Showing posts with label Paul Cassell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Cassell. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Justice Souter: Working in Reverse, by Choice

This article first appeared in the February 26, 2013, issue of the National Law Journal’s Supreme Court Brief.

Justice David Souter retired from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009, but has not stopped being a judge.

In January, Souter heard fifteen arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and eight more in February. As a retired associate justice, he has participated in approximately 170 First Circuit opinions, writing nearly fifty, far surpassing his previous experience as a court of appeals judge.

The First Circuit “is extremely grateful to Justice Souter for his invaluable contribution to the [court’s] work,” said Susan Goldberg, Deputy Circuit Executive, in response to an email inquiry for this article.

Even fully staffed, the First Circuit has only six active judges, the fewest of any circuit. One of those seats has been vacant since the end of 2011, when Judge Kermit Lipez took senior status. President Barack Obama nominated William Kayatta to the position in January 2012 and re-nominated him in January 2013. Kayatta was finally confirmed this month.

After serving on the bench for twelve years in New Hampshire, Souter’s home state, he sat on the First Circuit for just a few months, beginning in April 1990. He was nominated to the Supreme Court in July and confirmed in October. On that timetable, he heard argument, but authored no opinions.

Post-retirement, Souter’s numerous authored opinions for the First Circuit cover, among other topics, business, immigration, education, and employment.

In 2012, Souter was part of a unanimous decision in United States v. Kearney, written by Chief Judge Sandra Lynch. Kearney, which upheld restitution for a child pornography victim and identified a circuit split on the issue, is currently before the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari. Another retired federal judge, Paul Cassell, filed a pending petition on behalf of victims in related litigation out of the Ninth Circuit.

One of the First Circuit appeals Souter heard recently involves a request to disqualify the district court judge in the case of accused mobster James “Whitey” Bulger. On the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, Bulger eluded authorities for sixteen years before being captured in 2011.

At argument, Bulger’s attorney asserted that the federal government had given his client immunity, but declined to say when, despite the panel’s interest in the question. The district judge had been a federal prosecutor, so the date could be relevant to his alleged knowledge of the Bulger case.

Souter pressed the attorney twice, noting that his brief implied a particular time period. The attorney eventually confirmed Souter’s reading and offered, “You’re the first person to get that out of me.”

So, why would Souter retire from the nation’s highest court only to be so involved at another court?

As the other justices expressed in a farewell letter read from the bench by Chief Justice John Roberts on Souter’s last day: “We understand your desire to trade white marble for White Mountains, and return to your land ‘of easy wind and downy flake,’” references to a region in New Hampshire and the words of Robert Frost from his 1923 anthology, New Hampshire.

Put less poetically, the Associated Press quoted Souter as telling acquaintances that his was “the world’s best job in the world’s worst city.”

Solution: Keep judging at a high level, but from a different location.

First Circuit arguments are generally held in Massachusetts, an hour-and-a-half drive from the justice’s New Hampshire home. The court hears cases from those two states, as well as Rhode Island, Maine, and Puerto Rico.

In his resignation letter, Souter told President Obama: “I mean to continue to render substantial judicial service as an Associate Justice.”

By all accounts, he has succeeded.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Top Five Appellate Daily Posts of 2012

Below are the five most popular Appellate Daily posts of 2012, with a few notes and updates. Thanks to everyone for reading and following the news feed. Hope your 2013 is happy!

1-How Paul Clement Wishes He Could Prepare for Argument

  • My interview with the former Solicitor General tops the list this year. It is also the most popular post in the blog's history, by far.

2-Circuit Split Watch: Is Personal Use of a Work Computer a Federal Crime?

  • The United States decided not to appeal the Ninth Circuit decision featured in this post, perhaps "scared off by [Chief] Judge Kozinski's opinion" for the en banc majority, according to Professor Orin Kerr quoted in Wired. "It would have been the first document that the [Supreme Court] justices read, and it's a pretty powerful brief against the government's position," said Kerr.
  • The computer-use issue is still alive, though. A pending petition for certiorari from the Fourth Circuit on the issue (12-518) gives the Supreme Court the chance to weigh in.

