Raskin rips Romney, Ryan and Robert (Bork)

Maryland state Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery, wants voters heading to the polls to remember that the president has the authority to make appointments to the Supreme Court and lower federal courts — and that Robert Bork is among the legal advisers to the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Raskin, an ardent supporter of President Barack Obama, warned in Wednesday’s Huffington Post that a “Romney-Ryan-Bork court would lead to the uncorking of bottles of champagne throughout the boardrooms of America’s largest and most right-wing corporations.”

Romney appointees to the federal courts would lead to “an acceleration of all of the worst trends already ravaging the prospects of justice for ‘natural persons’ in America, including the destruction of what is left of campaign finance and disclosure laws as corporations assume all the political free speech rights of the people, a dramatic change ushered in by Citizens United in 2010,” Raskin added on the post’s Politics blog.

Raskin has been quite prolific recently, having written an op-ed piece in the New York Times last week calling for a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Supreme Court ruled that “the government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether” under the First Amendment.

But Raskin, a widely respected constitutional law professor at American University, might need to brush up on his history.

In the Huffington Post piece he referred to Bork as as “the right-wing polemicist and former Bush Supreme Court nominee so extreme that he was rejected by a bipartisan coalition of Senators in 1987.”

“I think somebody must have changed that,” Raskin said of the error. “I very well know that Ronald Reagan is the one who made that mistake.”

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

Succession planning is a tough task for any company, and an article Corporate Counsel talks about a general counsel’s role in planning a leadership transition.

General counsels said it is important to be active in the planning process and build a strong relationship with the company’s board so when the new CEO takes over, good working relationships are already in place.

“The role of the general counsel in CEO succession planning is to make sure the board has processes in place that are adequate to address it,” one general counsel told Corporate Counsel.

Another in-house attorney said a GC should be there for support for the new CEO as he or she faces the difficult task of taking over the leading role in a company.

So, here’s our question for you:

What role, if any, should a general counsel play in succession planning?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

Supreme Court weathers hurricane at work

The U.S. Supreme Court apparently opens rain or shine, with more of an emphasis on rain Monday as it is scheduled to hear two cases, despite Hurricane Sandy barreling across the East Coast.

Though the rest of the federal government and federal courthouses shut down and courthouses in Maryland closed Monday, the Supreme Court started hearing arguments at 10 a.m.

The Supreme Court has decided that it will cancel Tuesday’s sitting. Oral arguments scheduled for tomorrow will be heard on Thursday.

The SCOTUSblog reports:

“The two cases that will go over from Tuesday to Thursday are Chaidez v. U.S. (11-820), on retroactivity of the decision in Padilla v. Kentucky on required legal advice to clients when they are considering guilty pleas that may lead to their deportation from the U.S., and Bailey v. U.S. (11-770), on whether police may detain a suspect away from the site of a search for which they have a warrant, while they carry out the search.”

Apparently, it is a nightmare to reschedule oral arguments before the nation’s highest court. According to CNN, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a weather-worn Wisconsinite, would call court employees into work even during the most crippling of snowstorms, one time sending cars with four-wheel drive to pick up justices from their snow-covered homes.

Whether the Supreme Court will open the rest of the week remains unclear. Chief Justice John Roberts will make the final call whether to shut down due to the ever-evolving weather.

The court will hear oral arguments in a case considering a challenge to a federal law that allows for electronic surveillance on international phone calls and emails, NPR reports.

It will also hear arguments in a case looking at copyright protections, considering whether they extend to books and other intellectual property made overseas, but sold in the United States.

Law blog roundup

rod rosensteinWelcome to Monday and the (relative) calm before the (major) storm. Here are some news items to get your wet and windy week started.

– Did you catch Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein on 60 Minutes last night?

– Will the citizens unite behind state Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin’s position?

– Colorado judge opens files in trial of man accused of multiple murders at movie theater.

– Obama and Romney have lawyers ready for potential challenge to election results.

