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Supreme Court adopts new rules for cell phone tracking
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/06/24 23:23
The Supreme Court says police generally need a search warrant if they want to track criminal suspects’ movements by collecting information about where they’ve used their cellphones. The justices’ 5-4 decision Friday is a victory for privacy in the digital age. Police collection of cellphone tower information has become an important tool in criminal investigations.

The outcome marks a big change in how police can obtain phone records. Authorities can go to the phone company and obtain information about the numbers dialed from a home telephone without presenting a warrant. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court’s four liberals. Roberts said the court’s decision is limited to cellphone tracking information and does not affect other business records, including those held by banks.

He also wrote that police still can respond to an emergency and obtain records without a warrant. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented. Kennedy wrote that the court’s “new and uncharted course will inhibit law enforcement” and “keep defendants and judges guessing for years to come.”

The court ruled in the case of Timothy Carpenter, who was sentenced to 116 years in prison for his role in a string of robberies of Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Michigan and Ohio. Cell tower records that investigators got without a warrant bolstered the case against Carpenter. Investigators obtained the cell tower records with a court order that requires a lower standard than the “probable cause” needed to obtain a warrant. “Probable cause” requires strong evidence that a person has committed a crime.

The judge at Carpenter’s trial refused to suppress the records, finding no warrant was needed, and a federal appeals court agreed. The Trump administration said the lower court decisions should be upheld. The American Civil Liberties Union, representing Carpenter, said a warrant would provide protection against unjustified government snooping. The administration relied in part on a 1979 Supreme Court decision that treated phone records differently than the conversation in a phone call, for which a warrant generally is required.

In a case involving a single home telephone, the court said then that people had no expectation of privacy in the records of calls made and kept by the phone company. That case came to the court before the digital age, and the law on which prosecutors relied to obtain an order for Carpenter’s records dates from 1986, when few people had cellphones. The Supreme Court in recent years has acknowledged technology’s effects on privacy. In 2014, the court held unanimously that police must generally get a warrant to search the cellphones of people they arrest. Other items people carry with them may be looked at without a warrant, after an arrest.



Yankton lawyer Jason Ravnsborg wins GOP attorney general nod
U.S. Legal News | 2018/06/23 06:26
South Dakota Republicans on Saturday chose Yankton lawyer Jason Ravnsborg to run against Democratic former U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler in the race for state attorney general.

GOP delegates voted to nominate Ravnsborg at their state party convention, where the attorney general contest was the main show for attendees. Democrats nominated Seiler as their candidate at a party gathering last week.

Ravnsborg won out over state Sen. Lance Russell in a second round of voting after Lawrence County State's Attorney John Fitzgerald was dropped from consideration following his third-place showing in the initial ballot.

"We've been working hard," Ravnsborg said after he won. "I've been to every county in our state at least twice."

Ravnsborg has proposed expanding programs that allow lower-level prisoners to work while serving their sentences and establishing a meth-specific prison and mental health facility in the western part of the state. He said he has leadership and management experience and touted his support among county sheriffs to delegates.

Ravnsborg, 42, of Yankton, is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. He's looking to succeed outgoing Attorney General Marty Jackley as the state's chief lawyer and law enforcement officer.

The high-profile office has served as a frequent springboard for gubernatorial hopefuls and takes on the state's top legal cases, such as South Dakota's recent successful push to get the U.S. Supreme Court to allow states to make online shoppers pay sales tax.

Russell, a former state's attorney and current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had said he wanted to be attorney general to address rising crime and improve government transparency. Fitzgerald has been the Lawrence County state's attorney since 1995 and campaigned on his experience.



Police shooting of boy spurs more protests, appeals
Court Feed News | 2018/06/23 06:25
Protesters demonstrated Friday for a third day over the fatal police shooting in Pennsylvania of an unarmed black teen fleeing a traffic stop as they sought to get the attention of a nation engrossed by the immigration debate, and to pressure officials to charge the officer.

Hundreds of marchers chanting "Who did this? The police did this" shut down a Pittsburgh area highway in the early morning hours, and a small group staged a sit-in outside the district attorney's office later in the day.

Demands for answers to why a police officer shot 17-year-old Antwon Rose Jr. seconds after he bolted from a car grew with an emotional speech by state Rep. Jake Wheatley at the state Capitol, and a videotaped appeal by the legislator and two other black Pittsburgh area lawmakers for a "thorough and transparent investigation that builds community."

"My heart is heavy right now," Wheatley said , decrying both Rose's death and the street violence that earlier in the week left a young rapper dead. "We cannot casually keep closing our eyes and ears to the fact there's a group of people whose lives seemingly don't matter."

