Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Supreme Court Activity



Bond v. United States

Docket: 12-158
Opinion Date: June 2, 2014
Judge: Roberts
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Bond sought revenge for her husband’s affair by spreading toxic chemicals on Haynes’s car, mailbox, and door knob, in hopes that Haynes would develop a rash. Haynes suffered a minor chemical burn that she treated by rinsing with water. Federal prosecutors charged Bond with violating the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, which forbids any person knowingly to possess or use "any chemical weapon,” 18 U.S.C. 229(a)(1). A “chemical weapon” is “[a]toxic chemical and its precursors, except where intended for a purpose not prohibited under this chapter.” A “toxic chemical” is “any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals … regardless of their origin or of their method of production, and regardless of whether they are produced in facilities, in munitions or elsewhere.” “[P]urposes not prohibited by this chapter” is defined as“[a]ny peaceful purpose related to an industrial, agricultural, research, medical, or pharmaceutical activity or other activity,” and other specific purposes. Bond pleaded guilty but reserved the right to appeal. On remand, the Third Circuit rejected her Tenth Amendment argument and an argument that section 229 does not reach her conduct. The Supreme Court reversed. Section 229 does not reach Bond’s simple assault. Seeing “no need to interpret the scope of the international Chemical Weapons Convention,” the Court stated that Bond was prosecuted under a federal statute, which, unlike the treaty, must be read consistent with the principles of federalism. There is no indication that Congress intended to reach purely local crimes; an ordinary speaker would not describe Bond’s feud-driven act of spreading irritating chemicals as involving a “chemical weapon.” The chemicals at issue here bear little resemblance to those whose prohibition was the object of an international Convention. Pennsylvania’s laws are sufficient to prosecute assaults like Bond’s, and the “global need to prevent chemical warfare does not require the Federal Government to reach into the kitchen cupboard.“


Thursday, May 15, 2014

False Arrest Verdict

The Florida Times-Union posted a story today about a local case that shows cause for concern.  The following excerpt offers the nuts and bolts.  Follow the link after for the full write-up:
Last month, a jury decided that two Jacksonville sheriff’s officers falsely arrested and battered Dubose during his July 2004 arrest. The jury awarded him about $370,000 — more than he asked for and also more than the law allows him to receive.
“This proves, as we argued in trial, that we need some kind of civilian oversight,” Fallis said. “You need some kind of civilian oversight otherwise it’s out of control.”
http://members.jacksonville.com/news/crime/2014-05-15/story/false-arrest-verdict-against-jacksonville-sheriffs-office-leads-calls

Lawyers' Top Ten Pet Peeves

I came across the following list, originally published in the Jacksonville Lawyer Magazine in 2007, that outlines lawyers' various pet peeves.  I can't say these are my personal pet peeves (or Gerry's) but it's a fun glance into the "stress" of the profession.
  1. Promptness
    • Not returning another lawyer's call promptly;
    • Not responding to a lawyer's correspondence;
    • Untimely responses to discovery requests.
  2. Being Unacommodating
    • Cancelling depositions or scheduling them at the last minute;
    • Being difficult when scheduling;
    • Refusing to cancel matters when opposing counsel has a family crisis.
  3.  Lack of Manners
    • Failing to introduce oneself to opposing counsel;
    • Incivility and lack of respect for fellow counsel;
    • Being rude to opposing counsel or counsel's staff.
  4.  Inadequate Communication
    • Sending a fax at night to opposing counsel on a matter coming before the court the morning after.  Also, keeping a firm's fax machine turned off and requiring "permission" to send a fax, which includes having to explain what the fax is about;
    • Ending letters with, "I remain, very truly yours."
    • Failing to put a fax number and email address on pleadings and correspondence.
  5.  Discovery Matters
    • Denying possession of evidence when in fact they are withholding it properly;
    • Not producing documents in response to a request for production in a timely, organized, and orderly manner;
    • Producing duplicate copies of documents, making the production appear larger.
  6.  Inadequate Consequences - Lack of Sanctions
    • When opposing counsel blatantly violates court orders and repeatedly delays discovery, and the judge fails to sanction such conduct.
  7.  Inadequate Motions and Pleadings
    • Lack of brevity in briefs;
    • Filing memoranda of law on significant motions and then showing up at the hearing only to argue case law not in the brief as the crux of their argument;
    • Creating "strawman" arguments advocating "red herring" issues;
    • Failing to city authority forming the basis for a motion.
  8.  Unfair Hearing Practices
    • Bringing case law to a hearing either without copies for opposing counsel, or with highlighted copies for the judge, but not opposing counsel.
  9.  Judges Shouting
  10.  Mischaracterization 
    • Mischaracterizing opposing counsel's oral statements in a responsive written correspondence.

