Though there is not an immediate connection to criminal law, a roundup of news of any sort this week would be incomplete without recognition of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. As we all know, the storm brought relentless rain to southeastern Texas this week, causing unprecedented and ongoing flooding in the Houston area. We commend the law enforcement officers, the first responders, the emergency management professionals, the government officials, and the private citizens who have worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of their communities and neighbors. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by the storm. Keep reading for more news.
Office Hours. The SOG’s Courts Group always is thinking about new and different ways to connect with judges, attorneys, and other judicial system stakeholders. We’re calling our latest project Office Hours at the Judicial College.
Office Hours are informal and interactive conference calls with SOG faculty members that offer an opportunity for you to ask our Courts Group experts whatever criminal law questions may be on your mind. We’re planning to hold the sessions monthly, with the next one happening Thursday, September 7, from 12:30-1:30pm. The possible topics for the session include sentencing, sex offenses, and relief from criminal convictions, but we want your questions to guide the discussion and won’t necessarily limit the session to particular topics. John, Shea, and Jamie are hosting the session next Thursday, and we anticipate a steady rotation of faculty members at future Office Hours. More information about participating is available here. We hope you’ll join us.
Charlotte School of Law. The Charlotte Observer reported this week that documents from a civil whistle-blower lawsuit filed in Florida by a former faculty member at Charlotte School of Law indicate that the school and its parent company InfiLaw each are the subject of federal criminal investigation.
Last year, former faculty member Barbara Bernier filed a complaint alleging that Charlotte Law and InfiLaw defrauded tax payers out of $285 million over the five-year period between 2010 to 2015. In August 2016, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Florida asked that the complaint be sealed while the government decided whether to join the case and indicated that the organizations were under criminal investigation. Recently, the U.S. Attorney moved to have the case unsealed and in that motion indicated that the criminal investigation was ongoing. More information about the civil lawsuit is available in this article from the Observer.
Arpaio. Late last week President Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona Sheriff who was convicted in July of criminal contempt of court for refusing to follow a federal judge’s order that he refrain from detaining people based on mere suspicion that they are undocumented immigrants. Over his career, Arpaio, who promoted himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” was accused of a variety of misconduct, most notably with regard to housing convicted prisoners in an open-air jail which he called “Tent City.”
Military Gear. As USA Today reports, the Trump administration has reversed an Obama administration executive order that banned the transfer of certain surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained President Trump’s executive order in a speech to the Fraternal Order of Police on Monday. Sessions said that the change in policy is intended to better protect public safety and reduce crime.
Execution. The Florida Times-Union reported late last week that Florida had carried out a death sentence for the first time in 18 months. Mark James Asay was executed last Thursday after being found guilty in 1987 of murdering Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in Jacksonville. The execution is notable for a few reasons. It was accomplished by lethal injection using two drugs that had never before been used for that purpose in Florida, one of which – etomidate – had never been used for an execution in any jurisdiction. The other drug – potassium acetate – had been used for an execution in Oklahoma in 2015, but, remarkably, was used at that time by accident. In another remarkable first, Asay’s execution was the first time that a white man has ever been executed in Florida for killing a black person.
Mother, Mother Ocean. It seems that middle-aged pirates are not the only folks who have heard the call of the ocean during their criminal escapades. See Jimmy Buffett, A Pirate Looks at Forty, on A1A (Dunhill Records 1974). As Zachary Kingsbury can attest, the need to flee a traffic stop sometimes causes even relatively young landlubbers to heed the sea’s primal call by abandoning their vehicle, running across the beach, jumping into the Atlantic Ocean, and drifting a mile offshore before being rescued.