How Appealing

Saturday, January 7, 2006

“Alito Advocacy Fills Air of Swing States; Groups Vie to Sway Senate Confirmation”: This article will appear Sunday in The Washington Post.

Posted at 11:35 PM by Howard Bashman

“Basic flaws led FBI to bungle Mayfield case, report finds; Oregon lawyer’s Muslim faith made fingerprint experts less likely to revisit Madrid findings, internal review says”: This article appears today in The Oregonian.

The Los Angeles Times reports today that “Report Says Mistaken Arrest Was Due to FBI’s Sloppy Work.”

The Seattle Times reports that “FBI ‘overconfidence’ blamed.”

The Chicago Tribune reports that “FBI faulted for error in terror case; ‘Overconfidence’ in fingerprint examiners tied to wrongful arrest.”

The Washington Times reports that “FBI error cited in lawyer’s arrest.”

The New York Times reports that “Inquiry Says F.B.I. Erred in Implicating Man in Attack.”

And yesterday evening’s broadcast of NPR‘s “All Things Considered” contained a segment entitled “FBI Faulted in Madrid Bombing Fingerprint Error.”

Some additional details are available via this earlier post.

Posted at 11:15 PM by Howard Bashman

“$54M torture verdict reinstated; An appellate court has reinstated $54.6 million to three alleged victims of torture in El Salvador, after initially revoking the award”: The Miami Herald today contains an article that begins, “In a stunning reversal, a federal appeals court in Atlanta has reinstated a West Palm Beach jury verdict awarding $54.6 million to three plaintiffs who accused two former Salvadoran generals of doing nothing to stop subordinates from torturing them. In February, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had revoked the $54.6 million verdict against the two retired Salvadoran generals — one a Broward resident — who commanded troops in their Central American homeland during the civil war in the 1980s. But on Wednesday, the court changed its mind.”

You can access this past Wednesday’s ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit at this link. And that court’s earlier ruling reaching the opposite result is available here.

Posted at 11:08 PM by Howard Bashman

“Padilla’s Plea in Terror Case Delayed for His New Lawyers; Held since 2002, he was only recently charged. He’s expected to plead not guilty next week”: This article appears today in The Los Angeles Times.

The Miami Herald reports today that “Padilla to plead not guilty; After being detained as an ‘enemy combatant’ in military custody for about four years, a lawyer for Jose Padilla said he plans to plead not guilty to terror-conspiracy charges in Miami federal court.”

And The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports today that “Judge postpones arraignment for terror suspect Padilla; Terror suspect’s mother joins him in federal court.”

Posted at 11:00 PM by Howard Bashman

In tomorrow’s issue of The New York Times Magazine: The magazine section will contain an article headlined “The Bush Administration vs. Salim Hamdan.”

In addition, Law Professor Noah Feldman will have an article headlined “Our Presidential Era: Who Can Check the President?” Therein, Feldman writes, “The limits of presidential power will almost surely be a major topic of discussion during Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, which are scheduled to begin this week.”

Posted at 10:40 PM by Howard Bashman

“Sam He Was”: Caren Deane Thomas has an op-ed today in The New York Times that begins, “When I recently received an invitation to a reunion of my Yale Law School class, it stirred memories of the astounding group of students I found when I arrived there in 1972. Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton are the most famous, of course, but my classmates also include someone else who has made news lately: Sam Alito.”

Posted at 3:54 PM by Howard Bashman

“Black Students Lose Again”: Today in The New York Times, columnist John Tierney has an op-ed (TimesSelect subscription required) that begins, “Democrats once went to court to desegregate schools. But in Florida they’ve been fighting to kick black students out of integrated schools, and they’ve succeeded, thanks to the Democratic majority on the State Supreme Court.”

Posted at 3:33 PM by Howard Bashman

A look at the seven current and former judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit scheduled to testify in favor of the confirmation of Circuit Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court: According to press reports (appearing today, among other places, in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Philadelphia Inquirer), five current and two former Third Circuit judges are scheduled to testify on Judge Alito’s behalf during next week’s confirmation hearing.

The seven are: Chief Judge Anthony J. Scirica, Circuit Judge Maryanne Trump Barry; Senior Circuit Judges Ruggero J. Aldisert, Leonard I. Garth, and Edward R. Becker, and former judges John J. Gibbons and Timothy K. Lewis.

I know about all of these judges as a result of having handled numerous appeals in front of the Third Circuit over nearly the past sixteen years and having clerked for a judge serving on the Third Circuit for two years before that. Here are my quick insights into these witnesses, beginning with the judges I know most well and ending with the judges I know least well.

Senior Judge Becker joined the Third Circuit in 1981 and served as the court’s chief judge from 1998 to 2003, at which point he turned 70 years old and took senior status. Judge Becker is justifiably regarded as one of the Third Circuit’s all-time greatest judges. He is a very active questioner at oral arguments, and he is famous for his very lengthy opinions (often sporting their own table of contents) that can rival law review articles for their detailed treatment of legal issues. Judge Becker discussed Judge Alito’s nomination at length on last Sunday’s broadcast (RealPlayer required) of C-SPAN‘s “America & the Courts.” Judge Becker has a long, very close friendship with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), and like Senator Specter, Judge Becker has been undergoing cancer treatment.

