Sunday, November 22, 2009

NFL - WTF?!?

What is up with the NFL broadcast rules?  The Giants are driving down the field against Atlanta in OT.  The NFC East, South, and the wild-card playoff spots are all implicated. 

BUT, because the NFL requires the networks to switch at 3:15 Central, they pull the coverage.

And to add insult to injury, Fox didn't even switch to another game.  They cut to commercials and then their studio show.

Arghhhhh . . .

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I've added a blog to our blog list

Radley Balko's been a friend for awhile now, and I have no idea why I didn't add his blog, The Agitator, before now.  But there it is, over there on the right.  For those of you who don't know who Radley is, he's an investigative reporter for Reason Magazine, which is a libertarian-leaning publication.  He has worked extensively on cases involving perceived prosecutorial misconduct and flawed forensic science. 

More and more people want to be lawyers, I guess

According to TaxProf Blog, there was a 19.8% increase in the number of people taking the October LSAT.  It will be interesting to see how the numbers move as the economy begins its recovery.

h/t Radley Balko

An awfully, awfully belated congratulations on a wonderful career

Going back through the archives of this site and its predecessor, I ran across a comment to an early post of mine that deserves mention.  Somehow, I missed it back then, and I apologize profusely for that.

Chip Reynolds, longtime state GOP operative, Clinton High School supporter and general raconteur, had commented to congratulate me on joining the blog, and then he dropped the bomb:  His wife, Judi Reynolds, retired at the end of last school year after 39 years at Clinton High.  Mrs. Reynolds was one of my all-time favorite teachers, and was tremendously talented at making English interesting to her students.  I wanted to take a moment to thank her for what her dedication meant, not only to me, but to the countless students that learned at her feet.  I hope she enjoys her well-earned retirement!

Trick play: Is Governor Barbour's university consolidation proposal a tactical ploy?

I’m wondering if consolidation of universities (and maybe even school districts) is a tactical ploy by the Governor. He can then say, “Rep. Jones, if you don’t want [name of university with heavy representation in Jones’ district] consolidated, then you need to support deep cuts in other agencies.” Then, when Rep. Jones caves on budget cuts, he can say, “at least I saved Hometown U. (or Hometown High School) from consolidation.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Corey Maye's conviction is REVERSED!

First off, CONGRATULATIONS BOB EVANS!!!!!!!!!!!  Bob Evans is a friend, a respected legislator, and one hell of a lawyer.  Second, congrats, Covington & Burling, who lent lawyers to the case.  Finally, thanks to Radley Balko and Reason Magazine.  They covered this matter from the get-go.  They even produced a spot on about this matter, "Mississippi Drug War Blues: The Case of Cory Maye".  The Radley Balko article on Cory Maye is here, and it's a very good read.

Background after the jump, and analysis in a later post, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hey Gov.....

I noticed a mistake on page 17 of your budget recommendations:
 While all areas must find efficiencies, we cannot shortchange the state judicial system and its mission to help law enforcement entities put criminals behind bars.
I know that judges run for office in this state by saying they're going to put away the bad guys.  But you know that's not really what their job is, right?  Right???

Barbour: Merge the HBCUs; consolidate the W into State

At his 2:15 p.m. press conference, Gov. Barbour announced his plan to save money in higher education.  He wants to 1) merge Alcorn and Valley into JSU, and 2) merge the W into MSU.  He says that under his plan none of the campuses would close.  But I've got to wonder: if these mergers happen, how long will the campuses in Lorman, Itta Bena, and Columbus be funded?


(By the way, I'm a fan of consolidating all of our eight public universities into one Jackson-based school that wins the BCS championship every single year.  But maybe that's just because I like winning.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Judge Malcolm Harrison denies motion to recuse, but prospectively recuses in some cases

At the hearing mentioned below, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Malcolm Harrison denied the motion to recuse filed by the defense in State v. Alicia Hanner.  The State offered no argument, but did make a record that they had provided the Court with a copy of the Jenkins case prior to the hearing.  Judge Harrison then told the parties that the County Attorney did not handle cases transferred from Jackson Municipal Court to Hinds County Court, and that this was one of those cases, despite the County Court file itself listing Judge Harrison as counsel for the State.  Frank Jones, an Assistant District Attorney, handled the preliminary hearing in County Court.  In a nutshell, Harrison found as follows:
  1. The cases he reviewed in preparation for the hearing all required active participation by the judge when he was prosecutor.
  2. The matter of State v. Alicia Hanner was transferred from Jackson Municipal Court to Hinds County Court for preliminary hearing.
  3. As a result of the transfer, the County Attorney was not involved in the prosecution of the case, therefore, no recusal warranted in this case.
  4. Recusal will occur in any cases in which prosecutors from the County Attorney's Office appeared in court.
Judge Harrison handled the matter well.  He didn't appear to be upset by the motion.  I disagree with him on the "actively participate" issue, as I think Jenkins is directly on-point on this case.  We'll see where this goes.  

Recusal issue to be heard this afternoon

While Bobby DeLaughter is being sentenced in Aberdeen, his replacement, Judge Malcolm Harrison, will be hearing argument on the recusal issue mentioned here a few weeks ago.  It's my understanding that the State will have no response to the defense motion to recuse.  It's also my understanding that Judge Harrison has indicated privately that he feels he has no conflict, and will not recuse. 

