News

Ginsburg: Trump Comments Were ‘Ill-advised’

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged her critical comments on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign were “ill-advised,” expressing her regret in a statement today, Politico reports. “On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them. Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect,” she said.

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Transgender Bathroom Case Lands on Courthouse Steps

A Virginia school board hoping to block a transgender teen from using the boy’s bathroom at his high school took its legal fight to the Supreme Court yesterday, Politico reports. The move marks the first time that the legal battle over transgender students’ bathrooms use has been brought to the court. The board is challenging a federal appeals court decision that (1) directed the school to honor the teen’s preferences and (2) rejected a request to block the ruling while the school appeals to the high court. In response, the school board filed an emergency application asking the Supreme Court to suspend the decision.

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3 Attorneys Earn Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Award

The National Civil Rights Museum will presents its Freedom Award to five recipients who have worked to improve human rights in the United States and around the world, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Lawyers among the group are Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney who takes on high profile cases pro bono; Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a professor at the New York University School of Law; and Damon Jerome Keith, the longest serving judge on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The awards event, set for Oct. 20, also will feature a tribute to “the Memphis 13” – a group of first graders who desegregated four elementary schools in the city.

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Lynch Accepts FBI Findings, Ends Clinton Email Case

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said this afternoon that she will accept the FBI’s recommendation to not bring charges against former Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, CNN reports. The decision marks the end of the legal case. Tomorrow, FBI Director James Comey is set to appear before a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and is expected to face tough questions about the agency’s investigation and decision not to recommend charges.

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Former Congressman, Federal Judge Dies at 90

Abner Mikva, a liberal stalwart from Illinois who served in all three branches of government and mentored a young Barack Obama died Monday at the age of 90. Mikva valued bipartisanship and friendship over politics even as he served in the Illinois General Assembly and U.S. House of Representative and as advisor to former president Bill Clinton, the Associated Press reports. Mikva also served on U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for 15 years, the last four as chief judge. WRCB-TV has the story.

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DOJ Seeking Prosecutors to Work Without Pay

The Associated Press reports that U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country have been offering unpaid jobs for entry level prosecutors with promises of training and invaluable work experience. But critics say the unpaid jobs threaten racial diversity in federal prosecutors’ offices and set a bad precedent for labor standards. The association representing associate U.S. attorneys goes a step further, saying the unpaid positions violate the law. MSNBC has the story.

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FBI: No Charges Recommended in Clinton Email Probe

FBI Director James Comey announced today that the FBI will be recommending that no charges be brought against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state. Comey stated that the bureau “did not find clear evidence” that anyone being investigated intended to violate laws, but said there was evidence that the parties "were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” And despite “evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information,” Comey concluded that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. The findings now go to the U.S. Justice Department. The ABA Journal has more on the story while ABC News has the full transcript of Comey's remarks.

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5th Circuit: Machine Guns Not Protected by Constitution

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a federal law that generally bars the possession of machine guns, the ABA Journal reports. The court based its decision on a reading of District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that found the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own a gun. But the case also distinguished between guns used in the military and those possessed at home for self-defense, the appeals court said. The plaintiff in the case wanted to build an M-16 machine gun from components of the AR-15.

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Judge Crenshaw Investiture Set for July 15

The legal community is invited to attend the investiture of Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr. as U.S. district judge for the Middle District of Tennessee on July 15 at 1:30 p.m. The ceremony will take place in Room 207 on level 2 of the Music City Center in Nashville. A reception will follow. Organizers advise allowing sufficient time to pass through a security screening. Please RSVP by July 8 to 615-695-2877.

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Court Audio Recordings Find New Home

After months of uncertainty about its future, the Oyez Project, a free repository of more than 10,000 hours of U.S. Supreme Court oral-argument audio and other court resources, has found a new home. The project’s founder, Jerry Goldman, who is retiring soon, told the National Law Journal that a new arrangement with Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute and Justia, an online publisher of legal information, will keep Oyez alive.

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Federal Law CLE to Focus on Pre-Trial Issues

This year’s annual Federal Practice CLE on July 28 will focus on pre-trial issues, including presentations on pleadings, pre-answer motions and related strategies. Additional sessions will explore amendments to the Federal Civil Rules, which took effect in December 2015, and their impact on practioners. Finally, the program will look at rules related to expert disclosures and alternative dispute resolution techniques.

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Ruling Clarifies When Enhanced Federal Sentences Can Be Applied

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday clarified the criteria for using state law convictions to impose enhanced federal sentences, ruling that a prior crime can be used "only if its elements are the same as, or narrower than, those of the generic offense." In a 5-3 opinion authored by Justice Kagan, the court reversed a lower court decision in Mathis v. United States. That decision had allowed inclusion of a burglary conviction under Iowa law to trigger Armed Career Criminal Act sentence enhancements. The majority opinion found the Iowa statute covered a broader range of conduct than that covered by generic burglary and set out alternative ways of satisfying the locational elements of the crime, according to a report in Jurist.

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Prosecutors Drop FedEx Prescription Drug Case

Criminal charges alleging FedEx knowingly delivered illegal prescription drugs to dealers and addicts were dropped suddenly last week after prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss all charges. FedEx was indicted in 2014 and the trial began last Monday. In court on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said FedEx was “factually innocent” and had repeatedly attempted to identify the customer in question but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was unwilling or unable to provide the information. The Times Free Press has more.

