Friday, May 22, 2015

"A rose by any other name may smell as sweet. See William Shakespeare, 'Romeo and Juliet,' act 2, sc. 2. People, not so much."

Lots of awesomeness there by Judge Bloom in this order, which starts this way:
A rose by any other name may smell as sweet. See William Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet,” act 2, sc. 2. People, not so much. The Plaintiff in this matter, who originally filed his action under the name of “Raul Aguilar,” stood before the Court and stated his name to be “Manuel Antonio Aguilar.” Two hours and several iterations later, he identified himself as “Manuel Antonio Aguilar Salazar.” This encapsulates the misinformation and confabulation to which Plaintiff has subjected these proceedings. Now, ten months into the case, after two full length depositions, days before the close of discovery, and only a few months before trial, the Defendants, the Court and Plaintiff’s own counsel are still left wondering if the real plaintiff has stood up. “A trial is not a masquerade party nor is it a game of judicial hide-n-seek where the plaintiff may offer the defendant the added challenge of uncovering his real name. We sometimes speak of litigation as a search for the truth, but the parties ought not have to search for each other’s true identity.” Zocaras v. Castro, 465 F.3d 479, 484 (11th Cir. 2006). Under the standard articulated and for the reasons set forth below, this case is dismissed with prejudice pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b).

Have a nice weekend everyone.

H/T SFLawyers.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

11th Circuit rejects Don Siegelman again

Here's the opinion by visiting Judge Ebel, a senior 10th Circuit judge.  The Montgomery Advertiser has this report on the former Alabama Governor:

A federal appeals court Wednesday denied former Gov. Don Siegelman's bid for a new trial, saying he relied on arguments that judges rejected in an appeal from his co-defendant in their 2006 trial on bribery and corruption charges.
Siegelman argued that the district court should have considered whether then-U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who recused herself from Siegelman's investigation in 2002, had honored the recusal. Former HealthSouth CEO
Richard Scrushy made the same arguments in his motion for a new trial, citing emails from a whistleblowers in which Canary suggested a gag order be placed on Siegelman during the trial; forwarded an email on its coverage and approved a staffing decision.
The three-judge panel rejected Scrushy's argument in 2013, writing "there is no evidence that Canary's emails influenced any decisions made by the U.S. Attorney's office in prosecuting Scrushy." In the former governor's case, the court wrote that it had to follow its decision on Scrushy.
"Regardless of whether Canary possessed a stronger conflict of interest with respect to Siegelman, our determination in Scrushy that there was no evidence that Canary influenced the prosecution team , , , binds Siegelman on this appeal," the opinion said.
The three-judge panel also rejected Siegelman's arguments that his sentence had been miscalculated, saying the district court made no error in sentencing him to 78 months in prison.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

News & Notes

1.  Follow up on the "intactivist" post from yesterday.  The lawyer decided to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit.  From the Sun-Sentinel:

A federal lawsuit concerning a circumcision fight between two South Florida parents suddenly ended Wednesday when the attorney for the 4 1/2-year-old boy and his still-jailed mom decided the case appeared hopeless.
Thomas Hunker, who represents mother Heather Hironimus, notified U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra that the month-old case has been voluntarily dismissed, and the notice prevents the case from ever being filed again in the court.
In a message posted on a Facebook page dedicated to the boy and his mom and directed at circumcision opponents, Hunker wrote they decided to quit because, "Unfortunately, Judge Marra was not only not sympathetic, he seemed quite hostile toward our position."
Hunker added that proceeding with the federal lawsuit would surely result in "an unfavorable order which could potentially hurt the cause and future efforts to establish a child's right to object to circumcision. I hope you understand and agree that under the circumstances, this was our only available option."
Finally, the attorney said the focus must be to "conserve resources to help Heather get out of jail and preserve her custody rights. That is my mission now."

2.  District Judges like asking other district judges for help.  From the NY Times:
 Federal district judges are often described as the quintessential deciders, whether from the bench or in written opinions. But what happens when a difficult question arises, the parties are in sharp disagreement, and the answer is not obvious?
Turns out they often rely on a rarely discussed resource: the jurist-to-jurist lifeline.
Interviews with more than a dozen judges in Manhattan’s Federal District Court show that almost all have telephoned colleagues when they were puzzled by legal questions or other issues, or have been on the receiving end of the game-show-like call for help.
“I can tell you that everyone calls colleagues for advice, particularly when we get gnarly jury notes,” said Chief Judge Loretta A. Preska, a member of the bench for more than two decades.
The practice is longstanding: Judge Pierre N. Leval, a district judge for 16 years before he was elevated to the federal appeals court in 1993, said that shortly after he became a trial judge, he asked a colleague, “What do you do when you’re stumped?”
The colleague scribbled four digits on a scrap of paper and handed it to him — it was the phone extension for Judge Edward Weinfeld, a legal legend on the court.
“Put it on your desk in the robing room and call him when you’re stuck. We all do it,” Judge Leval remembers his colleague saying.
In a recent trial in Manhattan, Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled against the government on the admissibility of a particular document, but after a break, she said she had changed her view.
“I spoke to three colleagues — judges here,” she explained.
The defense lawyer objected, but Judge Forrest indicated that it was important that she get it right, and drawing on the expertise and experience of fellow federal judges was sometimes useful “when one is pressed for time in dealing with these kinds of issues.”
“Indeed, a lot of us call each other,” she said. “People call me a lot, including more senior judges.”
Shocker -- her colleagues said to rule for the government!  Oy!

