The (Unlawful) Wire: The chief federal district judge in San Francisco ruled the government listened in without a warrant on a now-defunct Oregon non-profit, the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc., a violation of congressional guidelines on domestic surveillance, The Recorder reports. Justice Department officials said they were reviewing the ruling, which marked a major repudiation of the Bush-era warrantless surveillance system. The New York Times story is here.
New Standard: Lawyers have a constitutional obligation to tell clients about collateral deportation consequences of a guilty plea in criminal cases, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled. The National Law Journal has the story here. "It is our responsibility under the Constitution to ensure that no criminal defendant -- whether a citizen or not -- is left to the mercies of incompetent counsel," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the 7-2 majority.
More Class Actions: In another significant ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that certain class actions that were barred or restricted in the state system can move forward in federal courts, The National Law Journal reports. The Court ruled 5-4 in Shady Grove Orthopedic Associates v. Allstate Insurance Co. that the federal class action rule trumped a New York law that prohibits class actions that seek to recover statutory penalties or minimal recoveries.
Ending Gridlock: President Obama during the congressional recess tapped two union lawyers to fill slots on the National Labor Relations Board, giving business groups concern the board will turn pro-union after more than two years of what The New York Times calls "near paralysis." The appointment of Craig Becker, a lawyer for the AFL-CIO, has ramped up fear among business groups that the NLRB will now favor unions on many issues. Previous National Law Journal coverage in the last week on the NLRB is here and here.
A Win, for Felons: A federal appeals court, the New York Law Journal reports, has ruled unconstitutional a New York state law that permits tougher sentences for "persistent" felony offenders. The appellate panel unanimously found the state scheme gives judges unconstitutionally broad discretion to hand out sentences of up to life in prison for repeat felons.