Posts Tagged ‘House Judiciary Committee’
Friday, February 11th, 2011

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) of the House Judiciary Committee on Friday said he is drafting a bill for his panel that will modify patent reform legislation in the Senate.

Smith did not release specific details on his plans for the bill at the first House Judiciary intellectual property, competition and the Internet subcommittee hearing on patent reform. But the chairman noted he previously has backed stronger provisions on willful infringement, the venue for patent cases and the allotment of damages.

The Senate’s Patent Reform Act of 2011 includes provisions that would make it more difficult for a plaintiff to show that a defendant willfully infringed a patent and rein in improper venue shopping for patent cases. The legislation also has changes that would make challenges to granted patents simpler and give an inventor who files an application with the Patent and Trademark Office the patent first, switching from a “first-to-invent” system to a “first-to-file” system.

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved the bill without opposition. The bill is based on legislation introduced by Smith and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) in the 109th Congress. Members of Congress have introduced patent reform legislation in every Congress since then.

“While the Senate vehicle is a good start, I’m hoping we can work together with the other body to make additional improvements,” Smith said. “We need a few more tweaks to inhibit the abuses that gave rise to the project back in 2005.”

Smith has made patent reform a priority of the panel since taking over the gavel last month from Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) He said he created the intellectual property, competition and the Internet subcommittee in an effort to ensure that his committee attends to patent reform.

At the hearing on Friday, members of the intellectual property law community offered their views on the patent reform proposals.

Carl Horton, chief intellectual property counsel of General Electric Corp., said issues with willfulness, patent damages and venue don’t really need to be addressed because the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Federal Circuit already has tackled those matters. But he applauded a transition to a “first-to-file” system and the Senate bill’s provisions that would make challenges to granted patents simpler.

“The post-grant review procedures in [the Senate bill] … represent a workable compromise that I, as a practitioner, would love to have as an alternative to litigation to challenge the arguably invalid patents that occasionally issue,” said Horton, who was testifying on behalf of The Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, which represents companies including 3M Co., Pfizer Inc. and Motorola Inc.

David Simon, associate general counsel of intellectual property policy for Intel Corp., said the Patent and Trademark Office is the appropriate vehicle for improvements to the patent system, not major patent reform legislation. He testified on behalf of the Coalition for Patent Fairness, which counts Oracle Corp. and Google Inc. among its members. The organization opposes the Senate bill.

“Looking at the current state of the patent system, the need to address this set of issues as part of a larger comprehensive, substantive patent reform has passed,” Simon said in his written remarks. “Thanks to the leadership and action of the members of this committee, the courts and Patent and Trademark Office, to the extent possible, have reacted and addressed, in the short term, some of our most fundamental concerns.”

Republicans and Democrats on Friday urged the different factions on patent reform to reach a compromise.

“I’m urgently suggesting to the industries that they come back to the table and try to roll up their sleeves and find common ground on the patent reform bill so we can move this process forward,” said Rep. Melvin Watt of North Carolina, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary intellectual property, competition and the Internet subcommittee.

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Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

The House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected a measure to extend through December three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, the national security legislation passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

A coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans – both concerned about civil liberties  – came together to defeat the proposed extension on a 277-to-148 vote. Twenty-six Republicans voted with 122 Democrats against the measure, while 67 Democrats and 210 Republicans supported it. Ten members did not vote.

Without congressional action, the three controversial provisions will expire on Feb. 28. The provisions are “roving wiretaps” that follow a terrorism suspect’s changing use of phone and Internet records, a “lone wolf” provision allowing law enforcement to track a target that doesn’t have an affiliation with a specific group, and so-called Section 215 orders allowing investigators to freely gather a suspect’s business records.

The White House backs a measure by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for an extension that would last until December 2013.

The ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), opposed the House extension and urged his colleagues to vote no. In an official statement, he called the Patriot Act “one of the worst laws” passed in Congress and said the bill’s provisions “would authorize extraordinarily intrusive acts by the executive branch.”

Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader; Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top GOP member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for a permanent extension of the provisions instead.

But Tea Party leader Sen. Rand Paul, the newly elected Kentucky Republican, said he’s “had a lot of reservations” about the law and hasn’t decided whether he’ll vote to extend it when the Senate acts on the measure, likely later this month. Paul’s father, libertarian leader Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), opposed the Patriot Act when it was first approved in October 2001 and voted against the extension on Tuesday.

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Google Inc. will bring on the House Judiciary Committee antitrust counsel for the Republicans next month amid government scrutiny of the Internet giant’s proposed merger with a travel data firm.

Stewart Jeffries (Facebook)

Stewart Jeffries will join Google as Competition Policy Counsel on Feb. 7, a spokesman for the company told Main Justice on Friday. Jeffries has been the House Judiciary Committee antitrust counsel for the Republicans since 2007. He previously served as the House Judiciary constitution subcommittee counsel from 2004 to 2006, and as an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP from 2000 to 2003.

“Stewart brings deep experience on competition issues and has respect from both sides of the political aisle,” said Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich. “We’re excited for him to join us.”

A House Judiciary Committee spokeswoman declined to comment to Main Justice.

The Justice Department Antitrust Division is preparing a possible court case to stop Google’s $700 million acquisition of ITA Software Inc., which creates most of the software for online flight ticket sales, The Washington Post reported earlier this month. But the DOJ has not made a decision on whether to block the merger.

The House Judiciary Committee, under Democratic control last year, had its eye on the proposed merger. The panel held a hearing in September on competition in the digital marketplace, examining Google and its proposed merger with ITA. Witnesses at the hearing expressed concern that the Internet giant was stifling competition from smaller companies.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who is now the panel’s chairman, pushed back against the critics at the time.

“Just because a company is big does not mean it is bad,” Smith said, according to The Hill. “Just because competitors complain about a practice does not mean it is anti-competitive.”

Aruna Viswanatha contributed reporting.

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Friday, January 7th, 2011

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced subcommittee leadership assignments on Friday. Smith took the gavel this month when Republicans assumed control of the House.

“The House Judiciary Committee will focus on efforts to strengthen national security, protect intellectual property, prevent frivolous lawsuits and keep children safe from Internet sex predators.  All of this work begins in the subcommittees. Our new chairmen will promote policies that create jobs and keep America’s neighborhoods safe from crime,” he said in a statement.

The list of assignments:

Subcommittee on the Constitution:

Chairman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)
Vice-Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.)

Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law:

Chairman Howard Coble (R-N.C.)
Vice-Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)

Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security:

Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)
Vice-Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement:

Chairman Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.)
Vice-Chairman Steve King (R-Iowa)

Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet:

Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)
Vice-Chairman Howard Coble (R-N.C.)

Smith established the subcommittee on intellectual property and has emphasized its importance. Read more about the top priorities of this subcommittee in our report.

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Sam Ramer, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia and prosecutor in New York City, is now crime counsel to the House Judiciary Committee.

Ramer will be working under Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and is one of several counsels advising the panel, according to a House Judiciary aide.

A graduate of Brandeis University and Boston University Law School, Ramer attributes his keen interest in criminal law to his upbringing in South Bronx Section 8 public housing.  “The crime rate was through the roof, and I would see scared members of the community. It made a real impact on me; I wanted to make a change,” Ramer said in an interview with Main Justice.

After law school, Ramer returned to the Bronx, working in the District Attorney’s office for a few years. He then transferred to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office in Manhattan, an assignment that had personal meaning.”I always hated drugs as a kid,” he said. “This was a time when people thought New York City was ungovernable, that we’d never be able to fix the problem.”

He then returned to the District Attorney’s office in the Bronx and worked under the major crimes task force. His load included first-degree murder cases, gangs and large narcotics-trafficking cases. One case that stood out for him was an interstate gun-trafficking case involving the purchase and transport of 102 guns from Virginia to New York.

Six years later Ramer moved to the District of Columbia, where he served as Assistant U.S. Attorney. “Working with the Justice Department was a much more labor intensive and sophisticated process,” he said.

From there, he went to work for Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for a year and a half, providing legal guidance to senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Specifically, he prepared memoranda, presented issues, drafted questions and outlined expenses — something that Ramer had never done before. However, as a detailee, he was not allowed to work on nominations or oversight issues.

While he worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was pleased to see the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. But there were disappointments, too. He cited the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, in which he had hoped to see a provision authorizing U.S. Marshals permission to obtain administrative subpoenas, a tool afforded to agencies like the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, to pursue sex offenders. The subpoena power would have allowed U.S. Marshalls to seize items like rent records and credit card accounts to help the U.S. Marshals track down unregistered sex offenders through a paper trail.

As to why goals aren’t always accomplished, he has his own theories. Sometimes, he said, members run out of time, or issues  just fall off the radar.

“It’s an adversarial process and nothing like trial work. Everyone is extremely professional and wants good government policy,” he said. “It’s just different world views. The Democrats and Republicans are struggling for an overlapping world view over some policy concerns.”

This story has been corrected to reflect that Ramer worked for the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office in Manhattan.

Friday, December 17th, 2010

The House Democratic Caucus approved Rep. John Conyers of Michigan to be ranking member of the Judiciary Committee when the 112th Congress convenes in January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Thursday.

