Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Judge Mark Fuller Strikes Back...

...and claims that his drunk wife was faking it on the 911 call.  The "Brad Blog" has all of the details:

The Birmingham attorney for U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller says that, despite 911 audio which seems to suggest otherwise, his client "never hit, punched, slapped or kicked" his wife Kelli in an Atlanta hotel room last year. The federal judge was simply defending himself from the "hysterical" rage of his wife who, the attorney now tells The BRAD BLOG, blatantly lied to police about the entire incident before his client was subsequently arrested on charges of domestic battery.
Moreover, Barry Ragsdale tells us, Kelli Fuller was "drunk" when she called 911. He says "slap" sounds heard clearly on the audio tape as she told the 911 dispatcher she was being beaten and needed an ambulance were either an attempt by Judge Fuller's wife to "imitate the sounds of slapping" or just "random background noises produced by someone who was intoxicated and hysterical."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Another area where our criminal justice system is failing

This time it's prisons.  The N.Y. Times Magazine took a close look at our prison system and it isn't pretty. The first article is about our SuperMax.  It's really really bad:
Inmates at the ADX spend approximately 23 hours of each day in solitary confinement. Jones had never been so isolated before. Other prisoners on his cellblock screamed and banged on their doors for hours. Jones said the staff psychiatrist stopped his prescription for Seroquel, a drug taken for bipolar disorder, telling him, “We don’t give out feel-good drugs here.” Jones experienced severe mood swings. To cope, he would work out in his cell until he was too tired to move. Sometimes he cut himself. In response, guards fastened his arms and legs to his bed with a medieval quartet of restraints, a process known as four-pointing.
 The second is about Norway's prison system and its attempt to rehabilitate:
To anyone familiar with the American correctional system, Halden seems alien. Its modern, cheerful and well-­appointed facilities, the relative freedom of movement it offers, its quiet and peaceful atmosphere — these qualities are so out of sync with the forms of imprisonment found in the United States that you could be forgiven for doubting whether Halden is a prison at all. It is, of course, but it is also something more: the physical expression of an entire national philosophy about the relative merits of punishment and forgiveness.
The treatment of inmates at Halden is wholly focused on helping to prepare them for a life after they get out. Not only is there no death penalty in Norway, there are no life sentences. The maximum term for any crime is 21 years — even for Anders Behring Breivik, who is responsible for probably the deadliest recorded rampage in the world, in which he killed 77 people and injured hundreds more in 2011 by detonating a bomb at a government building in Oslo and then opening fire at a nearby summer camp. “Better out than in” is an unofficial motto of the Norwegian Correctional Service, which makes a reintegration guarantee to all released inmates. It works with other government agencies to secure a home, a job and access to a supportive social network for each inmate before release; Norway’s social safety net also provides health care, education and a pension to all citizens. With one of the highest per capita gross domestic products of any country in the world, thanks to the profits from oil production in the North Sea, Norway is in a good position to provide all of this, and spending on the Halden prison runs to more than $93,000 per inmate per year, compared with just $31,000 for prisoners in the United States, according to the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization.
 That might sound expensive. But if the United States incarcerated its citizens at the same low rate as the Norwegians do (75 per 100,000 residents, versus roughly 700), it could spend that much per inmate and still save more than $45 billion a year. At a time when the American correctional system is under scrutiny — over the harshness of its sentences, its overreliance on solitary confinement, its racial disparities — citizens might ask themselves what all that money is getting them, besides 2.2 million incarcerated people and the hardships that fall on the families they leave behind. The extravagant brutality of the American approach to prisons is not working, and so it might just be worth looking for lessons at the opposite extreme, here in a sea of blabaerskog, or blueberry forest.
 Our system clearly isn't working.  Both Republicans and Democrats agree on this.  Think about that for a second -- both sides, who can't agree on anything, agree our criminal justice system is not working: from overcriminalization, to our prisons, to our sentencing guidelines, to Brady issues, and on and on.  People want change.

