Monday, June 29, 2009

Rep. Mayo's Report on the Special Session

We just came back from a recess that started at 12:30.  We came in a two, it is now 2:15 and we are taking a break til 4:30. 

The House passed its half of the general fund appropriation bills this afternoon and we are awaiting the senate's half of the appropriations.

The Speaker also announced that when we come back at 4 we may have word on a Medicaid solution shortly after that.

The House passed the Education funding bill which included full funding of MAEP as well as the teacher incentives.

Here is the location of the whole bill with an amendment that was added on the Floor



Unless the governor extends the session to Medicaid we will probably be gone sometime tonight.


Just a Little Bit Nervous . . .

I suppose I was the only person in America who didn't know that Billy May's death was the day after a rocky landing on a US Air flight to Tampa.  Of course, I learned that while reading today's paper on board . . . a US Air flight.  Wonderful way to start the week.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Moving Day

We're moving this blog to, which we hope will make it easier for new readers to find.

So please join us at the new
Ipse Blogit -- and tell your friends!

Followers, I think you have to re-register at the new site. Sorry!

"Significant federal indictment"

According to the Jackson Free Press Twitter feed, "Acting U.S. Attorney Stan Harris announcing 'a significant federal indictment' Tuesday at 3 p.m. in Jackson."

Anybody know anything?

Tip of the hat to the Jackson Free Press, obviously, and to Rep. Greg Snowden for the "re-tweet."

Anchors Aweigh!

WASHINGTON (June 18, 2009) Secretary of the Defense the Honorable Robert Gates, left, administers the Oath of Office to Secretary of the Navy the Honorable Ray Mabus during a ceremony at the Naval Support Activity Washington-Washington Navy Yard. Mabus, the former governor of Mississippi, is the 75th Secretary of the Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Joseph P. Cirone/Released) (

h/t Dorsey Carson via Facebook

"I'm Not Dead Yet" -- Section 5 of Voting Rights Act Survives Attack

The authoritative SCOTUSblog has an excellent, brief summary of the Supreme Court's ruling today in the Voting Rights Act case that presented the issue, among others, of whether Section 5 of the Act should be "nullified." SCOTUSblog reports:

With only one Justice voting to strike down Congress’s 25-year extension of the Voting Rights Act’s controversial Section 5, the Supreme Court on Monday interpreted the law in a way that saves it. The Court said that all local units of government must be given the option to bail out of the requirement that they get Washington approval for any changes in their election laws or methods.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., writing for an eight-member majority in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder (08-322), said that Section 5 has achieved “historic accomplishments,” but “now raises serious constitutional concerns.”

And, he said, while the Court would not shrink from its duty to apply the Constitution to block “legislative encroachments,” the Court also was obliged to decide a case by interpreting the scope of legislation if that route is available as an alternative to striking down the law altogether. That is the option it chose.

My two cents: I can't agree with his assessment of "serious constitutional concerns," but Chief Justice Roberts kept his word on this one. If he continues to follow Justice Brandeis's version of judicial restraint, which requires the Court to give Congress the benefit of the doubt by interpreting laws so that they can be upheld under the Constitution, then the Obama Era will not be threatened by the Bush v Gore Court.

Did someone forget to tell the Governor that the Legislature has reached an agreement on a budget?

Normally, one would travel from the State Capitol to the Clarion-Ledger building by walking right past the Governor's Mansion:

View Larger Map

But if we're to believe what we're hearing from Haley's foot soldiers, the news of a budget deal must have followed this route:

View Larger Map

In short, it appears as though Haley is going to attempt to deny the existence of a deal in an effort to avoid having to take responsibility for a looming state government shutdown. In all honesty, Barbour wants the budget negotiations to fail, as he sees it as a way to amass power. According to Barbour, he can run state government via his fiat in the event a budget is not passed.

Barbour should know better. This game of budgetary chicken didn't work out well for the GOP during the Clinton Administration, and it won't work this time. Here's why: The general public, on a very instinctive level, views Democrats as the ones who support government services and Republicans as the ones who oppose them. As a result, the public can't envision Democrats willingly shutting the government down and ending state services. They can, however, see Republicans doing so. After all, Republicans get elected to office railing against "big government" and touting private sector alternatives. It's truly that simple.

And if Phil Bryant and Alan Nunnelee aren't careful, they're going to wind up the real casualties of this debacle. Barbour doesn't have to go before the voters of this state again. Bryant's running for Governor, and Nunnelee is setting up a Congressional run. The voters will not look favorably upon a government shutdown on their watch.

