N.C. Supreme Court Hears Potentially Historic Death Row Appeal

The case considers whether the “short form” indictments used for more than 100 years in North Carolina are invalid because they fail to include the aggravating factors that warrant the death penalty in capital cases. A favorable ruling could affect all of the state’s condemned prisoners, the AP reports here.

The Attorney, Unemployed

“The Labor Department says that white-collar unemployment is the highest it’s ever been, nearly 9 percent. For lawyers, at 1.2 percent, it’s the highest since 1997,” it says here.

Judges Struggle on Campaign Finance Reform

A specially appointed panel of three federal judges has had a case testing the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold law under submission since December, with no opinion in sight. The case will almost certainly proceed to the Supreme Court, and the current delay threatens chaos in the 2004 presidential and congressional elections, the Washington Post reports here.

Bill Aims to Curb Judicial Discretion

This is a VERY bad idea: “A freshman congressman is trying to force changes that would virtually eliminate any discretion federal judges have left to show mercy on criminal defendants. Tom Feeney, a Florida Republican, quietly attached a rider to the Amber Alert legislation — which had seemed destined for passage before Congress recesses for Easter next week — that would erase many of the grounds for downward departures and require de novo review of sentencing decisions,” Law.com reports here. I’ll even go so far as to urge you to email your congressman or congresswoman to voice opposition to this rider, which you can do from this link.

Seven years ago, the Supreme Court decided that sentencing departures should be reviewed under the “abuse of discretion” standard, rather than the de novo standard, giving federal judges back at least a little bit of the discretion the Sentencing Commission took from them. Koon v. U.S., 518 U.S. 81 (1996). We should not stand by and let this nutjob Congressman from Florida take it away again.

Supreme Court Takes on Hollywood Copying Case

Fox had let its copyright lapse in a WWII documentary. Dastar Corp. took the footage, re-edited it, and re-released it under another name. Does Fox have a case because Dastar used its footage without giving credit, or was Dastar justified in using what was now in the public domain? The Supremes heard oral argument on the issue today, the AP reports here.

Oral Arguments in Intel v. Hamidi Today

The California Supreme Court heard oral argument today in an appeal of an injunction granted in favor of Intel that stopped Hamidi, a disgruntled former employee, from sending Intel employees emails critical of the company. Computer law and free speech experts say the case has far reaching ramifications, as reported here. UPDATE: Law.com has just published another article about the argument here.

Pillsbury Makes Public Apology To Jensen

As you may recall, when Pillsbury partner Frode Jensen announced that he was leaving for Latham & Watkins, Pillsbury responded with a press release accusing him of being an unproductive sexual harasser. Frode sued. Now Pillsbury has settled the lawsuit and issued a public apology, it says here.