001 3:24 PM
To: Steve Minor
Subject: Re: Monopolization on the Coalfields Expressway

Steve: Don't you have people to sue?
As you pointed out, monopolizing is probably not the appropriate word, but
that's what they say they are doing. At least that's how committee members
and the Lenowisco planner described it. Glad to hear you're still out
there, and you're still reading the world's best newspaper, even if we do
use the wrong words occasionally. . . .



You wrote:

"Plans are to find ways of monopolizing on the expressway and to put those plans into action before the highway gets here, Pound Vision Committee member Kathy Roberson said following a recent meeting."

Are the people of Pound really trying to monopolize on the Coalfields Expressway? I'm not sure what that means. Perhaps the right word is capitalize, or maybe I missed the point altogether. When I was a kid, we monopolized on Mom and Dad's bridge table in the basement (I always wanted to be the banker.)

Still a dedicated reader in Bristol,

Steve Minor

Judge Williams in Travel and Leisure magazine

The September 2008 edition of Travel & Leisure magazine includes this article about Southwest Virginia, and the article includes some substantial reference to Judge Glen Williams.

The print version, just arrived, includes a fine picture of the Judge and his wife in Jonesville.

Evidently, this story was written right after our law clerk reunion in October 2006 - which, by the way, Senator Allen did not attend - but many others did. Maybe after two years it is time for me to hang the group photo on the wall in my office.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

When is sugar not sugar

Yesterday's post resulted in the receipt of this story, said to be true:

"An ex-boyfriend was charged with putting sugar in his ex-girlfriend's gas tank. She saw him doing it and called the police. The police stopped his vehicle and found a gallon jug nearly full of sugar. Sugar was found in the girlfriend's gas tank, the car was damaged, sugar was spilt in the defendant's floorboard, etc.

During cross-examination, the clever defense attorney questioned the arresting officer about the gallon jug found in defendant's possession. Defense attorney asked if, in fact, any field tests had been done on the substance to prove that the white substance was sugar. The officer responded 'no, sir.'

The defense attorney, sensing a vulnerable prey, continued by stating 'That's right, officer. You really don't know what that substance is. For all you know, that white substance found in my client's car could be COCAINE, couldn't it?!'"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

When is a firearm not a firearm

VLW Blog links here to this opinion from the Court of Appeals, in which the panel of Judges Kelsey and Petty and Senior Judge Bumgardner granted a writ of innocence.

And, the basis was evidence that the firearm was not a firearm.

Which makes me think of a case years ago, where a Bristol lawyer was defending somebody charged with transporting a truckload of marijuana, and he was going to try to prove that the stuff was not marijuana, and I think the plan was that since he had no expert witness he offered to prove this at trial by putting some in the Commonwealth's Attorney's pipe to see what would happen.

Monday, August 11, 2008

On trees and mining

The Bristol paper reports here on last week's proceedings in the Sierra Club case, including some quotes attributed to me.

Then, the same paper published a front-page story in the paper today, with the bold prediction that mountain-top mining will be outlawed by the end of 2009.

Monday, August 04, 2008

So long, Skip Caray

Who knows how many nights I've driven home from Bristol listening to the Braves on the radio, with Skip Caray making the call.

One of his calls that gives me a chill every time I see and hear it replayed on TV is described here, from the 1992 playoffs: "Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He iiiiiiiisssssssss ... safe! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! ... Braves win!"

When he got excited, something exciting really was happening.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fourth Circuit reverses NLRB on union decertification arising out of Wise County

In NLRB v. Mullican Lumber and Manufacturing, the Fourth Circuit in a published opinion by Judge Niemeyer, joined by Chief Judge Williams and District Judge Williams from Maryland, denied the NLRB's petition for enforcement and granted the company's cross-petition for review, concluding that the unfair labor practice charges against Mullican over its facility in Norton were deficient because the company had sufficient evidence that the majority of its employees there no longer wanted to be represented by the UMWA.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Oliver Hill's old home in Roanoke to become legal aid office

The Roanoke paper reports here that a childhood home of civil rights litigator Oliver Hill will become an office for Blue Ridge Legal Services.

More on the Dr. Shelburne case

Here is a anti-prosecution post about the Shelburne case, and here is the latest from the Bristol paper, about how the U.S. has noticed an appeal on the money laundering charges that were thrown out based on the Santos decision.

