Over the years, I have learned a couple of things, some of them very important, some not so much. I’ve learned from both experience and observation. One of the more important things I learned that prosecutors very rarely ask a witness a question they don’t already have the answer. It’s pretty much the same with …
Feb 17 2017
Feb 09 2017
The three judge panel of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declined to lift the stay of Donald Trump’s executive order banning the entry of Muslims from seven mostly Muslim countries. The Trump Administration’s controversial executive order to limit travel from seven Muslim majority countries suffered a major setback on Thursday after a panel of …
Jan 31 2017
Monday night, three hours after acting Attorney General Sally Yates issued a letter instructing US Attorneys not to defend Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, Trump fired her. The last time that happened was in 1973, when Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox at the height of the Watergate scandal. It precipitated the resignation of Attorney …
Nov 01 2016
Up Date: 11/1/2016, 16:30 According to Pro Puclica, an ethics complaint has been filed against Rep. Jason Chafetz (R-UT) for releasing information provided to him by FBI Director Comey. Representative Chaffetz, in an ill-planned partisan attempt, released information that compromised the integrity of the FBI, when he irresponsibly tweeted out that the case investigating Secretary …
Aug 17 2016
One of the many problems faced by the federal and state prison system is a fast growing elderly population that is ill requiring special medical attention and facilities. Some of these people, men and women, are serving sentences for violent crimes, others for low level drug possessions and have been sentenced due to mandatory minimums, …
Jun 28 2016
There was a of of speculation that the US Supreme Court would hand down numerous split decisions since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia this year and the refusal of the Republicans in the Senate to even give President Barak Obama’s candidate to replace him a hearing. There were some but not as many as …
Mar 20 2016
Since the Johnson Administration, Republicon presidents have enjoyed 13 of the 17 successful nominations to the U. S. Supreme Court. Jimmy Carter never had the opportunity to make such a nomination during his four years in office. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have had two successful nominations each, all four occurring during their first two …
Sep 23 2015
In a speech Saturday at The New School in New York, Noam Chomsky explained why he believes the U.S. poses the greatest threat to world peace. “[The United States] is a rogue state, indifferent to international law and conventions, entitled to resort to violence at will. … Take, for example, the Clinton doctrine-namely, the United States is free to resort to unilateral use of military power, even for such purposes as to ensure uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources-let alone security or alleged humanitarian concerns. And adherence to this doctrine is very well confirmed and practiced, as need hardly be discussed among people willing to look at the facts of current history.” Chomsky also explained why he believes the U.S. and its closest allies, namely Saudi Arabia and Israel, are undermining prospects for peace in the Middle East. “When we say the international community opposes Iran’s policies or the international community does some other thing, that means the United States and anybody else who happens to be going along with it.”
Transcript can be read here
Sep 22 2015
As you read this , you are reading history. Not in the sense that it is something memorable but in the sense that it has happened. So everything that we do or say, once said or done, is in the past one nanosecond later. Think about that and now apply it to the the Fourth Amendment and warantless searches by law enforcement. The North Carolina Court of Appeals has now applied that logic to a ruling involving the search of a defendant’s cell phone records without a warrant (pdf) through the backdoor of warrant that was tangential to the case.
Superior Court Judge Lucy N. Inman signed the order and Detective Mitchell submitted it to AT&T, the cellular phone service provider and holder of the account associated with the phone number. AT&T provided the records of the location of the cell phone tower “hits” or “pings” whenever a call was made to or from the cell phone. AT&T sent emails of the longitude and latitude coordinates of these historical cell tower “hits” to Detective Mitchell every fifteen minutes. Detective Mitchell testified an approximately five- to seven-minute delay occurred between the time the phone “pinged” a cell phone tower and the time AT&T received and calculated the location and sent the latitude and longitude coordinates to him.
Tim Cushing at Techdirt explains how the definition of “historical” has now been twisted to violate a defendant’s civil rights:
The defendant argued that the “real time” tracking of his location violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights (as well as analogous parts of North Carolina’s constitution). The court doesn’t buy these arguments, citing the Stored Communications Act, which allows government entities to obtain certain third party records without a warrant. It says the difference between what’s been considered unconstitutional by several courts — obtaining real-time location information with a tracking device — isn’t what’s happening here.
It argues that because the police didn’t intercept these “records,” everything is above-board, even if the sought “historical” data included two days of “records” that were created after the court order was approved.
Several courts have held the SCA permits a government entity to obtain cell tower site location information from a third-party service provider in situations where the cell tower site location information sought pre-dates the court order and where the cell tower site location information is collected after the date the court order issues. Although the former may technically be considered “historical” while the latter is “prospective” in relation to the date of the court order, both are considered “records” under the SCA. The government entity only receives this information after it has been collected and stored by the third-party service provider.
