News Roundup

Several interesting news items have cropped up recently.

First, the United States Supreme Court decided District Attorney’s Office v. Osborne, in which a 5-4 majority ruled that there is no constitutional right to post-conviction DNA testing. Having slogged through the whole decision, my sense is that it will have limited impact in North Carolina given the existence of G.S. 15A-269, which provides such a right, under certain circumstances, by statute. I did, however, find the reasoning to be noteworthy. In part, the majority concluded that there is no such constitutional right because most states have provided for post-conviction DNA testing by statute. So if most states weren’t providing for testing, would there be a constitutional right to it? It seems odd to say — outside the Eighth Amendment context, anyhow — that the content of the Constitution depends on what one or another state legislature happens to have done. In any case, if you’re hungry for more, but not hungry enough to read the opinion, you can check out this New York Times story.

Second, a federal judge in Utah recently ruled that a defendant charged with possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a crime of domestic violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9) is entitled to raise, as an affirmative defense, the argument that he poses no elevated danger and so is constitutionally entitled to possess a firearm in his home. The judge’s opinion is available here, and a post at the Volokh Conspiracy blog about the opinion is here. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine defendants who are prohibited from possessing firearms for other reasons advancing variants of this argument in their cases, but it’s the first case I’ve seen on point.

Third, the Utah case isn’t the only recent fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller v. District of Columbia. According to a Washington Post article, the District itself has recently revamped its gun laws, allowing residents to possess certain firearms in their homes upon passing a written safety examination.

Fourth, the News and Observer is reporting that Court of Appeals Judge Jim Wynn may be nominated (again) to the Fourth Circuit.

Finally, a human interest story. I live in Durham, and for the past few years, I’ve coached the debate team at Durham Academy. We’ve had some terrific debaters in that time, including several state champions. Last week, for the first time, two Durham Academy debaters — Josh Zoffer and Robert Kindman — won the national championship. They’re juniors, so look for them in the law school class of 2017.

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