Archive for the ‘Courts’ Category

220px-Banana_(partially_peeled)220px-Richard_posner_harvardzJudge Richard Posner has crushed the appeal of Catherine “Banana Lady” Conrad who sued for copyright infringement over the publication of her photograph in her costume after appearing at parties for children. Posner not only dismissed her case, he encouraged a lower court to bar her from new filings and published a picture as part of the opinion. The picture is now part of an official opinion and court record. As discussed below, The Banana Lady fared much worse than did The Human Cannonball in an earlier analogous case brought under the common law as opposed to copyright.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

bully-2-e1397330995935article-2603196-1D0E0E1500000578-133_634x819We have previously discussed the use of shaming punishments by judges around the country — a practice that I have previously denounced in columns and blog postings. I discussed a new case this week on BBC involving Edmond Aviv, 62, in South Euclid, Ohio. Aviv pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge. Aviv, 62, had been feuding with his neighbor for 15 years, particularly over the smell of her dryer vent when she did laundry. He retaliated by hookup up kerosene to a fan to blow the smell on to the property of Sandra Prugh. Municipal Court Judge Gayle Williams-Byers (left) decided to impose her own brand of justice and ordered him to demean himself in public and wear a signing reading “I AM A BULLY! I pick on children that are disabled, and I am intolerant of those that are different from myself. My actions do not reflect an appreciation for the diverse South Euclid community that I live in.” For those of us who view this type of novel or shaming punishment to be unprofessional and abusive, it is Judge Williams-Byers who is in serious need for corrective measures. Indeed, many view judges who entertain the public with shaming sentences to be the ultimate bullies.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Zen Dharma Dog Bite Paralegal in Downtown Los Angeles Law Library Legal Research and Writing Law and Motion_fullMany courts have recognized the so-called emergency aid exception to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against  warrantless searches, but the emergency usually had to involve a natural person. Now the highest court in Massachusetts has extended the doctrine to emergency aid in furtherance of animals. In Jan. 2011, Lynn police were called to the home of Heather Duncan based on neighbors’ reports of two dead dogs lying near her locked fence in her backyard. Two officers from the Lynn Police Department arrived and began to investigate the scene. Climbing a nearby snowbank, the officers saw two motionless dogs and another barking weakly.  No food or water was seen and according to the officers, the dogs appeared malnourished and in immediate distress. After trying  unsuccessfully to reach the homeowner, fire officials were called who promptly cut the fence lock and escorted the police onto the property. Two of the animals were indeed dead and the third was starving.

 Ms. Duncan was charged with three counts of animal cruelty. She defended the case based on her claim that the officers had unreasonably searched without a warrant and the fruit of their search was thus unconstitutional. No warrant, no dogs, no case went the defense.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

 

Well, will miracles never cease? In a church known for compelling confession from its followers, a remarkable one from its chief advocate came across the wires on Friday. That’s right, after decades of lying, obfuscating, blocking, destroying evidence and covering up in the most un-Christian way, Pope Francis has done what many Catholics hoped his predecessors would have done years ago — apologize AND beg forgiveness. Oh, lots of Popes apologize but it’s always with a condition … a term … a little euphemism about one bad apple not spoiling the great work of the barrel, or that the church’s pedophile problem isn’t really any worse than anybody else’s. (Really, every church has a decades old issue of unmarried priests molesting little boys and girls on an institutional level?) Or that it’s just American culture fueling the problem. (Damn justice seekers reading those beatitudes so literally!)

(more…)

Read Full Post »

 

220px-Rahm_Emanuel,_official_photo_portrait_colorRespectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor

I guess you don’t have to be from Chicago or Illinois to know who Rahm Emanuel is.  The current Mayor of the City of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel is the former chief of staff to President Obama and a former Congressman. He is also a former investment banker.  It has been alleged that this former investment banker has been crying poor since he entered office and proposing that city workers must pay more into their pension funds and get less pay and benefits.

“If you’ve read the financial news out of Chicago the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard that the city faces a major pension shortfall, supposedly because police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public workers are selfishly bleeding the city dry.