But our judges are awfully quiet on these topics.  Sure, the Supreme Court talks the talk about overcriminalization (Yeager), and the occasional judge (see, e.g., Judge Gleeson and Judge Kozinski) actually does something about the executive going too far.  But by and large, the judiciary hasn't stepped up as a check against the executive branch on criminal justice issues, and unfortunately, that's why we find ourselves where we do. 

Come on, Southern District of Florida Judges! Giving a 3 or 6 month variance here and there isn't going to change the system.  It's time to act and make a difference.  Where the government overcharges, dismiss an indictment.  Where the sentencing guidelines are absurd for first time non-violent offenders, give a reasonable sentence that doesn't include jail.  Where our executive branch -- including BOP -- goes too far, step up!  Avengers Assemble!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

SDFLA ranks second in courtroom hours per judge

Here's an interesting piece on judicial productivity by Judge William Young and Jordan Singer.  It discusses how courtroom hours are way down across the board.  But our District still has quite a bit of in court hours, and we rank second in that category at 661 hours per judge in 2013.

Thanks to my one of my favorite tipsters for the info.

Here's another interesting piece by Josh Blackmon on the "disrespectful dissent."  As you can imagine, Justice Scalia leads the way with dissents without respect:

At the end of Justice Scalia’s dissent in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, he dropped the jurisprudential mic.Accordingly, I dissent.Much like Rodney Dangerfield, Justice Breyer’s majority opinion gets no respect. Justice Scalia is no stranger to the disrespectful dissent. ***In first place (surprising no one) is Justice Scalia with 8 disrespectful dissents (counting the Alabama case). Second place was Justice Breyer with 4. RBG had had 3. Thomas and the Chief each had one. The Chief’s dissent was in his first year on the Court! Interestingly, Justices Stevens, Souter, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan had zero. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

11th Circuit argument centers on "dildos and cock rings"

No joke.  While David Ovalle was waiting to see the Lolita arguments, he got to see Paul Petruzzi argue that his client -- a drama teacher convicted of attempting to have sex with a 16-year old former student -- was prejudiced by the passing around of this "highly inflammatory evidence" which was found in his client's car.  Petruzzi didn't hold back, openly discussing the evidence during his argument.  Ovalle had some fun with this on his twitter feed.  And Petruzzi got the last word.

Meantime, that wasn't the only argument with some excitement, as the Lolita supporters showed up this morning:
The government “rubber stamps” the license for the Miami Seaquarium despite the park keeping Lolita the killer whale in inhumane conditions, an animal rights group told a federal appeals court Tuesday.The “highly intelligent” whale is kept in a tank that is too small and “without shelter from the hot Miami sun and without the company of another orca,” a lawyer for the Animal Defense Fund told a three-judge panel Tuesday.Tuesday’s court battle was the latest push in a long-running campaign to free Lolita, a 20-foot, 7,000-pound killer whale that has performed at the Virginia Key marine park for over four decades. The whale, captured in the cool ocean waters of the Pacific Northwest, was recently added to a federal endangered species list, a protection given to her wild family nearly a decade ago.The court hearing was packed with Lolita supporters, some wearing T-shirts emblazoned with her name.Over the decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has routinely renewed the Seaquarium exhibitor’s license — a practice that became the focal point of a 2012 lawsuit filed by the ADF and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.At issue: Lolita’s supporters believe the annual license renewal flies in the face of the 1967 Animal Welfare Act, which calls for the “humane” care and treatment of marine mammals. Seaquarium managers have repeatedly rebuffed the accusations, saying the killer whale, long a top attraction, is well care for and healthy.A South Florida federal judge threw out the initial lawsuit but Lolita supporters appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the 11th Circuit, which granted Tuesday’s oral arguments held in downtown Miami.
Gotta love Miami!

