Schiavo Appeal to Reconnect Tube Denied

ATLANTA – A federal appeals court refused early Wednesday to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube, denying an emergency request by the severely brain-damaged woman’s parents.

The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 to deny the request, a day after a federal judge in Florida also refused a similar appeal.

Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, vowed yet another appeal Wednesday.

That was quick. Details here from the AP. Or read the Court’s 2-1 Opinion here.

The majority opinion concludes with this:

There is no denying the absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo. We all have our own family, our own loved ones, and our own children. However, we are called upon to make a collective, objective decision concerning a question of law. In the end, and no matter how much we wish Mrs. Schiavo had never suffered such a horrible accident, we are a nation of laws, and if we are to continue to be so, the pre-existing and well-established federal law governing injunctions as well as Pub. L. No. 109-3 must be applied to her case. While the position of our dissenting colleague has emotional appeal, we as judges must decide this case on the law.


Ugliness Surrounding Jackson Allegations Going Full Steam

CNN reports:

The boy who accuses singer Michael Jackson of molesting him grew up in a turbulent family where violence “was a daily occurrence,” according to court documents filed by the boy’s mother two years ago upon her divorce from the boy’s father. . . .

[T]he court documents, filed October 16, 2001, with the Los Angeles Superior Court, included the filing of a temporary restraining order by the boy’s mother against her husband in which she alleged that he “has assaulted or attempted to assault me or another member of my household … caused, threatened or attempted bodily injury to me or another member of my household” and “made me or another member of my household afraid of physical or emotional harm. . . .”

[H.] Russell Halpern, who represented the father during the divorce, said the father pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor domestic abuse charges. At the same time, the attorney said the mother is “very vindictive” and “deceitful” . . . .

“[T]he father has told me in the past that his children will say and do whatever their mother tells them to do,” the lawyer told CNN.

This is going to get much worse before it gets better. Details here from CNN.


Group Contends Record Labels Have Wrong Guy

An online civil rights group has adopted the cause of a Playa del Rey man who believes he has been mistakenly accused of improper file trading by the record industry, setting up a possible showdown over the music business’ methods for identifying suspected pirates.

The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation on Monday asked lawyers for three record labels to drop their suit against 35-year-old Web site designer Ross Plank, asserting that he is the second target of 261 high-profile suits who is the victim of mistaken identity.

Sounds to me like Mr. Plank my be correct, and a further embarrassment to the record industry. Details here from the L.A. Times.


ACLU Asks Kansas Court to Overturn 17-Year Prison Sentence of Bisexual Teenager

Arguing that excluding gay teenagers from the Kansas “Romeo and Juliet” law is unconstitutional after the recent Supreme Court decision striking down sodomy laws, the American Civil Liberties Union today asked a state appeals court to free a bisexual teenager who is serving 17 years in prison for having oral sex with another young man.

Matthew Limon is appealing a 17-year prison sentence he received because shortly after he turned 18 he performed consensual oral sex on another teenager at a residential school for developmentally disabled youth where they both lived in Miami County, Kansas. If he had instead performed oral sex on a female of the same age, he would have received no more than 15 months in jail under the Kansas law. But because the “Romeo and Juliet” law applies only to heterosexuals, Limon was convicted under the much harsher state sodomy law.

The sentence was just wrong — with or without Lawrence v. Texas, as I blogged earlier here. The US Supreme Court reversed and remanded Limon’s sentence within a day of the Lawrence decision. But the Kansas courts still haven’t decided what to do with Mr. Limon, which is what the ACLU’s brief addresses. If you don’t already, you should consider supporting the ACLU. Even if you don’t always agree with them, they are an important counterpoint to John Ashcroft.


Few Chances for Lawyers to Develop Trial Skills

In legal circles, the phenomenon is so widespread that it actually has a name: the vanishing trial.

Over recent decades, the number of courtroom trials has dropped dramatically in both federal and state courts, according to numerous national studies. Because of the high cost of going to trial, fear of unpredictable jury verdicts, and other factors, many cases instead are being resolved through settlements, mediation, and arbitration, which litigants often prefer to the emotional ordeal of going to court.

But the disappearing trial has created a troubling ripple effect for the legal profession: rapidly dwindling opportunities for lawyers to hone their litigation skills, resulting in a generation of young attorneys who have rarely — if ever — stepped foot in a courtroom.