Pennsylvania Prosecutor Goes Too Far

Someone needs to tell former DA and former (unsuccessful) candidate for Pennsylvania Attorney General Bruce Castor, Jr., that the Senate does not, and should not, ask judicial nominees how they will vote in specific cases coming before the court for which they are nominated.

We are, of course, talking about Judge Sonya Sotomayor, the President's nominee for the seat on the United States Supreme Court vacated by retiring justice David Souter.

In a
guest editorial written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mr. Castor says that "the United States Supreme Court will be reviewing a case of one of the commonwealth's worst." He is referring to Joseph Kindler, who was denied an appeal by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court because he had escaped after his conviction and during the time the conviction and sentence should have been appealed.

The Supreme Court long ago made clear that the right to appeal is an important guarantee that the death penalty is not arbitrarily imposed. So it's no surprise that they've granted review of Kindler's case. Even if Kindler wins, all he gets is a new appeal. He doesn't get set free. He doesn't even automatically get a new trial.

But Mr. Castor is concerned about the memo Judge Sotomayor co-authored (before her 17 years as a judge) as a member of the litigation committee of New York's Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (you can read about the memo here, and the memo itself is here).

The Pennsylvania Prosecutor (and doubtless, a potential GOP candidate for some statewide job in the future) says that Judge Sotomayor should be asked specifically how she will rule in the Kindler case:

"What is not clear is how Judge Sotomayor will side on the Kindler case this fall should she be confirmed.

Would Judge Sotomayor side with the Pennsylvania jury, Pennsylvania law enforcement and courts that took a stand against a violent criminal and clear escape risk? Or, will she side against Pennsylvanians and allow a federal court to take a murderous criminal off death row where Pennsylvanians decided he belonged?"

How soon they forget. Does anyone remember when Samuel Alito was nominated? He had written a memo in 1985 for the Reagan Justice Department that said Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. I guess maybe Republicans conceded that this disqualified him?

Ooops, no. The archives (January 2006) of the Christian Science Monitor report:

For the past two months journalists and legal analysts have been poring over hundreds of Alito decisions issued during his 15 years as a judge on the Philadelphia-based Third US Circuit Court of Appeals. They have also examined memos and letters he wrote while working as a Justice Department lawyer during the Reagan administration. "I am particularly proud of my contribution in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," Alito wrote in one letter.

In a 1985 memo, Alito made clear his legal judgment that the landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade, should at some point be overturned. But he said in the memo that the 1985 case then before the high court was not the right time to push for it. Instead, he counseled his Reagan administration colleagues to urge the court to cut back on abortion protections.

Some Alito supporters have downplayed the papers, saying they were produced 20 years ago when Alito was a young lawyer, and not yet a judge. They urge senators to focus instead on Alito's work as an appeals court judge.

A later Christian Science Monitor story highlights how and why then-Judge Alito did not give more specifics about cases that might present potential constitutional issues:

"He is saying as little as he needs to be confirmed and hasn't made many mistakes that trouble a majority of senators whose votes he needs," says Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond Law School.

But unlike Chief Justice John Roberts, Mr. Alito did not default to refusing to answer a question because "the issue is likely to come before the Court," he adds. "He has tried to wade in and engage the questions. The answers aren't always as specific as the senators would like, but he can't go too far, either. He'd have to recuse himself."

Maybe Mr. Castor should bone up on constitutional law before he runs his mouth (or for office) in the future. But he probably won't take my advice. Oh well.

P.S.: The Pennsylvania ruling should be reversed by the Supreme Court.

Gerald Holland Appeals From Kafka-esque Hearing

The Associated Press is reporting today the background of the death penalty habeas corpus appeal in Gerald Holland's case. Holland was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, but the sentence was reversed because the jury reached their decision in favor of the death penalty before the sentencing phase of the trial began. (They sent a note to the judge during the break between the phases that said, "We, the jury, sentence Gerald James Holland to death." A bit hard for Holland to re-open their minds at that point.)

The case went back to Circuit Court for a jury to consider only the sentence to be imposed on Holland. The State reintroduced the facts of the crime, and Holland's lawyers tried to rebut this evidence. The defense said that the State had misrepresented the facts. But the trial judge said that the State could have, in essence, a "free shot." They could re-prove their case, but Holland couldn't try to rebut or undermine the presentation made by the State.

The case in now in Federal court on habeas corpus appeal, and the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit asked specifically for briefing on that issue. The Fifth Circuit said: "The lack of rebuttal evidence makes it much more likely that a jury would find that the state met its burden with respect to that aggravating circumstance. We believe reasonable jurists would find the resolution of this argument debatable."

