Friday, January 14, 2005

United States v. Wells (9th Cir. - January 11, 2005)

The facts of this case are worth reading, both because the lawyer for the defendant said some interesting things to his client (e.g., that he "didn't represent snitches" -- not exactly the kind of friendly advice that you'd like to hear if you were looking for guidance from your counsel about all of your various options) and because it involved a rare business that simultaneously mined for gold and cooked methamamphetamine. I guess the business synergy there is that the former is traditional gold and the latter the modern-day version.

The issue in this case was whether the defendant was entitled to a new trial because his attorney had a conflict of interest arising out of the fact that his lawyer was being paid by a co-defendant. Judge Berzon joined with Judge Hamilton (who was sitting by designation from the Fourth Circuit) to outvote Judge Betty Fletcher. If you can't guess which side was which, you need to do some homework on your Ninth Circuit judges. Not that political beliefs at all affect judicial decisions. No, not at all.

Here's a hint: Remember that Judge Hamilton is from the Fourth Circuit. Not that the Fourth Circuit is the most conservative circuit in the nation. No, not at all. Bonus hint: When Judge Hamilton was nominated, the first person who spoke in his favor was Strom Thermond, who had known Judge Hamilton his entire life. Now that's a judge you want on your panel if you're a criminal defendant, eh?