How Appealing


Friday, February 1, 2008

The Associated Press is reporting: Now available online are articles headlined "Court Won't Reconsider Guantanamo Ruling" and "Fake Bomb Defendant Cites 1st Amendment."
Posted at 02:08 PM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Roadblock for Justice nominee": Today in The Chicago Tribune, James Oliphant has an article that begins, "Chicago federal Judge Mark Filip, slated to be the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, is caught in a standoff between Senate Democrats and the Bush administration, putting his nomination on hold. And he can thank one of his home-state senators, Dick Durbin, for it."
Posted at 11:52 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

Unanimous three-judge Second Circuit panel affirms dismissal of lawsuit alleging that New York State's use of eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project violates the Public Use Clause of the Fifth Amendment: You can access today's interesting ruling at this link.

In early news coverage, The Associated Press reports that "Federal appeals court says Atlantic Yards project can go forward."
Posted at 11:40 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Times Reporter Subpoenaed Over Source for Book": The New York Times today contains an article that begins, "A federal grand jury has issued a subpoena to a reporter of The New York Times, apparently to try to force him to reveal his confidential sources for a 2006 book on the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the reporter's lawyers said Thursday."
Posted at 11:30 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today issued an order denying rehearing en banc in Bismullah v. Gates: The order denying rehearing en banc, in this Guantanamo detainee-related case in which the U.S. Supreme Court previously indicated it was looking forward to receiving the D.C. Circuit's views, is accompanied by five separate opinions -- two concurring in the denial of rehearing en banc and three dissenting therefrom.

According to today's order, five of the D.C. Circuit's active judges voted to grant rehearing en banc. Because that court currently consists of ten active judges, a majority of six votes was needed to grant rehearing en banc.

At "SCOTUSblog," Lyle Denniston has a post titled "No rehearing on major detainee ruling." In September 2007, Lyle previewed the federal government's rehearing request in this post.

I had this post about the original three-judge panel D.C. Circuit's ruling in this case on July 20, 2007, the day that opinion issued.
Posted at 10:58 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Four judges in the hat for Nichols trial": This article appears today in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, along with an article headlined "Nichols writer didn't expect fuss."
Posted at 09:45 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Mukasey's Mojo: Yes, he stonewalled on water-boarding, but the attorney general's testimony still revealed something profound about the man himself." Benjamin Wittes has this essay online at The New Republic.
Posted at 09:42 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Stanford's Lessig tackling even bigger battle": This article appears today in The San Francisco Chronicle.
Posted at 09:40 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Surveillance Law Extended For 15 Days": Dan Eggen has this article today in The Washington Post.
Posted at 09:36 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Bush's hedge on bill renews debate over 'signing statements'; Critics worry they may be seen as giving the president authority to disregard laws that have been passed": This article appears today in The Los Angeles Times.
Posted at 09:35 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"TiVo Wins Injunction in Patent Fight; Since the 'eBay' ruling, injunctions have been harder to come by": law.com provides this report.

The Rocky Mountain News reports today that "Court upholds patent infringement ruling."

And Reuters reports that "U.S. patent court rules for TiVo, against EchoStar."

My earlier coverage of yesterday's Federal Circuit ruling appears at this link.
Posted at 09:20 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Release of 1950s U.S. Grand Jury Transcripts Is Sought in Rosenberg Atomic Spy Case": This article appears today in The New York Times.
Posted at 09:05 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Crime Victims' Right to Object to a Plea Agreement": Paul Cassell has this post at "The Volokh Conspiracy."
Posted at 08:50 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Backlog: Texas Supreme Court justices must dispose of their cases in a more timely manner." This editorial appears today in The Houston Chronicle.
Posted at 08:47 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Ex-high school athlete sues N.J. Supreme Court justice": The Atlantic City (N.J.) Press today contains an article that begins, "A former high school football player is suing a state Supreme Court justice, alleging the justice used his power to intervene in a dispute between his son and the teen. Conor Larkin, who played on the Haddonfield High School football team with Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto's then-sophomore son, is seeking unspecified monetary damages in the suit filed Thursday. In July, the state Supreme Court took the rare step of censuring Rivera-Soto for his conduct in the case. The court found that he violated judicial standards while interceding in the dispute."

And The Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger reports today that "Star athlete sues state justice over dispute with son."
Posted at 08:44 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Justice Delayed: Judicial confirmations should keep pace with Clinton's final years." U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has this op-ed today in The Wall Street Journal.
Posted at 08:33 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Testimony focuses on campaign work in Wecht trial": Jason Cato has this article today in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

And The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports today that "More Wecht staffers say errands impaired work."
Posted at 08:28 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Bail bond company sees Wesley Snipes as flight risk; Judge refuses firm's motion to be released from actor's bond; jury still deliberating": The Ocala Star-Banner contains this article today.
Posted at 08:04 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Law students protest Bybee's torture memo; Audience members place trash bags on heads during talk by former chief of Bush's Office of Legal Counsel": This article appears today in The Yale Daily News.
Posted at 07:55 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Oregon court upholds award; State justices affirm a $79.5 million verdict against Philip Morris for a second time": Ashbel S. Green has this article, in which I am quoted, today in The Oregonian.
Posted at 07:50 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

In commentary available online from FindLaw: Scott Gerber and Kevin Hawley have an essay entitled "Blame Canada: The Arguments For and Against Increasing Federal Judicial Salaries."