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article16159679.html#storylink=cpy

Lolita the whale to face 11th Circuit today

David Ovalle has the story:
A federal appeals court will entertain arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit challenging the captivity of Lolita, the killer whale who has performed at the Miami Seaquarium for decades.Animal-rights activists have long argued that Lolita, captured in the Pacific Northwest decades ago, lives in a tank far smaller than those holding other captive killer whales. The Animal Legal Defense Fund and others sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture but lost.Their appeal will be heard Tuesday morning in Miami by judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals of the 11th [Circuit]. Last month, federal authorities added the aging whale – who has been in captivity for more than 40 years – to the endangered species list, a protection given her wild family nearly a decade ago.

Monday, March 23, 2015

“Cattywampus, onomatopoeia and antidisestablishmentarianism. Now, backto your question”

That was Wisconsin Badger Nigel Hayes having some fun with a stenographer at a press conference after the game:

When asked about his unexpected words, Hayes explained his fascination with the stenographer’s job. “She does an amazing job of typing words, sometimes if words are not in her dictionary, maybe if I say soliloquy right now, she may have to work a little bit harder to type that word,” Hayes said, “or quandary, zephyr, Xylophone, things like that, that make her job really interesting.”

I thought our court reporters would get a kick out of that.

Meantime, it's spring break, so the traffic is supposed to be good this week.  But not so much (via the Herald):
A major shift in traffic on the Dolphin Expressway will disrupt driving routines as construction enters a new phase at one of South Florida’s busiest highway interchanges.Starting early Sunday, traffic going west on State Road 836, which now stays to the right, will be shifted to the left lanes. And traffic headed to State Road 826, the Palmetto Expressway, West Flagler Street or Northwest 87th Avenue/NW 12th Street will be shifted to the right lanes.The shift is only the latest major milestone in the $560 million project to overhaul the massive interchange linking 836 with 826, partly funded by federal stimulus money. The construction project, which began in 2009, is expected to be finished in the first three months of 2016.The change on Sunday, when traffic is lighter, could cause confusion, congestion and delays among the commuting crowd during Monday’s rush hour and beyond.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article15083315.html#storylink=cpy
And for those stuck in traffic, here's the question of the day -- should you be able to have a specialty license plate with a confederate flag.  The Supreme Court is hearing argument this morning.  From the AP:

The Supreme Court is weighing a free-speech challenge to Texas' refusal to issue a license plate bearing the Confederate battle flag.Specialty plates are big business in Texas, where drivers spent $17.6 million last year to choose from among more than 350 messages the state allows. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles says nearly 877,000 vehicles among more than 19 million cars, pickup trucks and motorcycles registered in Texas carry a specialty plate.But a state motor vehicle board turned down a request by the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans for a license plate with its logo bearing the battle flag, similar to plates issued by eight other states that were members of the Confederacy, as well as Maryland.The justices are hearing arguments Monday over whether the state violated the group's First Amendment rights.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Judge Hoeveler event

I think Judge Hoeveler has now broken the record for awards/events in a judge's honor!  Here's a picture from the St. Thomas event this week (by Melissa Visconti):

Thursday, March 19, 2015

New Clerk of the 11th Circuit

I missed this announcement back in February:
Chief Judge Ed Carnes has announced that Douglas J. Mincher will succeed John P. Ley as the Clerk of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Mr. Mincher has served as chief deputy clerk of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia since 2010. He holds a BA degree in political science and history from Youngstown State University and earned his MS degree in Judicial Administration from the University of Denver, College of Law. Mr. Mincher has nearly 25 years of experience as a court administrator in federal, state, and municipal courts. He is married to Diana Mincher, and they are the parents of three adult children.


Gotta love her expression in Pelosi's selfie:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

More judgeships in the SDFLA?

The U.S. Courts Judicial Conference is recommending 3 more judgeships in our District.  From the press release:
In other action, today the Conference adopted the results of the biennial judgeship survey conducted by its Judicial Resources Committee, which identified the need for five new appellate and 68 district judgeships. The Judicial Conference has provided the Director of the Administrative Office with the authority to seek separate legislation for Conference-approved judgeships in selected districts, providing the Judiciary with more flexibility in pursuing new judgeships in courts with the greatest needs.
Since the last comprehensive judgeship bill was enacted nearly 25 years ago, the number of cases filed in the U.S. courts of appeals increased by 28 percent and the number of cases filed in the district courts increased by 41 percent – civil filings grew by 40 percent and criminal filings by 43 percent.
The 26-member Judicial Conference is the policy-making body for the federal court system. By statute the Chief Justice serves as its presiding officer and its members are the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch.

