About Budget Travel: Ten Great Summer Vacation Spots

About.com    Budget Travel
In the Spotlight | More Topics |
  from Mark Kahler
Hint: All of them are affordable and memorable!

In the Spotlight
Top Ten Value-Packed U.S. National Parks
Did you know admission is free to America's most popular national park? That's true at several others as well. Check off each of these 10 glorious parks and invest in a satisfying travel adventure....read more

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Travel Deals for the Week of April 27
Here's this week's list of 10 travel deals. Many of these links lead to offers with a very limited shelf life, so if you're interested, act quickly. But don't...read more

Finding That Elusive Airport Discount
I was fascinated recently by an analysis found in Forbes Magazine about the relative price of flying in the U.S. In a free market economy, it is natural to have...read more

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Google Friends Newsletter - April 2009

Greetings to all of our Google friends. We hope you enjoy this month's
update on our products and services.


Profile information now in search results

To give you greater control over what people find when they search for
your name, we now show Google profile results at the bottom of U.S.
search pages. These results offer abbreviated information from the
profiles you created, a well as a link to the full profiles. We've
also added links so it's easy to search for the same name on MySpace,
Facebook, Classmates and LinkedIn. Your public profile page identifies
you and serves as a hub for your content on the web. If you don't have
a profile yet, type [me] into the search box to get started creating


Product Search for your iPhone and Android

It's now easier to make informed shopping decisions with the launch of
Google Product Search for mobile. To try it out, go to Google.com in
your mobile browser, search for a product, then scroll down and click
the "Shopping results" link. You'll see business listings that include
where to buy and pricing information so you can find the best deal.
For some products, like books and electronics, you can also see other
details, including online ratings and reviews. This new feature is
optimized for iPhone and Android-powered devices in the U.S. and U.K.

YouTube RealTime

Recently we unveiled YouTube RealTime, a new way to discover what your
friends are doing on YouTube. Using a toolbar in the lower right
corner of the page, you can see which of your friends are currently
online and what they're watching, a history of their recent activities
on the site, and real-time notifications when they comment on,
"favorite," or upload a video. This builds upon our efforts to make
the YouTube experience more interactive and social and follows other
updates such as channel feeds, customizable homepage and sharing
options (e.g., posting to Twitter or Facebook). Right now, you must
have an invitation to try it out, but when you do receive an
invitation, you'll have 25 invites to share with friends. We'll be
handing out more invitations shortly.

Image Search rolls out Similar Images

We just rolled out an experimental new way to search for images, using
pictures rather than words. This is helpful if you are getting image
results you like but are at a loss for words on how to narrow them
down further. To try it out, go to Similar Images in Google Labs and
search for an image. On the results page, click the "Similar images"
link under that image to find others like it. Your new results will
be tailored based on whatever image you select.

YouTube Shows and Movies

There's a new YouTube destination for television shows and an improved
destination for movies, where partners like Crackle, CBS, MGM,
Lionsgate, Starz and many others have made thousands of television
episodes and hundreds of movies available for you to watch, comment
on, "favorite" and share. We also completed a wider rollout of in-
stream ads, which for the first time will be displayed in shows and
movies. At the moment, Shows and Movies are only available in the
U.S., but we hope to expand to other regions soon.


Whether it's the latest news from Washington D.C. or from "American
Idol," people around the world go online to search for information on
the news of the day. Search trends are a living, breathing reflection
of what we're interested in, and April searches were no exception. One
very popular topic was the White House puppy, Bo, which led curious
Google users to search for [portuguese water dog]. And those
interested in weightier political subjects were searching for
information about President Barack Obama's first [100 days] in office.
Breakout singing star [susan boyle] blew away the search competition
thanks to her performance on "Britain's Got Talent," but was
ultimately outstripped in popularity by concerned people seeking
information about [swine flu]. We offer a variety of tools to help you
keep your finger on the pulse of what searchers are looking for. Hot
Trends, updated approximately every hour, is great for discovering the
news of the moment. Trends is a Google Labs experiment that compares
interest in search terms over time. And you can use Insights for
Search to compare trends by region and time period, see related and
fastest-rising terms, filter for Google News, Product and Image
results, and much more.

The Google Blog offers frequent updates and insights about our technology and products, and the company at large.

