Friday morning docket, Pre-St. Patty’s Day edition

March 14, 2008

Top o’ the morning to ya. As you make weekend plans that may or may not involve green beer (or a green river, if you live in Chicago), here’s a look at what’s happening in Washington:

The Supreme Court justices gather today for a private conference. We’ll let you know if they had down any newsworthy orders.

Meanwhile, oral arguments resume at the Court next week, including the much anticipated arguments Tuesday in D.C. v. Heller, 07-290, where attorneys representing the District of Columbia, a D.C. resident, and the Department of Justice will make their case about whether the Second Amendment allows for a ban on handguns. If the drama in the court on Tuesday is anything like the behind-the-scenes theatre in the case, it will make for good viewing.

Other cases on the oral argument calendar next week:

On Monday, the Court will hear Philippines v. Pimentel, 06-1204, considering whether the award of assets to creditors of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos was proper when the Philippine government, claiming rightful ownership of the assets, excluded itself from the proceedings based on sovereign immunity. The court also will then hear arguments in Rothgery v. Gillespie County, 07-440, considering whether the right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment is implicated when a defendant was denied counsel at the time of his initial hearing for being a felon in possession of a firearm but the hearing was conducted without the involvement of a prosecutor.

Wednesday, the Court will hear arguments in Richlin Security Service v. Chertoff, 06-1717, a case considering whether, under the Equal Access to Justice Act, a prevailing party may be awarded attorney fees for paralegal services at the market rate for such services or if the Act limits reimbursement for paralegal services to cost only. Then arguments will be heard in Chamber of Commerce v. Brown, 06-939, which asks whether National Labor Relations Act, which states that companies’ anti-labor speech can only be considered unfair labor practice if it threatens or coerces workers, preempt state laws prohibiting the use of state funds to “assist, promote, or deter union organizing,” even if the public funds are transparently segregated.

Meanwhile,

Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas tell lawmakers the federal judiciary needs cash, not cameras. (AP)

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said women around the globe lack access to justice systems. (Lawyers USA)

Congress passes a budget. (AFP)

The White House unveils a plan to stop the credit crisis. (NYT)


Top judge: don’t link pay raises to travel expense ban

March 12, 2008

A top federal judge said yesterday that he opposes a bill that would tie judicial pay raises to a ban on paid junkets for judges.

Judge Thomas F. Hogan, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for D.C. and Chair of the Executive Committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference, told reporters after the conference met at the Supreme Court yesterday that the legislation is too sweeping.

“The way it’s written is far too broad,” Hogan said, noting that, according to one commentator, the rules would allow “the Supreme Court could travel to Europe but not come back.”

The Senate bill (S. 1638) would boost federal trial judges’ salaries from $169,000 to $218,000 and Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.’s salary from $217,000 to $279,000.

It also contains a provision pushed by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., barring judges from accepting travel or lodging expenses for judicial education programs sponsored by any institution except the government or bar associations.

It would also prohibit judges from accepting “in connection with a single trip or event” travel expenses, lodging, or food valued in excess of $2,000 per trip and sets a calendar-year limit of such gifts to $20,000.

Critics argue that the rule would prevent, for example, judges from being law school adjunct professors or participating in foreign panels.

Hogan’s comments came after the Judicial Conference approved new rules that would allow information about judges sanctioned under judicial conduct orders to be posted on court websites.