Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Federal Courts' Category

Domestic-Assault Case Involving Judge Gets More Scrutiny

With football star Ray Rice making new headlines after video of his beating his fiancee was made public, some analysts are finding parallels with the case of a federal district judge recently charged with assaulting his wife.

Judge Fuller

Judge Fuller

Both Rice and Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama may see their records expunged after they have participated in pre-trial diversion programs that include counseling (see Gavel Grab for background about Judge Fuller). The NFL initially suspended Rice for two games, and after the video became public, his contract was terminated by the Baltimore Ravens. Judge Fuller has been relieved of his caseload temporarily and hopes to return to “full, active status.”

For CNN, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote that both Rice and Judge Fuller received “sweet deals” in court, and “it looks like the prosecutors failed in Atlantic City and Atlanta.” His essay was headlined, “Wife-beating is not a private matter.” Read more

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Court Program Offers Judge Route to Resolve Assault Charge

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama, recently arrested on a domestic assault charge, will accept a pre-trial diversion offer that includes attendance at a 24-week counseling program on family and domestic violence.

Reuters said Judge Fuller has been relieved of his caseload. ”I … look forward to addressing the concerns of the court and hopefully returning to full, active status in the Middle District of Alabama,” the judge said.

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Greenhouse: Efforts to Influence Courts ‘By Any Means Necessary’

US Supreme CourtMillions of Americans stand to be affected by any final decision in the federal courts about the legality of the government subsidizing health insurance premiums for individuals.

In the wake of dueling federal court opinions on this issue (see Gavel Grab), Linda Greenhouse offers an intriguing analysis in the New York Times about the protracted efforts of federal Affordable Care Act foes to derail the law in the courts. She calls it “turning to the courts to achieve what politics won’t deliver” and suggests the latest efforts rely on an extremely fine point of law. Read more

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Same-Sex Marriages Set to Begin in VA Next Week

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. rejected Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg’s request to postpone its ruling dropping Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, reports USA Today.

According to the piece, the three-judge panel ruled the right of gays and lesbians to marry constitutional last month. That means that same-sex couples could get married in Virginia starting August 20th and the state would start recognizing gay marriages from other states too, unless the Supreme Court intervenes.

“There is no doubt that Virginia is ready for the freedom to marry. …We are thrilled that the 4th Circuit denied the request for a stay and hope that we will see wedding celebrations in Virginia as early as next week. Marriage validates the commitment couples make to one another and, if the Supreme Court doesn’t intervene, achieving marriage equality in Virginia will be a tremendous step forward,” stated James Parrish, the executive director of Equality Virginia.

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Ten Commandments Display Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge has declared that a monument of the Ten Commandments in front of the Bloomfield, New Mexico City Hall violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the Daily Times reports.

The lawsuit, which was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico on behalf of two Wiccan Bloomfield residents, contended that “the monument sends a message the city endorses a particular religious belief.”

In response to the decision, Bloomfield Mayor Scott Eckstein said, “I am surprised (by the decision) and had never really considered the judge ruling against it because it’s a historical document just like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.”

The City of Bloomfield can appeal the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Commentary: Judges Changing Standard in Abortion Cases

In an op-ed published today in The New York Times, Linda Greenhouse addressed the evolving jurisprudence in abortion cases and the implications of these changes for how federal judges are deciding controversial cases involving abortion restrictions.

In discussing Alabama Federal District Judge Myron H. Thompson’s recent decision in Planned Parenthood Southeast v. Strange, which compared gun rights and abortion rights, Greenhouse wrote, “[Judge Thompson] was making a profound point: that a right – any right – without the infrastructure and the social conditions that enable its exercise is no right at all.”

Greenhouse notes that Thompson and judges like him are now grounding their decisions in the practical implications they have, in the process treating “the abortion right as a right among others.” Greenhouse contents that these judges are rewriting the rules on which case law is at play in the abortion debate.

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Another Appeals Court Strikes Down a Marriage Ban

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held unconstitutional on Monday Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The panel upheld a lower court ruling (see Gavel Grab).

Two federal appeals courts now have found such state bans unconstitutional since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor last year.

“We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable,” said appeals Judge Henry F. Floyd in Monday’s ruling, according to The Washington Post. “However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws. Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life.” Read more

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Columnist: Judges ‘Aren’t Robots or Partisan Hacks’

In the wake of conflicting rulings from two separate federal appeals courts this week on the Affordable Care Act, columnist Michael McGough of the Los Angeles Times scolds reporters who treat judges like “partisan politicians.”

“Federal judges aren’t robots or partisan hacks,” declares the headline for McGough’s essay, and the author says it’s a harmful practice for reporters to portray them in ways that could give such an adverse impression to readers.

Take judges who have ruled on marriage for same-sex couples, McGough points out.  One recent study says that of 15 rulings at the district court level favoring marriage for same-sex couples, six were delivered by Republican-appointed judges and eight by Democratic appointees.

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Dueling Health Care Rulings Are Not the Last Word

163751742-304xx2118-1415-0-0Dueling federal court opinions (see Gavel Grab)  over the legality of the government subsidizing health insurance premiums for millions of people again showed the ways in which court rulings can deeply affect Americans.

There was a deluge of news media articles about the rulings from two separate appeals courts panels, about the Obama administration’s decision to appeal one of them, and about how the federal Affordable Care Act may ultimately be affected. Links for many of the articles and commentaries can be found by visiting the How Appealing law blog.

The conflicting rulings also drew media attention to the politics of judicial nominations and the politics of the Senate’s confirming judges, including a change in Senate filibuster rules last year. After the rules change, Read more

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Scholar: Life Tenure Protects Judges Making Unpopular Decisions

It’s no accident that a judge who recently found California’s death penalty unconstitutional is a federal jurist protected by life tenure, a law scholar writes.

Erwin Chemerinsky, law school dean at University of California/Irvine, says in an Orange County Register op-ed that state judges who face the electorate after issuing controversial rulings sometimes are thrown out, but the framers of the U.S. Constitution believed it essential to have federal judges who would enforce the Constitution even when doing so is unpopular. Read more

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