Monday, January 11, 2010

My Afternoon With Erwin....Chemerinsky, That Is.

During my last minute marathon in December to get all my Continuing Legal Education credits before the year's end, I had the pleasure of landing in a CLE lecture given by Erwin Chemerinsky at the Boyd School of Law. Chemerinsky, is of course a reknowned law school Professor of constitutional law, and is the founding Dean of the University of California at Irvin School of Law. Chemerinsky's unique vocal cadence and his particular brand of humor always makes dry legal subjects sound more interesting. Of course, Chemerinsky's area of law is far from dry; who isn't interested in the nuances of the sexy parts of constitutional law? The CLE did not disappoint as Chemerinsky recapped the most interesting and significant U.S. Supreme Court decisions for 2009. Here are summaries of three of the Supreme Court decisions he discussed that have particular relevance to Nevada.

A Complaint Can No Longer Rely on the Notice Pleading Standard to Avoid Dismissal.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009). Despite being less than one year old, Ashcroft is on the verge of being the most cited case in history, according to Chemerinsky. The reason it is so important is that the circuit courts are treating Ashcroft as a new standard in pleading requirements. Notice pleading is no longer sufficient to avoid dismissal. The plaintiff must allege facts that make his claim "plausible," not just a recital of the elements, and the reviewing court may draw on common sense and its experience within the context of the allegations to determining plausibility.

Litigants May Not Contribute to the Presiding Judge's Election Campaign.
Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., 129 S. Ct. 2252 (2009). Where a judge receives substantial campaign contributions from a litigant, and does not recuse herself, due process is violated. Being that Nevada elects its judges, this ruling has the potential to put a monkey wrench in the Nevada Judiciary. As was reported in depth by the Los Angeles Times back in 2005, Nevada is still a relatively small business and legal community, and it is not unheard of for litigants to contribute to a judge's campaign, even to the judge before which they are appearing. Caperton may change that practice. Even better, Nevada may finally adopt another system for choosing judges.

Certiorari Granted To Decide If Second Amendment Applies to State Governments.
McDonald v. City of Chicago, 129 S. Ct. ___ (2009). According to Chemerinsky, between the years 1791 - 2008, not one law was ever invalidated as violating the Second Amendment. Last year the Supreme Court invalidated a gun control law in Washington DC as barred by the Second Amendment. Now the Court will decide if the Second Amendment applies to state and local government.


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