Patterico's Pontifications


Trial Judge Recommends “We Close at 5” Judge Be Exonerated

Filed under: Judiciary — DRJ @ 10:29 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

I’ve blogged before regarding judicial proceedings against Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, also known as the “We Close at 5” Judge. Judge Keller was charged with misconduct by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct after a report that Keller had closed the doors of Texas’ highest criminal court at 5 p.m. as attorneys for Michael Richard, a Texas death row inmate, rushed to file an appeal. Richard was executed later that night.

A trial on the misconduct claim against Judge Keller was held in August 2009, at which time she testified she wouldn’t do anything different if she could do it over again and blamed the incident on the conduct of the defense counsel. Now the trial judge at that hearing has issued a recommendation to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct exonerating Keller:

“Sharon Keller, the state’s highest criminal judge, should not to be removed from office or even reprimanded for her role in a 2007 controversy that resulted in Texas executing an inmate without his final appeal being heard in court, a special judge said.

Though Keller made several questionable decisions on the night inmate Michael Richard was executed, the blame for Richard’s missed appeal lies squarely with his defense lawyers at the Texas Defender Service, or TDS, according to findings by District Judge David Berchelmann Jr.”

Judge Berchelmann found the defense counsel failed to diligently pursue and file Richard’s appeal:

“Berchelmann, however, concluded that TDS lawyers were responsible for “the majority of problems involving the Richard execution” by failing to diligently prepare his final appeal or pursue every option to file it with the Court of Criminal Appeals after 5 p.m.

“TDS has only itself to blame,” he wrote. “(Keller) did not violate any written or unwritten rules or laws.”

The 13-member Texas Judicial Commission will consider Judge Berchelmann’s findings at a public hearing. The Commission can “dismiss the charges, reprimand Keller or recommend she be removed from office.”

I was leery of Judge Keller’s actions when this occurred but Beldar counseled caution. Beldar was right.


Senior CL-ASS Prank

Filed under: Education — DRJ @ 9:54 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

“C and L ran off”:

“A spelling prank in a class photo for more than 600 seniors at Cypress Ridge High School led to the suspension of three students.

Some students wore T-shirts spelling out “CLASS” as part of “Class of 2010” in a formal shot.

But in a later informal shot, students representing “C” and “L” moved from the front row, leaving behind a different three-letter word.”

Three students were suspended and five were fined $135 each, presumably the five wearing the letters. I’m not sure whether the “A”, the “S”, the second “S”, or someone else was the third suspended student. Apparently “C” and “L” could not be reached for comment.


USC Defeats USC (Updated)

Filed under: Law,Sports — DRJ @ 8:00 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The University of Southern California Trojans have prevailed in a trademark suit in which the University of South Carolina Fighting Gamecocks sought to use the letters “SC” on baseball team clothing:

“A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Tuesday upheld a decision last year by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review board to recognize the University of Southern California’s century-old claim to the logo letters.
Scott Edelman, an attorney representing the Los Angeles university, hailed the ruling as protection of the school’s “primary athletic mark” used on team clothing and equipment that brings in significant revenue. Sports logo registrations are not limited to use in team colors, so there was potential for South Carolina merchandise to be mistaken for that of USC, Edelman said.”

Apparently winning wasn’t enough for the Trojans’ attorney, who took the opportunity to talk trash:

“[Edelman] also suggested that the letters were more deservedly linked to the Trojans’ warrior image than to “a goofy little chicken.”

“I think they wanted to move away from the gamecock logo,” Edelman said of the school in the South. “Something that is totally understandable.”

That’s really funny considering what most people think of when they hear the word Trojans.


UPDATE: Thanks to commenter el duderino who provides us with a link to the opinion.

California Rains

Filed under: Current Events — DRJ @ 7:40 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Massachusetts’ election and the Haitian earthquake have dominated the news and blogs, but there are other stories including one that affects many California readers — Los Angeles rain:

“Street flooding was reported across the region, including in Burbank, the Bixby Knolls section of Long Beach, areas south of Long Beach Airport, as well as Sunland and San Pedro.

The storm ripped part of the roof off an industrial building in Paramount and flooded the southbound 710 Freeway around Alondra Boulevard. Flooding was also reported on the 710 near Willow Street in Long Beach. [Updated at 6:35 p.m.: The California Highway Patrol said the 405 Freeway south is flooded in Long Beach at Spring Street and that traffic was being diverted.]

Other freeways reported less serious flooding, producing a grim evening commute.”

Any stories to share?


Obama Wants Federal Contractors to Pay Their Taxes

Filed under: Government,Obama — DRJ @ 6:04 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

From TaxProf via the Instapundit:

WITHOUT A HINT OF IRONY: President Obama Blocks ‘Tax Cheats’ From Government Work.