H/T Glenn Sugameli

Monday, March 16, 2015

What will happen to Judge Fuller?

We may find out this week.  From the LA Times:
Federal District Judge Mark E. Fuller was controversial even before he was arrested on allegations of beating his wife last year.
The Alabama judge was criticized for sitting on cases brought by the government even as his aviation company was getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded business. Appointed by a Republican, he was denounced for putting a former Democratic governor in manacles after a corruption conviction.
He was the talk of the courthouse for having an extramarital affair with his courtroom assistant, and for his messy public divorce.
Fuller, 56, is now battling bipartisan calls to resign over a fight he had seven months ago with the same former courtroom assistant, whom he'd married. The argument started after she accused Fuller of cheating on her with his law clerk.
Adding to Fuller's problems was that a few weeks after he was arrested, video was released of NFL star running back Ray Rice knocking his fiancee unconscious, putting a national spotlight on spousal abuse. The Baltimore Ravens dropped Rice.
"If an NFL player can lose his job because of domestic violence, then a federal judge should definitely not be allowed to keep his lifetime appointment to the federal bench," said Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.).
Sewell and both of Alabama's Republican senators, along with other members of the state's congressional delegation, have called on Fuller to step down.
Fuller's judicial career now rests largely with a five-judge review panel that has investigated his behavior and is expected to release its findings this month. A House of Representatives committee is gearing up for possible impeachment hearings against Fuller, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Bush in 2002.
Retired Alabama federal Judge U.W. Clemon, who as chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Birmingham dealt with similar ethical issues, said that Fuller's constitutional appointment may not be enough to save his job.
When a judge's behavior results in him "being thrown in jail like a common criminal, that's not within the conduct that is condoned by the Constitution," Clemon said.
Kelli Fuller, the former court assistant who was divorced from Fuller after the incident, has not spoken in public about what happened at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Atlanta last August. But her version is amply represented in police files.
"He's beating on me! Please help me," Kelli Fuller pleaded to a police dispatcher, who called for an ambulance and could be heard telling a co-worker, "I can hear him hitting her now."
The policeman who entered the hotel room found her with "visible lacerations to her mouth and forehead" and said the room smelled of alcohol.
"Mrs. Fuller stated when she confronted him about their issues, he pulled her hair and threw her to the ground and kicked her," the police report said. "Mrs. Fuller also stated she was dragged around the room and Mr. Fuller hit her in the mouth several times with his hands."
Judge Fuller was taken to jail, where he spent the night on a charge of misdemeanor battery. But he avoided a criminal record by agreeing to a pretrial diversion program, including a drug and alcohol evaluation and 24 sessions of domestic violence counseling.
Nebraska federal court Judge Richard Kopf, who writes a blog about judicial issues, called it "a sweet deal."
Hope everyone enjoyed Pi day this weekend.  Get ready for March Madness this week.  (And yes, the Canes were robbed.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Briefer briefs?

From the front page of the WSJ:
Before the current limit was established in the 1990s, briefs were capped at 50 pages, a rule dating back to when attorneys used typewriters. According to a 2,600-word “short history” of the last rule change prepared by a University of Pennsylvania law professor, lawyers were skirting the page limit by squeezing the space between lines, letters and words. So they decided a word limit would better discourage verbiage.
A judicial advisory committee made up of judges, lawyers and law professors selected by Chief Justice John Roberts now says that page-to-word conversion miscalculated how many words were in an average 50-page brief. The committee conducted a study finding that a typical page runs about 250 words. It did a new calculation—250 multiplied by 50—to come up with the 12,500 limit.
Lawyers say they’re skeptical of that logic. “Identifying a purported mathematical error that occurred 15 years ago does not provide a sound basis to change current policy,” wrote the Council of Appellate Lawyers, a nationwide group affiliated with the American Bar Association.
Michael Gans, clerk of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, who oversaw the word-count study, says the process couldn’t have been more painstaking. It was carried out by a high-school graduate who interned at his office and spent a recent summer in a cubicle counting every single word of 200 printed-out briefs that served as the sample.
“I felt sorry for her, but that’s what she did all summer,” Mr. Gans said. “She still wants to go to law school.”
“It is harder to write a short opinion than a long opinion,” said Judge Silberman. “Perhaps that explains why some lawyers object. I think the computer is a bit problematic. It’s too easy to write too much.”

