It’s not a new idea for reform — I suggested it as my contribution to a book fifteen years ago, it had been kicked around for decades already at that point, England has done it, and we’ve discussed it here. But the route of making progress, as befits our age of anti-discrimination, has been the piecemeal extension of so-called Batson challenges in which it is argued that lawyers used their peremptories to exclude a protected demographic group. The editorialists of the L.A. Times discuss the latest, a Ninth Circuit ruling extending the list of forbidden categories to include sexual orientation.
I’m on record as saying I wouldn’t mind if they were abolished entirely, although the idea floated by Iowa lawprof in Nathan Koppel’s WSJ article yesterday, of limiting them to three per side, seems like a plausible compromise. (A further possible refinement: excusing more juror prospects if both sides agree in wanting them off the case).
Most of the lawyers who are blogging in response to the Koppel article, however, take a position sharply different from mine: Patrick and Ken at Popehat, Scott Greenfield, Mark Bennett (and further). (More: WSJ law blog.) Deadline pressure doesn’t permit me to join in, but anyone interested in the issue will want to follow the discussion. Earlier mentions on this website are here, including a discussion of England’s near-abolition of the practice in 1989.
Since Judge Thomas Goethals “began presiding over heated hearings probing the misuse of jailhouse informants, dozens of prosecutors have steered criminal cases away from his courtroom.” In the three years 2011-13, prosecutors made disqualification requests against Goethals six times, or an average of twice a year. “Since February 2014, the district attorney’s office has asked to disqualify Goethals — a former homicide prosecutor and defense attorney — in 57 cases, according to court records. … The surge of disqualifications began around the time the Superior Court judge agreed to allow wide-ranging hearings that brought prosecutors’ mishandling of informant-related evidence under harsh scrutiny.” California procedure allows both sides to exercise a single peremptory (unexplained) challenge to remove a judge they deem prejudiced against their interests. Some defense lawyers claim prosecutors are ganging up to discipline Goethals over rulings excoriating prosecutors for their handling of jailhouse-informant evidence. [Los Angeles Times]
The Colorado Supreme Court, wisely resisting a national campaign of school funding litigation, has turned down a lawsuit arguing that the state is obliged under its constitution to step up school spending. [Denver Post, KDVR, opinion in State v. Lobato]
I’ve got a post up at Cato at Liberty about the Colorado decision, noting that although school finance litigators make a lot of noise about educational quality, they are actually on a mission of “control —specifically, transferring control over spending from voters and their representatives to litigators whose loyalty is to a mix of ideologues and interest groups sharing a wish for higher spending.” I quote from a section on school finance litigation that I wound up cutting from my book Schools for Misrule about the enormous impact such suits have had in other states:
Vast sums have been redistributed as a result. Lawmakers in Kentucky enacted more than a billion dollars in tax hikes. New Jersey adopted its first income tax. Kansas lawmakers levied an additional $755 million in taxes after the state’s high court in peremptory fashion ordered them to double their spending on schools.
The results have been at best mixed: while some states to come under court order have improved their educational performance, many others have stagnated or fallen into new crisis. Colorado is fortunate not to join their ranks. (& reprint: Complete Colorado)
P.S. From a Colorado Springs Gazette report, Jul. 31, 2011:
“Putting more money into a broken system won’t get a better results. There are improvements that could be made without money,” says Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Blue. …
He points to a Cato Institute study that showed spending on education across the country has skyrocketed but test scores didn’t improve.
“That would mean that potentially every cent of the state budget would be shifted over to K-12 education,” says Blue, who heads the office’s legal policy and government affairs.
Wow. Del. Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County), an opponent of same-sex marriage, fired off a letter to the owner [PDF] of the Baltimore Ravens on legislative stationery demanding that he silence Brendon Ayanbadejo, an outspoken marriage advocate. Pretty much every conservative commentator in America (properly) denounced the Boston mayor and Chicago alderman for menacing Chick-Fil-A. I hope some of them will speak up against this abuse of government office as well. [NBC Sports Pro Football Talk]
More, Eugene Volokh finds it “a pretty inappropriate thing for a legislator, speaking in a way that stresses his role as legislator, to say to a private employer. There is no express threat of retaliation here, but such letters to private businesspeople — who often have to deal with legislature on various regulatory issues — tend to carry something of an implied threat, especially when they stress the author’s legislative position.” Note also that what Burns is “requesting” in his letter is accompanied by a peremptory demand for an “immediate response.” And update: following an outcry in which the public overwhelmingly took the player’s side, Del. Burns has backed down.