You’ve also probably heard that the only way investment banker-turned-mayor Rahm Emanuel can deal with the seemingly dire situation is to slash his public workers’ retirement benefits and to jack up property taxes on those who aren’t politically connected enough to have secured themselves special exemptions.” Pandodaily  (more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-GoogleStreetViewCar_Subaru_Impreza_at_Google_CampusWe have been following stories of how European courts have been hammering Internet companies in stripping posters of anonymity and limiting speech (here and here). Now, Google has been hit again with a major fine of $1.4 million for failing to have cars that are readily identifiable in its Street View program in Italy. Italians complained that they were not given sufficient notice to get out of the way to avoid being filmed.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

1396212401000-wildc5-6ehdlb201ybix4mc8ky-original-1A Delaware Superior Court judge, Jan Jurden, is under fire after sending a wealthy heir to the DuPont fortune to treatment rather than prison because Robert H. Richards IV would “not fare well” in prison after being convicted of raping his 3-year-old daughter. [A review of the record shows the concern raised about not faring well in prison but it is not clear how stated this concern. The Judge did express concern over the lack of jail time, though it is not clear why the Judge approved the sentence]

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

“First, we hold as a matter of statutory interpretation that Congress did not exclude for-profit corporations from RFRA’s protection. Such corporations can be ‘persons’ exercising religion for purposes of the statute. Second, as a matter of constitutional law, Free Exercise rights may extend to some for-profit organizations.”

 -Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, 723 F.3d 1114, 1129 (10th Cir. 2013)

“Our conclusion that a for-profit, secular corporation cannot assert a claim under the Free Exercise Clause necessitates the conclusion that a for-profit, secular corporation cannot engage in the exercise of religion. Since Conestoga cannot exercise religion, it cannot assert a RFRA claim. We thus need not decide whether such a corporation is a ‘person’ under RFRA.”

-Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation v. Sebelius, 724 F.3d 377, 388 (3d Cir. 2013)

David and Barbara Green and their family own and operate Hobby Lobby stores, an arts and crafts chain employing some 13,000 people at over 500 locations. As committed Southern Baptists, Mr. and Mrs. Green believe that the contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act requires their company to provide its employees health insurance coverage for abortafacients, a violation of the Greens’ religious beliefs. Conestoga Wood Specialties manufactures wood cabinets and has 950 employees. It is wholly owned by the Hahn family, all of whom are members of the Mennonite religion. They share the Greens’ opposition to the ACA mandate for the same reasons.

The Greens and the Hahns now await a decision by the Supreme Court on their claims that corporations for profit, at least those that are closely held, should be regarded as persons entitled to the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Tenth Circuit supports their argument; the Third Circuit does not. The Supreme Court has never addressed the question. In my view, however, it is the wrong question.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

300px-HobbyLobbyStowOhio

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

Unless you have been in a coma the last few weeks, you have probably heard of or read about the Hobby Lobby case recently argued in front of the United States Supreme Court.  Hobby Lobby is challenging a section of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies to provide medical insurance for their employees or pay a fine.  The mandate also requires the insurance to include coverage for contraception services.  Services that its owners claim violates their religious beliefs.

“…. the battle for its Christian identity was revived this week when lawyers for the company argued before the Supreme Court that the company should not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. The issue, says Hobby Lobby co-founder Barbara Green, isn’t that the company wants to meddle with women’s rights to take contraceptive drugs. “We’re not trying to control that,” she said. “We’re just trying to control our participation in it.” ‘ Reader Supported News

Mrs. Green claims they are not trying to control their female employees use of contraceptives, but the network of causes that they are involved with seem to indicate that the Greens want to mix their religious views into everyone else’s business. (more…)

Read Full Post »

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Idaho State Police Shoulder PatchAccording to Courthouse News an Idaho state trooper arrested and searched a 70-year-old Washington man solely because of his license plate from Colorado, where marijuana is legal, the man claims in a federal lawsuit.

Darien Roseen lives in Washington and has a second home in Colorado. He was driving east on I-84 the morning of Jan. 25, 2013, and had just crossed the Idaho-Oregon Border, when he passed Idaho State Police Trooper Justin Klitch, who was in the median observing eastbound traffic. “Immediately after Mr. Roseen passed his location, Trooper Klitch pulled out from the Interstate median, rapidly accelerating to catch up with Mr. Roseen’s vehicle,” according to the 25-page complaint. Roseen, who is retired from Weyerhauser, says he changed from the right lane to the left, and exited the Interstate to a designated rest area. Klitch followed him to the parking lot, which Roseen says made him “uncomfortable,” though “he did not perceive that he had done anything wrong.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Flag of TurkeyTwitter LogoWe recently reported of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan’s effort to silence the social media service Twitter to repress dissent within Turkey. HERE. Now, the courts in Turkey are beginning to reverse some of these efforts. Turkish Twitter users are expected to regain access to the microblogging platform after a local court issued a stay of execution on last week’s decision by a local telecommunications authority to ban the website.

