Thursday, July 3, 2014
The 7th Circuit issued a recent decision addressing the definition of sexual activity under a criminal law statute. Some readers may find this blog posting (which discusses this case) of interest because of Judge Posner's statutory construction analysis.
Hat Tip: Melissa Baduria
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Saturday, March 15, 2014
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals this week held that Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012), applies retroactively. In Miller, the Supreme Court held mandatory life without the possibility of parole sentences are unconstitutional for offenders that committed their crime while under 18 years of age. The Texas case is Ex Parte Maxwell, No. WR-76,964 (Tex. Crim. App., March 12, 2014).
A jury found Maxwell guilty of capital murder arising out of a 2007 murder/robbery. The State did not seek the death penalty so under Texas law the sentence automatically became life without possibility of parole after the jury returned the guilty verdict. Maxwell was 17 when the crime occurred.
The court decided the case 5-4 and generated short two dissents (see here and here). This Texas case joins the deepening split among the several states and federal circuits regarding Miller's retroactivity. We can expect more appeals courts to weigh in on the question until the Supreme Court ultimately grants cert and resolves the matter once and for all.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Readers may find the article, “The 20 Most Infamous Celebrity Mug Shots of All” of interest. hich Here is the link: http://blog.arrestrecords.com/the-20-most-infamous-celebrity-mug-shots-of-all-time/.
Guess who number one is? Tim Allen
Hat Tip: Ashleigh Bell
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Texas Tech Law Review will host its 2014 Criminal Law Symposium on the subject of Homicide on April 4 at the Mark and Becky Lanier Auditorium on the campus in Lubbock. The schedule includes Carol Steiker (Harvard) as keynote speaker and panels on intentional homicide, unintentional homicide and capital murder. For more information, look here.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Writing at The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen of the Brennan Center comments on the recent New Jersey Supreme Court case State v. Miller, A-35-11 (N.J., October 2, 2013). His essay, "How Much Does a Public Defender Need to Know About a Client?" is here.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
The Iowa Law Review with the Innocence Project of Iowa and the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights will present Professor Jon Gould on "Predicting Wrongful Convictions" on October 10. The free lecture will be held in the Levitt Auditorium on the Iowa law school campus. Gould is a professor at the American Univesity's Department of Justice, Law & Society and Principal Investigator at the department's Preventing Wrongful Convictions Project. Professor Gould's article, which includes three co-authors, is scheduled to be published in an upcoming issue of the Iowa Law Review.
Friday, July 5, 2013
The June 2013 Yale Law Journal includes a symposium on the iconic Warren-Era case Gideon v. Wainwright. This issue includes:
- Why Civil Gideon Won’t Fix Family Law, Rebecca Aviel;
- Gideon Exceptionalism?, John H. Blume and Sheri Lynn Johnson;
- Fifty Years of Defiance and Resistance After Gideon v. Wainwright, Stephen B. Bright & Sia M. Sanneh;
- Poor People Lose: Gideon and the Critique of Rights, Paul D. Butler;
- Celebrating the “Null” Finding: Evidence-Based Strategies for Improving Access to Legal Services, Jeanne Charn;
- Race and the Disappointing Right to Counsel, Gabriel J. Chin,
- Participation, Equality, and the Civil Right to Counsel: Lessons from Domestic and International Law, Martha F. Davis;
Gideon’s Migration, Ingrid V. Eagly;
- Searching for Solutions to the Indigent Defense Crisis in the Broader Criminal Justice Reform Agenda, Roger A. Fairfax, Jr.;
- Gideon’s Amici: Why Do Prosecutors So Rarely Defend the Rights of the Accused?, Bruce A. Green;
Valuing Gideon’s Gold: How Much Justice Can We Afford, M. Clara Garcia Hernandez & Carole J. Powell;
- Investigating Gideon’s Legacy in the U.S. Courts of Appeals, Emily Hughes;
- An Immigration Gideon for Lawful Permanent Residents, Kevin R. Johnson;
- Gideon at Guantánamo, Neal Kumar Katyal;
- Enforcing Effective Assistance After Martinez, Nancy J. King;
- Gideon’s Law-Protective Function, Nancy Leong;
- Gideon’s Shadow, Justin Marceau;
