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2d Circuit latest to back 8th’s prior-felony ruling Two prior felony drug convictions may be treated as one in deciding whether to apply a sentencing enhancement only if the convictions were part of a single criminal episode, the 2d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. Agreeing with several other circuits in adopting that standard, the 2d Circuit said, “Any other construction would be at odds with the plain language of the statute-two means two-as well as with Congress’ recognized goal of enacting mandatory minimum sentences for recidivist drug offenders.” U.S. v. Powell, No. 04-0619-cr. The 2d Circuit agreed with the 8th Circuit’s standard in U.S. v. Gray, 152 F.3d 816, 821 (1998). The issue is of critical importance for defendants accused of distributing cocaine and crack because two prior felony convictions can mean life in prison. Latham & Watkins sets up shop in Shanghai Latham & Watkins officially expanded into mainland China with its recent opening of an office in Shanghai. Rowland Cheng, who once worked in Latham’s San Francisco office, will be the new office’s managing partner. Most recently, Cheng worked in the firm’s Singapore and Hong Kong offices. Partner James Redway, who will split his time between Singapore and Shanghai, will work with Cheng along with associates Guanghao Lu and Jeffrey Sun. Ginsburg and O’Connor: a brief approach to briefs U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a confession to make recently: She does not read all the amicus curiae briefs filed in connection with cases before the court. At a recent panel discussion sponsored by the National Association of Women Lawyers, Ginsburg said she has her law clerks arrange the briefs into three piles: must-read briefs; those she could skim or read selected pages from; and the “skip” pile that she does not need to read at all. When Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, also on the panel, indicated that she too does not read all the amicus briefs, it became easy to wonder whether, instead of confessing an embarrassing fact, they were merely stating the obvious: that too many briefs are clogging the justices’ inboxes. N.Y. judge: jurors asking questions works fine A New York trial court judge testing the controversial practice of permitting jurors to ask questions told a continuing legal education audience last week that the experiment has proven a success. Supreme Court Justice Joseph M. Sise of Montgomery County, N.Y., said that the numerous fears expressed primarily by attorneys-that permitting jurors to ask questions would be disruptive, that jurors would tend to advocate and that they would overemphasize the importance of their own questions-have failed to materialize. “It is something the jurors just love,” Sise said. The judge said he permits juror questions only upon the consent of both parties in a civil case. Calif. courts vulnerable to Atlanta-type violence Inadequate funding and patchy standards have left many of California’s 451 court facilities vulnerable to the kind of courthouse violence that exploded in Atlanta last month, court officials say. Screening for weapons at courthouse entrances in Los Angeles County last year yielded four guns, 78,000 knives, 30,000 scissors, 19,000 razors, 11,000 sets of handcuffs and more than 8,000 mace containers, said Rich Martinez, chief of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s court services division. Yet 22 of the state’s court facilities don’t check for weapons at all, and checks are spotty at hundreds of other sites. Court officials were scheduled last week to hear testimony on how budget cuts have compromised security. Also, the Judicial Council is expected to vote on a series of recommendations, a year in the making, aimed at establishing uniform statewide standards for security spending.

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