Senior Judge Aldisert joined the Third Circuit in 1968 and served as the court’s chief judge in the mid-1980s. He too is rightfully regarded as one of the Third Circuit’s all-time greatest judges, and Judge Aldisert is also famous as the author of several books, including “Winning on Appeal” and books about the use of logic by judges and lawyers. During the time that Judge Alito has served on the Third Circuit, Judge Aldisert’s chambers have been based in California. Judge Aldisert participated in this blog’s “20 questions for the appellate judge” feature, and his interview can be accessed at this link.

Chief Judge Scirica is simply one of the nicest and kindest people you could ever hope to meet. Before becoming the Third Circuit’s chief judge, he headed the U.S. Courts Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, which oversees the development and amendments to all rules of procedure and evidence in the federal judicial system. He is a moderate and respected judge, who was formerly a Republican state legislator and a trial judge on both the state and then federal benches.

Senior Judge Garth, like Judge Alito, has his chambers in Newark, New Jersey, and Alito served as Judge Garth’s law clerk after Alito graduated from law school. Judge Garth is an active questioner at oral arguments, and if a lawyer (especially a government lawyer) is not answering those questions to Judge Garth’s satisfaction, he can become a brutal interrogator. There are also times when Judge Garth’s temper is evident in his dissenting opinions. I doubt it will be at all evident during his testimony at the confirmation hearings, where I’m sure that he will come across as the very nice person he ordinarily is.

Tim Lewis joined the Third Circuit in 1992, before he had reached the age of 40, and resigned from the Third Circuit in 1999, when he was 45 years of age. Although Lewis, like Alito, was nominated to the Third Circuit by the first President Bush, Lewis turned out to be one of the court’s more liberal judges. Two reasons are given for why Lewis resigned from the Third Circuit at such a young age. One is that he did not enjoy being an appellate judge as much as he had enjoyed serving as a U.S. District Judge. And the second reason, which I have heard from many reliable sources but have never independently confirmed, is said to be health-related. He now practices law at Schnader Harrison’s Washington, DC office. Lewis has always struck me as low-key and well-spoken, and, as his official U.S. Courts biography notes, he is African-American.

John J. Gibbons served as the Third Circuit’s chief judge from 1987 to 1990, at which point he resigned to return to the law firm he had helped found long before joining the bench. Since returning to private practice, Gibbons has handled many significant appeals before the Third Circuit. Judge Alito joined the Third Circuit in 1990 after Gibbons had retired, so it is impossible for Gibbons to testify about Judge Alito as a colleague on the bench. It is possible that they know each other well, however, because they are from the same area of northern New Jersey, and their backgrounds are similar in certain respects.

Judge Barry, aside from being Donald Trump’s sister, is based out of the same Newark, New Jersey courthouse as Judge Alito. President Clinton nominated Judge Barry to the Third Circuit, where she has served since 1999. Notably, Judge Barry appears to have worked very closely with Judge Alito at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark in the late 1970s. Although I know Judge Barry least well of the seven current and former judges scheduled to testify in support of Judge Alito, on the social occasions on which I have spoken with her, I have found her to be plain-spoken and direct, and I imagine her testimony (as a Clinton nominee to the Third Circuit and as someone who worked closely with Judge Alito at the outset of his career as a lawyer) could be very interesting.

Update: A friend who has practiced extensively before the Third Circuit for many more years than I have has emailed with some suggested edits and additions to this post, and I have implemented many of them. The same correspondent cleverly refers to these seven judges as a “Becker’s half-dozen.”

Posted at 3:15 PM by Howard Bashman

“Spy suspect’s lawyer asks how calls were wiretapped”: The Chicago Tribune today contains an article that begins, “Lawyers for a Des Plaines man accused of being an Iraqi spy want to know if his phone calls were recorded under the Bush administration’s controversial domestic surveillance program.”

And in related news, The Los Angeles Times reports today that “Legal Support for Bush’s Spy Actions Is Thin, Report Says; A court probably wouldn’t back up his power claims, two authors tell Congress.” The Congressional Research Service memorandum issued yesterday bears the title “Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information.”

Posted at 10:00 AM by Howard Bashman

“7 Federal Appeals Judges to Testify to Alito’s Character”: This article appears today in The New York Times.

The Washington Post reports today that “Sitting Judges to Speak on Alito’s Behalf; No Conflict of Interest In Role, Specter Asserts.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer today contains articles headlined “Court nominee will get backing from the bench; Specter says seven judges will testify for Alito” and “Plans for Christian rally are attacked; Critics say the North Phila. event, involving noted religious conservatives, aims only to tilt the Supreme Court rightward.”

The Washington Times reports that “Democrats drop Alito witness.”

The Jersey Journal reports that “Alito gets votes of confidence in Hudson.”

And The Bergen (N.J.) Record contains an article headlined “Their verdict: Alito perfect for high court.”

Meanwhile, in commentary, Bob Ewegen has an op-ed entitled “A case by which to judge Alito” in The Denver Post.

And in The Daily Press of Hampton Roads, Virginia, Benjamin Cuker has an op-ed entitled “Judge Alito and the French connection.”

Posted at 8:45 AM by Howard Bashman