And Vikram David Amar has an essay entitled "The California Supreme Court's Decision on Whether an Employee Can Be Fired For Testing Positive for Off-the-Job, Doctor-Suggested Medical Use of Marijuana."
Posted at 07:44 AM by Howard Bashman




Friday, February 1, 2008

"Alito Stops Short of Thomas, Scalia in Abortion, Religion Cases": Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News provides this interesting report, based in part on Stohr's recent interview with Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
Posted at 07:35 AM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in favor of Philip Morris in Philip Morris USA v. Williams may not have helped Philip Morris much in Oregon today, but the ruling did help Philip Morris in California yesterday: The new blog "California Punitive Damages" provides this post about a California Court of Appeal ruling, issued yesterday, that set aside a $28 million punitive damages award against Philip Morris based on the U.S. Supreme Court's February 2007 ruling in the case out of Oregon.

And an even more recent post at that blog opines that the result of today's Oregon Supreme Court decision against Philip Morris, holding under Oregon law that a partially valid proposed jury instruction can be rejected if the instruction is also partially invalid, would not be reached by a court that was applying California law.
Posted at 10:35 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Senate Panel Approves Judicial Pay Raise And Junkets Ban": Lawrence Hurley of The Daily Journal of California has this post at his "Washington Briefs" blog.
Posted at 10:20 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

"NJ Supreme Court justice Rivera-Soto sued": The Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger provides a news update that begins, "A former star high school football player sued state Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto today, alleging the associate justice wielded the considerable prestige of his robe against him because of a running dispute on the gridiron with Rivera-Soto's son."

And The Associated Press reports that "Teen sues NJ Supreme Court justice over actions in dispute with son."
Posted at 07:55 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Ala. Inmate Wins Stay of Execution": The Associated Press provides this report.
Posted at 07:52 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

"A guide to 'Selyaisms'": Frederick A. Brodie, a former law clerk to First Circuit Judge Bruce M. Seyla, has this essay in the current issue of The National Law Journal.
Posted at 04:58 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

Next will the Sixth Circuit permit Tennessee to sue the North Carolina Valley Authority? Today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a federal district court's decision that refused to dismiss North Carolina's common-law nuisance action against the Tennessee Valley Authority. The lawsuit contends that the TVA's coal-fired power plants in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky emit various pollutants that travel through the atmosphere into North Carolina, adversely impacting human health and environmental quality. You can access today's Fourth Circuit ruling at this link.
Posted at 04:55 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

If you don't want your children in kindergarten, first, or second grades to be exposed to books that favorably portray same-sex couples, then don't send your children to public school: So holds the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in this ruling that a unanimous three-judge panel issued today.
Posted at 04:22 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

The cost to Philip Morris of trying to slant jury instructions too far in its favor -- $79.5 million in punitive damages: As I first noted in this post from this morning, today the Supreme Court of Oregon issued its ruling, on remand from the Supreme Court of the United States, in Williams v. Philip Morris Inc. Although Philip Morris had won before the U.S. Supreme Court, today's ruling by Oregon's highest court reinstates a jury's award of $79.5 million in punitive damages, on top of a compensatory damages award of $821,000, against Philip Morris and in favor of a cigarette smoker's widow. How could this be?

When Philip Morris most recently brought this case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the company asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider two objections to the punitive damages award. First, Philip Morris advanced a procedural due process challenge, asserting that that a defendant's due process rights are violated if a jury assesses punitive damages to punish a defendant for having caused harm to persons other than the plaintiff. And second, Philip Morris advanced a substantive due process challenge, asserting that the punitive damages award was unconstitutionally excessive because, among other reasons, it was nearly one hundred times larger than the award of compensatory damages.

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 5-4 ruling in February 2007, the Court agreed with Philip Morris's procedural due process argument. The Court held that a defendant's due process rights are violated if a jury assesses punitive damages to punish a defendant for having caused harm to persons other than the plaintiff. As a result, the U.S. Supreme Court found it unnecessary to address the company's substantive due process challenge to the punitive damages award as unconstitutionally excessive.

Philip Morris had sought to preserve its procedural due process objection, which the U.S. Supreme Court recognized as meritorious, by means of a proposed jury instruction. Today, the Supreme Court of Oregon, acting on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court, held that the trial court properly refused to deliver to the jury Philip Morris's proposed jury instruction because it misstated Oregon's law of punitive damages in various other respects. Under Oregon law, a party has no right to have a trial court deliver its proposed jury instruction unless the instruction is entirely unobjectionable. Philip Morris's proposed jury instruction was far from entirely unobjectionable, according to Oregon's highest court, and therefore Philip Morris has no one to blame other than itself (and its trial lawyers) for failing to have its procedural due process rights vindicated in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court's February 2007 ruling.

