By Carlyn Kolker
Whatever happened to signing on the dotted
We have to admit, we always thought that lawyers in
particular -- especially ones who deal with, say, housing
contracts -- would be pretty careful to make sure they signed
the papers before they announced a deal. Not so in the $25 billion mortgage settlement announced on Thursday between five
big U.S. banks and state attorneys general, the Justice
Department and the around the country. The settlement documents
aren't actually finalized and available to the public, reports the American Banker. They are supposed to be posted to
nationalmortgagesettlement.com, but they aren't there. "Some who
talked to American Banker said that the political pressure to
announce the settlement drove the timing, in effect putting the
press release cart in front of the settlement horse," American
Banker reports, citing unnamed sources.
He who laughs last
On the campaign trail, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich
has not held back when it comes to his opinions on judges and
the courts. Among other moves, Gingrich has said he would
abolish the 9th Circuit and ignore Supreme Court precedent.
But the GOP hopeful has saved special scorn for U.S.
District Judge Fred Biery in San Antonio, whom he has called an
"anti-religious, dictatorial bigot," as the San Antonio Express
has reported. The reason for Gingrich's anti-Biery ire: In May,
the judge ruled that a San Antonio school couldn't include
prayers at its graduation ceremony. Biery's decision was
reversed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that
Biery was restricting students' free speech rights, saying the
students were not "school-sponsored," according to Reuters. The
case settled on Thursday, with the school district saying it
would prohibit employees from displaying religious symbols at
graduation, but allowing for students to pray.
In a three-page order (hat tip: Texas Lawyer, Associated Press) approving the settlement, Biery got a chance to perhaps
get back at all the critics he's faced throughout the
litigation. "What This Case Has Not Been About," Biery titled
the first section. "The right to pray. Any American can pray,
silently or verbally, seven days a week, twenty four hours a
day, in private as Jesus taught, or in large public events as
Mohammed instructed." Instead, writes Biery, the "real issue" is
"does the United States Constitution allow a government entity
elected by the majority to use its power to tax and its agents
and employees to support and promote a particular religious not
held by a minority?"
After a brief section approving the agreement, Biery leaves
off with a "personal statement," or, er, some might call it a
benediction, as it were: "During the course of this litigation,
many have played a part:
To the United States Marshal Service and local police who
have provided heightened security: Thank you.
To those Christians who have venomously and vomitously
cursed the Court family and threatened bodily harm and
assassination: In His name, I forgive you.
To those who have prayed for my death: Your prayers will
someday be answered, as inevitably trumps probability.
To those in executive and legislative branches of government
who have demagogued this case for their own political goals: You
should be ashamed of yourselves.
To the lawyers who have advocated professionally and
respectfully for their clients respective positions: Bless you."
A bond court judge's sentence is criticized
An unusual sentence by a Florida judge in a domestic
violence case has raised concerns in the domestic violence
community. Instead of requiring the accused to post bond, Judge
John "Jay" Hurley of Broward County, Florida, required the man,
Joseph Bray, to treat his wife to a night out of bowling, a meal
at Red Lobster and counseling. "It was a minor accident," Judge
Hurley said, in explaining the bail conditions, according to the
Sun Sentinel, which also posted a video of the court hearing.
The Sun Sentinel called Hurley's order "whimsical." The Wall Street Journal Law Blog delved into the "creative" sentencing,
which noted that it was not aimed at shaming the defendant.
But now Hurley is being criticized by local domestic
violence advocates, who say he was making light of a serious
charge. (Police had arrested Bray after an altercation at home;
his wife claimed she shoved her against a sofa and grabbed her
neck). "To make light of what is a growing and very serious
public safety issue here in our county demonstrates a lack of
understanding around the issue of domestic violence," the group
Women in Distress wrote in a letter to Hurley, according to NBC Miami. Hurley declined to comment to NBC.
What's in a name?
We've talked recently about children defending their
parents' name. This looks like a little bit of the reverse:
parents defending their child's name -- even if the child in
question is barely a month old. The New York Post, citing the
Washington Post, notes that hip-hop stars Beyonce and Jay-Z have
filed to trademark the name of their daughter, Blue Ivy Carter.
Um, why you ask? In case they want to release any products
bearing their daughter's name -- and, hey, this is America -- to
make sure no one else profits off the name. Sounds like they got
themselves some good legal advice: two previous trademark
filings by fashion and fragrance houses for the name have
already been denied, the WashPo reports, on the grounds that
consumers would be confused by their products, which also
predicts Beyonce and Jay-Z's request is likely to be granted.
A big day for cameras in courts. Or was it?
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11 to 7 on Thursday to
allow cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill, which is
supported by both Democrats and Republicans, now goes to the
full chamber for consideration, Reuters reported.
But, for supporters of cameras in the courts, the victory
may be illusory: Similar bills have gone nowhere. ABC's Ariane
De Vogue reports that 10 similar bills have been approved since
2001, but none has been passed out of the full Senate. And the
Supreme Court has resisted efforts by the Senate, the public,
the media, advocates, and anyone else who has an itch to see the
inner workings of One First Street. So expect this latest effort
to flop, too.
Jane Kirtley, a media law professor at the University of
Minnesota, says that while there have been various efforts, both
legislative and informal, since the 1980s to get cameras into
the Supreme Court, none has succeeded.
Moreover, she says, there is a huge separation-of-powers
issue that suggests it is unlikely that a congressional bill to
force cameras into courts could even have any force -- even if
it did pass.
"I believe there should be cameras in the Supreme Court, but
the bottom line is I don't think Congress has the authority to
force the courts to do this," says Kirtley. The judicial branch,
after all, essentially makes its own rules on how it operates.
"I always wonder whether an attempt of Congress to force this on
the court is just going to encourage the justices to dig in
their heels even more," says Kirtley.
It's a question of the psychology of the Justices. "Are they
thinking, 'Oh, hey, we should be thinking about this more?' Or
they thinking, 'Who are they to tell us what to do?'" asks
The best path, she says, may be to wait until support from
younger Supreme Court justices changes the court's attitude from
Ironically, as Kirtley points out, state courts at both the
appellate and trial levels are opening up more than ever to the
notion of cameras in the courts. Stateline.org, a publication of
the Pew Charitable Trusts, reports that all 50 states have
expressed at least a willingness to have cameras in the courts,
and in the past year Pennsylvania, Minnesota, South Dakota, and
Illinois have become more camera-friendly. Thirty-seven states
put webcasts, video, or audio arguments from their highest
courts online, Stateline says, citing the National Center for
State Courts. Just don't go looking for those kinds of
recordings from the feds anytime soon.
Summary Judgments for Feb. 9
Summary Judgments for Feb. 8
Summary Judgments for Feb. 7
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