ACLU Supporting Rush Limbaugh

PALM BEACH, FL – In a motion filed today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said state law enforcement officers violated Rush Limbaugh�s privacy rights by seizing the conservative radio talk show host’s medical records as part of a criminal investigation involving alleged �doctor-shopping.�

�While this case involves the right of Rush Limbaugh to maintain the privacy of his medical records, the precedent set in this case will impact the security of medical records and the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship of every person in Florida,� said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida.

The ACLU�s request to submit a �friend-of-the-court� brief on behalf of Limbaugh was filed today with the Fourth District Court of Appeal. The ACLU said in its motion that the state infringed on Florida�s constitutional right to privacy when it failed to follow well-established protocol, mandated by law, when confiscating Limbaugh�s medical files. The organization stated that its interest in the case was �to vindicate every Floridian�s fundamental right to privacy by ensuring that the state be required to comply� with the law.

That’s from the ACLU’s press release, which is here. And here’s a news article entitled “Strange Bedfellows? ACLU Supports Rush Limbaugh.”


Supreme Court Expands Review of U.S. War on Terror

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday expanded its review of the Bush administration’s war on terror when it agreed to hear the case of a U.S.-born man captured during the fighting in Afghanistan and held incommunicado and without charges.

The justices said they would consider the appeal from Yaser Esam Hamdi, whom the U.S. government has labeled an enemy combatant ineligible for ordinary legal protections and a danger to the United States.

Details here from CNN.com.


Stewart Trial Features Powerhouse Lawyers

The trial of Martha Stewart will feature a showdown between two powerhouses of business crime litigation: a prosecutor who has helped lead the government’s unprecedented attack on securities fraud and a defense lawyer who literally wrote the book on white-collar crime.

When the trial begins Jan. 20, Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Patton Seymour and defense lawyer Robert Morvillo will provide jurors with polar-opposite portrayals of Stewart’s decision to sell stock in ImClone Systems shortly before a negative government report sent its price plummeting.

Details here from the AP via FindLaw.com.


“More Bad Judges”

Jack Newfield of The Nation has a piece about the Bush administration’s latest crop of federal judicial nominees. Needless to say, he does not approve, concluding:

Bush is trying to transform America through lifetime judicial appointments for this biased batch and their clones. The bottom line is that the reckless Bushies are willing to violate computer privacy and vandalize the Bill of Rights to expedite this transformation. George W. Bush was appointed President by the Supreme Court after losing the popular vote by more than 500,000. Now he is trying to use the courts to legislate a mandate the voters never gave him by abusing the power of appointment and ignoring the Constitution’s “advise and consent” clause.

You can read the whole thing here. (via How Appealing)


New Life for Legislation to Limit Class-Action Lawsuits

Congress is inching closer to passing a bill that would limit class-action lawsuits and large damage awards against corporations, something big business has sought for years.

The Senate has been the stumbling block, but a deal struck just before lawmakers left for the holidays could garner enough Democratic support to approve the measure, which already has passed the House and is backed by President Bush.

The bill seeks to force most class action suits into federal court, and to limit abuses such as allowing huge awards of attorneys’ fees when consumers receive only coupons or discounts. Details here from the AP via CNN.com.


Pets and Divorce: Courts Treating Animals More Like Children, Less Like Furniture

On the books, household pets have no more value than the coffee table or loveseat in your living room.

But recent lawsuits prove that animal companions occupy a much larger space in our hearts. More than ever, lengthy and expensive custody battles for pets are beginning when human relationships end. In courtrooms across the country, trials to decide who gets Sparky or Fido after a divorce resemble child-custody suits.

Details here from CourtTV via CNN.com.


Subject of Award-Winning ‘Friedmans’ Film Seeks New Trial

An award-winning documentary about a Long Island father and son imprisoned in the late 1980s for sexually abusing dozens of children shows that prosecutors withheld “important facts” that could have led to the younger man’s exoneration, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Manhattan attorney Earl Nemser said he intended to file papers in Nassau County Court seeking a new trial for Jesse Friedman, 34, the youngest member of the Great Neck, N.Y., family featured in “Capturing the Friedmans.”

The documentary was judged best nonfiction film by the New York Film Critics Circle and has been mentioned as a possible Oscar nominee.

Friedman was 19 when he pleaded guilty to child sex abuse in 1988 after being charged with hundreds of counts alleging he and his father, Arnold, molested children during computer classes in their home.

Jesse Friedman was sentenced to 6 to 18 years and was paroled after 13 years in prison; he is now a registered sex offender who lives in Manhattan. His father, an admitted pedophile who was also convicted of sending child pornography through the mail, died in prison in 1995.

“Had Jesse known at the time about the doubts which the prosecutor knew about, it could have been used in his defense,” Nemser said. “He would not have pled guilty and he … would have had a very, very good chance of being acquitted.”

Details here from the AP via Newsday.com. (I haven’t seen the film, but I look forward to it.)


Media Want Judge to Unseal Jackson Files

News organizations asked a judge Wednesday to unseal court records related to the search of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch as part of the child molestation case against the pop star.

The motion filed in Santa Barbara County Superior Court contends the public was not properly notified of a request last month that the documents remain sealed until the singer’s Jan. 16 arraignment.

“There needs to be notice and an opportunity to be heard regarding the sealing of court documents,” said attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr., who represents NBC, CBS, CNN, ABC, Fox News Network and The New York Times. “There must be notice so the public can go in and argue that documents should not be sealed.”

Details here from the AP via The Miami Herald.


Calif. Court Debates Pregnancy, Murder

Does the murderer of a pregnant woman also murder the fetus, even if the killer claims not to know about the unborn child?

The California Supreme Court heard arguments on that question Wednesday, and most justices appeared to disagree with a lower-court ruling that overturned a murder conviction of a man who says he didn’t know his victim was pregnant.

Harold Taylor was convicted of murdering his former lover in a fit of rage. Investigators said Patty Fansler was at least 10 weeks pregnant when he shot her to death in her Ukiah apartment in 1999.

On appeal, Taylor argued that because he didn’t know Fansler was pregnant, he could not be prosecuted for murdering her fetus.

California’s fetal-murder law was passed in 1970, but the 2002 ruling by the San Francisco-based 1st District Court of Appeal was the first to find that a killer needed to know about a fetus to be guilty of murdering it. . . .

[D]uring nearly an hour of arguments, most justices appeared satisfied that prior knowledge of pregnancy was not necessary for a fetal-murder conviction. The court must rule within 90 days.

Details here from the AP.


Beatle’s Estate Sues Doctor

A doctor forced a weakened George Harrison to autograph a guitar for the physician’s teenage son two weeks before the ex-Beatle died of cancer, a lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges.

Filed by Harrison’s estate, the suit alleges that the musician tried to resist the request by saying, “I do not even know if I know how to spell my name anymore.”

The suit alleges that Dr. Gilbert Lederman responded by saying, “Come on, you can do this,” and held Harrison’s hand as the musician wrote his name on the guitar “with great effort and much obvious discomfort.”

And that’s not the doctor’s only problem: “The state [NY] Health Department reprimanded Lederman for talking to the press about Harrison without his consent. Lederman accepted his censure, reprimand and a $5,000 fine, documents show.” The AP has details here via CNN.com.

UPDATE: Harrison’s Doctor Offers to Donate Guitar.” Harrison’s estate retorts that the doctor’s offer is “spin” and refuses to drop the lawsuit.

UPDATE (1/16): Harrison estate, doctor settle guitar dispute.