Proponents of “living constitutionalism” or other non-originalist theories of constitutional law sometimes argue that our now 230-year-old Constitution wasn’t designed for current social conditions. Prevailing attitudes on a variety of subjects have changed dramatically since 1787, critics of originalism say. Judges must be allowed to augment or update the Constitution to keep it “relevant.”
During the Gilded Age, so-called “captains of industry” such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and J.P. Morgan led an industrial revolution that transformed the nation with technological innovation, creating for Americans unparalleled improvements in the average standard of living and amassing great personal fortunes in the process. The spectacular success—and enormous power—of these newly minted tycoons earned them the sobriquet “Robber Baron,” even as their ruthless business tactics, such as Rockefeller’s cartelization of the oil industry through trusts, fostered new laws to regulate anti-competitive business practices, notably the 1890 Sherman Act. These measures are called “antitrust” laws, an often-forgotten tribute to the dynastic Standard Oil Trust, which at its peak controlled the refining of 90 to 95 percent of all oil produced in the United States.
Chip Merlin: Voss Law Firm Found Guilty of Fraud, Intentional Litigation Misconduct and A Pattern and Practice of Deficient Representation
I have written about the problem of the Voss Law Firm before in Policyholders Should Carefully Pick Their Lawyers — Voss Law Firm Loses Hundreds of Hurricane Lawsuits, and Is the Use of Runners and Cappers in Texas Going to Result in Prosecution of Lawyers and Public Adjusters. The problem with Voss is that they are a providing bad publicity for policyholders and honest policyholder attorneys fighting a very well-funded litigation and lobbying adversary: The insurance industry. A federal court judge found that the Voss Law Firm engaged in intentional litigation misconduct, fraud, and had shown a pattern and practice of deficient representation.
In June the Supreme Court issued a decision in TC Heartland v. Kraft Food Group Brands that might lead one to believe that the Eastern District of Texas will no longer be the go-to district for patent infringement claims, and companies facing what they believe to be frivolous claims against them will not be forced to defend themselves outside of their home state. But the long-term effect of TC Heartland is still unclear. In TC Heartland, the Supreme Court held that “[residence]” under 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), the patent specific venue statute that determines where a suit can be filed, refers only to the state of incorporation for domestic corporations.
At the end of May this year, the Supreme Court unanimously clarified the law on venue in patent infringement lawsuits (see here). For 27 years, litigants had relied on a Federal Circuit decision, VE Holding Corp. v. Johnson Gas Appliance Co. (1990), that allowed patent owners to file suit virtually anywhere an infringing product was sold. In TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, the Supreme Court limited venue, and district courts are reaching different conclusions about whether litigants have waived venue arguments by not asserting them before TC Heartland.
Looking back at the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed by Congress in 1990, one has to be struck by the extent to which the ADA’s lofty sentiments have been overwhelmed by its adverse results. If it’s true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the ADA is a veritable Autobahn of wishful thinking gone awry. Yet no one seems inclined to reroute the ill-fated traffic; some states are even widening the highway with additional lanes.
The unexpected retirement of Judge Janice Rogers Brown, 68, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will trigger a well-deserved celebration of her extraordinary judicial career, both as a federal appellate judge (since 2005) and previously as a member of the California Supreme Court (1996 to 2005). It will be difficult for President Donald Trump to appoint a replacement that comes anywhere close to filling the shoes of the of the forceful, fearless, and independent Brown, whose nomination by President George W. Bush to the nation’s second most influential court in 2003 was delayed for two years by Democratic opposition.Despite a filibuster in the U.S. Senate, Brown was ultimately confirmed in 2005 by a 56 to 43 vote, when the so-called Gang of 14 reached an agreement to avoid Republicans’ invocation of the “nuclear option.” Hopefully, Brown will continue to serve on the D.C. Circuit as a judge with “senior status.”
When the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted 23 years ago, an economic surge in Texas ensued thanks, in part, to a significant boost in trade with our neighbor to the south. Today, more than 380,000 Texas jobs hinge on free trade with Mexico. Agreements like NAFTA have strengthened our state's economy as a whole, too. More than a third of total goods, worth $92 billion, are exported from Texas to Mexico annually.
As citizens of the United States, we recognize the rights of foreign peoples to live and govern themselves as they see fit. Just as the American people would not tolerate another nation dictating to us how to run our country, we believe other people should be able to make their own laws free from outside interference.
The Texas Supreme Court has a unique structure, reflecting the state’s stubbornly independent-minded culture. Most state supreme courts have jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases and have seven (or fewer) members, who are appointed by the governor and face the voters — if at all — only for periodic “retention” elections. The Texas Supreme Court, in contrast, hears only civil appeals (criminal cases are decided by the co-equal Texas Court of Criminal Appeals) and has nine members, all of whom are subject to statewide partisan elections. The last feature is quite unusual; only seven states select judges in this manner. Despite this distinctive design, the Texas Supreme Court succeeds at steering a steady jurisprudential course in a cautious, low-key style.
Brazen judges openly legislating from the bench are confirming the widely-held public perception that activist courts are out of control. As a lawyer practicing for three decades in the plaintiff-friendly stronghold of California, within the jurisdiction of the notorious Ninth Circuit, I witnessed many instances of judges—state and federal—slanting their decisions against disfavored parties, such as insurance companies, corporate employers, and deep-pocketed defendants.
A lot has changed in Houston, Texas over the past 100 years. For one, the city’s population is now about seventeen times what it was in 1917. We’ve found better ways to beat the year-round heat than 300-pound blocks of ice, thankfully. And you don’t see too many horses and buggies riding down Houston’s Westheimer Road anymore. But one institution that has stood the test of time, and is still up-and-running on its 100th anniversary this month, is Houston’s Ellington Field--and you could say its history is the story of a lifetime.