Rose was shot Tuesday night in East Pittsburgh, a suburb of Pittsburgh, after the car he was riding in was pulled over by Officer Michael Rosfeld because it matched the description of a car wanted in a shooting in a nearby town, police said. The car had bullet damage to a back window.

As Rosfeld was taking the driver into custody, a video taken from a nearby house shows Rose and a second passenger running from the car. Three gunshots can be heard, and the passengers can be seen either falling or crouching as they pass between houses. It is unclear from the video if Rosfeld yelled for them to stop.




Lawsuit seeks lawyer access to immigrants in prison
U.S. Legal News | 2018/06/22 06:26
A rights group filed an emergency lawsuit in federal court Friday against top officials of U.S. immigration and homeland security departments, alleging they have unconstitutionally denied lawyers' access to immigrants in a prison in Oregon.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement transferred 123 immigrants in early June to the federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, because other holding facilities have been overloaded since the Trump administration enacted a "zero tolerance" policy in April involving people entering the U.S. illegally.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed the lawsuit in Portland on behalf of the detainees, who are mostly from Mexico and Central America. The lawyers say they've been denied meaningful access to the detainees, many of whom escaped violence in their home countries and are seeking asylum in the U.S.

"The U.S. Constitution protects everyone who is on U.S. soil," said Mat Dos Santos, legal director of the ACLU of Oregon. "You have fundamental rights to due process of law. You can't just throw them in prison."

An interfaith group, meanwhile, announced it would be holding Sunday morning services outside the prison. The Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, which is organizing the services, is based in Portland.

"With Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions invoking Romans 13 to validate the immoral separation of immigrant children from their families, this can no longer be a time for 'business as usual' for Christian communities," said the Rev. Michael Ellick of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Portland.

Last week, Sessions cited a Bible verse urging obedience to the laws of government "for the purpose of order."

Among the people being held in the medium-security prison is Luis Javier Sanchez Gonzalez, whose family was separated at the border when they sought asylum at a port of entry, the ACLU said.


Indonesia court sentences cleric behind attacks to death
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/06/20 10:26
Radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman was sentenced to death by an Indonesian court Friday for ordering Islamic State group-affiliated militants to carry out attacks including the January 2016 suicide bombing at a Starbucks in Jakarta.

Abdurrahman, who police and prosecutors say is a key ideologue for IS militants in the world's largest Muslim nation, kneeled and kissed the floor as the panel of five judges announced the sentence while counterterrorism officers guarding him uttered "praise be to God."

Several hundred paramilitary and counterterrorism police secured the Jakarta court where the trial took place. Fears of attacks have been elevated in Indonesia after suicide bombings in the country's second-largest city, Surabaya, last month that were carried out by families including their young children. Police say the leader of those bombers was part of the network of militants inspired by Abdurrahman.

During the trial, prosecutors said Abdurrahman's instructions from prison, where he was serving a terrorism-related sentence, resulted in several attacks in Indonesia in 2016 and 2017.

They included the Starbucks attack in the capital that killed four civilians and four militants, an attack on a bus terminal in Jakarta that killed three police officers and an attack on a church in Kalimantan that killed a 2-year-old girl. Several other children suffered serious burns from the Kalimantan attack.

The defendant's "speeches, teachings and instructions have inspired his group and followers to commit criminal acts of terrorism in Indonesia," said presiding Judge Ahmad Zaini.

The court said there was no reason for leniency. It gave defense lawyers seven days to consider lodging an appeal.

Abdurrahman has refused to recognize the authority of the court, part of his rejection of secular government in Indonesia and desire to replace it with Shariah law.



State appeals court reinstates California's right-to-die law
Court Feed News | 2018/06/18 02:17
A state appeals court has reinstated — at least for now — California's law allowing terminally ill people to end their lives.

The Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside issued an immediate stay Friday putting the End of Life Option back into effect. The court also gave opponents of its decision until July 2 to file objections.

The law allows adults to obtain a prescription for life-ending drugs if a doctor has determined that they have six months or less to live.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia declared the law unconstitutional last month, stating that it had been adopted illegally because lawmakers passed it during a special Legislative session called to address other matters.

Ottolia didn't address the issue of whether it's proper for people to end their lives. Right-to-die advocates hailed Friday's action.

"This stay is a huge win for many terminally ill Californians with six months or less to live because it could take years for the courts to resolve this case," Kevin Díaz, national director of legal advocacy for Compassion & Choices, said in a statement.

"Thankfully, this ruling settles the issue for the time being, but we know we have a long fight ahead before we prevail."

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who had asked the appeals court to stay Ottolia's ruling, also praised the decision.

"This ruling provides some relief to California patients, their families, and doctors who have been living in uncertainty while facing difficult health decisions," Becerra said. "Today's court ruling is an important step to protect and defend the End of Life Option Act for our families across the state."


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