Michael Vick

* Apparently the President of the United States is somehow involved in the judicial nomination process. [The Weekly Standard via How Appealing]
* Too much litigation? Blame all those conservative trial lawyers. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Vick’s state trial date will be set today. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
* Nevada tries to smoke out some justice. [Reno Gazette-Journal]
* How tough can you be on protestors at a free speech debate? [BBC]

Michael Vick middle finger Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg* So how did Michael Mukasey do yesterday? Here’s a collection of some coverage. [How Appealing (linkwrap)]
* He totally should have mailed it to himself before faxing it to the Ravens. Also, not a joke, just a fact: the caption is over half of this 37-page opinion. [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (PDF) via How Appealing]
* How many businesses was Vick opening? Yet another bank sues him over a business loan. [Fulton County Daily Report]
* Speaking of Vick getting sued, he got sued by a South Carolina inmate again, and it’s not Jonathan Lee Riches. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
* Can’t we all just agree that a little less process is due in this case? [CNN]
* SCOTUS stays Virginia execution. [CNN]

oj simpson mug shot Above the Law no pun intended.jpg* O.J. freshly squeezed by a second co-defendant. [AP via Athens Banner-Herald]
* Law professors get appointed to do everything. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
* Nevada holds off on an execution, waiting on SCOTUS. [Reno Gazette-Journal]
* Weiss pleads not guilty. [Jurist]
* iPoison. [PC World]


falcons.jpg
Ok, so strictly speaking it’s not a lawsuit. It’s an arbitration hearing before a special master pursuant to the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Falcons are seeking to recoup $22 million already paid to Vick in signing bonuses. The Falcons claim that, since Vick knew at the time that he signed the contract and received the bonuses that he was running a dogfighting operation and should have known that that could cause him to not be able to play, he has forfeited the bonuses. The NFL Players Association says once bonuses are paid, there’s no forfeiture, period.
They seem to be almost right. Under the new CBA approved last year, forfeiture of signing bonuses are allowed for only one reason (quoted here from Section 9 (a) of Article XIV of the CBA):

Section 9. Limitations on Salary Forfeitures:
(a) No forfeitures of signing bonuses shall be permitted, except that players and Clubs may agree: (i)
to proportionate forfeitures of a signing bonus if a player voluntarily retires or willfully withholds his
services from one or more regular season games; and/or (ii) that if a player willfully takes action that has
the effect of substantially undermining his ability to fully participate and contribute in either preseason
training camp or the regular season (including by willfully withholding his services in either preseason
training camp or during the regular season or willfully missing one or more games), the player may forfeit
the greater of: (a) 25% of the prorated portion of his signing bonus for the applicable League Year for the
first time such conduct occurs after the beginning of training camp until the end of the season for his Club,
and the remaining 75% prorated portion of his signing bonus for the applicable year for the second time
such conduct occurs during that period that year; or (b) the proportionate amount of his signing bonus
allocation for each week missed (1/17th for each regular season week or game missed).

What do you sports lawyers out there think? Do Vick’s actions constitute willful action that “has the effect of substantially undermining his ability to fully participate and contribute in either preseason training camp or the regular season”? He willfully ran the dogfighting operation, and as a result he has been suspended. Seems to me that the Falcons have a pretty good case.
Special Master Stephen B. Burbank (definitely a top-tier guy; Harvard (twice) and current Penn Law faculty) heard the case yesterday.
Stephen B. Burbank bio [Penn Law]
NFL CBA [NFLPA]
Falcons Seek $22M From Suspended Vick [KNBC]

waterboarding 2 water boarding torture interrogation Above the Law blog.jpg* Does a federal district court have to recruit pro bono counsel for a pro se litigant? [Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals via How Appealing]
* DOJ cool with torture tough interrogation techniques. [New York Times]
* Bush doesn’t care about poor kids. [AP via Athens Banner-Herald]
* The ACLU doesn’t want to let Bush protect us. [Jurist]
* Falcons want their money back; so do Falcons fans (last week’s fine win notwithstanding). [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Vanessa Hudgens Vanessa Anne Hudgens Filipino Filipina Above the Law blog.jpg* We know you guys never tire of talking about the tough job market for graduates of non-top-tier law schools. Here is Sam Kamin’s take on Amir Efrati’s WSJ piece. [PrawfsBlawg]
* Can’t get a Biglaw gig, perhaps because you’re a Tier 2 (or Tier 3 or Tier 4) grad? Why not hang out your own shingle? [Build A Solo Practice, LLC]
* Still on this week’s non-top-tier law school theme, Dave Hoffman wonders: “[I]s there a point to law school beyond sorting students?” [Concurring Opinions]
* Vault is beloved not just by prestige-obsessed law students, but by investors, too. A private equity firm just bought a stake in Vault that values it at $60-$85 million. [alarm: clock]
* We have no difficulty believing this SCOTUS clerk gossip. [BeldarBlogs]
* Maybe Vanessa Hudgens should pay her lawyer in kind. Autographed nudie pics would surely fetch a pretty penny on eBay. [E! Online]
* Wondering whether there’s a double jeopardy issue with respect to the state charges against Michael Vick? [WSJ Law Blog]
* Want to pick up some advice on the voir dire process — and catch up on the last week of legal blogging at the same time? Check out Blawg Review #127, by trial lawyer and jury consultant Anne Reed. [Deliberations via Blawg Review]