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About PDAs: Keeping In Sync

About.com    PDAs
In the Spotlight | More Topics |
  from Jennifer Johnson
PDAs are great tools for helping to maintain order in our lives. In this newsletter, I cover Microsoft Live Mesh. This service will help you synchronize files between numerous devices including your PDA. By synchronizing these important files with your computer and your handheld, you'll always be sure you have the most recent version of the file at all times. Microsoft recently updated Live Mesh so now it's even better than it was before. To help you stay current on the latest news and follow your favorite blogs, I've also covered RSS readers for both Palm and Pocket PC / Windows Mobile devices. Using an RSS reader on your handheld, you can stay current on all of the latest headlines quickly and easily.

In the Spotlight
Microsoft Updates Live Mesh
Microsoft has issued updates to Live Mesh for Windows Mobile, Mac, and Live Desktop. The latest version of the software tunes performance and brings some tweaks to the user experience. For example, the last location...read more

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Palm RSS Readers
Palm PDA users will want to check out this article on RSS readers that can help you stay current with all of the latest headlines.

RSS Readers for Windows Mobile & Pocket PC
Windows Mobile or Pocket PC users can stay up to date with the latest news using these RSS readers.

Sponsored Links
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Money Rates

from The Wall Street Journal Online

Thursday, April 30, 2009

International rates
Prime rates
Latest Wk ago
3.25 3.25

2.25 2.25

Euro zone
1.25 1.25

1.475 1.475

0.53 0.52

0.50 0.50

3.00 3.00

Hong Kong
5.00 5.25

Overnight repurchase
Latest Wk ago
0.18 0.18

U.K. (BBA)
0.507 0.503

Euro zone
0.61 0.91

U.S. government rates
Latest Wk ago
[ Effective Date: 12/16/2008 ]
0.50 0.50

Federal funds
[ Effective Date: 12/16/2008 ]
Effective rate
0.22 0.18
Target rate
0-0.25 0-0.25
0.4000 0.3750
0.1000 0.1000
0.1250 0.1250
0.2500 0.2500

Treasury bill auction
[ Auction Date: 4/30/2009 ]
4 weeks
0.055 0.070
13 weeks
0.135 0.135
26 weeks
0.305 0.330

Secondary Market

Freddie Mac
30-year mortgage yields
Latest Wk ago
30 days
4.39 4.36
60 days
4.50 4.47
One-year ARM
3.375 3.375

Fannie Mae
30-year mortgage yields
Latest Wk ago
30 days
4.454 4.439
60 days
4.552 4.532

Constant maturity debt index
Latest Wk ago
Three months
n.a. n.a.
Six months
n.a. n.a.
One year
n.a. n.a.

Bankers acceptance
Latest Wk ago
30 days
0.55 0.55
60 days
0.78 0.78
90 days
1.00 1.00
120 days
1.10 1.10
150 days
1.30 1.30
180 days
1.60 1.60

Other short-term rates

Latest Wk ago
Call money
2.00 2.00

Commercial paper
Latest Wk ago
30 to 30 days
0.30 ...
31 to 59 days
n.q. ...
60 to 78 days
n.q. ...
79 to 89 days
0.19 ...
90 to 119 days
0.23 ...
120 to 138 days
0.28 ...
139 to 148 days
0.33 ...
151 to 174 days
n.q. ...
175 to 180 days
n.q. ...
181 to 270 days
n.q. ...

Dealer commercial paper
Latest Wk ago
30 days
0.40 0.45
60 days
0.75 0.85
90 days
0.90 1.00

Euro commercial paper
Latest Wk ago
30 day
0.57 0.73
Two month
0.88 0.96
Three month
1.13 1.19
Four month
1.23 1.29
Five month
1.29 1.33
Six month
1.36 1.39

London interbank offered rate, or Libor
Latest Wk ago
One month
0.41125 0.43750
Three month
1.01625 1.09188
Six month
1.56500 1.63938
One year
1.87688 1.95000

Libor Swaps (USD)
Latest Wk ago
Two year
1.476 1.554
Three year
1.918 1.944
Five year
2.557 2.468
Ten year
3.234 3.062
20 year
3.600 3.395
30 year
3.633 3.410

Euro Libor
Latest Wk ago
One month
0.930 0.993
Three month
1.361 1.404
Six month
1.568 1.609
One year
1.729 1.771

Euro interbank offered rate
Latest Wk ago
One month
0.944 1.007
Three month
1.365 1.406
Six month
1.562 1.600
One year
1.728 1.769

Latest Wk ago
One month
0.164 0.254
Three month
0.759 0.874
Six month
1.059 1.142
One year
1.401 1.522