Gideon at Guantánamo: Democratic and Despotic Detention, Hope Metcalf & Judith Resnik;
- Fear of Adversariness: Using Gideon To Restrict Defendants’ Invocation of Adversary Procedures, Pamela R. Metzger;
- Federal Public Defense in an Age of Inquisition, David E. Patton;
- Effective Trial Counsel After Martinez v. Ryan: Focusing on the Adequacy of State Procedures,
Eve Brensike Primus;
Implicit Racial Bias in Public Defender Triage, L. Song Richardson & Phillip Atiba Goff;
- Effective Plea Bargaining Counsel, Jenny Roberts;
Lessons from Gideon, Erwin Chemerinsky; and
Gideon at Fifty: A Problem of Political Will, Carol S. Steiker
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Stephanos Bibas (Penn) has posted "Justice Kennedy's Sixth Amendment Pragmatism," an essay written in conjunction with an appearance at a McGeorge Law Review symposium on Justice Kennedy's jurisprudence, on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This essay, written as part of a symposium on the evolution of Justice Kennedy’s jurisprudence, surveys three areas of criminal procedure under the Sixth Amendment: sentence enhancements, the admissibility of hearsay, and the regulation of defense counsel’s responsibilities. In each area, Justice Kennedy has been a notable voice of pragmatism, focusing not on bygone analogies to the eighteenth century but on a hard-headed appreciation of the twenty-first. He has shown sensitivity to modern criminal practice, prevailing professional norms, and practical constraints, as befits a Justice who came to the bench with many years of private-practice experience. His touchstone is not a bright-line rule derived from history, but a flexible approach that is workable today. Notwithstanding the press’s assumptions about him as a swing Justice, his approach is remarkably consistent and principled.
The essay explores four important themes in his Sixth Amendment jurisprudence. First is the use of history. Justice Kennedy is a moderate originalist, looking to history where it works but adapting it to modern realities, especially to new circumstances and new problems. Second is his common-law incrementalism and flexibility, in contrast to some other Justices’ rigid formalism. Third is Justice Kennedy’s structural approach to the Constitution as fostering dialogue among branches and levels of government. He emphasizes federalism and checks and balances, not a strict separation of powers. Fourth is his use of practicality and common sense to leaven theoretical abstractions. He looks closely at the purposes of laws, their effects, the lessons of expertise, and the existence of alternative solutions. In interpreting the Sixth Amendment, then, Justice Kennedy is fundamentally a practical lawyer, applying the humble wisdom born of experience rather than the rigid extremes that flow from a quest for theoretical purity.
This essay will appear in the McGeorge Law Review's symposium edition in Volume 44.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Tyler, Texas attorney and State Bar of Texas President Buck Files has written an informative essay on conflicts of interest which appears in the April 2013 Voice for the Defense (page 15). The essay uses the federal case U.S. v. Lopesierra-Gutierrez, No. 07-3137 (D.C. Cir. March 1, 2013) as a starting point to highlight how important it is to be mindful of conflicts when representing defendants in criminal cases - and by extension, any client in any case. Some conflicts are waivable and some are not and knowing the difference between the to might save the practicing attorney a trip before a grievance committee a time or two.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
In a divided opinion, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held in United States v. Townes, No. 11-50948 (5th Cir. April 30, 2013), that a pharmacy's pseudoephedrine purchase logs were nontestimonial business records that could be admitted in a criminal prosecution without a live witness. Pseudoephedrine is a nasal and sinus decongestant drug often sold behind the counter that, in addition to its lawful uses, can also be used to manufacture meth.
The government charged the defendant in the case with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and conspiracy to possess and distribute pseudoephedrine. The trial court admitted the pseudoephedrine purchase logs from the various pharmacies where the defendant purchased the drugs as business records under Rule 803(6). The prosecution offered the records through the investiging law enforcement agent via certifying affidavits.
