Quote of the Day - In the state of nature...all men are born equal, but they cannot continue in this equality. Society makes them lose it, and they recover it only by the protection of the law.
Direct Shipping UpdateThose of you that read or listen regularly know that I am apt to comment on the news of the wine, beer, and spirits businesses. As such, there were a few news items this week that caught my eye.
First, New York and Connecticut have enacted legislation opening their states to the direct shipment of wines later this year. The New York regulations, clearly in response to the Supreme Courtís decision in Granholm v. Heald earlier this year, allow New York wineries to ship their products directly to consumers out of state. Consumers within New York can have wine from out of state shipped directly to their doorsteps from out of state wineries. This change can only have positive ramifications for New York wineries that produce world-class wines but have largely been relegated to regional player status in the world of wine. The other option would have been for New York to keep its borders closed in both directions and not even allow New York wineries to ship to New York consumers. All that the Supreme Courtís holding in Granholm v. Heald requires is equality for instate and out of state wineries. Who wins in that situation? Not New York wineries, not New York consumers, but big New York wholesalers.
On an international note, French vintners plan to distribute bottles of wine along country roads and at toll booths later this month in an effort to alleviate a wine surplus in the country. This clever marketing effort is aimed at vacationers and the vintners hope to raise awareness of the benefits of wine as well whittle down the current oversupply situation. I suppose in France, this effort may be perfectly acceptable since the country has a long tradition of consumption in moderation, but can you imagine the reaction from Mothers Against Drunk Driving if California vintners had tried the same scheme a few years ago during their own glut?
French holiday makers get free wine and we got Two Buck Chuck.
Alleged Carjacking Criminal Caught As Caped CrusaderYou have to think that maybe this guy had seen the Fantastic Four before he allegedly committed three carjackings while wearing a purple robe supposedly stolen from a church.
Has he seen too many movies?
Everyday Lawyers Have The (Unlikely) Chance of Nomination To The Supreme CourtPresident Bush says that he's willing to nominate someone without judicial experience as a replacement for SDOC. I guess that leaves me out; I sometimes sit as a temporary judge.
Along with the other (estimated) more than a million lawyers in the United States, President Bush is likely to pass me by. It seems kind of odd, doesn't it, that traditionally most Supreme Court Justices were not judges beforehand.
What does that tell you about the law? Does it take a judge to know one?
It seems that being a judge is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to making a decision that will become "the final decision." But isn't that what everyday judges do? Sure, the judge in Superior Court down the street from my office makes decisions that become final every day. More than the Supreme Court could ever hope to make.
No one else, though, relies on that decision to decide another case. In a couple of words, the decision by the "street judge" has no precedential value. On the other hand, appellate courts and the Supreme Court publish their decisions, and they are relied on as precedent. Most appellate judges (the old saw in the Ninth Circuit is that there's not justice there, only judges) and justices are appointed only if they've been judges before.
Why, then, would it be different for the Supreme Court? Maybe it makes it easier to get confirmed since lawyers have few, if any, published rulings that the Senators can call into question. Maybe it's because practical experience is viewed as more valuable than judicial experience when it comes down to establishing long-lasting policy.
It's perhaps as simple as that: long-lasting policy. Who better to make those decisions than someone with a broad range of experience in the law rather than someone whose job it has been to decide cases in a confined courtroom?
My hat's still in the ring, but I'm not holding my breath.
Secret Tax Court Opinions See The Light Of Day And Critical ExaminationIt's been 11 years, one five-week hearing, a written report from Special Trial Judge D. Irvin Couvillion, a 606-page opinion from Senior Judge Howard A. Dawson, Jr. (now retired, but still hearing cases), and we're not there yet. As if you couldn't tell already, we're talking about the Tax Court.
Earlier this year, our Supreme Court ordered the Tax Court to release previously secret opinions, one of which included the startling case of Burton Kanter, a famous tax attorney, now deceased.
The high court decision highlighted the Tax Court's 20-year practice of Special Trial Judges writing decisions kept secret from the parties and seen only by the senior judges in the Tax Court - kept secret even from appellate courts in cases on appeal. The startling aspect of the Supreme Court decision came when the Tax Court released Special Trial Judge Couvillion's decision, which was markedly different from the final decision in the Kanter case.
