News Roundup

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I often post news roundups on Fridays. Somehow, lighter fare seems appropriate for the last day of the work week. But the news has been piling up since the last roundup, and the backlog has become so large that I can’t wait even one more day. Already, interesting stuff is being crowded out!

1. Solicitor General Elena Kagan has been nominated to be a Supreme Court Justice. The New York Times has the basics here. It seems likely that she’ll be confirmed, though of course, not everyone is happy about her as a nominee. She doesn’t have much of a track record on criminal justice issues, so it’s hard to guess what impact she’ll have on criminal law.

2. In other personnel news, Dr. John Butts, the long-time chief medical examiner, is retiring July 1, as the News and Observer reports here. According to a quick Westlaw search, his work is referenced in almost 100 opinions of our appellate courts, so he leaves quite a legacy.

3. Arizona’s new immigration law continues to be front-page material. The Los Angeles Times reports that the law was amended to make clear that officers can’t use race as a factor in determining whether there is reason to suspect that a person is an illegal immigrant. The Christian Science Monitor implies that North Carolina is among 10 states inspired by Arizona to consider similar legislation. (In fact, as far as I can tell from the General Assembly’s website, the only immigration-related bills introduced this biennium — S337, S398, and H922 — were all introduced at least a year ago, and it doesn’t look like any of them are still alive for this year’s short session. I’m not an expert on the General Assembly’s workings, though; someone please correct me if I’m wrong.)

4. Check out this fascinating report on life in a Norweigan prison. Among other things, it features

amenities like a sound studio, jogging trails and a freestanding two-bedroom house where inmates can host their families during overnight visits. Unlike many American prisons, the air isn’t tinged with the smell of sweat and urine. Instead, the scent of orange sorbet emanates from the “kitchen laboratory” where inmates take cooking courses. “In the Norwegian prison system, there’s a focus on human rights and respect,” says Are Hoidal, the prison’s governor. “We don’t see any of this as unusual.”

The story’s mention of the garnished salmon dinner served during a visit by the king is noteworthy, too. (Hat tip: Crime and Consequences.)

5. On a more serious note, the New York Times has an article up today analyzing vast new data about stop-and-frisks conducted by New York City Police last year. It’s a fascinating read — if you click on one link today, click this one — and raises important questions about race (490,000 blacks and Latinos were stopped in 2009, compared with 53,000 whites, but the department argues that this reflects differential crime rates and the department’s focus on making high-crime minority neighborhoods safer), policing strategies, and crime control.

6. How we choose our judges has also been in the news again. Under the Dome reports on how the nonpartisan judicial elections worked in Wake County (spoiler: “Parties often try to help voters cut through all that nonpartisan stuff.”) Meanwhile, North Carolina Bar Association President Buddy Wester argues here that it is time for merit selection of judges, combined with retention elections.

7. Finally, kudos to our own Jamie Markham, recently named one of the top 100 academic law Twitter feeds by Rasmussen College. Big time!

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