Asian dollars
Latest Wk ago
One month
0.423 0.440
Three month
1.026 1.088
Six month
1.565 1.656
One year
1.878 1.962

Certificates of Deposit
Latest Wk ago
One month
0.400 0.450
Three month
0.900 1.000
Six Month
1.450 1.550

Merrill Lynch Ready Assets Trust
Latest Wk ago
Call money
0.250 0.250

Eurodollars (mid rates)
Offer Bid
One month
0.45 0.85
Two month
0.75 1.20
Three month
0.95 1.50
Four month
1.10 1.45
Five month
1.20 1.70
Six month
1.40 1.90

Freddie Mac
Weekly survey
Thursday, April 30, 2009

Latest Wk ago
30-year fixed
4.78 4.80
15-year fixed
4.48 4.48
Five-year ARM
4.80 4.85
One-year ARM
4.77 4.82

U.S. prime rate and discount rate are effective December 16, 2008. U.S. prime rate is the base rate on corporate loans posted by at least 70% of the 10 largest U.S. banks.; Other prime rates aren't directly comparable; lending practices vary widely by location; Discount rate is the charge on loans to depository institutions by the New York Federal Reserve Banks; Federal-funds rate is on reserves traded among commercial banks for overnight use in amounts of $1 million or more; Call money rate is the charge on loans to brokers on stock-exchange collateral; Dealer commercial paper rates are for high-grade unsecured notes sold through dealers by major corporations; Freddie Mac RNY is the required net yield for the one-year 2% rate-capped ARM. Libor is the British Bankers' Association average of interbank offered rates for dollar deposits in the London market; Libor Swaps quoted are mid-market, semi-annual swap rates and pay the floating 3-month Libor rate..

Sources: Merrill Lynch; Bureau of Labor Statistics; ICAP plc.; Reuters; General Electric Capital Corp.; Tullett Prebon Information, Ltd.


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Law Blog Newsletter

from The Wall Street Journal Online

April 30, 2009 -- 6:30 p.m.


- Kilpatrick Stockton's Mark Levy Found Dead in D.C. Office
- Making (Some) Sense of the Chrysler Bankrutpcy Filing
- Chrysler: Detroit's Pain is New York's Gain
- Is the 'Sisterhood' Over for Women Lawyers?
- Jones Day's Corinne Ball is 'Dealing With the World'
- For Firms From London to Chicago, the Struggle Continues
- 'Blight' Gunking Up Post-Kelo Eminent Domain Reforms
- Justice Kennedy: The Man in the Middle (Once Again)?
- Would a Pa. GOP Voter Have a Cause of Action Against Arlen Specter?

Kilpatrick Stockton's Mark Levy Found Dead in D.C. Office
Some terribly tragic news today out of the nation's capital: Mark Levy, the chair of Kilpatrick Stockton's Supreme Court and appellate advocacy practice, was found dead in his office early this morning, the victim of an apparent suicide. Click here, here and here for coverage from Legal Times, Above the Law, and the AP, respectively.

Bill Dorris, the co-managing partner of the firm, issued the following statement:

With sadness we confirm that Kilpatrick Stockton attorney Mark Levy died this morning. Mark Levy was well known and highly respected for his successful appearances before the Supreme Court of the United States. We offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. Out of respect for his family, we cannot offer additional comments at this time.

According to his bio on the Kilpatrick Stockton Web site, Levy (Yale, Yale Law), argued 16 cases before the Supreme Court. He served as a deputy attorney general in the Clinton Administration and served as an adjunct faculty member at UVA Law School. He was a frequent contributor to the National Law Journal.

Last October, Levy argued before the court in an ERISA case called Kennedy et al. v. Plan Administrator for DuPont Savings and Investment Plan et al. In January, a unanimous court ruled in his favor.

See and Post Comments: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/04/30/kilpatrick-stocktons-mark-levy-found-dead-in-dc-office#mod=djemWEB&reflink=djemWEB&reflink=djemWLB


Making (Some) Sense of the Chrysler Bankrutpcy Filing
Chrysler has filed for Chapter 11 protection. That much is determined now. (Click here for a copy of the company's petition.) But in many ways, the uncertainties at this point outnumber the certainties. How long will a restructuring take? How will the pie of Chrysler's assets get divvied up? What, exactly, will Fiat's role be in it all? What will the company look like when it emerges? All these questions will be answered in due time, but for now none seem answerable.