The AP story, as reported by the Commercial Appeal, is here.

Y'all Politics (here) and State Street Posts (here) were nice enough to give this blogger headline credit for the two cents I gave the AP on the issue.

As the AP (correctly) quoted me:

Jim Craig, a Jackson attorney and blogger who has handled dozens of death penalty appeals, said Mississippi jurors in death penalty cases weigh aggravating factors against mitigating factors to choose between life without parole and the death penalty.

"When the state reintroduced details about the crime as aggravating facts in Gerald Holland's sentencing case, simple fairness demanded that Mr. Holland have the opportunity to rebut those facts," Craig said.

He said while a sentencing jury can't undo a conviction, "they could decide that the state's narrative of the crime wasn't totally true, and that would have affected their sentencing decision."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Budget agreement reached?

Medicaid agreement reached.
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Rep. Brandon Jones reports progress on wind pool, budget

Just got this in. Maybe we won't see a government shutdown after all:

June 19, 2009 

Dear Friends,

             Moments ago, residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast got some much needed good news.  In his remarks to the Jackson press corps this afternoon, Governor Barbour announced that he has decided to add the additional $20 million Wind Pool appropriation to his budget.  As a co-sponsor of the original bill, I can tell you that this has been a long process but after months of debate, both chambers of the Legislature and now the Governor have agreed to re-up their investment in the Gulf Coast.  I have already passed along my thanks to the Governor’s office. 

            The rest of the budget picture may also be coming into focus.  After months of wrangling, some major concessions are being made and conferees report that an overall agreement could be in the offing. 

            Yesterday, conferees reported substantial agreements on the General Fund portion of the budget.  Today, those same conferees appear to be getting closer to an agreement on Medicaid.

              Despite the progress report coming out of Jackson, this is no time for victory laps.  The people of Mississippi deserve a budget yesterday and until one is delivered, there is work to be done. 


             Yesterday, I started using the networking service Twitter to send brief real time updates of legislative business.  This will enable me to provide updates from the floor of the House and to pass along information that becomes available between the posting of my e-mail updates.  For those of you who are already using Twitter, my user name is “brandoncjones”.  If you haven’t heard of Twitter, you can check out my page at or by following the link on my website.

Too Much Reality Is Never a Good Thing

The Jackson Free Press and WLBT report that Mayor-elect Harvey Johnson, Jr., opposes the participation of the Jackson Police Department on the "reality" show "First 48."

The JFP story quotes the incoming Mayor: "There are a number of things we can spotlight rather than homicides."

I agree with Mayor Johnson, but not so much for the reasons he states. In my opinion, a show dedicated to showing the "first 48" hours of a homicide investigation is virtually begging the police to find a suspect -- any suspect -- in that artificial time frame. The inevitable result? Pressured false confessions, false arrests, lives and reputations ruined, the Constitution shredded.

Now, if we want transparency, let's DO put cameras on our police cruisers and in our detective's hands, and make the record -- start to finish -- the interrogation of any subject. THAT would promote transparency and aid judges and juries in deciding whether a suspect's statement is . . . suspect.

Uneeda Biscuit

Here's a New Orleans photo, as promised in comments. It's of an old Uneeda Biscuit advertisement as viewed from Bourbon. Click to enlarge:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Legislators on Twitter

With a budget fight rolling along, some of you may want to follow the tweets of our legislators. I've found the following legislators on Twitter:

Rep. Brandon Jones at brandoncjones
Rep. Greg Snowden at snowlaw
Rep. Becky Currie at becelayne

Anyone know of others? I didn't find any senators at all.


Click to enlarge:

Huffington Post calls on DOJ to Concede Error in US v Paul Minor

Just in case our readers don't regularly follow the HP, here's their latest on the Paul Minor appeal. I'm not wild about calling Paul a "political prisoner," but I do think the Government overreached Federal jurisdiction in prosecuting an alleged State crime, and I also think the evidence of a quid pro quo was entirely speculative.

Three Cheers for Hispanic Immigrants to Mississippi!

U.S. Representative Gregg Harper (R-Miss) has issued the following press release. Does anyone doubt that there are large numbers of Hispanic workers in the poultry industry here? What this proves to me is (as The Economist magazine documented in January 2008) that immigration is a win-win proposition. The immigrants CREATE wealth, and in turn they earn a living. Immigration is not a zero-sum game.


June 17,2009

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Gregg Harper (R–Miss.) joined the Mississippi Poultry Association to announce that Mississippi’s Third Congressional District leads the nation in poultry production, according to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2007 Census of Agriculture.

