Oklahoma 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.
Archive for the ‘Lawyering’ Category
There 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.
Dean 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.
Many 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.
There 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.
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…)
By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
Bespectacled 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.
Attorney 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.”
Styles & 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.
One 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.
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…)
For 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.
There 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.
We 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.
I 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.
by Charlton Stanley, Weekend Contributor
The 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.
By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
It’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.”
Last 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.
By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
Somewhere 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.
William Mitchell College of Law Professor Peter Erlinder has filed suit against his own law school after being banned from campus for allegedly inappropriate and possibly threatening conduct. Erlinder claims that his conduct is due to post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his jailing in Rwanda. This lawsuit follows another lawsuit by a John Marshall Law Professor who says that a disability has caused him to act oddly and experience outbursts toward colleagues and students. [For full disclosure, years ago, I had brief interaction with Professor Erlinder in a case after I came on as lead counsel. Professor Erlinder's role in the case ended soon after I became lead counsel]. In one prior communication, an administrator said that a doctor had expressed a concern that “Prof. Erlinder might go postal …. ” (Erlinder challenges that veracity of that statements and alleges that the doctor has denied that he ever made such a statement). He is seeking both compensatory damages ($50,000) as well as punitive and treble damages (in addition to injunctive relief such as reinstatement).
Woody Allen continues to be a virtual fountain of interesting criminal and civil cases. Over the weekend, Allen responded to an op-ed in the New York Times in which his adopted daughter, Dylan, 28, who accused him again of sexual abuse. In Allen’s responsive op-ed, he again denies the allegations and blames an overzealous prosecutor. While unnamed, it could only former Litchfield State’s Attorney Frank Maco. Now Maco is suggesting that he may now sue Allen for defamation.
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…)
By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
A 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.
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.
Clyde Ray Spencer, a former motorcycle patrolman, was secured a $9 million damage award from a federal jury after spending nearly two decades in jail on a fabricated case. The jury found that two of his colleagues at the police department fabricated evidence and possibly coached witnesses to convict him of sexually abusing his two children. Retired Clark County Police police Sgt. Michael Davidson and retired Detective Sharon Krause have been accused of the most serious violations in the case.
The 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.
There 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.
I 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.
While the Superbowl was a bit of a bust, lawyer Jamie Casino is being widely heralded as scoring a touchdown with his local commercial during the game in Georgia where he tells his life’s story as an advocate for clients. Since I have already ventured into film critique this morning with the students of Columbia, I might as well say my peace about the film of Mr. Casino despite the overwhelming popularity of the commercial. I found the commercial below to be unprofessional and self-serving and just a bit creepy. What is striking about this story is that it was not long ago when such an advertisement would have been viewed as an ethical breach. I did not support those earlier rules against advertisements. However, Casino has a history of such commercials that trade content for flashy effects along the lines of a car salesman or infomercial pitchman.
There 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.
Saudi Arabia has long been criticized as a feeder nation for terrorists, including some of those who attacked this country on September 11th. Well, the country is finally cracking down with its own counterterrorism law but it turns out that the law may have more to do with political dissidents than religious fanatics. Civil libertarians are denouncing the law that would allow the arrest of any reformer or government critic as a terrorist.
The 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).
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…)
By Charlton Stanley, Weekend Contributor
The 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.
An Italian court has reversed the ruling of an earlier appellate court that found Amanda Knox not guilty in the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. The latest court actually handed down a longer sentence against Knox who has remained in Seattle, Washington with her family. The case has drawn attention to a number of flaws in the Italian legal system and I have serious reservations over this ruling. I believe that there is evidence that Knox committed the crime but the evidence is highly circumstantial and much of the crime scene was contaminated by poor police work.
Judge 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.
In an important decision on immunity, the United States Court of Appeal for the Seventh Circuit has ruled that a prosecutor is not protected by immunity for allegedly coercing false testimony that sent a man to death row 17 years ago. Two prosecutors were accused of egregious misconduct: Lawrence Wharrie and David Kelley. The new opinion from the Seventh Circuit is Fields v. Wharrie, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 1333. Ironically, I just filed on qualified immunity this week in the ongoing litigation in the Sister Wives case in Utah. We are advancing some of the same arguments, though our case has distinguishable characteristics. However, today we filed the Fields case as new supplemental authority.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty-Weekend Blogger
In the past we have discussed the allegedly illegal and fraudulent practices of the Big Banks that helped bring the economy into Recession, but until now, we have not seen such a blatant example of how it pays for Big Banks to break the rules and get ahead at the same time. As you may recall, JP Morgan Chase Bank recently agreed to a $13 Billion dollar settlement with the Justice Department for allegedly defrauding customers. That sounds like a big number, but that was only part of the total fines and penalties JP Morgan Chase was liable to pay in 2013 due to its less than honorable business practices.
It may surprise you that after agreeing to the $13 Billion settlement and having to pay other large fines, the CEO of Chase is getting a big raise. An $8.5 Million dollar raise! (more…)
Posted in Bizarre, Courts, Justice, Lawyering, Politics, Religion, Science, Society, tagged Artificial Insemination, Child Support, Groucho Marks, Judge Mary Mattivi, Kansas, Sperm Donor, Topeka, William Marotta on 1, January 24, 2014 | 26 Comments »
By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
William Marotta is proving Groucho Marx right. ”It isn’t necessary to have relatives in Kansas City* in order to be unhappy, ” Marx quipped in a letter. The classic comedienne may have just been on to something as Marotta has been ordered by a Kansas court to pay support for a child he fathered in Topeka as part of a private artificial insemination contract.
