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Bush to deliver his new strategy for war in Iraq
Law & Politics | 2007/01/08 18:56

President Bush will deliver a much-anticipated address to the nation Wednesday night on his new strategy for the war in Iraq. Media reports say the president is expected to announce an increase of as many as 20,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. New Democratic leaders in Congress have already criticized the idea of a surge in forces, saying they do not believe that adding combat troops will contribute to success.

Also Monday, White House officials say President Bush will nominate U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad to be Washington's representative to the United Nations. White House spokesman Tony Snow says U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker will replace Khalilzad in Iraq. Snow says an official announcement is expected from the State Department later today.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Khalilzad would replace John Bolton. Before taking the position in Iraq, Khalilzad served as Ambassador to Afghanistan from November 2003 to June 2005. During that time, he also served as the special presidential envoy to Afghanistan. A report today in The New York Times says Mr. Bush's new Iraq strategy will set a series of goals for the Iraqi government to meet.

The newspaper says the U.S. "benchmarks" will call for Iraqi leaders to draw more Sunni Muslims into the political process and ease restrictions on members of the formerly ruling Baath Party.



Blair condemns manner of Saddam's execution
U.S. Legal News | 2007/01/07 22:03

Nine days after Saddam Hussein was put to the death in a grisly, publicized video sequence that outraged the world, Britain's prime minister has finally conveyed his complete denunciation of it.

Blair's condemnation - delivered by his official spokesman and not by the great leader himself - came after he was roundly criticised for staying silent on the way Saddam was taunted and degraded before being hanged.

Blair's official spokesman said on Sunday that the execution was "completely wrong". He added that the hanging, which mobile phone footage showed was preceded by Saddam being taunted, "shouldn't have happened in that way".

Blair's condemnation, even if at second hand, came just hours after his chief political rival and anticipated successor as prime minister, Gordon Brown, said the events around Saddam's hanging were "deplorable" and "unacceptable". Blair has promised he will speak next week - in person - about the grisly events in Baghdad on December 30.

Blair had not officially vouchsafed an opinion on Saddam's hanging till now even though President Bush, Egyptian president Hosni Mumbarak and almost the entire British cabinet, starting with deputy prime minister John Prescott and foreign secretary Margaret Beckett have condemned it. Mubarak called the events around the execution "barbaric".

The prime minister's critics have questioned the extraordinary silence of a leader who has so far been quick to speak out about the deaths of footballers, pop stars, film actors, royal princesses and indeed any subject under the sun.

Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell criticised Blair for not commenting, so far: "The prime minister's continuing silence is deafening. His unwillingness to condemn the shameful scenes surrounding Saddam Hussein's execution does him no credit."

Observers said Blair's refusal to discuss Saddam's controversial execution indicated how profoundly uncomfortable he was with the subject. Blair and much of Britain are totally opposed to capital punishment. Despite that, the UK has continued to insist the Iraqi authorities were justified in dealing with Saddam in any way they want.

On Sunday, Downing Street returned to the theme of crime and punishment by insisting that Saddam's crimes and the deaths of Iraqis at his hands should not be forgotten. Declining to confirm precisely when Blair would make his comments on Saddam's hanging, a spokesperson said, "In terms of what he will say next week, we don't think there are going to be any surprises on where he stands. He supports the inquiry by the Iraqi authorities. He does believe that the manner of execution was completely wrong, but this shouldn't lead us to forget the crimes that Saddam committed, including the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis."

Blair, who was on holiday in Miami when the hanging was carried out, has only said so far that he is in favour of an Iraqi inquiry into leaked video footage of Saddam's death.



Trash-hauling case attracts lawmakers to D.C.
Legal Career News | 2007/01/07 19:41

Local officials are heading to Washington, D.C., tomorrow to be present for a case going before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case focuses on whether garbage haulers have the right to bring the trash they pick up to any collection point they choose, or whether local communities can require that the trash be taken to a specific location, said Michael Diederich, a Stony Point attorney.

Diederich won't be in Washington tomorrow, but has submitted two briefs on behalf of the Rockland Coalition for Democracy and Freedom, the Rockland County Conservation Association and the Federation of New York Solid Waste Associations.

Christopher St. Lawrence, in his capacity as chairman of the Rockland Solid Waste Management Authority, and the authority's legal counsel, Bridget Gauntlett, will both attend the court session tomorrow.

