News Roundup

The top story of the week was really several stories — the News and Observer’s three-piece series on Tracey Cline, the District Attorney in Durham County. As a Durham voter, a News and Observer subscriber, and someone who works closely with prosecutors, I’m going to refrain from editorializing about the series. You can read the series, plus a News and Observer story about Cline’s reaction, here. At Cline’s request, the newspaper posted a series of email exchanges between her and several News and Observer personnel; that exchange is available here. In other news:

1. The D.C. Circuit just issued an interesting opinion about the public’s right to know about law enforcement’s use of cell phone tracking. As summarized by the WSJ Law Blog, the court “ruled in favor of . . . the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a request in 2007 seeking the policies and procedures used by the Justice Department in obtaining cell phone data” used to track suspects. It is my understanding that a number of ACLU chapters across the country, including in North Carolina, are seeking similar information at the state and local level, so this story is of more than academic significance.

2. The first merits hearing under the Racial Justice Act was scheduled to kick off this week, but it has been delayed. According to this Fayetteville Observer article, the state asked for additional time for its statistician to evaluate the principal study upon which the defense is relying. The hearing is now set for November 14.

3. Should Casey Anthony be able to profit from a book about her trial? Should Caylee’s father — whose identity is unknown — file a next-of-kin civil suit? Will law enforcement’s claims for reimbursement of investigative costs suck up any book revenues? Crime and Consequences considers those issues here. I have not followed this story closely, but as far as I can tell, reports of a book deal are so far just speculation. One of Anthony’s ex-boyfriends, however, does appear to be looking to cash in.

4. Speaking of cashing in, everyone knows that the job market for lawyers is tough right now. (As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, “unemployed lawyers now find themselves in the country’s most cutthroat race for a job, with less than one opening for every 100 working attorneys.”) Not so much if you are ex-Solicitor General Neal Katyal, though. He’s 41; a former Supreme Court clerk; among the youngest tenured law professors in Georgetown’s history; and the veteran of 15 arguments before the Court. When he decided to leave government service for private practice, thirty or more major firms came calling. He also likes Death Cab for Cutie, as he explains in this interview. If you’re an unemployed lawyer but are not a former Solicitor General, you might be well advised to eschew the big firms route and instead look for work in rural South Dakota, where demand is strong as many existing lawyers look to retire.

5. Finally, a few quick tidbits. An Idaho lawyer recently moved to withdraw from a criminal case on the grounds that the judge was “lazy” and “incompetent.” The Fourth Circuit continues to publish cases at a lower rate — about 7% of all decisions — than any other circuit. Lastly, the AP reports that “Dutch prosecutors are charging a 42-year-old woman with stalking after she allegedly called her ex-boyfriend 65,000 times in the past year.” She reportedly claims that the number of calls wasn’t excessive — and when you think it about it, it comes out to a mere 178 calls per day.

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