Monday status conference: Egg rolls, billable hours and a puppy

April 13, 2009

bo1This week begins on the leisurely note for most of the folks at the top of the three government branches. The Supreme Court and Congress are in recess until April 20. And today the White House hosts the event has become the hottest ticket in town: the Easter Egg Roll. Perhaps Bo, the First Pup, will make an appearance.

And as you search for recipes to help you use those leftover boiled eggs and latkes this week, take a look at some legal news:

Point-counterpoint: The federal judiciary will soon debate a controversial Rule 56 change that would set up  a “point-counterpoint” procedure,  requiring the moving party to furnish an enumerated statement of facts with citations to the record for each statement of fact. The opposing party would then respond by accepting or disputing each statement of fact. The possible result? “A lot more billable hours (for the defense bar), but I don’t think it will help judges,” says one attorney. (Lawyers USA)

Pirate prosecution: The Justice Department is mulling whether Washington or New York will be the site of the criminal trial of to the Somali pirate captured in the dramatic rescue of an American merchant vessel captain that left three other pirates dead. It would be the nation’s first piracy case in recent memory. (AP)

Teflon AG: Last week was not a good one for the Justice Department – yet unlike his recent predecessors Attorney General Eric Holder isn’t being skewered over the misfortunes – he’s even garnering praise. (Legal Times)

FDA safety check: Federal regulators will ask makers of some of the riskiest medical devices to prove that their products were safe and effective – a step that critics have said was long overdue. (NYT)


AAJ CEO stepping down

April 9, 2009

This week Jon Haber, CEO of the American Association for Justice, the country’s largest trial lawyers group, announced he is stepping down.

Haber, who has held the position for four years, said that the time was right for a change at the top, given the current “pro-civil justice President and Congress.”

“Because we are in such a strong position, I have decided this is the best time for me to step down to take on new challenges,” Haber said in a statement.  “The new pro-civil justice environment has put the organization in the strongest position it has been in a generation.  This time period also presents opportunities for those seeking the next challenge in their careers when it comes to fighting for justice and progressive values.  I am considering several very promising opportunities.”

Attorney bloggers on had praise for Haber’s work. “He brought the AAJ into the current century by updating its use of technology and making it appreciate what needed to be done to better advocate the ‘People Over Profits’ philosophy of the organization,” wrote attorney Mike Schneider.

Mike Bryant added: “Jon was the leader in bringing the organization into the advanced technical world. As an organization of and for plaintiff lawyers it is a hard fought battle with insurance, pharmaceutical, and big business interests.”

No word yet on who Haber’s replacement will be.

Monday status conference: Championship edition

April 6, 2009

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court could announce new grants of certiorari and/or freshly minted opinions. We’ll bring you more on any newsworthy developments here later.

President Barack Obama wraps up his weeklong European tour in Turkey this morning. When he returns he’ll take a look at the budget passed last week by Congress to see all the ways it differs from his own plan.msu

Meanwhile, as you plan your snacks for today’s NCAA championship game (Great Lakes State-born DC Dicta isn’t even going to try to be impartial today) here is a look at the legal news kicking off this week:

Writing’s on the drywall: Lawmakers have introduced a bill that would impose an immediate ban on defective drywall being imported from China, and an immediate recall on such materials already in the country.  A number of class action lawsuits have already been filed over the materials. (Lawyers USA)

Crash deaths curtailed: Here’s an upshot of the terrible economy – fewer people are driving on the roads, and as a result crash-related fatalities are at their lowest levels since the Kennedy administration. (AP)

Judging the Justice Department: The corruption case against former Sen. Ted Stevens, whose conviction is soon to be tossed amid allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, has some experts calling for more oversight at the Justice Department. (ABA Journal)

Documents demand:  Meanwhile, a federal judge yesterday ordered the Justice Department to give him documents concerning allegations of misconduct by the team that prosecuted Stevens. (WaPo)

Buyer’s market? Whether the reason is the sagging economy or the retirement of baby boomers, the number of law practices for sale is rising. (Lawyers USA)

Friday morning docket: Blossoms and buzz

April 3, 2009

cherryblossomsjeffersonWith the cherry blossoms in full bloom here, the members of the three branches of government are, fittingly, busy as bees.

After a busy week of decisions, non-decisions and oral arguments, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are back at work this morning, holding a private conference. That means orders – including possible new cert grants, could be forthcoming, and we’ll bring you newsworthy updates here.

