Friday, January 29, 2010

Rev. Ike hit with $5 million verdict in federal court

How did no one cover the male on male sexual harassment case before Judge Cooke? Rev. Ike just got hit for $5 million!

The case was: Augusto Medina vs. United Christian Evangelic Association & the Estate of Frederick Eikerenkoetter (Rev. Ike) -- Case No. 08-22111. Congrats to Robyn Hankins and Jennifer Ator for their big win.

I am working on getting some of the details of the case and will post soon. In the meantime, here's a clip of Rev. Ike:

UPDATE -- lots of great stories rolling in about the case. Here's one:

Rev. Ike testified in his deposition, which was played at trial, that he never had any sexual contact with Plaintiff Medina, and that there was no way this could have been consensual because it never happened. Also when asked if there was anyone who could overrule a decision made by him, Rev. Ike said, "All those in favor say aye, all those opposed say, I resign. No."

In the closing argument, Defendants' attorney said that Rev. Ike lied at his depo and that the sex was consensual. Of course Rev. Ike denied it ever happened, the lawyer said, because of his position and Medina knew that he had to deny it and would deny it, which is further proof of the calculated plan to extort money from Rev. Ike.

Apparently there was a gasp from Rev. Ike's widow, who was in the audience, when the lawyer revealed that there was consensual sex.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why I love my TiVo

I got to watch Justice Alito's horrible poker face about 6 times before my wife made me continue with Obama's speech last night. After the President criticized the Supreme Court opinion in Citizens United, Justice Alito mouthed "not true" and shook his head. Here's the video:

All the other Justices kept their poker faces, but Alito was not a happy camper.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ho hum

Scott Rothstein finally pleaded today. (Here's the agreement.) And Kim Rothstein made an appearance:

And there were even scuffles outside the courtroom.

UPDATE -- so I read the Rothstein plea agreement. It's pretty standard stuff. Things that jumped out at me about it -- the government agreed that if the guidelines are life, they will agree to a downward variance. I think that's quite a concession and one I rarely see in plea agreements. Second, Rothstein agreed to waive his right to appeal and to waive his right to a habeas proceeding. That means that Judge Cohn can sentence Rothstein anywhere from zero to life, and Rothstein cannot attack the sentence. He will have to eat whatever Judge Cohn gives him. (I never understood how a defense lawyer can agree to have his client waive his habeas rights -- if the defense lawyer is ineffective, how can he advise his client to waive that?)

Sick of the Rothstein stuff.... well, fellow geeks, check out this 7th Circuit opinion on Dungeons and Dragons -- finding that it's a threat to prison security! Above The Law covers it here. HT: SB.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1 millliooooon dollars

While Scott Rothstein's alleged $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme has proved a tragedy to hundreds of former employees, creditors and investors, it has been a boon to one group -- South Florida's lawyers.
According to experts, when all is said and done, the case will result in legal fees topping $15 million. That figure includes fees to the receiver, Herb Stettin; the two law firms he hired to assist him; a cadre of lawyers and firms hired by creditors and the attorney for the creditors' committee; defense fees for banks, insurance companies and other sued parties; and fees paid to all the criminal defense lawyers hired by Rothstein partners, associates and family members.
``This is like the lawyer's relief act,'' said Guy Lewis, a Miami attorney and former U.S. attorney who has served as receiver in numerous Ponzi/fraud cases. ``It's going to be an eight-figure case. It's probably the biggest receivership in the country right now.''

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bedtime stories

Two articles worth a look:

1. "After 34 Years, a Plainspoken Justice Gets Louder" in the New York Times about Justice Stevens. HT: Rumpole

2. "U.S. Attorney candidates face attacks from old adversaries" in the St. Pete Times about the fighting to become U.S. Attorney in the MDFLA. HT: SFLawyers

Who dat

Looking forward to the Saints/Colts Superbowl. Thank goodness it's not the Jets.

What up people?

Anyone in trial?

Bob Norman was at the Scott Rothstein auction and took some video here.

Here is the Florida Bar's webpage addressing its Haiti relief effort.

That's all I got for you this Monday morning. Hit me up with some news.

