News Roundup

The state legislature continues to be in full swing. While much talk here on campus centers on a bill that would eliminate academic tenure, the criminal justice community is likely more interested in legislation that would expand warrantless cell phone surveillance. WRAL reports here that “[p]olice could track people’s cell phones in real time — without a warrant — under a bill that passed a state House committee Wednesday.” The bill in question is H719, and at a glance, it would allow the SBI to use a pen register or trap and trace device without court approval for up to 48 hours to find a runaway child or missing person, or when there is “immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury.” The bill has passed out of a House committee but its ultimate fate is uncertain. Keep reading for more news.

Supreme Court suggests that its ethics are just fine. In the wake of reporting regarding personal and financial connections between Justice Clarence Thomas and billionaire Harlan Crow, the Senate Judiciary Committee invited Chief Justice Roberts to appear and discuss judicial ethics as they apply to the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice declined the invitation, citing “separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence.” He did, however, provide the Committee with a statement of ethics principles signed by the current Justices. The Chief Justice did not indicate that any changes had been made in light of recent news or that any changes were planned. The New York Times has more here.

High court considering “true threats.” Thinking about judicial ethics did not stop the Court from hearing an interesting case last week. Remember State v. Taylor, 379 N.C. 589 (2021), the case in which the state supreme court held that the First Amendment requires threat offenses to be supported by evidence of a “true threat,” that is, “an objectively threatening statement communicated by a party which possesses the subjective intent to threaten a listener or identifiable group”? Jonathan Holbrook analyzed Taylor here, noting that it was based on a detailed analysis of decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States. Well, the Supreme Court is now considering a “true threat” case itself and so could shift the underpinnings of Taylor. According to SCOTUSblog, “At the end of nearly two hours of debate, the justices generally appeared skeptical of [the prosecution’s] contention that courts should use an objective test, that looks at whether a reasonable person would regard the statement as a threat of violence. But it wasn’t entirely clear what test the justices might adopt in its place.”

Officer who shot and killed Breonna Taylor hired as a deputy sheriff. Myles Cosgrove, the former Louisville Police Department officer who likely fired the shot that killed Breonna Taylor, has been hired as a deputy by the sheriff’s office in a nearby county. A Louisville grand jury declined to indict Cosgrove for his role in Taylor’s death, and the state agency that certifies law enforcement officers declined to revoke his certification, clearing the way for his continued work in law enforcement. The AP has more details here.

Different places are different. Sometimes startlingly so. For example, in Singapore, you can get the death penalty for trafficking more than 500 grams of cannabis, and indeed, the AP reports here that Singapore has just executed – by hanging – a man who was convicted of brokering a one-kilogram cannabis transaction. Meanwhile, in Florida, unbelievable things happen on what seems like an every day basis. Most recently, the AP has this story about a man who was arrested after allegedly killing and dismembering an Uber eats driver, and keeping his remains in trash bags and a cooler. The sheriff who arrested the alleged killer described his conduct as “demonic.”

School of Government seeking new faculty member to work with defenders. Finally, in case you didn’t see John Rubin’s post announcing his shift into half-time work and the resulting opening on the School’s full-time faculty, the post – including a link to the job posting – is here. The School is a great place to work and I encourage anyone who is interested to apply.