Pit bull task force talk

The General Assembly’s pit bull task force met Thursday for the first time since this summer.

While no concrete decisions were made and only six of the 10 members of the task force attended, the group discussed how to determine whether a dog is at fault in the case of an attack.

As a recap: The task force is supposed to discuss legislation in response to an Court of Appeals decision earlier this year that ruled pit bulls are “inherently dangerous” and landlords and owners are liable in the case of an attack.

In a special session this summer, the General Assembly tried, but failed, to pass legislation dealing with the issue. Both the Senate and House of Delegates agreed that landlords should not be liable in attacks. While the Senate passed a bill making all dog owners liable in the case of a dog bite, the House of Delegates wanted narrower legislation that would limit liability only when a dog is running around “at large.”

In Thursday’s hour-and-a-half meeting, the group discussed the complexities of determining whether a dog bite is intentional and if a dog is at fault if he/she is provoked by a human.

“Is there any state in which it is allowed for a dog to be cross-examined?” Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, questioned during the work session.

Del. Benjamin F. Kramer, D-Montgomery,  said other states have had animal psychologists testify in court.

“We have to look at this from an animal’s perspective,” Kramer said. “From an animal’s perspective, this was provocation.”

Frosh, however, questioned Kramer.

“Do we really want to go down that road?” Frosh said.

Continue reading

Friday legal news roundup

justice antonin scaliaHappy Friday!

Here are a some interesting legal stories from this week in case you missed them:

A former assistant career services dean at Thomas Jefferson Law School has admitted to padding graduate employment statistics.

The New Jersey Supreme Court’s split decision does not clear up issues surrounding surrogacy.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reiterated his position this week that the Constitution “doesn’t change.”

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

In-house legal departments are getting fed up with paying outside counsel for soft costs like food and photocopying fees, The Wall Street Journal reported this week.

In-house counsel are pushing back against law firms charging them for legal research, photocopying and word processing costs according to a study cited in the article.

Companies’ legal departments argue that these costs are included in law firm overhead and therefore should not be charged to them.

So, here’s our question for you:

Should companies be charged for soft costs like catered lunches and photocopying by outside counsel?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

Law blog roundup

george mcgovernWelcome to Monday, a night for debate, football and baseball (but not necessarily in that order). Until then, here are some news items for the roundup.

– Bob Dole gives a final salute to George McGovern.

– The U.S. attorney who prosecuted two Illinois governors joins a law firm.

– A law prohibiting masked protesters faces constitutional challenge in New York.

– Texas school districts challenge constitutionality of state’s “Robin Hood” funding system for schools.

Maryland Legal Aid Bureau hosts Pro Bono Days

The Maryland Legal Aid Bureau is sponsoring two Pro Bono Days – free legal clinics - this month. The first will be held this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Randallstown branch of the Baltimore County Public Library (8604 Liberty Road in Randallstown). The second will be held next Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Maryland Legal Aid’s Baltimore office (500 E. Lexington Street).

Volunteer attorneys will provide consultations in the areas of divorce and custody, landlord/tenant, wills & advance directives, bankruptcy, expungements, government benefits, criminal and consumer law.

Private lawyers who wish to volunteer their services can call 443-451-2810.

Appeals court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act

Lawyer Roberta Kaplan, right, congratulates client Edith Windsor Thursday after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, as Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union, looks on. (Photo: Rick Kopstein/New York Law Journal)

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Thursday that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee.

A divided court held in Windsor v. United States that the definition of “marriage” in the Defense of Marriage Act violated the rights of plaintiff Edith Windsor because it prevented the Internal Revenue Service from acknowledging that she was the spouse of her now deceased partner.

Observers are eager to see whether the Supreme Court will take up the Windsor  case as well as a decision out of the First Circuit decision, in Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of HHS.

Maryland voters will get to vote next month on whether to approve same-sex marriage, with a recent poll showing a majority of Marylanders are leaning in favor.