Appeals Court Weighs Teen's Web Speech
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/06 02:54
A teen who used vulgar slang in an Internet blog to complain about school administrators shouldn't have been punished by the school, her lawyer told a federal appeals court.

But a lawyer for the Burlington, Conn., school told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday that administrators should be allowed to act if such comments are made on the Web.

Avery Doninger, 17, claims officials at Lewis S. Mills High School violated her free speech rights when they barred her from serving on the student council because of what she wrote from her home computer.

In her Internet journal, Doninger said officials were canceling the school's annual Jamfest, which is similar to a battle of the bands contest. The event, which she helped coordinate, was rescheduled.

According to the lawsuit, she wrote: "`Jamfest' is canceled due to douchebags in central office," and also referred to an administrator who was "pissed off."

After discovering the blog entry, school officials refused to allow Doninger to run for re-election as class secretary. Doninger won anyway with write-in votes, but was not allowed to serve.

A lower federal court had supported the school. U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz, denying Doninger's request for an injunction, said he believed she could be punished for writing in a blog because the blog addressed school issues and was likely to be read by other students.

Her lawyer, Jon L. Schoenhorn, told the appeals court Tuesday that what students write on the Internet should not give schools more cause to regulate off-campus speech.

"It's just a bigger soapbox," he said.

But Thomas R. Gerarde, an attorney for school officials, argued that the Internet has completely changed the way students communicate.

The three-judge panel of the appeals court did not issue a ruling after the arguments.

In 1969, the Supreme Court said schools could ban expression if they can show that not doing so would interfere with schoolwork or discipline. In a later ruling, it allowed officials to bar "vulgar and lewd" speech if it would undermine the school's educational mission. But both cases involved events that occurred on school property or during a school activity.



A Key Case on Gun Control
Headline Legal News | 2008/03/06 02:52

Dick Heller, a longtime resident of the District of Columbia, carries a handgun for his job as a private security guard. But at the end of his shift, he packs up the .38 revolver and stashes it in a vault. He would like to keep a gun for protection at his Capitol Hill home, where he has endured the sound of gunfire for years. But he can't, because D.C. law forbids it. "They give me a gun to protect them," he says of the government, "but I'm a second-class citizen when I finish work."

One of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, the D.C. statute is the focus of a March 18 U.S. Supreme Court hearing that marks the most significant case on gun control in decades. With Heller as plaintiff, it is the first test since 1939 of whether the Second Amendment supports an individual's right to bear arms and not just a state's right to form a militia. It is a crucial distinction. A ruling in favor of the individual right could trigger a wave of constitutional challenges to gun

control laws nationwide. And it could suddenly bring a volatile issue—one particularly uncomfortable for Democrats—into play during a presidential election year.

"It's significant because either it's going to fuel attempts to restrict gun ownership or it could put a constitutional wet blanket on any effort to control gun ownership," says Martin Redish, a constitutional law professor at Northwestern University.

For all the passion on both sides of the Second Amendment debate, the Supreme Court has said remarkably little over the years about to whom the right applies. Specifically, the amendment states that "a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

For most of American history, courts have interpreted the Second Amendment to apply to the collective right of states to assemble groups of armed citizens, such as the National Guard. Nine federal circuit courts have upheld that position, and the Supreme Court favored it when it last considered the issue in the 1939 case. (While that decision upheld the federal regulation of an individual's use of sawed-off shotguns, it didn't directly address the scope of the Second Amendment.)



Leaders split over choice of judge
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/03 05:00
Roanoke Valley legislators have only one week left in the General Assembly session to appoint a new judge in the General District Court that serves Roanoke, Roanoke County and Salem.

The Roanoke Valley delegation, which consists of three Republicans and two Democrats in the Senate and House of Delegates, is split on who should fill the vacancy left in the 23rd Judicial District by Roanoke County General District Court Judge Julian Raney's retirement.

If legislators can't come to a consensus, the circuit judges in the district will appoint someone to fill the vacancy until at least next year.