That said, for a little guidance on how all the pieces might fit together, we checked in with Stephen Selbst, a bankruptcy partner at Herrick Feinstein.

Hi Stephen. Thanks for taking the time. This might seem like an obvious question, but let's ask it anyway: Why did Chrysler have to file for bankruptcy protection?

Chrysler ended up in bankruptcy for the same reason a lot of companies end up in bankruptcy - neither Chrysler nor the government could convince all of the stakeholders to take the deal that the government had proposed. You had a handful of hedge funds that were secured creditors that didn't want to take the deal, presumably figuring they were likely to fare better in bankruptcy than with the deal the Obama administration was offering, which was in the neighborhood of 30 cents on the dollar. [Eds note: According to this Bloomberg story, the three holdouts included Stairway Capital Advisers, OppenheimerFunds Inc., and Perella Weinberg Capital Management LP. Earlier today, the group said it was "systematically excluded" from participating in talks with the government.]

Okay, so how will this issue get resolved?

So here's the thing: the bankruptcy code has a provision, section 1129(a)(7), which lays out what's called the "best interest" test. That test provides that each creditor or interest holder will receive at least as much under the plan as it would in a liquidation of the debtor in a chapter 7 case. So the hedge funds, which have interests that are 100 percent secured by Chrysler's assets, are going to presumably try to prove that they'd get more than 30 cents or so on the dollar if Chrysler were liquidated.

But this is a hypothetical, right? Nobody's saying anything about a Chapter 7 liquidation.

That's right. This is just a hypothetical. But it could well get litigated, which would basically amount to a battle of expert [witnesses], who would testify as to what value would be rendered through a liquidation of Chrysler's assets.

It seems that they might do better in a liquidation given the interest they hold, right?

Not necessarily. Liquidations are often incredibly messy, and often yield far less than it might appear at the outset.

President Obama spoke today and said that he was hopeful this could all be worked out in 30-60 days. Does that seem realistic to you?

Not if you get into this best interest test. That's just not something that plays out in 30-60 days. That's an extraordinarily optimistic time-frame. I've also heard that what Chrysler intends to do is sell its good assets to Fiat and leave the bad assets behind. That might be a workable idea, but that's also going to be tough to complete in 30 to 60 days.

Beyond that, you never really know what other conflicts might surface. The Chrysler dealers, for instance, recently hired counsel [eds., Arnold & Porter], which says to me that they might object to any thought the government might have to Chrysler shedding dealerships.

Furthermore, the Chrysler plan does contemplate benefit reductions for both current employees and retirees. The United Auto Workers have agreed to modifications in regard to current plan-holders, but it wouldn't be shocking if retirees came out and objected. The point is that working through these disputes takes time - so it's very hard to know how long this might take.

And how will Fiat's role play out in all this?

You know, that's murky to me. The word is that they plan to present to the court a deal with Fiat, but what it would look like or whether a judge would approve it seems unclear right now.

Let's talk briefly about the lawyering here. I take it Corinne Ball's going to be quite busy over the next few days.

Very busy. The first few days after a filing, you're working pretty much 24/7. My guess, however, is that she and her team have already been working around the clock. I will say this: I've known Corinne for 30 years, and she may well be the smartest and most imaginative lawyer I've ever met. There's really no one better, in my opinion.

Thanks for taking the time.

My pleasure.

See and Post Comments: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/04/30/making-some-sense-of-the-chrysler-bankrutpcy-filing#mod=djemWEB&reflink=djemWEB&reflink=djemWLB


Chrysler: Detroit's Pain is New York's Gain
It's official: Chrysler has filed for Chapter 11 in Gotham. Judge Arthur Gonzalez, who oversaw the Enron bankruptcy, will preside over the matter.

We have to imagine that there are many restructuring professionals in Detroit who are none too happy. Bankruptcy venue is a heated topic. Critics say that public companies file so often in New York and Delaware, because judges there are more apt to give debtors what they want, even if workers and creditors are the worse for it.

But many lawyers counter that New York and Delaware are popular venues, because the judges there are experienced in handling mega cases and bankruptcy law is highly evolved; thus, the argument goes, outcomes are more predictable in Manhattan and Wilmington. Many top restructuring professionals have stories about supposedly wacky rulings by bankruptcy judges in the provinces.

Click here and here for statistics from BankruptcyData.com, which show just how much power is wielded by the two Chap. 11 hotspots. Last year, for example, 62 of the 138 public-company bankruptcy filings landed in Delaware or the Southern District of New York; those 62 companies accounted for a whopping 93 percent of all of the public-company assets that were parked in bankruptcy court. So far this year, the 10 largest Chapter 11s - make that the 11 largest Chapter 11s- have all landed in . . . you guessed it.

Whether or not the NY/DE juggernaut is benign, this much is certain: there is some serious money on the line. Detroit professionals say Chrysler's New York restructuring will be more expensive and less convenient for many creditors, such as parts suppliers, that are based in the Midwest. The New York filing also likely means less in fees for Detroit lawyers and accountants.

"The Detroit bankruptcy bench is more than suitable to handle" the Chrysler matter, Detroit-area lawyer Stephen Gross says. A Detroit judge, he adds, may be more apt than one near Wall Street to stick it to bondholders - a major constituency in the Chrysler case. "Judges here realize the magnitude of what will happen if [Big 3 auto] companies were to go out of business. The judge live in these communities."

See and Post Comments: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/04/30/chrysler-detroits-pain-is-new-yorks-gain#mod=djemWEB&reflink=djemWEB&reflink=djemWLB


Is the 'Sisterhood' Over for Women Lawyers?
Being male (albeit a male with a sexually indeterminate first name) we're not going to weigh in too deeply on this one. But here's the provocative question laid out in a piece by Vivia Chen in next month's American Lawyer: Are female bosses tougher for women to work for than are male bosses? And if so, why?

The article, called The End of the Sisterhood, establishes forthwith that the so-called "sisterhood" of female lawyers is, at least on its surface, alive and well. Writes Chen:

The sisterhood of lawyers has never been more potent. In conference rooms and swanky restaurants, women across the ranks-senior partners and associates, general counsel, and staff attorneys-are brainstorming about what it takes for women to succeed in a profession that's still predominantly male. Over sushi, cosmos, and the occasional mani/pedi treatment, they are bonding, united in the mission for gender equality. The message is clear: Women are united, and they want their sisters to succeed.

However, continues Chen, below the surface lies a churn of competing desires and emotions.

Some members of the sorority tell another story: that women-particularly their immediate superiors-can be their worst tormentors. Fact is, despite the veneer of harmony and the decades of shared struggle, there's tension on the women's front. Talk to any group of women lawyers, and there will be plenty of war stories on the betrayals-real or perceived-that they have experienced at the hands of other women.

One of the nice things about Chen's piece is its clarity: she makes no bones about what she thinks drives this: expectations. "Women expect other women to be more empathetic and nicer-or at least hope they'll be," she writes. "When their women bosses aren't, some women feel betrayed. And that betrayal can feel especially sharp and personal coming from someone who shares XX chromosomes."

At the same time, Chen acknowledges that there might be something sexist in the very identification of this oft-perceived phenomenon. "It's a very dismissive notion," says Lauren Rikleen, the author of "Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women's Success in the Law." Says Rikleen: "There's no counterpart to the term 'catfight' when men compete against each other for client credit."

LB Readers, especially women LB readers, we'd really love to hear from you on this one.

See and Post Comments: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/04/30/is-the-sisterhood-over-for-women-lawyers#mod=djemWEB&reflink=djemWEB&reflink=djemWLB


Jones Day's Corinne Ball is 'Dealing With the World'
If you can't make a go of it in bankruptcy in this market, it's time to dust off that application to dental school. - Aric Press, editor-in-chief of the American Lawyer, April 28, 2009.

Well, it's become fairly clear that Harvey Miller and his merry band of bankruptcy lawyers at Weil Gotshal aren't going to be administering injections of Novacaine anytime soon. And we can bet that neither will Corinne Ball, co-head of the restructuring practice at Jones Day (and a Weil Gotshal alumna herself). For months, Ball has been working behind the scenes on the restructuring of Chrysler LLC and going forward, with the car-maker's bankruptcy filing reportedly expected later today, she's likely to play an even larger role in the fate of the company.

This Reuters story from Wednesday gets into who Ball is (charismatic, hard-working) and the Herculean job she's got in front of her. The money quote comes from Albert Togut of Togut, Segal & Segal, who writes:

"There's a lot going on here that you don't have in a normal bankruptcy case - political considerations, labor unions concerned about precedent, virtually every community in the country impacted by a meltdown. . . She's dealing with the world."

