Archive for the ‘Lawyering’ Category

Cops_camera_arrestThere have been a long list of studies and articles on the problem of false testimony by police officers. Most officers that I have met or represented would not testify falsely. However, there is cultural pressure to hold “the thin blue line” to support other officers. That appears what is occurring in a recent scandal out of Chicago. In a Skokie courthouse, five officers (three from Chicago and two from Glenview) took the stand and lied about what occurred in a drug arrest. What is relatively rare is that the prosecutors appear to be seriously considering criminal charges.

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150px-General_Motors.svgI recently wrote a column on the expanding scandal over General Motor’s release of the Cobalt and other vehicles with a defective ignition switch that may have killed over a dozen people and injured scores of others. The defect was reportedly found during testing and constituted the perfect storm of negligent designs: it would first shut off the car; cut the steering; and disable the airbags. Mary Barra, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of GM, told Congress that GM never puts costs ahead of safety (even though documents show GM pricing out the fix and rejecting it as too expensive). Now Barra and GM have quietly asked a federal court to protect it from product liability lawsuits due to its bankruptcy. It is like a second bailout from the government — this time through the courts — so that the company can keep billions in the federal bailout while barring recovery of billions for deaths and injuries caused by the company.

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gavel2Erie-County-SealErie County District Attorney’s Special Victim’s Bureau Chief Roseanne Johnson appeared recently in court with an alarming report. She told the judge in the midst of jury selection for a rape trial that she had a statement to read from Assistant District Attorney Kristi Ahlstrom. Ahlstrom informed that court that the defendant, William Payne, 48, had tried to kill her by running her over in the street. Johnson denounced the attack as an effort to intimidate the prosecutors who were in the jury selection process for the rape trial. A mistrial was declared. The problem is that Payne was not in the car and a video tape of the street contradicts the account of Ahlstrom. Yet, the trial was halted, Payne was held in jail for seven days pending investigation, and there is no indication of any discipline for the prosecutor.

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ccc5Dallas attorney James Lee Bright faced a dilemma: he had to appear in court but he recovering from knee surgery with a large leg brace and an ice machine attached to his leg to stop swelling. He could not fit his pants over the hardware so he wore a shirt, tie, jacket, and shorts. That did not go over well with Judge Etta Mullin (left) who refused to hear his motion to dismiss a weapons charge for a client because he was wearing shorts. It was a rather unsympathetic and inflexible decision but it was not the first for this particular judge. However, it is the mounting criticism of Mullin that raises the question of why the Democratic party has pushed for her reelection and why the state bar has not investigated allegations of injudicious conduct.

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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.

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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.

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Did GM Pull A Pinto?

800px-Chevrolet_Cobalt_LT_sedan250px-Ford_PintoBelow is a slightly expanded version of my column that ran today in the Los Angeles Times on the growing scandal over the defective ignition switches on the Cobalt and other cars produced by General Motors. Just this weekend, it was reported that CEO Mary Barra received a memorandum on a steering problem with the Saturn Ion on a different problem as early as 2011, but did not order an immediate recall. What is now clear is that the company spent years discussing the defect. Two engineers were recently put on paid leave by the company — a move viewed as too little too late by many, including some who want to see criminal charges. Ironically, I have been teaching the Pinto case in my torts class this week and today I will be teaching my new material on the GM Cobalt as an extension of that material.

Some have charged that GM was aware of this defective design before it lobbied the government for a massive bailout in 2009. The government handed over $49.5 billion to the automaker and the public ultimately ate a $10.5 billion loss when our shares in “Government Motors” were finally sold off in 2013. In addition to billions in losses, the public got cars that could put their lives in danger the moment they turned the ignition key.

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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.

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baileyThe Maine Supreme Court yesterday reversed a justice and rejected the bid of famed attorney F. Lee Bailey to obtain a law license in a 4-2 decision. After being disbarred in Florida in 2001, Bailey had moved to Maine. He recently took and passed the state bar and applied for a license. That is no small feat for an 80 year old. A thirteen year sanction would be viewed by many as sufficiently harsh but the Court found Bailey was still insufficiently contrite after he described his disbarment as “kind of harsh.”

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kanawha-county-prosecutor-mark-plantsPreviously, our contributor Charlton Stanley wrote about Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants in a controversial foreclosure matter. Now, Plants is back in the news as the subject of a criminal case as opposed to the charging prosecutor. Plants is charged with beating his son with a belt and leaving a considerable bruise. He is claiming a constitutional right to such beatings as a parental choice on discipline.

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ows_139692579398037There is a truly horrific case out of Minnesota after David J. Gherity, 60, was arrested for setting his girlfriend on fire in his condominium. What struck me as odd was that he was not charged with attempted murder as opposed to assault in the attack. However, Gheirty’s lawyer says that there is a videotape of Gherity at work at the time of the crime that will vindicate his client.

