Friday, June 30, 2006
A news article on the decision can be found here.
Over at SCOTUS Blog, there is excellent commentary on the decision.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
The comment referred to Appellant's immense size, strength, and the destructiveness of his previous crimes. In this case, the trial court properly determined that Appellant's size and strength were probative of the aggravating circumstance of physical torture, which the court charged to the jury. In this regard, the Solicitor's use of the term "King Kong" was not suggestive of a giant black gorilla who abducts a white woman, but rather, descriptive of Appellant's size and strength as they related to his past crimes.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
In examining the words of the statue, SCOTUS held that costs is a term of art that generally does not include expert fees--unlike the term "expenses" which is much broader. Hence, the statutory language does not support the payment of expert fees and even if that were an intended result of this congressional legislation, the States did not receive clear notice under the Spending Clause of the condition.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The Government argued that the Sixth Amendment only protects the right to competent, paid counsel, not the lawyer of the defendant's choice. The Government further contended that the Sixth Amendment violation is not "complete" unless the defendant can show that substitute counsel was ineffective within the meaning of Strickland v. Washington. SCOTUS disagreed.
SCOTUS noted that the right at stake was the right to counsel of choice, not the right to a fair trial. SCOTUS described the error as "structural" and held that the error violated respondent's Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice and that this violation is not subject to harmless error analysis.
In the case before the Court, the uncontroverted evidence was that Francis had repeated attendance and related performance issues that resulted in her probation and ultimately her termination. Therefore, no inference existed that the alleged discrimination was motivated by her status as a member of the armed forces. The Court further determined that the retaliation claim was without merit because the actions that resulted in Francis' probation and termination occurred prior to her protected activity.
(contributed by Sandi Wilson)
The Court concluded that the anti-retaliation provision does extend to such employer actions provided that a reasonable employee would consider the action taken materially adverse (i.e., harmful to the point that the action could dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination). The Court reasoned that an employer can effectively retaliate against an employee by taking actions not directly related to his employment or by causing the employee harm outside of the workplace and in so doing expressly determined that the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII are broader in scope than the anti-discrimination provisions. Under this reasoning the Court found that a sufficient evidentiary basis existed to support the jury's verdict on White's retaliation claim because it was not required to find that the challenged actions related to the terms or conditions of White's employment.
(contributed by Sandi Wilson)
Monday, June 26, 2006
Public defenders across South Carolina are preparing to get a number of new cases after the state increased penalties for domestic violence and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled more defendants have a right to an attorney.
The high court ruling in an Alabama case likely means any defendant facing jail time, even as little as 30 days, is entitled to a lawyer, said T. Patton Adams, executive director of the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense.That could mean public defenders would have to serve all indigent defendants even in magistrate's court, Adams said.
The state's tougher domestic violence laws, which increase jail time and fines, also will mean more defendants will have the right to a lawyer.
A news story on the trial can be found here.
Friday, June 23, 2006
In affirming the district court, the Fourth Circuit noted that "while ERISA fiduciaries should not be removed lightly, we conclude that defendants' actions --including attempts to raid the plan's assets and deprive employees of vested benefits --constitute an egregious misuse of authority that justified the district court's remedies."
Thursday, June 22, 2006
At trial, the State's only witnesses were the two police officers who responded to the 911 call. Both officers testified that the girlfriend exhibited injuries that appeared to be recent, but neither officer could testify as to the cause of the injuries. The girlfriend refused to testify. Over Davis's objection, based on the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment, the trial court admitted the recording of her exchange with the 911 operator, and the jury convicted him.
In Crawford v. Washington, 541 U. S. 36, 554 (2004), SCOTUS held that the Confrontation Clause bars "admission of testimonial statements of a witness who did not appear at trial unless he was unavailable to testify, and the defendant had a prior opportunity for cross-examination." The Court, however, did not define testimonial statements. With Davis, the Court did supply a definition:
Statements are nontestimonial when made in the course of police interrogation under circumstances objectively indicating that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency. They are testimonial when the circumstances objectively indicate that there is no such ongoing emergency, and that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to establish or prove past events potentially relevant to later criminal prosecution.