Even though Marotta signed the contract waiving any legal rights to the child, Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi said he must still pay support because the artificial insemination was performed without the involvement of a licensed Kansas physician. The story began– as so many strange ones do –with an ad on Craig’s List in March 2009 seeking donated sperm. (Wonder if it was in the “free” section?). The authors of the ad were a lesbian couple in Topeka who desperately wanted a child and needed a donor of genetic material.
Yesterday, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board released a report concluding that the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program is “illegal and largely ineffective.” The report agrees with a prior federal court ruling that the program is facially unconstitutional. President Obama continues to defend the program and refuse to end it. What is most notable is, like the earlier federal court, the board found no evidence of the program being used to prevent a single terrorist attack despite statements from the Administration claiming the contrary. Civil libertarians are often opposed by people claiming such success of classified programs. However, now a federal judge and a board with access have debunked such claims.
There is a disturbing case out of Ohio where an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper reportedly admitted to sexual encounters with a boy five years ago but will not face any criminal charges. (However, the trooper now denies those allegations). Trooper Ricky Vitte Jr. (left) has a history of domestic violence and admitted that he watched pornography with the boy and then they masturbated. He insists that he was trying to help the boy and was not engaging in the conduct for sexual gratification (at least not direct at the boy). It appears that Vitte will also continue as an officer with the state patrol after Sandusky County prosecutor Tom Stierwalt (right) refused to bring the case to a grand jury.
Former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook (left) is no doubt facing a nightmare after pleading guilty to buying and using heroin while on the bench. However, he is still far better off than his supplier, Sean D. McGilvery (right) who is looking at a 10 to 11 year prison term for the crime.
Today, the Supreme Court will consider a case that has not attracted national attention but remains in my view one of the most important of the term, a classic “sleeper” case where the legal issues have sweeping potential. The case involves Doyle Randall Paroline, who pleaded guilty in Texas in 2009 to possessing child pornography. He downloaded hundreds of images and two were found to be child pornography dedicating the abuse of Amy. After pleading guilty, Paroline was hit by $3.4 million in restitution damages for Amy even though he had no role in her victimization nine years earlier or any role in the production or distribution of the two photos. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the federal restitution law does not require “proximate causation” — a critical limitation in torts and criminal law that ensures that liability is confined to those parties immediately responsible for injuries. I have criticized the expansion of restitution in this area for years and I spoke with NPR’s On The Media on the case.
We previously discussed the false rape allegation of Sara Ylen who fabricated a story that two men had entered her home about 80 miles from Detroit and raped her. She also lied about having cancer as a result of the rape. One man, James Grissom, served 10 years because of Ylen lies. She has now been sentenced to 5 years. What is disturbing however is that, as noted in the earlier posting, the role of prosecutors in the case was highly questionable and yet there is no indication of any discipline for those responsible for this case.
By Lawrence E. Rafferty, (rafflaw) Weekend Blogger
We have all heard of the so-called War on Drugs and the recently maligned War on Poverty, but I submit that the real war we should be worried about is the War on the Poor of this country. The War on Drugs has not done much to stop the use of illegal drugs and the recent legalization of the sale of marijuana in Colorado may be a small step in the direction of ending the War on Drugs which has only succeeded in jailing thousands on minor drug offenses. The African-American community has been especially hard hit by this failed attempt to end the use of illegal substances.
However, the War on the Poor is in full swing and seems to be succeeding. One only has to look at the Farm Bill which is set to cut the SNAP program by anywhere between the $4 Billion in the Senate version and the $40 Billion in the House version. At a time when this same Congress is refusing to extend unemployment compensation, they are attempting a monumental double whammy by cutting the ability of the needy to survive by cutting Food Stamps. (more…)
Posted in Academics, Animals, Bizarre, Congress, Constitutional Law, Courts, Criminal law, Environment, Free Speech, International, Justice, Lawyering, Media, Military, Politics, Religion, Science, Society, Supreme Court, Torts on 1, January 18, 2014 | 55 Comments »
There was an interesting exchange on Tuesday in the arguments in Marvin Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States. The lawyer for a land-owning trust, Steven J. Lechner of Lakewood, Colorado, had started out reading from notes when he was interrupted by Justice Antonin Scalia who asked “Counsel, you are not reading this, are you?”
New York State Supreme Court judge Mary Brigantti-Hughes has been reprimanded in a case that many might view as a case of light discipline. Brigantti-Hughes has been found to have used staff as personal servants and using court resources for personal purposes. She has also been cited for pressuring staff members to participate in prayer sessions. For those acts, she has been given a reprimand.
If a criminal defense lawyer is supposed to take heat of a client, Cody Mann (left), 28, has found the right attorney in Jenny Chaplinski. Chaplinski is under fire for comments that she made regarding her client’s torture, killing, and cooking of his pet cat. Chaplinski dismissed the outrage over the crime as involving just “meat.” Cat meat to be sure but “it’s meat.”
The Indiana Supreme Court has suspended Marion Superior Judge Kimberly J. Brown pending a decision on final disciplinary action on misconduct charges. The suspension with pay could be followed by an order to remove Brown from the bench after a three-judge panel found clear and convincing evidence against her on 46 out of 47 counts of judicial misconduct. That is quite a record since Brown has yet to finish her first term.