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web_clarkeCharlotte School of Law professor Brian Clarke has written a series of articles that I hope all of my students and colleagues and blog mates will consider reading (here and here and here). Professor Clarke has written about his own struggle with depression and supplied statistics on the high number of students and lawyers who grapple with this illness. He is the latest in the line of attorneys to come out to discuss depression and has made a particularly insightful and personal case for those who are struggling with the condition. (I am emailing the links to Professor Clarke’s writings to all of my students this term)

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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…)

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225px-alberto_gonzales_-_official_doj_photographAlberto Gonzales, former U.S. attorney general in President George W. Bush’s administration, remains as largely vilified figure — often cited in law school’s in discussion of how lawyers can be corrupted by power to jettison basic ethical and professional values. Gonzales is widely blamed for politicizing the Justice Department, destroying its credibility, appointing substandard officials, and turning a blind eye to egregious violations like the torture and surveillance programs. That record has made it difficult for Gonzales to find a job. He recently took a political science position at Texas Tech, viewed by many as a telling choice since he acted with more attention to politics than the law in his career. Now Gonzales has been named dean of Belmont University’s nearly 3-year-old law school. He had previously accepted a teaching position at the school.

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CIAsenate_large_sealWe previously discussed how CIA officials were accused of trying to intimidate Senate staffers working on an investigation into allegations of torture and lies by the agency officials. Now the details of that still classified report have been leaked to the media. For the Senate Intelligence Committee (long accused of being a rubber stamp for intelligence agencies), the report is quite damning. The Senate found a pattern of misinformation knowingly released by the CIA to convince the public that its torture program yielded valuable intelligence — and new forms of torture that have never been previously confirmed. What is most striking however is what is not in the report: a recommendation for criminal prosecution. Indeed, consistent with its past approach to intelligence abuses, the Committee does not recommend any action be taken against a single CIA official.

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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]

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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…)

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I have previously discussed my views about Nancy Grace and her genre of legal commentary. (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). This week Grace is being mocked for another controversial appearance on Good Morning America where she shouts “porn” repeatedly in an interview on the the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. She was appearing with ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams and appears upset that neither the anchor nor Abrams want to talk about porn as opposed to the developments in the case.

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carmenlynnfischergarciaCarmen Lynn Fischer Garcia, a Phoenix defense attorney, has pleaded guilty and received a three year prison sentence for crimes that seem to come right out of an episode of “Sons of Anarchy” or “Breaking Bad.” Fischer admitted to helping a gang move money and served as a conduit for passing information between jailed and street members. She admitted to be a “ruca” or female associate to the gang and assisting Angel Garcia from December 2007 to July 2013 in moving money and transmitting messages from prison. She marry Garcia in July 2011, though the FBI insisted that Garcia was feigning affection.

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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).

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

If the title of this piece shocks you, I apologize.  On second thought, I won’t apologize for asking a legitimate question about a prominent politician who has made his proposals to harm the poor and middle class and give tax cuts to the wealthy his calling card in the conservative movement. Recently, Rep. Ryan made a statement about the people who inhabit the inner city claiming that those residents are less than motivated to work for a living.

‘ “Paul Ryan triggered a firestorm of recrimination this week. Speaking recently on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio program, the Wisconsin Republican and self-styled budget wonk linked poverty to “this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” ‘ Bill Moyers

It seems obvious to me who Paul Ryan is talking about here. What do you think he is saying here?    Of course, Mr. Ryan tried to walk back from the statements, but how can you unring this bell? (more…)

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by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

115px-CA_-_Oakland_PoliceThe city of Oakland has entered into an agreed order to pay former Marine and two-tour Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen $4.5 million. This is, as lawyers say, “to make him whole.” Unfortunately, Scott will never be whole again. The night of October 25, 2011 he was shot in the head by a police officer using a shotgun loaded with a “non-lethal” beanbag. Upon being hit, the former Marine went down like a sack of potatoes. His skull was fractured, he was bleeding heavily and his neck was broken.
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170px-Mia20061200px-Super_Bowl_29_Vince_Lombardi_trophy_at_49ers_Family_Day_2009You may recall that we discussed the scene in the 2012 Super Bowl when pop star Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (AKA M.I.A.) flipped the bird and sang “I don’t give a shit” while performing the song “Give Me All Your Luvin’” with Madonna. Personally, I did not like it, though I am often in the minority in objecting to inappropriate conduct at such events by players or performers. I thought it was immature and vulgar and inappropriate for the millions of kids watching the show. It was a lapse that occurred in a flash and was probably not noticed by many viewers. My kids however say it as did I. It was a stupid and thoughtless addition by M.I.A. to the show. It now appears that the National Football League (NFL) felt the same way and has not forgotten the violation. They are demanding compensation from M.I.A. and estimate the cost at $15.1 million in restitution.