“President Obama today issued a presidential memorandum directing the Office of Management and Budget, the Treasury Department, and other federal agencies to block contractors who are delinquent on their taxes from receiving new government contracts. The memorandum also directs the IRS to review the accuracy of companies’ tax delinquency claims and asks Congress to enact enforecement [sic] tools.”

The Presidential memorandum covers entities that are delinquent in paying their taxes so it seems to me the Administration is banning deadbeats. Cheats may still be fine.


Did Obama Get Massachusetts’ Message? (Updated x3)

Filed under: Obama,Politics — DRJ @ 1:05 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Asked how the White House can interpret the Massachusetts defeat as anything other than a “total rejection” of the President’s health-care reform, White House senior adviser David Axelrod said:

“I think that there were a lot of elements to the message yesterday. Health care was part of it,” Axelrod said. “I would note that Sen. Brown didn’t run one ad on health care in the entire campaign. I’m sure you know that.

“And he supported a health care reform similar to the one that the president was and is committed to in Massachusetts, and said during the campaign that he wouldn’t repeal it,” he said.

“I mean, there are messages here,” he said. “We hear those messages, but there is a tendency in this town — not that you guys would do it — but to overblow things, even beyond their importance. And I don’t think it’s about that one particular issue. I think there’s a general sense of discontent about the economy and there’s a general sense of discontent about this town. That’s why we were elected. We are committed to doing something about it.”

So Obama is using Scott Brown’s win as support for more of the change we’ve seen in the past year? Apparently so, and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs explains why:

“I would say this too, building off of what David said, there are things that the president has accomplished, whether it’s a credit card bill of rights, whether it’s a recovery plan that’s led to the first quarter of economic growth in more than a year, that same sort of anger and frustration that the President saw when he traveled in Iowa, and throughout this country for more than two years is still very pervasive today,” Gibb [sic] said.”

Does Obama really understand why people are angry and frustrated? It doesn’t sound like it. This sounds like an updated version of Obama’s San Francisco comments about Americans who are bitter and clingy.

If so, then either the Obama Administration believes people are too stupid to know what’s good for them, or the Administration doesn’t want to hear Massachusetts’ message.


UPDATE BY PATTERICO: At least he and Reid are ruling out doing something in the Senate before Brown is seated.

UPDATE 2 by DRJEveryone is on board with the new talking points:

“Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country: the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office,” the president said in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”

H/T A.W.

UPDATE x3 BY PATTERICO: That really takes the cake, doesn’t it? This guy goes out and campaigns against Scott Brown, saying Brown will help block everything he’s trying to do. And then, when Brown wins, Obama says Brown won for the same reason he did.

That takes some real nerve, that does.

If he’s right, then the voters no longer see Obama as the agent of the change they are seeking, do they?

Another Terror Mistake

Filed under: Obama,Terrorism — DRJ @ 11:04 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Obama Administration’s Director of National Intelligence testifed today that no one contacted him about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber on Northwest Flight 253. He also admitted Abdulmutallab should have been interrogated as a terror suspect:

“Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was interviewed by FBI agents when Northwest Flight 253 landed in Detroit after he allegedly tried to detonate a homemade bomb sneaked through airport security in Nigeria and Amsterdam. Abdulmutallab is being held in a prison about 50 miles outside of Detroit.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that he was not consulted on whether Abdulmutallab should be questioned by the recently created High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG.

That unit was created exactly for this purpose,” Blair said. “We did not invoke the HIG in this case. We should have.”

In a separate hearing, FBI Director Robert Mueller said “al-Qaida and its offshoots are spreading and rebuilding” in Pakistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa.

The Obama Administration’s default position is to consider events as crime, not terrorism, which is why the intelligence arm of the government was out of the loop. (In her first Congressional testimony, Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano wouldn’t even use the words terror and vulnerability.) The government can’t properly respond to a terrorist event if it doesn’t initially consider the possibility that events might be terrorism.

After Abdulmutallab’s Christmas Day attack, President Obama announced the anti-terror buck stops with him. This is Obama’s mistake and it’s past time for him to fix it.


ObamaCare: The “What Next?” post

Filed under: General — Karl @ 10:08 am

[Posted by Karl]

Patterico and others have asked me to do the “What Next” post, now that Scott Brown is the Senator-Elect from Massachusetts.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, I will borrow heavily from Keith Hennessey, who gamed much of this out before the election.

First, the general backdrop:

The Massachusetts Senate race has three potential effects on health care reform:

  1. Procedural;
  2. Vote counting; and
  3. Potential blowback to the procedural response.

*** [T]he direct procedural effects are the least important.  A 41st vote would give Senate Republicans the power to obstruct but not kill a bill.  Even if Brown were to be seated Wednesday, the President would still have procedural options that allow him to enact a law with only Democratic votes.  The increased power of Republicans would be indirect:  they could make the process path more difficult, requiring the President, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid to work harder to hold Democratic votes.  If health care dies because of the Massachusetts election, it will be because nervous Democratic members refuse to support their Leaders’ response, not because Republicans have the votes to prevent a bill from becoming a law.

