News Roundup

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Several newsworthy items have cropped up lately, so I wanted to take a day to highlight some of them.  First and foremost, the News and Observer has a troubling front-page story, here, about the SBI’s investigation into allegedly fraudulent dismissals of DWI cases in Johnston County.  Not the sort of publicity the court system needs.

Also in the newspapers today, the New York Times has an editorial, here, about Virginia Senator Jim Webb’s proposal to re-examine the criminal justice system, and in particular, to assess whether the system relies too much on incarceration.  Senator Webb’s proposal appears to be motivated by some of the same concerns raised by the Pew Center on the States in the report that I previously blogged about here.  The fiscal crisis likely makes the Senator’s proposal more palatable than it would be otherwise.

Returning to a subject I’ve written about before, a federal judge in Philadelphia just issued a temporary restraining order, prohibiting a state prosecutor from filing child pornography charges against three female teenagers who sent pictures of themselves in their undergarments via cell phone.  For the news story, see here; for my previous post on so-called sexting, see here.

I’ll be writing soon about a couple of United States Supreme Court decisions, but I wanted to take a moment to mention that the Court just ordered briefing, in connection with a pending case, about whether it should overrule  Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625 (1986), which held that once a defendant requests his “Sixth Amendment lawyer” in court, the police may not initiate uncounseled interrogation.  The briefing order is available here.

Finally, the General Assembly is in session.  There are a thousand bills pending that would, if passed, have significant impacts on the criminal justice system.  (Okay, maybe a hundred, but you get the point.)  I plan to blog soon about HB 848, here, which would have magistrates appoint counsel.  HB 786, here, would create an Office of Prosecution Services to replace the existing Conference of District Attorneys.  SB 788, here, would significantly broaden our expungement provisions.  And there are literally dozens of other pending bills, addressing everything from probation to physicians’ participation in executions to disturbing roadside vegetation.  Some, obviously, are more significant than others, and my experience with the General Assembly is limited enough that I won’t hazard a guess as to which are likely to pass.  Stay tuned for further legislative developments, and feel free to leave a comment if you feel strongly about any of the bills summarized above.

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4 comments on “News Roundup

  1. There’s a lot going on in HB 786. Wow.

  2. Right. My understanding is that the Conference supports the bill — perhaps because it appears to give prosecutors a bit more autonomy in budget issues and a bit clearer authority to represent prosecutors’ interests before the General Assembly. It would create a certain symmetry with the Office of Indigent Defense Services, as well.

  3. What is the rationale behind HB 848 ? Would the magistrates obtain & verify the “Affidavit of Indigency” ? What legal rights would be expanded under this provision, if any ?

    • I initially assumed that it was informed by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Rothgery v. Gillespie County, which held that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches at the initial appearance before a magistrate, but I’ve recently come to believe that the bill arose independent of Rothgery. I plan to post on Rothgery and HB 848 soon, so stay tuned for more on this topic.

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