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jordan-wiser-e1394634913232Jordan Wiser, a student at Ashtabula County Technical School in Jefferson, Ohio is rightfully confused after being being arrested for bringing a weapon into school. The “weapon” was a pocket knife that he had in his EMT medical vest . . . that was locked into the truck of his car. That’s right, in the latest example of the insane application of zero tolerance rules, the school officials called police after searching the trunk of a locked car to find a pocket knife used by a senior in his work as a EMT. He was then fed into a legal system that refused to show discretion in his prosecution. Notably, prosecutor Harold Specht ran for office based on a pledge that he would maintain a “hardline, zero tolerance policy” as a prosecutor. It was the perfect storm for Wiser: zero tolerance administrators handing a student over to a zero tolerance prosecutor. But it gets worse . . .

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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…)

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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.

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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.

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bildeMany people who are not opposed to the death penalty per se still favor its elimination out of concerns with the accuracy and fairness of our criminal justice system. Those concerns will only be magnified this week with the release of Glenn Ford, who was found to be entirely innocent of the murder of Watchmaker and jeweler Isadore Rozeman in 1983. Prosecutors spent decades fighting appeals but recently threw in the towel and admitted that he was not the man who killed Rozeman. Ford, now 63, had been convicted by an all-white jury despite the lack of a single witness or forensic evidence directly linking him to the murder.

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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.

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article-0-1C1E230600000578-419_634x471We have previously discussed the growing number of legal advertisements that degrade the profession with cheap pitches that would make a used car salesperson blush. That latest example (below) is from Pittsburgh attorney Daniel Muessig. The advertisement is clearly tongue-in-cheek but in the end I find it less than comical. Muessig promises to help felons get back to crime and proclaims that he “think like a criminal.” It fulfills the worst stereotypes of criminal defense lawyers as felons are shown committing crimes and saying “Thanks, Dan.” Muessig may have a skill for thinking like a criminal but he clearly has yet to master the talent of thinking like a lawyer.

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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.

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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…)

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w300-s_204959a62524153f48be1bdf0c28c639Oklahoma City attorney, Frank Kirk, 70, is looking at a likely disbarment after his arrest in a bizarre discovery in the Oklahoma City Jail. Kirk is accused of smuggling in a sex toy for a female prisoner to use in exchange for his legal representation. He is now charged with possession of contraband and multiple counts of offering to engage in an act of lewdness. What is interesting is that one of the most serious charges is not his sneaking in a vibrator or the sexual acts but the cellphone that he had with him. It is a felony to bring a cellphone into a prison interview room. What is particularly distressing is that this alleged act of depravity is now the basis for proposed changes limiting counsel and expanding searches. This is a case that by any measure is bizarre and grotesque. It does not reflect either the criminal defense bar and makes for a poor basis for rewriting interview policies in my view. Notably, this was a sting operation so the prison was made aware of the violations and audio taped the encounter.

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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.

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Lawrence MitchellDean Lawrence Mitchell of Case Western Reserve University School of Law has resigned from his post after taking a leave of absence on November 6th amid charges of sexual harassment. Mitchell had previously said he would not resign and cited the support of the University. He also attracted the initial support of individuals like David Lat at Above the Law. However, the university reportedly may now be investigating the matter and a court has rejected Mitchell’s effort to strike large portions of the amended complaint.

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gavel2Many parents spend countless hours trying to keep their children off social media sites. Patrick Snay, 69, can claim that his daughter’s busy fingers cost him $80,000. The former head of Guillver Preparatory School in Miami lost a settlement from a discrimination lawsuit against his former school. The agreement came with a confidentiality provision so the school’s lawyers were a bit put out to read a taunting Facebook posting from the daughter that bragged about the settlement and told them to “Suck it.” It did not quite work out that way. The case is Gulliver Sch., Inc. v. Snay, 2014 Fla. App. LEXIS 2595.

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220px-WallStreet2013posterThere is an interesting lawsuit that is an outgrowth of the new “Wolf of Wall Street” movie over the character Nicky “Rugrat” Koskoff, described in the lawsuit as the ultimate loser. The problem is that lawyer Andrew Greene says that the character is based on him and makes him look like “a criminal, drug user, degenerate, depraved, and/or devoid of any morality or ethics.” Greene, an inactive member of the California bar, is suing for $25 million for alleged defamation.

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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…)

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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.

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article-2562207-1B9C1A6600000578-636_306x423 article-2562207-1B9C1A6E00000578-344_306x423Attorney Jason Bohn is facing a particularly challenging case. First, the victim was beaten and strangled to death. Second, he is the defendant and the victim was his girlfriend and Danielle Thomas, 27, was killed in their New York City apartment. Bohn, 35, has come up with a novel defense: “intermittent explosive disorder.”

