HE DID IT! Illinois Governor Commutes All Death Sentences

After thirteen death row inmates were found innocent, Republican Governor George Ryan, with two days left in office, concluded that the system was “broken” and commuted the sentences of the more that 150 remaining death row inmates in Illinois. I think he’s a hero. Read all about it here.

Censoring Students’ Speech

Just today, some high school kids in Cleveland filed a lawsuit against their school district for violating their First Amendment rights by confiscating copies of their school paper because it contained an article about student drinking, the AP is reporting. Coincidentally, also today, my favorite Supreme Court reporter, Dahlia Lithwick, published an article about students’ First Amendment rights and school censorship, which you can access here on Slate.

9th Circuit Justice in Hot Water After Chopping Down 120 Trees in Public Park for View

It may have all been a misunderstanding, but at the end of the day the Justice’s Vietnamese gardener cut down some 120 big-leaf maple and indigenous cherry trees (some of them 40 years old) in a Seattle public park so the Justice could have clear views of the lake from his luxury home. Those pesky Seattle nature buffs are none too pleased about Justice Jerome Farris’ actions. The DA has decided against charging him with a felony, and he’s offered to pay to restore the damage, according to this.

Drunk Driving Victim Sues Designated Driver

The defendant allegedly agreed to be a designated driver, but then let her drunk friend drive. Now she’s defending a civil conspiracy claim under a novel theory that another lawyer characterizes as “pretty solid.” Read all about it here.

Boston Bloodbath

Boston law firm Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault has just laid off 34 1st and 2nd-year associates — or nine percent of its total lawyers, according to this.

South Carolina Law Firm Ripped Apart By Huge Tobacco Fees

The small firm netted between $2 and $3 billion in fees. Now it has split apart, with former partners suing each other. The fight includes disputes over the firm’s $18 million Falcon 50 corporate jet (one of several), and has the former partners calling each other endearing diminutives such as “antichrist” and “dictator,” according to this article.

Rehnquist’s Legacy: Federalism

Sooner or later (perhaps sooner . . .), Chief Justice Rehnquist will retire. How will “The Rehnquist Era” be viewed in the future? This interesting article argues that Rehnquist will be remembered for the blossoming of federalism and for “breathing new life into the 10th Amendment.” It discusses what may be the genesis the movement spearheaded by Rehnquist — his dissent in an obscure 1975 decision, Fry v. United States. Duke University law Professor H. Jefferson Powell says: “What was viewed in Fry as basically a lunatic position has now become orthodoxy. Chief Justice Rehnquist has shifted the center of the discussion so far it would take a long time to shift it back. He took the long view, and he has won.” For better or worse . . . .