Across the street from the Supremes, Congress has been hard at work tackling issues like the budget, health care and tobacco regulation.

And though President Barack Obama spent most the week in Europe meeting with world leaders, the multitasker also unveiled his first federal appellate judge nominations, naming picks for some vacancies on the 2nd and 4th Circuits.


Do over in Alaska? After federal prosecutors moved this week to toss a conviction handed down against former Sen. Ted Stevens, who lost his seat in November, Republicans want a new election. (NYT)

Credential check: After a convicted felon with no law degree managed to pose as an attorney and represent clients in 16 cases in 10 different federal courts, the Judicial Conference has set a new policy requiring courts to more carefully check attorneys’ credentials. (Lawyers USA)

Ice cold COLA: Federal judges, including the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, will get a 2.8 percent cost-of-living-adjustment for 2009 under the recently enacted Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009. (Lawyers USA)

Lending crackdown: A bill that would impose tougher standards governing mortgage lending in an effort to stamp out predatory practices was filed in the House.  (Lawyers USA)

Bad assist: Assisted living lawsuits are mounting, and plaintiffs’ lawyers say poorly trained staff and lax regulations are to blame for incidents of abuse and neglect of residents. (Lawyers USA)

Friday morning docket: Cash and carry over

March 27, 2009

supremeleftAs lawmakers continue to crunch President Barack Obama’s budget numbers, and offer some of their own, this morning the justices of the Supreme Court will hold a private conference to decide what cases to add to next term’s docket.


More problems, more money: Citing the economic climate’s direct impact on the nation’s court systems, federal judiciary officials urged lawmakers to increase the budget for federal courts by nearly 9 percent in fiscal 2010. (Lawyers USA)

Don’t be so frivolous: Newly-filed legislation would impose mandatory penalties against parties and attorneys who initiate frivolous lawsuits in federal courts. The bill would amend federal civil procedure rules that currently leave the imposition of penalties to the discretion of judges. (Lawyers USA)

Smoky past: What was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s job as a young lawyer? Defending Philip Morris as it confronted pivotal legal battles beginning in the mid-1990s, when the Justice Department sought to prove that executives had lied about the dangers of smoking. (NYT)

March came in like a layoff lion… Attorneys are getting laid off left, right and sideways, but at least the pace of the layoffs has slowed since the virtual bloodletting at the beginning of the month. (ABA Journal)

Nursing home perils: Criminal offenders and mentally ill residents are fueling an increase in patient-to-patient assaults at nursing homes, experts say. (Lawyers USA)

Specter checks out on card check

March 25, 2009

Labor organizations and other supporters of the controversial “card check” legislation were dealt a blow yesterday when a key lawmaker announced he no longer supports the measure.

specterSen. Arlen Specter, who was an original sponsor of legislation that would allow employees to unionize using cards to show majority support for a union rather than through an election, said yesterday he would vote against cloture on the measure, giving GOP lawmakers sufficient votes to filibuster on the legislation, even if Democrat Al Franken wins the Minnesota Senate race.

“The problems of the recession make this a particularly bad time to enact Employees Free Choice legislation. Employers understandably complain that adding a burden would result in further job losses,” Specter said on the Senate floor yesterday. “If efforts are unsuccessful to give Labor sufficient bargaining power through amendments to the [National Labor Relations Act], then I would be willing to reconsider Employees’ Free Choice legislation when the economy returns to normalcy.”

Specters decision is based in part of political concerns. Facing increased pressure from both union groups and business organization, Specter would face a tough GOP primary season in his 2010 reelection bid.

Frank: Scalia is a ‘homophobe’

March 24, 2009

barneyfrankRep. Barney Frank, the outspoken Massachusetts lawmaker who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, called U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a “homophobe” during a recent interview about gay rights issues.

Frank, who is gay, was interviewed by the news website In the video interview, available on the website, Frank was asked about of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that prevents the federal government from recognizing gay marriages and gives states the right not to recognize gay marriages even if legal in another state. Frank said the only way to end the law would be through a constitutional challenge before the nation’s highest court.

scalia1“I do think that [the] argument that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to pick and choose as to which marriages it will accept is a good one,” Frank said. “At some point it’s got to go to the United States Supreme Court.

“I wouldn’t want it to go to the United States Supreme Court now,” Frank added, “because that homophobe Antonin Scalia has got too many votes on this current Court.”

According to he Associated Press, Scalia declined to comment to Frank’s remark Monday.