4th Circuit People and Events News - U.S. Fourth Circuit
U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in People and Events Category

"The story of the conflict between Chevron and the residents of the Lago Agrio region of the Ecuadorian Amazon must be among the most extensively told in the history of the American federal judiciary," begins the Fourth Circuit's opinion in yet another chapter of the litigation.

This time, the case is captioned Chevron v. Aaron Page.

Will this be the basis of David Simon's next big hit?

James Owens was set free in 2008, after serving two decades in prison. This week, the Fourth Circuit reinstated his lawsuit over the false conviction, which he says was obtained via the police department and state's attorneys' withholding of exculpatory evidence.

Now, the detectives on the case, who served as inspiration for characters in Simon's first big hit (NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street") as well as his most critically acclaimed masterpiece (HBO's "The Wire"), will be defendants in his lawsuit, along with the Baltimore Police Department and the prosecutor.

After days of deliberation, the verdict is in: Both Gov. Bob McDonnell and wife Maureen McDonnell have been found guilty of multiple charges.

What were the charges? Each faced 14 in total. The couple faced 13 charges in common, including wire fraud, conspiracy, and false statements, while each faced a single separate charge -- false statements for Bob McDonnell and obstruction for Maureen McDonnell, reports Washington's WAMU Radio.

Out of the 14 counts each, Bob was found guilty of 11 counts, while Maureen was convicted on nine counts.

The circus that is the McDonnell Corruption Trial continued on Monday, this time with former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on the stand facing intense cross-examination by both the government and his co-defendant wife's counsel.

After Bob McDonnell spent days last week testifying as his own star witness, telling jurors that he couldn't have conspired with his wife because their marriage was estranged, that his wife was on medication for her frequent emotional outbursts, and that she was the one who sought out gifts from Jonnie Williams without his knowledge, the cross-examination, which could last for days, commenced.

One thing was clear after the first day of cross-examination: Bob McDonnell, the former prosecutor and state attorney general, was ready. "I've been preparing every day since you indicted me," he testified on the stand.

There may not be another court to turn to for relief, but two-time Pulitzer Prize winner James Risen still won't back down in a fight to force him to turn over his confidential sources for his 2006 book, "State of War," which contained confidential CIA secrets regarding Iran's nuclear program.

The Fourth Circuit ruled against Risen last year, holding that Branzburg v. Hayes controlled and that there was no reporter's privilege that would keep a reporter off the stand during grand jury proceedings. It was a terrible outcome for press freedom, but as we noted before, it was a precedent required by precedent: The Supreme Court stated in Branzburg it could not "seriously entertain the notion that the First Amendment protects a newsman's agreement to conceal the criminal conduct of his source, or evidence thereof ..."

Only the Supreme Court could have changed that precedent, and it declined to take the case earlier this year. Legally, the battle ended there, but Risen, and his supporters, are still not backing down.

The Bob and Maureen McDonnell indictment was fun reading, but so far, the trial is even more entertaining. Why? A novel defense theory. A passed-up plea bargain. And a major public spectacle that could last for weeks.

So goes the trial of the former Virginia governor and his wife, accused of taking gifts from Johnnie Williams, a nutritional supplement manufacturer, in exchange for favors and "official acts."

Here are three of the highlights, so far:

It was barely a few months' time before a nominee was put forward to fill Senior Judge Andre Davis' seat. At the time, we were shocked; considering the number of vacancies nationwide, some of which were many years old, a vacancy being filled this quickly was basically a modern miracle.

Pamela Harris was the nominee. And only a few months later, she is now confirmed. Welcome to the Fourth Circuit, Judge Harris!

Want to spend more time practicing, and less time advertising? Leave the marketing to the experts.

Robert "Bob" McDonnell, the embattled former Virginia governor, and his wife and co-defendant Maureen McDonnell, made an appearance in court yesterday, seeking to dismiss the case against them, and failing that, to sever their trial.

Both requests were denied, however, and the couple's joint trial is scheduled to proceed on July 28, reports NPR.

Conflicts and recusals. We've given the High Court's justices a hard time over botched recusals, excessive recusals, and even for un-recusals, but what about judges in the lower courts?

Federal judges are required to recuse themselves if they have a conflict of interest, often due to stock ownership in a company that is a party to the case, and they're even granted a tax break if they sell the stock to remove the conflict. Courts have adopted conflict screening systems to make sure mandated recusals actually happen.

Yet sometimes, a case or a stock slips through the cracks. How? And just as important, how many?

Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife's indictment was good reading, but the hilarity didn't stop with the initial pleadings. Thanks to a recent spate of filings, some with little to no basis in existing laws, the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge James Spencer, asked the prosecutors and defense attorneys to limit their filings "for the sanctity of the trees."

Judge Spencer also dismissed McDonell's request to allow a related civil case to move forward, in hopes that evidence favorable to the defense would emerge, stating that the defense was "dancing through fantasyland," reports The Washington Post.

Stay tuned folks. This is probably going to be one heck of a show.