Before we all get swept away today's big news, let's flip through this week's NLJ.
• First, there's this Q & A with Sandra Day O'Connor. When she retired in 2006, Justice O'Connor lamented that her successor Samuel Alito Jr. did not wear a skirt. Speaking with Tony Mauro last week, O'Connor said that, with a new vacancy on the Court, most people are "expecting and indeed hoping" that the next appointee will be a woman. "There was a little backsliding when I left." Here are are few excepts from the interview:
You and Justice Ginsburg have always said a wise woman and a wise man —
A wise old woman and a wise old man, at the end of the day, can reach the same conclusion.
That said, you believe there is importance to diversity.
There is. I think we have to remember that slightly over 50% of the population has two X chromosomes, and it doesn't hurt to be able to look at the positions filled in our government and to see in fact that women are represented in more than token numbers.
What's your feeling about Justice Souter leaving?
Well, I liked him very much, and still do, and I'm sad that he's leaving. I issued a statement. I said, I think, that he was wise, witty and wonderful.
• David Ingram reports that Congress is considering changing the rules for products liability litigation against foreign manufacturers. Lawyers who work in the area say there are several barriers, such as identifying the manufacturer of a product that isn't labeled, convincing a federal judge that her court has jurisdiction and serving process under a complicated system of international rules. The issue has brought together two frequent opponents, the plaintiffs' bar and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, both of which have an interest in opening courthouses to greater litigation against foreign companies. Domestic corporations see their foreign competitors escaping the costs of the U.S. tort system -- and even passing on some of those costs to American distributors and others who could be held liable for faulty products.
• The Justice Department is scrambling to save an important tool in the investigation of international crime, a provision of the USA Patriot Act of 2001 that gives federal district judges the authority to freeze U.S.-based property that is subject to a foreign forfeiture judgment. Mike Scarcella has the story. The effort stems from a case involving the Brazilian government, which requested that the United States freeze assets belonging to a prominent banker targeted in a money laundering investigation in Brazil. Justice, acting on a sealed docket, got a federal judge in Washington to issue three restraining orders blocking some $500 million, Within a few weeks, lawyers for an investment fund named in the restraining orders challenged them. Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia changed his mind and dissolved the orders. Lawyers in the department's asset forfeiture and money laundering section are appealing Bates' ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
• Tax lobbying has long been a reliable cash cow, and a series of factors are pushing it to the forefront this year, reports Carrie Levine. Lawmakers and the president need money to fund a host of expensive policy proposals, including health care reform. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire in 2010. And key members of Congress, including House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), are already talking about an overhaul of the tax code. "We're going to witness the largest tax-policy debate in a generation," Patrick Heck, a partner at K&L Gates who worked as chief tax counsel to the Senate Finance Committee and Baucus before joining the firm in 2007, told the NLJ. "It's just all happening at once."