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SENATE CONFIRMS BEA FOR NINTH CIRCUIT Carlos Bea became the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ newest judge Monday with the unanimous consent of the Senate. With an 86-0 vote just four days after receiving the unanimous support of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bea becomes the fourth Ninth Circuit appointment of President Bush. Bea learned of his confirmation in his chambers at San Francisco Superior Court, where he has been a judge for the last 13 years. Prior to that, he spent 30 years in private practice. “All the well-wishers are coming by,” said Bea, 69. With a handful of outstanding cases to dispatch, Bea said it will be at least a week before he makes his way from the Civic Center to 7th and Mission, where the Ninth Circuit is located. Bush’s other Ninth Circuit appointees are Richard Clifton of Hawaii, Jay Bybee of Nevada and Consuelo Callahan of California. Two more nominations are pending: William Gerry Myers III of Idaho and Carolyn Kuhl of California. Kuhl, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge, has seen her nomination become bogged down in controversy. She was voted out of committee along party line, but no floor vote has been set. Bea was originally nominated to the Northern District bench in 1992 by former President George Bush, but the nomination died after Bill Clinton was elected. — Jason Hoppin COURT SLASHES LIBEL VERDICT AGAINST PAPER NEW YORK — A sharply divided New York appeals court Thursday reduced by more than half a $1.3 million libel verdict against the Nation of Islam’s newspaper, saying although the paper callously doctored a photo to depict a Harlem woman as a prison inmate, it did not deliberately inflict harm on her. The majority of the Appellate Division, First Department, said that since the newspaper was not motivated by a desire to injure the woman, it could not be punished with punitive damages that totaled $700,000. However, the majority, in an opinion by Justice Eugene Nardelli, repeatedly attacked the paper’s actions, calling them “reprehensible” and “irresponsible,” and saying the court was “constrained” to reduce the award because New York law requires such a high standard for punitive damages in defamation cases. In a dissenting opinion, two justices said the paper’s willingness to depict the woman as a convict without making “even the slightest effort” to determine if its representation was accurate warranted punitive damages. The dissent in Morsette v. The Final Call, 1761, also cited the paper’s insistence, even at oral appellate arguments, that its photo illustration was not defamatory. The weekly newspaper, called The Final Call, randomly selected a photo of Tatia Morsette from its archives for a 1997 front-page story on women in prison, titled, “Mothers in Prison, Children in Crisis.” Morsette, a successful entertainment promoter who has never been to prison, appeared on the cover holding her son, along with two other women. On an inside page, she appeared again, but her picture was altered to make it seem as if she was wearing prison attire. — The New York Law Journal

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