Election, Iraq War Named Top Legal Stories of Year

Dec 27, 2004, 00:00 ET from Thomson West

    EAGAN, Minn., Dec. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The war in Iraq and the U.S.
 presidential election were the most significant legal events of 2004. A survey
 of top lawyers and legal scholars by Thomson West, the foremost provider of
 integrated information solutions to the U.S. legal market, said the two events
 could have significant and lasting impact on the U.S. legal system.
     Issues raised by the Iraq War stretch across nearly the entire spectrum of
 law, say some legal scholars. "The waging of war in Iraq and the war on
 terrorism directly raise issues such as treaties, treatment of prisoners,
 domestic control of political activity and fundamental norms of due process,"
 states Howard Anawalt, author of IP Strategy: Complete Intellectual Property
 Planning, Access & Protection. "What we do and can do in the world of law
 depends on attention to such matters. As a result, the legal issues raised by
 the war will affect nearly all aspects of law."
     The legal scholars in the Thomson West survey said the 2004 presidential
 election was the other top legal story of the year, and not only because of
 its lack of the legal challenges that marred the 2000 election, which was
 ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The re-election of President
 Bush will affect the future makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court as well as
 federal judgeships around the country, leaving an impact that may last for
     Voter participation was extremely strong in this election. About 60
 percent of registered voters went to the polls, the highest voter
 participation rate since 1968, according to Associated Press figures.
     "Voters educate themselves about the election process, government and the
 law," says Ilise Feithans, author of Designing an Effective OSHA Compliance
 Program. "Voters learn how laws and policies are created and enforced, what
 current laws allow and don't allow, and what they would like to see changed.
     "This is the legal system at its best," adds Feithans. "It was really
 marvelous to see voters, particularly so many young people, asking questions,
 becoming part of the democratic process, and knowing that they had their say,
 whether or not they liked the outcome."
     Among the most significant court cases of 2004, legal scholars in the
 survey cited Blakely v. Washington, which could lead to changes in federal and
 state sentencing guidelines.
     The legal scholars were largely split on the issue of whether the
 controversial Patriot Act infringes on civil rights or is a necessary legal
 tool by imposing new government abilities to gather evidence against possible

SOURCE Thomson West