LB Personal Anecdote of the Day: Whenever things in our life get really lousy, we're inclined to think back to two days we spent at the Washington, D.C., office of what was then called Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue in the fall of 1992. We were fresh out of college and could barely brush our teeth let alone do anything of any usefulness in a real office, yet, through a temp agency, we were summoned to the Jones Day offices, where we were seated in a dimly lit conference room and asked to count sheets of paper for eight hours and scratch down our tally on a legal pad. That's it. Just count pieces of paper. Two days, eight hours a day. And yet, a year later, we were off to law school. Go figure.

See and Post Comments: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/04/30/jones-days-corinne-ball-is-dealing-with-the-world#mod=djemWEB&reflink=djemWEB&reflink=djemWLB


For Firms From London to Chicago, the Struggle Continues
We're a little wary of flooding these pages with every last tale of gloom-and-doom from the world of BigLaw. After all, we've arguably given you your dose for the week with Wednesday's spotlight on the AmLaw 100 numbers, which weren't pretty (click here and here).

But there are a couple more stories out that we'd be remiss in not showing you. The Financial Times on Wednesday featured a piece about the UK-based firms, which have arguably gone even further than their U.S.-based counterparts in job-slashing. For perhaps the first time in our lives, we felt a modicum of sympathy for law-firm partners, after reading this excerpt:

For the partners forced to leave, the shock has been profound. Recruiters report a surge in demand from former partners who, as Kevin Cooper of Palm Legal International Consulting, puts it, "have found themselves in a situation they never thought they would be in". He describes the shock of a securitisation specialist who has been asked to leave only five years after becoming a partner. "He was absolutely mortified," he says. "He thought you had a job from the time you became a partner in your early 30s until you were 55."

We can only imagine. Say what you'd like about law-firm partners, most have worked their tails off, made enormous sacrifices, and - yes - are pretty darn good lawyers. To find yourself out on your can after having grabbed a piece of the brass ring, must, for some, trigger nothing short of despair.

An article in today's Chicago Tribune takes a look at the AmLaw numbers at the Windy City firms. The results were grim across Chicago, but not as bad as in cities like New York, where firms arguably had greater exposure to the financial sector.

See and Post Comments: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/04/30/for-firms-from-london-to-chicago-the-struggle-continues#mod=djemWEB&reflink=djemWEB&reflink=djemWLB


'Blight' Gunking Up Post-Kelo Eminent Domain Reforms
Few Supreme Court opinions have riled up the masses in recent years like 2005's Kelo v. City of New London. In the Kelo ruling, the court held that governments can take property for the purpose of promoting "economic development," a broader justification than the court had previously allowed for a "taking" under the Fifth Amendment. Rudy Giuliani slammed the ruling. And a group shortly after the ruling came down proposed "taking" the farmhouse of Justice David Souter, who signed onto the majority opinion.

In the years following, more than 40 states passed laws aimed at limiting the power of so-called "eminent domain," including measures to remove "economic development" as a justification for seizing property. Click here for a story out today by the WSJ's Nathan Koppel.

But Koppel writes that in many states, the effort to blunt the impact of the Kelo ruling has proven elusive. The problem is that many states still authorize the seizure of property that is deemed "blighted," a term often defined so broadly that it enables "virtually any property to be condemned," says Ilya Somin, a professor at George Mason University School of Law.

As a result, property-rights advocates say, states should, and some are trying to, adopt legislation that redefines blight.

Shortly after the Kelo ruling came down, Texas passed legislation designed to limit the sort of seizures authorized by Kelo, but carved out an exception for blight. But some Texas lawmakers are wondering whether to go further, and have introduced legislation that would require blight determinations to be made on a property-by-property basis.

Marvin Rosenbaum, whose family runs a bus company in El Paso, supports the proposed Texas measure. In 2006, he says, he learned that one of his company's bus terminals was in a broad swath of downtown El Paso that was declared blighted, as part of the city's effort to revitalize the area with condominiums, hotels and stores. "We aren't blighted at all," Rosenbaum says. "Blight should be determined parcel by parcel so that you don't suffer due to the neglect of others."

Jim Roos (pictured) has been a long-time warrior against the use of eminent domain. Click here to see an interview with Roos from the documentary "Begging for Billionaires," which is critical of eminent domain and is due to premiere May 2 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival.