UPDATE -- Curt Anderson covers the Supreme Court's decision not to review Manuel Noriega's case.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Justice Stevens has a bad day

Yesterday was a big day in the Supreme Court with the campaign finance decision. But it was also noteworthy because those in the courtroom noted that Justice Stevens was having some trouble reading his dissent. Many have speculated that Justice Stevens is going to retire at the end of the Term, in part because he's hired only one clerk. From the BLT:

It's rare, and always dramatic to watch, when a Supreme Court justice reads from a dissent on the bench. On Thursday, when Justice John Paul Stevens read at length from his stinging 90-page dissent in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, it was also a little painful to watch.
For more than 20 minutes, Stevens spoke haltingly as he read from a summary of the dissent, a task he'd ordinarily breeze through. The 89-year-old justice seemed off his game, tripping on some words, getting stuck on others. At one point, he kept mispronouncing the word "corporation" as something like "corpo-russian," and he could not quite get it right.
As CBS News Court correspondent Jan Crawford noted on
her blog with similar observations, "Maybe it was just a bad day, and Lord knows we’ve all had those." And the written product is more important than how it was read aloud. But with a justice who is said to be on the verge of retiring at the end of this term, and in a case of such high impact, it was hard not to notice Stevens' tough morning.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Where are the judges?

Jeffrey Toobin asks this question in the New Yorker. It's a fair question. What is taking Obama so long? Toobin:

When Obama took office, there were more than a hundred vacancies on the federal appeals and district courts. One year into his tenure, Obama has made only thirty-one appointments to those courts, and just twelve have been confirmed. In George W. Bush’s first year, with a similar number of vacancies, he made sixty-four nominations. White House officials assert that ten new district court nominations are imminent, but the overall pace remains astonishingly slow. I wrote about this aspect of Obama’s Presidency last September, and the trend has continued.

Why is this? In part, it’s because a Supreme Court vacancy, which the President filled with the admirable Sonia Sotomayor, occupied the White House through the summer months. That successful nomination is both more important—and was more time-consuming—than any of the others.

But there is another major factor as well. As a former Senator himself, the President is a believer in the tradition of senatorial direction of district-court nominations, and senatorial influence on appeals-court choices. The President wanted to include senators in the process, including those of the opposition party. It was an example of Obama’s post-partisan plans in action. If Republicans had a voice in the judicial nominations process, the theory went, partisan bickering would slow, if not cease, and the judiciary would inch away from the culture wars.
As in other areas, Obama’s hopes for post-partisanship failed when it came to the judiciary. Republicans have stalled on many nominations, fought others, and mostly done their best to slow down the pace. What’s perplexing is that Obama himself has not filled the pipeline with nominations; if he did, Republicans might feel some pressure to move the process along. Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has held prompt hearings for all of Obama’s nominees, but he can’t hold hearings on nominations that haven’t yet been made.

I don't think either of these explanations work. So what that the administration was working on Justice Sotomayor? It should have been working equally hard on filling the other slots. And as for wanting the Senators' support, I'm not sure this is true. In Florida, for example, the rumors are that the Oval Office did not want a recommendation from the Senators (even though that's how it had worked in the past), which delayed the process. Thankfully, Kathy Williams is finally being vetted. But more openings are on the horizon in the District; hopefully we'll see them filled faster.

UPDATE -- Well, at least one open seat (Lanier Anderson's) just got filled -- the Senate just confirmed new 11th Circuit judge Beverly Martin 97-0. Congrats!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Supreme Court addresses case of the chocolate penis

This is not a joke -- check out Wellons v. Hall, a case that comes out of the 11th Circuit. Here's the AP and the ABA:

The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a federal appeals court to reconsider the claims of a Georgia death row inmate who is challenging his rape and murder conviction based on some unusual chocolate gifts given to the trial judge and bailiff.
Some jurors hearing the case against defendant Marcus Wellons gave the trial judge chocolate shaped as male genitalia and the bailiff chocolate shaped as female breasts.
In a 5-4
ruling (PDF), the U.S. Supreme Court in a per curiam opinion ordered the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider whether Wellons is entitled to discovery and a hearing in light of a high court ruling last year on behalf of an inmate who contended prosecutors withheld evidence of his drug addiction.
“Neither Wellons nor any court has ascertained exactly what went on at this capital trial or what prompted such ‘gifts,’ ” the Supreme Court wrote in the per curiam opinion. “Wellons has repeatedly tried, in both state and federal court, to find out what occurred, but he has found himself caught in a procedural morass.”
The court said that defense counsel did not learn until after the trial about unreported ex parte contacts between jurors and the judge, that jurors and a bailiff planned a reunion, and that jurors gave the chocolate gifts to the judge and bailiff either during or immediately after the penalty phase of the trial.
“From beginning to end, judicial proceedings conducted for the purpose of deciding whether a defendant shall be put to death must be conducted with dignity and respect,” the Supreme Court said in the per curiam opinion. “The disturbing facts of this case raise serious questions concerning the conduct of the trial, and this petition raises a serious question about whether the Court of Appeals carefully reviewed those facts before addressing petitioner’s constitutional claims.”