Justice Sotomayor spoke yesterday at Davidson:
She told a basketball court of seated students that she’d spoken at “countless” colleges and universities, and Davidson was the first school to seat students “front and center.”
Pointing to alumni and townspeople in the bleachers, she said: “Generally those guys are down here.”
The students cheered.
Sotomayor, the court’s third woman and first Hispanic justice, spoke honestly about her life and how her experiences have affected her nearly 25 years as a judge.
She was raised in public housing projects in New York’s South Bronx, primarily by her mother when her father suddenly died when she was 9.
After high school, she earned a scholarship to Princeton University, where “when I arrived, I thought I was an alien – not in a different land, but in a different world.”
“The people there had a better education than I did then,” she said. “They were taking spring breaks and flying places and they were traveling to Europe. Europe was a place I thought I’d never see.”
She said the current court could use more diversity of experiences. All its justices went to Ivy League schools, most are from the Northeast and none were defense lawyers before they took the bench. Few were small firm practitioners and many were academic lawyers. None, except for Sotomayor, had state government experience.
“That’s a bad thing,” she said. “We’re being asked to make decisions that affect every aspect of life. We’re reviewing state criminal law convictions every single day. It’s valuable to have someone there who can explain some of that.”

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article13844528.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article13844528.html#storylink=cpy
 Oh yeah, and two terror brothers pleaded yesterday before Beth Bloom.  From Paula McMahon:

Two brothers from Oakland Park pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges Thursday, admitting they plotted a terrorist attack on landmarks in New York City and later assaulted two deputy U.S. Marshals while in custody.
Raees Alam Qazi, 22, and Sheheryar Alam Qazi, 32, both pleaded guilty in federal court in Miami to one count of conspiring to provide support to terrorists and conspiring to assault two federal employees. The younger brother pleaded guilty to an additional charge of attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida.
The Qazi brothers, who wore beige prison scrubs and were handcuffed, shackled and under tight security in court, both said "Guilty" when asked how they wanted to plead. They said little more than "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am" in response to the judge's questions. Both men have thick beards, Sheheryar Qazi's hair was closely shaved and the younger brother's hair is about the same length as when he was arrested.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chief Judge K. Michael Moore speaks to Federal Bar Association

It was a big turnout to see the new Chief in his first FBA talk, which went through the numbers of the district.  There were even graphs:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Supreme Court to review Florida death penalty

The Supreme Court granted cert on the following issue:

HURST, TIMOTHY L. V. FLORIDA: The motion of petitioner for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted. The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted limited to the following question: Whether Florida's death sentencing scheme violates the Sixth Amendment or the Eighth Amendment in light of this Court's decision in Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002).

Judge Martinez may be vindicated after all.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Weekend News and Notes

1. The biggest news this weekend is that charges are likely coming against Senator Menendez. Via the Miami Herald:
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez’s longtime friendship with a wealthy Palm Beach County eye doctor may soon come back to haunt the powerful Democrat from New Jersey.

The Department of Justice plans to file corruption charges against Menendez in the coming weeks, capping a two-year probe of his relationship with ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, CNN and several major news outlets reported on Friday. And Melgen — a generous donor of trips and campaign money to Menendez — is under a separate investigation himself by a federal grand jury in West Palm Beach on allegations that his practice over-billed Medicare by millions of dollars.

