News Roundup

Congratulations to my colleague John Rubin, who was just named the Albert Coates Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government. It’s a well-deserved permanent chaired professorship for John, who has worked tirelessly for many years to improve the quality of indigent defense in North Carolina. In developments outside the ivory tower:

  1. The Supreme Court heard oral argument in the two dog sniff cases this week. (One case asks whether officers conduct a Fourth Amendment search when they bring a drug dog to the front door of a home; the other asks what evidence of training and reliability is needed before a drug dog’s alert provides probable cause.) Transcripts of the oral arguments are available here, while Professor Orin Kerr’s short take on the two arguments is here.
  2. A while back, I was asked whether it would be constitutional for police, without a warrant, to set up motion-activated surveillance cameras on private property that was not within the curtilage of any dwelling. I thought it was a pretty interesting question but that on balance, current law concerning “open fields” suggested that such activity would be OK. A court was recently presented with the issue and reached the same conclusion.
  3. I noted two weeks ago that the Bureau of Justice Statistics survey found a big increase in crime in 2011. However, the FBI recently released its Uniform Crime Reporting data from 2011, and those data show both violent and property crime continuing to drop. So whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist, you’re right.
  4. Actually, maybe you’re only right if you’re a pessimist, at least as it relates to football, where you have your pick of alleged criminal activity this week. Former Penn State President Graham Spanier has been indicted for obstruction of justice, failure to report abuse, and other crimes in connection with the Jerry Sandusky case. ESPN notes here that the Pennsylvania Attorney General describes Spanier’s conduct as part of “a conspiracy of silence by top officials to actively conceal the truth,” while defense lawyers characterize the charges as vindictive and politically motivated. Meanwhile, in South Florida, an ESPN investigation into Pop Warner football revealed a den of iniquity, with kids being paid thousands of dollars to play for particular teams, drug dealers flocking to games, and widespread open-air gambling with published point spreads. Suffice it to say that many of the adults involved in the league are not exactly church deacons, either. Following in ESPN’s footsteps, law enforcement investigated and arrested alleged ringleader “Coach B” and eight others, according to this Huffington Post article. The article observes that the arrestees included “several coaches with extensive criminal backgrounds who [authorities] say exploited kids to turn a profit.”
  5. Recent polling data suggest that Judge Ervin leads Justice Newby in the race for the latter’s seat on the state supreme court. However, the race is fairly close and many voters are still undecided.
  6. Finally, prospective law students have long had access to various rankings of the best law schools. But what about the other end of the spectrum? At last, a ranking of the very worst ABA accredited law schools, led by Whittier Law School in Orange County, California, where only 17.1 of new graduates secure full-time legal employment but the cost of attendance is projected to be $235,000. Bargain!

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