3.  Judge Altonaga did not need to call her colleagues on this one where the government isn't complying with its discovery obligations in the civil terrorism case.  From the AP:

A federal judge sternly blamed the U.S. government Tuesday for lengthy delays in a lawsuit filed by a Pakistani-American man accusing the U.S. of malicious prosecution in a terror financing case.
U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga agreed with Irfan Khan's lawyer that the Justice Department's tactics have caused months of unnecessary delays. Altonaga said much FBI evidence released about its investigation into Khan's alleged ties to the Pakistani Taliban is heavily redacted and useless.
"It's virtually like providing nothing," Altonaga said at a hearing. "It's sort of like shooting in the dark."
...Altonaga decided Tuesday to suspend various deadlines until the classified material is sorted out, likely scrapping the current October trial date as well.
"This is a very old case, gentlemen. I fault the government," she said. "You let me know when you're good and ready."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Ah, Florida (via the Sun-Sentinel):
A federal judge will get 10 days advance notice before a 4 1/2-year-old boy at the center of a circumcision battle is set to have the procedure, the father's attorney promised Monday.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra — hearing an emergency request from an attorney for the boy and his now-jailed mom, Heather Hironimus, to block the surgery already cleared by two state courts — had inquired about the child's whereabouts and the status of the circumcision.
"The child is healthy and well," said Ira Marcus, attorney for father, Dennis Nebus. He told the court the boy is staying with his dad in a "safe and secure" location, has not yet been circumcised, and would not be operated on before telling Marra first.
"Mr. Nebus is entitled to some finality," Marcus said, arguing the boy's parents' legal fight has gone on long enough. "And you know what? The child is entitled to some finality."
But Thomas Hunker, hired by Hironimus to represent the child, urged Judge Marra to step in and protect the boy from "physical harm," brain damage or worse from an elective procedure that is not medically necessary for him and violates his Constitutional rights.
"This is a potentially life and death situation," Hunker said, contending that the child doesn't respond well to general anesthesia and is prone to scarring that could further harm his genitals if he survives. He further argued the procedure to remove the foreskin from the boy's penis is not "reversible" and violates his right to bodily "integrity."
Marra concluded a 75-minute hearing without ruling on the bid for a temporary restraining order against the circumcision — or Nebus' motion to throw the case out of federal court.
Several times, Marra peppered Hunker with questions about why he should hear a case that had already been decided in the father's favor by state circuit and appellate courts. "So you want me to take a fresh look at what was already done by the state court?" Marra asked.
On Friday, the attorney filed for the restraining order until the resolution of a federal lawsuit that was filed on the boy's behalf on April 13. The lawsuit states the boy's rights were violated because he hasn't had a psychological examination or an independent guardian to speak on his behalf in court as the mother requested, along with other claims.
The lawsuit lists as defendants his father, Judge Gillen, and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. Attorneys for Gillen and Bradshaw urged Marra to remove them from the case.
Meanwhile, Hunker also filed in state court Friday an emergency motion on behalf of Hironimus to freeze all state judicial orders and court proceedings in the long-running custody battle while the matter is pending in federal court.
In March, Gillen ruled Hironimus had committed a "direct, contemptuous violation" of court orders by continuing work with circumcision opposition groups — called "intactivists" — that have "plastered" the child's photos and name "all over the Internet."
During Monday's hearing, a small group of the mother's supporters stood outside the courthouse in West Palm Beach.
"I've been an advocate for all human beings to have bodily autonomy," said Rebecca Boni, a mother of two young children from Boca Raton. "To me it's so obvious it blows my mind the [state] judge decided to side with the father."

Monday, May 18, 2015

Supreme Court reverses 11th Circuit in Henderson v. United States


SCOTUSblog has the details:
After oral argument, the outcome in Henderson v. United States wasn’t really in doubt. The entire Court had expressed skepticism of the idea that a firearm owner convicted of a felony couldn’t lawfully sell his weapons on the open market, or transfer them to an independent third party. Today, in a crisp eight-pager by Justice Elena Kagan, the Court unanimously ruled in favor of the firearm owner. Along the way, the Court ironed out some significant legal wrinkles. Of special note, the Court clarified that felons can be entitled to the benefits of equity in federal court.
When an individual surrenders his firearms to police and is later convicted of a felony, what happens to the firearms? The weapons can’t go back to the felon, because federal law prohibits felons from possessing firearms. Yet the felon still owns the weapons, which could have considerable financial, sentimental, or historical value. Understandably enough, many felons in this situation would like to sell or transfer their firearms, rather than let Uncle Sam indefinitely possess them. The question before the Court in this case was whether federal law gave felons that right to transfer.
In the decision under review, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit had ruled against transfer based on a broad view of “constructive possession” – roughly, the idea that someone can lack physical possession of an object but still exert enough control over it to count as possession for purposes of law. The court of appeals had also seemed to say that a convicted felon lacked “clean hands” and so could not take advantage of any form of equitable relief, including equitable transfers of property.
Today, however, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the firearm owners by allowing them to transfer their weapons to independent third parties, including to have the weapons sold on the open market. As Justice Kagan succinctly explained, this is a pragmatic solution that accords with the statute’s text and purpose, and also has the benefit of fitting snugly with common sense.