Prosecutors and the FBI have been focusing on Menendez’s efforts on behalf of his political benefactor, including personally trying to resolve the physician’s high-stakes billing dispute with the taxpayer-funded Medicare program. During the period the senator sought to help the doctor, Menendez went on several trips with Melgen to the Dominican Republic on the physician’s private plane and stayed at his resort-area home in 2010 — all without reporting the gifts.

As the controversy about their relationship escalated two years ago, the senator quietly wrote a personal check to reimburse Melgen for the unreported trips, but that didn’t end several on-going federal probes.

On Friday evening, Menendez insisted during a news conference in his home state that he has done nothing wrong.

“Let me be very clear, I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law,” he said. “Every action that I and my office have taken for the last 23 years that I have been privileged to be in the United States Congress has been based on pursuing the best policies for the people of New Jersey and this entire country.”

2. A businessman who helped smuggle Yasiel Puig to the U.S. was sentenced to 1 month by Judge Scola. From Curt Anderson:
A businessman who helped Los Angeles Dodgers star Yasiel Puig get out of Cuba to sign a rich American baseball contract was sentenced Friday to a month in prison and five months' house arrest for violating U.S. immigration laws.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola on Friday gave Gilberto Suarez, 41, less than the one-year maximum partly because his main role in the 2012 smuggling venture was having Puig driven in a taxi from Mexico City to the Texas border. Other conspirators, including boat captains and members of Mexico's violent Zetas drug gang, were involved in other stages of the trip.

Scola also said he was showing Suarez some leniency because Puig and others in the smuggling trip were threatened by the Zetas and possibly by corrupt Mexican police.

"I think the safety of the player and the other aliens was also paramount in his mind," the judge said.

Defense attorney Bijan Parwaresch said Suarez initially sought only to assist Puig in signing a Major League Baseball contract. Cuban players who defect often establish residency in a third country, such as Mexico, so they can sign lucrative free agent deals rather than smaller contracts if they come directly to the U.S. and are subjected to baseball's draft.

Where Suarez went wrong, he added, was deciding to take Puig to the U.S. border without immigration papers. Under the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, Cubans who reach U.S. territory are usually permitted to stay, even if their arrival is violates the law.

"It didn't start out with a criminal intent," Parwaresch said at a hearing. "It ended up as a criminal action."

3. Lazer Collazo to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, Jay Weaver reports:

Prominent Miami-Dade County baseball coach Lazaro “Lazer” Collazo plans to plead guilty to newly filed misdemeanor charges of possessing unlawful steroids, according to his defense attorney.

Collazo was among eight defendants who were originally charged in federal court with conspiring to distribute steroids through a Coral Gables anti-aging clinic, which was at the center of a Major League Baseball scandal.

Collazo, 51, was accused of distributing them to high school athletes, while the other seven were charged with supplying them to MLB players — including New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, a onetime Miami-Dade high school standout.

Collazo’s defense attorney, Frank Quintero, confirmed Friday to the Miami Herald that his client has agreed to the terms of a plea deal with the U.S. attorney’s office that would recommend two years of probation. His change of plea hearing is scheduled for March 16.

4. SCOTUSblog got a day pass to the press box last week. Volokh has the story on the interesting work around:

A little wrinkle in the long-running quest of the renowned SCOTUSblog to secure credentials for its coverage of the Supreme Court: Today SCOTUSblog correspondent Amy Howe sat in the court’s press section by virtue of a day pass that the court has begun issuing to the blog. It’s the second such pass that SCOTUSblog has used, according to Publisher Tom Goldstein — with the first instance being Monday’s oral arguments on Arizona’s approach to redistricting.

“They have really tried to accommodate us,” says SCOTUSblog’s Goldstein. “They’re not trying to get in our way.”

SCOTUSblog has expended a grueling effort for credentials in the Supreme Court chamber, a process complicated by Goldstein himself: He’s both the publisher of the blog as well as a frequent Supreme Court practitioner as a partner in Goldstein & Russell, P.C. Just last month, the high court issued a new policy on press credentials that officially stiff-arms SCOTUSblog on getting its own credential but should make room for its veteran correspondent, Lyle Denniston, to continue covering proceedings with what’s known as a “hard pass.”