Second, the procedural options open to the Democrats: (1) Ram it through; (2) the House passes the Senate bill (“ping pong”); (3) reconciliation; and (4) grovel to Olympia Snowe.  There is also the “two-bill strategy,” or “ping pong plus,” in which the House passes the Senate bill, with “fixes” in budget reconciliation — though Hennessey sees too many potential failure points with that strategy, and there has not been much reported support for it among Congresssional Dems (yet).

Accordingly, Hennessey made the following estimates, assuming a Brown victory:

  • Ram it through: was 25% –> now 10%
  • House folds:  was 25% –> now 30%
  • Reconciliation:  was 3% –> now 1%
  • Deal with Snowe:  steady at 2%
  • Two-bill strategy:  2%
  • Collapse:  was 45% –> now 55%

Hennessey adds:

You can see that I’m increasing the chance that the bill collapses if Brown wins.  I’m also shifting the balance between the first two options heavily toward the House folding.  That’s not because I think it’s a good option or I can imagine it working.  It’s simply because the intensity at the top for an accomplishment is enormous, and all other options look worse.  The leaders would face vote counting challenges with pro-labor members, pro-life members, the Hispanic caucus on illegal immigrants, and many, many others.  [Note: In budget reconciliation, Dems can fix items related to taxes and spending, like the excise tax on high-end insurance policies, but probably could not adjust provisions relating to abortion and illegal immigrants. — Karl]


I find it fascinating that a Senate election could shift the main locus of decision-making on this issue to the House.  For months the focus has been on how Leader Reid holds 60 votes.  If Mr. Brown wins, this becomes principally a House game, not a Senate one.  And while I have learned never to underestimate Speaker Pelosi’s ability to get the votes she needs and hold her caucus together, a Brown victory could make that extremely difficult.

I will be watching Speaker Pelosi for signals about how the process will move forward.  She’s got the health care process ball if Brown wins in Massachusetts today.

Of course, watching Pelosi for signals is a bit tricky, as she is prone to put out propagandistic talking points (e.g., her claim to have the votes for ObamaCare last summer, when events showed she clearly did not).  Accordingly, when Pelosi says:

“I think everyone [involved in the health-care negotiations] agrees that there are certain things in the Senate bill that must be changed,” she said. “We do have our differences, and our members want to resolve those differences.”

We should not assume that “ping pong” is off the table, especially “ping pong plus.”  On the other hand, we should not discount the possibility that Rep. Barney Frank (who is both smarter than Pelosi and not required to put on a defiant face) has correctly assessed that there will no longer be the collective will to march off a cliff for ObamaCare in an exercise of the sunk cost fallacy.  And just for fun, I throw out a very unlikely scenario: The Dems continue to negotiate a bill that can pass the House (one that pleases the Progressive Caucus would be even better), expecting it to die in the Senate, and then try to blame the GOP for their failure.  On a serious note, whatever Dems decide to do, they had better do it quickly — one of the key lessons here has been that the longer ObamaCare sits in the sunlight, the worse it stinks in public opnion.


That Democrat Respect for the Will of the People

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:19 am

David Gregory says on Twitter:

Sr Obama adviser: no way we walk away from health care at this point. His rationale? We would “get all the pain and none of the gain.”

He adds:

Dem aide tells me WH must decide whether to play hardball on seating of Brown. Sen Webb says no hc votes until he’s seated.

These are both variants on ignoring the will of the people. One is just more blatant than the other.

Let’s just hope they haven’t seen “all the pain” quite yet.

New York Times to Charge for (Frequent) Access

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:09 am


The New York Times announced Wednesday that it intended to charge frequent readers for access to its Web site, a step being debated across the industry that nearly every major newspaper has so far feared to take.

Starting in early 2011, visitors to will get a certain number of articles free every month before being asked to pay a flat fee for unlimited access. Subscribers to the newspaper’s print edition will receive full access to the site.

What does this mean, exactly? Hard to say, since the details are unclear:

But executives of The New York Times Company said they could not yet answer fundamental questions about the plan, like how much it would cost or what the limit would be on free reading. They stressed that the amount of free access could change with time, in response to economic conditions and reader demand.

The New York Times sets the standard in many ways for the newspaper industry. I do agree in theory that newspaper staffers can’t work for free. To the extent that they put out a product worth reading, people should pay.

Ah, but that bolded language says it all. Much of what the New York Times puts out is fascinating, broad coverage that some describe as a daily miracle. But on hot-button political issues, much of what it puts out is rank partisan tripe. (This is demonstrated on a regular basis; Matt Welch yesterday provided the latest example.)

It remains to be seen whether this is going to be a solution for them — and, by extension, other ailing newspapers.

Somehow, I doubt it.

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