The applicable state law requires pharmacies to maintain records related to pseudoephedrine purchases for law enforcement purposes. Defendant argued that for this reason, the records were not business records - records kept for a business purpose. The majority rejected the argument, observing that the business record hearsay exception requires the records be kept in the ordinary course of business. The majority added, "It is not uncommon for a business to perform certain tasks that it would not otherwise undertake in order to fulfill governmental regulations. This does not mean those records are not kept in the ordinary course of business." Slip Op. at 5.
Defendant also argued that admitting the logs via business record affidavit violated his Confrontation Clause rights. The majority rejected this argument also. Citing Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305, (2009), the Court determined that the pharmacy logs were not prepared specifically to prove a material fact at trial, but for legitimate business record-keeping purposes.
The dissenting judge would hold the pharmacy logs were not business records because the records were kept solely for law enforcement purposes and for no other legitimate business reason. The dissent would further hold for this reason that admission by business record affidavit violated the defendant's Confrontation Clause rights.
This is an important opinion and one worth reading to study the lines separating business records, which do not raise Confrontation Clause concerns, from testimonial records, such as drug lab reports, which are testimonial for Sixth Amendment purposes.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Professor Nancy J. King (Vanderbilt) has posted her essay, "Enforcing Effective Assistance after Martinez" on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Essay argues that the Court’s effort to expand habeas review of ineffective assistance of counsel claims in Martinez v. Ryan will make little difference in either the enforcement of the right to the effective assistance of counsel or the provision of competent representation in state criminal cases. Drawing upon statistics about habeas litigation and emerging case law, the Essay first explains why Martinez is not likely to lead to more federal habeas grants of relief. It then presents new empirical information about state postconviction review (cases filed, counsel, hearings, and relief rates), post-Martinez decisions, and anecdotal reports from the states to explain why, even if federal habeas grants increase, state courts and legislatures are unlikely to respond by invigorating state collateral review. The Essay concludes that alternative means, other than case-by-case postconviction review, will be needed to ensure the provision of effective assistance.
This Essay is forthcoming in the Yale Law Journal.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Debra Cassens Weiss at ABA Journal has this report about a strange federal child pornography case in Connecticut where the appeals court has remanded the case back to the trial court for re-sentencing. From the story:
...[U.S. District Judge] Eginton justified his decision to impose the longer sentence by referencing “Facebook, and things like it, and society has changed.” He speculated that the proliferation of Facebook would spur an increase in child pornography, and said he hoped Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was “enjoying all his money because … he’s going to hurt a lot of people,” the appeals panel said.
The appellate court remanded for a new sentencing hearing, stating, "“It is plain error for a district court to rely upon its own unsupported theory of deterrence at sentencing, especially where, as here, that theory has little application to the actual facts of the case itself."
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Whether or not authorities are duty bound to read the alleged Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his Miranda rights (and the consequences, if any, of their failure to do so) has been a hot topic in the news and blogosphere in recent days. I have been following the story as closely as I can and though I would post some of the most informative and interesting news and opinion pieces on the subject here:
- Adam Goodman (Harvard Law Student), "How the Media Have Misunderstood Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Miranda Rights" (The Atlantic).
- Erwin Chemerinsky (UC-Irvine Law), "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Has Rights" (Los Angeles Times).
- Akhil Reed Amar (Yale Law), "What If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Decides Not to Talk?" (Slate).
- Eric Posner (Chicago Law), "The New Law We Need in Order to Deal With Dzhokhar Tsarnaev" (Slate).
- Jeffrey Rosen (George Washington Law), "Do You Have the Right to Remain Silent? The Obama administration's radical view of Miranda rights was in place well before Boston" (The New Republic).
- Roger Pilon (Cato Institute), "The Constitution Ensures A Fair Trial For Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, But Miranda Has a Public-Safety Exception" (Forbes).
- Real Clear Politics, "Dershowitz: Authorities Will "Regret" Not Reading Boston Bomber His Miranda Rights" (video).
- Bloomberg Editorial, "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Rights, and the Public’s" (Bloomberg View).
- Doug Mataconis, "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Miranda, And The Public Safety Exception" (Outside the Beltway).
- Tom McCarthy, "Lindsey Graham: don't read suspect Miranda rights if arrest is made" (The Guardian).