The two candidates up for consideration, Salem City Councilman Chris Clemens and Roanoke Commonwealth's Attorney Donald Caldwell, will visit the Capitol today for interviews.

In recent years, Republicans held majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly and therefore controlled appointment of judges. That would have hurt Caldwell, an active Democrat, had it been the case again this year.

But Democrats won a slim majority in the Senate last November.

"The House has its prerogative, the Senate has its prerogative, and we've got to come up with a match," said Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke.

Asked if he expects the Roanoke Valley delegation to agree on a candidate, Del. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, said: "I don't know the answer to that."

The Roanoke Bar Association and Salem/Roanoke Bar Association have each endorsed Clemens for the job. But that's only one factor that the legislators take into consideration when making a decision.

Edwards, like the other four legislators in the delegation, is complimentary of both candidates, saying that either would make a fine judge. He has so far declined to name which he favors. Instead, he said, he'd take that up with the rest of the delegation after Monday's interviews.

Griffith said he is supporting Clemens for the judgeship, but emphasized that he has no problems with Caldwell.

"The reason is he [Clemens] has been endorsed by the two local bar associations," said Griffith, the House majority leader and member of the House Courts of Justice Committee.

Meanwhile, Del. Onzlee Ware, D-Roanoke, said he's supporting Caldwell because he has more experience than Clemens and because he lives in Roanoke.

"If you look at the last several judges, all were able but not one lived in the city of Roanoke," Ware said. "Roanoke deserves a judge who lives in the city."

Del. William Fralin, R-Roanoke, said he won't decide between the candidates until after their interviews today and added, "I think both of those candidates are well qualified."

But Fralin, who also sits on the House Courts of Justice Committee, said bar association endorsements would carry weight as he sizes up the candidates. All Roanoke Valley judgeships since 2001 have been filled by candidates who received a bar association endorsement.

"The bar association is very important because these are the folks who are very familiar with the people seeking the post," Fralin said.

Ware places less value on the bar endorsements. He said many of its members are corporate lawyers unfamiliar with the court for which they're endorsing a candidate.

"More than half the members who vote in the bar don't practice in General District Court," Ware said.

Freshman Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Botetourt County -- the only non-lawyer in the Roanoke Valley delegation -- is outright skeptical of bar endorsements. He said that because the lawyers in the bar will be practicing before the judge who's appointed, the endorsements represent conflicts of interest for the bars' members.

"If I'm going to serve in your courtroom for the next 20 years, the human nature is, 'How are you going to react to me?' " Smith said. "You can't take that out of it, and that's where I see a conflict of interest. I don't know that it takes an attorney's knowledge to find out who would be a good, fair judge."

That also extends, Smith said, to the 45 General Assembly members who are lawyers by profession.

"I understand it's about 32 percent of the members of the General Assembly who are attorneys, and that's a conflict of interest," Smith said. "In fact, everybody involved in this situation is an attorney except me. I'm not lobbying to say I should pick the judges, but there should be another mechanism" for appointing judges.



Judge Linda Miller Recognized for 25 years of Service
Court Watch | 2008/03/02 17:51



Judge Linda Miller was honored for her 25 years of service as a judicial officer by the OCBA Family Law section at their February meeting. Over 200 members of the section attended the monthly meeting held at the Turnip Rose in Orange.



Notable California Trials
Headline Legal News | 2008/02/29 22:48
Childhood abuse
Award: $11,000,000
Six female former parochial school students alleged sexual molestation by a lay teacher at their elementary school (Confidential v. Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Plaintiff attorney: Eric F. Yuhl).

Rear-end fatality
Award: $1,500,000
A 28-year-old woman was killed when the vehicle in which she was riding was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer (Estate of Ana Rosa Gutierrez v. Kem-Iron Transport Inc., Los Angeles County Superior Court, Plaintiff attorney: Michael H. Whitehill).

Post-surgical death
Award: Defense
A 47-year-old man allegedly died as a result of negligent post-surgical care following an appendectomy (Tillery v. Ladenheim, Fresno County Superior Court, Defense attorney: Richard S. Salinas).

