Patents, problems, Posner

Patent cases used to be about as popular with judges as colonoscopies. No more. The U.S. Supreme Court just announced it was adding another patent case to its docket, a week after handing down its latest big patent decision.  The number of patent cases going to the high court has risen five-fold in the past 30 years while the court’s overall caseload has fallen by half.  The Supreme Court decided five patent law cases in the 1980s, eight in the 1990s, and 25 in the first decade of the 2000s.


Democrats must overcome GOP’s 'complete obstructionism' on NLRB

The NLRB is facing an unprecedented crisis. Last Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on the president’s nominees – three Democrats, two Republicans – to the National Labor Relations Board. Yesterday, the committee voted to approve nominees, but Republicans refused to support the nominees as a package and most opposed two of the three Democratic nominees. At any other time in the board’s 78-year history, the Senate would have confirmed the well-qualified nominees without controversy. But not this time. The full Senate will likely not vote on the nominees until July, but it seems certain that Republicans will try to block the package of nominees, even though the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recommended the two Republicans.


President Obama's media shield

Legislative efforts to shield the media from disclosing sources of classified information often follow perceived incidents of prosecutorial overreach. Following the Valerie Plame investigation, media shield legislation received consideration in both houses. The Free Flow of Information Act curtailed investigate authority to compel disclosure of media sources who disclose national security and other law enforcement sensitive information.


A prosecutor's call: Justice for all

As Congress begins debating immigration reform measures, prosecutors across the country are striving to pursue justice and provide for safer communities. We strive for case outcomes that reflect a balance of punishment, compassion and concern for victims and community, including for offenders who are not citizens of the United States. Individuals who are not citizens oftentimes face immigration penalties that are not conducive to these outcomes.

The current immigration system fails to provide clear guidelines for prosecutors and judges who are attempting to provide a holistic approach to law enforcement. The criminal justice system, when applied to immigrants, often leads to mandatory no-bond detention and deportation sentences.


Let Immigration Judges be judges

The upcoming congressional debate over comprehensive immigration reform presents a rare opportunity for immigrants living in this country to have a real chance at pursuing the American dream. As reform legislation is drafted and debated, we must consider the essential role immigration courts play in ensuring that everyone has a fair day in court when presenting their case to remain in the United States. Congress must revisit the courts’ current resources and structuring, and better equip and empower our benches to secure due process for all.


Fixing the Froward Court

Consider a home-plate umpire named Jefferson or Thomas. He adjudges balls and strikes; keeps a count of balls and strikes; decides whether to call a game on account of rain; and ejects a batter who, having been made by a knuckle-baller to look like an amateur, expresses his profound disappointment by throwing his bat.

Imagine a home-plate umpire named Hamilton or Sotomayor, who declares that baseball arbitration is unconstitutional; orders a triple-A minor-league baseball team to change its player-selection standards; declares that the Yankees’ numbers-only uniforms deny equal protection; and prohibits use of designated hitters later than the second trimester of any one season.


Unjust: The problem with court martial reform

It's the culture, not the structure.

In recent months, the American military has seen a series of controversies over justice, accountability, and command authority. In February, a former soldier killed two police detectives in California when they went to question him about allegations that he had tried to sexually assault a co-worker. The ex-soldier, who died in a subsequent shootout with police, turned out to have been twice accused of rape while in uniform. Rather than prosecuted him, the army allowed him to leave the service.


Springtime for disclosure

With spring in full bloom, the ground isn’t the only thing beginning to thaw. Finally, more than two years after Citizens United unleashed a torrent of spending in federal elections, the rigid partisan stalemate on disclosure appears to be softening.
Last week, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) unveiled the Follow the Money Act, which would beef up disclosure of outside spending. Before that, the Texas Senate, a body with a 19-12 Republican majority, passed similar legislation by a 23-6 vote. The bill now moves to the Assembly after a Senate committee approved it unanimously.


Bipartisan bill would ease prison overcrowding

Thirty years ago, the National Association of Evangelicals adopted a policy statement condemning America’s overcrowded and non-rehabilitative prisons.  We recognized the need to punish offenders and incarcerate dangerous criminals but noted that “half of those in prison have been convicted of non-violent offenses.” For these offenders, we recommended biblically-based sanctions like restitution “as an alternative or supplement to incarceration.” We also opposed excessive incarceration due to its high expense and because it undermines rehabilitation.
Looking back three decades later, it is remarkable how true our statement remains, and how little policymakers have done to improve the situation in our prisons.


President and Congress must act to fill judicial vacancies

The judicial appointment process has been broken for two decades. Through the first two centuries of our republic, the Senate was renowned as the world’s greatest deliberative body, the home of lawmakers and statespeople who understood not only the impact of soaring rhetoric but also the value of collaboration and compromise. Senators assiduously exercised their authority to provide advice and consent on judicial nominations. The judicial appointment process was divisive at times, but presidents and senators have historically recognized that stonewalling judicial nominees undermines the independence of the judiciary as a coequal branch of government. With 86 (one in 10) vacancies on our federal bench and with 37 vacant judgeships qualifying as judicial emergencies, the time for collaboration and compromise is now.