How Appealing

Monday, October 23, 2006

"Defense in truck deaths to blame prosecution witness": Harvey Rice of The Houston Chronicle provides a news update that begins, "The truck driver who faces a possible death sentence for his role in a fatal immigrant-smuggling attempt assured a judge this morning that he agrees with his attorney's strategy of admitting the driver is guilty of transporting illegal immigrants."
Posted at 07:28 PM by Howard Bashman

"Ex-Chief Executive of Enron Is Sentenced to 24 Years": The New York Times provides this news update.

The Washington Post provides a news update headlined "Enron's Skilling Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison."

The Los Angeles Times provides a news update headlined "Skilling gets 24 years, 4 months in prison."

And this evening's broadcast of NPR's "All Things Considered" contained an audio segment entitled "Skilling Sentenced to At Least 24 Years for Fraud" (RealPlayer required).
Posted at 07:25 PM by Howard Bashman

"Judge: Times Must Reveal Anthrax Sources." The Associated Press provides a report that begins, "A federal judge ordered The New York Times to disclose a columnist's confidential sources as part of a libel lawsuit filed over the newspaper's coverage of the 2001 anthrax attacks."
Posted at 07:20 PM by Howard Bashman

"Is There a Case for Legalizing Polygamy?" That's the subject for discussion this week at "The Becker-Posner Blog." Becker offers these thoughts, to which Posner responds.

One week ago today, I linked here to an article published in The Salt Lake Tribune headlined "Justices may see bigamy case."
Posted at 05:45 PM by Howard Bashman

"Size Matters: Thomas Cooley's Law School Rankings." "TaxProf Blog" provides this post.
Posted at 04:25 PM by Howard Bashman

Twenty-four years and change: Jeffrey Skilling has received a sentence of 292 months of imprisonment, according to this post at The Houston Chronicle's "Enron: TrialWatch" blog. That would appear to put the sentence at the low end of the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range.

And The Associated Press reports that "Skilling Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison."

Update: The Houston Chronicle provides a news update headlined "Skilling gets 24 years in prison for Enron fraud." And Andrew Cohen, at his "Bench Conference" blog at, has a post titled "Fair or Not, Skilling Got What He Deserved."
Posted at 04:02 PM by Howard Bashman

"Skilling Says He's Innocent, Remorseful": The Associated Press provides this report. Additional updates from the sentencing proceeding, underway now, can be accessed via The Houston Chronicle's "Enron: TrialWatch" blog.
Posted at 03:15 PM by Howard Bashman

"Government Defends 1998 Anti-Porn Law": The Associated Press provides this report from Philadelphia.
Posted at 02:05 PM by Howard Bashman

Redefining the meaning of a bad plane flight: A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit issued a decision on Friday that rejected the appeal of a defendant convicted of having committed sexual abuse of another person "within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States." Those in search of more details will certainly find them in the court's ruling.

Earlier press coverage of this matter can be accessed here and here.
Posted at 12:44 PM by Howard Bashman

"Why shouldn't all law schools regularly host real oral arguments?" Doug Berman has this post at his new blog, "Law School Innovation."
Posted at 12:14 PM by Howard Bashman

"I want to share with you today my concerns about capital punishment." So begins the text of remarks that Fifth Circuit Judge Carolyn Dineen King delivered on October 4, 2006 at the Red Mass at Corpus Christi Cathedral (via "StandDown Texas Project").
Posted at 12:10 PM by Howard Bashman

"Justice: 'Stand up'; High court's Thomas issues call at UGA." This article appeared Saturday in The Athens Banner-Herald.
Posted at 12:04 PM by Howard Bashman

There's one readily available way to decline to receive Pennsylvania's judicial pay raise -- resign from the judiciary: On Friday, I linked here to news coverage that "Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin is suing the state court system, saying court officials violated her rights by refusing to let her decline a 15 percent pay raise."

It occurs to me that if one is seeking to increase the amount of money that remains in the treasury of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, suing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania over the supposed right to refuse an approximately $17,000 annual pay raise is probably not the most cost-efficient way to go about things. The easiest way to decline the pay raise would be to resign from the judiciary altogether. That would save Pennsylvania $162,100 in salary per year until a replacement judge took the bench. Or, Judge Orie Melvin could anonymously refund the salary increase to Pennsylvania's Department of Revenue using money orders that could not be traced back to her.

A news update (free access) from The Legal Intelligencer on Friday began, "Some might believe that Superior Court Judge Joan Orie Melvin’s highly public bid to keep her salary at its pre-pay-raise-decision level is a sure sign that she’s planning a second run for the state Supreme Court in 2007." But that doesn't make very much sense, as the Pa. Supreme Court's Justices presumably achieved pay increases in an even greater amount than Pennsylvania's intermediate appellate court judges. And if the current lawsuit fails to establish the right of Pa. Supreme Court Justices to decline their pay raises, perhaps a future Justice Orie Melvin will need to file a new lawsuit if she's elected to Pennsylvania's highest court.

As noted here, here, here, and here, Judge Orie Melvin is no stranger to high-profile lawsuits.
Posted at 11:45 AM by Howard Bashman

Forthcoming speaking appearances: On November 16th and 17th, I'll be at the New York Marriott Marquis Times Square Hotel taking part in a two-day "Blog Law" continuing legal education program. My panel is scheduled for the morning of Friday, November 17th. Additional details and online registration can be accomplished via this link. Notice is hereby given to "Above the Law" that a law blogger lunch with PG from the "de novo" blog is in the works.

