News

Bill Extends 30 Federal Bankruptcy Judgeships

Congress sent a bill to the White House on Thursday that would extend 30 temporary federal bankruptcy judgeships for another five years. The bill reauthorizes bankruptcy judgeships in 14 states and Puerto Rico that had already expired. Without the legislation, those districts would have lost a judgeship anytime a judge retired or left the bench for any reason, something that had already happened in two districts. The Blog of Legal Times has more

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Longest Serving Federal Appeals Judge Dies

Judge James Browning of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals died Saturday (May 5) at the age of 93. Browning, reportedly the nation's longest serving federal appeals judge, was appointed to the court in 1961 by President John Kennedy. He served as chief judge from 1976 to 1988 and took senior status in 2000. Browning once said his greatest contribution was helping persuade Congress not to split the appeals court. University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur Hellman called Browning "the architect of the modern 9th Circuit" saying he created innovations in case management, persuaded judges to work together despite differing views, and helped create the disciplinary system for federal judges. The ABA Journal has links to several stories

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Senate Confirms 3 to Federal Bench, First Asian-American Woman

The U.S. Senate confirmed three judges to federal courts late Monday afternoon, including the first Asian-American woman on any federal appellate court. The Senate voted 91-3 to confirm Vietnam-born Los Angeles federal Judge Jacqueline Nguyen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, filling a vacancy that had remained open since 2009. The Senate also confirmed two judges by voice votes: Kristine Gerhard Baker to be district judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and John Lee to be district judge for the Northern District of Illinois. The Blog of Legal Times has details

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Federal Courts Increasingly Citing Wikipedia

Federal appeals courts are increasingly citing the reader-edited encyclopedia Wikipedia, though the trend has not spread to the U.S. Supreme Court. According to a search by the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, federal appeals courts have cited Wikipedia about 95 times in the last five years. The news source also found that the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited Wikipedia 36 times, more than any other federal appeals court.

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Confirmation for Judges Still Subject to Delay Tactics

The Senate confirmation process for federal judicial nominees has descended to a new level of contentiousness, Sen. Al Franken and a group of panelists said Tuesday in an event at the liberal Center for American Progress, the Blog of Legal Times reports. Even nominees with bi-partisan support in their home states are going through days of filibusters, he said. Jeremy Paris, chief counsel for nominations and oversight for the Senate Judiciary Committee majority staff, said there were only 28 judicial vacancies at this point in President George W. Bush’s presidency, compared with 82 vacancies for Obama right now. That is about one in 10 judgeships that remain open, including four judicial emergencies in the overwhelmed Ninth Circuit, he said.

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Sentencing Commission Proposes New Guidelines

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has proposed several new amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines. The proposed changes cover securities fraud, mortgage fraud, human rights offenses, drug offenses, contraband cellphones in prison, cigarette offenses, trafficking in fake Indian goods and animal crush videos. The commission must submit its proposed guideline amendments to Congress by May 1. Congress will have 180 days to act on the proposals, which will take effect Nov. 1 unless Congress votes to modify or disapprove them. ABAJournal.com has more

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Comment on 6th Circuit Proposed Procedure Changes

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is proposing comprehensive amendments to the Sixth Circuit Rules and Internal Operating Procedures. Send your comments to the proposed changes to Clerk Leonard Green by July 12 to ca06-rules_comments@ca6.uscourts.gov

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6th Circuit Affirms Donald Decision

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld the life sentence of a Jackson man who pleaded guilty to exploitation of minors and trafficking in child pornography. Stephen Lynn Hammonds had argued that his sentence by U.S. District Court Judge Bernice Donald was unreasonable and excessive. Writing for the appeals court, Judge Julia Gibbons said Donald did not abuse her discretion: "The district court did consider the mitigating factors in the case but found, appropriately and within its discretion, that concerns about the seriousness of the crime and the need to protect the public were paramount." Read an analysis of the case on Chattanoogan.com or download the opinion

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Tennessee Joins E-Book Price Fixing Suit

Tennessee has joined with 14 other states and the U.S. Justice Department to file suit against three of the nation’s largest book publishers and Apple Inc., alleging price fixing of e-books in a $100 million conspiracy. The suit was filed yesterday in Austin, Texas. Read the AG's release or more about the case in the Tennessean

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Trial Set for Man Alleged to Have Forged Judge's Signature

A Chattanooga man serving time in state prison was arraigned Tuesday on charges that, in an attempt to get out early, he forged the signature of the federal judge who sentenced him in a separate embezzlement scheme. The document could have removed a federal hold, allowing possible release from state custody, where he's serving time on separate charges before beginning his five-year federal sentence. Trial is scheduled for June 18. If convicted, Shaun Steven Kidd could face up to 20 years on a tampering with evidence charge. The Times Free Press has more

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Jackson Federal Buildings Not Closing

After reports surfaced that the federal government is considering closing court facilities in four Tennessee cities, lawyers in Jackson became concerned about the future of two federal buildings and their occupants. To set the record straight, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has confirmed that it is not considering closing the Ed Jones Federal Building or the U.S District Courthouse. What is under consideration is closure of a historic courtroom on the second floor of the Ed Jones building as well as the attached chambers, a jury room, probation office and pre-trial services. If closed, 15 people would be affected but none would lose their jobs. Other offices within the building, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS and U.S. Attorney's Office, would remain intact. The Jackson Sun has the story

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AG Holder Promises More Resources to Middle Tennessee Office

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said today in Nashville that the traditionally understaffed U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee will be getting new resources to fight crime in the region. Holder, along with U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin, met with Nashville reporters to discuss health care fraud initiatives nationally and locally when he made the commitment. “This district is one of 25 that we have determined to be ‘distressed,’” said Holder, promising that Martin and his district would receive additional personnel to remedy the situation. NashvillePost.com has the story

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Roberts Court More Unusual Than You Might Think

The Roberts Court is unusual in many ways, this Washington Post columnist writes, including that it is the first Supreme Court with three women and the only one with no Protestant. Four of the five boroughs of New York City are represented, while no state between the East Coast and California can claim a single native son or daughter. And when law professor Benjamin H. Barton loaded into a computer a pile of information about the life experiences of every justice from John Jay to Elena Kagan, the most surprising thing he found about the current court “was the breadth of how unusual they are.” 

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Visiting Judges Assigned to Help Memphis's Congested Courts

Under a special Visiting Judges Program, three federal judges from Michigan have agreed to help ease the backlog in Memphis. So far 30 local criminal and civil cases have been reassigned to the three judges -- Robert Cleland, Stephen Murphy and Arthur Tarnow -- who may be able to handle some of the work by teleconference, but who otherwise will be scheduling court time in Memphis. The goal is to get Memphis out from under the official federal designation of being "a congested court," where the judges dispose of many more cases per year than the national average, but where it also takes much longer to dispose of those cases. Learn more from the Commercial Appeal.

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Study: Federal Sentences Vary Widely

A new study by the Associated Press shows that federal judges are handing out widely disparate sentences for similar crimes, 30 years after Congress tried to create more uniform outcomes with the Sentencing Reform Act. The law set up a commission that wrote guidelines for judges to follow as they punished convicts, with similar sentences for offenders with comparable criminal histories convicted of the same crimes. But the law's requirement that judges stick to these sentencing guidelines was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005. TriCities.com has the AP story.

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