Ah, that's just too good. In other news: Judge Jordan sentences the Crime Stoppers cop to two months.

And American Idol is back:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Justices Better at Precedent Than Prescience

That's the title to this interesting Adam Liptak NYTimes article. Liptak argues that the Supreme Court Justices aren't too good about making predictions. I particularly like the discussion of broadcasting federal court hearings. I think it's absurd that we don't allow cameras in the courtroom. From the article:

The Supreme Court’s main strength lies in adjudicating disputes based on things that have already happened. It is less good at predicting the future.
On Wednesday, for instance, it
shut down plans to broadcast the same-sex marriage trial in San Francisco partly for fear that witnesses in the case would be harassed if their public testimony were made more public. That conclusion is known in the trade as speculation.
Consider first of all that we are talking about a trial held in open court and subject to intense press coverage. The witnesses are mostly paid experts whose views on the subject are already well known. “They’re not, after all, in the witness protection program testifying against Mafia bosses,” Eva Rodriguez
wrote in The Washington Post.
Then add to the analysis that the additional coverage the court forbade was only closed-circuit transmissions to a few other federal courthouses around the country. (There had been talk of posting video on YouTube, but the idea was never approved and so was not before the Supreme Court.)
The people viewing the transmissions in the remote courthouses would have been barred from making recordings of the proceedings. Allowing the transmissions, Eugene Volokh
wrote on The Volokh Conspiracy legal blog, was equivalent to “holding the trial in an extra large courtroom.”
“And most of the extra audience would be far from California,” Mr. Volokh added, “and therefore not especially likely to be able to effectively harass the witnesses in ways that turn on seeing the witness’s testimony.”
There were other grounds for the court’s 5-to-4 decision, including the majority’s sense that lower-court judges in California have twisted the procedural rules to allow video coverage, a point that resonated with Ms. Rodriguez and
other commentators. But the court also grounded its ruling on a finding that opponents of same-sex marriage “have demonstrated that irreparable harm would likely result” from the transmissions.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"He's just a natural leader -- it's innate, yet he's so modest."

That's Willy Ferrer's former boss Murray Greenberg in the nice Herald article about Ferrer becoming U.S. Attorney. Here's the intro:

When Barack Obama was elected president, Miami's Democratic machine revved up to raise the profile of Wifredo Ferrer -- now the likely nominee for U.S. attorney in Miami.
His résumé was an easy sell: former deputy chief of staff to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, a one-time federal prosecutor in Miami and chief of Miami-Dade County's federal litigation section.
The son of Cuban immigrants also was valedictorian at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High, first in his class at the University of Miami, and president of his class at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
``When the president was elected and it was clear a Democrat was in the White House, the stars aligned,'' said Obama fundraiser J. Ricky Arriola, who met Ferrer, also an Obama backer, when they were both associates 18 years ago at Steel Hector & Davis in Miami.
``But he stands on his own -- no amount of political spinning would have gotten him this position,'' said Arriola, who was appointed by Obama to the president's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. ``Willy worked very hard to get it.''
Attorney General Eric Holder, former deputy to Reno during her tenure in that post, is overseeing a final FBI review of Ferrer this month before the president is expected to nominate him as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Ferrer, 43, married with two sons, would be the fourth lawyer of Cuban descent to fill the prominent job -- but the first appointed by a Democratic president.

The article concludes with more from Murray:

"He hasn't forgotten his background. He is Hialeah. He's very much at home in the Cuban culture, but he's also very much at home anywhere in Miami, and anywhere in the country.''

Our prior coverage of Willy is here .