Denniston, a 57-year veteran of high court reporting, has long held his hard pass pursuant to his association with Boston NPR station WBUR. He’s now applying for a new pass under the auspices of his independent blog, “Lyle Denniston Law News.”

Here’s how the workaround operates: Denniston’s posts appear first on his eponymous blog, unedited. Then SCOTUSblog staff picks them up, edits them and posts a version on SCOTUSblog. Not all of the content on Denniston’s blog makes this migration. The arrangement allows the court to ensure that Denniston is acting as an independent journalist for his own outlet and not as an agent of Goldstein’s firm through SCOTUSblog, says Goldstein.

The day passes also help. Today, SCOTUSblog correspondent Howe used it to take in the entire oral argument in King v. Burwell, the much-watched case that threatens federal subsidies in 30-odd states that declined to set up their own health-care exchanges. Howe teamed up with a well-coordinated SCOTUSblog team, as Denniston also reported from the press section and two other SCOTUSbloggers took in the proceedings via piped-in audio in the Supreme Court’s lawyers’ lounge.

Friday, March 06, 2015

See you Monday

Sorry for the slow blogging the last few weeks. Lots of travel and work. But will be back to normal on Monday. Please email me any tips/stories/trial updates!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Cooperating witness killed in Haiti

Jacqueline Charles has the sad story here:

Oriel Jean — the former security chief of ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and whose testimony in U.S. courts a decade ago helped take down key figures in Haiti’s drug trafficking underworld — was shot to death Monday in Port-au-Prince.
Haiti National Police Spokesman Gary Desrosiers confirmed Jean’s murder between the Delmas 29 and 30 neighborhoods not far from the international airport. Desrosiers said he was shot twice by three men on a motorcycle. News of Jean’s death and photos of his bullet-riddled body lying face down in a pool of blood on the street quickly spread through social media.
A friend of Jean’s who declined to be named for fear of reprisals told the Miami Herald that Jean was riding with a Dominican co-worker when the vehicle was struck from behind by a motorcycle. Jean was gunned down after he stepped out of the vehicle to check the damage.
“Nothing happened to the Dominican guy. [Jean] was the main target,” the friend said.
In 2005, Jean was sentenced to three years in prison in a money-laundering plea deal after helping the U.S. Attorney’s Office convict several Haitians and Colombians of moving tons of Colombian cocaine through Haiti to the United States. Among those convicted were Haitian former top police officers — some of whom are back in Haiti after serving their sentences — and a powerful drug kingpin, Serge Edouard.
Edouard received a life sentence after Jean testified that the drug trafficker gave him and other law-enforcement officials hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect his cocaine shipments to the United States.
At Jean’s November 2005 sentencing, U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez complimented him for his “good work.” In his court testimony, Jean indirectly implicated Aristide and also testified against him before the grand jury. Aristide was never charged and the statue of limitations ran out before U.S. law-enforcement officials could prove that he collected kickbacks from traffickers.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