John Conyers (Gov)

Conyers, who has been chairman since 2007, will succeed Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) as ranking member in January, when the Republican takes the panel’s gavel. The 23-term Democrat previously served as ranking member from 1995 to 2007.

He has spent decades on the Judiciary Committee since coming to the House in 1965. Conyers is the second-longest serving House member after Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).

A spokesman for Conyers didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Tim Griffin (Tim Griffin for Congress)

Tom Marino (Tom Marino for Congress)

Two former U.S. Attorneys will join the House Judiciary Committee when the 112th Congress convenes next month.

Tim Griffin, from the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Tom Marino, from the Middle District of Pennsylvania, are both Republican freshmen.

Griffin took the helm of the U.S. Attorney’s office after the administration of President George W. Bush forced out former Little Rock U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins during the 2006 U.S. Attorney purge. Griffin was an aide to former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove before he became interim U.S. Attorney, and his installation in the post was widely viewed as an attempt by Rove to help his aide burnish his resume in a quest for higher office – which Griffin has now succeeded in obtaining.

Griffin will now sit alongside outgoing chairman Rep. John Conyers (Mich.) and other Judiciary Democrats who investigated the firings, which led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales amid allegations from Democrats that he wasn’t telling the truth about the apparent politicization of the federal prosecuting jobs.

Marino served as the Scranton-based U.S. Attorney from 2002 to 2007.

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Monday, December 13th, 2010

Incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) told Politico that he has “a good working relationship” with Attorney General Eric Holder even though they have different opinions on key law enforcement matters.

Lamar Smith (Getty Images)

Smith said he won’t be quick to subpoena Justice Department officials in his committee’s oversight of the DOJ when he takes the panel gavel from Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in January, despite a threat he made last fall to “issue subpoenas and find out what this administration has been doing that the American people don’t know.” The congressman, currently the top House Judiciary Republican, often pushed the DOJ over the last two years for more information on its policies, especially on national security issues.

The incoming chairman told the newspaper in a story published Monday that subpoenas are for “extraordinary circumstances.” The Republican, who met with Holder two weeks ago, said he expects the DOJ to cooperate with the committee.

“Obviously, there’s issues that we disagree on, some issues that we agree on,” Smith told Politico. “I consider us to have a good working relationship, and he’s looking forward to coming to testify before the Judiciary Committee.”

The incoming chairman has put efforts to enforce immigration laws, reform the patent system, fight child sexual exploitation, combat lawsuit abuse and improve national security on the top of his agenda.

Smith has been particularly critical of Holder’s support for the reading of Miranda warnings to terrorism suspects and his now-withdrawn decision to try self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and alleged accomplices in a New York federal court. The administration of President Barack Obama is now considering the use of military commissions as an option for the prosecutions of those Guantanamo Bay detainees after Republicans and Democrats raised concerns about Holder’s initial proposal.

Smith and his Republican colleagues have increased their attacks on the Attorney General’s support for using civilian courts to prosecute some terrorism suspects after a federal jury’s acquittal last month of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, on all but one count in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.

The House, which is still under Democratic control, last week approved legislation that would ban the Obama administration from prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees in civilian courts until Sept. 30. The provision was part of a must-pass continuing resolution to fund the government in the current fiscal year, since Congress has not passed regular appropriations bills.

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Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Congressional Republicans on Wednesday officially named Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas as the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of the Justice Department.

Lamar Smith (Getty Images)

Smith, the panel’s top Republican for the past four years, will take the gavel held by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) when a new Congress convenes in January. The appointment was expected after Republicans secured a majority in the House during last month’s election.

“The House Judiciary Committee is often referred to as the guardian of the Constitution,” Smith said in a statement. “We must protect the principles of liberty, equality and justice for all Americans.”

The incoming chairman said he would focus on efforts to enforce immigration laws, reform the patent system, fight child sexual exploitation, combat lawsuit abuse and improve national security. Read his full agenda here.

The chairman can subpoena DOJ officials. Smith, who has expressed numerous concerns about the DOJ under Attorney General Eric Holder, said in September that the most important benefit of a Republican majority in the House would probably be the authority to “issue subpoenas and find out what this administration has been doing that the American people don’t know.”

The Republican has expressed concern about several matters, including the DOJ’s handling of a controversial voter intimidation case involving members of the New Black Panther Party/ the reading of Miranda warnings to terrorism suspects and Holder’s now-withdrawn decision to try self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and alleged accomplices in a New York federal court. The Barack Obama administration is now considering the use of military commissions as an option for the prosecutions of those Guantanamo Bay detainees after Republicans and Democrats raised concerns about Holder’s initial proposal.

Smith and his Republican colleagues have increased their attacks on Holder’s support for using civilian courts to prosecute some terrorism suspects after a federal jury’s acquittal last month of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, on all but one count in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.

