Court Nixes Extra Warnings for Teen Suspects

The US Supreme Court has declined an invitation to create a special rule for advising juvenile suspects of their Miranda rights prior to an interrogation. In a 5 to 4 decision announced Tuesday, the high court said that criminal suspects who are juveniles are not entitled to more deferential treatment than adult suspects in terms of when Miranda warnings are issued.

The decision reverses an earlier ruling by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that had overturned the conviction of a 17-year-old involved in a 1995 murder. The majority justices rejected the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning, saying the appeals court had overstepped its authority. “The Court of Appeals was nowhere close to the mark,” writes Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority.

Details here from the Christian Science Monitor, or read the Court’s decision here.

Rhonda H. Wills v. Vinson & Elkins LLP

Ms. Wills is an African American mother of two who started as a litigation associate at V&E’s Houston office after law school and a clerkship. There, she “rose through the ranks.” But after twice being denied partnership, she left and sued the firm for race and sex discrimination.

The allegations in her complaint are outrageous, to say the least. V&E’s answer is no less, um, vituperative, beginning as follows: “The plaintiff’s scurrilous complaint relies on incredible stories that are demonstrably false.” You can read it yourself here.

This situation is what a U.S. Marine or Navy Seal might refer to as a “total goatfuck.” So much so that the Greedy Associates/LawTalkers folks have devoted an entire discussion forum to the case. Have fun!

Judge Paves Way for Blockbuster Anti-Trust Suit Against NetFlix

Now that the Apple v. Creative insanity has begun to die down, another equally outlandish lawsuit has taken the crown. On August 17, 2006, Blockbuster filed a motion to dismiss an injunction filed by NetFlix attempting to prohibit Blockbuster from offering movie rentals online claiming Blockbuster infringed on NetFlix patents for its distribution method.

The same San Francisco judge responsible for the NetFlix v. Blockbuster case, US District Judge William Alsup, will now be responsible for the official proceedings of Blockbuster v. NetFlix. Although NetFlix counsel has claimed that the newest proceeding should be separate from the previous IP case, Judge Alsup claims Blockbuster does indeed have enough evidence for an anti-trust case.

“As a result of NetFlix’s purported monopolistic conduct, Blockbuster may be forced out of the market, which would cede to Netflix virtually complete control of the online-DVD market,” Alsup wrote during the acknowledgement letter to open the case. Since the same judge is handling both cases, the most likely outcome is that NetFlix will either be found correct in its assertion that Blockbuster has infringed upon its intellectual property, but is subsequently a monopoly; or that Blockbuster does not infringe upon NetFlix IP and thus NetFlix could not be a monopoly. Talk about damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Details here from

F.B.I. Raid Divides G.O.P. Lawmakers and White House

After years of quietly acceding to the Bush administration’s assertions of executive power, the Republican-led Congress hit a limit this weekend.

Resentment boiled among senior Republicans for a second day on Tuesday after a team of warrant-bearing agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned up at a closed House office building on Saturday evening, demanded entry to the office of a lawmaker and spent the night going through his files.

The episode prompted cries of constitutional foul from Republicans — even though the lawmaker in question, Representative William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, is a Democrat whose involvement in a bribery case has made him an obvious partisan political target.

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert raised the issue personally with President Bush on Tuesday. The Senate Rules Committee is examining the episode.

Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House majority leader, predicted that the separation-of-powers conflict would go to the Supreme Court. “I have to believe at the end of the day it is going to end up across the street,” Mr. Boehner told reporters gathered in his conference room, which looks out on the Capitol plaza and the court building.

A court challenge would place all three branches of government in the fray over whether the obscure “speech and debate” clause of the Constitution, which offers some legal immunity for lawmakers in the conduct of their official duties, could be interpreted to prohibit a search by the executive branch on Congressional property.

I’m glad to see the Republicans in the legislature finally standing up to the Bush administration’s view that its power is virtually unlimited. Especially when the administration’s target was a Democrat accused of corruption. Details here from the New York Times.

