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Can Simple Statistics Predict Supreme Court's Outcome?:  At Blog of Legal Times, Tony Mauro writes that if you want a good predictor of how a Supreme Court case will turn out, count up the questions from justices aimed at each side.  According to Supreme Court scholars, the side who gets the most questions loses.  Lee Epstein, William Landes and Richard Posner have recently written a paper on the subject, in which they found the questions are "not just a matter of more questions being needed to probe a weaker case, they concluded, but also a function of strategies by certain justices about the best way to persuade their colleagues to join their side."  Mauro's post applies Epstein's theory to the Citizens United case argued this week.  By the count of National Law Journal intern Daniel Newhauser, the lawyers who challenged the precedents and the law, Theodore Olson and Floyd Abrams, received 47 questions from the justices.  Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Seth Waxman, who were defending the precedents and the underlying statute, got 56 questions from the Court.   If research is correct, we could predict that Kagan and Waxman lost.  But, as Mauro cautions, "[t]ime will tell how accurate the difference was this time in predicting who won and lost."

The Trouble With Closing Prisons:  Today, at Sentencing Law and Policy, Doug Berman posted some excerpts from Jonathan Saltzman and Peter Schworm's Boston Globe article discussing Massachusetts fear that it may have to close down several prison facilities.  Saltzman and Schworm report that the prison system is facing almost $100 million in budget cuts that could force widescale layoffs and the closure of several facilities.  Harold W. Clarke, Commissioner of the Department of Correction, is apparently considering closing as many as four prisons and laying off 300 employees.  Experts, like Leslie Walker, Executive Director of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, which provides legal services to inmates, are troubled by the proposal.  "You have prisoners locked in a cell together for 19 hours a day, with a resultant increase in violence.  It's a mistake that could prove tragic."  If proposed budget cuts are adopted, the Department of Correction will "lose what it costs to run about four prisons."  Some worry that if the prisons close there will be no place to put them, and inmates will "force-feed a reentry program that clearly wasn't supposed to be a reentry program."

Cannot Sue Defense Contractors for Abu Ghraib Abuses:  According to Jonathan Adler at Volokh Conspiracy and Mike Scarcella at Blog of Legal Times, a federal court of appeals in Washington ruled today that a claim by Iraqi nationals were preempted and then affirmed the dismissal of their claims under the Alien Tort Statute.  Adler's post gives brief overview of the decision, and then points to Scarcella's post at Blog of Legal Times.  Scarcella reports that in Saleh v. Titan Group, Judge Silberman upheld a lower court decision granting summary judgment in favor of Titan, one of the government contractors, and reversed dismissal of summary judgment for the other contractor, CACI International.  In the suit, plaintiffs alleged that Abu Ghraib prisoners were beaten, electrocuted and raped by the contractors.  They also alleged wrongful death, assault and battery.  The majority's decision to dismiss the claims appears partially motivated by its desire to prevent lawsuits that will "hamper military flexibility and cost-effectiveness, as contractors may prove reluctant to expose their employees to litigation-prone combat situations."  Judge Silberman also noted that the plaintiffs retain rights under the Foreign Claims Act.  Judge Merrick Garland dissented.  He took issue with the majority panel's doubt on whether the plaintiffs were subjected to abuse, and wrote "[n]"o act of Congress and no judicial precedent bars the plaintiffs from suing the private contractors."

How Can We Improve Forensic Evidence?:
  CrimProf Blog provides a link to Caleb Groos FindLaw article, "Unproven Forensic Evidence: What to Do Next?"  Groos article gives an update on the National Academy of Sciences' report identifying serious deficiencies in forensic sciences and calling for major reforms.  The Senate Judiciary committee took up the issue this week to address what can be done to fix the deficiencies found in the National Academy's report.  One of the remedies proposed by the Academy was a National Institute of Forensic Science to establish standard forensics practices and set crime lab accreditation standards.  According to an NPR piece, citing a Senate Judiciary Committee staffer,  such an Institute could be dead on arrival.  Groos writes, "[e]conomic bad times make it difficult, as does opposition from groups including The National Association of District Attorneys, who do not want a new federal regulator overseeing local forensic practices." 

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