Just in case you were wondering

A panel of the D.C. Circuit has held in Adams v. Rice that "engaging in sexual relations" qualifies as a "major life activity" for purposes of the Rehabilitation Act.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Here from the Chicago Tribune is another book review of Judge Martin Clark's latest book.

is a profile of Circuit Court Judge John Cook, after two months on the bench.

The Bristol paper has this report on the airport easement case that Jim Elliott and Lucas Hobbs from this office have appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Monday, July 14, 2008

On the book by Judge Hudson of the E.D. Va.

Here on the VTLA website is a very interesting book review by Wyatt Durrette of the new book by his good friend, Judge Henry Hudson of the E.D. Va.

I have heard Judge Hudson speak only once, at the Judicial Conference.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bad news

Colon cancer has taken away Tony Snow, who suffered for years from colitis, which poses the same cancer risk as Crohn's disease according to articles like this one.

One thing I would do if I had a motorcycle

I would join up with the first annual "Fire in the Hole" ride and rally, which covers this route:

• Highway 19 South to Alternate Route 58 West to Norton, VA.
• Highway 23 South to Big Stone Gap. VA.
• 1ft STOP: Powell Valley High School, Big Stone Gap. VA. (Rest/Fuel Break)
• Can you ride the TUNNEL? Must get through it to Highway 25E into Middlesboro, KY.
• 2nd STOP: Lunch break (several restaurants and gas stations).
• Route 119 North into Harlan and Whitesburg. KY.
• 3'd STOP: Letcher County Central High School. Stretch/Refreshments.
• Highway 23 South back into Norton. VA.
• Alternate Route 58 East to Moccasin Valley Rd. Route 613, Lebanon. VA.

And, I might pass the word to a few bikers I know, including Robbie Boggs, and Mike Abbott, and that woman lawyer down in Knoxville.

But then, I don't have a motorcycle, or even one of these.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

LA Times review of third novel from Judge Clark

Here is a review in the LA Times of the latest from Circuit Court Judge Martin Clark, called The Legal Limit.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Interesting for other reasons

I have now read In the Kingdom of Coal: An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World, and it is not quite what I expected, but interesting nonetheless to the extent it is a history of Westmoreland Coal and the families behind it, including some history of their operations in Wise County, and of a family of miners whose later generations include the former Dodger and Red pitcher, Tim Belcher.

The book declares that one year Belcher made more money in major league baseball than the net of Westmoreland selling coal.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

But, they beat the Wahoos every now and then

This post about the litigation between the University of Louisville and Duke over the cancellation of some football games raises some questions on the issue of what college football teams are of "similar stature" to the generally lousy Blue Devils.

And, the answer viewed one way is, Duke's no good so all are of "similar stature" or better, or viewed another way, Duke's no good and so few are of "similar stature" or worse.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Rick Sincere reports again from Monticello

Here is this year's report from Rick Sincere on the W.D. Va.'s naturalization ceremony at Monticello, attended today by President Bush.

Good one, gang

As Jerry Fuhrman points out here, it would appear that whoever wrote (or edited) the editorial on July 4th in the Bristol paper cannot subtract 1776 from 2008. My computer says the difference is 232.

The editorial begins: "At the ripe old age of 222 years, our great country remains more united than divided. That’s a pretty amazing feat – given the high-decible shouting in this election year."

The Boston Herald did the same thing, as it says here: "Even those for whom citizenship is not an immediate option, come here each year for the economic opportunities provided by this nation where for 222 years “all men” have been declared “created equal” and “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”"

Perhaps some truths are less self-evident than others.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

No incorporation of Second Amendment in Fourth Circuit?

"It is well settled law in this circuit that the Second Amendment does not apply to the States. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 252 (4th Cir. 1999). Because the Second Amendment does not apply to the States, neither a state law nor a local ordinance can run afoul of any right guaranteed by the Second Amendment."

Judge Morgan of the E.D. Va., in Szymecki v. City of Norfolk, Docket No. 2:08cv142, Opinion and Order of June 27, 2008.

A while back, Timothy Sandefur had this post on incorporation, one of several. The concept always makes me think of Abe Fortas played by Jose Ferrer arguing the right to counsel before the Supreme Court in the movie version of Gideon's Trumpet.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

He said it

Rich Lowry, on Justice Kennedy:

"[T]he Supreme Court is divided between four liberals, four conservatives and one self-important man who can't differentiate between his inner compass and the nation's fundamental law."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Chief Judge Jones dismisses several counts in Dr. Shelburne case

In U.S. v. Shelburne, Chief Judge Jones of the W.D. Va. struck several of the counts of which Dr. Shelburne was convicted earlier at trial, in a case related to "a scheme to defraud Medicaid by submitting bills for services that were not performed, were paid for by others, or were not medically necessary."