United States v. Harrell



United States v. Harrell

5/15/2014

Judge: Jordan
Areas of Law: Criminal Law
Defendants Harrell and Dantzle appealed from their convictions for conspiracy to commit robbery; two counts of robbery in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a); and two counts of having used, carried, or possessed a firearm in relation to the robberies in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A). The court concluded that Harrell met his burden in establishing that the district court's violation of Rule 11(c)(1), by improperly participating in the parties' plea negotiations, constituted reversible plain error. The district court vacated the conviction and allowed Harrell to withdraw his guilty plea on remand. The court also directed that the case be reassigned. The court concluded that, although the district court abused its discretion in allowing the government to present expert testimony from a detective with respect to cell phones and cell towers, the testimony was harmless because it did not affect Dantzle's substantial rights. The court rejected Dantzle's remaining arguments. Accordingly, the court affirmed Dantzle's convictions and sentence.


View Case On: Justia  Google Scholar

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

United States Supreme Court Activity

Maryland v. King

 
 
Judge: Kennedy
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law,
Criminal Law
Opinion Date: June 3,  2013
After his arrest on first- and second-degree assault charges, King was processed through a Wicomico County, Maryland, facility, where personnel used a cheek swab to take a DNA sample pursuant to the Maryland DNA Collection Act (Act), which authorizes officers to collect DNA samples from persons charged with violent crimes. A sample may not be added to a database before an individual is arraigned, and it must be destroyed if he is not convicted. Only identity information may be added to the database. King’s swab was matched to an unsolved 2003 rape. He unsuccessfully moved to suppress the DNA match. The Maryland Court of Appeals set aside his conviction, finding portions of the Act authorizing DNA collection from felony arrestees unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed. Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold and bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, for a serious offense. DNA testing involves minimal intrusion that may significantly improve both the criminal justice system and police investigative practices; it is quick and painless and requires no intrusion beneath the skin. When probable cause exists to remove an individual from the normal channels of society and hold him in legal custody, DNA identification plays a critical role in serving interests in properly identifying who has been arrested, ensuring that the custody of an arrestee does not create inordinate risks for staff, for the existing detainee population, and for a new detainee, and in ensuring that persons accused of crimes are available for trials. Identifying an arrestee as the perpetrator of some heinous crime may have the salutary effect of freeing a person wrongfully imprisoned. The Court noted that the test does not reveal an arrestee’s genetic traits and is unlikely to reveal any private medical information.
   
 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Death Penalty in Florida

The following quote is from a letter various Florida Catholic Bishops sent to Governor Rick Scott:
"Killing people to show that killing is wrong is a piercing contradiction and one that touches our very souls," the church leaders added. "Executions coarsen us. We daily condemn the glorification of violence, but what example is set when our state legitimizes killing? What results can we expect?"
          ***
"Governor, will our citizenry be any safer, will Floridians be any better protected, if we execute these men? Will not the safety of persons and the preservation of public order be as secure if instead you commute these sentences to lifelong confinement?" 
Read the full story here.
 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Machinery of Death

From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored–indeed, I have struggled–along with a majority of this Court, to develop procedural and substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor. Rather than continue to coddle the Court’s delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved and the need for regulation eviscerated, I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies. The basic question–does the system accurately and consistently determine which defendants “deserve” to die?–cannot be answered in the affirmative.
--Harry Blackmun in dissent in Callins v. Collins, emphasis added