Special Trial Judge Couvillion, who heard the Kanter case for five weeks, ruled that there was no fraud. Senior Judge Dawson's ruling held there was.
One appeals court judge stated that he had reviewed some 880 opinions involving STJ rulings, and each had agreed with the final opinion. Now that the opinions will be opened up, tax professors will be poring through them. We'll find out soon enough whether that observation holds water.
Meanwhile, Kanter's case (the Estate of Kanter) is still winding through the Tax Court, with his lawyers claiming vindication given last week's release of the STJ opinion. The IRS lawyers, not surprisingly, haven't given up. Remember Dickens' not-so-fictional case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce?
This is it in real life.
Announcing The Return of Sharks In The WaterMIPTC's companion blog, Sharks In The Water has returned, and our very own Joe McFaul is in the swim.
Give the site a visit, drop in and leave your comments and get on the bandwagon.
Indonesia Hangs Fate of Corporate Employee and Its Own Reputation In BalanceMIPTC brought you the news before, and here's an update. The American who heads Newmont Mining Company's Indonesian operation, Richard Ness, was charged criminally in Indonesia with violating pollution laws.
The trial should start in two weeks, and Mr. Ness faces up to 15 years in jail. Other employees were dismissed previously, including an Australian. At least one opinion lays blame at the doorstep of the New York Times as a somewhat prosecutor instead of a news reporter.
There's no lack of local coverage (need Indonesian translator) of the events. The case hasn't lacked for attention by the U.S. Embassy, either. Seems everyone has an opinion.
The dispute is much bigger than the not-so-simple-alleged act of dumping toxins into Buyat Bay. It has to do with sovereignty, pressure from American media, local environmentalists, diplomats and conflicting evidence. The WHO and other studies appear to clear Newmont. The government tests contradict those results.
With trial in two weeks, we'll find out soon enough. It's been a long saga already.
The world is watching.
My That's A Big Birthday Cake, Mom and DadYou may have had cake and ice cream for your 16th birthday party. I seem to recall that was on the menu for mine.
But the parents of one 16-year-old had a different idea. A stripper.
Police found out when the got a tip from a drug store photo developer who spotted ... well, more than he probably should have. The stripper, her guard and the parents each got two years of probation. The parents were also ordered to attend parenting classes.
What more can I say? Well, Grandpa was there and apparently enjoyed the party too, but wasn't charged.
Boy Scouts To Be Separated From Military Support for National JamboreeThe Boy Scouts just can't seem to get any traction lately. Judge Blanche Manning, a federal district court judge for the Northern District of Illinois decided that the military can't sponsor the Boy Scout's National Jamboree.
Disclaimer here: I'm an Eagle Scout, earned a God & Country award and am a member of the Order of the Arrow. My dad was a minister, and was at one point, a leader of my Boy Scout troop. So, I'm pretty invested in this issue.
The annual Boy Scout Jamboree is held at the U.S. Army's Fort A.P. Hill, near Bowling Green and just South of Fredericksburg, in Caroline County Virginia. (I've attended the Jamboree there).
In addition to meeting other scouts from across the world, the Jamboree includes camping, cooking, archery, a bikathlon, buckskin games, confidence course, conservation programs, scuba, kayak fun, racing shell run, and raft encounters, according to the Scouts' web site.
According to Judge Manning, that event won't be going on much longer with support from the Army. She decided in favor of the Rev. Dr. Eugene Winkler, in a suit brought by the ACLU. No more can the Army host the Scouts, ruled Judge Manning.
This suit isn't the first time that Rev. Winkler and the BSA have tangled. The issue revolves around the separation of church and state. Rev. Winkler believes that the government should not spend money to support an organization that requires its members to "do my duty to God and my country."
The Scouts plan an appeal, and according to an AP quote of Boy Scout spokesman Bob Bork, "We are confident that an appeal to the 7th Circuit will return everything to the status quo."
Just in case you want to go, the Boy Scout's World Jamboree will be held in Hylands Park in Chelmsford, Essex, England in 2007, where scouting was founded by Sir Baden Powell. The next National Jamboree is not yet scheduled and no location has been announced.