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)

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Friday morning docket: Recess and recession

April 10, 2009

obamaeconThings are quiet on the Hill as both the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress sit in recess. Across town, President Barack Obama is spending today holed up with his economic team to try to find ways to pull the country out of its recession.

Clash of the right-ans: Religious groups fighting gay rights matters in courts are increasingly coming up on the losing end in the legal “clash between the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of religion.” (WaPo)

Justice Department gets judged: The Judge who presided over the hearing dismissing the conviction of former Sen. Ted Stevens gave government prosecutors who handled the case a good tongue lashing. And it wasn’t the first time the Justice Department has felt his wrath. (WaPo)

Fools as clients? The recession has boosted the number of people representing themselves on court, raising questions about the fairness of the outcomes. (NYT)

Being e-conomical: With the recession taking its toll on the bottom lines of many businesses, attorneys who engage in electronic discovery are looking to cut costs for clients. (Lawyers USA)

Things aren’t going great, and they’re not getting better: The safety of the nation’s food supply has not improved over the past three years, and an overhaul of the food regulation system is needed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (NYT)


Senate to vote on SG pick Kagan today

March 19, 2009

elenakaganToday the Senate is set for a confirmation vote on Elena Kagan, nominated by President Barack Obama in January to be solicitor general. But at least one high-ranking lawmakers isn’t sold on the candidate.

specterSen. Arlen Specter, the highest ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said yesterday that Kagan, Harvard Law School’s dean who is said to also be on Obama’s Supreme Court short list, still hasn’t clarified her views on warrantless surveillance and a host of other matters.

In February, Kagan submitted a series of supplemental responses to queries by Specter and other lawmakers. (See some of the responses here on DC Dicta). But Specter said Kagan did not provide “sufficient answers” to his questions, Politico reports.

Debate over Kagan’s nomination is set to start at 2 p.m., and could last as long as 6 hours before a final vote is called.


Monday status conference: Budget making and Supreme speculation

March 16, 2009

whitehousePresident Obama is focusing on the budget today, and using familiar avenues to try to sell it (here’s a hint – check you inboxes!). But it won’t be an easy road, as GOP lawmakers have already ripped the president’s spending plan, vowing to offer their own. The Supreme Court is in recess until Friday, when the justices conference.

Meanwhile,

souter3The most private justice: Not even those closest to Supreme Court Justice David Souter, who some claim may retire from the bench soon, know exactly what his retirement plans are. (AP)

Birthday girl: Meanwhile, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose recent comments that there will “soon” be a vacancy on the Court stirred even more speculation, turned 76 on Sunday. Read more here on Ginsburg’s talk in Boston here from Lawyers USA.

Bias claim boom: The economy is bad, but at least one area of law is booming: employment attorneys are busier than ever. Employment discrimination charges soared to an unprecedented level last year – up 15 percent from the previous year, according to newly-released numbers. (Lawyers USA)

Safe food vow: President Obama promised to reorganize the nation’s fractured food-safety system, calling inadequate inspections “a hazard to the public health.” (NYT)


Friday morning docket: A quieter, more hopeful Washington?

March 13, 2009

bmcferrinAll is quiet at the Supreme Court until the Justice’s next conference a week from today, Congress is not is session today either, and President Barack Obama is taking his new message of confidence to his staff and business leaders. You can almost hear Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy playing in the air. Oh, but it’s still Friday the 13th – for the second time in as many months – so beware of black cats and broken mirrors just the same.

Meanwhile,

The president’s prosecutor problem: In filling the attorney positions at the Justice Deparment, President Obama is faced with a conundrum: Does he replace all the conservative U.S. attorneys at once, and risk undermining his bipartisan campaign message, or does he roll them out slowly, drawing the ire of members of Congress? (WaPo)

Top positions filled: Meanwhile, the top brass of the Justice Department is shaping up as David W. Ogden was deputy attorney general Thursday, despite controversy over a past pornography case. Thomas J. Perrelli was also confirmed for the Departments No. 3 position. (NYT).

Who’s covered? Obama has also been put on the spot over whether he will provide health insurance to same-sex partners of federal employees. (NYT)

Going off on ‘off label’: A cadre of plaintiffs’ lawyers is helping spotlight allegedly widespread illegal marketing of “off-label” uses of drugs by the pharmaceutical industry. (Lawyers USA)

Making (card check) amends: Seeking to bolster support for the controversial unionizing bill, democratic lawmakers hinted that that the newly-filed card check bill could be amended. (Lawyers USA)

Life on the inside: Wonder what life is like for Bernie Madoff these days? An attorney specializing in federal sentencing and Bureau of Prison matters gives the skinny. (WSJ‘s Law Blog)


Plaintiff, attorneys and tort reform proponents react to Levine ruling

March 4, 2009

usscpoolReaction to today’s Supreme Court ruling in Wyeth v. Levine has been swift. This afternoon the case’s plaintiff. Diana Levine, told reporters that she was overjoyed by the justices’ decision.

“I’m on ceiling,” Levine told reports on a press call hosted by the American Association for Justice. “I’m just so high about this. Next to getting my hand back, it’s the best that they could do, and it’s the least that they could have done.”

David Frederick, who argued on Levine’s behalf before the Supreme Court, said the case “will have a transformative effect on her life and on the lives of consumers who are injured by inadequately labeled drugs.”

But James R. Copland, director of the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Legal Policy, expressed dismay over the ruling.

“In a disappointing ruling, the Supreme Court today in Wyeth v. Levine decided to allow a state jury to override the Food and Drug Administration’s carefully considered judgments on drug safety,” Copland said in a statement. “The decision has vast negative implications, for both the economy and public health.”


Court declines to bar state tort actions over FDA-approved drugs

March 4, 2009

supremeleftIn one of the most significant cases for the trial bar this term, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that FDA approval of a drug does not automatically bar state law tort suits against the drugmaker.

The decision in Wyeth v. Levine was announced this morning by the Court, which by a 6-3 vote affirmed a Vermont state ruling upholding a jury verdict for a Vermont woman who lost an arm after being intravenously administered an anti-nausea medication.

The court held that, contrary to drugmaker Wyeth’s argument, it is possible to adhere to standards imposed by the Food and Drug Administration as well as those established by state law.

stevenssmile“Wyeth could have added a warning [that certain intravenous uses for the drug posed hazards] and this would have complied with both the state law and federal law duties,” Justice John Paul Stevens, who authored the opinion, said from the bench this morning.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, Jr. dissented.

More on the case, including reaction from the parties and from members of the trial bar, to come soon on DC Dicta and on LawyersUSAOnline.com.