In plainer English, this means law enforcement entities can seek “historical” records from the “future,” with the mitigating factor being that the records are collected by third parties first. A short delay of a few minutes is enough to call these records “historical” under this interpretation. [..]
While the majority’s interpretation dilutes the meaning of “historical” by including location data yet to be generated under its warrantless wing, it does point out to possible future problems with the use of Stingray devices. These have often been deployed with the same sort of court orders, but contain the ability to track individual phones in real time. Once more details on these deployments come to light, the courts will be forced to confront a plethora of Fourth Amendment violations — at least if they’re going to remain consistent with this interpretation of “historical.”
Can you hear the sound of the shredder?
Sep 21 2015
Once again the Department of Justice has failed to hold executives of a large corporation criminally accountable. This week General Motors agreed to pay $900 million and entered a deferred prosecution agreement to end a U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation into its handling of defective ignition switches in many of its vehicles. They have agreed to independent monitoring of their safety systems. If they adhere and their are no further violations, GM could have its record wiped clean. That’s hardly a satisfying agreement for the families of the 124 people who died in GM vehicles that the company knew were unsafe.
And even though General Motors will pay a $900 million penalty, it was 25 percent less than the record $1.2 billion Toyota agreed to pay last year.
“I don’t understand how they can basically buy their way out of it,” said Margie Beskau, whose daughter Amy Rademaker was killed in an October 2006 crash in Wisconsin. She added, “They knew what they were doing and they kept doing it.”
During the press conference US Attorney Preet Bharara defended the settlement and his satisfaction with the internal investigation that was conducted by a law firm with close ties to General Motors.
The two law firms hired for that inquiry, King & Spalding and Jenner & Block, had previously done legal work for G.M. And court papers show that Anton R. Valukas, the chairman of Jenner & Block, who headed the G.M. investigation, helped represent the automaker in its talks with the Justice Department.
Mr. Valukas declined to be interviewed, and several corporate lawyers said such arrangements are not unusual because an outside law firm that conducts an investigation knows the facts of a case. But Deborah L. Rhode, a professor at Stanford Law School, said the public’s interest may suffer when a law firm wears so many different hats.
“It would be nice to know that the law firm doing the internal investigation was truly disinterested and didn’t have an interest in subsequent representation” of the same company, Ms. Rhode said.
Needless to say the agreement has not satified the critics of the investigation. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) called it “extremely disappointing.” However, congress holds some responsibility in the inability to prosecute the auto makers:
As Danielle Ivory and Ben Protess reported at The Times in July, federal law sets a very high standard for pursuing a criminal case against people who knowingly withhold information about the risks products pose to human life. In auto cases, prosecutors have to prove corporate officers intended to defraud someone, something they do not have to do in food and pharmaceutical cases.
If it was not clear to Congress already that the law needs to change, this case should certainly make it clear. Serious safety problems in cars can be as deadly as contamination in food or drugs, and the law should treat them similarly.
G.M. used the defective switch in numerous cars and it has been linked to 124 deaths, according to compensation claims evaluated by a G.M. fund for victims administered by the lawyer Kenneth Feinberg. The fund has determined that another 275 people deserve compensation for injuries.
This is just one more failure of the Obama Justice Department who are suppose to prosecute criminals.
Sep 15 2015
Most people never expect to get arrested but many who do are poor and cannot afford a lawyer to represent them, so they are provided with a public defenders. Sounds fair but is it? According to John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” it is far from fair or adequate.
John Oliver: If you’re forced to rely on “hideously broken” public defender system, “you’re f*cked”
By Scott Eric Kaufman, Salon
On “Last Week Tonight” Sunday, host John Oliver discussed the plight of those forced to rely on “the attorneys provided for you” if you can’t afford one – public defenders – and how the poor are being “charged for access to a hideously broken system.” [..]
Oliver later discussed the ordeal of a Floridian who was arrested on a traffic violation and racked up over $600 in court fees in order plead “no contest.” “They may as well as charged him an irony fee,” Oliver said, “because as it turns out, being poor in Florida is really fucking expensive.”
Arrested? John Oliver Has A Warning You Have To Hear
Ed Mazza, Huffington Post
Public defenders are so overworked that they often handle hundreds of cases — or in Fresno County, California, they handle up to 1,000 felony cases a year when state guidelines say they should only have 150.
And in New Orleans, some public defenders get an average of seven minutes to prepare a case. [..]
It’s so bad that New Orleans is turning to crowdfunding to make up its budget shortfall, Oliver said, and many states now even charge people for access to a public defender.
“We have a system where conceivably, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you, provided that you pay that attorney, which is absurd,” Oliver said. “You can’t tell people something’s free and then charge them for it. This is the American judicial system — not Candy Crush.”
Aug 25 2015
In a passionate plea, John Oliver, the host of “Last Week Tonight,” explains why the need for the federal government must put an end to the discrimination that the LGBT community faces. He does it like no else could.