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ABA Ranks Garland as ‘Well Qualified’

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has finished its peer review of Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, and has rated him as “well qualified.” In announcing the rating today, ABA President Paulette Brown called on the Senate to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities to consider and act promptly on the nominee. Read her full statement.

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Federal Judge Bans Court Filings by Prisoner

Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan has issued a permanent injunction barring Eric Houston “from filing any motion, letter or civil action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee without first obtaining approval.” The move comes after Houston filed more than 100 civil petitions in federal courts across the United States – all handwritten and filled with profanities, Knoxnews reports. The injunction also threatens to hold the imprisoned drug dealer in contempt if he violates the order. In taking the unusual stance, Varlan explained that “the court has attempted to review the filings to determine the nature of (Houston’s) allegations, but due to the partially indecipherable handwriting, the threatening language, the profanity, and the nature of the filings — some of which were submitted on what appears to be toilet paper — the court has been unable to fully discern (his) allegations.”

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6th Circuit Launches New Website

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will launch a new website next Monday but has released the web link for interested individuals to review the site in advance. The new site is based on a national model template for federal court websites, which some courts are already using. The new format promises to make things easier on practitioners, especially those who practice in multiple jurisdictions, by trying to include a measure of standardization between the various sites. The existing site can be seen here. Comments about the new format can be sent by email to the webmaster.

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Searches Allowed Based on Outstanding Warrants

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 5-3 that police can seize evidence from what would otherwise be an unconstitutional search if they first discover that the suspect has one or more outstanding arrest warrants. Opponents of the decision cited the fact that, in some cities, thousands of people have arrest warrants pending against them, mostly for traffic violations as insignificant as unpaid parking tickets. In a strongly-worded dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, “The court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.” The Commercial Appeal has the story.

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Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Assault Weapon Bans

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear a case challenging gun control laws enacted in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The decision, handed down with no additional explanation as to the court’s reasoning, allows assault weapons bans to stand in New York and Connecticut. Gun rights groups had challenged laws in those states banning certain semi-automatic weapons and restrictions on bullet magazines. The Commercial Appeal has more.

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Outgoing Solicitor General Reflects on Career, Criticism

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who is stepping down from his post this month, recalls five years of legal “high drama” in The New York Times. Verrilli’s tenure of 37 Supreme Court arguments includes the 2012 case challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law. Despite a "stunning" win in the case, Verrilli reflects on the scathing reviews of his work. “It’s not a good or healthy thing to have your sense of self-worth determined by what other people are saying,” he said. 

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Report: 10% of Federal Judgeships Are Vacant

Nearly 10 percent of federal judgeships are vacant, according to the Washington Post. The number of unfilled judgeships is nearly twice as high as the number of vacancies at this point of President George W. Bush’s presidency. But the report notes that while some judges and lawmakers believe the situation is a “judicial emergency,” a spokeswoman for the Judiciary Committee chairman called it a “made-up crisis.”  

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Who Would Trump Name to Supreme Court? Here's His Short List

Who would Donald Trump appoint to the Supreme Court if he were president? The presumptive Republican nominee for president released a list of 11 potential justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected to the White House. News Channel 5 says the list includes Steven Colloton of Iowa, Allison Eid of Colorado and Raymond Gruender of Missouri, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, Joan Larsen of Michigan, Thomas Lee of Utah, William Pryor of Alabama, David Stras of Minnesota, Diane Sykes of Wisconsin and Don Willett of Texas. 

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Franklin Man Convicted in Romney Tax Fraud Scheme

A federal jury in Nashville has found Michael Mancil Brown guilty of engaging in an extortion and wire fraud scheme involving former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns, the Humphrey on the Hill blog reports. The Franklin man was convicted of six counts of wire fraud and six counts of using facilities of interstate commerce to commit extortion for his scheme to defraud Romney, the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and others, by falsely claiming that he had gained access to the PricewaterhouseCoopers internal computer network and had stolen tax documents for Romney and his wife, Ann D. Romney. A sentencing hearing will likely be in August.

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Roundtable Discussion on Supreme Court Nominee at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos will host a roundtable discussion exploring the U.S. Supreme Court’s current vacancy and the controversy surrounding the nomination of a new justice. The roundtable will include Andrew Napolitano, Fox News senior judicial correspondent and author; Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst and New Yorker staff writer; and Audrey Anderson, Vanderbilt University general counsel. The one-hour discussion is planned for May 2 at 6:30 p.m. in Vanderbilt’s Langford Auditorium. A reception will precede the talk at 5:30 p.m. in the lobby. 

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Republicans Again Delay Stanton Judicial Confirmation

Republicans in Congress today blocked a confirmation vote on nearly a dozen judicial nominees, including U.S. District Court nominee Edward Stanton III. The Memphis attorney was nominated by President Obama nearly a year ago and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last October. The Senate voted two weeks ago to confirm Nashville attorney Waverly Crenshaw Jr. to a U.S. District Court judgeship in Middle Tennessee. The Commercial Appeal reports more than three dozen seats on federal appellate and district courts are also vacant awaiting confirmations.

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Op-ed: 'No Sane Judge' Would Pass Sanders' Test

Democratic Presidential contender Bernie Sanders last week said he would demand a public commitment that any U.S. Supreme Court nominee would vote to overturn a precedent Sanders did not like. An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times criticizes Sanders’ approach: "(It) is not just politically stupid; it undermines the independence of the judiciary.” The author adds, “No lawyer in his or her right mind would make such a commitment to a president or to the Senate.”

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