Part of the opinion involves the application of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding what are the "proceeds" of illegal activity for purposes of money laundering, in United States v. Santos.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Church where I was married

When I got married at the Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown, the Jesuit priest (who is no longer a priest) suggested privately that he would not be too strict about who took Communion.

The same church is where the funeral mass for Tim Russert was held. The Post reporter Sally Quinn has drawn fire for taking communion there on that occasion.

Before our wedding I told one of my relatives, who was concerned about alcoholic beverages, that not only were the Southern Baptists not required to drink wine at a wedding mass, but they weren't allowed to have any.

More pro se litigants?

The Norfolk paper has this article on the perceived rise in the number of litigants representing themselves.

On the voters of Appalachia

Here is a pointless piece from Newsweek, a guy named Steve who grew up in Western Virginia and later was a student at the College of William & Mary. (If you can imagine such a person.) Is some of it missing, or is it sort of a parody? I wonder.

It says in part, "In a close election come November, the difference between President McCain and President Obama could come down to me and my people: a bunch of ornery, racist, coal-minin', banjo-pickin', Scots-Irish hillbillies clinging to our guns and religion on the side of some Godforsaken, moonshine-soaked ridge in West Virginia."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The ruling on the constitutionality of Va. Code 57-9

Here is the opinion by Judge Randy Bellows of the Circuit Court of Fairfax County, 49 pages on the constitutionality of Va. Code 57-9 as applied to the Episcopal church cases.

That thing adjudicated

In the latest VBA Journal, Judge Kelsey of the Court of Appeals has a somewhat provocative article on res judicata and Rule 1:6 as a response to the perceived defects of the Supreme Court's analysis in Davis v. Marshall Homes, Inc., 265 Va. 159, 576 S.E.2d 504 (2003).

And, I'm not sure that I entirely agree with it, which usually means that it doesn't fit with some cockamamie theory that I have been cooking up about a particular case.

Peer-to-peer network administrator convicted in W.D. Va. for pirating copyrighted material

The United States Department of Justice issued this press release detailing the conviction on Thursday in Big Stone Gap of a peer-to-peer network administrator for pirating movies and such.

The press release says: "The case is the first criminal conviction after jury trial for P2P copyright infringement. Dove’s conviction is the eighth conviction resulting from Operation D-Elite, a nationwide federal crackdown against the illegal distribution of copyrighted movies, software, games and music over P2P networks employing the BitTorrent file distribution technology."

President Bush to attend session of W.D. Va.

The Charlottesville paper reports here that President Bush will attend the naturalization event at Monticello on the 4th.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The insignificance of Miller-Jenkins

This article on Findlaw, titled "The Virginia Supreme Court Enforces Vermont's Custody and Visitation Order Regarding a Same-Sex Couple's Child: Why an Anti-Same-Sex-Marriage State Recognized a Same-Sex Union For This Purpose", points out that the recent Supreme Court case was decided on technical grounds, and even so came with a warning from the Chief Justice in his separate opinion that might be a preview of how he (if not others) would decide future cases on the merits.

On the right of the people to keep and bear arms

The Supreme Court decided today by a 5-4 vote in the D.C. v. Heller case, that the "people" in the Second Amendment include "all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset" and to "bear arms" was used back in the day to "refer to the carrying of weapons outside of an organized militia.

One for Kurt Pomrenke fans

Here are the father of the bride and the bride, his daughter Sarah, whom I think of as the little blonde Pomrenke girl.

Most places I go, from Grundy to Norfolk, somebody knows Kurt.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The vice of moderate legislation

Justice Kennedy's opinion for the majority in Kennedy v. Louisiana might inspire some legislators (like the ones we read about from Virginia and Tennessee) to reject moderation in matters governed by the Eighth Amendment.

The legislators might say to themselves, we all need to take the extreme view on this, otherwise the Supreme Court will get the wrong idea the next time it surveys the views of "society."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Papa Joe Smiddy documentary

It says here that U.Va.-Wise has released a documentary on DVD of the life and times of Joe Smiddy.

is one of the best Joe Smiddy stories.

