Gavel Grab

Archive for January, 2008

1/31/08: New Folks in Missouri's Race for the Courts; McCain Appointing Liberals?; Amicus Brief Filed in Iowa

The irony impaired opponent of the “Missouri Court Plan”– Show Me Progress
A new player in the battle for the Missouri judiciary.

Liberty Counsel Files Brief at Iowa Supreme Court to Protect Traditional Marriage– Life, Liberty, and Family
The Liberty Counsel are set to have a fight in Iowa’s courts over same-sex marriage.

McCain would appoint liberal judges to the Supreme Court– Hillbilly White Trash
First, yes the blog is called Hillbilly White Trash. Secondly, their post is about the reaction Senator John McCain’s statements on who he would appoint to the Federal Courts.

Pioneering Blackwater Protesters Given Secret Trial and Criminal Conviction– The Hufffington Post
Blackwater and the justice. Or lack of justice. Interesting read.

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1/31/08 – Two Recusals and a Call for a Third, Judge Knocks the Corps of Engineers but Lets Them Off the Hook

Judge in Courthouse Shooting Case Steps Down – The New York Times
Judge Hilton M. Fuller has recused himself from the controversial court shooting case because he was recently quoted as saying “everyone in the world knows he did it.”

Justice recuses himself again – The Charleston Gazette
West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard recused himself again on Tuesday from a second high-profile case involving Massey Energy.

Justice Starcher should step aside – The Charleston Daily Mail
This editorial calls for West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher to follow Justice Maynard’s lead and recuse himself from the Massey Energy case.

Judge raps Corps of Engineers but throws out Katrina lawsuit – CNN
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval acknowledged Wednesday that the agency failed to properly safeguard the city, but he ruled that the Corps was protected by the Flood Control Act of 1928.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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1/30/08: Today's Blog Watch, Now Texas Free

Measuring Justice(s) in Louisiana – Concurring Opinions
An analysis of the Louisiana judicial elections and this bloggers spin.

MonacoGate Prompts Another Maynard Recusal– Lincoln Walks At Midnight
More recusals have come out from Justice Maynard’s Monaco adventure.

How Can the Legality of Waterboarding Depend on the Circumstances? – Balkinization
AG Mukasey: Waterboarding is bad… but not all the time.

John Grisham & Judicial Elections – Law Blog – The Wall Street Journal Online
A Law Blog look at John Grisham’s new book, “The Appeal.”

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The Real Presidential Legacy

Last night’s State of the Union address, Bush’s last, was about legacy-building. But the President spent only a moment of his hour-long speech on a subject that could be his most enduring legacy of all, one that will have an impact long after troops are out of Iraq and the housing market has recovered – the makeup of the judicial branch.

Many of his nominees, Bush complained in the speech, are being “unfairly delayed.” He does have some trouble; he nominates divisive candidates, and the Senate Democrats resist. Last year, for example, Bush dropped the nomination of three judges when it was apparent that they would never be confirmed. And of course there were the events of 2004, when the country finally learned what the word “filibuster” meant. But these “delays” are relative – a glance through the records of Bush’s judicial nominations shows that many votes to confirm judges are unanimous. In a statement last November, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy reported that the Senate had confirmed more judges in 2007 than in the previous three years, in which Republicans had a majority.
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1/30/08 – SC Justices at the State of the Union, WI Candidates Debate, John Grisham and the WV Supreme Court, Tuttman Incident Prompts Review of Judicial Conduct Code

Breyer Keeps Up Bush Speech Attendance – The Associated Press
Every wonder what the Supreme Court Justices are thinking during the State of the Union, as they stay seated and straight faced while everyone else applauds or dissents to whatever the President is saying?

Judicial activism, clean campaigning focus of spirited debate – The Associated Press
In an online debate, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler and his challenger Circuit Judge Michael Gableman sparred over judicial activism and dirty campaigning.

Electing judges – with cash – The Christian Science Monitor
Parallels are drawn between John Grisham’s new book, “The Appeal” and the real life drama unfolding in West Virginia involving multiple state Supreme Court justices and Massey Energy, the largest coal producer in Appalachia.