The Court found that the statements made to the 911 operator were not testimonial. In so holding, the Court noted that the girlfriend was not describing past events, but was speaking about events as they were actually happening. Any reasonable listener would recognize that she was facing an ongoing emergency. Finally, the nature of what was asked and answered was such that the elicited statements were necessary to be able to resolve the present emergency, rather than simply to learn what had happened in the past.
In determining whether the search violated the Fourth Amendment, SCOTUS applied a totality of the circumstances test. In balancing the liberty interest versus the state's interests, the Court noted that the "ability to conduct suspicionless searches of parolees serves [the state's] interest in reducing recidivism, in a manner that aids, rather than hinders, the reintegration of parolees into productive society." The fact that a parolee is still under much state supervision and restrictions coupled with the state's interest in reducing recidivism, persuaded the Court that the statute did not violate the Fourth Amendment.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Supreme Court holds that in PCR setting decision whether to seek writ of cert is within attorney's discretion
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
According to the plurality opinion, the Corps has also "asserted jurisdiction over virtually any parcel of land containing a channel or conduit--whether man-made or natural, broad or narrow, permanent or ephemeral--through which rainwater or drainage may occasionally or intermittently flow. On this view, the federally regulated 'waters of the United States' include storm drains, road-side ditches, ripples of sand in the desert that may contain water once a year, and lands that are covered by floodwaters once every 100 years."
This case concerned Rapanos' cornfield, which included 54 acres of land with sometimes-saturated soil conditions. The nearest body of navigable water was 11 to 20 miles away. Regulators informed Mr. Rapanos that his fields were "waters of the United States," that could not be filled without a permit. Twelve years of criminal and civil litigation ensued.
Justice Scalia, writing for a the plurality, rejected the government's broad interpretation of "waters of the United States." Using the canons of statutory construction and giving Chevron difference to the Corps' broad interpretation, the Scalia held that the Act's use of the traditional phrase "navigable waters" confirms that it confers jurisdiction only over relatively permanent bodies of water--not ditches and cornfields. The government expansive interpretation also implicated federalism concerns, and Scalia noted that the result would be a "significant impingement of the States' traditional and primary power over land and water use."
The result was that SCOTUS remanded the case "to determine if these wetlands are covered 'waters of the United States,' and because of the paucity of the record in both of these cases, the lower courts should determine, in the first instance, whether the ditches or drains near each wetland are 'waters' in the ordinary sense of containing a relatively permanent flow."
Because there was only a plurality opinion, uncertainty has been injected into the law. This one could be a mess for the lower courts to sort out.
Monday, June 19, 2006
However, the negative impact on Morrison does not render the rule invalid. North Carolina is not discriminating against citizens of other States in favor of her own. The rule simply represents North Carolina's "undertaking to secure for its citizens an advantage by offering that advantage to citizens of any other state on condition that the other state make a similar grant."
Friday, June 16, 2006
In other words, exclusion may not be premised on the mere fact that a constitutional violation was a "but-for" cause of obtaining evidence. Our cases show that but-for causality is only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition for suppression. In this case, of course, the constitutional violation of an illegal manner of entry was not a but-for cause of obtaining the evidence. Whether that preliminary misstep had occurred or not, the police would have executed the warrant they had obtained, and would have discovered the gun and drugs inside the house.
. . .
[Mapp v. Ohio and similar cases] say nothing about the appropriateness of exclusion to vindicate the interests protected by the knock-and-announce requirement. Until a valid warrant has issued, citizens are entitled to shield "their persons, houses, papers, and effects," U. S. Const., Amdt. 4, from the government's scrutiny. Exclusion of the evidence obtained by a warrantless search vindicates that entitlement. The interests protected by the knock-and-announce requirement are quite different and do not include the shielding of potential evidence from the government's eyes.
. . .
What the knock-and-announce rule has never protected, however, is one's interest in preventing the governmentfrom seeing or taking evidence described in a warrant. Since the interests that were violated in this case have nothing to do with the seizure of the evidence, the exclusionary rule is inapplicable.
