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First US execution of 2007 held in Oklahoma
Legal Career News | 2007/01/11 02:34

The first US execution of 2007 took place Tuesday, when the state of Oklahoma executed a man by lethal injection for the 1992 murders of four people. The US Supreme Court denied Corey Duane Hamilton's request for a stay of execution and certiorari review on Monday, with Justices Souter and Stevens voting to grant the request. The Death Penalty Information Center said Hamilton is one of thirty people in the US scheduled to be executed in 2007. Death sentencing in the US hit a 30-year low in 2006.

Earlier this month, a New Jersey State commission recommended abolishing capital punishment in that state altogether, replacing it with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. If the commission's report makes its way into law New Jersey will become the first US jurisdiction to ban capital punishment in over 35 years. In December, Florida Governor Jeb Bush suspended all executions in that state after a lethal injection execution there was botched, and a federal judge effectively suspended capital punishment in California by ruling that that state's lethal injection procedure creates "an undue and unnecessary risk" of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution.

Supreme Court rules in railroad negligence case
Court Feed News | 2007/01/11 02:33
The US Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the causation standard for railroad negligence under the Federal Employers Liability Act is the same as that for employee contributory negligence under the Act. In Norfolk Southern v. Sorrell, an employee of the railroad sued for injuries suffered and was awarded $1.5 million in damages. The railroad disputed jury instructions used at trial, arguing that the standard used to determine the railroad's negligence was "much more exacting" than the standard used for employee contributory negligence. The Supreme Court vacated the state appeals court decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Supreme Court rules in immigration, patent cases
Court Feed News | 2007/01/10 04:46

The US Supreme Court handed down decisions in three cases Tuesday, including US v. Resendiz-Ponce, where the Court upheld the conviction of Juan Resendiz-Ponce on charges of attempting to re-enter the United States illegally from Mexico after being deported. The indictment in the case did not allege an overt act showing that he tried to enter the US, but the Supreme Court ruled that the indictment was not defective as it "need not specifically allege a particular overt act or any other 'component part' of the offense." Read the Court's opinion per Justice Stevens, along with a dissent from Justice Scalia.

In MedImmune v. Genentech, the Court ruled that MedImmune did not need to breach its patent license agreement with Genentech before challenging the patent's validity, overturning a Federal Circuit decision.

In a statement Tuesday the industry group Coalition for Patent Fairness said that the unanimous ruling demonstrated yet again that "the patent system needs to be modernized. Fair patent protections deliver innovative products for consumers and strengthen America's international competitiveness. This ruling is a positive step, but it is clear that a legislative remedy is needed to strengthen our overall patent system."

Finally, the Court remanded Burton v. Stewart back to the lower courts, saying that Lonnie Lee Burton's appeal should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The Court had agreed to hear the case to determine whether Blakely v. Washington, the 2004 decision which limited judges' discretion in criminal sentencing, "announced a new rule and, if so, whether it applies retroactively on collateral review." Despite hearing oral arguments on those issues, the Court ruled that Burton never complied with the jurisdictional requirements of 28 US 2244(b).

Libby judge refuses to release audio recordings of trial
Headline News | 2007/01/10 04:41

US District Judge Reggie B. Walton denied a request Tuesday from several news organizations seeking the daily release of audio recordings of arguments and testimony in the upcoming CIA leak trial of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Walton ruled that the US District Court for District of Columbia will not follow the lead set by the US Supreme Court, which now makes audio recordings of arguments available to the public.

Libby faces charges of perjury and obstruction of justice when his trial begins January 16. One of Libby's defense lawyers said last month that his client plans to call his former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, to testify.

US House Passes Anti-Terror Legislation
Legal Career News | 2007/01/09 18:42

The US House of Representatives passed its first piece of legislation for the 110th Congress late Tuesday, a bill to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission remaining after the enactment of the Intelligence Reform bill in 2004. The bill provides for additional intelligence oversight and sets out an ambitious screening program for shipping cargo coming into the US. HR 1 passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 299-128, though several Congressional Republicans assailed the bill's passage as a Democratic effort to appear tough on terrorism without considering the financial implications.

Tuesday's passage of HR 1 marks the first of several key votes scheduled by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to occur during the Democrats first 100 hours in office. Later this week the House will vote on legislation to raise the federal minimum wage and expand embryonic stem cell research.

Bush taps Fielding as new White House counsel
Law & Politics | 2007/01/09 18:41

US President George Bush announced Tuesday that Fred F. Fielding will serve as the new White House counsel. Fielding, who has advised Bush throughout his presidency and sat on the 9/11 Commission, will replace Harriet Miers, who announced her resignation last week. Bush praised Miers, saying "she has devoted herself to the rule of law and the cause of justice," and called Fielding "uniquely qualified" to replace her.

Fielding served as General Counsel to President Reagan from 1981-86 and deputy counsel under President Nixon from 1970-72, and is regarded by observers as having the political experience that Bush may need to face challenges to executive authority from the new Democratically-controlled Congress. Fielding, 67, leaves his position as a partner at Wiley, Rein and Fielding in Washington, DC.

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