Friday, January 15, 2010

Slow blogging

Sorry for the slow blogging. We will be back Monday. In the meantime, check out Rick Bascuas' blog -- he's not happy with the Court. South Florida Lawyers and Rumpole also have good posts. Enjoy the warmer weather...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"We have conduct that shocks the conscience."

That was Chief Assistant Federal Defender Michael Caruso (who should be the next PD after Kathy Williams becomes a judge) at the Jose Padilla oral argument in Atlanta discussing the treatment of his client at the Navy brig:

Convicted terrorism plotter Jose Padilla's attorneys asked an appeals court on Tuesday to throw out his conviction, arguing that he was the victim of "outrageous governmental conduct."

Padilla gained notoriety when he was accused in 2002 of plotting to blow up a radioactive "dirty bomb," though those claims were eventually dropped. He was later convicted along with two others in an unrelated terrorism plot.

Padilla's lawyer told the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that his client should have been granted an evidentiary hearing before the 2007 trial that would have proved he was being mistreated by the government.

In court filings and during arguments Tuesday, Padilla's attorney Michael Caruso contended there should have been an evidentiary hearing before the trial that would have proven he is the victim of "outrageous governmental conduct." He said his client was mistreated and tortured on a Navy brig, charges that federal officials have repeatedly denied.

"There can be no dispute that we have that here - extremely prolonged isolation, psychological and physical abuse, prolonged interrogation," said Caruso. "We have conduct that shocks the conscience."

It will be interesting to see what the Court does on this very sensitive case...

In other news:

SFLawyer covers the Federal Bar lunch here.

The Florida Bar is investigating a number of RRA lawyers (via Miami Herald).

And Scott Rothstein was before Judge Cohn today explaining that because he has known his lawyer Marc Nurik for 30 years (Nurik later said this was an exaggeration), he didn't think there could be a conflict:

Also, prosecutors said that Nurik could have exculpatory information since he worked with Rothstein.

But Rothstein told Cohn that he has no reservations about keeping Nurik as his attorney.

``I believe in his loyalty,'' Rothstein said.

When Cohn asked Rothstein if Nurik may attempt to protect other employees at the firm who prosecutors said may have criminal culpability, Rothstein said:

``I've known Mr. Nurik for 30 years, Judge. I don't believe that is a possibility for him.''

After the hearing, Nurik said that 30 years was an exaggeration -- he said he met Rothstein when he was a student in his trial advocacy class at Nova Southeastern University law school.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rothstein racked up 20 Million AMEX points


In other news, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts -- the confrontation case from last term that said lab reports were subject to Crawford and the Confrontation Clause -- may be on the chopping block. From Tony Mauro at

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was not on the Court for the Melendez-Diaz case, sent out mixed signals on whether she would provide the vote needed for reversal. (Her predecessor David Souter was in the majority.) As has become her custom, Sotomayor actively questioned both sides during Monday's argument in Briscoe v. Virginia.
Meanwhile Justice Antonin Scalia, who authored last year's ruling, fought vociferously to save it during the hourlong hearing, and he strongly implied that the four dissenters in Melendez-Diaz had voted to review Briscoe just to overturn the precedent. "Why is this case here except as an opportunity to upset Melendez-Diaz?" Scalia asked, later adding, "I'm criticizing us for taking the case."
In the case before the Court, Mark Briscoe and Sheldon Cypress were prosecuted in Virginia courts on drug charges based in part on "certificates of analysis" from the state laboratory attesting to the amount and type of drugs found during their arrests. They both invoked the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment, which gives defendants the right to be confronted with the witnesses against them. They argued that the drug evidence needed to be presented in person so it could be subjected to cross-examination. The Virginia Supreme Court upheld use of the written certificates because state law allows defendants to call the forensic analysts as witnesses, and Briscoe and Cypress had not done so.
The Court in Melendez-Diaz indicated that an approach like Virginia's, shifting the burden of calling the witness to the defendant, would not satisfy the Sixth Amendment.
Upholding the Virginia approach, said the defendants' lawyer Richard Friedman, would "severely impair the confrontation right and threaten a fundamental transformation in the way Anglo-American trials have been conducted for hundreds of years."
a brief (pdf) filed by state attorneys general asking that Melendez-Diaz be overturned was on the mind of several justices. The brief said the decision has already had an "overwhelming negative impact" on drug prosecutions by requiring short-staffed and underfunded state labs to spend too much time in courtrooms.
When Friedman said that, in fact, "the expense is not inordinate," Justice Samuel Alito Jr. snapped, "How can you say that? We have an amicus brief from 26 states and the District of Columbia arguing exactly the contrary."
Virginia Solicitor General Stephen McCullough, joined by Leondra Kruger, an assistant to the U.S. solicitor general, argued that a system in which the defendant has the burden of calling the forensic witness satisfies the Constitution.
McCullough said that, since the Melendez-Diaz ruling was handed down, Virginia has seen "extensive gamesmanship" by criminal defense lawyers using the requirement of in-person testimony to their advantage.
Sitting at the defendants' counsel table with Friedman was Stanford Law School professor Jeffrey Fisher. Either Fisher or Friedman has argued the defense side in a series of cases that, since 2004, have revived the confrontation clause as a tool for defendants.