11th Circuit investitures

The Daily Report covers them here:
Undeterred by wintry weather, federal appeals court judges gathering in Atlanta this week officially welcomed their two newest colleagues with kind words, food and drink.
A common theme for the separate investitures of Judges Julie Carnes and Jill Pryor was their both having the same last names as more senior members of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
"I know if you were here Monday you're tired of names jokes," quipped Chief Judge Ed Carnes at the second of the two ceremonies.
They also have long-standing relationships with the court. Speaking at Jill Pryor's investiture, Judge William Pryor Jr. noted that with the two new additions, seven of the court's 11 active judges once clerked at the court or its predecessor court, the Fifth Circuit. "Becoming a circuit judge was the ultimate way to return here for life," Bill Pryor said.
It has been a running joke that the last names of the two new judges from Georgia would create confusion. The chief judge said he and Julie Carnes had discussed how to minimize the confusion when she joined the circuit court, saying the incoming judge had pointed out that he was five months older than she and suggested they use "Carnes the Elder" and "Carnes the Younger." The chief judge instead has taken to calling his new colleague "Judge Julie."
"If there's any name confusion, it can only benefit me," he added. In welcoming her, the chief judge also said no judge had ever come to the Eleventh Circuit with the 22 years' experience as a district court judge that she brings. "We have never had a more qualified and experienced person," he said.
Chief Judge Thomas Thrash Jr. of the Northern District of Georgia also spoke, along with Willis Whichard, a former North Carolina Supreme Court justice who investigated Julie Carnes' qualifications for American Bar Association committee that rates judicial candidates. (She received a "unanimously well qualified" rating.) Thrash said his former colleague "was totally dedicated to doing what was in the best interests of the court."
Judge Julie Carnes referred to the chief as "Chief Judge Ed" and "my doppelgänger." She recalled how confusion between her and Ed Carnes began long ago, when she was being vetted for the district court job in the early 1990s. Her father, the late Fulton County State Court Judge Charles Carnes, saw a headline that read, "Carnes Being Considered for Eleventh Circuit." Not realizing the headline referred to Ed Carnes, instead of his daughter, her father "was thrilled ... then he started reading."
She also noted that a judge from another circuit apparently confused the two at one point, quoting an opinion written by Ed Carnes but referring to the judge by a female pronoun. And, in her own moment of self-deprecation, she said that she had stopped correcting lawyers who approached her at bar events and praised her writing style.
Julie Carnes said joining the appellate court amounted to a "homecoming," noting she had witnessed her first oral argument in the building that now houses the Eleventh Circuit when she was clerking for then-Fifth Circuit Judge Lewis Morgan, and delivered her first oral argument there, as well. She recalled that her father had briefly worked as a mail sorter in the building, which used to be a post office. "What a great country we live in," she said.
After Carnes' investiture on Monday afternoon, the judges remained in town for en banc oral arguments and meetings, returning to the en banc courtroom for another investiture late Wednesday afternoon.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Terrorism cases make bad law

In U.S. v. Said, covered by the Herald, the government is again asking to disguise a witness in an upcoming trial:

Prosecutors have taken the rare step of asking a federal judge to shut out the public during the testimony of two FBI undercover employees at an upcoming Miami trial of a Kenyan man accused of funneling money to al-Qaida splinter groups.The public, including the media, would be allowed to watch their testimony on closed circuit TV in a separate room in the downtown courthouse — but their images would be obscured in some manner during the terrorism trial.Prosecutors also want to allow the witnesses to be lightly disguised, such as wearing a closely cropped beard and black-rimmed glasses. One CIA officer did that during the 2007 Miami trial of al-Qaida recruit Jose Padilla. And they want the witnesses to use undercover pseudonyms to protect their true identities.The goal, sought by the FBI, is to safeguard the bureau’s counterterrorism operatives and investigations.“The defense shall be prohibited from asking any questions seeking personal identifying information from or about the [undercover employees],” the U.S. attorney’s office requested in a motion filed in February.The defense attorney for Mohamed Hussein Said, arrested in his native country after being targeted by an Internet sting operation based in Miami, views the government's demands as a violation of her client’s constitutional right to a fair trial — akin to a star chamber.Miami attorney Silvia Piñera-Vazquez countered in a court response that the “government’s actions in this case are eerily similar” to the prosecution described in Franz Kafka’s The Trial.In the classic 1937 novel, the attorney noted last week, “a bank teller was arrested and prosecuted by a remote, unidentified authority, of an unidentified crime, by unidentified witnesses, and eventually executed.”Piñera-Vazquez argues that expelling the public from the courtroom during the testimony of the “secret” witnesses and prohibiting any questions about their true identity “insulates” them from “any meaningful cross-examination, thus creating a unilateral, secret prosecution.”Last year, at a federal terrorism trial in Tampa, a judge fashioned a compromise after the Tampa Tribune objected to the prosecution’s efforts to bar the public during the testimony of an undercover employee. The arrangement allowed for an open courtroom, but with the employee testifying behind a screen so that no one in the gallery could see the witness.