The main entrance way to San Quentin State Prison
The main entrance way to San Quentin State Prison (AP / Eric Risberg)

A federal judge on July 16 struck down California’s death penalty, ruling that, because of systemic delays, it is arbitrary and no ­longer serves the purposes of ­deterrence and retribution. U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney wrote that, since 1978, more than 900 people have been sentenced to death and 13 executed. “For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” he wrote.


Former Utah attorneys general John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff were arrested on July 15 and charged in a massive public corruption scandal. The charges, which include nearly two dozen felony counts of bribery and obstruction of justice, were brought by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill following an investigation by state legislators. State prosecutors announced the charges at the FBI’s Salt Lake City office, even though the Department of Justice’s public integrity unit declined to prosecute the case.


FedEx Corp. was indicted Thursday on charges of shipping illegal drugs to online pharmacies that ended up in the hands of dealers and addicts. The indictment, brought by a federal grand jury in San Francisco, says FedEx has been shipping controlled substances and misbranded prescription drugs, such as Ambien and Diazepam, for illegal Internet pharmacies since 2000. The feds said FedEx continued the activities despite warnings from the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and members of Congress in 2004. The company denied wrongdoing.


Project-finance partner William Voge has been elected as Latham & Watkins’ next global chairman and managing partner, succeeding Robert Dell, who stood at the helm for 20 years. Latham announced the results of the firm’s runoff election on July 14. Voge, 57, a 30-year veteran of the firm who has long been part of Dell’s trusted inner circle, said he plans to serve a single five-year term. “I told people I don’t think I’m in this beyond age 63,” he said.


General Electric Co.’s Brackett Dennison was the highest-salaried corporate general counsel in the country last year, pulling in more than $5.8 million in base pay and bonuses, NLJ affiliate Corporate Counsel reported. Bank of America Corp. general counsel Gary Lynch ranked No. 2 with nearly $5.5 million in salary and bonuses, but exercised stock options to push his total above $7.4 million. John Finley of The Blackstone Group L.P. ranked among the top 10 earners for the first time, bringing in nearly $4.6 million in base pay and bonuses and more than $2 million in stock earnings.


A state trial judge on July 17 struck down Florida’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia declared that the law, which also banned domestic partnerships, violated the Constitution’s equal-protection clause. The ruling applies only in Monroe County, home to Key West. Garcia said weddings could commence on July 22. Florida’s attorney general immediately filed an appeal. Separate challenges to the law are pending in state trial court in Miami and in federal court in Tallahassee.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled on July 14 that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles engaged in “impermissible viewpoint discrimination” when it rejected the Texas Sons of Confed­erate Veterans application for a specialty car license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag as offensive. “The government may not ‘selectively … shield the public from some kinds of speech on the ground that they are more offensive than others,” Judge Ed Prado wrote in a 2-1 ruling. “That is precisely what the board did, however, when it rejected Texas [the organization's] plate.