In criminal cases, the Fourth Circuit defines a “plain error” as one that is obvious, detrimentally affects the rights of the defendant, and is so egregious as to implicate the “fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings. . .” United States v. Bellamy, 264 F.3d 448, 445 (4th Cir. 2001), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 1143 (2002). This very strong language makes it clear that plain error is not a term used by the Circuit to describe harmless or justifiable mistakes.
Much of the questioning of Ninth Circuit nominee Carolyn Kuhl at her April 1, 2003 confirmation hearing focused on her disturbing ruling dismissing invasion of privacy claims in the case of Azucena Sanchez-Scott, a breast cancer survivor. As demonstrated below, Kuhl’s testimony about this case not only failed to address Senators’ concerns about her ruling but was grossly misleading.