By Carlyn Kolker
Senate Democrats took a high-stakes gamble on judicial nominations this week -- and it apparently paid off. As Summary Judgments previously noted, Senate majority leader Harry Reid on Monday filed a procedural move that, in the cases of a Republican filibuster, would have forced 30 hours of debate for each of 17 nominees.
Reid, it seems, got his way -- or at least 14/17ths of his way. On Wednesday, Reid and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell agreed to votes on 14 nominees: 12 district court nominees and two appellate judge nominees. The stable of names does not include any of the candidates who have generated some divided votes in the Senate judiciary committee of late. Instead, the list of nominees who will get votes starting in the next few weeks and continue through May are of the uncontroversial sort. Among them, according to a Democratic Hill staffer: Ronnie Abrams, a nominee to the Southern District of New York (and the first nominee advanced by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand), Michael Fitzgerald, a nominee for the Central District of California, and Stephanie Thacker for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Summary Judgments will provide updates as these nominees come to a floor vote.
A president's chance of getting judicial nominees through the Senate dwindles with the progression of an election year, which of course 2012 is. This package of nominees may help Obama get some traction before it becomes too late.
-Additional reporting by Donna Smith and David Ingram
We admit it: when we aren't perusing legal blogs, we're often checking in on the latest in New York City real estate, a Summary Judgments' guilty pleasure. So this story from the International Business Times (hat tip: ABA Journal), caught our eye. New York University School of Law has purchased a condo on Manhattan's Upper West Side for $3.6 million. No hovel, this apartment has four bedrooms, en-suite bathrooms with Calacatta gold (actually we have no idea what this is, but it certainly sounds fancy!) and radiant heating. That means the bathroom floors are warmed -- in the case any future professorial tenants suffer fromcold toes. An NYU spokesman said a faculty member will rent the unit from NYU. This isn't the first time NYU has shelled out a nice chunk of change for Manhattan real estate, IBT reports. Last year it spent $3.5 million on a condo about a mile from the NYU law school campus.
Update: On his high horse
Alabama judicial elections always make for a good story. Though the state is on the low-end for per-capita income, over the past decade, it spent more on high-court judicial elections than any of the other states, according to a report by Washington-based Justice at Stake, a group that tracks fundraising in judicial races.
2012 will not disappoint. Sure, fundraising appeared to be down - way down -- in the 2012 primary season, as Summary Judgments reported last month, via the Mobile Press-Register. In fact, a 3-way Republican primary for the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court looked like a yawner.
Until Tuesday night. Remember Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice who was kicked off the court in 2003 after refusing to remove a Ten Commandments display from the courthouse? In the late hours of the evening, it looked like Moore had eked out a victory against his two opponents, current Supreme Court Chief Justice incumbent Chuck Malone and Charles Graddick, a former Alabama attorney general, according to the Press-Register. To avoid a run-off, a candidate needed more than 50 percent of the votes; Moore clocked in at 51 percent, according to the Press-Register, and rode a horse into the polling station on Tuesday, the newspaper reported.
For a little context on the win, Summary Judgments caught up with Mark White, a partner at Birmingham law firm White Arnold & Dowd and a former president of the Alabama State Bar who follows judicial politics closely. White chalked Moore's win up to a combination of the dynamic between his two opponents - who ran negative ads beating up on each other -- and his ability to ride the coattails of GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. The two campaigned mightily in the state and brought conservative voters to the polls, the sweet spot of Moore's support base.
Graddick and Malone, both sitting judges "spent a lot of energy trying to keep the other from winning, and they both succeeded. As a result Chief Justice Moore, who stayed outside their campaign and above the fray, won without a run-off," says White.
In the general election, says White, the issue for Moore becomes "who winds up being the Republican nominee and does that core base of support accentuate or not accentuate Moore's core base?"
Moore will face Alabama attorney Harry Lyon in the general election.
Power Rangers wannabes, look out. SCG Power Rangers LLC, the company that owns the rights to the series, brands and products is becoming "legally adventurous," the Hollywood Reporter says. Last year, SCG brought -- and settled -- a trademark and copyright infringement lawsuit against makers of lookalike costume makers right before Halloween. Now it's going after a sweatshirt maker that is producing "Power Hoodiez" with some "geometric design symmetry" to Power Rangers and suing the sweatershirt maker in federal court in California. Hollywood Reporter couldn't reach the defendant for comment.
Another patent battle looming?
This is the era of the big tech company patent battle. We've seen the Apple-Samsung smartphone patent war. Kodak looked to patents to generate revenue before its bankruptcy. And on Monday, the tech world watched as Yahoo sued Facebook over a slew of patents. And now, another mega technology company may be trying to get in on the action: AOL. The media company's CEO Tim Armstrong on Tuesday talked up a portfolio of about 700 to 800 "really important" patents at a conference on Wall Street, according to tech blog All Things Digital. The Business Insider blog cited Armstrong as comparing the patent portfolio to "beachfront property in East Hampton." The patents, some of which Armstrong said have to do with the "foundation" of the Internet, were an important part of negotiations when AOL broke off from Time Warner, he said. Armstrong, according to a transcript cited by Business Insider, didn't go into great detail about his specific strategy for turning these patents into money -- although that's clearly what he's after.
Big licensing deals? Litigation? Time will tell. But after reading this speech, we are on the look out for more details about AOL's patent strategy.
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