Greg Abbott

This week, a Texas campaign ad and a Pennsylvania death penalty appeal each illustrate what happens when lawyers lose sight of for what — and whom — they claim to be working.
Wendy Davis, in the final throes of her Texas gubernatorial race against Attorney General Greg Abbott, launched a controversial campaign ad a few days ago. The ad accuses Abbott of “siding with a corporation over a rape victim,” spotlighting a 1998 Supreme Court of Texas case brought by a woman seeking damages from a vacuum manufacturer after a door-to-door salesman of the vacuums allegedly raped her in her home. A background check should have revealed that the man had a criminal history. Abbott was then a justice on the Texas court. He dissented from the majority’s decision in favor of the woman. Davis’s ad ignited heated debate, with even her supporters questioning the propriety of the ad. Abbott’s campaign called the ad “despicable.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the United States Supreme Court on Monday issued a highly unusual order in a Pennsylvania death penalty case. The Court asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board to investigate and take appropriate actions against Marc Bookman, an attorney who filed a petition for review of Michael Eric Ballard’s death sentence. Ballard slaughtered four people in 2010: his former girlfriend, her father, her grandfather, and a neighbor who tried to help the family when he heard screams coming from the home. Ballard was sentenced to death in 2011. In November 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the sentence. On June 23 of this year, SCOTUS denied Bookman’s petition to review Ballard’s case, but the Court then ordered Bookman to file additional responses about his relationship to Ballard. Apparently not satisfied by Bookman’s replies, the Court referred the case to the state disciplinary authority.

So, what’s the problem in either of these situations? Why the controversy? And what do they have in common?

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* If you thought the Redskins were offensive, I bring you the Coachella Valley High Arabs. Complete with video of their mascot! [Yahoo! Sports]

* With states increasingly losing access to tried and true execution drugs, the wardens are now experimenting on their own. This sounds (a) incredibly cruel and unusual, and (b) likely to result in creating a supervillian. [Vocativ]

* Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott fought hard for a voter ID law. And on Tuesday, he failed to meet the standards of the law he championed. Derp. [Opposing Views]

* We frequently link to the fun poetic stylings of Poetic Justice. Now you can enter a contest to win a free copy of the book! [Poetic Justice]

* In a horrific turn, a father called the cops to teach his son a lesson. Then the cops killed the son. [Gawker]

* Fear Roatti the White Tiger, Esq. Fear him mightily. [Deadspin]

* This is perhaps the weirdest law firm video ever. Video embedded after the jump… [Legal Cheek]

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I was on a fast-moving segment on HuffPost Live this afternoon called “Legalese It,” where host Mike Sacks runs through a bunch of overlooked legal items from the past week. Since I was on vacation for half of the week, I learned a lot! For instance, did you know that Michigan had an anti-begging statute on the books from the 1920s that was just struck down so they can put a big “Spare Some Change” sign in Detroit?

Okay, that’s not why it was struck down, but still. Also it seems that North Carolina is trying to restrict voting to five white guys chosen at random by Reince Priebus and Obama is now in favor of legislative prayer, as if nobody told him he can’t run for a third term.

Looks like I missed a lot, but that didn’t stop me from talking about it on the web. Specifically, I got to talk about how Eric Holder and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott are now friends when it comes to stopping USAIR and American Airlines from combining to own all the railroads on the Monopoly board…

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Cheerleading is a big deal in Texas. It’s the sort of thing that can get you killed if you’re not careful.

So when a bunch of high school cheerleaders started cheering less “Be Aggressive!” and more “Be Not Afraid, the Lord Is With Thee,” it stirred up the usual hornets’ nest of grandstanding atheists and civil libertarians complaining about freedom of religion, and an equal number of grandstanding conservative politicos complaining about the “War on Christians.”

Yesterday, the cheerleaders won their case — at least for now — opening the door to a new batch of inspirational cheers ripped from Christian Mingle ads. After looking at the signs (some pics below), the real issue is not constitutional, but practical: these are just terrible cheers….

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Judge Fred Biery

Three years ago, we bestowed Judge of the Day honors upon the Honorable Fred Biery, a federal judge in the Western District of Texas. Back in 2008, Judge Biery rejected a religious school’s attempt to join an influential statewide extracurricular organization. In the process of ruling against Cornerstone Christian Schools, Judge Biery took the Bible and turned it around on them, in a snarky opinion quoting religious texts to refute a religious school.

(His Honor apparently enjoys colorful writing. See also this amusing ruling, with shout-outs in the footnotes to such fabulous creatures as Barbra Streisand and Stephen Sondheim.)

Well, it seems that Judge Biery — make that Chief Judge Biery, as of last June — continues to antagonize organized religion. Let’s read about the latest controversy he’s incited, this time involving an imminent high school graduation ceremony….

UPDATE: Judge Biery’s ruling in the case discussed below was overturned on Friday afternoon by the Fifth Circuit. Details and links appear in the update at the end of this post.

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