Michael Vick 2 speak from heart middle finger Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgMichael Vick, dressed in a sober charcoal suit and gold tie, just made a short public statement about his case. He took no questions. Here are some excerpts.
“For most of my life, I’ve been a football player, not a public speaker…. I’d like to take this opportunity to speak from the heart.”
He apologized to Commissioner Roger Goodell, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, and Vick’s teammates, for “not being honest” in “previous discussions we had.”
“I was ashamed. I’ve disappointed in myself, to say the least.”
“I’d like to apologize to all the young kids out there for my immature acts. What I did was very immature, so I need to grow up.”
[Dogfighting is inhumane, brutal, despicable -- but immature? It's not the first word that comes to our mind. And given the content of ATL, we consider ourselves experts in immaturity.]
“I take full responsibility for my actions.”
“Dogfighting is a terrible thing and I do reject it.”
“Through this situation I’ve found Jesus, and I dedicate my life to God.”
[Of course -- so predictable. Why can't we have disgraced public figures pledge themselves to the principles of Wicca?]
“I’ve got a lot to think about in the next year or so…. I’ve got a lot of down time to think about how to make Michael Vick a better person.”
[That's for sure -- and as just noted, Judge Hudson isn't bound by the parties' recommendations or the 12 to 18 month sentencing guidelines range. He's bound only by the five-year statutory maximum.]

Michael Vick middle finger Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgThe plea hearing for the embattled star quarterback took place this morning. One of Michael Vick’s lawyers, Billy Martin, spoke to reporters on the courthouse steps. He stated that “this matter is concluded until December 10th, when Judge Hudson will sentence Michael Vick according to the plea agreement.” He also announced that Vick will make a statement of his own at 11:30 AM today.
At the hearing, Judge Henry Hudson told Michael Vick something along these lines: “You know you’re taking your chances here. I’m not bound by the recommendations [of the parties].”
A correct statement of the law, especially after Booker? Yes. A smart thing for a judge to do at a plea hearing, to prevent the defendant from later claiming he was blindsided? Sure.
But, reading the tea leaves a bit, we’d hazard a guess that Judge Hudson might give Vick significantly more than the 12 or so months that the parties will recommend (per the plea agreement). Stay tuned.
(We’d guess that the parties will recommend a year and a day, which will make Vick eligible for certain “good time” credits applicable only to sentences over a year.)

The plea agreement (PDF) for star quarterback Michael Vick has been filed in federal court. In the statement of facts (PDF) accompanying the agreement, Vick admits involvement in the dogfighting conspiracy (including funding it), but declines to admit a number of other allegations. According to ESPN, Vick claims that he “did not place side bets and did not receive proceeds from purses from the fights.”
Here’s what the agreement provides with respect to sentencing:
Michael Vick plea agreement Above the Law blog.jpg
Assuming zero criminal history, an adjusted offense level of 13 gives you an imprisonment range of 12 to 18 months. Of course, and as noted in the agreement, the sentencing judge is not bound by the guidelines (thanks to Booker).
What’s next in procedural terms, from CNN:

Vick, 27, is scheduled to appear in federal court in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday, where he is expected to plead guilty before a judge. The judge in the case will have the final say over the plea agreement.

Presiding over Vick’s case is Judge Henry Hudson, a Bush II appointee to the bench and a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia (under Bush I). He has an impressive resume, but we don’t know much about him personally. We welcome your thoughts on Judge Hudson in the comments.
Vick files plea agreement admitting to dogfighting [ESPN.com]
Vick admits dog killing, conspiracy [CNN]

Pacman smoking drinking drugs Above the Law blog.jpg* Nurse sues Pacman. [Reno-Gazette Journal]
* Defense rests in Spector trial. [CNN]
* Patent infringers in less treble. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Yeah, I’m sure Texas is going to stop killing people because Europe wants them to. [Jurist]
* State charges for Vick too? [AP via Yahoo!]

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