According to some local media reports, the ban will be lifted as soon as the administrative court in Ankara informs Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority of the ruling.

In a first official remark, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç said the Turkish government would implement the court ruling. “We will implement the court’s decision. We might not like the court decision, but we will carry it out,” he told reporters.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Speed Trap Warning SignAn Oklahoma citizen took his small town’s police department to federal court, claiming police clamped down on him when he put a sign on the curb warning of a speed trap ahead.

James Goad, of Meeker, Oklahoma, says the harassment that followed his action amounted to a violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. In the suit against the Meeker Police Department and Police Chief Sam Byrd, Goad claims police arrested him and violated his civil rights to get back at him for his sign stunt.

“Mr. Goad was exercising his constitutional right to free speech when he posted the speed trap warning sign on the property,” Goad’s attorney, Jack Dawson, wrote.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Edith-Jones-Judge-Edith-H-Jones-Edith-Hollan-JonesWhile predicting that a case will be accepted by the Supreme Court is a dubious form of fortune-telling (I just had a case denied review this week), the decision yesterday in the Fifth Circuit upholding the Texas law imposing restrictions on abortion clinics has the highest possible chances for such a review. It could also represent a major opportunity for those seeking to limit the pro-choice cases extending back to Roe v. Wade. The decision (written by Judge Edith Jones) is Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Abbott, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 5696.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

US-CourtOfAppeals-7thCircuit-SealposnerDespite my great respect for Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner (whose brilliant writings on legal theory have shaped much of modern jurisprudence), I have recently had occasion to criticize his conduct on the bench (here and here). I am afraid that an opinion this week raises yet another troubling example of poor judgment by Posner. In an opinion in Mitchell v. JCG Industries and Koch Foods, Posner included an account of an experiment by court staff that tested a core factual issue presented by the Plaintiffs — the time needed to change into work clothes. The reliance — to any degree — on such an experiment violates core rules of appellate review and is correctly identified by fellow Seventh Circuit judge Diane Wood as a highly disturbing element to the decision supporting the company. What is odd is that this experiment with “donning” and “doffing” only undermined an otherwise well-considered opinion (even though many would still disagree with its conclusion).

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-File-Official_roberts_CJ_cropped

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

This session the record is 7-1.  Since October of 2011, the record is 28 wins and 4 losses. That is a record that any team would be proud of and evidence of a significant amount of work and effort to improve its performance on the court.  However, I am not talking about any particular basketball team currently involved in March Madness and the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball tourney.

I am talking about the record a team called The United States Chamber of Commerce has in cases it has argued or filed a brief in front of the Supreme Court.  Even Coach K or Coach Izzo would be jealous of that record. (more…)

Read Full Post »

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Mary RootIn an outrageous lack of discretion,  some members in the animal control and court system in Havre de Grace, Maryland put 81 year old great grandmother Mary Root through a harrowing ordeal.

Mary Root says her pets somehow got loose from her yard several times. A neighbor took pictures of the dogs running down the street and reported her to Animal Control.
The agency slapped Root with a $7,000 fine or she could spend nearly a year in jail.

“I’m struggling to pay my house taxes. I couldn’t pay it. It’s a different thing when you leave your dogs out and you don’t care. But I do care,” Root said. But when the cancer survivor failed to show up at court on her doctor’s orders, a judge had Root arrested.

She was booked, fingerprinted and issued a striped jumpsuit. She waited to see a judge in a cell without her cancer medication.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

225px-dianne_feinstein_official_senate_photoCIAWe have previously discussed the irony of Senator Dianne Feinstein expressing outrage over the fact that her staff was subject to warrantless CIA surveillance. Feinstein’s outrage over the spying on her staff is only matched by her lack of outrage over the spying on the rest of America. However, she does have an good point to raise with regard to the role of one lawyer who seems to be dancing along the edge of both ethical and legal standards. He is the acting CIA general counsel Robert Eatinger who is believed to have played a large role in the programs and actions under investigation. Eatinger is well known to civil libertarians as someone involved in past abuses by the agency.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-Nytimes_hqSupreme CourtBelow is a longer version of my column that ran today in USA Today. The column was originally written for a longer format but had to be reduced to fight the page. The column looks at state of the Fourth Estate on the 50th anniversary of the decision in New York Times v. Sullivan. I do not wish to understate the threat against the media in 1964 but it is hard to overstate the threat against the media in 2014.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

getimage.aspxThere is a disturbing story out of Folcroft, Pennsylvania where Senior Magisterial District Judge Horace Z. Davis refused a prosecutor’s repeated request for a continuance in a drug case because of the death of “Umberto,” the K9 partner of Folcroft police Cpl. Christopher Eiserman. Eiserman was mourning the loss of his companion (who had hip dysplasia and arthritis) but Davis ruled that it was no basis for a continuance.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

article-charlize8n-5-0307There is an interesting controversy in Arkansas where Circuit Judge Mike Maggio was revealed as an anonymous commenter known as “geauxjudge.” After being outed from online sites, Maggio apologized and withdrew from a race for the appellate court. The controversy however raises the question of whether such comments should be a subject for ethical discipline and whether judges should have the right to comment anonymously on such sites.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Caught By Computer? Scotty Patterson

Caught By Computer? Scottie Patterson

Lucky or just good? That’s what police in Madison, Wisconsin are wondering after crime analyst,  Caleb Klebig, successfully predicted the date and time of Scottie T. Patterson’s, 28, latest and last bank heist. Using data from other similar robberies, Klebig estimated that the then unknown Patterson would hit his next bank on a Wednesday or Thursday between 2 and  7 p.m. He narrowed the field of potential targets to five banks in greater Madison. Police staked out the banks and, sure enough, Patterson arrived right on cue at  2:40 p.m. on Wednesday.  Confronted by the seemingly omniscient detectives while exiting the bank with the loot, Patterson made a break for it but was captured behind a nearby shopping center. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Joint_POW-MIA_Accounting_Command_seal

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

As the son of a fallen Air Force pilot whose remains were never found, I am sensitive to the plight of family members of servicemen and women whose remains may be recoverable, but yet are still not identified.  There are multiple military and defense department agencies who are responsible for locating and identifying the remains of veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam and Cold War missions.

The purpose of this article is to examine the efforts of just one of those agencies.  The Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, or J-PAC, is an example of an agency that is crucial to both locating and identifying remains, but because of bureaucratic constraints, outdated methods and the possible stubbornness of its scientific head, has produced very little results at a very expensive cost to the taxpayers. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Text MessagingIn two precedent setting rulings, the Washington Supreme Court expanded the privacy expectation of text messages on both statutory and unlawful search and seizure grounds.

Washington’s Supreme Court Ruled on February 27th the people have a right to privacy in text messages even if the person cannot be certain someone is reading them the court held. In State v. Jonathan Nicholas Roden the defendant asked the court to decide whether Washington’s privacy act protects text messages intercepted by a detective who possessed the intended recipient’s cell phone after a warrantless seizure. In State v. Hinton the court held that a text message conversation was a “Private Affair” protected from warrantless searches as enacted in Article I Section 7 of the Washington Constitution.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend ContributorEastside Catholic Church Logo

Mark Zmuda announced he is suing Eastside Catholic school and the Seattle Archdioceses for wrongful termination after he legally married his male partner. The case stems from his employment as vice-principal to the school was satisfactory for years and that after he announced he had married his male partner, he was given an ultimatum to divorce his spouse or his employment with the school would be terminated. Mark refused to divorce and was fired.

Employment Attorney, Jeffrey Needle, stated the case is likely to go to the appellate courts and potential the state supreme court for its precedent setting nature. The church counters Mark’s claim, proffering its status as a religious organization which holds tenets that bar gay marriage. However, a recent state supreme court decision might prove difficult for the church to support that position.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

300px-Fomfr_whipThe persecution of homosexuals continues in Nigeria with four young men convicted of homosexual relations and flogged on in open court. The judges and lawyers watched as the men (aged 20 to 22) were laid prostrate on the floor, stripped, and whipped on their buttocks in a demonstration of Sharia justice. The sadomasochistic nature of the punishment appears to have escaped the onlookers. While a crowd outside tried to grab the men to kill them, the court explained that stoning was not needed since the men admitted to homosexual acts previously but said that they were no longer engaging in such relations.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

SteveHayne2-300x168There is a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that captures the often impossible burden placed on convicted felons in seeking new trials after errors or unfair rulings. Tavares Flaggs is a Mississippi man serving a life sentence for murder. His trial featured the discredited medical examiner, Steven Hayne (left) who has been shown to have given flawed or false testimony, including testimony in death penalty cases. Hayne sought a new trial in a post-conviction 28 U.S.C. § 2254 application. The Fifth Circuit denied the motion in three paragraphs that is as short as it is dismissive in considering the underlying issues. The government effectively argued that its witness was so notorious that the defense should have raised his incompetency at trial. It succeeded. The entire decision is below.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

300px-Group_photo_of_aerial_demonstrators_at_the_2005_Naval_Unmanned_Aerial_Vehicle_Air_Demo

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

The Fifth Amendment protects all United States citizens by guaranteeing us all the right of due process of law. The Fifth Amendment is meant to ensure that the government has to at least prove to a court that a citizen is guilty of any crime that he or she is charged with.

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Cornell Law

Without the Fifth Amendment, the government could grab any citizen off the street and proceed to jail them or execute them without a trial of any kind where the accused could mount a defense to the government’s charges.  It seems that the Obama Administration is once again in the process of deciding whether it will unilaterally execute an American citizen believed to living in Pakistan.  Or at least, preparing us for a kill decision that they have already made. (more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

maeso-hepatitis-valencia_thumbBespectacled Juan Maeso led a fairly mundane life as an anesthetist in the Spanish coastal town of Valencia. All that changed in 2007 when Maeso was convicted of serial murder. A morphine addict, Maeso had been skimming the painkiller meant for his patients and then using the same compromised needle to inject them. Over a decade, 275 patients contracted hepatitis-c (HCV)  and four of them died from complications from the disease. A Spanish court sentenced Maeso to 1,933 years in prison but the sentence pales in interest to how the murderous soporifist was finally caught.

A fascinating article in the journal Nature details the laboratory hunt for the killer with all the twists and turns of an Arthur Conan Doyle story. Led by researchers at the University of Valencia, the work involved analyzing and categorizing 4200 viral sequences to backtrack to Maeso’s particular strain of hepatitis-c. The process known as phylogenetic forensics has been successfully used to track down the origins of such infamous cases as the 2009 anthrax-laced heroine scare in Europe and the case of Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist at the US Army Medical Research Institute, strongly suspected of sending anthrax tainted letters to Senators in 2001. Ivins committed suicide before charges were placed.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

260px-capitol_building_full_viewThis morning I will be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee at 10 am. (I hope to post other stories after I return from Congress this afternoon) The hearing is entitled “Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws” and will explore the options for Congress in resisting the encroachment of executive power. I was critical of such encroachment under Professor George W. Bush and I believe that danger has grown under President Barack Obama. UPDATE: Here is the video link to the testimony.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-Scott_Walker_by_Gage_Skidmore

Submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

This past week, thousands of emails from within Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker’s inner circle were released as part of an appeal by his former Deputy Chief of Staff, Kelly Rindfleisch.  Ms. Rindfleisch is appealing her conviction on illegal campaign activities during the 2010 Lt. Governor’s race.

Kelly Rindfleisch was convicted of illegal campaign activity for working on the 2010 lieutenant governor’s campaign of then-Rep. Brett Davis while serving as Walker’s deputy chief of staff during his time as Milwaukee county executive. In Wisconsin, it is illegal for public employees to work on campaigns while on the clock and being paid to administer state services.

Prosecutors found that Rindfleisch traded more than 3,000 emails with Walker campaign staffers, most of which were sent on county time from a secret email system in Walker’s office. Davis, who was Walker’s favored candidate, lost the race but was later appointed by the governor as head of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program.

Rindfleisch was sentenced in 2012 to six months in jail, but her sentence has been stayed as she appeals. She unsuccessfully requested to keep her emails secret while attempting to have her conviction overturned.” Readersupportednews

Ms. Rindfleisch and five other Walker employees were convicted on various illegal campaign activity charges and the emails that were released this week laid bare the mentality of the Walker associates and their actions to work on political campaigns while being paid as state workers.  It is a bit amazing that Governor Walker has remained untouched by the prosecutors even though many of these emails that detail not only illegal campaign activities, but some alarming racist and sexist comments, were also sent to him.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-Curtis_Sliwa_mahmood190px-Melinda_Katz_2013There is an interesting legal ethics case out of New York involving Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa (left) and his girlfriend, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (right). It appears that Sliwa, now a radio host making some $400,000 annually, is in the midst of a messy divorce after being accused of adultery. He has been sending confidential legal communications without realizing that his wife, Mary Sliwa was being blind copied on the messages. Paul Siegert, her lawyer, however, insists that it is the fault of Curtis Sliwa and neither he nor his client had any obligation to let him know of the breach of confidentiality or refrain from reading the confidential communications.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-Ginoseastdeepdish220px-Antonin_Scalia,_SCOTUS_photo_portraitBelow is my column today in The Chicago Tribune (including the original last paragraph and a couple lines that were cut in editing). I commented on this controversy yesterday but had to run something back home in Chicago. As someone who believes in pluralism in society and pizza, I am willing to accept both thin and deep pizza as equally worthy members of the pizza family. In this sense, pizza is part of a living culinary kitchen that changes in its scope and meaning. On closer examination, Scalia’s definitional approach is as thin as the crust of his New York style pizza.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

scalia184220px-GinoseastdeepdishThrough the years, I have put up with a lot from Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who I have always said has retained an admirable level of consistency and intellectual honesty in his views even though I often disagree with him. Nevertheless, I have criticized his conduct in public, including his enthusiastic embrace of being a conservative “celebrity justice” (here and here), shocking elitism in speaking with law students, and making public comments on issues before the Court (here and here). Yet, I have always tempered this criticism with a degree of respect for Scalia’s consistent adherence to a jurisprudential foundation that is missing with some of his other colleagues. However, he has finally gone too far. I am done. This week, Scalia did his usual ill-considered comments about issues before the Court but added in a speech in Chicago (my home town) at the Union club about Chicago-Style pizza. To the boos of the audience, Scalia declared that Chicago-Style pizza is not pizza but some form of “tomato pie.” It is not just injudicious but downright sacrilegious. In my view, Scalia has crossed the line into potentially impeachable conduct in his attack on this highest form of pizza and should be removed faster than one of those pathetic New York wafers that people fold and call pizza.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

posnerMatthewKairisI previously blogged on an oral argument before Judge Richard Posner where I felt he had shown a surprising antagonism toward privacy and a civil liberties lawyer. Given my respect for Posner as a brilliant academic, I was surprised to read of his open dismissal of arguments that later prevailed in the court. Now, Posner is again the news with a heated exchange with a lawyer, Matthew Kairis, who he said was talking over his questions and refusing to direct questions with direct answers. The case is Univ. of Notre Dame v. Kathleen Sebelius. The oral argument tape below presents an interesting example of how lawyers respond to aggressive questioning from the bench in such arguments.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

LyndonJohnson_signs_Voting_Rights_Act_of_1965

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

Is there anything more fundamental to a democracy or democratic republic then the ability of its citizens to vote for their representatives at every level of government?  The privilege or as many state, the right to vote is essential for citizens to control who is running the local and state and national governments and controlling what direction they want their community and country to go in.

As I write this article, there are groups and indeed, national political parties attempting to restrict the right to vote and restrict the early voting opportunities and attempting to restrict the ability of registered citizens to vote at all.  In the past few national elections, we all witnessed the horror stories of people waiting for hours in line to vote on election day.  Instead of increasing early voting days and installing additional voting machines in crowded precincts, just the opposite seems to be happening.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor
The following video was created by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Mark Fiore:

Read Full Post »

Submitted By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

FHP Stops MHP officerMany are aware of the incident in October of 2011 when the Florida Highway Patrol stopped a speeding Miami Police Department vehicle operating without emergency equipment, weaving through traffic and reaching speeds up to 120 MPH. The MPD officer driving claimed to be late for an off-duty assignment at an area school. The police officer was eventually fired by Miami PD. Dash-cam video was uploaded to Youtube and witnessed by many. The incident also made national headlines. The Miami PD officer involved had no emergent or law enforcement justification for driving at this speed and doing so without emergency lighting is considered hazardous. Dash-cam video quotes the trooper as saying one of the reasons for her concern was that a day prior a police vehicle was stolen and was involved in a tragic incident.

Now the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper, Donna Jane Watts, has filed a civil suit against several officers and police agencies alleging her driver license information had been unlawfully accessed and that she had been subjected to harassment by other law enforcement officers due the incident involving the Miami Police Department officer.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Mildred_Richard_Loving_1967Somewhere out there Mildred Loving must be smiling and wondering how things could change so much since 1967.  You might recall Ms. Loving as the African-American and Virginia resident who had the audacity to marry a white man and then procreate in the Virginia of the 1960s. Charged with violating Virginia’s  Racial Integrity Act of 1924, an anti-miscegenation law which criminalized marriages between members of different races, the case was heard in Hanover Courthouse, where liberty’s most eloquent spokesman, Patrick Henry, once argued the famous Parson’s Case.  Circuit Court Judge Leon Bazile, whose portrait still hangs in the hallway of the new courthouse, sentenced the couple to one year in prison suspended upon the condition they would leave their home state. In doing so, he announced to the world that Virginia would not step so quickly away from its historical racism:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-Houston_Gun_Show_at_the_George_R__Brown_Convention_Center

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

On February 7th, 2014, the sad reports were compiled from the deadly day before.  On Thursday, February 6th, at least 24 people were shot and 14 of them were killed.  Two of the dead were small children.  The shootings and killings were from cities and towns all across the country.  A 17 month old girl was accidentally shot by her 3 year old brother in North Carolina.

A 13-year-old was accidentally shot and killed while playing with a shotgun in the state of Washington.  In Seattle, Washington, a man was shot and killed by a fellow tenant.  A man in his 30′s was shot several times and critically wounded in Owasso, Oklahoma.  A 18 year man was shot and killed at his uncle’s home in South Carolina.  These and others were all wounded or killed by gunfire on February 6th, 2014.  Just one sad day out of many. (more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Forensic-Science-S_2132330bA 2009 report by the National Research Council (NRC) passed quietly into the night (except in legal and forensic circles) while barely garnering more than a ripple in the public’s psyche. It should have been a tidal wave given news last December  that a  48-year-old New Jersey man, Gerard Henderson, who spent 19 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, was done in by faulty crime lab work. Henderson was convicted largely on “bite mark” evidence. Bite mark evidence is a process used to exam indentations and anomalies on a victim’s body and  ostensibly made by human teeth which are then matched to a defendant’s dentures in an effort to prove that he/she was the perpetrator of the crime. Convicted in 1995, Henderson proved that state testing of the bite marks on the back of 19-year-old victim, Monica Reyes, was deeply flawed and conducted without sufficient safeguards to insure its reliability.

Independent forensic scientists working for Project Innocence could not reproduce findings by the state crime lab which is the gold standard for scientific verifiability. Henderson became one of the more than two dozen people wrongfully convicted of rape or murder  since 2000 as a direct result of flawed bite mark evidence analysis all duly attested to as accurate by the local crime lab.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

National Record Center St Louisby Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

Last week, I reported on the deliberate misfiling, destruction, and throwing away files at the Records Center in St. Louis.  Although an audit showed several employees were outside normal limits for error rates, only two were serious enough to warrant charges.

As I described in the earlier story last week, one of the men, 28-year-old Lonnie Halkmon, entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of destruction of government records. Halkmon was sentenced to forty hours of community service and two years probation. He could have gotten up to six months in jail on that charge.

Engram was responsible for the destruction of more than a thousand records. He destroyed some of them, threw 241 away in the woods near the Center, and took others home with him where he tossed them in the trash.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

foxy-knoxy-machine-gunThe recent trial of Amanda Knox has highlighted serious flaws in the Italian legal system ranging from shoddy investigatory standards to sentence aggravators based on defense arguments (implication other parties) to criminal penalties for defaming the police or prosecution. While we often discuss the flaws in our own system, the Knox litigation has been an embarrassment of legal process. However, the system does apparently police misconduct by judges in public statements, an area of recurring concerns in this country by justices and http://jonathanturley.org/2013/05/07/judge-in-casey-anthony-case-publicly-proclaims-his-belief-in-her-guilt-and-dishes-on-case/ alike. Florence judge Alessandro Nencini made comments after the trial on the defendants and defense strategy that has triggered not only an investigation but raised new defense arguments for reversal.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-United_Airlines_-_N14219_-_Flickr_-_skinnylawyer_(1)200px-Nelson_SerranoThere is an interesting ruling in Florida where U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell has ruled that a Florida lawyer, James Cheney Mason, does not have to pay on a $1 million challenge that he made in a television interview. Mason offered the money to anyone who disproved his client’s alibi in a murder case. Then South Texas College Law Student San Dustin Kolodziej took him at his word and said that he disproved the defense theory for Nelson Serrano (left). Mason then refused to pay up and now Honeywell is allowing him to keep the money. The case involves a unilateral contract sometimes called a “prove me wrong” case where someone offer payment to anyone who can prove the offeror wrong regarding a particular claim.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

225px-010_alitoI have long criticized the increasing public appearances of Supreme Court justices who appear to be maintaining a type of popular base of supporters on the left and the right. It is the age of the celebrity justice. Scalia and Sotomayor were in the news this week attracting headlines with commentary on cases or political issues. However, it was the comment of Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. yesterday that was the most striking. Alito dismissed new polls showing that the Court was at a near record low in respect and approval at some 43 percent. Alito said that it did not bother him at all, which (judging from his past conduct) should not come as much of a surprise.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

mugshotsThere is an interesting decision out of the North Dakota Supreme Court this week after it suspended a lawyer as a precautionary act following his indictment. Henry Howe has only been charged and has been released on bond, but the Court still suspended him in an emergency action. The action raises concern over the presumption of innocence and the ability of prosecutors to effectively halt a lawyer’s practice (and earnings) with an indictment. On the other hand, the Court viewed the evidence as sufficiently strong that it had to act to protect clients pending the outcome of the case. That case however could take a year or more.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-Mumia03debo-adegbileThe confirmation hearing for Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has many of the standard elements and witnesses on Adegbile’s career as a lawyer and an advocate. One witness however is not like the other: Maureen Faulkner, the widow of a Philadelphia police officer gunned down in 1981. Now, Adegbile is not accused of gunning down Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner or even being an accomplice before or after the act. No, the witness is being called to suggest that Abegbile should not be confirmed because he represented the man convicted of the murder. Faulkner is being joined by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and the Fraternal Order of Police in saying that such representation is relevant in determining if he should be confirmed. It is move that strikes at the heart of the notion of the right to counsel and due process. Many law students become prosecutors because they fear that representing criminal defendants or controversial clients will bar or hinder their professional advancement while the presidents and members of Congress continue to favor prosecutors for judicial appointments (making the federal bench a sometime hostile place for criminal defense counsel).

(more…)

Read Full Post »

400px-Rahm_Emanuel,_official_photo_portrait_color

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)–Weekend Contributor

In the years since the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War began, there have been some sizeable protests and demonstrations, but not quite to the level seen during the Vietnam War.  We have seen several significant protests during various economic and political summits and conventions in the United States and around the world, but they have been met with severe police crackdowns.  The Occupy Movement is one example of a long-term protest that on more than one occasion suffered through severe police restrictions and in some cases, brutal police tactics.

In response to the 9/11 attacks, the United States passed so-called anti-terror legislation that many claim have usurped and restricted personal liberties.  However, several  states also jumped on that bandwagon and passed their own anti-terror legislation. The State of Illinois is one of the states that passed its own anti-terror legislation and the use of that legislation prior to the NATO Summit meetings held in Chicago on May 20 and 21st, in 2012 is currently being litigated right now in Chicago in a criminal case brought against 3 protestors known as the NATO 3 under the Illinois anti-terror statute. (more…)

Read Full Post »

By Charlton Stanley, Weekend Contributor

National Record Center St LouisThe National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis County, MO is the repository of millions of personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century. Records from before WWI are kept in Washington, DC. The Center also stores and maintains the records of dependents and other persons treated at medical facilities owned and operated by the US military.

Or at least it’s supposed to.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Clementia with her sister goddess, Justice

Clementia with her sister goddess, Justice

Julius Cæsar built a temple to her memory and commissioned statuary depicting the Roman conqueror strolling amiably hand-in-hand with the goddess.  Augustus cited her name in pardoning Cinna for plotting an assassination attempt to install  himself as ruler of Rome. Legend has it that Augustus’ wife, Livia, reminded the emperor that violent retribution against his enemies had not deterred their incessant murderous plotting and thus a new tactic was warranted. It must have worked well as Cinna went on the next year to be named consul and reportedly  left all his possessions to Augustus in his will. The act of mercy also earned  the Roman strongman an undying reputation among the people as the “good emperor.” For citizens of the ancient Italian city-state, Clementia was the ugly goddess murdered for being too rotund and not fitting the Olympian image of health and vigor. She was something else as well — the embodiment of mercy, restraint, forbearance and  humanity. What we still call today the virtue of clemency.

I read Thursday that the USDOJ had decided to ask for the death penalty in its case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the alleged

The Alleged Bomber

The Alleged Bomber

Boston Marathon bomber. Tsarnaev is charged with one of the most horrific acts of wanton brutality ever committed on American soil when he and his brother loaded two backpacks full of shrapnel and high explosives and placed them behind the  appendages of kids and adults watching the Boston City Marathon on Tax Day, 2013. Killing three and horribly wounding 260 in callous savagery few could match, the now 20-year-old’s record of mayhem and senseless violence has resulted in a capital charge of premeditated murder by means of terrorism.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Judge_Schoonover200px-Facebook.svgJudge Linda D. Schoonover appears to have a different concept of a “friend of the court” party. The Seminole Circuit judge has been removed from a divorce case where she tried to “friend” one of the litigants, Sandra Chace. Chace declined on the advice of counsel to be a friend of Judge Schoonover. Her lawyer says that Schoonover responded with retaliation against her in a type of “scratch a Friend find a Foe” ploy.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,518 other followers