News Roundup

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1. The General Assembly has been working on the budget lately. The House is proposing significant budget cuts to the court system, including reductions in the number of victim/witness legal assistants, reductions to indigent defense, and reductions to the Administrative Office of the Courts, including the elimination of trial court administrators. That last bit is the subject of this News and Observer opinion piece, which argues for the importance of professional court managers.

2. The legislature has had time to take up a few other matters of interest. The News and Observer reports here that “A group of Republican legislators is backing a measure that would make it illegal for judges to consider ‘foreign law’ when making rulings in North Carolina’s courts.” And here the newspaper discusses a push by the North Carolina Bar Association to change the way that judges are selected to a hybrid appointment/election system. The article notes in unusually blunt language that “[p]roposals for changing how judges are selected are common in the legislature, but they don’t go anywhere.”

3. A number of interesting court opinions have cropped up across the country lately. The Seventh Circuit has weighed in again on GPS tracking, as discussed here. (Short summary: it’s not a search.) Meanwhile, a couple of state courts were busy issuing opinions that I found startling. The New Mexico Court of Appeals found a reasonable expectation of privacy in garbage placed in a dumpster behind a motel, while the Alaska Supreme Court said that police officers who Tasered a handcuffed arrestee 15 to 18 times were not on notice from case law or regulations that they were using excessive force.

4. In California, the Los Angeles Times reports that the LAPD has cleared a backlog of over 6,000 (!) rape kits awaiting DNA testing, some for more than a decade. The result? “[A]bout 1,000 matches between DNA profiles found in the rape kits and those stored in [law enforcement] databases.” Although many of the hits were in cases in which the suspect had already been convicted, it appears that at least several dozen new prosecutions have resulted.

5. Speaking of California, Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean at UC — Irvine’s law school and a former professor at Duke Law, recently wrote this piece in the National Law Journal, arguing that the Supreme Court has failed to grasp the significance of prosecutorial misconduct: “Twice in the past three years the Court has considered lawsuits by innocent individuals who were convicted and spent years in prison because of prosecutorial misconduct. In both instances, the Court held that the victims could not recover. Together, these cases send a disturbing message that the Court is shielding prosecutors from liability. The result is no compensation for wronged individuals and a lack of adequate deterrence of prosecutorial misconduct.” My previous summary of Connick v. Thompson, one of the cases that troubles Dean Chemerinsky, is here.

6. Finally, a story on the lighter side. My absolute favorite technology blog, Gizmodo, has this story about Anthony Trang, a Lincoln, Nebraska man who “stole about $2,300 worth of car audio equipment from a girl[‘]s car and a few hours later, brought it to a car audio equipment store to get it installed to his car. The problem? The guy he brought it to . . . was the boyfriend of the girl Trang stole it from. . . . Trang was promptly arrested.” Not only did Trang steal the stereo equipment, he even took the change from the victim’s change dish. That’s low. I guess he thought he needed to pay for the installation, but on second thought, he might have been better off DIY.

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