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A Journalist’s Guide to the Federal Courts

September 18, 2014 Comments off

A Journalist’s Guide to the Federal Courts
Source: United States Courts

Federal judges and the journalists who cover them share much common ground. One clear area of mutual interest is accurate and informed coverage of federal courts. A Journalist’s Guide to the Federal Courts is intended to assist reporters assigned to court coverage. It is the media who inform and educate the public about the courts, spark discussion and debate about their work, instill public trust and confidence in the institution and its function, and help protect judicial independence. These are worthwhile and important pursuits.

There are justifiable and distinct differences between the three branches of government and the access they grant the news media. Most of the work of federal courts is performed in open court and decisions, and in most cases court filings are available on the Internet. This primer is aimed at helping reporters who cover federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts – the cases, the people, and the process.

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Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (Phase One Trial) in MDL 2179, In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon”

September 8, 2014 Comments off

Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (Phase One Trial) in MDL 2179, In Re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” (PDF)
Source: U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana

Although drilling operations concluded without major catastrophe, the decision to drill the last 100 feet of the well with little or no margin left the wellbore in an extremely fragile condition.29 This resulted in the presence of a large amount of debris in the well when the production casing was set in the well a few days later. As will be explained, this debris compromised the production casing, which led to the incorrect placement of cement, which in turn permitted hydrocarbons to enter the well on April 20, 2010. Therefore, BP’s decision to drill the final 100 feet was the initial link in a chain that concluded with the blowout, explosion, and oil spill.

Survey Finds Infrequent Social Media Use by Jurors

July 31, 2014 Comments off

Survey Finds Infrequent Social Media Use by Jurors
Source: United States Courts

Social media use by jurors, and the problems resulting from it, remains a relatively infrequent occurrence, according to a survey of U.S. district judges.

Nearly 500 judges in all 94 districts responded to a Federal Judicial Center survey assessing jurors’ use of social media. The findings were published in May 2014.

Among other questions, the survey asked the judges for their strategies for curbing social media use by jurors in trials and jury deliberations. For the first time, too, judges were asked about the use of social media by attorneys.

Of the 494 judges responding to the survey, the majority of judges explained to jurors in plain language why social media is banned. This strategy must be effective; only 33 of the 494 judges reported any detectable instances of jurors using social media – and then in only one or two of their cases and mainly during trials.

Jurors access Facebook and personal blogs more often than instant messaging services. Six judges reported that a juror divulged confidential information about a case. Additionally, three judges reported that a juror communicated or attempted to communicate directly with participants in the case and two jurors revealed aspects of the deliberation process.

Judges generally learned of the inappropriate use of social media from other jurors, court staff, or attorneys in the case. Most judges cautioned a juror when social media use was discovered, but some removed the juror from the jury, while still others dealt with the juror post-trial. One juror was held in contempt of court.

Hat tip: INFOdocket

Bankruptcy Filings Down 12 Percent in Calendar Year 2013

February 14, 2014 Comments off

Bankruptcy Filings Down 12 Percent in Calendar Year 2013
Source: United States Courts

In calendar year 2013, there was a 12 percent drop in cases filed in federal bankruptcy courts. During the 12-month period ending December 31, 2013, 1,071,932 bankruptcy cases were filed, down from the 1,221,091 bankruptcy cases filed in calendar year 2012.

Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission (net neutrality)

January 16, 2014 Comments off

Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission (PDF)
Source: U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia

For the second time in four years, we are confronted with a Federal Communications Commission effort to compel broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic the same regardless of source—or to require, as it is popularly known, “net neutrality.” In Comcast Corp. v. FCC, 600 F.3d 642 (D.C. Cir. 2010), we held that the Commission had failed to cite any statutory authority that would justify its order compelling a broadband provider to adhere to open network management practices. After Comcast, the Commission issued the order challenged here—In re Preserving the Open Internet, 25 F.C.C.R. 17905 (2010) (“the Open Internet Order”)—which imposes disclosure, anti-blocking, and anti-discrimination requirements on broadband providers. As we explain in this opinion, the Commission has established that section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 vests it with affirmative authority to enact measures encouraging the deployment of broadband infrastructure. The Commission, we further hold, has reasonably interpreted section 706 to empower it to promulgate rules governing broadband providers’ treatment of Internet traffic, and its justification for the specific rules at issue here—that they will preserve and facilitate the “virtuous circle” of innovation that has driven the explosive growth of the Internet—is reasonable and supported by substantial evidence. That said, even though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates. Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.

2012 Report Shows More Repeat Bankruptcy Filers

October 23, 2013 Comments off

2012 Report Shows More Repeat Bankruptcy Filers
Source: U.S. Courts

During calendar year 2012, 1.1 million bankruptcy petitions were filed by individuals with primarily consumer debt. Filers had a median average monthly income of $2,743, most filed under chapter 7, and for more debtors in 2012 this was not the first time they had filed for bankruptcy.

These and other statistics on individuals filing for bankruptcy in 2012 under chapters 7, 11, and 13 are found in the annual report (pdf) required by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) of 2005 and now available online.

When Cities Go Bankrupt

July 19, 2013 Comments off

When Cities Go Bankrupt
Source: U.S. Courts

The City of Detroit has declared bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 9 provides for reorganization of municipalities, which includes cities and towns, as well as villages, counties, taxing districts, municipal utilities, and school districts.

Chapter 9 filings are not common. From 1991-2012 there were 217 Chapter 9 bankruptcies filed nationwide, with 20 filed in FY 2012. The majority of the cases have been for utility districts and not sovereign government entities.

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