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)


Monday status conference: Enron (and maybe Kagan) at the Supremes

March 23, 2009

supremesToday the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are back in the office for what promises to be an eventful day. The justices will hear oral arguments in the case of Yeager v. U.S., which considers whether collateral estoppel prevents a former Enron official who was acquitted on several charges to be retried on other charges that resulted in a hung jury.

Also today, look out for a possible special guest star: new Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who was sworn in by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. Friday, may be formally introduced to the Court.

And the Court could issue some orders and/or opinions today as well. We’ll bring you updates on newsworthy developments from the Court, so check back.

Today Obama administration officials officially unveil a plan aimed at shoring up the nation’s banking system with public-private parnerships. Oh, and if you wanted to know, so far President Barack Obama is 14 for 16 in his NCAA tourney bracket picks.


Sen. X, ?-Minn. We almost forgot about that still-vacant Senate seat for Minnesota! Now the race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman is in the hands of a three-judge panel. A decision is expected by 2011. (Oh, we kid!) (WaPo).

Bills, bills, bills: A bad economy means debt collectors are busy. They are also busy fighting off lawsuits from consumers claiming violations of the Fair Debt collection Practices Act. (Legal Blog Watch).

New COBRA rule has bite: If you or your clients are dealing with layoffs, you should take a look at the model notices the Labor Department has issued in connection with the new, expansive COBRA rules. (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)

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.

Move over ‘Joe the Plumber’ – here comes ‘Lilly the Tire Manager’

January 6, 2009

ledbetterA Supreme Court precedent may soon become history, and the move involves the Democrats’ answer to “Joe the Plumber.”

Her name is Lilly Ledbetter, and since the May 2007 Supreme Court decision that the statute of limitations for her disparate pay claims under Title VII was not restarted with each unequal paycheck she was issued, she has become a legal folk hero for Democrats seeking to reverse the ruling.

That may happen soon, according to The New York Times, which reports that a bill overturning Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. may be among the first to get Barack Obama’s signature after he takes office.

“Obama said he would see me in the White House when he signs the bill,” Ledbetter, a former manager at a Alabama Goodyear tire plant, told the Times in an interview.

Democrats want to move quickly on the legislation, which stalled in the last Congress after facing a surefire veto threat from President George W. Bush. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, courts around the country have been throwing out discrimination claims involving litigants who claimed, as Ledbetter did, that they were unaware of the unequal pay until after the statutory period to file suit had passed. Some of those courts actually reversed themselves, stopping claims that would have otherwise gone forward.

Last September, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue, Chairman Patrick Leahy said overturning the ruling was necessary to allow courts to protect citizens’ civil rights. “Our courts are an essential mechanism to enforce the civil rights laws that Congress has passed – laws that protect women, the elderly, minorities, and the disabled,” Leahy said. “Those laws are reduced to hollow words on a page if judges issue rulings like the one rendered by the Supreme Court in Lilly Ledbetter’s case.”

See past coverage for the Ledbetter case and its effect here from Lawyers USA. (Sub. Req’d)

Bush’s new “right of conscience” rule to be swiftly axed by Obama

December 17, 2008

xmaswhitehouseA federal regulation with a “right of conscience” provision allowing medical professionals to refuse to participate in treatments they oppose morally is set to be finalized by Bush administration officials this week. But it looks like the rule will be short-lived.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that members of the Obama transition team are taking a hard look at that and other regulations that could have an effect on reproductive rights issues, with an eye on reversing them once the president-elect is in office. The rule set to go into effect this week would allow health workers to opt out of performing some services including providing birth control pills, IUDs and the Plan B emergency contraceptive.

The rules that could be affected range from budgetary allocations to regulations and executive orders.

One of the first actions in this arena by the incoming president will be lifting an executive order limiting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.  Another rule on the chopping block could be the so-called “global gag rule,” which prevents foreign organizations receiving federal funding from spending anything on family planning services that include abortion services or advocacy.

More here from the Journal. More on the regulation here from Lawyers USA (sub. req’d).

Still picking Obama’s Supreme Court

November 20, 2008

The eldest members of the nation’s highest court have all but said they aren’t going anywhere when President-elect Barack Obama takes office. Still, picking Supreme Court candidates to fill hypothetical vacancies is a favorite pastime of judicial junkies.

The latest list, complied by Salon, notes that Obama will inherit a Court with two young, freshly-appointed conservatives from President Bush. Obama also faces a promise by Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona to filibuster any Court nominee he deems too liberal (assuming the GOP holds on to its filibuster power when the election counts are done).

Given that, a panel legal experts predict Obama will likely select moderate jurists, lean towards women and people of color to increase the Court’s diversity, and choose young candidates to make a lasting impact on the Court.

The experts’ picks:

sotomayorJudge Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor, a judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal, came from humble Bronx beginnings to rise to one of the country’s most powerful courts. That she is a Hispanic woman is an extra draw.

devalpatrick1Gov. Deval Patrick. Massachusetts’ first black governor and longtime friend of Obama fits the president-elect’s desire to tap people from places other than federal courts. Patrick has experience both in President Clinton’s Justice Department and as an executive at large corporations.

Elena Kagan. The Harvard Law dean has frequently been mentioned as a likely choice.

garlandJudge Merrick Garland. The judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is also an alum of  Clinton’s Justice Department, where he handled the Unibomber and Oklahoma City bombing cases.

Judge Diane P. Wood. As noted by Lawyers USA, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge has the reputation of being a jurist with a record moderate enough to garner support – or at least to avoid strong opposition – from Senate Republicans.

sunsteinCass Sunstein. The legal scholar and Harvard Law professor was an Obama campaign advisor. His belief in narrowly-tailored judicial rulings could win over GOP Senate votes.

granholmGov. Jennifer Granholm. The Michigan governor and campaign advisor (who stood in for Sarah Palin during V.P.-elect Joe Biden’s debate prep) has a strong executive resumé that counters her lack of judicial experience.

Other names on the list include Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears, Yale Law School dean Harold Hongju Koh, and U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo.