Thursday, April 17, 2008

The VLW Blog has moved!

The VLW blog has moved to its new home on Virginia Lawyers Weekly's brand new Web site!

To continue following our blog coverage of the latest legal news from across the commonwealth, make sure to update your bookmarks to this link:

Brownlee to resign

John Brownlee, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, has announced his resignation, according to WDBJ. The resignation is to be effective on May 16.

Brownlee was appointed to the prosecutor's job by President Bush in 2001. He has been mentioned as a possible G.O.P. contender for Virginia Attorney General.

A link to a news release on Brownlee's resignation is here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lethal injection upheld

As reported on SCOTUSblog: In a widely splintered decision, the Supreme Court on Wednesday cleared the way for death-row executions to resume across the country, concluding that the most common method of lethal injection does not violate the Constitution.

The Washington Post notes that Governor Kaine acted quickly to reinstate the death penalty in Virginia.

It’s all oxycodone to the court of appeals

To say that Jimmy Roger Lane was caught with the goods would be an understatement.

In one pants pocket he had 62 tablets of oxycodone , 17 tablets of hydrocodone and two plastic bags with a total of $4,128 in cash. In the other, he had $181 in cash and 28 tablets of Endocet, a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen. In his garage, police found a plastic bottle with a dropper lid that contained 7.8 milliliters of liquid oxycodone.

Lane didn’t contest that he was guilty of one count of possessing oxycodone with intent to distribute it, but he was convicted of three counts on the theory that he had different types of the drug in three different locations.

That was a bit much for the Virginia Court of Appeals on Tuesday. The relevant double jeopardy inquiry is whether the defendant had a different intent for each stash, the court said in Lane v. Commonwealth. There was no evidence on that point and, “[w]ithout such evidence, we could only speculate as to whether location, packaging or different physical appearance would prove three separate intents,” the court said.

The question remains as to how much good a remand for resentencing on one count rather than three will do Lane. He did not appeal his conviction of four counts of distributing oxycodone.

He lost on the point that might have exonerated him on all the possession with intent counts. He contended that the search warrant that led to his arrest was defective because the only assertion in the affidavit as to an informant’s reliability was that he had “given information in the past that has led to the seizure of illegal narcotics.”

The court of appeals found that the “good faith” exception to the Fourth Amendment applied, although its analysis listed factors that appeared to go more to the observations alleged by the informant than to his reliability.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bell unrung

Scratch one name from the list of potential candidates for Attorney General. According to this item from the Daily Progress, Charlottesville delegate Rob Bell will trade a campaign for the pleasures of fatherhood.

Not to be outdone, Republican State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg also chooses not to run for A.G., citing family concerns, according to his e-mail to supporters.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dodd speaks at Holocaust Museum

In reinforcing the rule of law, the Nuremberg Trials established and highlighted the fact of the Holocaust, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn. said Saturday evening at the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

Dodd is the son of Thomas J. Dodd, the late senator who is generally regarded as the most effective prosecutor at the trials. Christopher Dodd published last year “Letters from Nuremberg,” which includes much of the daily correspondence that his father sent to his mother during the trials.

The senator was in Richmond to attend a policy retreat of Senate Democrats at the Jefferson Hotel. He signed copies of the book with the recently completed replica of the Nuremberg courtroom to his right. Senatorial colleagues Harry Reid of Nevada, Carl Levin or Michigan and Patrick Leahy of Vermont stopped by briefly for the festivities.

Dodd said his father believed that World War II “was about fundamental rights.” If the defendants had not been accorded those rights, vengeance would have been all they produced, he said.

As the primary force behind the trials, the United States accumulated moral authority from them, Dodd said.

He said he believes that decisions of the Bush Administration – from condoning torture to its policies involving the terrorists at Gu├íntanamo and weakening privacy rights through warrantless surveillance of telephone conversations and e-mail – have undermined that authority.

“You don’t become stronger by giving up your rights,” he said. “You become weaker as a people.”

The Nuremberg Courtroom will be formally dedicated on May 1 in a ceremony that will include a speech by Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Programs earlier in the day at a Rule of Law Conference at the museum will include appearances by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, Virginia Chief Justice Leroy R. Hassell Sr. and Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder.

The Richmond Bar Association will hold its Law Day luncheon at the museum with remarks from Virginia Supreme Court Justice Donald W. Lemons.

Court hears R-MWC arguments

An attorney told the Supreme Court of Virginia today that the court has never addressed the relationship between a college and its students.

Wyatt B. Durrette Jr., representing alumnae and students of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, contended that the relationship is essentially contractual. The contract is determined by the material sent to its students by a college and what the student should understand from the material.

Before the R-MWC decided in 2006 to admit men and changed its name to Randolph College, students reasonably believed they had a contract for four years of liberal arts education at an all-woman school, he said.

Edward J. Fuhr, representing the college, countered that the trial court had properly granted a demurrer because such documents as the academic catalog and the admissions letter did not come close to establishing an enforceable contract.

In a related case, many of the same plaintiffs, represented by William H. Hurd, also contended that the college’s board of trustees exceeded its authority by taking assets for one charitable purpose – operation of an all-woman college – and using them for another such purpose – a coed school – without court approval.

Fuhr responded that charitable institutions often change and evolve without court approval. Because charitable trusts don’t have beneficiaries, “public officials must enforce them,” he said. The attorney general has that authority in Virginia and he has refused to intervene in the case, Fuhr said.

The court is expected to issue a decision in the cases, Record Nos. 070843 and 071248, on June 6.