9th Circuit

This is going to sound like a simple mistake. This is going to sound like a legal “technicality” that has resulted in a sex offender going free. But when a judge upends a central pillar of American law, even accidentally, there’s no other outcome.

Here’s the story, from ABA JournalGuilty not guilty:

The Los Angeles judge erred during the December 2006 voir dire in the sex-crime trial of Bryant Keith Williams, according to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judge said Williams had pleaded guilty to the charges, though he intended to say Williams had pleaded not guilty.

The judge’s error came to light when jurors who had been deliberating for less than an hour sent the judge a note. “As a group,” the note read, “we the jury feel we heard the judge state the defendant pleaded guilty before the trial. Is this true?”

The judge tried to correct his mistake. He said that the defendant pleaded “not” guilty, and asked the jurors if they could still look back on the trial with that in mind. One juror was dismissed. The rest said that they could, and returned a guilty verdict.

Continue reading on Above the Law Redline…

* TSA vs. the Nobel Prize. [Lowering the Bar]

* A judge accidentally leaked the name of a juvenile in a juvenile sex case. But more to the point, this case is about a boy having a three-way with two of his English teachers on one of the teacher’s birthdays. I mean… South Park. [The Times-Picayune]

* Teaching torts rots your brain. Maybe. [PrawfsBlawg]

* Houston officials are backing away from their subpoena of sermons delivered by anti-gay pastors trying to get their congregation to sign petitions — even if the signatures were potentially fraudulent. [The Blaze]

* Stand Your Ground laws find new ways to be dumb. More cases of abused women trying to evoke Stand Your Ground laws and being told that states really only meant for those to protect white dudes shooting black kids. [Slate]

* A funny and insightful look at exactly how hearings go down at Gitmo. [New Jurist]

* A federal judge has recused the entire Eastern District of California from a case on the basis of allegations that federal prosecutors systematically defrauded the court. Prosecutors misbehaving? That’s unpossible! [New York Observer]

* A blistering dissent from that usual suspects: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. [The Atlantic]

* Same-sex marriage opponents in Nevada suggest liberal bias in the selection of the Ninth Circuit panels hearing gay rights cases. They demand en banc review after noting that “two of the Ninth Circuit’s more liberal judges wind up most often on panels deciding cases involving gay rights.” Let me peruse that roster of Ninth Circuit judges… yeah, good luck with that en banc review, guys. [SCOTUS Blog]

* A Toledo Law student was arrested on a child sex charge. [NBC24]

* Kesha is suing producer Dr. Luke for sexual assault and battery. [TMZ]

* Can you guess which states lead the way on transgender rights? The answer will… actually not surprise you much at all. [Vocativ]

* The travails of Albany Law School continue. President and Dean Penny Andrews announces that she is stepping down. [Albany Law School]

* As if police departments weren’t militarized enough, they’re using cash seizures to fuel even more ridiculous spending. [Washington Post]

* Staci profiled some legal cosplayers, and when I saw the Judge Dredd costumes, all I could think about is one of the greatest Onion videos about SCOTUS ever. “I am the law!” [The Onion]

* Katie Couric sits down with Susan Mellen, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 17 years. [Yahoo! News]

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* Some marriage equality enthusiasts applauded the Supreme Court’s decision to stay out of the way and let the circuits do their thing. But the history of miscegenation in America suggests the Supreme Court had a moral obligation to interject. [USA Today]

* On this subject, Professor Dorf presents a fascinating hypothetical: is it in the strategic interest of an anti-gay marriage conservative lower court judge to strike down same-sex marriage bans in light of the Supreme Court’s cert denials? [Dorf on Law]

* One more story while we’re at it, after the Ninth Circuit struck down bans on same-sex marriages, District Judge Robert C. Jones of Nevada, who upheld the ban in the first place, recused himself rather that be forced to issue an opinion in accordance with Ninth Circuit precedent. [BuzzFeed]

* If you’ve ever wondered how Islamic State manages to recruit Western youth to the cause, the answer is a “Disney-like” social media campaign. It’s like a Biglaw summer program, but for murder. [Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy]

* “Better Hold Off Sexting With High School Students” in Indiana. The Indiana Supreme Court finally weighed in last week after the lower court had okayed a teacher texting a 16-year-old to sneak out of the house for sex. Wait, this required the Supreme Court to weigh in? What is wrong with you Indiana? [Valpo Law Blog]

* Looking professional with a pixie cut. [Corporette]

* Enter for a chance to win a Chief Judge Randall Rader bobblehead! Yes, these exist. [Santa Clara Law]

* The Zephyr Teachout book tour for Corruption in America (affiliate link) begins. Is your town on the list? [Teachout-Wu]

* New Orleans taxpayers spent around $75K traveling judges to conferences and resorts last year. Quoth the tipster: “I could make a joke about New Orleans judges going to the third world to learn how to run their courtrooms, but I think I already did.” [The Times-Picayune]

Justice Joan Orie Melvin

* How are Nevada and Idaho officials reacting to yesterday’s Ninth Circuit ruling striking down gay marriage bans in those states, and how soon might marriages get underway? [BuzzFeed]

* In other LGBT legal news, New York City is likely to make it easier for transgender individuals to amend their birth certificates. [New York Times]

* Good news for Joan Orie Melvin, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice turned convicted felon: her unorthodox sentence has been stayed (again). [How Appealing]

* Eduardo Leite, who has led Baker & McKenzie since 2010, gets another two years at the helm of Biglaw’s biggest firm. [American Lawyer]

* Cravath associate Micaela McMurrough scores a victory in tax court for artists. [New York Times]

* The ABA has issued a new opinion addressing ethical issues raised during the sale of a law practice. [American Bar Association]

* Why do lawyers blog? Tim Baran of Rocket Matter talks to 23 of us. [Legal Productivity]

* Congratulations to Tony West on his new gig as general counsel of PepsiCo. It sounds like an exciting and challenging opportunity. Plus, you know, free Mountain Dew. [Politico]

* What the hell? The feds stole a woman’s identity and made it into a Facebook page. Well, now she’s found out and she’s suing. Identity theft was one thing, but the way the DEA Agent kept spamming the woman’s friends to play Candy Crush Saga was just unacceptable. [Buzzfeed]

* Time for some court news: Ninth Circuit joined the chorus in striking down gay marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada. [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit]

* It’s Nobel Prize time, and one of the winners for Physics has a personal story about how important it is to hire a good lawyer. In fact, it was about $180 million important. [Slate]

* We constantly beat the drum of how law schools need to adjust to reality and stop duping students into terrible financial decisions. But here’s the PR secret that’s kept law schools from, by and large, collapsing: they sell the experience. [Law and More]

* An open letter begging Amal Alamuddin not to quit her day job now that she’s married to some acting guy. [The Careerist]

* New York City paid $50K to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a child who killed herself after school officials allegedly did nothing despite several warnings that the girl was being brutally bullied. There’s a lot of “in my day…” types who read this site who may not care about bullying, but this is more a question of irresponsibility. If your job is to provide a safe learning environment and you fail, you pay. [DNA Info]

* At oral argument, the Court seemed generally supportive of the Muslim inmate hoping to grow a beard. If this intuition is right, soon individual people may have the same religious rights as corporations! [Supreme Court Brief]

* Finally, thanks to the Rutgers-Newark Law School chapter of the American Constitution Society for hosting a great event today where Elie and I previewed the upcoming SCOTUS Term. My personal highlight was watching Elie’s head explode while talking about Young v. UPS.

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Barry Bonds And The Lengths DOJ Will Go To Protect AUSAs”

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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