News Roundup

Weekly Briefs: Biden can't grant student-debt relief, judge says; $32.3M malpractice award left in place

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Judge strikes down student-debt relief

U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman of Fort Worth, Texas, ruled Thursday that the Biden administration’s plan to forgive some federal student-loan debt was an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power. “In this country, we are not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone,” Pittman wrote in Brown v. U.S. Department of Education. The Department of Justice plans an appeal. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis has already temporarily blocked the program in a separate lawsuit. Under the Biden administration plan, borrowers under certain income levels are eligible for loan forgiveness of $20,000 on college Pell Grants and $10,000 for other student debt if their loans are held by the Department of Education. (Reuters, the Washington Post, Axios, Pittman’s Nov. 10 decision)

Ohio court won’t reconsider $32.3M malpractice award

The Ohio Supreme Court is sticking with its decision declining to hear Dentons’ appeal of a $32.3 million malpractice verdict. Dentons owes the money to former U.S. client RevoLaze, which said it was harmed when Dentons was kicked off its patent case because of representation of an opponent by Dentons’ Canadian affiliate. One issue in the case was whether Dentons U.S. and Dentons Canada should be treated as a single law firm for questions regarding conflicts. Dentons operates under a Swiss verein structure in which multiple partnerships adopt a common brand and some shared management functions but remain legally and financially distinct. (Bloomberg Law, Law360, Reuters)

District attorney who excluded Black jurors in Curtis Flowers case heads to judgeship runoff

A Mississippi prosecutor once accused of a pattern of racial bias in jury selection will face a runoff in his bid for a judgeship. Fifth Circuit District Attorney Doug Evans came in second in the five-way race. Evans prosecuted Curtis Flowers six times for a 1996 quadruple murder. Evans used peremptory challenges to exclude 41 out of 42 potential Black jurors in five of the trials. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that Evans unconstitutionally excluded Black people from serving on the jury. Charges against Flowers were eventually dropped. (Mississippi Today)

Longest-serving state AG is defeated by Trump-backed candidate

The longest-serving state attorney general, Tom Miller of Iowa, has been defeated by a Trump-backed candidate who plans to sue the Biden administration. Miller, a Democrat, lost to elected Guthrie County Attorney Brenna Bird, a Republican. Miller said in broadcast comments he was thankful to voters who made him state attorney general for 40 years. (Bloomberg Law, the Des Moines Register)

Judge who signed Breonna Taylor search warrant loses election

Judge Mary Shaw of Louisville, Kentucky, has been defeated by a challenger, Tracy Evette Davis. Shaw signed the search warrant for the 2020 police raid that led to the shooting death of Breonna Taylor. Taylor, 26, was shot and killed by police during a botched home raid after her boyfriend opened fire, thinking that the officers who forced their way into the home were intruders. Investigators were targeting Taylor’s former boyfriend. The (Lexington Herald-Leader)

Judiciary posts judicial-financial disclosures

The federal judiciary has launched a free public database with financial disclosures for federal judges. The Judiciary Electronic Filing System went live Monday, a few days ahead of the deadline set by a new law. Gabe Roth of Fix the Court, a court transparency group, applauded release of the new database for aiding judicial transparency but criticized the need for users to download the disclosures as zip files. He also noted that the database only had information for about “one-fifth of the 2,400 disclosures.” A courts spokesperson blamed a vetting process that can take several months. (, Reuters, Judiciary Electronic Filing System press release, Fix the Court press release, the database registration page)

Legal industry adds 3,400 jobs

The legal industry added 3,400 jobs in October, according to preliminary and seasonally adjusted numbers released Nov. 4 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The gain follows a loss of 7,200 jobs in August and 2,100 jobs in September. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tables here and here)

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