News Roundup

The top story of the week may be the impending repeal of the Racial Justice Act. On Wednesday, the House voted 77-39, mostly along party lines, in favor of the repeal bill. The Senate previously approved a slightly different version of the bill. It appears that the Senate plans to approve the House version next Tuesday, at which point, the bill would go to the Governor. You can chart the progress of the bill, S 306, here.

In other news:

  • “Moral Mondays.” More than 150 people were arrested at the General Assembly during this week’s “Moral Monday” protest. The News and Observer has the story here. The sheer volume may be stressing the criminal justice system: some arrestees apparently spent many hours in holding cells prior to their initial appearances, which I imagine is due to an overwhelming number of arrestees for a limited number of magistrates. I’m sure that Wake County’s district court courtrooms are bracing for an influx of contested cases with potential constitutional defenses.
  • NSA surveillance. The National Security Agency is gathering all kinds of data from all kinds of places about all kinds of people, generally with the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The story’s moving too quickly for me to summarize it accurately, but the latest New York Times article is here, and the Volokh Conspiracy has a robust conversation about the legality of the various surveillance programs that have been disclosed.
  • Race and marijuana arrests. The ACLU came out with a report this week, the gist of which, according to the organization’s press release, is: “Black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite comparable usage rates.” The full report is available here.
  • Race and federal judges. Speaking of race, Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones, who has been viewed as a potential Republican Supreme Court nominee, was recently accused of making racist remarks during a speech at the University of Pennsylvania. The accusations are detailed in a misconduct complaint, available here. The most serious allegation may be that she said that “racial groups like African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime.” (The remarks apparently weren’t recorded.) One of Judge Jones’s former law clerks offers a perspective very different from the complainants’ here.
  • Violent crime rising. While crime rates have generally been dropping for years – even decades – there was an uptick in violent crime in 2012. Is this an outlier or an inflection point? We’ll have to wait and see. The New York Times has the story here.
  • The lighter side. A couple of much lighter stories. First, Duke Law grad Sean Memon, an associate at a large New York law firm, became the first solo winner of the Washington Post Hunt, a preposterously difficult trivia/riddle/scavenger competition normally won by a team of brainiacs working together. Well done! Second, do you pronounce the word lawyer “law-yer” or “loyer”? The answer varies with geography, as noted in this extremely interesting infographic. I didn’t grow up in the South, but I’ve been in North Carolina for more than 15 years, so I switch back and forth between the two.
  • School of Government stuff. Finally, a couple of School of Government offerings to announce. Consider registering for defender trial school, which runs July 8-12, 2013, at the School of Government. It’s free for IDS employees, $600 for private assigned counsel, and you must bring your own case to work on. Details here. And, consider following Jessie Smith on Twitter. @ProfJessieSmith is tweeting prolifically about criminal law issues. (Of course, if you’re a Twitter user, you should long ago have started following Jamie Markham, @jamie_markham, who is the School of Government’s unofficial Associate Dean for Twitter.)

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