The House, which is still under Democratic control, on Wednesday endorsed legislation that would ban the Obama administration from prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees in civilian courts until Sept. 30. The provision was part of a must-pass continuing resolution to fund the government in the current fiscal year, since Congress has not passed regular appropriations bills.

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

The likely chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in the next Congress outlined his agenda, telling Main Justice Wednesday that he will work hard with the Justice Department to combat crime and keep Americans safe.

Lamar Smith (gov)

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the panel, which oversees the DOJ, said he would focus on efforts to improve national security, enforce immigration laws, reform the patent system, combat lawsuit abuse and fight child sexual exploitation if named chairman.

The chairman can subpoena DOJ officials in his oversight role. Smith, who has been highly critical of the DOJ under Attorney General Eric Holder, said in September that the biggest advantage of a Republican majority in the House would probably be the ability to “issue subpoenas and find out what this administration has been doing that the American people don’t know.”

The House member has raised concerns about several issues, including the DOJ’s decisions in the controversial voter intimidation case involving members of the New Black Panther Party, a proposal to try self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators in a New York federal court, and reading Miranda warnings to terrorism suspects.

“Oversight is not a game of cat and mouse between Congress and the White House as the media often paints it,” Smith said in a statement to Main Justice. “Oversight is the legitimate and necessary work of Congress to improve the operation and function of the executive branch and ensure that federal agencies are operating in the best interests of the American people.”

Here’s his agenda:

1)      Strengthen National Security:  In the last year, there were three terrorist attempts (one successful) in the U.S.  And in recent weeks, several additional terrorist plots were uncovered.  The terrorist threat has not diminished.  We have an urgent need to increase our efforts to prevent terrorist attacks.

We should not close the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon has reported that 20 percent of released Gitmo terrorists have returned to planning attacks against Americans.

We should treat terrorists as enemy combatants, not U.S. citizens.  Giving foreign terrorists constitutional rights has no legal precedent and makes it harder for prosecutors to obtain convictions.  We should bring foreign terrorists to trial in military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, not in civilian courts in the U.S.

2)     Enforce Immigration Laws:  The enforcement of our immigration laws is critical to both our national security and economic prosperity.  We need to know who is entering our country and why.  The Judiciary Committee should enact policies that will better secure our border and discourage illegal immigration, human smuggling and drug trafficking.  In the last five years, over 28,000 people have been killed along the border because of drug-related violence.  More than 1,000 law enforcement personnel have died.  Highway signs in Arizona more than 100 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border warn drivers that the area is unsafe because of drug and alien smugglers.

American citizens should not have to fear for their lives on U.S. soil!  If the federal government enforced immigration laws, we could better secure the border and better protect U.S. residents.

Work site enforcement helps ensure that jobs go to unemployed citizens and legal immigrants. Unfortunately, work site enforcement efforts have dropped 77 percent in the last two years.

Citizens and legal immigrant workers should not have to compete with illegal immigrants for scarce jobs.  Currently 14.8 million people are unemployed.  Meanwhile, there are an estimated 7 million illegal immigrants in the work force.  We could free up millions of jobs for Americans and legal immigrants if we enforced our immigration laws against illegal immigrant workers.

3)     Patent Reform: Nearly 30 percent of American workers are found in intellectual property industries such as health care, entertainment, renewable energy and information-technology.  Patents protect this intellectual property and encourage the creativity and innovation that generate jobs and increase productivity.

The theft of intellectual property costs Americans billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.  When inventors and businesses invest in research and development that result in patents, they have the right to benefit from their efforts.  The American economy benefits too by the jobs these patents create.

We need to improve our patent system to better protect intellectual property and help ensure that good patents are approved more quickly.  There is bipartisan support for much-needed revisions to our patent system, which has not been significantly updated in over half a century.

4)     Lawsuit Abuse Reform:  We can reduce health care costs by enacting lawsuit abuse reform.  We should consider ways to limit frivolous lawsuits that drive up health care costs.  According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 40 percent of medical malpractice suits filed in the U.S. are “without merit.”  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that lawsuit abuse reform would save federal taxpayers $54 billion over the next decade.  This would help American families struggling with health care costs and protect medical personnel who are overburdened by the cost of malpractice insurance.

5)     Combating Child Pornography/Child Sexual Exploitation:  The Internet continues to be a playground for sex predators and pedophiles. Since the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created the CyberTipline 12 years ago, electronic service providers have reported almost eight million images and videos of sexually exploited children. Many children are under assault by sex predators on the Internet. One in three kids receives unsolicited sexual content online and one in seven children is solicited for sex online.  We need stronger data retention laws to help investigators track down predators who create and distribute child pornography online.