9th Circuit

Barry Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice for giving non-responsive answers to questions in a grand jury. As Judge Fletcher told the government in the oral argument in the 9th Circuit en banc challenge to his conviction, “I find your reading of the [obstruction of justice] statute absolutely alarming.” And for good reason — Judge Fletcher thinks that the government’s interpretation of obstruction of justice would mean that most civil lawyers are felons.

There are a lot of ways to violate federal laws that are related to obstruction of justice. You can lie to a federal agent who is coming to your house to interview you and violate 18 U.S.C. § 1001. You can commit perjury under 18 U.S.C. § 1621. And there are a host of other false statement statutes specific to other regulatory schemes (like false statements in connection with a tax filing, or a health care request for payment, etc.).

All of those laws, though, require that the person who is being prosecuted make a false statement.

Obstruction of justice is different. Instead of having concrete elements like “making a false statement”, obstruction of justice criminalizes willfully “obstruct[ing], imped[ing], or interfer[ing] with” whatever is being allegedly obstructed.

Here, Barry Bonds didn’t make a false statement. Instead, he gave an answer that was non-responsive. The government’s theory was that Barry Bonds didn’t give a responsive answer to a question in order to throw the government off (because, apparently, having the temerity to force an AUSA to listen to questions in a grand jury and ask a follow-up question is the kind of thing that ought to brand you a felon).

And that was “obstructing” the federal law enforcement apparatus.

There are a lot of things wrong with this prosecution. The one I want to focus on is the lengths the federal government will go to in order to protect AUSAs from having to do the same basic work that the rest of the legal community does routinely.

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Can you identify this guy?

* Quiz: Can you match the picture of the plaintiff to the landmark Supreme Court decision? [Slate]

* Ninth Circuit expedites Ed O’Bannon appeal. [USAToday]

* New NBC comedy about a law student who becomes a garbage man. Better job security, I suppose. [The A.V. Club]

* The federal prison population declined by about 4800 inmates, giving the United States… well, still the worst incarceration rate in the world, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. [ABC News]

* The contract attorney who sued Biglaw is living in his car and considering a career in construction. Perhaps it was a Freudian thing. [Law and More]

* Some philosophy professors are concerned about an individual getting very testy with perceived critics. Anyone want to guess the individual? [Professor David Velleman Homepage / NYU]

* In case you missed it, Howard Bashman’s announcement of our new partnership. [How Appealing]

* Middle school convinces special needs girl to allow suspected rapist to take her into a bathroom so the school can “catch him redhanded.” She gets raped. Judge dismisses the lawsuit saying he wouldn’t “second-guess” school officials. [Al.com]

I find your reading of the [obstruction of justice] statute absolutely alarming.

– Judge William Fletcher, not exactly expressing confidence in federal prosecutors. The Ninth Circuit sat en banc to review Barry Bonds’s conviction for obstruction of justice, and all indications suggest the former slugger will have his conviction overturned.

If you’re interested in watching the entire oral argument, it’s available below…

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We recently asked readers to submit possible captions for this picture:

Now that you’ve voted on the finalists, let’s announce the winner….

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Last week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this picture:

Let’s have a look at what our readers came up with, and vote on the finalists…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Caption Contest Finalists: Three Chiefs”

We love fun photographs of federal judges here at Above the Law. It’s interesting to see what judges look like when they’re off the bench. What do Their Honors have going on underneath their robes? Inquiring minds want to know.

Today we have some random Friday fun for you. The latest picture for an ATL caption contest features a prominent federal judge in an unusual situation….

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(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

On August 7, 1782, near the end of the American Revolution, General George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit, the precursor to the Purple Heart. Today, the Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who are wounded or killed in action. This week, On Remand looks back at the Purple Heart’s evolution, and the stories of two men who proudly wore the medal. But had they earned it?

Breaking with the European practice of honoring only high-ranking officers, General Washington recognized that in America “the road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is… open to all.” So, Washington created the “Badge of Military Merit” for remarkable or extraordinarily loyal soldiers. Per Washington’s instructions, the badge depicted a purple heart with lace trimming to be worn over the left breast. After the Revolutionary War, however, the award faded away.

In 1932, to commemorate Washington’s 200th birthday, General Douglas MacArthur revived the Badge of Military Merit as the “Purple Heart.” At that time, injury in battle was just one consideration in awarding the Purple Heart. Later, to distinguish it from another award, physical injury became the Purple Heart’s sole requirement. Yet, some have worn the medal without meeting that requirement….

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* Court needed a Chinese language interpreter. Rather than find a professional legal interpreter, the judge just told the lawyer to head down to the local Chinese restaurant and grab somebody. [Legal Cheek]

* News from former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s trial. As one tipster summed up the story: “Hon, I think I dropped my keys under that bus. Would you take a look?” [Slate]

* Everyone concedes Ted Cruz is smart. Why exactly? [Salon]

* A follow-up from a previous story: Connolly, Geaney, Ablitt & Willard shuts down after the foreclosure market that made them turned on them. [Mass Lawyers Weekly (sub. req.)]

* Interesting look at the volume of patent cases throughout history. Check out the troll phenomenon with charts! [Patently-O]

* More folks wasting time complaining about blog posts. [South Florida Lawyers]

* Clint Eastwood talks with Chief Judge Kozinski and Judge Fisher at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference. These days it’s exciting whenever Clint isn’t talking to an empty chair. Video embedded below… [YouTube]

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Dan Markel

As I mentioned in my earlier story about the horrific killing of Professor Dan Markel, I knew Dan since our days working together on the Harvard Crimson. Back then, he was Dan E. Markel ’95 and I was David B. Lat ’96. We both wrote columns and would edit each other’s work. We didn’t often agree — I was even more conservative back then, and he was, well, not conservative — but we respected each other’s thinking and writing.

After graduating from Harvard College (A.B.), Cambridge University (M. Phil.), and Harvard Law School (J.D.), Dan went on to have a tremendous career in law practice and teaching. He clerked for Judge Michael Daly Hawkins on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and worked as an associate at Kellogg Huber, the insanely elite D.C. litigation boutique. He then joined the faculty of the Florida State University College of Law, where at the time of his death he held an endowed chair as D’Alemberte Professor of Law. A prolific scholar in the areas of criminal law and punishment, he published numerous law review articles, pieces for general-interest news outlets like the New York Times and Slate, and a book, Privilege or Punish: Criminal Justice and the Challenge of Family Ties (aff. link).

But Dan was much more than the sum of his résumé items. Here are some testimonials and memories, from myself and others who knew him….

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* The Supreme Court won’t be blocking gay marriages from occurring in Oregon pending an appeal. Maybe it’s because the request wasn’t filed by the state, or maybe it’s because Justice Kennedy is the man. [National Law Journal]

* “To err is human. To make a mistake and stubbornly refuse to acknowledge it — that’s judicial.” This Ninth Circuit judge wants his colleagues to get over themselves. Please pay attention to him, SCOTUS. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Cheerio mates! As it turns out, according to a recent stress study, lawyers at Magic Circle firms in Merry Olde England are more miserable than their American colleagues. [The Lawyer via The Careerist]

* Donald Sterling dropped his $1 billion lawsuit against the NBA and agreed to the sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. Lawyers for Skadden have been sent back to warm the bench. [Bloomberg]

* In a surprise move, InfiLaw pulled its application for a license to run Charleston Law into the ground the day before a vote was supposed to be held. At least the opposition won this battle. [Post and Courier]

* The Yale Law School Clinic is representing a deported Army veteran seeking a pardon and humanitarian parole. Check it out: experiential learning can be beneficial for everyone involved! [Hartford Courant]

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