News Roundup

It is still safe – legally speaking – to drive around Chapel Hill while talking on a cell phone. Recall that the town has banned cell phone usage while driving, subject to certain exceptions. The ban was scheduled to go into effect June 1, but the owner of a towing company sued the town alleging that local regulation of cell phone use while driving is preempted by the state’s motor vehicle regulatory scheme. (Shea discussed that issue here.) Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson has entered a preliminary injunction against the ordinance, with further proceedings scheduled for next week. He found that the plaintiff has a “very strong likelihood of success on the merits,” according to the News and Observer.

In other news:

1. Wake County has a fancy new jail, er, detention center. You can read about it here. It is 400,000 square feet, cost $151 million to build, and is future-proof in that it is designed to handle twice the number of inmate intakes that Wake County currently has. Among other latest and greatest features, the detention center has heated carts for transporting warm meals to the inmates.

2. We just passed the 20 year anniversary of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. The Wall Street Journal has this interesting story about how the LAPD, once viewed by many as corrupt and racist, has changed in the intervening decades. Diversity on the force is up, and citizens’ view of the police is much improved.

3. All is not rosy on the West Coast, however. ABC News reports here on the astonishing case of UC – San Diego student Daniel Chong. Chong was staying overnight with a friend when the DEA raided the friend’s house. Although never formally arrested, Chong was handcuffed and placed in a holding cell, where he was left for four days without food, water, or a bathroom. He drank his own urine to survive, hallucinated extensively, and attempted to carve “sorry, Mom” into his own skin with his broken eyeglasses when he believed that he would die. Chong claims that he could hear officers talking on the other side of his cell door, but that they ignored his repeated cries for help. After being released, Chong “spent five days in the hospital for dehydration, kidney failure, cramps and a perforated esophagus.”

4. On a somewhat lighter note, you know those books and websites about how to talk your way out of a speeding ticket? I’m pretty sure that Zachary Ramirez of Naperville, Illinois, hasn’t read any of them. When an officer stopped him, he allegedly told the officer that he was driving so fast because he was on his way to “have sex with a girl he liked.” Ramirez’s classy explanation didn’t help him – the officer still charged him. Of course, it probably didn’t help that Ramirez was going 111 m.p.h. in a 40 m.p.h. zone, and blew through a red light and a stop sign. (Thanks to a reader for pointing me to this story.)

5. Finally, if further proof were needed that lawyers can argue about anything, this story would do the trick. In a nutshell, high-dollar corporate lawyers on opposite sides of a case got into it over whether one firm’s briefs were double-spaced as the court’s rules required, or whether they were really closer to 1.75 spaced. The offending firm contended that it used “12 point Times New Roman font formatted in Microsoft Word with the line spacing set at exactly 24 points, i.e., double the line height,” but the other side, and the court, said that wasn’t double spacing.

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