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News Flash: Massachusetts Governor is Not the FDA

What seems like good old common sense scored a victory over drug furor last week when a U.S. District Court ruled that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick does not, in fact, outrank the FDA when it comes to deciding which drugs can be sold in Massachusetts.

What's it About?

This squabble was over Zohydro, an opioid pain reliever approved by the FDA in 2013. It is unique in two ways: First, it is the only form of hydrocodone that does not contain acetaminophen, a drug that can cause liver damage when too much is taken. Acetaminophen ("Tylenol") overdose is one of the most common types of poisonings. Second, Zohydro is the only extended-release form of hydrocodone. This is of importance to people who are in constant, around-the-clock pain.

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Mastroianni: What's Next?

Hampden District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni is on the verge of becoming a district court judge in Massachusetts.

Last week, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination unanimously to serve as the presiding judge in the U.S. District Court in Springfield.

His next stop in the confirmation rigmarole? The full Senate.

Lawson v. FMR LLC is a case originating in the First Circuit, that dealt with whether the Sarbanes-Oxley Act whistleblower protections extend to employees of a private company that are contractors for public companies. Last week, the Supreme Court issued its opinion clarifying the reach of the Act.

Lawson v. FMR LLC -- The Lower Courts

In Lawson, two contractors who worked for mutual funds (who in practice don't have employees of their own) were essentially fired after they brought up concerns regarding the funds' management. After they sued under 18 U.S.C. 1514A, the district court denied the mutual funds' motions to dismiss, and the First Circuit reversed. The question before the Supreme Court was whether 1514A applied to employees of private contractors that did work for public companies.

When it rains, it pours. The First Circuit is not usually a very busy circuit to report on, but it happens to have a lot going on right now. Rather than focusing on once case, we thought we'd give you the scoop on the biggest headlines in the First Circuit.

Sex Changes Hearing En Banc

Just a month ago we reported that the First Circuit affirmed a district court's ruling that an inmate's gender reassignment surgery is medically necessary. Now, the court has granted a motion for rehearing en banc with the full panel of the First Circuit, and a new hearing is scheduled for May 8, 2014, reports The Boston Globe.

1st Cir. Judge Bruce Selya Speaks About FISA Court

Curiosity and controversy continues to mount over the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.

Bruce Selya, senior federal judge on the First Circuit, gave a talk this week on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, explaining the inner workings of the secret court.

The lecture, entitled "The View from Inside the FISA Courts," was the first in a series of security seminars sponsored by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University as part of its ongoing expansion and redesign.

Circuits with interesting cities within their jurisdiction always churn out interesting cases -- and with Boston in its purview, the First Circuit is an example of that.

With Boston making the news quite a bit this year, the First Circuit had its fair share of headlines. Not limited to newsy pieces, we also saw some law coming out of the First that is currently under review by the Supreme Court.

As we reflect on 2013, here's a quick rundown of the big issues of the past year, as we move forward into 2014:

December is not known for ground-breaking legal decisions, especially in light of the very few precedential decisions issued lately. So, in honor of end-of-the-year clean up, and general "keeping yourself busy," we're giving you the run down on some changes to rules and fees.

Massachusetts Judges Get a Pay Bump: Early Retirement to Follow?

With Massachusetts judges receiving a $30,000 a year salary increase slated to take effect in July 2014 -- a move that will hike pensions -- a number of judges may retire early.

The salary increase may prompt many judges to step down with higher pensions, leaving Governor Deval Patrick a slew of open spots on the bench to fill near the end of his term.

MA Supreme Court Hears Rejected Judicial Nominee Case

A Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court judge recently heard a lawsuit seeking to reverse Gov. Deval Patrick's rejection of Pittsfield lawyer Michael McCarthy's confirmation as a district court judge in Berkshire County.

In July, Councilor Michael Albano, former Councilor Mary-Ellen Manning and Pittsfield attorney Michael McCarthy filed a civil lawsuit in the state Supreme Judicial Court claiming McCarthy's judicial confirmation was wrongfully rejected by Gov. Deval Patrick and Secretary of State William Galvin.

The central question is whether Councilor Manning's vote in favor of confirmation did not count because she was absent from the council's meeting.

Harvard Law Professor Nominated by Obama to 1st Cir.

Call it a Harvard love fest, if you will. President Barack Obama, a Harvard Law graduate, has nominated David J. Barron -- a Harvard College grad, Harvard Law grad and Harvard Law professor -- to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. That's a whole lot of crimson ivy.

These are a few of Mr. Barron's favorite things: