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Thomas to appellate judges: try to be polite U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas wants appellate judges to work on their manners. Answering questions at a continuing education seminar on appellate practice in Atlanta last week, Thomas said he disapproves of what he calls increasingly aggressive questioning of attorneys by appellate judges from the bench. Thomas said that as a young state attorney general, he recalled justices who “actually allowed me to make my argument.” But Thomas said that kind of old-fashioned court etiquette has virtually disappeared. “It seems fashionable now for judges to be more aggressive in oral arguments,” he said. “I find it unnecessary and distracting.” N.J. court expands rights of same-sex couples The New Jersey Supreme Court last week declared unconstitutional state laws that deny same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to married heterosexuals, but it also held that fixing the problem is a legislative task-and gave lawmakers 180 days in which to do it. A divided court wrote in Lewis v. Harris, No. A68-05, that the issue is “not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people.” Bid to derail Brown’s AG candidacy stalls A Sacramento, Calif. judge last week refused to fast-track hearings in a suit challenging Democrat Jerry Brown’s qualifications to be attorney general, a ruling that likely eliminates the plaintiffs’ best chance of ensuring a Republican wins the Nov. 7 election. Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang’s decision means the plaintiffs, five county GOP leaders, face the difficult task of persuading a judge to bar Brown from office if he wins the election. The Republicans’ attorney, Charles Bell, said his clients will challenge the election results if Brown wins. The plaintiffs argue that Brown is ineligible because he was an inactive member of the state bar for two of the past five years. AG candidates must be admitted to practice for at least five years “immediately preceding” the election. N.J. state bar posts a half-million dollar loss The New Jersey State Bar Association suffered a net loss of $584,778 in fiscal year 2005 due to shrinking revenue and increased expenses, its tax returns show. The bar’s net assets fell from $1.4 million at the start of the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005, to $767,819 at the end-a 45% drop. The operational deficit was the largest since 2000, when the association ran up a $633,290 loss, and dwarfed the $92,436 loss reported for fiscal year 2004. Overall, revenue fell 4.1% to $4.7 million in 2005 from $4.9 million the previous year and expenses climbed 6% to $5.3 million from $4.9 million. Former Enron chief draws 24-year sentence As Jeffrey Skilling continued to proclaim his innocence last week, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake of Houston sentenced the former chief executive officer of Enron Corp., to more than 24 years in prison. Lake denied Skilling’s request to remain free on bail pending his appeal. Lake granted a defense motion that Skilling serve his time in the Butner Federal Corrections Complex in Butner, N.C. In May, a jury found Skilling guilty of 19 criminal charges stemming from the collapse of Enron.

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