Monday, March 14, 2005

Two more opinions

#1: Torts - Death on the high seas and concurrent jurisdiction
The Court unanimously upheld a wrongful death award against a shipping company, the decedent's employer. The jury found that the defendant was negligent under the Jones Act (46 U.S.C. Appen. section 688 et seq.), which extends the protections of the Federal Employers' Liability Act to seamen. The shipping company argued that the CA court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's maritime claims because the decedent's work for the defendant took place outside of CA's territorial waters. The Court rejected that argument, concluding that CA state courts possess concurrent jurisdiction with federal courts over Jones Act claims, and that the CA trial court properly exercised that jurisdiction. The case is Donaldson v. National Marine.

The Court's (mercifully short - see today's other case) opinion is available here.

#2: Criminal law - automatic appeal
In People v. Panah, the Court affirmed the death sentence of a defendant convicted of the 1993 murder of an 8-year-old girl. The jury found the murder was committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of the crimes of sodomy and lewd acts upon a child under 14. The defendant was 22 at the time. Scanning the 133-page opinion, written by Justice Moreno, brought to mind the recent LA Times article (see March 5 post) noting that each execution carried out in CA costs taxpayers over a quarter billion dollars.

Finally, one cannot help but be struck by the extraordinarily tragic nature of a little girl brutally murdered by a young defendant who had been physically and sexually abused as a child himself. As long as the death penalty exists, this case certainly represents a particularly appropriate one for its application. However, perhaps the hundreds of millions of dollars spent administering the capital punishment system could be more fruitfully spent on attempting to cure the pervasive evils of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

The Court's unanimous opinion is available here.


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