I didn’t round up the news last week because of the Thanksgiving holiday, so I’m awash in interesting stories today. Perhaps the biggest story is that the General Assembly has voted to amend the Racial Justice Act in a way that would effectively repeal the law. The News and Observer has the story here. The key question now is whether Governor Perdue will sign the amendment, veto it, or allow it to become law without her signature. If she vetoes it, a Republican override effort would need the support of a handful of Democrats in the House to succeed. In other news:
1. The federal criminal prosecution of former Senator John Edwards is set to begin in February. The latest legal wrinkle, as described by the News and Observer, is that “prosecutors . . . are trying to prevent two former Federal Elections Commission chairmen from testifying as expert witnesses.” Essentially, the experts propose to testify that money given to Edwards to support his mistress and to keep her from public view cannot properly be characterized as campaign contributions. The prosecution contends that expert testimony on the law is inadmissible.
2. The New York Times ran a provocative article about law schools’ emphasis of theory over practice, and the resulting skills deficit in new lawyers. The article is here, but perhaps predictably, I was drawn to this factoid about the legal professoriate: “One 2010 study of hiring at top-tier law schools since 2000 found that the median amount of practical experience was one year, and that nearly half of faculty members had never practiced law for a single day.” Wow.
3. The economy’s not so good and local governments’ budgets are tight. In Riverside County, California, authorities have responded by charging inmates for the expenses of their jail stays. According to the Los Angeles Times, “[c]riminals in county lockups will be billed up to $142 a day starting in December — fees to reimburse the county for food, clothing, healthcare, security and other jail expenses. To collect, the county will garnish wages and slap liens on homes once inmates are free.”
4. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Williams v. Illinois, a Confrontation Clause case that concerns the use of substitute analysts. Stanford professor and Supreme Court advocate Jeffrey Fisher argues in the New York Times that the use of substitute analysts violates the Confrontation Clause. We’ll see if the Supreme Court agrees. Jessie Smith’s preview of the case is here. As she explains in that post, North Carolina’s appellate courts have allowed the use of substitute analysts if the stand-ins have formed their own opinions and are not mere mouthpieces for the conclusions of the absent analysts.
5. Finally, some news out of Ohio, where a man attempted to steal a police car, but couldn’t figure out how to put the vehicle in drive. Fortunately, he had a backup plan. Unfortunately, the backup plan was to “use the . . . police radio to ask dispatch how to put the car in gear.” Surprisingly, dispatch wasn’t able to help, and the criminal mastermind was arrested.