“Mississippi’s poultry producers should be proud to lead the nation’s competitive agriculture industry,” said Congressman Gregg Harper. “Poultry production provides the Third Congressional District and the State of Mississippi with firm jobs and a steady source of revenue.”

The Third Congressional District, stretching from Woodville to Starkville, includes the bulk of the state’s poultry producing areas generating $1.78 billion in poultry and egg sales. Five additional congressional districts from Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia topped $1 billion in poultry farm sales.Poultry is Mississippi’s largest agricultural product with $2.44 billion in poultry and egg farm sales. The industry employs approximately 20,000 people on farms, feed mills, hatcheries, processing plants and other related industries with a total $6 billion impact on the state’s economy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Settlement in Irby civil case?

Just heard a rumor that Stuart Irby settled the civil suit stemming from the wreck for a total of $70M. Can anyone confirm or deny?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Malcolm McMillin for Lt. Governor in 2011?

I'm hearing whispers around town that Malcolm McMillin is considering a run for Lt. Governor in 2011 on the Democratic ticket. Thoughts?

Drive-By Truckers live at Hal & Mal's on August 8th!

Just got word that Alabama rockers Drive-By Truckers will be playing a show at Hal & Mal's on August 8th. No word yet on when tickets go on sale.

As far as my musical tastes are concerned, this is the biggest show there since the Strokes played around 7 years ago.

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What Rule of Evidence Governs This?

This week's TIME magazine has an excellent and entertaining piece called "Facebook and Divorce: Airing the Dirty Laundry."

Among other things, the article says:

For those who want to connect or reconnect with others, social-networking sites are a huge, glorious honeypot. But for those who are disconnecting, they can make things quite sticky. And as the age of online-social-network users creeps up, it overlaps more with the age of divorce-lawyer users, resulting in the kind of semipublic laundry-airing that can turn aggrieved spouses into enraged ones and friends into embarrassed spectators.

Lawyers, however, love these sites, which can be evidentiary gold mines. Did your husband's new girlfriend Twitter about getting a piece of jewelry? The court might regard that as marital assets being disbursed to a third party. Did your wife tell the court she's incapable of getting a job? Then your lawyer should ask why she's pursuing job interviews through LinkedIn.

Having represented a divorcing spouse who was able to force a settlement because her partner was a bit too "candid" on MySpace, I concur wholeheartedly in the article's warnings. Be careful out there in cyberspace . . .

The Law of Unintended Consequences

A phenomenon noticed while driving at noon: a front license plate that is meant to read "USM" becomes, in one's rear-view mirror, "MSU" (with the "S" reversed).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Our New Name

Congratulations to "Graham" (I think I know who you are, but maybe not) for suggesting "Ipse Dixit" as the new name for our blog. In his contest entry, Graham explains: "I have always thought that if I started a blog I would call it "ipse dixit" (Latin legal term for "because I say so," for those scoring at home).

Matt and I adapted the name to "Ipse Blogit" -- "because I (we) blogged so" -- but we are still going to give Graham the "prize" of an evening drinking at the Plaza.

Thanks Graham!

Until we figure out how to change the url, you can still reach IB at

Interesting census projection analysis by Dr. Marty Wiseman

I just found a fascinating blog dubbed Mississippi: Census 2010. I now follow it every way possible and highly recommend it to anyone interested in the upcoming census and what it will mean for politics in Mississippi going forward.

Today, they've posted a piece from MSU's political guru (and father of Starkville mayor-elect Parker Wiseman) Dr. Marty Wiseman. Dr. Wiseman figures that, since the population of the Delta is down, and the populations of GOP stronghold counties like Rankin, DeSoto, and Madison have increased, that the MSGOP will benefit:

So, at this point, what do these numbers mean? First the lines are already being drawn in the battle of the respective parties to save seats for the partisan debates ahead. The Democrats by virtue of their majority position should have somewhat the upper hand, at least as far as the House is concerned. But the census numbers are clearly working against the Democrats on their home turf. The 44% population increase in DeSoto County makes it the 32nd fastest growing county in the nation, and in Mississippi that is seemingly a big gain for the Republicans. Thus, as things currently appear the numbers alone would portend a shift in several districts from Democratic leaning to Republican leaning.

The problem with Dr. Wiseman's idea is that population growth in historically GOP-leaning counties doesn't automatically equal more Republican voters in those counties. I don't have any numbers to support this, and perhaps Dr. Wiseman does, but from my personal observations, the areas of Rankin and Madison that were once havens for white flight (and thereby GOP voters) are now substantially more demographically complex.

