“It is unfair to believe everything we hear about lawyers. Some of it might not be true.”
— Gerald F. Lieberman
“I can’t do literary work for the rest of this year because I’m meditating another lawsuit and looking around for a defendant.”
— Mark Twain
Legal matters are in a constant state of flux. The status of cases may change from day to day and even when a decision is reached in a case, subsequent appeals can quickly change the outcome. It is a good time, therefore, to take a look back at some of the issues that have appeared in Case Study over the past few months.
Recess Appointment: Back in January, President Obama made a ‘recess appointment’ of Richard Cordray to be the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The issue wasn’t whether Obama could make recess appointments, but rather whether Congress was in a recess at all at the time the appointment was made. Opponents threatened to bring legal action to challenge the appointment. Cordray has been on the job for four months now, but no legal action was ultimately forthcoming. The recess appointment lasts until Congress’ term ends in December.
Open Hearings: In February, 17 year-old T.J. Lane brought a gun to Chardon High School in northeast Ohio and shot and killed three fellow students. Immediately upon the filing of his case in the juvenile court, Geauga County Juvenile Court judge Timothy Grendell was asked to shield portions of the proceedings from the media and to prevent the release of certain documents.
Grendel ultimately permitted Lane’s prior juvenile court record to be released to news outlets along with some details of Lane’s prior living arrangements. Judge Grendell ruled in a hearing on Wednesday of this week that Lane is competent to stand trial. On May 12, Grendell will conduct a hearing to determine whether Lane’s case should be transferred to adult court.
California Marriage: Also in February, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was a violation of due process for a state (California) to grant the right to marry to same sex couples and then remove that right via a referendum. At the time of the decision, opponents of same sex marriage promised to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. That appeal remains an option, but as a preliminary step, opponents have asked the 9th Circuit to rehear the case en banc.
The original decision, like all other federal circuit court decisions, was heard by a three judge panel. There are 29 judges in total on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers all federal appeals from Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Arizona. If the Court agrees to hear the case en banc, it will be heard by an 11 judge panel. If the court denies the rehearing or reaches the same conclusion on a rehearing, then a final appeal can be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.
NFL Bounties: In March, news broke about a scandal involving New Orleans Saints defensive coaches and players offering financial bounties for intentionally injuring opposing players. At the time the scandal broke, it appeared possible that local law enforcement agencies might investigate whether the activity constituted criminal action by the players — either for intentional harm or for tax evasion. To this point, those authorities have declined to become involved, in part because of the harsh penalties handed down by the NFL. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely and Saints head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for the year and the commissioner announced suspensions against multiple players this week.
Space Mining: In early April the Space Settlement Institute proposed rewarding companies with land contracts on the moon or other planets. Within two weeks an American company, Planetary Resources Inc., whose investors include James Cameron and Ross Perot, announced plans to begin mining asteroids for water and precious metals. The company hopes to be mining within the decade.
Perhaps the best legal story of the week was the tale of the California man who changed his name to Obi Wan Kenobi. He was arrested over the weekend and charged with fleeing the scene of an accident. The Force was definitely not with him.
David Hejmanowski is a magistrate and court administrator at the Delaware County Juvenile Court and a former assistant prosecuting attorney.