The Rockland Solid Waste Management Authority has also filed a brief allowing it to weigh in on the case, United Haulers Association Inc., etc., v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, and Oneida and Herkimer counties.

St. Lawrence, who is also supervisor of the town of Ramapo, said Friday that communities have the right to manage their waste and to require that it be sent to a specific location for transfer or landfill burial.

He said the health and safety of residents and the environment depended on a community's ability to manage its waste, without having a garbage hauler deciding where it would go.

Diederich represented the New York State Association for Solid Waste Management when United Haulers first sued Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, and Oneida and Herkimer counties, which are located in upstate New York.

United Haulers argued that requiring garbage collectors to bring their trash to a specific location violated the U.S. Constitution's Interstate Commerce Clause.

The clause empowers the U.S. Congress "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." The interpretation of the clause has evolved over the years, but it has been used to prevent and break up monopolies.

The haulers argued that the counties and solid waste authority they sued were creating a monopoly in violation of the clause by requiring use of specific disposal facilities.

Diederich successfully argued that waste itself was not an article of commerce, whereas the management of that waste was. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled on the case in 2001.

A similar case then made its way through the Sixth Circuit Court, which is based in Ohio. In that case, National Solid Waste Management Association v. Daviss County, the court ruled last year that so-called "flow control" of trash did violate the Commerce Clause.

The U.S. Supreme Court will now attempt to rectify the differing views of the circuit courts, Diederich said.

He also said local residents should be allowed to democratically choose and decide whether their locally generated trash should go to a publicly managed local facility.

"I view this as a worldwide environmental issue," Diederich said. "If you view waste as valuable, you're encouraging more of it."

Instead, he said, it was the management of that waste that should be valued. That management, he said, should include both reducing waste and recycling what had to be collected.



Lawyers take legal debates online
Headline News | 2007/01/07 18:38

Retired judge Stan Billingsley pores through news accounts daily to find the law behind the story. He's part of a new and growing medium that hopes to fill a gap in news coverage and encourage discussion of the law: legal blogs.

Last week, after studying case law and interviewing the lawyer for the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, Billingsley concluded on news.lawreader.com that the commission has no legal basis to continue legal proceedings against Dan Druen in light of Gov. Ernie Fletcher's pardon of him in the merit hiring investigation.

He's previously defended Chief Justice Joseph Lambert for writing a controversial footnote to a Supreme Court opinion and blasted a Western Kentucky judge for jailing illegal immigrants.

"We look at the law behind the issues," Billingsley said. "We are certainly not partisan in respect to political philosophy, but we do have the driving concept of, 'If you're going to state the law, state it correctly.'"

At least six Kentucky law blogs, or blawgs, have emerged in the last two years, regularly posting digests of court decisions, analyses of statutes and dissections of legal theories. Others are popping up around the country and internationally.

They provide online the kind of in-depth, regular legal analysis usually available only in limited-access media.

Blawggers say they also are motivated by loftier ambitions of improving their profession. Three Kentucky blawggers who were recently interviewed say that what they do is an extension of what civic-minded lawyers have always done: encourage a scholarly discussion of the law.

But now that debate occurs daily rather than in periodicals and journals.

Blawggers have attempted to distinguish themselves from their partisan political counterparts. Louisville personal-injury lawyer Michael Stevens, who publishes kentuckylawblog.com, recently wrote that he doesn't want to be called a blogger anymore because of the baggage associated with it.

Blogs, short for Web logs, are online diaries or journals that allow readers to respond to and comment on the writer's posts.

Blawgs mostly are geared toward lawyers and not a general audience -- unless, say, you have a strange fascination with the intricacies of divorce law. For that, go to Divorce Law Journal at http:// louisvilledivorce.typepad.com.

Billingsley started his free blog to drive traffic to his commercial Web site, lawreader.com, an online law library. It has a search engine for Kentucky's laws and rules of evidence, synopses of appeals court cases and examples of jury instructions, pleadings and other documents commonly filed by attorneys.

"We get the same comment time after time: 'Now I can compete with the big firms,'" Billingsley said. "A single practitioner cannot afford to maintain a big law library."

The Web site saves lawyers time, not to mention inconvenient trips to Frankfort, he said.

