27 November 2009
25 November 2009
A riding lawn mower may have four wheels, a powerful engine and can cost as much as a used car. If it's stolen, however, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded Monday that it's not a motor vehicle.This is clearly not an easy call, as the 4-3 split indicates. The case can be found here. It is an interesting read.
The 4-3 decision overturned the conviction of Franklin Lloyd Harris, who was convicted of felony motor vehicle theft after he loaded a Toro riding mower in 2006 from a Home Depot in Dalton into his van and sped away. Because Harris was a repeat offender, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
23 November 2009
On Dec. 12, 1938, the Supreme Court ruled that the segregated University of Missouri Law School had to admit Lloyd Lionel Gaines, who was qualified except for the color of his skin, if there was no comparable legal education available to him within Missouri — and there was not.The New York Times has more on this fascinating individual and case.
15 November 2009
Under the current system, federal judges get to decide on their own whether to disqualify themselves from cases. Among the proposals being discussed are requiring a second judge to rule on a recusal motion -- rather than leaving the motion to the "targeted" judge -- and making substitution automatic if any party to a case swears an affidavit alleging prejudice. Some lawmakers, including Conyers, have also said in the past that they want a system to review recusal decisions by U.S. Supreme Court justices.More on this can be found at law.com.
13 November 2009
People who believe they have been wronged by a judge can ask the judge to reconsider, appeal to a higher court or, if they suspect judicial wrongdoing, ask a bar association to investigate. But one thing people can't generally do is sue. The rationale behind the notion -- called absolute judicial immunity -- is straightforward: Judges shouldn't have to defend themselves in court whenever they issue a ruling that makes someone unhappy.Two recently filed lawsuits in the state of Pennsylvania are trying to pierce this immunity. For more on this, I highly suggest reading the full article.
11 November 2009
In saying that he could not sue officials involved in his rendition, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled by a vote of 7 to 4 that Congress could always create a civil damages remedy for harms suffered through rendition, but it had not done so.Setting aside the question of how Congress could have created a remedy for violations arising from a program about which it was not informed by the Bush Administration, there are some very interesting points to take away from this article.
“We decline to create, on our own, a new cause of action against officers and employees of the federal government,” Chief Judge Dennis G. Jacobs wrote in a 59-page majority opinion joined by six other judges.Judge Jacobs said that it was for the executive branch to “decide how to implement extraordinary rendition, and for the elected members of Congress — and not for us as judges — to decide whether an individual may seek compensation” from government officials for a constitutional violation.
First, in class students are told that hearings in the Court of Appeals are presided over by a three judge panel. So how do we get a 7 to 4 vote here? The decision was actually one made by an "en banc" panel. See here for a full discussion of this.
Second, boiled down to its simplest form, the argument being made by the majority here is they do not have jurisdiction to hear this case. Remember, Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to create lower federal courts and determine the courts' jurisdiction.
Finally, one could argue that this is an example of there being no common law in American federal courts. Many scholars argue that the only sources of law in the federal courts are statutes and the Constitution, not common law. When the judges say "we will not create a remedy," what they are really saying is we will not create a common law (judge-made) remedy.