The Boston Bar Association has taken a small step to remedy that problem. Earlier this month, it expanded its “lawyer-for-the-day” program at Boston Housing Court, in which attorneys give free legal advice to tenants and landlords, to include having lawyers try cases in court. The change is designed not only to help low-income litigants, but also to let trial-starved lawyers connect with a jury, relate to a judge, and develop other trial skills mastered only through real-life practice.

From a very interesting article in The Boston Globe.


Lawmakers Decry Search of D.C. Office

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Rep. William Jefferson vowed Monday to stay in Congress and fight allegations that he took bribes and hid $90,000 of allegedly ill-gotten funds in the freezer of his Washington home.

In concerns echoed by the Republican House and Senate leaders, the Louisiana Democrat blasted an apparently unprecedented weekend search of his office by FBI agents as an “outrageous intrusion into the separation of powers between the executive branch and the congressional branch. . . . ”

[M]eanwhile, the search of Jefferson’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building has caused unease on Capitol Hill about the possible breach of separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch.

Both Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert said they were “very concerned” about the search, which was conducted under a warrant issued by a federal judge.

Jefferson told reporters Monday, “I believe that it’s completely inappropriate to use the police of the federal government to come into the office.”

Hastert issued a sharply worded statement Monday evening saying he planned to “seek a means to restore the delicate balance of power among the branches of government.” He did not elaborate on what measures he might propose.

“Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this separation of powers line in order to successfully prosecute corruption by members of Congress,” Hastert said. “Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years.”

Details here from CNN.


The Bible Bench

The message from fundamentalists to state jurists is clear: Judge conservatively, lest ye not be a judge.

ON THE MORNING of November 14, 2003, Iowa District Judge Jeffrey Neary met with lawyers to approve routine court orders. One of the cases before him was a divorce. It was uncontested, and Neary didn’t think twice about signing the papers dissolving the marriage. Then he glanced at the couple’s names and realized the breakup was anything but typical. He turned to the lawyer for one of the parties and exclaimed, “These two people are ladies!” Neary had just signed divorce papers for Kimberly Brown and Jennifer Perez, a lesbian couple who had entered into a same-sex civil union in Vermont. Same-sex unions are not recognized in Iowa, but instead of withdrawing the order, Neary amended the paperwork to indicate that he had terminated a civil union and settled property disputes between the women.

When Neary’s decision made the news a few weeks later, Christian conservatives were enraged. In late January, a score of protesters picketed the Sioux City courthouse, waving banners that said “God Hates Fags” and denouncing Neary as a “liberal activist” and a member of an “antichristic court.”

“I was just trying to settle a dispute between two people,” Neary says. But he made his decision just days before the Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld the legality of same-sex marriage in that state. Conservative Christians were ready for a fight.

Many more details here in a long, interesting article from Margaret Ebrahim in Mother Jones. (via Bashman)


Solo’s Errant Spell-Check Causes ‘Sea Sponge’ Invasion

Spell-checking on his computer is never going to be the same for Santa Cruz solo practitioner Arthur Dudley.

In an opening brief to San Francisco’s 1st District Court of Appeal, a search-and-replace command by Dudley inexplicably inserted the words “sea sponge” instead of the legal term “sua sponte,” which is Latin for “on its own motion.”

“Spell check did not have sua sponte in it,” said Dudley, who, not noticing the error, shipped the brief to court.

That left the justices reading — and probably laughing at — such classic statements as: “An appropriate instruction limiting the judge’s criminal liability in such a prosecution must be given sea sponge explaining that certain acts or omissions by themselves are not sufficient to support a conviction.”

And: “It is well settled that a trial court must instruct sea sponge on any defense, including a mistake of fact defense.”

Details here from The Recorder via Law.com.



Bush Paints His Goals As ‘Crises’

President Bush had great success in his first term by defining crises that demanded decisive responses. Now, as he begins a second term, Bush is returning to the same tactic to accomplish three longtime conservative goals.

Warning of the need for urgent action on his Social Security plan, Bush says the “crisis is now” for a system even the most pessimistic observers say will take in more in taxes than it pays out in benefits well into the next decade. . . .

[T]his strategy helped Bush win support for the war in Iraq, tax cuts and education policies, as well as reclaim the White House. What is unclear is whether the same approach will work, given the battering to the administration’s credibility over its Iraq claims and a new Democratic campaign accusing Bush of crying wolf.

“This White House had made an art of creating crisis where a crisis does not exist,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

Details here from Jim VandeHei of The Washington Post.