Thiere are surely many more well-reasonsed commentaries on this subject - please feel free to add or link to them in comments. As an aside, I predict a healthy increase in law review submissions by professors, practicing attorneys and students addressing the public safety exception to Miranda v. Arizona, in the coming months.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
On April 19, a Texas court of inquiry charged former Williamson County, Texas district attorney (and current Texas district judge) Ken Anderson with criminal contempt of court, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and tampering with government records arising from Anderson's prosecution of Michael Morton for the murder of his wife while he was district attorney.
Quite famously it was later shown, after Morton spent 25 years in a Texas prison, that Morton did not in fact murder his wife. Over the years, there has been volumes written on this tragic miscarraige of justice - Texas Monthly's comprehensive case coverage is as good a starting place as any for the uninitiated.
In any event, the probable cause order entered by the court of inquiry's presiding judge along with the supporting findings of facts and conclusions of law are now available online here. This article in the Sunday Austin American-Statesman points out that Anderson's statute of limitations defense may be the first hurdle current Williamson County prosecutors have to clear before the charges against Anderson can be brought to a jury.
Hat Tip: Grits For Breakfast
Jenny Roberts (American) has posted "Effective Plea Bargaining Counsel" on the Social Science Research Network. The article appears to have been accepted for later publication by the Yale Law Journal. This is the abstract:
Fifty years ago, Clarence Earl Gideon needed an effective trial attorney. The Supreme Court agreed with Gideon that the Sixth Amendment guaranteed him the right to counsel at trial. Recently, Galin Frye and Anthony Cooper also needed effective representation. These two men, unlike Gideon, wanted to plead guilty and thus needed effective plea bargaining counsel. However, their attorneys failed to represent them effectively, and the Supreme Court - recognizing the reality that ninety-five percent of all convictions follow guilty pleas and not trials - ruled in favor of Frye and Cooper.
If negotiation is a critical stage in a system that consists almost entirely of bargaining, is there a constitutional right to the effective assistance of plea bargaining counsel? If so, is it possible to define the contours of such a right? The concept of a right to an effective bargainer seems radical, yet obvious; fraught with difficulties, yet in urgent need of greater attention.
In this Essay, I argue that the Court’s broad statements in Missouri v. Frye, Lafler v. Cooper and its 2010 decision in Padilla v. Kentucky about the critical role defense counsel plays in plea negotiations strongly support a right to effective plea bargaining counsel. Any right to effective bargaining should be judged - as other ineffective assistance claims are judged - by counsel’s success or failure in following prevailing professional norms. The essay discusses the numerous professional standards that support the notion that defense counsel should act effectively when the prosecution seeks to negotiate and should initiate negotiations when the prosecution fails to do so, if it serves the client’s goals.
The objections to constitutional regulation of plea bargaining include the claims that negotiation is a nuanced art conducted behind closed doors that is difficult to capture in standards and that regulating bargaining will open floodgates to future litigation. While real, these are manageable challenges that do not outweigh the need to give meaning to the constitutional right to effective counsel. After all, in a criminal justice system that is largely composed of plea bargains, what is effective assistance of counsel if it does not encompass effectiveness within the plea negotiation process?
Roberts' article highlights proposed professional and ethical norms relating to plea bargaining. The Padilla, Frye and Cooper trilogy have opened the door for courts to closely scruitinize trial counsel's plea negotiations in subequent post-conviction proceedings. The highlights important considerations for defense counsel desiring to negotiate the best possible plea while simultaneously securing the plea's finality against post-conviction challenges. This article is recommended reading.
Saturday, April 20, 2013
An interesting Third Circuit case from earlier this month raises the question whether a lower court judge can be held in contempt for openly criticizing a higher court for reversing him in a pending case. The case is In re: Kendall, No. 11-4471 (3d Cir. April 3, 2013).
The contempt holding arises from proceedings in a murder prosecution. The case's procedural history is long, convoluted and filled with hints and allegations suggesting misrepresentations and misconduct far and wide. Of particular relevance, after some back and forth in plea negotiations between the prosecutor and the defense, the trial judge ordered the prosecutor, against the prosecutor's wishes, to follow through on an oral plea offer allowing the defendants to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter, a lesser charge to murder.
