July 8, 2011 |
A Mexican national who became the focus of an international dispute was put to death Thursday by Texas authorities after the Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, refused an urgent appeal from the Obama administration to stop the execution. Humberto Leal Garcia, 38, was given a lethal injection for the 1994 rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl in San Antonio. His case drew the attention of the Mexican and U.S. governments because Texas officials failed to notify the Mexican consulate at the time of his arrest and trial, a violation of the Vienna Convention.
June 24, 2011 |
The Supreme Court on Thursday put an extra burden on crime labs, declaring that a man accused of drunken driving has the right to demand that a lab technician testify in person about a blood test that showed he was impaired. The 5-4 decision was the latest to extend the reach of a defendant's constitutional right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him. " And once again, the outcome was driven by an unusual coalition of conservative and liberal justices. Two years ago, the court said a crime lab technician was a witness for the prosecution and, therefore, must be available to testify.
June 16, 2011 |
The Supreme Court bolstered the rights of juveniles for the second year in a row, deciding by a 5-4 vote that police officers who remove a student from class for questioning about a crime usually must warn him or her of the right to remain silent. The decision Thursday did not set a strict rule for all cases involving police questioning of minors, but the justices said young people deserved extra protection because they would feel they had no choice but to answer. "It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstance would feel free to leave," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
June 6, 2011 |
The Senate on Monday approved Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. as the U.S. solicitor general, taking over the position that opened after Elena Kagan’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court last year. Verrilli, a deputy counsel to President Obama and former associate deputy attorney general, was approved 72-16 as federal government’s chief legal representative before the U.S. Supreme Court. He had been an attorney in private practice for 20 years, and argued 12 cases before the court.
May 20, 2011 |
Senate Republicans blocked a vote on the nomination of UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the federal appeals court in San Francisco, making Liu the first judicial nominee named by President Obama to be successfully filibustered. The move appears to doom Liu's chances of becoming the first Asian American on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves California, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon, all states with significant or growing Asian populations. Democrats failed to come close to the 60 votes needed to override the filibuster.
May 18, 2011 |
The Senate stands on the edge of what could be the biggest fight over an Obama administration judicial nominee yet, larger than either of the conflicts over Supreme Court picks Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled a vote for Thursday on the motion to cut off debate over the nomination of Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The motion requires 60 votes to pass—and its failure to do so would be, in effect, a filibuster.
April 5, 2011 |
The Supreme Court restored a death sentence for a Van Nuys murderer Monday, despite evidence that he suffered severe brain damage as a child. Scott Pinholster, who stabbed two men to death in a drug robbery gone bad in Tarzana in 1982, is an epileptic who suffered blows to the head in two auto accidents. His mother backed her car into him when he was 2, and his head slammed into the windshield during an accident a year or two later. By age 10, he was having outbursts at school. At 11, he was sent to a mental institution.
March 30, 2011 |
Supreme Court justices, sharply divided along gender lines, appeared poised to reject a nationwide class-action suit that accuses Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of sex discrimination. Led by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, the majority of men on the court questioned how Wal-Mart could be held liable for illegal sex bias when its 3,400 store managers across the nation decide who gets promoted and who receives pay raises. "It's not clear to me: What's the unlawful policy that Wal-Mart has adopted?"
January 25, 2011 |
Six Supreme Court justices are expected to attend President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday, amid growing concern over the politicization of the nation's high court. A court spokesman would not identify which of the panel's nine justices would attend, but it appeared likely that Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would be the three to skip the president's speech. Alito, who shook his head in disagreement as Obama spoke last year, had accepted an offer to teach law classes in Hawaii this week.
December 29, 2010 |
Perhaps the simplest thing to say about the law in 2010 is this: Never in America were so many judged by so few with such inconclusive results. As our population rose, and Americans filed 100 million or so lawsuits, the role of the courts somehow shrank in our lives. Dozens of federal judgeships remained empty throughout the year, the victim of partisan bickering on Capitol Hill. State judicial systems were wracked by budget cuts, which forced furloughs and court closures. And our prisons overflowed even though, by some accounts, we are opening on average a new one weekly.