On Tuesday, December 5th, I'm scheduled to be in New Haven, Connecticut to participate in a law blogging panel hosted by the Yale Law Federalist Society.

Finally, for those who like to plan far, far in advance, I'm scheduled to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to participate in a law blogging panel tentatively scheduled for Monday, May 7th, 2007.
Posted at 11:18 AM by Howard Bashman

"Just Deserts or Just Harsh": CQ Weekly columnist Kenneth Jost provides this preview of Philip Morris USA v. Williams, the punitive damages-excessiveness case now pending on the merits for decision before the U.S. Supreme Court.

You can access the Supreme Court of Oregon's ruling in the case at this link.

Here's my preview of the case, originally written to appear as a part of the October 16, 2006 installment of my "On Appeal" column for

The corporate world will surely focus on the Supreme Court on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 31, given that the first case to be argued that day will see the Court returning to the issue of when a punitive damage award is unconstitutionally excessive. Once again, a ruling from the Supreme Court of Oregon will be the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court's punitive damages inquiry.

At issue in Philip Morris USA v. Williams is whether the Supreme Court's recent holding that the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages should seldom exceed the single digits ought to apply to certain corporate tortfeasors, such as tobacco product manufacturers, that engaged in especially egregious conduct.

In this case, plaintiff Mayola Williams, the widow of a smoker who died of lung cancer, won a punitive damages award against Philip Morris totaling $79.5 million. The jury's compensatory damages award totaled $821,485.50, the vast bulk of which represented non-economic damages. Notwithstanding the greater than 96-to-1 ratio of punitive to compensatory damages, Oregon's highest court upheld the award, finding that Philip Morris's conduct was "extraordinarily reprehensible" and "put a significant number of victims at profound risk for an extended period of time."

In addition to deciding whether this particular award is too large, the Court has also agreed to resolve whether the jury was properly allowed to consider the harm Philip Morris caused to other Oregon residents in deciding how great of a punitive damages award to impose in a case involving one deceased smoker.

Although any punitive damages case that the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to review is noteworthy, this case is especially so because it will be the first such case to be decided on the merits since Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the Court -- and also because retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had been at the forefront of the Court's efforts to rein in excessive punitive damages awards, while Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia had criticized the Court's involvement in controlling the size of state court punitive damages awards. It will be interesting to see, on this issue, whether Roberts and Alito opt for the pattern set by O'Connor or will opt for the hands-off approach that Scalia continues to advocate.

If Roberts and Alito side with Scalia on the subject of punitive damages, a total of five votes will exist -- counting Justices Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- to end the Court's involvement in regulating the size of state court punitive damages awards. Corporate America surely fears that possible outcome, even though the more likely outcome is that Roberts and Alito will adhere to existing Supreme Court precedent for which O'Connor once provided the crucial fifth vote.
Posted at 10:58 AM by Howard Bashman

"Skilling to Be Sentenced for Enron Conviction": This audio segment (RealPlayer required) appeared on today's broadcast of NPR's "Morning Edition."
Posted at 10:44 AM by Howard Bashman

"Former CIA spy branded a traitor wants to clear his name; Like a story in a spy novel, Edwin Wilson is out to prove he was set up": This article appears today in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Posted at 10:38 AM by Howard Bashman

"Order in the court: U.S. Chief Justice Roberts, panel hear student moot case." The Daily Gamecock contains this article today.
Posted at 08:30 AM by Howard Bashman

"The horizon recedes again on Indians' vast royalty claims": This article appears today in The Los Angeles Times.
Posted at 08:23 AM by Howard Bashman

"Confirmation Wars: Ben Wittes on How to Preserve Judicial Independence." The current issue of The Harvard Law Record contains this article.

Coincidentally, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. mentioned Wittes's book during his talk Friday at the University of South Carolina School of Law. You can view video of that talk via this earlier post.
Posted at 08:20 AM by Howard Bashman

"Speculation on Gay Marriage Ruling Swirls in New Jersey": This article appears today in The New York Times.
Posted at 08:05 AM by Howard Bashman

On this date in 1987: The U.S. Senate voted not to confirm Robert H. Bork to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. In the next day's issue of The New York Times, Linda Greenhouse had an article headlined "Bork's Nomination Is Rejected, 58-42; Reagan 'Saddened.'" Ultimately, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was confirmed to fill the vacancy.

Coincidentally, the 58-42 vote against Judge Bork's confirmation was exactly the opposite of the 58-42 vote in January of this year to confirm Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to the Court.
Posted at 08:00 AM by Howard Bashman

"An era ends today as Skilling learns fate; Some counting on a long sentence for ex-Enron CEO": This article appears today in The Houston Chronicle, along with an article headlined "Skilling seeks to remain free during appeal."
Posted at 07:50 AM by Howard Bashman

"The C.I.A.'s Travel Agent": Jane Mayer has this "Talk of the Town" item in the October 30, 2006 issue of The New Yorker.
Posted at 07:45 AM by Howard Bashman

"Blawg Review #80": Available here, at "Blawg Review."
Posted at 06:45 AM by Howard Bashman

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