Worker burned
Award: $27,514,746
A 41-year-old worker was severely burned by a fireball at a bio-mass power production plant (Hall v. North American Industrial Services Inc., Eastern District Federal Court, Plaintiff attorney: Richard C. Watters).

Police brutality
Award: $1,500,000
A man arrested for public drunkenness alleged excessive force by police officers, resulting in a comminuted leg fracture (Andrews v. Ventura County Sheriff, Central District Federal Court, Plaintiff attorney: Michael C. Alder).

Student pedestrian struck
Award: $3,025,000
A 45-year old student struck by an SUV while attempting to cross a campus street claimed that her line-of-sight was blocked by trees that had not been properly pruned (Burkhart v. California State University, Long Beach, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Plaintiff attorney: Stanley K. Jacobs).

Infant scarred
Award: $385,000
One newborn twin sustained extensive facial scarring allegedly as a result of a negligently taped oxygen apparatus (Woo v. Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Plaintiff attorney: Robert V. Chin).

Medical malpractice
Award: Defense
A patient who underwent a lumbar puncture alleged that the procedure was improperly performed and resulted in numerous spinal cord injuries (Loerch v. The Regents of the University of California, San Diego County Superior Court, Defense attorney: Richard D. Carroll).

Construction accident
Award: $1,600,000
A 27-year-old fence installer working on a scissor-lift was injured when it toppled over due to a missing steel grate on a catch basin (Boughamer v. Abboud Diamond Construction Inc., San Bernardino County Superior Court, Plaintiff attorney: Paul J. Ultimo).


2008 Arizona Bar Exam Deadlines and Fees
Court News | 2008/02/29 22:40
February 2008

No applications accepted prior                      $125 application and $235 examination
to August 15, 2007

September 1, 2007                                       $360 (application and examination)
September 2 to September 30, 2007              $460 (includes $100 late fee)
October 1 to October 31, 2007                     $560 (includes $200 late fee)
November 1 to November 30, 2007              $660 (includes $300 late fee)

Close of Filing:

November 30, 2007 for applications and supporting documents
December 31, 2007 for correction of deficient documentation



July 2008

No applications accepted prior                      $125 application and $250 examination
to January 15, 2008

February 1, 2008                                         $375 (application and examination)
February 2 to February 29, 2008                   $475 (includes $100 late fee)
March 1 to March 31, 2008                          $575 (includes $200 late fee)
April 1 to April 30, 2008                              $675 (includes $300 late fee)

Close of Filing:

April 30, 2008 for applications and supporting documents
May 31, 2008 for correction of deficient documentation


King Yaklin Wins $1M in Attorney's Fee's
Court Watch | 2008/02/29 21:19
A Superior Court judge has ordered a couple and their attorney suingBishop Earl Paulk to pay more than $1 million in legal fees and courtcosts from a dismissed case.

Mona and Bobby Brewer sued Paulk and his church, then known as ChapelHill Harvester Church in Decatur, asserting sexual misconduct. MonaBrewer claimed in the suit she had a 14-year coercive affair with Paulk.

The Brewers dropped their years-old suit last July, but each filed a separate suit in state court later in the year.

The judge entered the order last Friday for costs incurred by threedifferent legal firms who defended Paulk in the Superior Court case.

Matthew Wilkins of King & Yaklin, one of Paulk's firms, said they are still reviewing the order and had no comment.

Louis Levenson of Levenson & Associates, the Brewer's attorney,said he has not seen the order. Levenson and the Brewers were orderedto pay the fees.

Paulk was one of Atlanta's preeminent preachers in the 1980s and 1990s.He had a church of 10,000 and an international ministry and TV program.A series of allegations of sexual misconduct plagued his work, and Paullost influence and his ministry.

He still goes to the church, now called the Cathedral at Chapel Hill,but has dropped from public sight. Attendance on the mammoth campus hasdropped dramatically.


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