News Roundup

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, the beginning of the end of WWII. Over 4,000 Allied soldiers died that day, and many more were injured. People have different ways of remembering the anniversary. My favorite commemoration is the one undertaken by 93-year-old Jim Martin, who did the same parachute drop into France he did 70 years ago. The story is here. Martin said his recent jump was much easier because “there wasn’t anybody shooting at me today.”

In other news:

Former Charlotte mayor pleads guilty in corruption case. Patrick Cannon entered a guilty plea in federal court this week. Consistent with normal federal practice, he will be sentenced in several months. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, but early estimates I have seen suggest that his sentence will likely be much shorter. The News and Observer has the story here.

Lawsuit may proceed against former Charlotte DA. In 2010, former Charlotte ADA Sean Smith (now a district court judge) sued then-Charlotte DA Peter Gilchrist. Apparently, the district attorney’s office looked favorably on motorists who attended a defensive driving school after being cited for traffic violations, but Smith thought that the school wasn’t up to snuff, and said so in a TV interview. Gilchrist then fired Smith. Smith alleged that Gilchrist had violated Smith’s free-speech rights by firing him for his public remarks, while Gilchrist contended that Smith wasn’t fired for his televised statements, but rather, for insubordination during a discussion of the matter. A federal district court granted summary judgment for Gilchrist, finding that he was protected by qualified immunity. The Fourth Circuit recently reversed, remanding the case for trial. The court’s opinion is worth a read for all government officials with managerial responsibilities as a reminder that although it is often said that at will employees may be discharged for any reason or for no reason, in fact there are prohibited reasons of which employers should be aware. Courthouse News has a summary of the case here, and the full opinion is here.

One last story about Charlotte.The Charlotte Observer recently ran this story about the ban on photography inside the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. Apparently, “[t]he ban extends to participants . . . [in] courthouse weddings,” who need court permission to take pictures of the big event. Restrictions on photography in courtrooms have generally been upheld, but I can imagine a First Amendment argument about the right to take pictures in other areas of the courthouse. For those interested in further reading, photographers’ First Amendment rights are discussed here, here, and here.

Sentencing videos. This Wall Street Journal article discusses the rise of sentencing videos, essentially professionally edited mitigation movies that are shown to sentencing judges. I’ve heard about these being used in federal court – perhaps Patrick Cannon’s defense team will create one – but would be interested to know whether they have debuted in North Carolina’s state courts yet.

Update on marijuana legalization in Colorado.This New York Times article, entitled After 5 Months of Sales, Colorado Sees the Downside of a Legal High, starts off by noting that “[l]aw enforcement officers in Colorado and neighboring states, emergency room doctors and legalization opponents increasingly are highlighting a series of recent problems as cautionary lessons for other states flirting with loosening marijuana laws.” The frequency and severity of the problems are subject to debate, and the article contains quotes from folks with a variety of perspectives.

Judge beats up public defender. Finally, a troubling story from Florida. A judge – who happens to be a retired Army colonel – recently became aggravated with a public defender and invited him to “go out back” so the judge could “beat [his] ass.” According to this local story, the two left the courtroom together, and witnesses described a scuffle accompanied by several “loud thuds,” apparently from blows the judge landed on the lawyer. The judge then returned to the courtroom and went back on the bench, huffing and puffing. Judicial disciplinary proceedings have apparently begun.

Category: Uncategorized | Tags: