Archive for the ‘Courts’ Category

By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

“The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.”

-Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 104 (1968)

“This commission chooses to stand by the tradition of opening its meetings in a manner acknowledging the beliefs of a large segment of its constituents.”

-Brevard County (Florida) Commission Chair Mary Bolin Lewis (August 15, 2014)

On August 19th the County Commission in Brevard County, Florida voted unanimously to reject a request by the Central Florida Freethought Community, an organization of atheists, agnostics, humanists and free-thinkers, to be added to a rotating list of groups invited to give the opening invocation at commission meetings. Instead, the commission approved a letter drafted by the county attorney offering the group three minutes to speak during the public comment portion of its meetings. According to the letter, the rejection was appropriate because, “The prayer is delivered during the ceremonial portion of the county’s meeting, and typically invokes guidance for the County Commission from the highest spiritual authority, a higher authority which a substantial body of Brevard constituents believe to exist.”

The Brevard County decision comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. ______ , 134 S.Ct. 1811 (2014), a case that more than anything else illustrates that the current state of Establishment Clause jurisprudence is, to put it bluntly, a mess. (more…)

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220px-HalliburtonNorthHouston

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

I guess I should not be surprised anymore, but it still saddens me to read that our old friend, Halliburton, has pled guilty to destroying evidence concerning their participation in the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and the subsequent environmental disaster in 2010.  If they pled guilty why should I be upset?  I am upset that the Department of Justice agreed to a $1.1 Billion fine instead of jail time.  Once again a corporate “citizen” has committed a crime and no one is going to jail. (more…)

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140902-Judge-Cory-Woodwardscott-steinerIt is a rather bizarre week for the California bench after two judges were separately sanctions for sex in their chambers. Orange County Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner (right) was censured for such multiple trysts with women. Kern County Superior Court Judge Cory Woodward (left) magnified the sanctionable conduct by not just having multiple trysts with his court clerk from July of 2012 until May of last year but engaging in such conduct in both his chambers and in public places. Both were censured but allowed to continue on the bench. Both are former prosecutors.

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Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Entreating the Godfather

In a ruling likely to embolden other cities and counties in Washington to prohibit legal marijuana businesses Pierce County Superior Court Ronald Culpepper ruled that Initiative 502, Washington State’s voter approved marijuana legalization and regulation measure, does not pre-empt local governments from adopting ordinances banning the legal marijuana industry.

We have previously discussed local ordinances and moratoria with the city of Wenatchee as a focus (HERE, HERE, and HERE) In this case plaintiff Tedd Wetherbee, who received state approval to found and operate a marijuana retail business in the City of Fife was denied a business license by the city by reason of an ordinance prohibiting such businesses.

The ruling could lead to further erosion of the voter-approved initiative having main purposes of ending the criminal element of marijuana distribution and providing the state with an additional source of tax revenue.

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Submitted By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

DNA_orbit_animated_static_thumbAdvocates of allowing the convicted the opportunity to have DNA tests performed on evidence in the hope of releasing from prison innocent persons could find benefit in an En Banc ruling by the Washington Supreme Court.

In State v. Crumpton the Court created a standard lower courts court should use to decide a motion for post-conviction DNA testing and whether a court should presume DNA evidence would be favorable to the convicted individual when determining if it is likely the evidence would prove his or her innocence in order to determine if the DNA test is provided.

In 1993 petitioner Lindsey Crumpton was convicted of five counts of rape in the first degree and one count of residential burglary. He then petitioned the Superior Court to grant him a post-conviction DNA test as provided in RCW 10.73.170(3) which reads in pertinent part:

(3) The court shall grant a motion requesting DNA testing under this section if such motion is in the form required by subsection (2) of this section, and the convicted person has shown the likelihood that the DNA evidence would demonstrate innocence on a more probable than not basis

The superior court denied this motion, saying he had not shown a ‘”likelihood that the DNA evidence would demonstrate his innocence on a more probable than not basis.” An appeal to a Washington Court of Appeals ultimately denied the defendant’s motion and affirmed the Superior Court’s denial of his motion. The Washington Supreme Court reversed and remanded the motion back to the trial court to apply the new standard in determining whether such DNA testing should be granted.

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Watching the waves roll in here in Duck, NC, I have to admit things seem pretty peaceful and serene. It got me wondering why the folks in Ferguson, Mo. are demonstrating on a daily basis about their policing. Wonderment stopped last evening when I came across this video by 35-year veteran of the St. Louis County Police Department, Sgt. Major Dan Page.  Former Green Beret and supervising cop, Dan’s vaguely known to most  CNN viewers as the enlightened peace officer who shoved reporter Don Lemon from a Ferguson street corner as he tried reporting on the mass protest of 17-year-old Michael Brown’s police-facilitated killing. Lemon was shoved and then was herded to some “Free Speech Zone” in a remote parking lot. Now street-savvy Page is back … and with a right-wing philosophy and blood thirsty vengeance that you’d have to go to 1970s Cambodia to match — “We can kill you anyway we want!”

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220px-Felthat300px-Muddy_Water_Red_desertBelow is my column today on the Perry indictment. I have previously raised my serious reservations about the factual and legal basis for a criminal charge. We obviously do not know what evidence will be presented, particularly evidence of back channel communications that might have occurred over the threatened veto. Such conversations can have a highly damaging effect on jurors as shown by the trial of Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich. They can also damage someone politically by exposing uninhibited moments or comments. I have heard from reporters in Texas that there might have been communications between Perry and Lehmberg about her resigning but I have yet to see clear accounts of such communications. However, at the moment, I cannot see the basis for these charges. Perry publicly stated his intent to use his lawful power to veto the line item for the office budget if Lehmberg did not resign. I do not see how the use of such a lawful power in this case would rise to the level of a criminal act.

At the moment, I see a compelling case for dismissal as a threshold legal question for the court. However, the degree to which the court views this matter as turning on the factual allegations as opposed to the legal questions, it could be held over for trial. That is the problem with such ambiguously written provisions is that the court may feel more constrained in dismissing the counts. The result for Perry can be damaging even if he is acquitted as was former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison two decades ago. Hutchinson was charged with using state employees to plan her Christmas vacation in Colorado and write thank-you notes. The case was so weak that it took only 30 minutes for the jury to find her not guilty on all charges. The political danger is the exposure of private communications. Few of us are as crude as Blagojevich or his wife even in private but none of us is likely to look good if our unguarded comments were played out for a national audience. Once again, only time will tell what type of evidence was heard by the grand jury. Yet, my view is that this indictment is very problematic from a constitutional standpoint and offers little to support such a major prosecution.

Here is the column:

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