Let's assume, as is most likely the case, that today's Supreme Court of Oregon decision constitutes an adequate and independent state law ground that will prevent Philip Morris from benefiting from the U.S. Supreme Court's February 2007 procedural due process ruling in Philip Morris's favor. This still leaves the company with the ability to pursue its substantive due process challenge to the punitive damages award as unconstitutionally excessive. Remember that the U.S. Supreme Court had originally granted certiorari to review that question but then found it unnecessary to resolve.

For better or worse, today's Supreme Court of Oregon ruling has likely transformed this case into an unattractive vehicle for U.S. Supreme Court review on the substantive due process question of the unconstitutional excessiveness of punitive damages. My reasoning proceeds as follows. To determine whether a punitive damages award is unconstitutionally excessive, one must consider the evidence that was before the fact-finder. Here, due to Philip Morris's failure to tender a valid punitive damages instruction, Philip Morris has forfeited any ability to object to the jury's consideration, in assessing punitive damages, of the harm that Philip Morris caused to Oregon smokers other than the plaintiff. Determining whether this particular punitive damages award is unconstitutionally excessive will require the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh a type of evidence that, as a result of its earlier ruling in this very case, other juries deciding whether to award punitive damages won't ever be considering. Thus, a substantive due process ruling in this case would amount to little more than error correction and would be unlikely to result in a ruling of widespread application to other cases.

Even though this case may no longer present an attractive vehicle for examining the substantive due process limits of excessive punitive damages, Philip Morris can still hope that the U.S. Supreme Court, before it gets around to denying the company's forthcoming cert. petition, will decide or agree to decide another case presenting a substantive due process challenge to excessive punitive damages. Unfortunately for Philip Morris, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down this issue in the Exxon Valdez case.

In closing, to return to the title of this post, it is worth emphasizing that the reason Philip Morris failed to benefit from the U.S. Supreme Court's punitive damages ruling in its favor in this very case is that the trial lawyers for Philip Morris tried to slant their proposed punitive damages instruction too far in defendant's favor. Had the company's proposed punitive damages instruction faithfully tracked the applicable Oregon statute, today's Supreme Court of Oregon ruling would have likely set aside the jury's punitive damages award and granted a new trial. So, to you young litigation associates pondering how far you should twist the law in your client's favor in proposed jury instructions, remember: attempting to gain your client some subtle, modest advantage could backfire and someday cause your client to lose its ability to overturn a nearly $80 million punitive damages award.

Elsewhere, Ashbel S. Green of The Oregonian (with whom I had the pleasure of speaking about this case a bit earlier today) has a news update headlined "Oregon Supreme Court backs $79.5 million award; The judgment against Philip Morris had been overturned twice."

The Associated Press reports that "Oregon high court reaffirms decision in Philip Morris case."

At "The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times," Tony Mauro has a post titled "Oregon Supreme Court to U.S. Supreme Court: Thanks, But No Thanks."

And Eric Turkewitz, at the "New York Personal Injury Law Blog," has a post titled "Philip Morris $79.5M Punitive Award Reinstated By Oregon High Court."
Posted at 03:57 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ninth Circuit grants rehearing en banc to consider the constitutionality of a school's strip-search of a 13-year-old female honor roll student with no prior disciplinary problems based on the allegation she had given a classmate a prescription-strength ibuprofen tablet: You can access at this link today's order granting rehearing en banc.

A divided three-judge panel upheld the constitutionality of the search in a decision issued on September 21, 2007. My coverage of that decision appeared at this link.
Posted at 02:23 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Associated Press is reporting: Now available online are articles headlined "Ala. Execution Could Be First in Months" and "Court Rules for TiVo in Patent Dispute."
Posted at 02:12 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pending amendments to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure -- who has commented thus far? Yesterday, I had this rather lengthy post describing the proposed amendments -- now up for public comment -- to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Next Monday's installment of my "On Appeal" column for law.com will also discuss these proposed amendments.

My post from yesterday described how to submit public comments, but I neglected to note that you can access online, via this link, the comments received thus far pertaining to the proposed FRAP amendments. (Comments on amendments to the other federal procedural rules now up for discussion can be accessed via this link.) Of the handful of comments received thus far on the proposed FRAP amendments, I nominate the comments of Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook as most entertaining.
Posted at 12:20 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirms $74 million patent infringement award in favor of TiVo, Inc. and against EchoStar: If the TiVo smiley face logo seems a bit happier than usual, it may be as a result of this ruling issued today.
Posted at 12:10 PM by Howard Bashman




Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Court upholds $79.5 million smoker verdict": Ashbel S. Green of The Oregonian provides this news update. My most recent coverage appears immediately below.
Posted at 12:00 PM by Howard Bashman



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