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b99210892z-1.1_20140223220602_000_gm64vquu.1-1Styles & Pumpian, a Wisconsin law firm, appears eager to replace the fictional Dewey, Cheatem & Howe as a stereotype of lawyers. The family of Ira Bordow, 54, (left) was struggling to deal with his suicide when they found a check for $250,000 from a settlement with West Bend Mutual Insurance. Some $41,666 of that money was Bordow’s as part of a one-third contingency fee shared with his firm. The family sent the check to the firm expecting that it would do the right thing and send the estate Bordow’s share. However, Edward Styles of the Styles firm wrote his brother to say that they decided to keep it all because Bordow had “terminated his relationship with us regarding this action without notice and without cause.” The firm has forced the grieving family to go to court to get it to relinquish the money.

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100px-Coat_of_arms_of_Israel.svgOne of the lowest points in U.S. and Israeli relations came in 1997 when Samuel Sheinbein, an American teenager, savagely murdered another teenager as practice for a later planned murder. He then fled to Israel and as a Jew claimed the right to become a citizen (and thus avoid extradition). He is now dead after grabbing a gun and shooting several guards before being gunned down himself in Haron Prison. The irony is that he was close to the point where he would ask for release from prison.

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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…)

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ist2_141437_arrow_graph_down_rev_mediumFor the last two years, I have been telling friends that there is no better time for their children to go to law school. It is a buyer’s market for applicants with enrollments down an average of ten percent. George Washington is faring comparatively well due to its ranking and location. This downturn is hitting lower tiered law schools the worst. As I have said before, the legal field could do with a hair cut at the lowest end of schools. There are a growing number of for-profit schools with highly questionable curriculums and even more questionable bar passage and employment rates. Some are listed among the schools with the highest debts for students. National Jurist has now published the 18 schools hit the hardest with this downturn in enrollments.

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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.

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President_Barack_ObamaNSA logo smallWe have previously discussed how many Democrats and liberals have stayed relatively silent as the Obama Administration has launched attacks on privacy, press freedoms, and civil liberties. In addition President Obama has engaged in military interventions, declared the right to kill citizens on his own authority, refused to investigate the U.S. torture program, and repeatedly violated the separation of powers. Now, we can add the violation of attorney-client privilege and confidentiality. Once again, the disclosure came as a result not of congressional oversight or Executive reforms, but the Snowden disclosures.

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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.

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by Charlton Stanley, Weekend Contributor

Hawthorne CA Police DepartmentThe Hawthorne, CA Police Department has a history of assaultive behavior toward the public. The department’s activities have been reported on this blog before. In one incident, Hawthorne officers Tasered an autistic child, then when his parents complained, they returned and arrested him a week later.  Last year, the same Hawthorne Police arrested a man for videotaping them in a public space, then shot his dog when it ran to his side.

About a year ago, Jonathan Meister, a deaf man, was loading his car with some personal belongings, including his snowboarding equipment.  There had been several robberies in the area recently.  A neighbor yelled at him, but Meister, being deaf, did not hear the call-out, so the neighbor called the police.  When the police arrived, the officers watched Meister as he carried some items into his car. When Meister saw the officers, he sat his boxes down and walked toward them, trying to use American Sign Language to let them know he is deaf.

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

feature-faith%20crisis_520It’s Sunday and I made a rare visit to church today here in Richmond to test the waters after Judge Arenda Wright Allen’s historic ruling overturning  Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  I was curious because the two Roman Catholic Bishops in Virginia had taken a keen interest in gay marriage ever since newly elected Attorney General Mark Herring had declined to defend the state’s ban on the practice in Bostic v. Rainey and after Governor Terry McAuliffe had refused to appoint a special counsel to take over the defense of the ban. The two presiding bishops in Virginia, Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde and Richmond Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, had issued a joint statement vowing to soldier on against the right of gays to marry. The good bishops instructed that:

 “No politician should be able to reverse the people’s decision … We call on the attorney general to do the job he was elected to perform, which is to defend the state laws he agrees with, as well as those state laws with which he personally disagrees.”

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445px-woody_allen_2006Last week, I ran a column on the controversy surrounding the renewed allegations of child abuse by Woody Allen and the suggestion of the former prosecutor, Frank Maco, that he might sue Allen for defamation. The piece expressed deep skepticism over the potential for a defamation claim and further questioned Mr. Maco’s public comments after he decided not to bring charges. I was recently contacted by Mr. Maco who shared his view of the underlying facts and the suggested lawsuit. I felt, particularly in light of the criticism on this blog, his response should be run in its entirety to give his side of the story. Below is that response.

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