See and Post Comments: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/04/30/blight-getting-in-the-way-of-post-kelo-eminent-domain-reforms#mod=djemWEB&reflink=djemWEB&reflink=djemWLB


Justice Kennedy: The Man in the Middle (Once Again)?
One of the more high-profile arguments of the term took place today at the U.S. Supreme Court. At stake: a key part of one of the most far-reaching pieces of civil-rights legislation ever passed in the U.S.

We've blogged about the case before (click here and here). The quick recap: The case, called Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder, involves the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The section requires nine mostly Southern states and a host of jurisdictions in other states to obtain federal approval, or "preclearance," before making changes to voting procedures. The preclearance requirement, originally set to expire five years after the law's passage, has been repeatedly extended, most recently in 2006, when President Bush signed legislation extending it another 25 years.

The Northwest Austin case was developed by conservative activists opposed to racially conscious government programs. In it, a small tax district agreed to be the plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking exemption from Section 5. The district argues first that should be permitted to "bailout" - the term in election law has nothing to do with recent government economic policies - of Section 5, which the act allows certain government entities to do. If that's denied, it argues that Section 5 on its face exceeds Congress's 15th Amendment power to fight racial bias in voting.

A special three-judge court in Washington upheld the constitutionality of the preclearance requirement in May, saying that Congress had acted reasonably in making the judgment that voting discrimination persists.

The arguments took place on Wednesday. In attendance: Jess Bravin, the WSJ's Supreme Court reporter (and who also wrote on the case for the WSJ earlier this month). We checked in with him for the deets.

Hi Jess. Thanks, as usual, for taking the time. So this was the big one of the term, eh?

It was one of them, certainly. It was the last argument of the term. After this, there's a brief break for the court before the final push of opinions are crafted and issued, typically in June.

So it didn't exactly have the feel of the last day of school before summer break, eh?

No. More like reading period - those few days before the big push for final exams begins.

Okay. So who was doing the talking today?

For the utility district, the plaintiff in the case, it was Greg Coleman. Coleman is a former clerk to Justice Thomas, and former Texas solicitor general [ed note: and a former Weil Gotshal partner]. Coleman is a well-regarded litigator. He was here recently arguing on behalf of the white firefighters in Connecticut - so he's played a big role in two of the big cases of the term that have to do with racial issues.

Neal Katyal argued on behalf of the government. Katyal's a law professor at Georgetown, a former clerk to Justice Breyer and is now the deputy solicitor general.

Debo Adegbile, litigation director for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, argued on behalf of several minority voters who intervened in support of Section 5.

So what was the utility district arguing for?

A couple of things. First, there's a way to gain an exemption from the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, and that's if you can demonstrate that your jurisdiction hasn't had any problems in 10 years. It's happened in a number of counties in Virginia, for example. This is called a "bailout." But the district court rejected the suit, because only government units that conduct voter registration are eligible for bailout. The utility district does not register voters or conduct elections-that's done by Travis County, which, incidentally, filed an amicus brief on the other side.

But they were also making what's called a 'facial challenge' to the law, arguing that the preclearance requirement was unconstitutional because the intrusion into state autonomy was not justified by the threat to voting rights.

How'd the arguments go?

Well, we came into this term-ending showdown with a fairly good sense of how the justices view this issue, based on prior opinions and prior statements. We know that Justice Breyer, who was a Supreme Court clerk, (for Justice Arthur Goldberg) at the height of the civil-rights movement has described the Warren Court as having been on a mission to eradicate racism. In his view, Congress is entitled to take all kinds of measures to eradicate pernicious racism and disenfranchisement. But we also know, on the other hand, that Justice Alito wrote on his job application to the Reagan Justice Department that he was squarely against the reapportionment decisions of the Warren Court.

So in this instance, I think many of the Justices had deeply held and sophisticated views already established. So for them perhaps it's an opportunity less to elucidate factual points than it is to engage in a conversation with each other, to raise provocative points to colleagues, most notably to Justice Kennedy. Justice Kennedy is the middle ground here and may well cast the deciding vote.

For example, Justice Souter made it clear that he doesn't see any problem with Section 5. He made a point of referring to the lengthy compiled congressional record that underlies the 2006 Voting Rights Act renewal. He could have been thinking of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in last month in an unrelated voting rights case, Bartlett v. Strickland, which said that "racial discrimination and racially polarized voting are not ancient history. Much remains to be done to ensure that citizens of all races have equal opportunity to share and participate in our democratic processes and traditions."

