News Roundup

Just as the snow has been battering the mountains, the recession has been battering the courts. So says this article on NC Policy Watch, which summarizes the impact: “[C]lose to $80 million in budget cuts over four years; 638 full-time employees cut through vacancy management and actual losses, including magistrates and district attorney support staff; the elimination of state funding for drug courts and dispute settlement programs. And technology throughout the system took a beating.” It’s worth a read, not least for the Q and A with Judge John Smith, director of the AOC, who offers his view of some of the system’s most urgent needs.

In other news:

  1. Justice Clarence Thomas spoke during oral argument this week, for the first time in seven years. He didn’t ask a question, but he did make a remark, generally deprecating the performance of lawyers from his alma mater, Yale Law School. Given Justice Thomas’s habit of silence, a mild news frenzy has ensued. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has the story here, and a first-hand account of the comment is here.
  2. In further Supreme Court news, Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World, is now available for purchase. Her personal story sounds pretty compelling and the book would probably make a decent belated holiday gift for lawyers. (I will add that Justice Thomas’s personal story, reflected in his book My Grandfather’s Son, is also captivating.)
  3. Turning to the Court’s substantive work, it granted review in several cases over the past week, including one addressing whether pre-Miranda silence can be used against a defendant, and another SORNA retroactivity case. The right to silence case is probably of the broadest interest and has gotten the most press. More details from Jurist, here.
  4. The North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology is hosting a CLE/symposium next week entitled U.S. v. Jones: Defining a Search in the Twenty-First Century. It will take place in Chapel Hill on Friday, January 25, and it looks great. The keynote speaker is former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, who represented Jones before the Supreme Court. Details are available here (and my prior posts about Jones, the GPS tracking case, are here and here).
  5. Last but not least, anyone still pondering his or her career path should give serious consideration to becoming a law school dean. The Boston Globe reports here on John F. O’Brien, the dean at New England Law School in Boston. Although the school has yet to crack the top 145 schools ranked by U.S. News, he takes home a cool $867,000 annually. Nice work, if you can get it.
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3 comments on “News Roundup

  1. I continue to be astonished that AOC Director Judge John Smith continues to fail to perform two of his key responsibilities under NCGS 7A-343 – management of the court forms and the ACIS Court computer system. If he simply asked his staff to create a court form to allow criminal misdemeanor defendants to demand or waive prob. cause hearing per NCGS 15A-606, cases would move through the system expeditiously instead of being illegally continued in district court for years before they suddenly and mysteriously appear on the superior court docket. And, the ACIS court computer system can be easily fixed if Smith would phone the software developers and tell them to add a field to allow a clerk to add information pertaining to probable cause hearings. Currently there is no such field, and this also helps cause cases to be continued for years. And the ACIS court computer system records all court dates as jury trials, so no one can tell how long a case has been continued or if a defendant had a probable cause hearing prior to a jury trial as required by state law and the federal constitution’s due process clause.
    I’ve sent Judge Smith and Chief Justice Sarah Parker certified letters almost two years ago and they never replied. These are simple solutions. Additionally, several of the misdemearnor criminal court forms need corrections because they contain errors which contradict law.
    Here’s an example:

  2. “In further Supreme Court news, Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World, is now available for purchase.”

    Great to learn that Sotomayor is profiting personally from her work on the bench.

    Per Judicial Canon 2A:

    Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct by judges. A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. This prohibition applies to both professional and personal conduct. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny and accept freely and willingly restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen. Because it is not practicable to list all prohibited acts, the prohibition is necessarily cast in general terms that extend to conduct by judges that is harmful although not specifically mention