News Roundup

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Recent stories of interest include the following:

1. The News and Observer reports that the state House just passed its version of the budget. The last version that I saw — admittedly, not the final — included significant cuts to the court system, and deep cuts to the UNC system. The House budget must now be reconciled with the very different Senate budget before a final bill can be sent to the governor.

2. On a happier note, the News and Observer also has a story about a 47-year-old woman who has just graduated from law school, after more than a few scrapes with the law herself in her younger years. She hopes to be a criminal defense lawyer, and doubtless will be able to relate to her clients’ predicaments in a way that most lawyers cannot.

3. South Carolina recently completed a substantial overhaul of its sentencing laws. The general idea was to reduce prison costs by encouraging alternatives to incarceration for less-serious offenders, while ensuring harsh punishments for the most dangerous defendants. Sentencing Law and Policy covers it here.

4. Farther afield, the New York Times reports as follows:

New York City agreed on Thursday to pay $9.9 million, the largest personal settlement in its history, to a man who served almost two decades in prison but was released after evidence surfaced that he had been framed for murder by a corrupt detective.

5. As everyone knows, BP has a massive oil spill/leak/disaster on its hands in the Gulf of Mexico. The federal government has opened a criminal investigation of BP, as the New York Times notes here. The usually prosecution-oriented folks at Crime and Consequences ask here whether the presumption of innocence is being respected.

6. I blogged here about whether the homes of child pornography offenders are subject to forfeiture. The short answer was maybe so, under federal law, but not under state law. For the first time, a federal court of appeals has addressed the issue, upholding the forfeiture of an Iowa man’s house and 19-acre tract. A good summary and analysis of the case is available here.

7. Apparently, FindLaw conducted a poll that reveals that two-thirds of all Americans can’t name a single member of the Supreme Court. Can you name all nine? If so, you’re in the top 1%! Justice Thomas was the most widely-recognized member of the Court with a full 19% of Americans able to name him. Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy argues that for the most part, citizens are rationally ignorant of the membership of the Court.

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