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No fundamental right to sexual privacy Americans do not have a fundamental right to sexual privacy, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 decision last week. The split panel upheld an Alabama law�nearly identical to one in Georgia�that made the sale of sex toys a crime punishable by up to a year in prison. The decision extends an emerging division in the court over sexual rights, with judges Stanley F. Birch Jr. and Rosemary Barkett leading opposing factions. Williams v. Attorney General of Alabama, No. 02-16135. The plaintiffs included two sellers of the sex devices, one who owns two “Pleasures” stores in the state and the other who conducts “Tupperware-style” parties to sell the products. Iraqi prison suit filed A group of trial lawyers calling itself the Iraqi Torture Victim Group has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of five Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib prison. The action, filed in Washington, asserts that CACI International Inc. and Titan Corp., two U.S. firms that allegedly provided interrogation services for the U.S. government, committed murder, assault and torture against the men, who later were released without charge. Members of the trial lawyer group include attorneys from the firms Edmond & Jones and Cochran, Cherry, Givens, Smith & Sistrunk, both of Atlanta; and South Carolina-based Grant, Edmond & Simmons. Murder plot against judge is revealed A federal grand jury last week indicted the former head of a San Jose, Calif., electronics firm for allegedly soliciting the murder of U.S. District Judge William Alsup. While at Alameda County’s Santa Rita county jail awaiting trial on federal perjury charges stemming from a high-profile patent case, Amr Mohsen, 57, allegedly asked an FBI informant to arrange a contract hit on Alsup, who had presided over both cases. The perjury case was supposed to go to trial this fall. Alsup was recused at the end of June, and that case, which includes last week’s charges, is now pending in front of U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton. According to a search warrant affidavit, Mohsen asked a fellow inmate to kill Alsup. That inmate reported Mohsen and agreed to wear a wire. Mohsen allegedly told the inmate he wanted a “funeral” for the judge. Alsup did not return a call seeking comment. Lawyer shortage noted Massachusetts’ highest court ruled last week that a shortage of defense lawyers caused by low pay is violating the constitutional rights of some poor defendants, and said cases must be dismissed against suspects who go without a lawyer for more than 45 days. Ruling in a long-simmering dispute over the rate of pay for private lawyers who represent indigent people, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court noted that the $30-per-hour pay for lawyers who represent indigent defendants in district court has barely changed over the last two decades and is among the lowest in the country. California’s punies plan Tucked into the California budget package approved by legislators last week is legislation that would divert 75% of punitive damages awards to the state. But lawyers question whether the plan, as revised in talks earlier this week, will net the $450 million estimated in the budget. Some question whether the plan will produce any revenue at all. A sunset clause inserted into the legislation means the state can only collect on judgments in suits that are filed after the budget is OK’d and are finally adjudicated-meaning appeals are exhausted-before June 2006. The revised legislation also allows for attorney fees to come from the state’s 75% share of punitive damages awards, rather than coming just from the plaintiff’s 25%. [ NLJ, May 24.] Nation’s first punch-card trial is postponed The nation’s first trial challenging punch-card voting was postponed last week, removing the possibility of a ruling before the presidential election. The American Civil Liberties Union had wanted a federal judge to declare Ohio’s punch-card system unconstitutional, even if there was no hope of getting the system changed before November. The trial opened last Monday. But U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd suspended the proceedings until Nov. 1-one day before the presidential election-to allow the ACLU time to examine an expert report the state filed on July 23. Stewart v. Blackwell, No. 5:02CV-2028 (N.D. Ohio). [ NLJ, July 26.].

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