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Bush plans second round in bench nominations Refusing to be brushed off by Democratic opposition in the Senate, President George W. Bush plans to nominate for a second time 20 people who did not receive up or down votes on their nominations for federal judgeships. The renominations to federal circuit courts include: Terrence W. Boyle, 4th Circuit; Priscilla Richman Owen, 5th Circuit; David W. McKeague, 6th Circuit; Susan Bieke Neilson, 6th Circuit; Henry W. Saad, 6th Circuit; Richard A. Griffin, 6th Circuit; William H. Pryor, 11th Circuit; and William Gerry Myers III, 9th Circuit. [See "Breaking the logjam"] Can’t regulate Net calls A Minnesota agency may not regulate calls through the Internet as it does calls through traditional phone lines, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. The order upholds a lower-court ruling and is a win for fledgling companies like Vonage Holdings Corp. of Edison, N.J., which provides Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. Vonage Holdings Corp. v. Minn. Pub. Utils. Comm’n, No. 04-1434. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission had argued that VoIP companies were providing phonelike service and should be regulated as phone companies are. But those businesses said they provide an information service. VoIP converts the sound of a voice into packets of data and reassembles them into sound on the other end of a call. Ashcroft takes a parting shot at federal bench In a recent speech to the Federalist Society, outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft warned the audience of conservative lawyers about a “profoundly disturbing trend” in American politics. Ashcroft blasted federal court rulings that constrain the president’s conduct in the war on terror. “These days it seems that some [federal judges] are unwilling to accept an idea fundamental to our Constitution-the idea that there are certain decisions the framers reserved to our elected and accountable president,” Ashcroft said. While Ashcroft’s rebuke of the judicial branch paid lip service to the checks and balances built into the Constitution to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful, his message was clear: The president should be left alone to fight the war on terror. Patriot Act loses a case A federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., has ruled that three men caught smuggling cash to Pakistan to help their families do not have to forfeit all the money under the “bulk cash” statute of the USA Patriot Act. In a ruling of first impression, Judge Jack B. Weinstein of New York’s eastern district held that civil forfeitures under the act are subject to review under the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was the first Eighth Amendment challenge to the statute, which was enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Key suit pits hospitals against surgical centers In a decision underscoring a national debate over the delivery of health care services, federal Judge David N. Hurd of New York’s northern district is permitting an ambulatory surgery center to pursue a monopolization claim against a community hospital. Although Rome Ambulatory Surgical Center v. Rome Memorial Hospital, No. 5:01-CV-23, directly involves only a disagreement in a single city, Rome, N.Y., it is in many regards a microcosm of a debate occurring in communities and hospitals nationwide, lawyers said. At its heart, the case centers on the right of upstart ambulatory surgical centers to compete with established hospitals. Kuhl calls it quits on 9th Circuit nomination Complaining that the confirmation process for federal judgeships is “broken,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl last week took her name out of the running for a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Women’s and abortion rights groups opposed Kuhl’s confirmation by the U.S. Senate, saying she was too conservative for the 9th Circuit, which Republicans regularly accuse of being too liberal. Kuhl has been in limbo for more than three years. In a statement, she expressed frustration over battles in Congress regarding President Bush’s nominees.

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