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Sketches from the Dustbin


The class-action lawsuit brought against the Department of the Interior for its mismanagement of Indian Trust assets is one of the largest and longest ongoing. Beginning in 1996 the case, Cobell v. Babitt, went before Judge Royce Lamberth (pictured, along with Interior Secretary Babitt and Justice attorney Clark, in the second drawing from July 1999) who repeatedly ruled for the Native American plaintiffs, and found Interior Secretaries Gale Norton and Bruce Babitt in contempt of court.  In 2006 the Court of Appeals took the unusual action of removing Judge Lamberth, citing his loss of objectivity, and assigned the case to another judge.

A settlement was announced last December with a deadline for congressional approval by December 31, but Congress failed to act and the deadline was extended to February 28. Today the Justice Department announced, “the parties have agreed to extend that deadline through Friday, April 16, 2010.”

Meanwhile the plaintiffs have petitioned the Supreme Court to consider the case.

BLT story here.

Scalia Delivers Unanimous Opinion


In an exception to it’s 1981 decision in Edwards v. Arizona where the court found that once a suspect asks for a lawyer police may not come back after a “break in custody” and resume the questioning if the suspect then waives his Miranda rights. In today’s opinion the court found that if the interval between interrogations is substantial Edwards does not suppress a confession.

Justice Scalia’s opinion is here.

“Material Support” Law v. First Amendment


Georgetown law professor David D. Cole tried to persuade the Justices that his client, the Humanitarian Law Project, was only engaged in benign, nonviolent activities when it assisted the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. A 1996 law makes it a crime to provide “material support” to such groups.

Cole argued that the kind of speech activities, such as legal assistance, that the Humanitarian Law Project wants to do should be protected by the 1st Amendment.

Bodies in the Freezer


Renee Bowman, accused of choking and beating to death two of her adopted daughters -a third child, now 9 years-old, escaped out a second story window- and keeping their bodies in a freezer for more than a year, is standing trial in Rockville.

WaPo story here.