The local blawgs are generally light on political commentary, though they do analyze and digest court decisions. They've also defended judges who they say have been criticized unfairly.

"We are doing this for the love of the profession," said Diana Skaggs, who publishes Divorce Law Journal. "We are all aware of the undermining of the public confidence in the judiciary. We see the need for public confidence in our judiciary, and we have an excellent judiciary."

Billingsley defended Lambert last summer for tucking into an unrelated ruling a footnote that said the governor enjoys absolute immunity and may face prosecution only if impeached first. Billingsley disagreed with the footnote but said it's common for judges to comment on legal matters that are not directly related to the case at hand.

The blawggers frequently analyze the law behind major news stories. Billingsley, for example, posted Kentucky cases involving the Bible in the courtroom after a Mississippi jury consulted a Bible while deliberating whether to give the death penalty to a woman who murdered her husband.

Stevens links to court stories across the state -- appeals, court decisions and other law related news such as forums and local bar events. He says his site fills a void left by state bar publications that publish only monthly or quarterly.

"I enjoy thinking about the law, writing about the law and sharing this information with other lawyers," he said.

Blawgs have generated some controversy among those concerned that they constitute lawyer advertising, which is regulated by state bar associations. Lawyers are required to submit advertisements to the Kentucky Bar Association for review and pay a $50 fee, leading to initial fears that blawggers would have to pay $50 per post.

The bar's advertising commission has ruled that is not necessary, but it does require lawyer bloggers to register their "about" pages, which typically contain biographies and links to law firm Web sites.

Robert L. Elliott, a Lexington lawyer who is on the advertising commission, said law blogs "are kind of a new game in town." He said the bar has not yet developed hard rules for how to handle them.

Law blogs are not necessarily lawyer advertising, depending on their content, he said. But Elliott said some blawgs do appear to be nothing more than advertisements, though he declined to point to specific sites.

Lexington lawyer Benjamin Cowgill, who publishes Legal Ethics Newsletter at legalethics.info, said law blogs have no more ethical issues than lawyer Web sites. Cowgill's site triggered the bar association's review of its advertising regulations.

Cowgill says if Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he'd be a blawgger.

"He would be thrilled to live at a time when it is possible to share information with interested people throughout the world, simply by sitting down at his desk and writing at a keyboard," Cowgill wrote in an e-mail.



US Court of Appeals Uphold Voter ID Law
Court Feed News | 2007/01/07 13:38

The US Court of Appeals in Chicago has "elected" to uphold Indiana’s voter ID law, albeit in a split decision.

The law that requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls was challenged as an undue burden on the right to vote.

While the court writes that the law can be improved, the justices ruled that the regulation to show a photo ID was reasonable.

One judge disagreed, writing in dissent, the law was called a thinly veiled attempt to discourage Election Day turnout.

The justice pointed out that voter fraud is already a crime and that no one in Indiana had ever been charged with that crime.



Supreme Court to hear capital, labor cases
Legal Career News | 2007/01/06 21:00

The US Supreme Court Friday granted certiorari in seven cases, including a capital case, an endangered species case, and two labor-related cases among others. In the Texas death row case Panetti v. Quarterman (06-6407), the Court will determine whether it is unconstitutional to execute an mentally ill individual who has a delusion about the actual reason he faces execution despite being factually aware of the reason. Scott Louis Panetti knew he was being executed after killing his wife's parents, but he believed that it was actually because he was "preaching the gospel." The endangered species case stems from two consolidated cases, National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife (06-340) and EPA v. Defenders of Wildlife (05-549), and allows the Court to examine whether the Endangered Species Act permits the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to transfer permitting authority for the discharge of pollutants to the state of Arizona.

In one labor-related case, BCI Coca-Cola Co. of Los Angeles v. EEOC (06-341), the Court will determine whether an employer may be held liable for a subordinate worker's alleged bias where the worker did not make the employment decision at issue. In a second labor-related case, Long Island Care at Home v. Coke (06-593), the Court will decide whether home care workers employed by outside agencies, not directly by families, should receive overtime pay. In other cases, the Court will examine federal law liability for lost or damaged freight, whether private prep schools can talk to prospective student athletes despite their voluntary agreement to obey a no-recruiting rule, and whether courts may consider inferences of innocence when deciding whether someone sued for federal securities violations has a guilty state of mind.



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