Senate debates merits of appointed versus elected judges – The Associated Press
A spontaneous debate broke out in the West Virginia State Senate over the state of the judiciary and the effectiveness of moving to nonpartisan elections for judges.

State’s high court to consider allowing judges to speak out – The Associated Press
Judge Kathe Tuttman refused to discuss the circumstances surrounding her release of a convicted killer and the criticism that followed, prompting a review of the judicial conduct code that restricts public comment by judges.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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1/29/08: Another Texas Supreme Court Story; Special Interests Influence the Court?; a New

Judicial decisions influenced by campaign contributions? – Ernie the AttorneyA Tulane University Law Professor’s analysis of judicial campaigns in Louisiana. The actual report will be published next month, but this posts provides an interview with the professor.

Texas Supreme Court Reaches Record Level Backlog – DallasBlog
Another day, another story on the Texas Supreme Court. Apparently, they are have a large back log of cases that they are not hearing. Interesting times in Texas.

Rendell Picks Colins to Serve on Supreme Court – Keystone Politics
Gov. Ed Rendell picks appoints a new judge, Former Commonwealth Court Judge James Gardner Colins, for a temporary spot Pennsylvania Supremes.

A sentencing scorecard on backdating convictions – Sentencing Law and PolicyA blog post examining the state mandatory minimums.

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Campaign Finance Study in Louisiana

Tulane Law professor Vernon Palmer, along with Loyola University in New Orleans professor John Levendis and a few law students, will be publishing a study next month on the effects of campaign contributions on Louisiana Supreme Court justices.  The results are quite remarkable.  You can read about in today’s New York Times.

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1/29/08 – No Easy Release for Convicts on Mukasey's Watch, MN Voters Concerned w/ Judicial Elections, Backlog in TX, Racial Issues in IL, Bush Threatens Veto, Again

Mukasey may try to derail early releases – The LA Times
Attorney General Michael Mukasey may try to slow or stop early releases for convicted drug offenders, but a federal judge in Oregon may be working faster on early releases than Mukasey expected.

Minnesota voters want say over judges – The Pioneer Press – MN
A Minnesota poll released yesterday shows that voters in the state are concerned about special-interest money, TV ads and political party affiliation in judicial campaigns. Minnesotans also favor periodic votes on whether or not to retain a judge rather than requiring a contested race.

Texas Supreme Court backlog reaches record level – The Associated Press
The Texas Supreme Court left a record 111 cases pending at the end of the 2007 fiscal year, even as it agreed to hear more cases.

Judge candidates question factor of race in bar polls – The Beacon News – Chicagoland, IL
The Kane County Bar Association’s recent release of recommendations is drawing criticism because all four recommended candidates are white and the two candidates designated as “not presently recommended” are African-American.

Veto of Wiretap Measure Is Threatened – The Washington Post
Bush warns the Democratic Congress of a veto, a move aimed at forcing the Administration’s much desired renewal and expansion of the Protect America Act, which is due to expire on Thursday.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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In Stores Today: The Appeal

There’s probably not much to add, at this point, about John Grisham’s new book, “The Appeal.” It hits the shelves today, Tuesday, January 29, and since no one here is lucky enough to be on the Random House advance edition mailing list, we will instead point you to the flurry of reviews and interviews: the New York Times; National Public Radio (including an excerpt from chapter one); Boston Globe; and on Bill Moyers’ website. It’s also worth noting that the first chapter has been available as a free download at the iTunes music store (this teaser may end when the audiobook is put on sale, who knows). In any event, it’s already on my iPod ready to fill downtime on a flight to Chicago.

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Court Stripping

Numerous Federal efforts to remove jurisdiction from the courts pertaining to matters such as the Pledge of Allegiance or the phrase “under God” have been introduced in recent years. Similar attempts to remove or alter the jurisdiction of the state courts have also been considered, some echoing or outright copying their Congressional counterparts. What follows are just some of the bills introduced in the last two years.

Arizona’s SCR 1026 of 2007 would have removed jurisdiction over cases where a government employee issued an “acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty or government.” The author told local media that “[W]e’re supposed to have religion in everything — the opportunity to have religion in everything. I want religion in government, I want my government to have a faith-based perspective.” The bill was withdrawn shortly after being introduced.
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