UPDATE -- at the argument, there was some talk about the word orthogonal:

University of Michigan law professor Richard Friedman was trying to define the scope of the confrontation clause in oral arguments yesterday when he was called on to define another term: orthogonal.
Friedman used the word when he indicated that a justice’s question was not pertinent to the present case, according to
The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times and the Washington Post. "I think that issue is entirely orthogonal to the issue here," he said. The word is a math term meaning things are perpendicular or at right angles, but Friedman used it to mean that two propositions are irrelevant, the BLT says.
That got the attention of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. "I'm sorry. Entirely what?" he said.
"Orthogonal,” Friedman replied. “Right angle. Unrelated. Irrelevant."
Friedman tried to continue, but Justice Antonin Scalia jumped in. "What was that adjective? I liked that," he said.
"I think we should use that in the opinion," Scalia later added. “Or the dissent,” said Roberts.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Jose Padilla case to be argued in the 11th Circuit this week

And SDFLAers, you won't be able to watch it unless you are in Atlanta tomorrow.

The DBR previews the argument here. Both sides have appealed -- the defense has appealed the conviction and the government has appealed the sentence. Should be interesting to see what the court is focused on during the oral argument.

Here's the intro to the DBR story:

Expect the specter of Osama bin Laden and the torture of detainees to be raised Tuesday during oral arguments in the appeals by reputed dirty bomber Jose Padilla and two co-defendants convicted of sponsoring terrorism abroad. The arguments come just a few weeks after the failed Christmas Day attempt by a Nigerian man linked to the terrorist group al Qaeda to blow up an American airliner. Foremost among the issues before a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta is a decision by the trial judge to allow jurors to see a videotape of al Qaeda leader bin Laden. Attorneys for Padilla, Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi say the trial was forever tainted when the videotape was played because it linked the defendants to the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil even though they were charged with other crimes. “The error in the admission of the bin Laden video arose out of tying the architect of the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, to a case that, as to all defendants, involved conduct which predated these attacks,” Padilla’s attorney, Assistant U.S. Federal Defender Michael Caruso, argues in his brief.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Government: No actual conflict with Mark Nurik

Here's the government's response to Judge Cohn's inquiry regarding whether Marc Nurik is under investigation: he's not. The government explains that he isn't a target or subject in the investigation. But it says:

The government perceives two areas in which Mr. Nurik’s representation of the defendant presents a potential conflict of interest which must be addressed. In examining potential conflicts of interest, the Court’s “goal is to discover whether the defense lawyer has divided loyalties that prevent him from effectively representing the defendant.” United States v. Ross, 33 F.3d 1507, 1523 (11th Cir. 1994). As a former employee of RRA, which has been designated as the Enterprise through which criminal conduct was conducted herein, Mr. Nurik has, at a minimum, professional relationships with other employees of RRA who do have apparent criminal culpability in the case, which could conceivably interfere with the undivided loyalty that Mr. Nurik owes to the defendant.

Secondly,* because Mr. Nurik was an employee at RRA, he may personally be in the position to provide exculpatory evidence on the defendant’s behalf, which would be prohibited if Mr. Nurik persisted in his representation of the defendant.

It is the government’s position that, in the instant case, because the aforesaid constitute potential, rather than actual, conflicts of interest, the defendant may waive those conflicts at a properly-conducted Garcia hearing.

