Puerto Rico Fights Death Penalty

A clash of cultures and governments over the death penalty has erupted in Puerto Rico, pitting the commonwealth against the United States and the state of Pennsylvania.

A capital trial has begun in a federal court in Puerto Rico, and, next month, a public defender is set to fight the extradition from Puerto Rico of a man facing a murder charge in Pennsylvania, because it might be charged as a capital crime.

Both situations stir the passions of Puerto Rican nationals, and a large segment of the island’s legal community. The commonwealth outlawed the death penalty in 1929. Its Constitution, ratified by Congress in 1952, provides: “The death penalty shall not exist.”

This is shaping up to be an interesting battle, as Law.com reports here.

“Issues re: Tissues”

The Trademark Blog has this interesting post about litigation between Major League Baseball and a small business that sells goods via eBay. It seems the business, Tabberone, buys bulk fabric and then makes things like aprons and tissue box covers out of it, which it then sells. Some of the fabric had the licensed logos of MLB teams on it. MLB got eBay to cancel the auctions. Tabberone sued MLB, and MLB countersued. The details are here.

UPDATE: The Trademark Blog has more on the issue here.

Disgraced Law Professor Resigns

Disgraced law professor Mark M. Hager, after being suspended by the District of Columbia bar for a year, at last has resigned his tenured job at American University’s law school, the Washington Post reported in April . . . . In December the District of Columbia Court of Appeals found Hager “to have engaged in ‘conflicts of interest, dishonesty’ and ‘improper conduct’ when he represented two southern Virginia mothers who wanted to sue the makers of the lice-killing shampoo Nix. The court upheld the D.C. Bar’s one-year suspension of Hager and further ordered him to disgorge the $225,000 fee he shared with co-counsel.”

I completely missed this one, but Overlawyered.com has the gory details here.

“Prosecuting Doctors Who Tell of Marijuana’s Medical Benefits Is Wrong”

Findlaw columnist Barton Aronson has a thoughtful article here, which is hard to disagree with.

In Conant v. Walters, the Ninth Circuit barred the government from prosecuting doctors who merely inform patients about the benefits of medical marijuana. The Justice Department is appealing that ruling to the Supreme Court.

Aronson poses a question and then answers it for us:

Why the medical marijuana gag rule violates the First Amendment

Conant does not involve doctors who prescribed marijuana. It doesn’t involve doctors who grew it or gave it away. At issue is simply the right of doctors to say — and patients to hear — something nice about the medical use of cannabis.

While the First Amendment looks askance at most restrictions on speech, this particular regulation is a three-time loser — a viewpoint based restriction on professional speech implicating a matter of intense public interest.

The law is a viewpoint-based restriction because it punishes only doctors who recommend medical marijuana — that is, who tell patients marijuana might be good for them. It does not punish doctors who disparage marijuana as a course of treatment.

But the government is not supposed to tell us what to think, which is why the law is so hostile to restrictions on speech keyed to the viewpoint expressed by the speaker. In a marketplace of ideas, such restrictions are the equivalent of price controls. The government isn’t supposed to set the value attached to ideas, though; that’s our job, and under the First Amendment, our right.

I think that Aronson’s analysis is correct, and that the Supreme Court would have a difficult time ruling otherwise.

Martha’s Lawyers File For Dismissal

Martha Stewart’s attorneys tried to score points against government prosecutors Monday, arguing in court that information regarding charges against Stewart’s was leaked before a grand jury handed out the indictment.

Robert Morvillo, lead defense council, pointed to media reports stating that Stewart would not face a criminal insider trading charges and asked the judge to have the government investigate.

Prosecutor Michael Schachter argued there was no need for investigation stating because there were no leaks from the government. He added that defense attorneys knew in advance Stewart would not be facing a criminal insider trading charge, and pointed out that defense attorneys were cited as sources in some of the articles.

Well, they’re off to a running start. This one should be long and interesting. CNNfn has the story here.

Judge Dismisses NAACP Lawsuit Against Gun Maker

A federal judge dismissed the NAACP’s case against handgun makers Monday, ruling that the group showed gun retailers were careless but failed to prove that its members were uniquely harmed.

The NAACP proved its members “did suffer relatively more harm from the nuisance created by the defendants through illegal availability of guns in New York,” U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein wrote in a 175-page decision.

“It failed, however, to show that its harm was different in kind from that suffered by other persons in New York,” Weinstein added.

CNN has the story here. I’d originally blogged about this case when it started back in April.

N.Y. Judge Charged With Taking Gifts

“A judge charged with taking gifts while on the bench has sued the prosecutor, accusing him of abusing his power by treating a disciplinary matter as a felony. District Attorney Charles Hynes ‘is proceeding in excess of his jurisdiction’ in the case against Justice Gerald Garson, court papers filed Monday allege.”

That takes some chutzpah. The AP has the report here.

Prosecutor Erred, Goldstein’s Harass Conviction Reversed

Pornographer Al Goldstein, whose profane and volatile remarks to a former secretary earned him a harassment conviction and a jail sentence, was granted a new trial yesterday because of a prosecutor’s inflammatory language.

A unanimous panel of the Appellate Term, Second Department, said that a “line was crossed” by Assistant Brooklyn District Attorney David B. Cetron when he improperly accused Mr. Goldstein of lying, denigrated Mr. Goldstein’s attorney, and incited the emotions of jurors.

Law.com New York has the whole tale here.

�Ay Caramba, Taco Bell!

Taco Bell has been ordered to pay $30.2 million to two guys from Grand Rapids, Mich., for stealing their talking dog idea. Apparently, the talking animal thing isn’t yet in the public domain. The two guys from Michigan say they invented the talking Chihuahua and that Taco Bell stole it from them and used it to make people buy tacos. William W. Bedsworth on the links between fast food advertising and intellectual property.

The Recorder has the latest from Justice Bedsworth here.