Khatallah Back In Court For Additional Charges

Looking very much like an Old-Testament prophet, Ahmed Salim Faraj Abu Khatallah was arraigned Monday on 17 additional charges related to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.

Khatallah said nothing as he stood in a green jumpsuit with “Alexandria Inmate” stenciled on the back while his lawyer, federal public defender Michelle Peterson, entered for him a plea of not guilty.

No trial date has yet been set as the prosecutors say they need more time to gather and redact the “thousands and thousands of pages” and hundreds of hours of video before turning them over to the defense.

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The Latest White House Fence Jumper

He scaled the fence but unlike the previous intruder three weeks ago Dominic Adesanya never made it all the way across the lawn and into the White House. He was stopped by Hurricane and Jordan, two Secret Service dogs with whom he fought until officers took him down.

Clearly deranged, his arm and fingers bandaged, Adesanya repeatedly tried to speak during his appearance before a federal magistrate. He resisted as he was led out of the courtroom.

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MS Drug Patent Argument

Usually trial courts are the exclusive finders of facts and appellate courts are limited to questions of law, but apparently that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to patent law. In a dispute between Teva Pharmaceuticals, which holds the patent on the very profitable multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, and companies that want to begin marketing a generic version the trial court sided with Teva. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reviews patent cases, however, looks at all elements of a patent claim as legal issues, including the factual conclusions of the trial court and reversed.

Even though Teva’s patent expires in September of next year the amount of money at stake is huge – in the billions. Also at stake is a shift of power from the Federal Circuit.

The case is Teva Pharmaceuticals v. Sandoz

Here are my sketches and a link to Lyle’s SCOTUSblog analysis of the argument.

Teva v. Sandoz, No. 13-854

Teva v. Sandoz, No. 13-854

Teva v. Sandoz, No. 13-854

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

I Am Not An Anti-Dentite . . .

. . . nor do I have anything against teeth whitening. I suppose it is an important case, North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTCabout whether state licensing boards made up of private professionals may violate anti-trust laws, and the argument was lively, but I’ll just post my two sketches and a link to Adam Liptak’s article and call it a night.

SCOTUS-sketch-Dental-Examiners-FTC-SC141014_Mooppan

NC Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC, No. 13-534

Liptak’s NYT story here.

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Black Aggie and the Doomsday Binder

I didn’t expect to have much fun covering two days of a trial relating to the government’s 2008 bailout of AIG, but I was mistaken.

It was fascinating to hear former Fed. chairman Bernanke describe the near financial collapse as more severe than the great depression of the 1930’s, and that there exists a “doomsday book”, a collection of emergency documents and memoranda outlining the central bank’s powers, that Timothy Geithner carried around in a 2-inch binder.

Even better was coming across the statue of Black Aggie in the courtyard of the building housing the Federal Circuit and Court of Federal Claims. Black Aggie used to reside at Druid Ridge cemetery in the Baltimore suburb of Pikesville. She sat over the tomb of Union Army general and publisher of the Baltimore American newspaper Felix Agnus until the mid 1960’s when the family gave the statue to the Smithsonian. For years Black Aggie was the subject of ghostly lore and attracted midnight visitors who trampled the gravesite to sit in her lap.

 

As forty-three year resident of Baltimore who loves his adopted city I can’t help feeling a little resentful at DC’s acquisition.

Back to the AIG trial, on the face of it this effort by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg to sue the government for saving AIG’s ass seems pretty preposterous. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the point of the bailout wasn’t to benefit AIG shareholders but to avoid the freezing of global insurance markets and financial meltdown. Greenberg’s legal team is led by super-lawyer David Boies, but I hope this is one time Boies loses.

Here are the rest of my sketches from my two days at the Court of Federal Claims. Note in the unfinished sketch the shelves full of binders on each side of the courtroom.

 

 

Posted in Courtroom, History Tagged with: , , , , ,

The Long and Short of Prison Beards

Arkansas prisons limit the length of inmates’ beards to a quarter inch. One of those inmates, a Muslim whose faith requires a full beard, tried to compromise by only growing his beard to a half inch but that was still too long for the warden. Contraband might be concealed in the half-inch beard, or the inmate could change his appearance to evade detection by shaving the beard.

None of those arguments were even considered plausible by the justices when the case, Holt v. Hobbs, was argued today. Justice Alito suggested using a comb on the beard “to see if a SIM card – or a revolver – falls out.” And Scalia asked why not take a photo of the inmate before he grows the beard?

“You’re really just making your case too easy”, the chief justice told petitioner’s lawyer, Douglas Laycock pictured above.

