07 December 2011
20 November 2011
14 November 2011
08 November 2011
The article goes on to discuss issues like jurors using Google Street View to visit the scene of a crime, something they are physically prohibited from doing, but virtually? It gives an example of a murder conviction being overturned because a juror consulted Wikipedia as part of the deliberation process. The questions raised in this article are numerous and important!
Judges have long instructed jurors not to talk about their jury service with anyone, including fellow jurors, and to avoid reading newspaper stories about trials. The fear is that jurors might develop a bias from information that's not been admitted in court. The right to an impartial jury is one of the principles of the American justice system.
But that right is threatened in a digital age when people post personal thoughts onto the Internet, whether on a blog or social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It's also become second nature to satisfy curiosities by searching for immediate answers on the Internet.
05 November 2011
The main purpose of the 2005 constitutional reforms in the United Kingdom, which created a new Supreme Court, was to increase the independence of the judiciary. But now some three years into this constitutional experiment, some are questioning whether the Court has become too independent. The Guardian has more.
18 June 2011
11 June 2011
Hardly month goes by without the news reporting some case of a person being arrested and charged with a crime for swearing in public. Time and time again the courts throw these cases out on the basis of the First Amendment's free speech protection. It makes me wonder whether prosecutors have ever read the Constitution. This recent case out of Arizona is a nice example.
10 June 2011
09 June 2011
A federal judge on Tuesday permitted two environmental groups to sue a Texas refinery owned by ExxonMobil Corp. [corporate website] for failing to enforce federal environmental standards. The Sierra Club and Environment Texas [advocacy websites] filed the lawsuit [Reuters report] in December in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas [official website] against ExxonMobil's Baytown, Texas, refinery and the adjacent chemical plant for allegedly releasing over 8 million pounds of pollutants beyond the levels permitted under the CAA in the last five years. The Clean Air Act (CAA) [materials] contains a provision permitting private individuals to seek enforcement of federal pollution laws when the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] fails to do so.you can read the rest here.
30 May 2011
Votes need to conduct business (quorum) - a majority of seats currently filled by elected, living members.
Votes to pass a bill - a majority of members present for the vote.
Votes needed to end a filibuster (Cloture Vote) - 3/5 of the full Senate, i.e. of seats not vacant. Remember, the filibuster only exists in the Senate.
Votes needed to confirm a Presidential Appointee - majority of members present for the vote. Remember, only the Senate as confirmation power.
Votes needed to ratify a treaty - 2/3 of Senators present. Remember, only the Senate has ratification power.
Votes needed to convict and remove - 2/3 of Senators present. Remember, the House, by a simple majority, begins this process by impeaching the person.
Votes needed to override a veto - 2/3 of Senators present (House of Representatives are also needed).
Votes needed to propose an Amendment to the Constitution - 2/3 of member present. (House must also vote).
18 May 2011
Students in my Conversation and Presentation Skills for Lawyers course just finished a moot court exercise. For those of you not familiar with mooting, the exercise is essentially modeled on an appellate court proceeding. As I point out to students, these oral arguments in real life give appellate judges the opportunity to ask questions they may have on points of law, but more specifically it gives judges the opportunity to think about how their decision might impact future cases. As I like to point out to students, many of the questions asked by Supreme Court Justices during oral arguments are hypothetical in nature for the very reason that they are struggling with trying to determine how a particular rule they develop could be used in the future. But how important are these oral arguments? After all, both parties submit detailed legal briefs outlining their legal arguments. One sitting Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, has famously not asked a question during oral arguments for several years now. His position, apparently, is that these oral arguments aren't worth very much. Now it appears that at least one other Justice feels the same way.
17 May 2011
09 May 2011
08 May 2011
Experts say trials are won and lost in jury selection.The rest of the story and the video are worth your time if you are interested in getting a better look at jury selection in high profile cases.
This is why an entire jury-consulting industry is devoted to reading the body language of would-be jurors, profiling them based on personal characteristics and learning as much as possible about these individuals to sift out the "dangerous jurors."
28 April 2011
To fully understand the constitutional argument surrounding President Obama's attempt to provide health care to all Americans, one must also understand how federalism works in the United States. The struggle for power between the states and the federal government has been a part of the political debate in the U.S. since its founding. And even today the States are looking for ways to increase their power, including this proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution in a way that would allow the States to veto federal law.
25 January 2011
19 January 2011
14 January 2011
Students in my introduction to common law courses are by now familiar with the basic structure of court systems in the United States: trial court, appeals court, supreme court. As I mentioned, many states deviate from this basic structure in one way or another. For instance, the highest court in New York is not called Supreme Court but Court of Appeals, while one of the lower courts is called Supreme Court. A bit confusing. Wikipedia has collected a few more differences that exist between state court systems.
But a more substantial deviation from this basic structure is the absence of a Court of Appeals. In these states one finds a trial court and a Supreme Court with nothing in between. In some of these states losers in the trial court have the right to have their appeal heard by the Supreme Court!
The Las Vegas Sun recently published an editorial urging the Nevada Legislature to create a Court of Appeals in Nevada. Because Nevada is a state where one has an appeal as of right to the Supreme Court, the system is inefficient with a bottleneck of cases at the top of the pyramid, at least so argues the Sun.
So back to my question. How many states do not have an intermediate court? The answer: 10! Wow. More on the various differences between the state systems regarding appeals can be found here.
07 January 2011
A recent California Supreme Court decision says police do not need search warrants to examine the cellphones of those under arrest. But local judges and a deputy chief for the Dallas Police Department say officers should obtain warrants before reading the contents of cellphones. . . . "The safer way would be to get a warrant until the [Texas] Court of Criminal Appeals rules or the [U.S.] Supreme Court rules," said Adams, presiding judge for the felony courts.Indeed. A case in California has no binding effect on courts in Texas. Only the U.S. Supreme and top court in Texas, in this case the criminal court of appeals, can create binding precedent that lower Texas courts must follow.