There is one area where Dr. Wiseman is dead-on, however:

If the current philosophical battles over the budget are any indication, the war to come over the partisan makeup of the legislature for the decade of 2011 to 2021 will be one for the ages.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Kobe Grows Up

Congratulations to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers for their impressive NBA Finals performance. It is especially good to see Bryant's maturity as a team leader and professional. The long journey he travelled to get to this point -- including his excessive ego-promotion and his poor judgment with the messeuse in Colorado -- evinces the moral bankruptcy of the NBA policy allowing youngsters to skip college or any minor league development and collect millions of dollars before they turn 20. The policy has since been changed to require one year of college, which (as any parent of a collegian can tell you) is no real difference.

But in any event, Kobe Bryant has proved that he has what it takes to provide leadership in the NBA. Congrats to him and the Lakers.

Friday, June 12, 2009

News Flash: She's a Judge, Not a Philosopher

We are at the "Tower of Babble" stage of the Supreme Court nomination/confirmation process; that place where the pundits and talking-heads are slicing and dicing Judge Sonya Sotomayor's opinions and speeches for some indication of her "judicial philosophy."

The latest such pieces I've read are in the Wall Street Journal's
law blog, which sent me to Jeffrey Rosen's analysis for TIME.

Rosen says:

An examination of Sotomayor’s career supports the idea that on the bench, she has been a racial moderate, not a radical. At the same time, her opinions and speeches suggest that her views about race, multiculturalism and identity politics are more nuanced, complex and provocative than either her critics or her supporters have allowed.

Given than Rosen had previously quoted unnamed sources as saying that Judge Sotomayor was “not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench,” this revised opinion is well, "more nuanced and complex" than Rosen's earlier piece.

But wait, there's more. In the TIME article, Rosen writes:

[Judge Sotomayor] appears to be an incrementalist rather than a radical of any stripe. In a survey of Sotomayor’s 226 majority opinions, Stefanie Lindquist, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, found that only 38% could clearly be characterized as liberal, while 49% could clearly be considered conservative. When the criminal cases (in which appellate judges are encouraged by Supreme Court precedent to be relatively pro-prosecution) are taken out of the mix, Sotomayor’s record looks about 46% liberal and 36% conservative.

* * * *

But it’s in dissents rather than in majority opinions that appellate judges often reveal their true feelings. Of Sotomayor’s 19 published dissents, only three dealt clearly with racial issues, and they pointed in different directions. Sotomayor does not appear to be an outlier in race cases, although she seems to have no overarching theory about how to decide them.

I've got news for Rosen and the WSJ: Sonya Sotomayor is, well, a judge. Judges decide the cases they have before them, in a sincere (we hope) effort to apply existing legal principles to new fact situations and thereby to resolve disputes. So why, even in dissent, would it matter that Judge Sotomayor's opinions on racial issues "pointed in different directions" and that "she seems to have no overarching theory about how to decide them?"

We liberals can hope that Judge Sotomayor's sympathies lie with the left-out in this country (what the prophets called "the poor and the oppressed"). But we should not expect that she has any "overarching theories" that account for her past opinions.

And lest anyone thinks this is an anachronistic or reactionary position on my part, I would remind you that Justice Brandeis coined the phrase "judicial restraint" and the epithet "judicial activism." Judges do "make law," of course. In our Anglo-American judicial tradition, we recognize that existing legal principles do not solve every case, and therefore have to be changed and molded to meet new issues. We also know that the Framers wrote the Constitution (and the first Congress the Bill of Rights) in self-consciously abstract language (e.g., the prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment"), so that the original Federalists (John Adams and John Marshall) could use the power of judicial review to apply the language of the document in new and even unforeseen ways.

But for judges to function in a democratic system of government, they must, at the end of the day, allow the people to be sovereign. That means having respect for legislative and executive pronouncements, and also for precedent set by other judges. "Judicial restraint" in the common-law system means that judges "triangulate" the views of the elected branch of government, the precedent of earlier judicial decisions, and the abstract values of the Constitution. It is a fabulous, practical exercise in process philosophy and philosophical idealism (cf Whitehead, Hartshorne, Hegel, Royce) -- but it does not involve the mechanical application of a "judicial philosophy" to make edicts by judicial fiat.

So three cheers for Judge Sotomayor's "incrementalist, nuanced" approach to cases. And three raspberries for the legal pundits. Get a life, guys.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Open thread on 2011 races

After seeing Jim's comment in the post on Bill Luckett unofficial entry into the 2011 Governor's race, I decided that it's about time for a post on all of the 2011 races. It's still very early, and most potentially viable candidates are still talking about these possibilities only amongst their most trusted confidantes. That being said, if you've heard a name tossed out there for a position, let us hear it.

