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Case Update

Busy time for the Nine in DC.  The Supreme Court affirms lethal injection as a method of executing people, which will come in handy if it decides that child rape can be punished by death; it had the argument on that last week.  It also had two rulings on the armed career criminal act, which imposes a 15-to-life sentence for someone convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm if that person's had three prior violent felonies or drug offenses.  In Begay v. US, they decided that a prior felony DWI wasn't a violent offense, but in Burgess v. US, they held that a drug offense for which the defendant was imprisoned more than a year -- the definition of a felony under felony law -- meant it was a prior felony drug offense, even if the state law classified it as a misdemeanor.  And talk about speedy justice:  cert was granted in Burgess only last December, and the ruling was made three weeks after argument.  The best indication of how clear-cut the ruling was is not just the fact that the decision was unanimous, but that the government lawyer received so little questioning at argument that she used only seven of her thirty minutes.

Down in Columbus, the Ohio Supreme Court handed down a bunch of decisions in various workers compensation cases, of which no more will be heard here.  In State ex rel Liwinski v. Unruh, it decided various questions regarding RC 2323.42, which allows medical malpractice defendants to file a motion requiring the court to determine whether the plaintiff has "good cause" for continuing the lawsuit, and awarding attorney fees for the defendant if the court decides the plaintiff didn't.  That's what happened in this case, although the timing was rather odd:  the court granted the motion after denying the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

And on the legislative front, the state House passed a law adopting the "castle" doctrine, making it clear that a homeowner confronting an invader can use deadly force without being required to retreat.  Probably a good idea, although this seems to be a cure in search of a disease; somehow, all those cases of homeowners being prosecuting for shooting burglars in their homes seem to have escaped my notice.

On to the courts of appeals...

Civil.  1st District says that where plaintiff stated in her complaint that hood of her car flew up and she lost control, she was stuck with that; excellent discussion of effect of factual admissions in pleadings... 2nd District holds that insurer not required to defend insured who was convicted of negligent assault for shooting intruders in his yard, under policy's "criminal and intentional acts" exclusion... 6th District follows policy requiring "compelling circumstances" to overcome failure to timely respond to request for admissions... Personal injury plaintiff in this 8th District case didn't oppose motion for summary judgment, filed motion to vacate it after it was granted; guess how that came out... 3rd District says that to avoid two-inch rule for sidewalk deviations, "attendant circumstances" must "create a creater than normal and hence substantial risk of injury"... In child support case, 4th District says that defendant waived right to contest lack of proper service by not raising defense until seven months after he initially appeared in action to ask for modification of support and to request genetic testing...

Criminal.  2nd District says that judge taking plea need not stop after explaining each right to make sure defendant understands them, but can give rights collectively, then inquire... Despite popular view to the contrary, jury waiver need not be journalized before trial starts, says 8th District... 6th District affirms 4 1/2 year sentence for mother who gave birth to baby who tested positive for cocaine... 8th District reverses child rape case because of Boston violation; excellent (and rather liberal) discussion of limitations on expert testimony in such cases -- if you've got a case like this, this is a the opinion to have...

When bad things happen to bad people.  10th District affirms summary judgment and award of $414,000 in damages against a company and its president for trying to swindle an elderly lady out of her house.  The company loaned her $20,000 at an annual interest rate of 41.657%, took almost one-third of the loan in "origination fees" and other charges, set up a balloon payment she couldn't hope to make, forced her to deed the house to them when she couldn't make the payment, and then sold the house to friends of the owners of the company.


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