Plug for “The Hot Librarian”

You may not appreciate it, but I spend a lot of time dredging through boring, dry news and legal publications trying to find funny or interesting stories to link to for your reading pleasure. Sometimes it sucks.

But once in a while, one of my “sources” throws me a hot link, as Running With Lawyers did this week.

If you don’t already know The Hot Librarian, for God’s sake go meet her now. She may be profane, sophomoric, scatalogical and “immature,” but I think she’s hilarious. (And — bonus points — she is not a lawyer and her site has nothing to do with the law.)

Lining Up To Fight “The Forces of Evil” has a thought-provoking article subtitled: “The religious right will mount a scorched-earth battle against the Massachusetts decision to permit same-sex marriage. And the White House may join in.” The article, which you can read here (though you’ll have to do the silly “premium” ad-viewing thing to read all of it), says:

[The religious right] are not afraid. They say they’ve got God, the president and the Republican Party on their side. While gay-rights activists hailed the Massachusetts ruling as an opportunity for gay couples to make the same commitments and enjoy the same rights as everyone else, activists on the religious right — and their allies in the Republican Party — began work to turn their defeat in Massachusetts into a victory in the presidential election next November.

With a large majority of voters opposed to gay marriage, the right sees in the issue a wedge they can use to separate Democratic candidates from voters otherwise inclined to support them. None of the major Democratic contenders actually supports gay marriage — they all back at least a state’s right to offer “civil unions” to gay partners — but the right is confident that it’s got a winning issue regardless.

I hope the Democrats will be able to counter this effectively. The religious right frames issues like this as examples of courts “creating constitutional rights,” or [edited] “endorsing” behavior they view as immoral. But that’s not what the courts are doing. What they are doing is limiting the scope of government, and restricting the realms of private life that the government can regulate and/or criminalize.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court did not “endorse” [edited] gay marriage. It simply found that it is a violation of the State’s constitution for Massachusetts to discriminate on the basis of gender when conferring the legal benefits of civil union on couples.

Nor did the U.S. Supreme Court, in Lawrence v. Texas, “endorse” [edited] sodomy. It merely said that it was not the government’s business to regulate or criminalize private sexual activity among consenting adults, especially when such regulation or criminalization was not gender-neutral.

Nor did Roe v. Wade “endorse” [edited] abortion. It just held that it was not the government’s business to dictate or regulate a woman’s reproductive health and choices.

The religious right will try to paint a picture of a liberal judiciary run amok, pushing the “gay agenda” or enabling “baby killers.” That is bullshit. What we have is a (usually) responsible judiciary properly restricting the power of the government from regulating private activity, and preventing it from imposing a “moral” agenda upon its citizens through the law.

I am a “card carrying member” of the ACLU. I despise both the neo-nazis/skinheads and the KKK. But I think the ACLU’s successful fight to allow the nazis’ 1977 march through Skokie, Illinois — a largely Jewish area with many Holocaust survivors, obviously selected to maximize the offensive impact of the march — was a great and lasting victory. The ACLU despised the nazis’ message and intent, but recognized that their right to express their opinions — their right to be free from governmental regulation or suppression of their views — was more important. The ACLU’s position, and the courts’ agreement with it, did not [edited] “endorse” the nazis’ hateful message. Rather, their position focused on the inherent limitation on the government’s power to regulate or prohibit the nazis from expressing their message, no matter how despicable the ACLU and the government found it to be.

I think this is a distinction most Americans don’t recognize. I hope the Democratic candidates can figure out how to articulate it effectively.

UPDATE: Where the word “edited” appears in brackets above, I have removed the words “condone” or “condoned” because I had misused those words. See the comments to this post for details.

Thwarting a Useful Jury Experiment?

I don’t necessarily agree with it, but here is an argument that the recent Texas court decision keeping a documentary crew from videotaping a capital jury’s deliberations was wrong. Read it here from the Washington Times.