Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Retired police officer wants to withdraw earlier plea on multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct

He entered a guilty plea, now says he wants to withdraw the plea, since he claims his lawyer coerced him into pleading.

Article here (via mlive).

Routine paperwork uncovers facts: Bar association president didn't have a license to practice law

If Greg Jackson hadn’t taken his routine paperwork seriously, a former county bar president might not be facing sentencing on Tuesday for the unauthorized practice of law.

Jackson had been assigned to compile a list of the two dozen members of the Huntingdon County Bar Association in Pennsylvania shortly before Christmas 2014. He was listing the lawyer names along with their bar numbers when he noticed that a former county bar president, Kimberly Kitchen, appeared to be using the bar number of another person—a lawyer in Delaware.

Article here (via aba journal) 

Freddie Gray case: law professor files ethics violations

Remember Freddie Gray? He died as a result of police custody.

A public-interest law professor is filing complaints seeking the disbarment of two prosecutors with the Baltimore City State’s Attorney Office for actions in the prosecution of police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Professor John F. Banzhaf III of the George Washington University Law School said the complaints with the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission are against Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow and Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe. He alleges they failed to present enough evidence to support even bringing the prosecution. Last month, Banzhaf filed a similar complaint against their boss, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, the Sun reported at the time.

Article here (via aba journal) Sorry! Posted earlier without the link (needs more coffee). 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Multiple shootings alleged in Berrien County Courthouse (St. Joseph, Michigan)

Police were rushing to investigate a report of multiple shootings early Monday afternoon at the Berrien County Courthouse in downtown St. Joseph.

A law enforcement official said he did not know who or how many people were injured  but it was feared that some employees of the Berrien County Sheriff's Office may have been injured.

Article here (via mlive.) 

Update: the three who were killed were two bailiffs at the County Court, and the inmate. Inmate was in handcuffs and got the gun from a bailiff. Inmate was not thought - due to prior court appearances - to be violent.

Suspect in terrorism case allegedly also plotted to kill judge in his terrorism case

An inmate in Toledo, Ohio, awaiting trial on a charge of providing material support to terrorists has been charged with plotting the contract killing of the federal judge overseeing his case.

Article here (via aba journal). 

Yahya Farooq Mohammad, 37, is accused of offering to pay an undercover agent for the slaying of U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary, the Toledo Blade, the National Law Journal (sub. req.) and the Columbus Dispatch report.

Mohammad is a citizen of India who studied electrical engineering at Ohio State University, according to the Dispatch. He was extradited to the United States from the United Arab Emirates last year and accused of conspiring to travel to Yemen to provide cash for terrorism.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Are forced urine samples unconstitutional? South Dakota case illuminates the issue

A lawyer who is arguing his client’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated by a forced urine sample is shining a light on the practice by police in South Dakota.

The lawyer for Dirk Landon Sparks is asking a judge to toss the test results used to charge his client with felony drug ingestion, the Argus Leader reports.

The lawyer, Jeremy Lund, argues in a May 16 motion filed in Hughes County that the judge who signed a search warrant for a blood or urine sample didn’t authorize Sparks to be strapped to a hospital bed and a catheter to be forced into his penis.

Article here (via aba journal). 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Q & A: Real estate purchase and zoning laws: can the township authority make me do this?

Q: My mom has some acreage (not much, actually, less than ten acres). She wants to sell me a parcel of her property so that I can build on it. I live in a crummy area, there's a lot of drug dealers around me. I want to build on that land I'm buying from my mom, and bring my kids to that school district too, which is better for everyone. The land has always been in our family, and probably always will be. The problem is that it is zoned agricultural. I have also heard that the township won't let land be parceled smaller than 8 acres in that area. Can the township authority do that, stop me from building because it's zoning it that way? Can they stop my mom from selling to me based on the size of the parcel?

A: Probably, the township authority can do that. 
Your questions center on the area of real estate law, specifically zoning, and the validity of zoning laws.
The thing is that governments (in this case, the township authority) is not supposed to interfere with property rights. Property rights loosely means you can use your property (the land your mom wants to sell you will become yours) however you want to use it. This right to use the property usually applies to how it is sold, legally this is referred to as making property "freely alienable," or easily sold, given away, etc. Governments are not supposed to do things that make it hard for you to use or sell your property.

However, since the area is zoned agriculturally, it may present a barrier. The problem is that the zoning law is usually upheld - this means that townships like yours can (usually) show that there's a community interest in keeping things the way they are - if it is zoned as agricultural, it may have to stay agricultural. That is, unless, you can show (through an appeal to the zoning board before the property is sold to you) that the continuance of zoning is unreasonable because there is no possible way for the property to continue as agricultural use.  The best fact you have going for you in this scenario is that the parcel she has already is sort of small (for agricultural use), but does that mean that it wouldn't ever be useful as agricultural again? That's what a zoning board of appeals would have to decide.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Old news! But changes still to come: Michigan's Indigent Defense Commission: What's happening?

Gov. Snyder (back in 2013, see the article here, which is why I listed this as "old news") signed a bill to allow the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission. The problem is (or was) that depending on where a person got in trouble with the law, the standard of how that person was defended by a court appointed attorney could vary widely.

(A Defendant can always 1. go without representation and act as his or her own attorney 2. hire an attorney, or 3. request that the court appoint an attorney if that defendant can show indigence (poverty).)

The MIDC has so far adopted standards for the attorneys chosen to serve on CA lists, which can be seen here. Other news available on the website.

The more exciting part of this legislation is that it is expected to increase the amount of cases where a defendant is represented. That's good because people are less likely to plead away their rights, if once made aware of those rights!

FOIA requests: chipping away at government's culture of secrets

Happy Independence Day! 

On Independence Day 50 years ago, President Lyndon Baines Johnson reluctantly signed into law the Freedom of Information Act. President Johnson thought it was terrible legislation and considered a veto after it was passed by Congress. He signed the bill into law on his Texas ranch instead of at a celebratory event at the White House.

Johnson’s comments at the low-key signing ceremony at the ranch illustrated his mixed feelings about the new law. “I signed this measure with a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society,” he said. “I have always believed that freedom of information is so vital that only the national security, not the desire of public officials or private citizens, should determine when it must be restricted. At the same time, the welfare of the nation or the rights of individuals may require that some documents not be made available. As long as threats to peace exist, for example, there must be military secrets.”

Article here  (via aba journal).

As a side note: I use FOIA requests a lot - sometimes for police reports (depending on the police department, it may be required), utility companies, etc. It's fun! You have rights, protect them!

Does the "epidemic" of teen sexting need a new law to govern it?

Teenagers who share sexual images through texting – commonly referred to as "sexting" – are committing criminal acts that could land them in prison for 20 years or more.

That's because creating photos and videos of teens falls under Michigan's child sexually abusive material law. They also could provide evidence of first degree criminal sexual conduct, punishable by up to life in prison.

And because cell phones are considered computers, sexting can draw added punishment as much as 20 additional years -- for using a computer to commit a crime.

Article here (via mlive).