To this the prosecutor objected by filing an application for writ of mandamus to the Virgin Islands Supreme Court. The high court granted granted that application on grounds that the government generally may unilaterally withdraw a plea offer, as the prosecutor had done in this case, and that any exception to that general rule did not apply.
The writ of mandamus, however, turned out not to be the end to the matter. Upon return to the trial court, the prosecution and defense made a plea agreement for the defendants to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, still a lesser charge, but a more serious one than involuntary manslaughter. The trial judge, after receiving the prosecutor's proffer supporting the plea, rejected that plea bargain and memorialized that rejection in a 31-page opinion that, among other things, characterized the Supreme Court's reasoning in issuing the mandamus as "erroneous, 'improper,' having 'no rational basis,' lacking 'merit,' and 'making no sense." The judge went on to add the opinion was 'contrary to law and all notions of justice." The judge then recused himself for a number of reasons. Ultimately, one co-defendant died before trial; the other was acquitted by a jury.
Back to the story - the Virgin Island Supreme Court, after getting wind of the 31-page opinion, charged Judge Kendall with crimnial contempt, three counts. The counts were:
- Obstructing the administration of justice by issuing the 31-page opinion critical of the Justices' writ of mandamus;
- Failing to comply with the writ of mandamus by refusing to schedule the case for trial, refusing to consider a change of venue or continuance to minimize pretrial publicity, and recusing himself to avoid complying with the writ of mandamus, and
- Misbehaving in his official transactions as an officer of the court by issuing the 31-page opinion and disobeying the writ of mandamus.
The Virgin Islands Supreme Court appointed a Special Master to preside at Judge Kendall's trial. The Special Master recommended Judge Kendall be acquitted on all counts. The Virgin Islands Supreme Court, however, rejected those recommendations and found Judge Kendall guilty on all counts.
Judge Kendall's appeal to the Third Circuit followed.
The Third Circuit agreed that Judge Kendall's comments in the 31-page opinion were speech protected by the First Amendment. In fact, the Court held that because Judge Kendall's comments were "pure speech on public issues," the opinion held, "'the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values," and is thus 'entitled to special protection.'" Such speech, the Court held, is entitled to protection from criminal punishment unless the speech, "poses a clear and present danger to the administration of justice."
Whether it is good practice for a lower court judge to be openly and caustically critical of a higher court remains an open question, perhaps, but the Third Circuit here resolves that such speech, was lacking decorum, remains First Amendment protected, except in likely rare cases where the speech "poses a clear and present danger to the administration of justice." Kendall certainly is an interesting case and a recommended read.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
The Northern Illinois Law Review will host a symposium titled "Eavesdropping and Wiretapping in Illinois" on April 19, 2013. Here is the announcement, which includes links for times, location, registration and agenda, among other things.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Since Padilla v. Kentucky, decided in 2010, expressly established a connection between criminal pleas and collateral criminal consequences, there has been growing discussion as to whether or not Sixth Amendment protections announced in the landmark decision Gideon v. Wainwright, celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, should be extended to any degree to persons facing deportation.
For the past fifty years, immigration law has resisted integration of Gideon v. Wainwright’s legacy of appointed counsel for the poor. Today, however, this resistance has given way to Gideon’s migration. At the level of everyday practice, criminal defense attorneys appointed pursuant to Gideon now advise clients on the immigration consequences of convictions, negotiate “immigration safe” plea bargains, defend clients charged with immigration crimes, and, in some model programs, even represent criminal defendants in immigration court. A formal right to appointed counsel in immigration proceedings has yet to be established, but proposals grounded in the constitution, statutes, and expanded government funding are gaining momentum.
From the perspective of criminal defense, the changing role of Gideon-appointed counsel raises questions about the breadth and depth of immigration assistance that should develop under the defense umbrella. From the perspective of immigration legal services, the potential importation of a Gideon-inspired right to counsel requires consideration of the appropriate scope and design for an immigration defender system. This Essay does not attempt to resolve these challenging questions, but rather provides a framework for further reflection that is grounded in lessons learned from the criminal system’s implementation of Gideon.