Arkansas Deputy Attorney General David A. Curran didn’t have much to show why the courts should defer to the bureau of prisons.

All bets are that the Court votes 9-0; not even close to a close shave.

 

 

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , , ,

In Other Supreme Court News . . .

While the big news today was the denial of all same-sex marriage ban petitions the Court also heard its first argument of the term, Heien v. North Carolina, a Fourth Amendment “reasonable” search case from the home town of Andy Griffith: Mt Airy, North Carolina.

In April, 2009, Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Darisse – pictured above with beard (and dislexically id’d) as he waited in line for a seat in the courtroom this morning – was working “criminal interdiction” on Highway 77 when he pulled over a vehicle for having a stop light out. After asking permission to search the vehicle officers found a baggie of cocaine and the owner of the car, Nicholas Heien, was arrested along with the driver.

It turns out, however, that North Carolina law only requires “a stop lamp on the rear of the vehicle” and since Heien’s car still had one good light the stop was illegal, and the cocaine “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

The question is whether the search was reasonable. After all, most of us would expect two working stop lights to be the law, and were surprised to learn otherwise (at least in NC). On the other hand ignorance of the law is no excuse for most defendants, so why should a police officer be allowed a mistake when enforcing the laws?

Not much has yet been published on today’s argument, and I have to confess that I get most of my information after the fact from what I read. I find it very difficult to draw and at the same time follow the thread of the argument; must be different parts of the brain – plus my wife says I’m hard-of-hearing. I did manage to pick up that Justice Scalia was never satisfied with the answer he got form petitioner’s lawyer, Jeffrey Fisher.

Above is my best drawing of the day, I think. Great subject.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , ,

White House Intruder Back in Court

Omar Gonzalez appeared before magistrate judge Deborah Robinson for arraignment on charges stemming from the Sept. 19 incident in which he managed to scale the fence, run across the lawn and enter the White House before finally being stopped in the East Room. Gonzalez did not speak during the twenty minute hearing letting his lawyer, federal public defender David Bos, enter a plea of not guilty for him. He also waived his rights to a formal reading of the charges and to a detention hearing.

Judge Robinson ordered a mental competency screening for Gonzalez which his lawyer vigorously opposed. As the judge and defense attorney Bos argued about the competency screening Gonzalez himself seemed to recede into a wallflower.

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White House Fence Jumper In Court

Omar Gonzalez, the first fence jumper who managed to enter the front door of the White House after sprinting 70 yards across the lawn without being stopped by the Secret Service, appeared before a Federal magistrate yesterday. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, sporting a goatee and what little bit of hair he had pulled back into a small knot, Gonzalez appeared alert and to understand what was happening.

The government prosecutor informed the court that Mr. Gonzalez is facing charges in Virginia for possession of a sawed-off shotgun and eluding police after a 20-mile car chase. Also found in the Ford Bronco Gonzalez was driving when he was arrested July 19 were two sniper rifles, an assault rifle, a bolt-action rifle, another shotgun and five handguns along with ammo and a map of the DC area with a circle drawn around the masonic temple in Alexandria and a line drawn from it to the White House. The only weapon illegal in Virginia was the sawed-off !

 

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McDonnell Closing Arguments

Grateful for not having to go down to Richmond to sketch the trial of former governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, I had a pleasant summer paying little attention to the news accounts. The prosecution on charges that the couple accepted gifts and loans from a vitamin magnate in exchange for favors seemed a little thin, and despite the unusual defense that the McDonnells could not have conspired because their marriage was on the rocks the story did not hold my attention.

But then Thursday evening, wouldn’t you know it, I got the call to jump in at the last minute, so I set the alarm for 4:00 and made the three hour drive to Richmond early yesterday morning.

It was a full day, but really not bad.

The prosecutor’s argument to the jury – Assistant U.S. Attorney David Harbach, mislabeled on my sketch above – was pretty convincing; at least to me, who knows nothing. For over two and a half hours he laid out in detail the quids and the quos. I don’t think the bad-marriage defense was even addressed; speaking of which, pictured on the right in my sketch above is Father Wayne Ball with whom Bob McDonnell has been bunking in the rectory.

Of course once the defense lawyers had made their arguments I was back to questioning the government’s case. As Bob McDonnell’s lawyer, Hank Asbill told the jury, “there was no quo, and there was no plan.” I’ll buy that.

I missed much of the prosecution’s rebuttal because I had to leave the courthouse to scan and upload my last sketches. I probably would have been swayed back to the government’s side, but at the end of the day I’d have to say that it looks like a fifty-fifty crapshoot going to the jury.

On Tuesday Judge James R. Spencer will charge the jury and deliberations will begin.

 

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