*My question -- is "secondly" a word? Or is it just, "second"?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Congrats to the Hawk

Hometown hero Andre Dawson made the Hall. Sweet!

In SDFLA news, the Scott Rothstein plea has been set, but before Judge Cohn will conduct the change of plea hearing, he is having a McLain hearing next week and requiring the government to state in writing whether it is investigating Rothstein's lawyer Marc Nurik.

I'm in the Middle District today... Will report back this afternoon.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Shocking news

Scott Rothstein to plead guilty. Here's Curt Anderson from the AP:
Disbarred South Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein is negotiating a guilty plea with federal prosecutors on charges of orchestrating a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme using faked legal settlements, his attorney said Tuesday.
"I can tell you that there will be a change of plea to guilty," said Rothstein attorney Marc Nurik. "We don't have any finalization on the details at this point."
Nurik said he will ask a federal judge Wednesday to set a date for the change of plea hearing. Rothstein, 47, pleaded not guilty in December to a five-count indictment accusing him of racketeering, conspiracy and fraud in a scheme that ran from 2005 to 2009.

Lots going on

Thanks to all my peeps for sending lots of tips the last couple of days. There's lots going on:

1. Judge Zloch is in the news. From not letting Bradley Birkenfeld -- the UBS informant -- push off his surrender date to spanking Loring Spolter. The 60 Minutes gambit by Birkenfeld didn't pay off, I guess. As for Spolter, I'm surprised he's getting as much sympathy as he is: check out Bob Norman's blog here.

2. In the wake of a tough year for DOJ, there are new discovery guidelines for prosecutors. Here are the 3 new memos that criminal practitioners on both sides of the aisle will be reading today:

Issuance of Guidance and Summary of Actions Taken in Response to the Report of the Department of Justice Criminal Discovery and Case Management Working Group

Requirement for Office Discovery Policies in Criminal Matters

Guidance for Prosecutors Regarding Criminal Discovery

Tom Withers covers the memos here. A snippet from his summary:

The Guidance Memo then directs that the discovery review should cover the following: 1) the investigative agency’s files, 2) Confidential Informant/Witness/Source files, 3) Evidence and Information Gathered During the Investigation, 4) Documents or Evidence Gathered by Civil Attorneys and/or Regulatory Agencies in Parallel Civil Investigations, 5) Substantive Case Related Communications, 6) Potential Giglio Information Relating to Law Enforcement Witnesses, 7) Potential Giglio Information Relating to Non-Law Enforcement Witnesses and Fed.R.Evid. 806 Declarants, 8) Information Obtained in Witness Interviews, a) Witness Statement Variations and the Duty to Disclose, b) Trial Preparation Meetings With Witnesses and c) Agent Notes.
The Guidance Memo then directs that although prosecutors may delegate the process of review to others, they “should not delegate the disclosure determination itself.”

3. Lots of coverage on the shootings from Las Vegas. Just terrible stuff. Here's the video that is making the internet rounds:

And here's Brian Tannebaum's take:

Today at every federal courthouse security will be a little tighter. People will get a second look, maybe a third. There is no correlation between what happened in Las Vegas yesterday and federal court anywhere else. People get angry at the grocery store, at the post office, and at work. But it's like when someone with a shoe bomb tries to blow up a plane, well, you know the rest.We (those who go to court) all have to deal with what happened yesterday. It will happen again, we all know that. But because we cannot stop a sick, angry litigant from sneaking in with a gun, a shotgun, we have to at least pretend we can. The gunman was dressed in black. Watch "no black" be the next addition to the dress code. We can only sigh and understand that this is the world in which we live.It angers me that today I have to mourn the death of a Court Security Officer, a retired cop now one of the guys in blue jackets that waive familiar lawyers through, and say "how you doin' today counsel?". A guy who just "went to work" right after the new year, and left the courthouse dead. Five seconds before he was probably talking to a prosecutor, defense lawyer, or fellow security officer about his New Year's vacation. or the weekend's football games.Pisses me off.

4. Random thought of the day: Why does Blogger say that internet is misspelled?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Judge Graham and Judge Ungaro go to Uganda

Judges Graham and Ungaro recently participated in a training program for Judges, lawyers, law enforcement personnel, court administrators and others in Jinja, Uganda. Beth Sreenan also participated as the DOJ representative. From what I understand, it was a great experience.

