September 23, 2006
Torture Bill Update
I heard a good piece on NPR about the compromise, and this article in the New York Times raises up some of the issues that the current (I heard the House isn't on board yet) bill would create. Interesting stuff.
September 21, 2006
7th Circuit Strikes Down Illinois Election Statute
In Lee v. Keith, the Seventh Circuit on September 18 held unconstitutional a statute that governed ballot access to independent candidates.
Nonworking Gun is Still a Gun
The Michigan Supreme Court has issued a number of opinions of interest to statutory interpretation enthusiasists recently, including People v. Peals, 720 N.W.2d 196 (2006), which addressed whether someone could be in possession of a "firearm" where it didn't work. The courts had been relying upon this statutory definition of firearm: firearem means "any weapon from which a dangerous projective may be propelled by using explosives, gas or air as a means of propulsion..." with certain exceptions (e.g., bb guns). You would think that with that definition the gun would have to work. In Peals, the gun was missing many pieces, "including the firing pin assembly, the magazine, some springs, and part of the slides" and probably couldn't fire, and if it could fire, it would be 1 round at most. The jury, nonetheless, convicted, and a majority of the court affirmed. The dissent was, um, fired up about this. It's a great purpose v. plain meaning case.
They also issued another one that's worth a read, Paige v. City of Sterling Heights, which addressed what "proximate cause" meant in a workers' comp statute. The case involves some harsh and strong disagreement over basic statutory construction issues. There's a post below where a reader explained in part why the Michigan Supreme Court is so active in these areas. There are some profound issues the dissent speaks about that I can't summarize too easily.
September 19, 2006
Court: A Fax is a Fax even if from a Lawyer
In Stern v. Bluestone, a lawyer who represents plaintiffs in legal malpractice suits sent faxes to lawyers with updates on the law. A lawyer didn't like getting a fax every month, and so sued. The court held that the faxes, because they indirectly indicated the lawyer's availability to represent plaintiffs in malpractice cases by including the lawyer's contact info, was an unsolicited fax that violated a federal statute against spam-faxes. The court rejected the notion that it was informational, and not an indirect solicitation.
The case presented a number of construction issues for the court, including determining the appropriate statute of limitations and determining what "express permission" was, and in a context we can relate to.
Summary judgment for the lawyer who received the faxes; question is damages.
Looking for a unique gift? Howard Bashman points out that there's an Anton Scalia bobblehead doll on e-bay. (Auction ends September 27, so act soon!).
The Ninth Circuit upheld an ordinance concerning picketing over a constitututional challenge, rejecting First Amendment challenges. The decision was unanimous.
It's almost October, and people are focusing in on the upcoming Term at the Supreme Court. A good preview can be found here, at the American Lawyer. There are several cases involving statutory interpretation on the docket, including:
Mass. v. EPA, No. 05-1120, addressing whether the EPA properly concluded it couldn't regulate green house gases (no, that sentence isn't backwards). There, the Massachusetts AG argued "The ruling in this case is an extreme departure from this Court's precedents on statutory interpretation. To allow this decision to stand would be to sanction an enormous shift of power to administrative agencies, effectively letting them dismantle statutory regimes they simply do not like."
Lopez v. Gonzales, No. 05-547 and Toldeo-Flores v. U.S., No. 05-7664, both of which analyze whether something that's a misdemeanor under federal law, but a felony under state law, is an "aggravated felony" under the Immigration and Nationality Act and thus a deportable offense.
There are more, but that's a tid bit.
September 18, 2006
Statutory Construction Resources Wanted
One thing I need to do is add to a menu bar links to some useful resources. Things I've thought of include the Congressional Research Service book cited below; Gary O'Connor's old blog; wikipedia's entry... If you have other links to suggest, either just post a comment or e-mail me by clicking the link over to your left. I'll try to get that done this fall.