The dissent suggests that the majority opinion destroyed "the strongest legal incentive to comply with the Constitution's knock-and-announce requirement" by holding the evidence need not be suppressed if the police ignore the knock-and-announce rule.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
S.C. Court of Appeals holds that constitutional concerns are not implicated when civil and criminal matters are pending at same time
The Court of Appeals found no constitutional violation. According to the Court, there is nothing inherently repugnant to due process in requiring a party to choose between giving testimony at a family court hearing and keeping silent, even though giving testimony at the hearing may damage his criminal case and keeping silent will most likely lead to an adverse ruling in the family court proceeding.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
(contributed by Sandi R. Wilson)
In House v. Bell, the Court considered the procedural default rule in connection with a petition for habeas corpus. Twenty years ago, a jury convicted Paul Gregory House for murder and sentenced him to death. Since then, new revelations cast doubt on the jury's verdict. House sought access to federal court to pursue habeas corpus relief based on constitutional claims that were procedurally barred under state law. As a general rule, federal courts are closed to claims that state courts would consider defaulted. The Supreme Court held that the DNA evidence discovered was an exceptional circumstance involving a compelling claim of actual innocence and thus the state procedural default rule cannot bar a federal habeas corpus petition.
Here is a news story from the Boston Globe on the two opinions.
SCOTUS Blog has this post.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Dana alleges the trial court erred in failing to charge the jury on self defense. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court because Dana could not show that he had no other probable means of avoiding the danger.
S.C. Supreme Court holds that in condemnation action accrual of interest cannot be stopped by Rule 67
Pursuant to Rule 67, SCRCP, SCDOT also sought to deposit with the court the judgment amount plus accrued statutory interest, less the draw down amount, while it pursued an appeal. First Carolina objected. However, the court granted SCDOT's motion, allowing it to deposit the funds and stop the accrual of post judgment interest. First Carolina then appealed, questioning whether the trial court err by allowing SCDOT to deposit the judgment amount pursuant to Rule 67, SCRCP, in order to stop the accrual of post-judgment interest.
The Supreme Court held that the Eminent Domain Procedure Act, which requires post judgment interest to be added to any judgment which is not paid within the twenty day period, trumps the provisions of Rule 67 allowing the deposit of the judgment amount to stop accrual of interest.
Monday, June 12, 2006
[T]he State Constitution, in unequivocal terms, vests the power to determine the qualifications for judicial candidates in the General Assembly. Were we to review this case, this Court would be delving into the decision making process of the very body that determines whether the members of this Court are qualified to seek election to the bench. We decline to put the judiciary in a position that would interfere with the selection of its very own members. Accordingly, we hold that the issue of whether Mullen was properly qualified is a nonjusticiable political question.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
I personally don't believe that oral argument serves much of a purpose in this age of lengthy briefs, reply briefs, and multivolume JAs. I'd say oral argument makes a difference in less than 5 percent of the cases. But, it's still nice to make that trip and feel like you had an opportunity to be heard.
S.C. Supreme Court holds that statement in PCR application that petitioner would have not have pled guilty is insufficient without testimony
Respondent's failure to take the stand resulted in a failure of proof-- i.e. the allegation in the complaint that he would not have pled guilty was not proven because of Respondent's reluctance to testify to that assertion. An applicant seeking relief from a guilty plea must present probative evidence to support the allegations in the PCR application that but for trial counsel's erroneous advice, the applicant would not have pled guilty.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Friday, June 02, 2006
There is speculation that the lawyers could receive close to $50 million in fees.
I question this use of the death penalty in this situation, but expect the governor to sign this bill.
The AP has this report.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
In any claim or civil action brought by or on behalf of a patient allegedly experiencing an unanticipated outcome of medical care, any and all statements, affirmations, gestures, activities, or conduct expressing benevolence, regret, apology, sympathy, commiseration, condolence, compassion, mistake, error, or a general sense of benevolence which are made by a health care provider, an employee or agent of a health care provider, or by a health care institution to the patient, a relative of the patient, or a representative of the patient and which are made during a designated meeting to discuss the unanticipated outcome shall be inadmissible as evidence and shall not constitute an admission of liability or an admission against interest.
This is more malpractice reform and we be helpful in the defense of health care providers.
Here's an example of some of the trial court's faulty reasoning:
Defense counsel struck Juror 78, a white woman, because she was the wife and office manager of a prominent dentist in the community. The employment status of a prospective juror is a race-neutral reason for using a peremptory challenge. Before the State had an opportunity to carry its burden by showing pretext, the trial court asked defense counsel if he knew Juror 78. The trial court held that the strike violated Batson because the defense attorney did not know the juror and it was improper "to prejudice somebody by their position."