News Roundup

The criminal-law-related legal news has been coming fast and furious over the past week or so.

1. The fallout from the Bowden case continues. The case, discussed here, held that a life sentence imposed during a several-year window in the 1970s meant 80 years, subject to further reduction through good time credits. Later this month, it will result in the release of a number of inmates, unless the federal authorities bring charges against them, which this News and Observer story says they may. (Statute of limitations and speedy trial issues appear to be significant barriers to such prosecutions. Unlike state law, federal law provides a statute of limitations for most felony offenses.) If they are released, it appears that virtually all of the inmates will be unsupervised by any probation or parole officer.

2. The federal Department of Justice just announced that it will discourage federal prosecutions of marijuana suppliers and users who are acting in conformity with state medical marijuana laws. Press release here, news story here. Obviously, there’s no direct impact on North Carolina, since state law doesn’t allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but perhaps it incrementally strengthens the hand of those who support the legalization of medical marijuana, by removing the objection that “allowing” medical marijuana is pointless in light of federal law prohibiting the possession and sale of marijuana under all circumstances.

3. With the Supreme Court underway on its new Term, the USA Today prepared this interesting story on Justice John Paul Stevens. The story characterizes him as a master tactician, assembling majorities for liberal viewpoints on an increasingly conservative Court, and suggests that his likely retirement — he hasn’t hired the usual spate of law clerks for next year — will leave the liberal wing of the Court without a clear leader.

4. The Washington Post wonders why President Obama has been slow to nominate candidates for federal judgeships.

5. There’s a new batch of Court of Appeals opinions today. As usual, we’ll unpack the most interesting ones on the blog in the next few days.

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