Blogging will be much lighter than usual for the next week. Enjoy the Fourth of July holiday, or whatever you are celebrating in your neck of the woods. And feel free to scroll through some earlier posts to keep you entertained and enlightened!
I previously noted the bizarre story of Georgia Superior Court Judge Ralph Van Pelt, a twenty-year veteran of the court who was promised a “blood sport” campaign by a local kingmaker. Last night, Judge Van Pelt fought off his challenger, Melissa Hise, winning over 52% of the vote.
A couple states away, Arkansas Justice Courtney Goodson advanced to a two-way race with a local attorney to keep her seat, after a whirlwind couple of weeks in which Goodson sued an out-of-state group for broadcasting defamatory attack ads against her. That lawsuit produced a preliminary injunction against the ads in some Arkansas counties but not others, and the case is still pending.
Perhaps the cauldron of a political campaign improves one’s skill, patience, and approach to judging. But I am having trouble seeing it.
For many years, plaintiffs in patent infringement cases flocked to the Eastern District of Texas, spurred by welcoming judges, rocket docket scheduling, and a belief that they would find plaintiff-friendly juries. Defendants in the same cases naturally chafed at having to defend in the Eastern District, especially when there was little, if any, connection between that location and the allegedly infringing activity. This led to hundreds of defense motions to transfer venue to another federal district court–motions that were usually denied by the local judges who wanted to keep the cases in their district. The Eastern District dominated the national patent docket, with well over a thousand infringement cases filed in the district each year.
That all changed last year, when the Supreme Court’s in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods read the federal venue statutes to severely limit where patent infringement cases could be brought. No longer could a plaintiff assert a reasonable connection to the Eastern District of Texas just because some defendant sold an allegedly infringing product there. Unsurprisingly, the new restrictions have led to a drastic drop in filings in the Eastern District, and a growth in filings in the District of Delaware (where many business defendants are incorporated), among other venues.
It will be interesting to see where things settle in the coming years.
I reported last week on a lawsuit brought by Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson against the Judicial Crisis Network, a special interest group that has been running attack ads against her in the days leading up to the state’s nonpartisan supreme court election. Justice Goodson’s initial request for a temporary restraining order was granted by one trial court, with the understanding that a more complete hearing for a preliminary injunction would take place later in the week.
On Friday, that hearing did take place — in front of a different judge after the original judge had to recuse due to a conflict. The new judge, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, found that Justice Goodson was likely to prevail on the merits of her claim, and granted the preliminary injunction, thereby blocking all television stations from running the attack ads. But in a strange twist, just hours later a second judge in the same circuit declined to grant the injunction in a parallel case. The dual outcomes mean that voters in some parts of Northwest Arkansas have been able to see the attack ads in the final days of the campaign, while others have been barred from doing so.
An excellent summary of the events, with far more detail than I care to set out here, can be found in this Arkansas Online story.
As I previously noted, this case raises a variety of important issues–about freedom of expression and its limits, the power of injunctions, and the wisdom of electing judges. We’ll continue to follow it through Election Day and beyond.
Today’s hearing on permitting cameras in criminal cases comes as the state’s courts and legislature split on courtroom transparency: the state supreme court has run a pilot program since 2015 and recently began live streaming its own oral arguments. But some legislators seem determined to restrict any broadcast of criminal proceedings.
To thank my readers, I have ponied up to remove all the annoying WordPress ads from this blog. I hope you enjoy a cleaner reading experience.