You’ve probably heard of ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot built by the company Open AI. The most recent version of Open AI’s product, GPT-4, “scored in the 88th percentile on the LSAT . . . and did even better on the [Uniform Bar Exam] by scoring in the 90th percentile.” More details here, but this might reasonably make criminal lawyers wonder whether we could be replaced by AI. Continue reading
A bill was introduced at the General Assembly this week to prohibit certain pet leasing agreements. H226 would make it a class 2 misdemeanor to lease or sell a cat or dog pursuant to an agreement in which the animal is subject to repossession in the case of a missed payment. I had not heard of such agreements, but according to this Business Insider article, they are legal in 42 states and are not uncommon. Typically they are used when a person wants to buy a pet but can’t pay the entire amount up front and so enters into a lease-to-own or installment purchase agreement that carries the risk of repossession. A bill to address pet leasing was previously introduced in 2021, but that bill (H849) did not advance out of committee. Keep reading for more news.
In January, actor Alec Baldwin was charged with involuntary manslaughter after fatally shooting a cinematographer on a film set in New Mexico. There is no suggestion that the shooting was intentional but the prosecution contends that Baldwin and others were grossly negligent in their handling of firearms. The local district attorney asked that a special prosecutor be assigned to the case. Andrea Reeb, a former district attorney who was elected to the state legislature in 2022, was appointed. In February, Baldwin moved to disqualify her, arguing that having a legislator exercise “either the executive power or the judicial power” as a special prosecutor violated separation of powers principles. Although the court has not yet rule on the motion, Reeb stepped down this week, saying that she “will not allow questions about [her] serving as a legislator and prosecutor to cloud the real issue at hand.” The Associated Press has more here. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
Women in Policing
Think about the officers involved in some of the recent high-profile incidents involving police use of excessive force. The officers involved in George Floyd’s death were Derek Chauvin, Alexander Keung, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao. The officers involved in Tyre Nichols’s death were Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin, Desmond Mills, and Justin Smith. Walter Scott was shot by Michael Slager. These officers vary in age, race, and education. But they have one thing in common: they’re all men. Continue reading →
The most shocking story of the week involves four residents of South Carolina who travelled to Mexico, where two were killed and the other two abducted and eventually rescued. At least one member of the group was apparently planning a cosmetic medical procedure while abroad. It initially appeared that the four had been accidentally caught in the middle of a shootout between rival cartels, but more recent reporting has suggested that they may have been targeted after being mistaken for Haitian drug traffickers – or even may have been involved in drug trafficking themselves. WRAL has an updated story here, and the New York Post has one here scrutinizing the criminal history of the victims. It is certainly an evolving story. Read on for more news. Continue reading →
Last fall, I wrote a post about the litigation over the constitutionality of various firearms restrictions in the wake of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, 597 U.S. __, 142 S. Ct. 2111 (2022). Recall that in Bruen, the Supreme Court announced a new interpretive approach for Second Amendment claims: courts must determine whether the challenged regulation is “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” Litigants have subsequently come forward with numerous challenges to gun laws, and courts have struggled with how to apply the new test. As detailed below, the Fifth Circuit recently issued a major federal appellate case decided under the Bruen framework, and we are awaiting another from the Third Circuit on an even more important issue. Continue reading →
Next door in South Carolina, disgraced personal injury attorney and part-time prosecutor Alex Murdaugh has been convicted of the murders of his wife and son. The case has been in the news partly because of what some see as the exotic lifestyle of the Murdaugh family, with the murders taking place on the family’s 1700 acre lowcountry hunting estate. (The property has recently been put up for sale and is under contract – you can see the listing here.) Murdaugh testified in his own defense, admitting that he regularly stole money from his clients and that he lied to police during the investigation of the crimes. Closing arguments took place on Wednesday and Thursday, with deliberations lasting under three hours on Thursday afternoon. The Associated Press covers the verdict here. NPR has a story here that addresses some of the major revelations of the trial. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
Fourth Circuit Rules that the First Amendment May Protect a Vehicle Occupant’s Right to Livestream a Traffic Stop
Several years ago, two officers working for the Winterville Police Department stopped a car for a traffic violation. Dijon Sharpe was a passenger in the vehicle. Sharpe had some prior negative interactions with police, so he began using his phone to livestream the stop on Facebook Live. One of the officers saw what Sharpe was doing and attempted to grab the phone, saying “We ain’t gonna do Facebook Live, because that’s an officer safety issue.” Sharpe held on to the phone and continued to livestream the stop. One of the officers told him that recording the stop was fine, but that livestreaming was not permissible and that “in the future,” if he attempted to livestream a stop, his phone would be taken from him. Sharpe subsequently sued, contending that the officers violated his First Amendment rights by trying to prevent him from livestreaming the stop. A federal district court dismissed his complaint. Sharpe appealed, and the Fourth Circuit recently issued a significant opinion in the case. Read on to find out what the court said. Continue reading →
Things are going full tilt at the General Assembly. One new bill of interest this week would reduce the per se impairment blood alcohol content from .08 to .05. If the bill passes, this 50-state comparison chart suggests that North Carolina would be the second state, after Utah, to adopt the lower limit. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that Utah’s adoption of the .05 standard has saved lives and recommends that other states follow suit. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
The School of Government Has a New Dean
The School of Government was founded 92 years ago as the Institute of Government. To say that the School has had continuity of leadership would be an understatement. The top job has been held by just four people, three of whom served more than two decades each:
- Albert Coates was the founder of the Institute and served as Director from 1931 to 1962.
- John Sanders served as Director from 1962 to 1973. He stepped away from the Institute to serve the university system from 1973 to 1978, during which time Henry Lewis served as Director. Sanders returned and resumed his role from 1979 to 1992.
- Since 1992, the School has been led by Mike Smith, first as Director of the Institute, and since 2001 as Dean of the School of Government.
Things will change on February 27, when our colleague Aimee Wall – currently the School’s Senior Associate Dean – will become Dean of the School. It is a watershed moment for many reasons, and while I don’t expect any disruptive changes to our work in criminal law, I thought readers would be interested to know of this transition. Below, I’ve pasted the message Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Chris Clemens sent to the University community about Aimee’s appointment. Continue reading →