News Roundup

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It is ACC tournament time, and basketball competition among North Carolina’s universities is fierce. U.S. News has just released its annual law school rankings, meaning that competition among the state’s law schools is also fierce. Duke takes top honors, cracking the coveted top 10. (Well, tied for number 10, anyway.) UNC and Wake Forest are tied for number 31, while Campbell is tied for number 131 121 [thanks to a reader for calling this error to my attention, and my apologies to the good folks at Campbell]. It looks like numerical rankings aren’t assigned beyond 150, and none of the state’s remaining law schools passed that threshold.

In other news:

Fatal Vision author dies. Joe McGinniss, who wrote the book Fatal Vision about the Jeffrey MacDonald murder case, died this week. This Washington Post piece is short and informative. It characterizes Fatal Vision as “one of the best non-fiction books ever written,” and explains how McGinniss ingratiated himself with the defense team; subsequently wrote a book that portrayed the defendant as a psychopath; and then saw his own career ruined by allegations of journalistic misconduct.

Muckraking story about extradition. A colleague pointed me to this USA Today story about fugitives. The gist of the article is that some law enforcement agencies in some states sometimes decline to extradite their fugitives, often for financial reasons, and that some fugitives commit terrible crimes that might not have happened had they been extradited and prosecuted. There’s a follow-up piece, plus several interesting sidebars and infographics, all of which can be accessed through the link above. The newspaper claims that North Carolina law enforcement agencies won’t pursue extradition in over 60% of all pending felony cases, compared to a national average of just 16%. I don’t know how the data were compiled, but it is provocative stuff.

Constitutionality of assault on a female statute? This blog post by UCLA Professor Eugene Volokh notes a recent Virgin Islands decision striking down a penalty enhancement for assaults committed by men against women as unconstitutionally discriminatory on the basis of sex, a result that Professor Volokh views as “clearly correct.” He notes that the North Carolina court of appeals is one of several courts that have reached contrary results, see State v. Gurganus, 39 N.C. App. 395 (1979), but perhaps the issue isn’t completely settled.

USDOJ supports shorter sentences for drug offenders. This press release from the USDOJ notes that “Attorney General Eric Holder endorsed a proposed change to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that would reserve the harshest penalties for the most serious drug offenders.” Specifically, it would “lower by two levels the base offense [level] associated with various drug quantities . . . . If adopted, the change would impact nearly 70% of all drug trafficking offenders and reduce the average sentence by 11 months, or nearly 18%,” and would reduce the federal prison population by over 6,000 inmates.

Terrifying, improbable, and cute. Three quick stories to wrap up. (1) Terrifying: I admit there’s no criminal law connection, but click here to check out the 500+ pound wild boar shot by a hunter in eastern North Carolina this week. Imagine yourself coming face to face with that big boy in the woods! (2) Improbable: Looks like Colorado’s universities are seeing applications at an all-time “high.” Could it be related to the state’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana use? University spokespeople are falling all over themselves to deny it. (3) Cute: A two-year old in Florida was driving her toy convertible in a parking lot when a sheriff’s deputy issued her a “ticket.” The local story, with a photo, is here. The little girl and her family got a kick out of it. For his part, the officer reports that “she was going pretty fast. It took me a while to catch up to her, but we did, and she was cited.”

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