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Legal Briefs: Eight local law professors urge legalization of marijuana

By Amanda Becker
Monday, October 18, 2010; 14

Eight local law professors are among a group of prominent legal educators urging the passage of a California ballot proposition that would remove criminal penalties for growing and using small amounts of marijuana.

In a letter posted on the Web site of Tax and Control Cannabis 2010 last week, professors from American, Georgetown, George Mason and George Washington universities endorsed Proposition 19, which will be on the California ballot in November.

"We write this open letter to encourage a wholesale rethinking of marijuana policy in this country," the professors wrote. "We find the present policies toward marijuana to be bankrupt, and urge their rethinking."

The professors said that the country's "wasteful and ineffective policy" toward marijuana usage has resulted in a "violent black market" and clogged court systems in California and elsewhere with nonviolent drug offenders. Instead, the professors suggested, California should pursue the taxation and regulation of cannabis "just like the State of New York did when it rolled back Prohibition 10 years before the nation as a whole."

Local professors who signed the endorsement included Angela J. Davis and Jenny Roberts of American University's Washington College of Law, Randy Barnett and Abbe Smith of Georgetown University Law Center, David E. Bernstein and Ilya Somin of George Mason University School of Law and Eric S. Sirulnik and Paul Butler of George Washington University School of Law. All said they were expressing their personal opinions, not those of their respective universities.

RING BEGINS SECOND TRIAL

Former lobbyist Kevin A. Ring is scheduled to be back in federal court this week for a second corruption trial over accusations that he provided government officials with meals, trips and other kickbacks. The first trial ended in a hung jury last October.

In August, U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle allowed the second case against the former associate of now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff to proceed, rejecting the argument of Ring's attorneys that it should be dismissed in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that narrowed the scope of an anti-corruption law known as the honest-services statute.

AKIN, ORRICK WILL NOT MERGE

Just days after Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe confirmed the firms were exploring a possible merger, they both announced that the discussions had ended.

Though District-based Akin Gump and San Francisco-based Orrick won't be forming the newest mega-firm, the two firms "appreciated the opportunity to have the discussions" and thought the process "confirmed their mutual respect for one another," representatives said.

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