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)


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)

Friday morning docket: Taxes and Leno

March 20, 2009

Today the justices of the Supreme Court return to the office for a private conference. The Court could announce grants of certiorari this afternoon, so check here for any newsworthy developments.

capitolfrontMeanwhile, Congress is moving full speed ahead with a plan to tax the shocking taxpayer-funded bonuses some AIG executive received. The House voted yesterday to tax bonuses given out by companies receiving $5 billion or more at a rate of 90 percent.

And President Barack Obama is in California, in an effort to push his economic plan and have a few laughs. Click here to see his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night.


You can’t make this stuff up: Guess what else AIG is doing with taxpayer dough? Suing the U.S. government for $306 million the company says it’s owed in tax refunds. (NYT)

Kagan confirmed: The Senate confirmed Obama’s solicitor general pick, Elena Kagan, yesterday. (Boston Globe)

The tax man cometh: Afraid of being audited? The process doesn’t have to be so bad if you have the right info going in. (Lawyers USA)

Keeping judges ethical: The policymaking body for the federal judiciary adopted the first substantial revisions to the Code of Conduct covering federal judges and members of the federal courts’ bar since 1992. (Lawyers USA)

Bad inspectors: Private inspectors hired to monitor the safety of U.S. food products aren’t really doing a bang-up job, Congress said. (AP)

Please, please help me: Embattled Illinois Sen. Roland Burris, facing $400,000 in legal fees as he fights allegations of dealmaking with disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is looking to set up a legal defense fund. (ABA Journal, Chicago Tribune)

Friday morning docket: Bankruptcy, preemption and Brad Pitt – oh, my!

March 6, 2009

capitol3The justices of the Supreme Court will hold a private conference this morning, but most of the legal news is coming from across the street as lawmakers deal with bankruptcy mortgage modifications, medical device regulation, the role former White House officials played in U.S. attorney firings and more. Oh, and um, Brad Pitt was hanging out with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi!

But let’s get to the legal news:

Cramdown showdown: The much-watched bill that would allow bankruptcy judges to change the terms of mortgage loans passed the House yesterday, but the real battle lies ahead in the Senate. (Lawyers USA)

Preempting preemption: One day after the Supreme Court ruled that prescription durg lawsuits are not automatically barred by FDA approval, House and Senate lawmakers renewed efforts to allow lawsuits against drug device makers as well. (Lawyers USA)

Contingency deductions: A new bill would allow lawyers working on a contingency fee basis to deduct some costs as they are incurred, rather than waiting for litigation to conclude years later. (Lawyers USA).

Still trying to sue the pants off ’em: A former judge is now free to ask the Supreme Court to take up his appeal in the case of the missing pants after the D.C. Court of Appeals denied his request en banc.(AP)

No longer privileged: After a two-year standoff, former White House aides Karl Rove and Harriet Miers have agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee about the role White House officials played in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ tenure. (Lawyers USA)

Returning to the scene of the crime: Guess who else is in DC? Former N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer! And you’ll never guess where his new office is. (AP)

And in other news, move over Brangelina, we now have “Brancy”:

Friday morning briefing: Budget, taxation and representation

February 27, 2009

capitolfrontPresident Barack Obama unveiled his budget proposal this week, sending folks in the capital in numbers-crunching mode as they scrutinize the plan in search of the administration’s priorities. On Capitol Hill, a bill that would give bankruptcy judges the power to change the terms of mortgages in foreclosure proceedings hit a snag when Democratic lawmakers couldn’t quite hammer out all the details yesterday. Across the street, the Supreme Court justices conference today, and may serve up some fresh new grants of certiorari before the day is over.


‘Loaded’ voting bill passes: The Senate approved a bill to give the District of Columbia a seat in the House of Representatives. But the bill included an amendment that D.C. officials may not like too much: it repeals the District’s post-Heller gun restriction laws. (DCist, WaPo)

stevenssmileSeparation of powers: Justice John Paul Stevens doesn’t think Supreme Court justices should take their oaths in the White House. The practice, which has become popular with the most recent new justices, creates “incorrect symbolism” for the independent judicial branch, Stevens said. (AP)

State secrets in foreclosure crisis: The housing foreclosure crisis that has put millions of Americans out of their homes is being worsened by old, antiquated state laws that give homeowners far fewer legal protections than renters or credit card customers, according a new report from the National Consumer Law Center. (Lawyers USA)

Stimulating conversation: The recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contains several new tax credits and changes for both business and individual taxpayers. Most of the credits, however, are subject to income phase-outs. (Lawyers USA)

Short-term gains: Federal judges could get a pay post this year. Next year, not so much. (Legal Times)

Friday morning docket: The Supremes return

February 20, 2009

supremeleftWith so much news out of Washington lately, it’s almost hard to believe that Congress and the Supreme Court have technically been in recess. But the justices’ break ends today as they return for a private conference in advance of next week’s oral arguments. They could add more cases to their docket today, and opinions are likely to be handed down next week. Congress also resumes its session next week.

President Barack Obama is back from his first official international trip, where he met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss free trade issues.


DNA SOS: A newly-released report says that forensic science labs across the country have serious deficiencies and that the reliability of many forensic techniques offered as legal evidence is lacking. (Lawyers USA)

Obama to weigh in on IP law: Obama make In March, we should find out Obama’s view of the constitutionality of the controversial Copyright Act. (Wired’s Threat Level blog)

Un-fixing the books: By stopping accounting gimmicks that make deficit projections look smaller, the budget will appear $2.7 trillion deeper in debt over the next decade, according to administration officials. (NYT)

Safety standard disagreement: As investigators continue to probe the cause of last week’s plane crash in New York state, the FAA and the NTSB don’t see eye to eye on just what the proper safety standard should be for operating turboprop planes in icy conditions. (AP)

RESPA reform: Starting next January, all lenders and mortgage brokers must comply with revisions to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. (Lawyers USA)