Here is one place where you can buy a "Butter Beans" CD, which is mainly what I like to listen to when I am riding in Dad's truck. This bean story has the lyrics.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Using the VLW archives

In last week's Virginia Lawyers Weekly, Paul Fletcher posed this hypothetical:

"My client just got served with papers filed by a lawyer named Steven R. Minor with the firm of Elliott, Lawson & Minor in Bristol. I don’t know this guy. How can I get some information about him and his practice?"

One of his answers was to check the archives on VLW.

That could work, evidently those archives include my name in connection with 26 opinions.

A fellow I know in Charlottesville told me a while back that he often sees my name in Lawyers Weekly. I said yes, but not all of those cases are worth bragging about, such as the one where the Virginia Court of Appeals held that I didn't miss that deadline, after all.

Fourth Circuit rejects claim to school district's information distribution system for issue advocacy

In Page v. Lexington County School District, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Niemeyer, joined by Chief Judge Williams and Judge Duncan, affirmed the entry of summary judgment on the section 1983 claims of a citizen who sued for equal access to the school district's "information distribution system" that the district had used to oppose legislation the plaintiff favored.

The amici supporting the appellee include the Virginia School Boards Association.

If you do Virginia appeals, you must read this

Steve Emmert has an article up these days on his site that I take to mean that the Virginia Supreme Court is cracking down on procedural defaults. Similarly, VLW Blog has this post quoting Justice Keenan, who acknowledged that more Virginia appeals are getting sunk on procedural defaults.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Norfolk paper comes to Wise County

This article about the power plant in the works at Virginia City quotes one side talking about the other as saying this: "wrong on so many levels." Actually, all sides say that about their opponents all the time.

Some of the discourse reminds me of my grandmother's opposition to the federal prison in Lee County - she didn't want a bunch of escaped federal inmates running up and down Route 58.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Vote on him, I dare you

The Asheville paper has this recap of the status of the nomination to the Fourth Circuit of Judge Conrad from North Carolina, who is not to be confused with the Judge Conrad from Virginia or the tough-guy actor.

Who leaked the Ahmad Bradshaw story?

The Bristol paper and others have discovered that Ahmad Bradshaw is in jail here in Abingdon, which prompted his old football coach at Bluefield to denounce whoever it was that caused this to get into the newspapers.

The Bristol paper reported this:

"Graham football coach and athletic director Doug Marrs adamantly stood by Bradshaw, calling the player’s legal troubles the direct result of a concerted attempt by 'individuals who build themselves up by making other people look bad.'

'It’s an attempt by an anonymous mole to discredit [Bradshaw],' Marrs said. 'I bet you cannot find out who released [the information to the police]. Have you seen anywhere where he violated his parole? It doesn’t make sense. It’s extremely complicated.

'All I can tell you is ... there’s animosity. It’s just … there are people who make it, I guess, their job to try to ruin to other people’s lives. That’s the way I see it.'

. . .

'I promise you this: Graham High School would not have retired [Bradshaw’s] jersey if we had thought he’d have done something that would discredit [Graham],' Marrs said.

'He truly does not deserve this. He doesn’t deserve this. And you know what? I did stuff when I was 12 or 13 years old [that] I could probably still be in jail for. But I never played in the Super Bowl. I don’t get people wherever jealous of me.'"

The Carbon Capture and Storage Early Deployment Act

This post considers the Carbon Capture and Storage Early Deployment Act, H.R. 6258, introduced by Rick Boucher, which provides for an industry-funded, non-government "Carbon Storage Research Corporation."

He said it

"So Mr. Obama, if you're going to call for 'the highest-speed broadband access' can you please stop pussyfooting around like just about everyone else and start acknowledging that that means getting a fiber strand strung to every building in America?"

Geoff Daily, Apprising

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Santos, Santos, Santos

The Bristol paper reported here that Chief Judge Jones is trying to figure out the Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Santos, before deciding what to do in the case of the Lee County dentist.

Maybe the dentist's lawyer will sign up for this seminar, the ad for which says of Santos and Cuellar v. U.S.: "The Court's opinions vindicate the criminal defense bar's long and loud criticisms that money-laundering charges were being 'tacked-on,' 'added-on,' and threatened in order to induce pleas and rack up higher sentences."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On the late Harry Hall

This morning, Dana spotted a brief notice in the morning paper that Harry Hall has died.