Here's what I've got thus far:


Jim Hood (D)
Bill Luckett (D)
Phil Bryant (R)
Delbert Hosemann (R)

Lt. Governor

Phil Bryant (R)
Delbert Hosemann (R)
Billy Hewes (R)
Tate Reeves (R)

Attorney General

Jim Hood (D)
Delbert Hosemann (R)

As you can see, I've heard Delbert's name for everything under the sun. State Auditor Stacey Pickering (R), appears to be looking to make a move, but I don't know where to just yet. Also, nearly the only Democratic name I've heard is Jim Hood. As the only statewide elected Democrat, that makes sense. That's not to say there's a lack of young talent on the Democratic side of the aisle. (Sen. David Baria, Sen. Gray Tollison, Sen. David Blount, Sen. Eric Powell, Sen. Bill Stone, Rep. David Norquist, Rep. Brandon Jones, Rep. Bryant Clark, and Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley are just a few of the young Democrats we'll hear from for a long, long time.) It'll probably just take awhile for them to figure out how and if they'd like to continue to serve.

A Modern Saint in Montgomery

The classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" burned the image of Atticus Finch, the righteous, brilliant Alabama defense lawyer, into the American consciousness. In our day, the real-life Atticus Finch (or one of them) is a Montgomery attorney named Bryan Stevenson. Bryan has spent his 20+ year career representing impovershed men and women on Alabama's death row and juvenile offenders sentenced to life without parole. Although, after his 1985 graduation from Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government, Bryan could have made a fortune as a rising African-American litigation superstar, he instead moved to Atlanta and joined the Southern Center for Human Rights. He moved to Alabama in 1989 and founded the Equal Justice Initiative.

The Associated Press reported today that Bryan won the 2009 Gruber Justice Prize for his longtime work representing death row inmates, indigent defendants and juveniles.

From the AP story:

Stevenson said the prize will go into the budget of the Equal Justice Initiative, which he said lost a source of funding when a major donor lost money in the investments of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff.

A release from the Gruber Foundation said Stevenson and his staff had been responsible "for reversals and reduced sentences in more than 75 death penalty cases."

U.S. District Judge Bernice Donald of Tennessee said in the release that Stevenson won the award for "securing access to justice for those most in need of protection from discrimination."

The American Bar Association honors Bryan on its website, saying:

As one of the most effective public interest lawyers in the country, and one of the nation's leading critics of the death penalty, Stevenson is a highly sought-after speaker. In addition to his views on the unreliability of the death penalty and its disproportionate use for the poor and people of color, he fervently believes that "no one is beyond hope, beyond redemption."

When speaking to students of all ages, Stevenson exhorts them to become passionate advocates for causes in which they believe. He encourages them to recognize the power that they have and advises them, "don't be afraid to change the world."

Bryan Stevenson continues to work tirelessly, devoting his life to helping disadvantaged people in the Deep South. "I feel blessed each day," he has said, "to be engaged in something that gives my life meaning, that keeps me spiritually alive and aware."

He has won wide recognition for his work. Among the prestigious awards Stevenson has earned are the MacArthur Foundation's "Genius Award," the ACLU's National Medal of Liberty, and the American Bar Association's Wisdom Award for Public Service. In 1996, the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers named him Public Interest Lawyer of the Year. He has also received honorary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Washington University and Eastern University.

My two cents: This guy is real. He is unusually kind and thoughtful -- not just as attorneys go (a low bar, to be sure), but in general. He believes deeply that no person is the sum of their worst acts. He lives very modestly, despite his many awards and accomplishments. I would propose him for the Supreme Court (as if anyone pays attention to my suggestions), but I think he'd rather be meeting clients in prison than deciding tax and antitrust cases.

If there are saints in our age, Bryan is one. This was a well-deserved award.

Congratulations to our Atticus Finch.

Seeya, Ed

The Mississippi Supreme Court makes it official. So long, Ed Peters.

First hat in the ring for Governor in 2011?

While it certainly appears that Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant will be making the bid for Governor in 2011, he has not, to my knowledge, done anything officially to indicate that he is indeed doing so. Of course, he already has a PAC up and going from his past races, so he gets to skip the step Bill Luckett just took.

I've never had the opportunity to meet Bill Luckett. I've only laid eyes on him once, and that was when I briefly watched him advocate on behalf of Kroger in the Kroger beating case.

