News Roundup

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This week saw several interesting developments at the United States Supreme Court, plus the videotaped arrest of a public defender in the hallway of a courthouse.

Supreme Court takes up another method-of-execution case. As the USA Today discusses here, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case from Oklahoma challenging the use of the sedative midazolam as an ingredient in the cocktail of drugs used in executions. Four death row inmates were plaintiffs, but one was just executed, leaving three more to carry the case forward. States have started using a wide variety of drugs for lethal injection, so it strikes me as unlikely that the decision in this case will resolve most method-of-execution claims one way or the other.

Supreme Court’s Miller retroactivity case disappears. As one case joins the Court’s docket, another falls away. The Court had agreed to review a New Orleans case that presented the issue of whether Miller v. Alabama (no automatic LWOP for juvenile murderers) applies retroactively. But a local innocence project and the prosecutor’s office have allowed the petitioner in that case to re-plead to lesser charges, resulting in his release and mooting the case. It’s probably too late for the Court to pick another Miller retroactivity case this Term, but I imagine that the matter will crop up again next Term.

Sledge exonerated. As noted in last week’s roundup, there was a hearing last Friday regarding the innocence claim of Joseph Sledge, convicted four decades ago of a double murder during a prison escape. At the hearing, the State acknowledged Sledge’s innocence, and he is now a free man. WRAL has the story here. The work of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission receives some positive attention here on Sentencing Law & Policy.

WRAL digs into forfeiture. I blogged here about recent changes to the federal Equitable Sharing forfeiture program. WRAL has an article up today discussing the program, the recent reforms, and quantifying how much money various law enforcement agencies have received under the program.

School of Government launches civil blog. Readers interested in civil matters should check out a new School of Government offering just launched by several of my colleagues. Their announcement states:

In direct response to the popularity of the Criminal law blog, faculty at the School of Government have created On the Civil Side, a blog focused on issues of interest to court personnel and lawyers working in a variety of civil court proceedings, including general civil district and superior court, domestic relations matters, juvenile cases, small claims court, and hearings before clerks.

Regular contributors will include Cheryl Howell (family law), Sara DePasquale (child welfare law); Ann Anderson (civil procedure); Meredith Smith (hearings before the Clerk of Court); LaToya Powell (juvenile justice); Austine Long (indigent defense civil matters); and Dona Lewandowski (small claims law).

Here’s the link. Check it out.

http://civil.sog.unc.edu/

Finally, the video: public defender arrested in the hallway of a courthouse. Above the Law has a story here, with video, about the arrest of a San Francisco public defender in a courthouse hallway when she objected to officers taking pictures of her client as the client stood outside a courtroom. The story takes the point of view that the arrest was unjustified. However, the story appears to contain both factual errors (it asserts that the client was “being questioned in the hallway” but the video strongly suggests that the officer was just taking pictures of the client) and legal errors (it states that “police can’t go around questioning a guy that they know to be represented outside the presence of his lawyer,” but that’s incorrect under Montejo v. Louisiana). Even so, the ultimate conclusion of the story seems right. I just don’t see how the lawyer’s conduct could possibly constitute the California equivalent of R/D/O or obstructing justice. She doesn’t get in the way of the camera, she just calmly tells the officer that she doesn’t want pictures taken. And when threatened with arrest, she could not be less disruptive. So I think the arrest was not just heavy-handed and unnecessary, but actually unlawful. Anyone see it differently?

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6 comments on “News Roundup

  1. If what I heard was correct in relation to the arrest of the public defender the detective had the person he wanted to take pictures of detained. The detective said you can leave once I get a few pictures okay? I would also agree that I don’t see the resist, hinder, delay. If the detective had just taken pictures without saying anything I think he would’ve been better off.

  2. In regards to the Oklahoma case, I found the concept of the courtesy fifth vote to be pretty interesting — http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/us/in-taking-up-execution-drugs-case-justices-highlight-importance-of-a-single-vote.html?_r=0. It also got me thinking that I really don’t know how our state Supreme Court handles voting. How many votes at the NC SCt does it take to grant a temp stay, supersedeas, cert, PDR, etc.? Do they have an analogous courtesy fourth vote? I know it might be a pain, but I think a post on the inner workings of our state Supreme Court could be extremely valuable to practitioners. Thanks!

  3. The police apparently wanted to question the lawyer’s client outside of the lawyer’s presence so the police arrested the lawyer in order to remove her. The “picture” reference was a preposterous red herring. The police already had pictures of the client and the police were able to take pictures in the hallway with or without the lawyer’s objections. The client had already been detained by the police before the lawyer came out of the courtroom to see what was going on. Taking pictures takes a couple of seconds, not minutes. There is no need to detain a person in order to take a picture of the person. Just look at the person through your i-phone and push the button. Done. We don’t know whether the police really wanted to interrogate the client, intimidate the client, intimidate the lawyer, or something else. We do know that the police wanted to do something other than take the client’s picture. Taking the client’s picture is so far from credible as the goal of the police that picture-taking is laughable.
    Unless there is something pertinent off-camera we just don’t know about, this arrest is plainly unlawful. Those policemen should be fired. They should be criminally prosecuted. They will shirk their duty to this level while in a courthouse, on camera, against an officer of the court, with witnesses aplenty. I wonder what they do out of sight of cameras and witnesses and to poor, uneducated people…

  4. I think that the police could legally photograph someone in a courthouse, but I don’t see where they get the authority to detain a person for the purpose of taking his picture. Verbally objecting to the photography or turning away is not obstructing justice any more than denying an officer’s request to search a vehicle.

    If photography is not permitted in a courthouse (I’ve seen signs posted forbidding taking pictures) I wonder if that would have any effect on the police.

  5. “Four death row inmates were plaintiffs, but one was just executed, leaving three more to carry the case forward.”

    Boy, talk about a group of litigants that nobody wants to join.

  6. […] defender won’t be charged after bad arrest. I noted last week that a California public defender had been arrested – apparently for some variant of obstructing […]

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