Thursday, July 01, 2010

Watch what you ask for

In MCI Constructors v. City of Greensboro, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Judge Duncan joined by Chief Judge Traxler and Judge Davis affirmed an arbitration award in favor of the City and against the contractor for over $14 million, arising under a $29 million contract for the construction of a wastewater treatment facility.

The case began when the Contractor filed suit against the City and its Engineer, then the City counterclaimed for breach of contract. The District Court granted summary judgment for the City on the counterclaim, in the amount of $13 million, but the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded, in 2005.

On remand, the parties agreed to arbitration. The arbitration was heard in 2006, the arbitration panel decided the merits of the contract claim in 2007 and awarded $14 million as damages in 2008. The panel refused to modify its award and refused the Contractor's request for a "reasoned award." Back in District Court, the parties filed twenty-two briefs, including such issues as whether the $14 million award included or did not include the $9 million that was still owed to the Contractor for other parts of the contract.

It doesn't sound like the Contractor's decisions to file the suit and then to choose arbitration turned out well - and I've been there.

One for probation officers and riders of public transportation

Today in U.S. v. Alvarado Perez, the Fourth Circuit in a published opinion by Senior Judge Arthur L. Alarcon of the Ninth Circuit, joined by Judges Gregory and Shedd, affirmed an enhanced jail sentence in a gun case for an illegal immigrant gang member and sex offender who took a loaded revolver with him on a city bus to a meeting with his probation officer, where immigration officials seized him and found the pistol in his backpack.

Judge Alarcon, so it says here, "was the first Hispanic appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals when former president Jimmy Carter named him to the bench in 1979. He previously served as Chief of Staff and legal counsel for Governor Edmund G. Brown and as chair of the California Parole Board."

Monday, June 28, 2010

On Kagan and Byrd

One of the raps on the Supreme Court nominee being considered this week, Elena Kagan, is that she has never been a judge, never tried a case, and never argued an appeal until just recently.

Off the top of my head, the last couple of Supreme Court justices who were not judges before they went on the Supreme Court were William Rehnquist and Virginia's own Lewis Powell, who were appointed by Nixon. Rehnquist was in the Justice Department after several years of private practice in Arizona, while Powell the former ABA president was with Hunton & Williams, as it is now known. I don't think that either of these two suffered from lack of influence on the Supreme Court on account of their lack of prior judicial experience.

The passing of Senator Robert Byrd from West Virginia reminds me that in his book, he claims that President Nixon considered him for the Supreme Court, before the "surprise" nominations of Rehnquist and Powell in 1971. Evidently having a lot of free time on his hands, Byrd graduated from law school in D.C. while he was a senator, but never took the bar examination. I'm almost certain that Elena Kagan is every bit as qualified as Robert Byrd was to be on the United States Supreme Court.

On Kagan and McChrystal

This morning I saw this article which says among other things: "The solution to a less politicized military can be accomplished via dilution, but for this to happen more political centrists and liberals would have to join the military. I doubt this will happen. According to tens of thousands of surveys conducted by University of Virginia social psychology professor Jonathan Haidt, politically conservative individuals disproportionately value both respect for authority and loyalty — values that perfectly align with military culture. By contrast, those on the political left disproportionally value caring for others and fairness. These are admirable preferences, but they don't immediately comport with a military career."

And, it reminds me of some things I've thought about before. One is that there is nothing wrong with making lawyers to change the world, notwithstanding for example the views of the critics of the law schools at Liberty and Regent. There are a few posts here about the start-up of the Liberty law school, a few years ago.

The Rumsfeld v. FAIR case always struck me as an outrage, both because it was legally unsustainable and because the means never fit the end. In the FAIR case, the law schools claimed that the Solomon Amendment that punished schools for banning military recruiters violated the First Amendment rights of the law school, or some part of it. The Supreme Court rejected this claim, 8-0.

One of the law school administrators at the front of the military recruitment ban was Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, whose hearings are this week. If people like her really wanted to change the military, they should have taken a page from Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson's playbook and been trying to get more Harvard lawyers in the JAG corps, rather than less. The military recruitment ban was unjustified and unjustifiable, legally and practically. If it's true that liberals and centrists are less likely to choose the military of their own accord, then would-be liberal reformers like Ms. Kagan should have been trying to do more not less to encourage them to pursue military careers. It would appear that General McChrystal could have have used a few on his staff, so that he might at least have had more of a clue when he or others around him were saying stupid things.