Harry Hall is just about the best guy from Bristol I ever met. The deacon at St. Anne's, he was part of our marriage preparation, way back when, and a good friend of mine ever since. When he ended a mass, it sounded like the voice of Moses. He worked all the time, even when he was sick, like when there was a fire at the church and he just laughed at the idea that he should just be a cheerleader on the sidelines. He laughed at most everything, and made everyone else laugh with him. Seeing him in the church or out and about always lit me up.

I'll miss him.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Best U.S. Open story

I still like the story reported here and here and elsewhere about Tony Romo, Matt Lauer, Justin Timberlake, and a fellow from Nebraska with cancer, trying to break 100 on Friday at Torrey Pines. The dude from Nebraska shot 114 and savored it all, sounds like.

I probably can't break a hundred anywhere that doesn't have plastic grass and windmills. The last round of golf in May, though, playing captain's choice in Nancy Dickenson's Relay for Life tournament we made a lot of lengthy par putts and finished 10 from the back and 10 from the front (i.e., next to last at +1). Tim Hudson from over on the Tennessee side was playing behind us and said he thought we were going to break out the champagne when we got up and down for par on our first hole (from the wrong side of the creek).

And, the horse you rode in on

Here and elsewhere it says that Andrea Mitchell, from the gang of happy idiots at MSNBC, has apologized for her characterization of the people of Bristol, Virginia, on the occasion of the visit by Obama last week.

Another of that sorry bunch, Chris Matthews, will be at the Bristol library a few weeks before the election. His rant this morning, as I understood it, was that the United States is like the sinking Titanic, and voters will have to decide whether to stay on the ship with McCain or jump into the life boats with Obama.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Fourth Circuit: fewer judges equals fewer arguments

Here is the take of one of the Volokh Conspirators on the state of the Fourth Circuit, still missing too many judges, and the subject of the cover story in this month's ABA Journal.

Sell assets, not stock?

In Andrews v. Browne, the Virginia Supreme Court held that the sale of 100% of the stock of a closely-held corporation is subject to the Virginia Securities Act.

That other Buchanan County case

The Supreme Court decided on Friday in Levisa Coal v. Consolidation Coal that Consol's lease did not give it the right to "store excess water" on the leased premises from coal mining on other property, reversing the Buchanan County circuit court.

The case was argued for the appellant by Scott Sexton from Gentry Locke, with Monica Monday and some lawyers from the Street Law Firm on brief. Well done.

On the Tennessee side

The Kingsport paper has this disturbing story about a good lawyer who made one or more bad mistakes.

It begins:

"A former Johnson City attorney who pleaded guilty to attempted forgery for signing a client’s name to a probation hearing waiver ended up losing his law license, his practice, his home and cars."

Judge Weckstein a candidate for Virginia Supreme Court

The Roanoke Times has this article that says Judge Clifford Weckstein is a candidate for the vacant position on the Virginia Supreme Court.

The article cites Steve Emmert who bemoans the circumstances that might reduce the field of candidates, but if Judge Weckstein is in the running, that's evidence that there may be quality if not quantity.

The same circumstances cited by Steve might prevent anyone from being selected as the juvenile and domestic relations district judge to succeed Judge Farmer in the 29th district - rare is the lawyer willing to chuck in his or her practice for what may be a very temporary judgeship.

No kidding

I just saw this picture that my dad posted somewhere.

Some people are (still) surprised to learn that the proprietor of Appalachian Resources, also the Rose Hill blogger, is my sister.

Last week's case

Here are the stories from the newspapers:

Daniel Gilbert, Bristol Herald-Courier -

Buchanan County Seeks To Recover Money It Says It Lost Due To Bribery Scandal

Federal Jury Is Deciding Liability In Buchanan County, Va., Bribery Case

Contractors To Pay $500,000 To Buchanan County In ‘Coon Dog’ Case

Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times -

Big Coon Dog lawsuit trees little cash

Friday, June 06, 2008

The big case

Well, the jury verdict was $500,000, and not on the RICO counts. That's less than I had hoped, but better than nothing.

It was pretty exciting, I'll write more about it one of these days.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Head games

On Friday night, opposing counsel sent me a note that said quit working so hard.

I laughed and told some people about this note, and one of them asked me about that other lawyer, and I said he's a bulldog.

And, the reply was, then he's in trouble, because he's a bulldog but this is a coondog case.