3-Circuit Split Watch: A New Abortion Battleground

  • This split is ready and waiting for a vehicle to get it to the Supreme Court. The Oklahoma state court case, mentioned at the end of the post, is the one to watch right now. On December 4, the state supreme court struck down Oklahoma's pre-abortion ultrasound requirement. That day, the state attorney general said in a press release that his office is considering an appeal.
  • The Texas federal case is over; it was not appealed to the Supreme Court. The North Carolina federal case is still pending below. See Abortion Ultrasound Cases (Updates and Correction).

4-Judge Wilkinson on Cri de Coeur, Law Clerks, and a Germophobic Third Circuit

  • The Green Bag recently recognized Judge Wilkinson's book, discussed in this post, in its 2012 Exemplary Legal Writing honors.

5-Circuit Split Watch: Former Federal Judge Seeks Restitution for Victims

  • Judge Cassell has asked the Supreme Court (12-651) to review the Ninth Circuit decision highlighted in this post. Other petitions could follow in the coming months.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Circuit Split Watch: Former Federal Judge Seeks Restitution for Victims

This article first appeared in the October 31, 2012, issue of the National Law Journal’s Supreme Court Insider.

Paul Cassell, a former federal judge, represents child pornography victims in a series of federal appellate cases. In October alone, Cassell notched a win and a loss in two circuit courts and argued in another. The case he won created a circuit split about restitution for victims, which the U.S. Supreme Court will almost certainly be asked to review.

A former clerk to Chief Justice Warren Burger at the Supreme Court and then-Judge Antonin Scalia at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Cassell served as a federal district judge in Utah from 2002-2007. He is currently a professor at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. With the assistance of law students in the Utah Appellate Clinic, Cassell has been involved in litigation throughout the country on behalf of victims.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 2259, child pornography victims are entitled to restitution from defendants for losses in several listed categories, among them: medical expenses, therapy costs, lost income, attorneys’ fees, and “any other losses suffered by the victim as a proximate result of the offense.”

The last phrase is the source of the circuit split.

On October 1, in a win for Cassell, the en banc 5th Circuit concluded that the “proximate result” requirement applies only to the last category, “any other losses.” The 5th Circuit acknowledged that its reading of the statute splits with “[a]ll our sister circuits that have addressed this question.”

Eight federal appellate courts have held that proximate cause applies to all losses. Put another way, there must be some direct link between the defendant’s offenses and the victim’s losses.

The split has important consequences.

Under the majority approach, it is more difficult for victims to collect. Defendants who possess or transport images may not cause a direct loss in the same way that producers of images do. The defendants in the 5th Circuit were guilty of possession, making them harder to reach for restitution.

On October 24, just weeks after the 5th Circuit decision, Cassell lost a case in the 9th Circuit, one of the courts that follows the majority rule. The 9th Circuit affirmed its precedent and expressly declined to adopt the 5th Circuit decision.

In an earlier appeal in the same matter, the 9th Circuit said that “the responsibility lies with Congress, not the courts, to develop a scheme to ensure that defendants . . . are held liable for the harms they cause through their participation in the market for child pornography.”

In its October 24 opinion, the 9th Circuit also raised the possibility of Supreme Court intervention.

Both the 5th and 9th Circuit decisions could be appealed to the Supreme Court soon. The clear split on an important, recurring issue of federal law makes them cases to watch. A former federal judge’s participation also gives the split greater visibility.

Work continues in other cases, as well.

According to the Utah College of Law website, quoting one of Cassell’s students, the 5th Circuit decision “came down in our favor about seven minutes before Professor Cassell got up to argue [on restitution before the 7th Circuit]. That decision changed the face of the argument and the feeling in the courtroom.”

The case was argued on October 1 in a special 7th Circuit sitting at the University of Notre Dame Law School and is pending.