There's a case directly on point here.  In Jenkins v. State, the trial judge had been county prosecuting attorney at the time of the defendant's indictment.  570 So.2d 1191 (Miss. 1990).  Even though the prosecutor/judge stated that he had no recollection of any involvement in Jenkins' preliminary hearing or in the presentation of the matter to the grand jury, the MSSC held that recusal was mandatory.  Citing an opinion reversing a case in which a grand juror went on to become a petit juror, the MSSC said:
We do not think it right and now condemn any practice whereby the accuser may also be the trier of fact. Jenkins at 1192, citing Hood v. State, 523 So.2d 302, 311 (Miss.1988). (Emphasis original to the Jenkins opinion.)
Our state follows an objective test to determine whether or not a judge should recuse himself, and that test is whether "a reasonable person, knowing all the circumstances, would harbor doubts about his impartiality." Rutland v. Pridgen, 493 So.2d 952, 954 (Miss.1986). See also, In Re Moffett, 556 So.2d 723, 725 (Miss.1990), and Jenkins v. Forrest County General Hospital, 542 So.2d 1180, 1181 (Miss.1988).  Applying the objective test to the issue at hand, I don't see how recusal isn't mandated.  We'll see this afternoon whether or not Judge Harrison agrees with me.

You probably already knew this, but...

the "In Your Voice" comments section below each online Clarion-Ledger story is often home to the most vile, ignorant, depressing, hate-spewing invective found anywhere on the web outside of  And if the comments aren't dripping with the aforementioned filth, they're generally so lacking in grammar, spelling and punctuation as to be quite funny.  I'm going to start collecting the most outstanding examples here.  If you spot a special one, paste it into comments on a relevant post or email it to me.  I'll start with one from today's Jerry Mitchell piece on the DeLaughter sentencing:

Ed Peters could not stand Delaughter@all whatsoever. Ed Peters had lots of things against Delaughter. Ed Peters back-stabbed Delaughter in the back. Delaughter is having to pay for it because of Peters. I hope Peters has nightmares & gets Haunted by Medger Evers [Paranormal Activity][Ghost] on Peters. Peters deserves to be in Prison like The Scruggs Scandal. End of Story.......But Peters acts like He stole a Part of the Movie Ghosts of Mississippi from the 1960's laws. But anyways Ed Peters will be sought because as of right now Ed Peters is being followed by Investigators and has his Phones Wiretapped and all Phone Records/Text Messages is being Subpoenaed [Not Twitter] lol Ed Peters is the most meanest Man I have ever met in My Life. So will Trent Lott will get indicted by Jury too. So "What Comes Around Goes Around"! Delaughter should have slapped Ed Peters with his hand and lawsuit4Defamation.

Now, don't misunderstand me.  I certainly agree with the author of this post about Ed Peters. But there are three things that stand out and make this one worth cataloging:
  1. "Ed Peters back-stabbed Delaughter in the back." (You mean he didn't back-stab him in the front?!?)
  2. "Haunted by Medger Evers [Paranormal Activity][Ghost] on Peters." (Thank God she cleared that up.  I had no idea what she meant by "haunted.")
  3. "all Phone Records/Text Messages is being Subpoenaed [Not Twitter] lol...." (To be fair, I laughed out loud, too.) 
There are already 8 pages of comments on the story, so there's plenty of fodder for this.  Oh, and yeah: DeLaughter's getting sentenced today at 1:30 p.m. in Aberdeen.  Follow it at NMC's site.  I will be.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Breaking News: Mississippi Supreme Court Requires Arbitration in Jones v. Scruggs Katrina Group Lawsuit

What a difference a year (or more) makes. Today, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the Circuit Court of Lafayette County, and ordered the lawsuit filed by Jones, Funderburk, Sessums, Peterson and Lee, LLC against the Scruggs Katrina Group sent to arbitration.

The mandate of the Mississippi Supreme Court grants the same relief that the Defendants in United States of America v. Scruggs, et al., were trying to achieve. As David Rossmiller blogged at the time of the indictment:

Supposedly, Scruggs and a small group of colleagues decided to bribe a state court judge in the fee dispute case -- not for a final disposition of the case in their favor, but to obtain an order compelling the plaintiff, Johnny Jones, to arbitrate rather than sue in court.
With deference to our friend Alan Lange, "Kings of Tort"? More like Kings of Tragedy.

Today's opinion is here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hitting the Legal Version of a 7-10 Split

My blogmate, Matt Eichelberger, scored an impressive win this week. According to the Clarion-Ledger, Matt obtained a finding that his client, Tina Funderburk, was incompetent to stand trial. Ms. Funderburk, a 33 year old woman from New York, is accused of either abandoning or smothering her three year old daughter while travelling through Jackson.

A finding of incompetency to stand trial is NOT the same as a finding of insanity. Just last Thursday, the Mississippi Supreme Court explained its caselaw on this question in Jay v. State, 2009 WL 3465745, Para. 25 (Miss. 2009):

In order to be deemed competent to stand trial, a defendant must be one:

(1) who is able to perceive and understand the nature of the proceedings; (2) who is able to rationally communicate with his attorney about the case; (3) who is able to recall relevant facts; (4) who is able to testify in his own defense if appropriate; and (5) whose ability to satisfy the foregoing criteria is commensurate with the severity of the case.

Ms. Funderburk's case clearly meets these criteria. The Clarion-Ledger story tells us this about the hearing:

A Ridgeland psychiatrist testified Monday at Funderburk's competency hearing in Hinds County Circuit Court that she suffers from schizophrenia and hears voices.

"She is taking two schizophrenia medications, and that's a lot," Dr. Mark Webb testified. "She is better than she was six years ago, but she still thinks her daughter is alive. She is still being controlled by illusions. It is my professional opinion that she is incompetent to stand trial."

Webb said Funderburk hallucinates and believes her pillow and radio and television programs talk to her.

Despite this proof, it's rare for a Circuit Judge to find a defendant -- especially one in a case with horrific facts -- incompetent to stand trial.

Great job in this one, Matt! I hope Ms. Funderburk is able to achieve some peace of mind at Whitfield.