15 December 2007

Christmas Break

I won't be posting anything during the Christmas break. I'll be posting again during the second week of January when classes resume.

14 December 2007

Gun Rights Go Before the Court

Cass Sunstein, one of America's preeminent legal scholars, had a great editorial piece in last Sunday's Boston Globe concerning what could be the most important Second Amendment case in the country's history. The Second Amendment, for those not familiar with the American Constitution, contains a provision that may or may not provide an unlimited right to own guns in America. Many Europeans are fascinated by the American "gun culture," but few have stopped to ask why owning a gun in America is so easy. The quick answer is the U.S. Constitution talks about gun ownership. Soon the U.S. Supreme Court will define, for the first time in many, many decades, what exactly the Constitution says concerning gun ownership. Prof. Sunstein's article is a must read if you want a basic understanding of what's at issue before the Court concerning this gun rights case.

07 December 2007

The Limits of Peremptory Challenges

Students on common law learn early on that one of the more interesting features of the common law legal system is the use of juries. How juries are selected varies greatly from one common law country to another, and arguably the American system of jury selection is the most confusing. In the U.S., the parties themselves have considerable control over the make-up of a jury through the use of something called peremptory challenges. Basically, such challenges allow lawyers to remove potential jurors for any reason . . . except for the wrong reason. So what is a wrong reason? Well, removing someone based solely upon their race is one, according the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1986 case of Kentucky v. Batson. This week the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether a prosecutor improperly excluded all black potential jurors from serving on a jury in a murder case because of their race. The reach of the Batson case has never really been totally clear, and now the Court appears to be ready to provide further guidance. The Christian Science Monitor has a nice summary of the case before the Court and how it could impact jury selection in the U.S.. It's worth a read.

03 December 2007

The Secret Circuit

As students in Common Law Legal System recently learned, the United States Court of Appeals is divided into 13 circuits. Eleven of the courts are divided regionally, leaving two court that we did not really discuss in class. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is one of these two courts, and definitely the one that even American-educated lawyers may not fully understand. The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran a review of the book The Secret Circuit, which does a nice job of quickly summarizing the book's main premise: what exactly does this court do? If you are interested in patent law and want to understand the U.S. Court of Appeals more fully, you may want to give this book review a quick read over.