Justice Ginsburg also pointed out that Section 5 was last extended in 2006 - and that it will stay in effect for 25 more years. She observed that 25 years is the same period of time that Justice O'Connor said that we might need affirmative action in the 2003 University of Michigan case, Grutter v. Bollinger. Justice Ginsburg is answering a possible question that someone like Justice Kennedy might have - is the Section 5 regime ever going to end? (Of course, Justice Kennedy dissented in Grutter.)

On the right, we saw some questions today that might be attempts to answer something else on Justice Kennedy's mind - why is it that the only certain states are singled out? One question Justice Alito asked: why is California not covered by the section when the voting registration disparity between Hispanics and whites is greater than in Texas, a covered state? This question seemed to trouble Justice Kennedy.

So it really sounds like it was an exercise by either side in trying to persuade Justice Kennedy?

Well, you've got to throw in the disclaimer that, of course, you never know what the justices are up to, exactly, but you can bet that there will be significant attempts to address Justice Kennedy's questions and points.

Well, it should make for an interesting June. Thanks much for the conversation, Jess.


See and Post Comments: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/04/29/justice-kennedy-the-man-in-the-middle-once-again#mod=djemWEB&reflink=djemWEB&reflink=djemWLB


Would a Pa. GOP Voter Have a Cause of Action Against Arlen Specter?
The thought crossed our mind earlier today, and we assumed immediately that the answer is no - that a lawsuit filed by a Pennsylvania GOP voter or the Republican Party of Pennsylvania would fall flat in front of a judge. But we weren't exactly sure why the answer would be no.

After all, one could argue, Pennsylvania voters - especially a Republican - didn't bargain for this when they pulled the lever for Specter in the 2004 election. In other words, that there was some sort of implied contract perhaps between, say, a Republican voter and Specter himself to serve out his term as a Republican. Or, maybe, some sort of actionable claim of disenfranchisement?

Acknowledging that our musings were a bit half-baked, we reached out for help, in this instance Rick Hasen, an election-law specialist at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles (where have you gone, Loyola 2L?) and author of the Election Law Blog.

Hasen quickly confirmed our suspicions - that a switch in party is not actionable. "There are other countries where if you switch parties, you might lose your seat in parliament, but not here," he said. "Here, you can switch teams."

Hasen said that no binding contract is created when a voter casts a ballot. The spark of this idea, Hasen told us, can be found in a speech that Edmund Burke gave to the Electors of Bristol in 1774. Quoth Burke:

[A]uthoritative instructions, mandates issued, which a member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience; these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court picked up Burke's language in a 2001 case called Cook v. Gralike.

At issue in Cook was whether an amendment to the Missouri state constitution, which instructed each member of Missouri's congressional delegation "to use all of his or her delegated powers to pass the Congressional Term Limits Amendment" violated the U.S. Constitution.

Justice Stevens, writing for a unanimous Court, held that it did violate the U.S. Cosntitution. He explained that Article VIII is designed to favor candidates who are willing to support a term-limits amendment and, as such, was an impermissible attempt to regulate an election.

In Footnote 16, Stevens wrote:

Of course, whether the members of a representative assembly should be bound by the views of their constituents, or by their own judgment, is a matter that has been the subject of debate since even before the Federal Union was established. For instance, in his classic speech to the electors of Bristol, Edmund Burke set forth the latter view.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Edmund Burke made his speech to the electors of Bristol in 1854.

See and Post Comments: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/04/29/would-a-pa-gop-voter-have-a-cause-of-action-against-arlen-specter#mod=djemWEB&reflink=djemWEB&reflink=djemWLB




Jim Roos discusses his fight against states' authority to condemn private property for economic development, in a documentary "Begging for Billionaires," which looks at the use of eminent domain in Missouri.


California financier Danny Pang was released on a $1 million bond and confined to his home with electronic monitoring.


* * *

MBIA is suing Merrill Lynch to cancel about half of its $5.7 billion worth of loss-ridden credit default swap contracts, and said it will seek compensation and damages for payments it made to other counterparties.


* * *

The Florida Attorney General's office moved one step closer in its effort to put former Countrywide CEO Mozilo on trial.


* * *

California financier Danny Pang was released on a $1 million bond and confined to his home with electronic monitoring.


* * *

Spain's best-known investigating magistrate launched a formal criminal probe into allegations that the Bush administration tortured prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.


* * *

Many states still authorize the seizure of property that is deemed "blighted," but the term is defined so broadly that almost any structure could be condemned. - Video: Nonprofits Losing Ground to Eminent Domain



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