In other Monday afternoon news, the DBR covers the honest services fraud debate here. And they even have a video:

AFTERNOON UPDATE -- Very sad news: there's been a shooting at the Las Vegas Federal Courthouse leaving a court security office dead, and a marshal in critical condition. The shooter has been shot dead. The link above is from the local Las Vegas paper, which also has a video. Terrible news.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Let's hit it -- 2010

Okay, we're back -- Happy New Year!

Batteries charged and all that. Ready for twenty-ten. Not ready for the traffic after the holiday weekend...

Last year we had Ben Kuehne, Scott Rothstein, and of course, Paris Hilton. Who will we have in 2010?

Lots of end-of-year blogging:

The White Collar Blog has some fun end of year posts here and here. The bloggers are really looking forward to seeing what the Supreme Court will do with the honest services cases coming up. More on that from me later.
Even the Chief Justice got into the act with this end-of-year report. Here's the intro:

Chief Justice Warren Burger began the tradition of a yearly report on the federal judiciary in 1970, in remarks he presented to the American Bar Association. He instituted that practice to discuss the problems that federal courts face in administering justice. In the past few years, I have adhered to the tradition that Chief Justice Burger initiated and have provided my perspective on the most critical needs of the judiciary. Many of those needs remain to be addressed. This year, however, when the political branches are faced with so many difficult issues, and when so many of our fellow citizens have been touched by hardship, the public might welcome a year-end report limited to what is essential: The courts are operating soundly, and the nation’s dedicated federal judges are conscientiously discharging their duties. I am privileged and honored to be in a position to thank the judges and court staff throughout the land for their devoted service to the cause of justice. Best wishes in the New Year.

While we're on the Supremes, there's more on Scalia's obsession with the (non)word "choate" from the NYT magazine here.

Why does choate get under Scalia’s skin? Bryan A. Garner, who wrote “Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges” with Scalia, told me the justice is “disgusted” by the term’s faulty etymological basis. As Garner himself puts it in his Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, choate is “a misbegotten word,” since the in- of inchoate is not in fact a negative prefix. Its root, the Latin verb incohare, meaning “to begin, start out,” originated in the metaphor of hitching up a plow, derived from in- (on) and cohum (strap fastened to a yoke).
Stripping the in- from inchoate is known as back-formation, the same process that has given us words like peeve (from peevish), surveil (from surveillance) and enthuse (from enthusiasm). There’s a long linguistic tradition of removing parts of words that look like prefixes and suffixes to come up with “roots” that weren’t there to begin with. Some back-formations work better than others. Unlike Scalia’s improbable analogy of changing insult into sult, back-forming choate is an understandable maneuver for anyone who isn’t a Latin scholar, given that inchoate is in the same semantic ballpark as words that really do have a negative in- prefix, like incoherent and incomplete.
By ruling from the bench on what is and isn’t a word, Scalia is following in the footsteps of his former colleague
William Rehnquist, who once interrupted the argument of a lawyer who dared to use the nonstandard word irregardless. “I feel bound to inform you that there is no word in the English language irregardless,” Rehnquist said. “The word is regardless.”

Our previous coverage here.

What would a 2009 roundup be without another story of prosecutorial misconduct, which led to dismissal of the Blackwater case:

The judge, Ricardo M. Urbina of the District's federal court, found that prosecutors and agents had improperly used statements that the guards provided to the State Department in the hours and days after the shooting. The statements had been given with the understanding that they would not be used against the guards in court, the judge found, and federal prosecutors should not have used them to help guide their investigation. Urbina said other Justice Department lawyers had warned the prosecutors to tread carefully around the incriminating statements.
"In their zeal to bring charges," Urbina wrote in a 90-page opinion, "prosecutors and investigators aggressively sought out statements in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and in the subsequent investigation. In so doing, the government's trial team repeatedly disregarded the warnings of experienced, senior prosecutors, assigned to the case specifically to advise the trial team" on such matters.

As for me, well, I came in second in the blog fantasy league, losing in the finals to RichRodisCuban (by a measly 5 points). Congrats on a good year. Here are the final results:

League Champion
de la Fins
Steel City Crackers
Male Bondage

Over the break, I watched the great movie -- American President. Here's "the speech," which I could watch again and again:

Also saw Avatar, which was unbelievable. I gave it an A.