On October 4, the Supreme Court begins another term, unofficially opening a new legal year. And while our country’s top judges take their seats on the bench, many other seats go unfilled. There are currently more than 100 open judgeships in the federal district and appellate courts.
Positive law codification is not exactly a high profile issue in the U.S. Congress. In fact, it is so low profile that most people, including many members of Congress, have never heard of it. Yet, in the last year and a half, the House of Representatives unanimously passed two large positive law codification bills, H.R. 1107 and H.R. 3237, and these bills are now pending in the Senate. So what is positive law codification and why should anyone care about it?
Small businessman Abner “Abbie” Schoenwetter, a Florida seafood broker who is now 64, could have spent the last decade growing his business, contributing to the economy and the tax base, preparing for retirement, and enjoying liberty and happiness with his wife and three children. Instead, beginning with a grand jury indictment ten years ago, Mr. Schoenwetter’s real life became a surreal tale lifted from the pages of a Kafka novel.
After his election to the Three Valley Water District Board of Directors in 2007, Xavier Alvarez introduced himself to that body, saying, “I’m a retired Marine of 25 years. I retired in the year 2001. Back in 1987, I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I got wounded many times by the same guy. I’m still around.”
A few facts about the Cobell settlement to be voted on in Senate today:
Number of published court opinions in the case: 80-plus
Amount awarded to plaintiffs by courts at present: $0
Amount to attorneys under settlement: $100 Million (through Dec. 7, 2009)
Amount to each account holder under settlement: $1,000.00
Number of accounts with less than $15: 107,806
Total amount of money in accounts with less than $15 (small accounts): $15,210.51
Average balance in 107,806 small accounts: $7.09
Total to be paid under settlement to small accounts: $107,806,000
Ms. Cobell’s Aug. 4, 2010, post, headlined "A Cravenly op-ed," continues an unbroken line of materially misleading representations to the public and to members of the plaintiff class to whom she owes a fiduciary duty. More importantly, she continues materially misleading members of the United States Senate whom she is asking to change the law and the rules so her proposed “settlement” can proceed. This may reflect the desperation she and her lawyers are feeling to salvage any hope of recovery in her 14-year-old lawsuit. To date, her recovery in court is nil.
Kimberly Craven’s op-ed (Aug. 2, 2010) reflects a profound misunderstanding of the Cobell litigation and the settlement agreement. Ms. Craven is one of a handful of critics in a class of 500,000 individual Indians. She has made no secret of her desire to see the settlement fail. Each time her statements are corrected, she conjures up another excuse why the settlement ought to be voided by Congress. Here we go again.
Although Washington is often mired in partisan political battles, there are some issues on which Democrats and Republicans in Congress can agree — and where they can work together in unison. One of these is our nation’s tradition of freedom of speech. Thanks to strong, bipartisan cooperation, an important bill to protect free speech is now set to become law.
The SPEECH Act (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage) will protect Americans’ free-speech rights from the chilling effect of foreign libel lawsuits. The Act will ensure that American courts cannot be used to enforce foreign libel judgments against American journalists, authors and publishers if those judgments undermine Americans’ First Amendment rights.