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)


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.

Meanwhile,

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.

Meanwhile,

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)


Obama: Med-mal reform “on the table”

March 18, 2009

obama2The debate over how to reform the nation’s health care system may include talk of reforming the medial malpractice litigation system, President Barack Obama and his aides said.

While Democrats have traditionally fought efforts to limit medical malpractice litigation, that could change as Democratic lawmakers and White House officials ponder ways to change the system in order to cut costs.

“Medical liability issues – I think all those things have to be on the table,” Obama recently told a meeting of business leaders, according to the Associated Press.

At a meeting of the American Medical Association, Obama health advisor Ezekiel Emanuel – brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel – reiterated that stance.

“I’m not going to give you any details because I can’t. I just can tell you I’ve been thinking long and hard about that,” Ezekiel Emanuel said “It hasn’t gone unnoticed. So stay tuned.”

While any plan to cap punitive and pain and suffering damages is not likely to be embraced by Congress – such a plan was rejected when proposed by former President George W.  Bush – ideas like establishing “health courts,” encouraging disclosure and compensation in the case of error, and establishing negotiated compensation could be floated.


Monday status conference: Unions and divisions

March 9, 2009

The U.S. Supreme Court isn’t hearing oral arguments today, but the justices could hand down opinions or grant certiorari in new cases today. Stay tuned here for developments.

capitolfrontElsewhere, the honeymoon between President Barack Obama and some members of congress appears to be long over, and GOP lawmakers step up their attacks on the president for his proposals on rescuing the nation’s banks, stimulating the economy and other issues.

Meanwhile,

Uniting the unions: Union leaders are in talks on how to bring together organized labor groups that fractured in 2005. (NYT)

Card check counter attack: Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced bills aimed at countering the controversial Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it illegal for employers to prohibit employees from unionizing by using cards to show majority support for a union rather than a formal election. (Lawyers USA)

IRS to do its own debt collecting: A controversial IRS program that used private debt collectors to track down delinquent taxpayers had be ended, to the delight of public employee unions. (AP)

Congressional pay freeze? Members of Congress would lose their annual cost-of-living pay raises under a proposal the Senate could vote on this week. (AP)

Renters’ rights reviewed: Lawmakers have introduced new legislation aimed at boosting the rights of tenants in properties that fall into foreclosure. (Lawyers USA)