News Roundup

execution needle and gavel

Image from Shutterstock.com.

Courts delay 3 federal executions scheduled for this week

Federal courts have delayed three federal executions scheduled for this week. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan of the District of Columbia halted the executions of Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs until at least March 16 to allow the men to recover from COVID-19 infections. On Monday, U.S. District Judge James Patrick Hanlon of the Southern District of Indiana delayed the execution of Lisa Montgomery to conduct a hearing into whether she is competent to be executed. A federal appeals court also issued an execution stay for Montgomery to resolve a question related to the Federal Death Penalty Act. ABA President Patricia Lee Refo asked that all three executions be delayed in a Jan. 12 letter to Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Refo cited court findings that carrying out the executions would create a substantial risk of COVID-19 transmission at the federal prison in Indiana where they would be carried out and in the surrounding community. (The Washington Post, the New York Times, Newsweek, Hanlon’s order, ABA press release, ABA letter)

BigLaw partner accused of sex harassment leaves firm

Greenberg Traurig partner Joel Katz has left the law firm by “mutual understanding” about a year after he was accused of sexual harassment by Deborah Dugan, the ousted CEO and president of the Recording Academy, formally the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Katz, the founder of Greenberg’s entertainment practice, resigned as of Dec. 31. He has denied Dugan’s allegations. (The Daily Report Online, Law360, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Biden announces more White House counsel appointments

President-elect Joe Biden has announced 21 lawyers who will work with Dana Remus, his White House counsel. Several of the lawyers have had clerkships with U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. Many have BigLaw experience. (Law.com, Bloomberg Law, Law360)

Ethics case dismissed in case of missing date stamp

The Indiana Supreme Court has dismissed an ethics grievance filed against Indiana lawyer James Ayers, who was sanctioned by a federal appeals court after his office left a date stamp off a photo in an appeal of his client’s slip-and-fall case against Walmart. The appeals court said it imposed a $1,000 sanction because Ayers had maintained that the photo was taken on the date of the fall without a sufficient factual basis. Ayers had self-reported the allegations to the Indiana Supreme Court’s disciplinary commission. The commission told Ayers in a letter that the commission grievance “does not raise a substantial question of misconduct that would warrant disciplinary action.” (Disciplinary commission letter)