That might be my swing thought for the week, or maybe this.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ex-judge Shull speaks out

Daniel Gilbert had this lengthy article, with Mickey Shull's thoughts on what happened to him, that he lost his judgeship.

There are some parts of the article I don't like, but it is definitely worth reading, to ponder the many ironies.

Previously, I posted my thoughts here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

On T. Keister Greer

The Roanoke paper reports here on the interesting life and times of the Rocky Mount lawyer, who wrote about the Franklin County moonshine case, as described here, tried in Harrisonburg before Judge John Paul.

Why quit before November?

Senator Clinton cites the example of the assassination of Robert Kennedy as a reason why she should not stop her campaign.

Following this same logic, perhaps after the convention, she will continue to campaign, citing the possibility that Obama has not disclosed prior hospitalization for mental illness, as in the case of the vice-presidential nominee in 1972.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Back out of prison

Yesterday at the Ashland, KY, prison camp, we deposed Ray Blankenship, who is the former chairman of the board of supervisors from Buchanan County, and we had a court reporter, and videographer, and they were two women from Lexington, and on his way out, the witness/inmate gave them a nod and told them he was particularly glad they came by to see him.

Sprung from the prison, I rolled on down to Paintsville, to draw on the good karma (hey, we're undefeated in Johnson County) and the good company of Roger Massengale, who had many tall tales, then went on to Norton and got the latest BBQ from Elsey Harris. It was a full day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The 25th reunion year

This is, I am reminded, the 25th year after graduation from high school, and I've heard there will be a reunion.

Those who knew me then might say, as some have, that my life has proceeded according to plans that were made in junior high, more or less. I might say the same thing, more or less, by the bare preponderance of the evidence. There's a handwritten essay in the archives from Mr. Sieber's 8th grade English class, or was it 7th grade, in which I wrote how I was going to become a lawyer.

Next door to Mr. Sieber's room, more or less, was Mr. Feiler's room, where he taught 8th grade civics. In his class I first learned the case of Marbury v. Madison. Indeed, in his classroom, there was an old stash of books, soon to be trashed, called Constitutional Analysis, and I took one home (by extraconstitutional means?) and still have it. That would have been more like 30 years ago. I saw Mr. Feiler at a baseball game in 1988, the summer spent clerking at the Barley Snyder firm, and he said he knew all along that I would become a lawyer.

The last time I was in contact with any of my old teachers (other than Ed Stout) was Coach Borden, who taught 9th grade English. "You people don't know how to edit," he declared in those days, "you look at the page and think, 'These are my words, I love them.'" When I saw that he was retiring from coaching basketball, I e-mailed him and told him that I have recalled his admonition many times since, since writing is mainly what I do, and good advice on writing never grows old. He wrote back that he could well recall that I was never at a loss for words.

I saw a piece on the Golf Channel the other day where the question before the panel was would you rather play a pro-am with Tiger Woods or with your mom, and one guy answered his mom, since she had been dead for some years and his dad in particular would like to see her. If I could play a pro-am with one of my high school teachers, it would be the old grey-bearded English teacher with whom I conspired for a couple of years, and who died before his daughters married, two sisters who were both cheerleaders and who both were cursed with the same unfortunate nose and who married on the same day - and I would skip the golf and send him on to see them.

I guess the teachers, particularly those no longer of this earth, don't come to the reunions, and since my tale would hold no mystery to my friends, I won't be at the reunion of the Conestoga Valley class of '83. Besides which, my dad got food poisoning at his 25th reunion.

Stuff I've missed

Justice Agee was confirmed to the Fourth Circuit, as reported here and elsewhere.

Julie Dudley took over as head of the United States Attorney's office, reported here.

All this while I've been driving back and forth to Grundy, and plotting my next trip which is to a federal prison.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Just in time for the election

Here's the decision from the California Supreme Court, in which the divided Court declared that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection clause of the state constitution - notwithstanding the statewide referendum on the definition of marriage from only eight years ago.

I am reminded of my post from Election Day, 2004, relating a discussion I had with a guy I know as he was driving to vote, and "[h]e 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.)"

And this post on the eve of the election in 2006, explaining my "no" vote, and offering this view - "I think most of the claims of both the "yes" and "no" advocates in Virginia were completely bogus, and that many of the people engaged in such advocacy knew full well that were they were saying was bogus but said it anyway to try to get votes for their side."

There's much that's bogus in that California Supreme Court opinion.