Friday, er, Wednesday morning docket: Early bird edition

November 26, 2008

bushturkeyDC Dicta will spend this Friday in a tryptophan-induced food coma, so we’ll bring you the docket early.

The more things change, the more they stay the same: Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s senate seat will be temporarily filled by his top aide, and Sen. John McCain said he will run for Senate reelection in 2010. (WaPo, Wapo)

Bigger bailout theory: Meanwhile, the Fed and Treasury plan to lend $800 billion in lending to help stem the financial crisis. (NYT)

Growing docket: The U.S. Supreme Court added two cases to its docket yesterday, but made no action on the pending case questioning the president’s power to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects captured in the U.S. (SCOTUSBlog)

FDIC backs IOLTAs: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will guarantee all client funds deposited in IOLTA accounts, regardless of the amount. The Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, established last month, now includes Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts.  (Lawyers USA)

Good news, bad news: While revised Family and Medical Leave Act regulations appear to be a boon for military families, they have come under fire from labor groups due to stiffer rules for other workers. And on the management side, the changes didn’t go as far as many employers would have liked. (Lawyers USA).

Happy Turkey Day!


Even with latest grants, Bush not big on pardons

November 25, 2008

bushsignAs the end of his administration nears, President George W. Bush added 14 people to the list of pardons he has handed down during his tenure. In the latest move, Bush granted clemency to individuals convicted of a number of offenses, from unauthorized use of a pesticide to bank embezzlement.

There are still hoards of other seeking relief from the president in the final days of his term, including some high profile names like former California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham  and four-term Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, who are both asking the president to cut short their prison terms for corruption.

Even with these pardons, Bush has still issued relatively few reprieves during his tenure – just 171. That is less than half the amount granted by either President Bill Clinton or President Ronald Reagan during their two terms.

Court asked to decide if ‘wardrobe malfunction’ is indecent

November 24, 2008

jacksonjThe U.S. Supreme Court is already reviewing a case involving swear words uttered by the likes of Bono and Cher on national television. Could Janet Jackson’s infamous 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” also be the subject of high court scrutiny?

The Federal Communications Commission sure hopes so. The Agency is appealing a ruling by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals throwing out the case and denying the agency’s bid to impose more than a half-million dollars in fines against CBS, the network that aired the halftime entertainment show where the singer briefly bared a breast.

The appeals court held that “fleeting” images do not rise to the level of indecency.

Monday status conference: Pre-turkey roasting edition

November 24, 2008

The holiday-shortened week will still be a busy one in Washington as the Supreme Court meets tomorrow to decide what new cases to add it its docket, and President-elect Obama unveils his economic team today. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a massive stimulus package could be coming out of Congress.


Back to work: Attorney General Michael Mukasey is feeling well and was back at work this weekend after a scary fainting spell Thursday night. (WaPo)

I beg your pardon: President Bush’s office has been flooded with pardon requests as his term nears an end, but few of those clemency seekers are likely to be set free. (Houston Chronicle)

No paper trail: You still think a big part of being a lawyer is the regular trips chiropractor’s office to deal with the aches and pains of hauling around heavy litigation bags? Think again – lawyers are going paperless. (Lawyers USA)

Friday morning docket

November 21, 2008

mukaseyAttorney General Michael Mukasey is expected to be released today from a hospital, where he was taken last night after collapsing while giving a speech in Washington.

Mukasey was giving what CNN calls a “spirited” speech defending the Bush administration’s legal policies at a Federalist Society event last night when he lost track of his words, began slurring his speech and then collapsed.  An unnamed Justice Department official said there is “no reason” to believe he had a stroke.


New chairman: Rep. John Dingell is out and Rep. Henry Waxman is in as House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman. (NYT)

Decisions, decisions: Sen. Hillary Clinton apparently faces a tough choice: a chairmanship on a Senate committee, or a place in Barack Obama’s cabinet. (NYT)

Life after SG: We now know where former Solicitor General Paul Clement will land: he will rejoin the firm King & Spalding to establish an expanded national appellate practice and a strategic counseling practice.  (ABA Journal)

Still picking Obama’s Supreme Court

November 20, 2008

The eldest members of the nation’s highest court have all but said they aren’t going anywhere when President-elect Barack Obama takes office. Still, picking Supreme Court candidates to fill hypothetical vacancies is a favorite pastime of judicial junkies.

The latest list, complied by Salon, notes that Obama will inherit a Court with two young, freshly-appointed conservatives from President Bush. Obama also faces a promise by Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona to filibuster any Court nominee he deems too liberal (assuming the GOP holds on to its filibuster power when the election counts are done).

Given that, a panel legal experts predict Obama will likely select moderate jurists, lean towards women and people of color to increase the Court’s diversity, and choose young candidates to make a lasting impact on the Court.

The experts’ picks:

sotomayorJudge Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor, a judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal, came from humble Bronx beginnings to rise to one of the country’s most powerful courts. That she is a Hispanic woman is an extra draw.

devalpatrick1Gov. Deval Patrick. Massachusetts’ first black governor and longtime friend of Obama fits the president-elect’s desire to tap people from places other than federal courts. Patrick has experience both in President Clinton’s Justice Department and as an executive at large corporations.

Elena Kagan. The Harvard Law dean has frequently been mentioned as a likely choice.

garlandJudge Merrick Garland. The judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is also an alum of  Clinton’s Justice Department, where he handled the Unibomber and Oklahoma City bombing cases.

Judge Diane P. Wood. As noted by Lawyers USA, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge has the reputation of being a jurist with a record moderate enough to garner support – or at least to avoid strong opposition – from Senate Republicans.

sunsteinCass Sunstein. The legal scholar and Harvard Law professor was an Obama campaign advisor. His belief in narrowly-tailored judicial rulings could win over GOP Senate votes.

granholmGov. Jennifer Granholm. The Michigan governor and campaign advisor (who stood in for Sarah Palin during V.P.-elect Joe Biden’s debate prep) has a strong executive resumé that counters her lack of judicial experience.

Other names on the list include Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears, Yale Law School dean Harold Hongju Koh, and U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo.

Strong support for Holder, but Rich questions emerge

November 20, 2008

Less than 24 hours after news broke that President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Eric Holder to lead the Justice Department, the focal point for Senate lawmakers is Holder’s role in the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich on the last day of the Clinton Administration.

Senate members on both sides of the aisle yesterday touted Holder’s credentials for he job. Holder held the number two spot at Justice under President Clinton, confirmed to the position without a single negative vote. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy and GOP committee member Orrin Hatch said they would support Holder based on his past reputation and experience.

But GOP Sen. Charles E. Grassley, while noting Holder is qualified, said he would have to look into Marc Rich matter more closely before he decides.

“It’s going to be much more controversial than a new administration ought to try to put forth,” Grassley said according to The Washington Post.

Holder has said that, in the last days of Clinton’s administration when he was serving as acting attorney general, he didn’t look closely enough at the petition of Rich, who had fled the country to avoid charges of evading millions of dollars in taxes. Rich’s wife, Denise, was a hefty donor to Clinton’s campaign. Holder supported the pardon, an opinion Clinton later said he relied heavily on, but later regretted the dicision, calling it “bad judgment.”