Anyone know anything about Luckett?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not Guilty verdict in the case of State v. Marquis Charleston

Marquis Charleston, charged with two counts of armed robbery, was found not guilty by a Hinds County Circuit Court jury this evening around 5:45 pm. He could have been sentenced to two consecutive life sentences if found guilty. He was represented by Alison Kelly and Frank McWilliams of the Hinds County Public Defender's Office. The State was represented by Shaun Yurtkuran and Armstrong Walters. Judge Swan Yerger presided over the case. The two victims had picked Mr. Charleston out of a line-up that defense counsel argued was suggestive. There was no physical evidence.
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Thanks a Lot, Justice Scalia

I hope we all are feeling VERY grateful to Justice Scalia for editing the Second Amendment to meet the needs of the gun lobby, and thereby invalidating the District of Columbia's strict gun control ordinance.

So now we have the spectacle of a white supremacist shooting and killing a security guard at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

Courtesy of the Washington Post (linked above), here's a description of the man who was so ably sheltered by Scalia's Second Amendment:

A law enforcement source identified the gunman as James W. von Brunn, 88. On a Web site he apparently maintains extolling a "Holy Western Empire," von Brunn says he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, worked for 20 years as an advertising executive and film producer in New York and then became "an artist and author" living in Maryland.

Police recovered a notebook from the gunman that apparently contained a list of different D.C. locations, law enforcement sources said. D.C. police bomb squads were called to search and secure those locations after the shooting, including one in the 1400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House.

How about a movement to amend the Constitution to explicitly provide for control of non-hunting, non-pistol weapons? Let's have an open debate with those who think there's an inalienable right to own semi-automatic firearms or armor-piercing bullets.

Don't Mess With (A) Texas (Grandma)

I just can't help posting this one, again from MSNBC.

Apparently a 72 year old grandma refused to "sign" a ticket she was being given in Travis County, Texas (why, pray tell, does one have to "sign" a ticket?), and gave the deputy some grief about the need to do so . . . when he made her step out of her car, and threatened to Tase her, she said, "Go ahead . . . I dare you."

And so he did.

Kudos to Kathryn Winkfein, for proving that "Tasers don't kill people. Cops kill people." They aren't so lucky in Oakland . . .

Back to the Name Game

OK, sports fans, arise from your sonorous summer, and give us some help . . . we are planning to change the name of this here blog in the VERY near future, and offered a valuable prize (drinking on our tab at the Plaza on a designated Thursday evening) for the reader who proposed the name we liked best.

So far the only proposals are . . .

1. The Frontal Lobotomized

2. Jim & Matt's Excellent Lobotomies (I see a theme here, but not sure I like it)


3. The Samurai Defenders

Surely someone has additional thoughts on this weighty matter . . .

Miss California . . .YOURRRRRRE FIRED!

This just in from MSNBC:

“The Miss California USA Organization, in conjunction with the Miss Universe Organization and with the blessing of its owner, Mr. Donald J. Trump, announced today the termination of Carrie Prejean as Miss California USA 2009, citing continued breach of contract issues,” the Miss California Organization said in a statement to Access Hollywood.

So many questions, so little time:

Does it matter what Miss California's "political beliefs" or "moral beliefs" are? I don't agree with her denunciation of gay marriage, but I can't say I give a damn what she thinks about it. It's not like she's some accomplished artist, writer, actor, etc. I might care what such a person thinks, just as I might care what any successful, accomplished person thinks -- obviously, they must have something on the ball. But the winner of one beauty pageant? I don't think so.

2. Should it matter what Miss California's "political beliefs" or "moral beliefs" are? If you have to believe for or against gay marriage, or contraception/abortion prohibition, or immigration reform, or whatever, to be Miss California, then it cheapens celebrity political statements in general. No artistic endeavor should be required to pass a political litmus test to earn the right to be judged on its own merits.

3. Did Miss California try to cash in on the Perez Hilton controversy to make a name for herself in the fundamentalist Christian market? I think so.

4. Is this the real reason Mr. Trump was so upset? Yes, probably. There can only be one superstar in any Trump production, and it's Trump.

5. How did Donald Trump come to own the Miss California and Miss Universe USA franchises? Isn't this the kind of industry that cries out for nationalization? We The People should own Miss Universe USA, Miss America, the NFL, Dancing With The Stars, America's Next Top Model, and Top Chef.

Which leads to the most important question . . .

What does Judge Sonya Sotomayor think about this whole controversy?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Just in from Jim

Here's a two-page memo, co-authored by Judge Sotomayor, on the death penalty. In it, she and two others recommend that the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund issue a statement to then-NY Governor Hugh Carey in opposition to the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York. The reasons are those we typically see given by death penalty opponents today. That's not what's important here. What is important is that Sotomayor, if her convictions are as they were in 1981, would be a solid anti-death penalty vote for years to come.

Sotomayor Memo on Capital Punishment

Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day +65 years

Let's face it: words can only detract from what these young men did.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Funny Budget Battle Video

Just got this in:

Tank Man

Twenty years ago today, the above happened. I was 11, and I'm certain that Tank Man in no small way shaped my worldview and led me into a career in criminal defense. Tank Man became the ideal for me. In my estimation, Tank Man is the only way to be a true man. John Wayne barely holds a candle to this guy: alone, unarmed, standing firm as the tanks of a repressive regime roll toward him.

I think about Tank Man often when I think about what it is that criminal defense lawyers do. While there's truly no grave danger associated with being a criminal defense lawyer, he or she is the only person standing between a citizen and the power of the state. The criminal defense lawyer, metaphorically, stands in front of the tank for his or her client. I encourage each of you to find your own tank, and refuse to back down.

Quick Hit on the Budget Stalemate

My friend Rep. Brandon Jones updates his constituency via email on a frequent basis. With his permission, I've reproduced a portion of today's update here. It's an informative synopsis on the positions of the House, the Senate, and Gov. Barbour.

The Positions

On Wednesday, House and Senate conferees published their budget proposals alongside the latest proposal from the Governor’s office. I won’t bore you with the specific figures (e-mail me if you want them) but I will try to hit the high points:

1. The budgets provided by the House, Senate and Governor each use $95 million in “Rainy Day Funds”;

2. The budgets provided by the House and Senate tax hospitals at $57 million annually. The Governor’s budget calls for a $90 million tax on hospitals;

3. The House budget prohibits additional cuts to Medicaid providers. The budgets offered by the Senate and Governor allow unlimited cuts to Medicaid providers;

4. The House budget does not move Federal Stimulus dollars forward to later fiscal years. The Senate budget moves $60 million in Federal Stimulus funds into the 2011 fiscal year. The Governor’s budget moves $90 million in Federal Stimulus funds into the 2011 fiscal year;

5. The House budget fully funds National Board Certified Teachers, the Gifted Studies Program, and Special Education teachers. It reduces expansion of the high school redesign program. The Senate budget fully funds National Board Certified Teachers. It does not fully fund the Gifted Studies Program, Special Education teachers and reduces expansion of the high school redesign program. The Governor’s budget does not fully fund National Board Certified Teachers, the Gifted Studies Program, Special Education teachers and reduces expansion of the high school redesign program;

6. The House budget fully funds Medicaid. The budgets provided by the Senate and Governor do not fully fund Medicaid;

7. The House and Senate budgets fund the $20 million additional appropriation to the State Wind Pool program. The Governor’s budget does not fund the $20 million additional appropriation to the State Wind Pool program;

8. The Governor’s plan does not fund the car tag credit for 2010.

Regular Session v. Special Session

At the urging of hundreds of teachers, hospital workers, and public employees who were roaming throughout the Capitol on Wednesday, the House tried three times to extend the Regular Session. The resolution would have allowed conferees to continue the negotiation process and avoid another costly special session. As many of you will remember from last year, special sessions cost substantially more per day than regular sessions. These types of resolutions require a 2/3rds vote for passage. A bipartisan group of 72 Republicans and Democrats voted to extend the Regular Session and against a Special Session but fell short of victory by 4 votes.

I voted against the Special Session for 4 simple reasons: 1) The same people who are in disagreement now will still have to reach an agreement in a Special Session; 2) There is nothing about a Special Session that compels legislators to agree (in fact, last year, quite the opposite happened); 3) In a budget year like this one, we should take the cheapest route to a solution; and 4) The Governor has repeatedly failed to include the Wind Pool increase in his budget figures.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

$4.6M verdict for Joey Diaz?

Philip Thomas has a brief post up this morning on his very informative Mississippi Litigation Review & Commentary blog sharing rumors of a $4,600,000 verdict in a medical malpractice case. All the entry tells us is that Joey Diaz (an excellent trial lawyer and a friend to this blogger) represents the plaintiff, and that the punitive damages phase is about to begin. Anyone know more about this case? What county, what judge, what injury, etc.?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Judge Yerger to retire on Dec. 31, 2010

Judge Swan Yerger will retire at the end of this term of office. He has served as Hinds County Circuit Judge since 1997, and has been Senior Judge of the Hinds County Circuit Court since Judge Breland Hilburn's retirement in June of 2002.

He has served ably, and this writer has considered it a privilege to practice before him.