Lawyers appearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit may soon see more unfamiliar faces when they look up at the bench.The court's chief judge has declared an emergency, such that cases may be decided by three-judge panels composed of only one of the court's judges, plus two visiting judges."We've got eight judges on a 12-judge court," said Chief Judge Edward Carnes, explaining the order he issued on Dec. 30.The four vacancies on the court occurred when judges decided to leave the court or take senior status. President Barack Obama has made nominations for three of the four openings, but there is no guarantee if or when they'll be confirmed by the Senate. Two Georgia-based vacancies date to 2010 and 2012, while openings arose in Florida and Alabama last fall.Federal law says that when federal appeals courts decide cases by three-judge panels, at least two of the judges must be members of that particular appeals court. Although the Eleventh Circuit generally does not use judges from outside of its membership to decide the cases it decides without oral argument—about 80 percent of the court's decisions, Carnes said—it liberally uses visiting judges for its oral argument calendar. Sometimes an oral argument panel might even comprise a fully active member of the Eleventh Circuit, one of the court's senior judges on a reduced caseload and a visiting judge from outside the court. Usually, visiting judges are district court judges from within the Eleventh Circuit's territory or senior federal judges from outside the circuit.But the federal rule requiring a majority of a three-judge panel to come from the circuit's membership has exceptions, including that the chief judge can certify that there is an "emergency." The statute, 28 U.S.C. § 46(b), says such emergencies include, but are not limited to, the unavailability of a judge of the court because of illness.
In other news, John Pacenti covers this crazy case of identity theft:
When Carlos Gomez's identity was stolen, his bank account wasn't drained. But the Miami man went to jail and nearly ended up in prison for a crime organized by an employee at his former bank.Finally, Chewbacca has posted some behind the scenes pictures from back in the day. I liked this one:
An employee at Wachovia Bank, which was bought by Wells Fargo, admitted stealing Gomez's personal information from an account he closed in 2002 and using it to open up another account in a $1.1 million embezzlement.
Wells Fargo & Co. discovered the fraud and implicated Gomez, among other suspects. Gomez was arrested at gunpoint in his home in front of his three young daughters, jailed without bond for two weeks and spent another seven months on house arrest.
Now that charges have been dropped, the UPS driver wants the bank to pay for destroying his life. His federal lawsuit recently withstood a motion to dismiss by the bank.
"I want to let the world know my story, to see how these banks can be," Gomez said. "At the end of the day, they don't care about you. You are just a number. They didn't care if I rotted in jail for 20 years."