News Roundup

A convicted murderer who escaped from prison in Pennsylvania and remained on the loose for two weeks was captured this week. According to the AP, “a plane fitted with a thermal imaging camera picked up Danelo Souza Cavalcante’s heat signal, allowing teams on the ground to secure the area, surround him and move in with search dogs,” one of which latched onto the man’s leg. A different AP article notes that the officers involved in the apprehension took a photo to memorialize the moment, an act that has drawn “criticism from policing reform advocates and some members of the public.” Keep reading for more news.

Wayne County deputies charged. WRAL reports here that former deputy Michael Cox and current Major Chris Worth have been indicted in federal court on twelve counts related to alleged bid-rigging. The gist of the accusation seems to be that Worth steered Wayne County vehicle maintenance and repair contracts to a shop that Cox owned and where Worth was employed, thereby enriching both men. Worth has been placed on administrative leave in light of the charges.

New appellate jurists appointed. Justice Michael Morgan stepped down from the Supreme Court of North Carolina last week. This week, Governor Roy Cooper exercised his appointment power and named Allison Riggs, then a judge on the Court of Appeals, to fill Justice Morgan’s seat. That, in turn, opened a seat on the Court of Appeals, to which the Governor appointed Carolyn Thompson, a former candidate for the Court of Appeals. WRAL has more details, including about Justice Riggs’s background, here.

Public defenders are overworked. That is the shocking conclusion reached by the RAND Corporation in this just-released national study of defenders’ workloads. The report notes that previously-accepted workload standards were created in the 1970s and finds that they do not accurately reflect current workflows, including the need to review ever-increasing amounts of police video and other electronic evidence. Relying on estimates from a panel of experienced defense attorneys, the authors proposed new standards, under which many public defenders are wildly overburdened.

Controversy in the Supreme Court of North Carolina. As if having a new member on the court wasn’t exciting enough, we have had additional recent news from our high court. Justice Anita Earls has filed a federal lawsuit against the Judicial Standards Commission and its members, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief that would prevent the Commission from investigating or disciplining her in connection with remarks she made in two interviews about diversity and implicit bias on the court, among its clerks, and among the advocates who appear before it. Justice Earls contends that any investigation or discipline by the Commission would infringe on her First Amendment rights. WRAL has the story here. Her complaint is here. WRAL further reports here that some Democratic legislators have asserted, without identifying their sources, that Chief Justice Newby pushed for the investigation.

Hunter Biden indicted. A Special Counsel investigating President Biden’s son has obtained a three-count federal indictment against him. All three counts relate to the younger Biden’s purchase and possession of a firearm while, by his own admission, he was addicted to crack cocaine. Two counts essentially accuse him of falsely denying his status as a drug user on the purchase paperwork, while the third count accuses him of possession of a gun while being addicted to a controlled substance. The AP has the story here, and the indictment itself is here. The Fifth Circuit recently ruled that the federal law at issue in count three is unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment jurisprudence, but the indictment was returned in Delaware, part of the Third Circuit, where the issue has not been addressed recently. The Special Counsel has signaled that additional charges related to Biden’s business dealings may be forthcoming. Among other possible defenses, Biden is expected to contend that he is protected from the charges under the terms of a now-defunct plea deal with the Government.

Taking long sentences to a new level. A Turkish court imposed a sentence this week that boggled my mind. Bloomberg reports here that Faruk Fatih Ozer, who ran a failed cryptocurrency company, was sentenced to 11,196 years in prison for fraud and other crimes. His brother and business partner received an identical sentence. At least in a technical sense, the judge cut Ozer a break – prosecutors reportedly requested a sentence of 40,562 years.

Florida man represents himself. Sure, we had a Florida man news item last week, but they keep coming. Above the Law reports here that a Florida man representing himself in a civil case just filed a notice of dismissal. Nothing unusual about that! Except the notice also advised the court that it was a “clown ass court” that should “go [bleep] itself.” The document was just filed, so no word yet on whether Florida man will be held in contempt.