In May 2001, Cheryl Jane Hale was driving four children to a sleepover in her 1987 Ford Bronco. She didn’t bother to have the children wear their seat belts, so, when she took her eyes off the road to argue with the backseat passengers, and thus drove off the road and flipped the car, 12-year-old Jesse Branham was thrown from the car and suffered brain damage. A jury in Hampton County, South Carolina (the second jury to be impaneled—the first one was dismissed in a mistrial when it was discovered after two weeks of trial that five of the jurors were former clients of Branham’s lawyers) decided that this was only 45% Hale’s fault, held Ford 55% responsible, which puts Ford entirely on the hook for $31 million in damages.
On Monday, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed because of prejudicial closing arguments that relied heavily on inadmissible evidence. More importantly for lawyers practicing in South Carolina, the Court adopted “the risk-utility test with its requirement of showing a feasible alternative design.”
How bad of a judicial hellhole is Hampton County? Though Hale was a co-defendant, she cooperated with the plaintiffs throughout the trial in their case against Ford, even sitting at the plaintiffs’ table; but because the judge classified Hale as a co-defendant, it meant that Hale got half of the peremptory challenges of the “defense.” More from Comer; no press coverage that I’ve seen yet. (cross-posted from Point of Law)
- Wisconsin lawyer pressing bill to allow punitive damages against home resellers over claimed defects [Wisconsin State Journal] More: Dad29.
- Longer than her will? NY Times posts ten-page jury questionnaire in Brooke Astor inheritance case [“City Room”] “Supreme Court: No Constitutional Right to Peremptory Challenge” [Anne Reed]
- Georgia’s sex offender law, like Illinois’s, covers persons who never committed a sex crime [Balko]
- “The lawsuits over TVA’s coal ash spill have come from all over Roane County – except the spots closest to home.” [Knoxville News]
- Bootleg soap: residents smuggle detergents after enactment of Spokane phosphate ban [AP/Yahoo]
- UK: Elderly Hindu man in religious-accommodation bid for approval of open-air funeral pyre [Telegraph]
- No DUI, no one hurt, but harsh consequences anyway when Connecticut 18 year old is caught buying six-pack of beer [Fountain]
- Only one or two not covered previously at this site [“12 Most Ridiculous Lawsuits”, Oddee]
- NYC judge tosses injury suit against Lawyers Athletic League filed by a player on Milberg’s team [NYLJ]
- Kentucky fen-phen lawyers Gallion and Cunningham disbarred [Lexington Herald-Leader]
- Worker’s comp doc claims he noticed abnormal lab result and told patient to check with his primary doc. Patient didn’t and harm ensued. Malpractice? [CalLaw Legal Pad, KevinMD, Happy Hospitalist]
- Federalist Society publishes text of Judge Dennis Jacobs’s speech on pro bono, but Chemerinsky digs in rather than apologize [PoL]
- Are HIPAA privacy rules suspended during emergencies? No, and what lovely situations that’s likely to cause [HIPAA blog, more]
- One of the more unusual personal injury lawyer websites is “like a touchy-feely hybrid of Myst and The Office” [Above the Law]
- Gold-collar criminal defense work? McAfee decides $12 million too rich a sum for defending CFO Prabhat Goyal [Bennett & Bennett, Greenfield]
- Sounds promising: “Texas Supreme Court decision could end peremptory strikes in jury selection” [SE Texas Record]
- Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator; mine is Pie Gallon Palin. #
- McCain assails SEC’s Cox, but Bainbridge is going with Cox; #
- Yes, racial profiling figures into use of peremptory challenges [Sommers, Psychology Today via Deliberations] #
- SEC’s net capital rule waivers to blame for credit blowup? [NYSun] #
- NY Observer’s Doonan cool to Palin eyeglass craze; #
- Business lobbies went along with expansion of ADA litigant categories [Point of Law] #
- @teafortillerman I think “trough gutted palin” is the best I’ve seen yet #
- Don’t blame Gramm-Leach-Bliley for housing bubble [MargRev] #
- Experimentally incorporating Twitter into Overlawyered; #
- @kevinokeefe I’m using Firefox and “follow” button on Twitter fails until I refresh. #
- PR firm retracts Tweet that sought to scare up class action plaintiffs [O’Keefe] #