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Nevada Supreme Court taking up execution case
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/08/13 06:40
The Nevada Supreme Court has stepped in to decide whether drug companies can try to stop the state from using their medications in a twice-postponed lethal injection of a condemned inmate who wants to die.

A state court judge in Las Vegas cancelled hearings Thursday following an order late Wednesday from six of the high court's seven justices.

Supreme Court intervention had been sought by the state attorney general's office regarding the execution of Scott Raymond Dozier.

The judge had planned to hear drugmaker Sandoz's request to join a bid by Alvogen and Hikma Pharmaceuticals to prevent Nevada from using their products in a three-drug combination never before tried in any state.

A Nevada death-row inmate whose execution has been postponed twice says the legal fight over his fate is taking a tortuous toll on him and his family and he wants his sentence carried out.

Scott Raymond Dozier told The Associated Press that the state should, in his words, "just get it done, just do it effectively and stop fighting about it."

Dozier's comments in a brief prison telephone call on Wednesday came a day before a third drug company is due to ask a state court judge in Las Vegas to let it join with two other firms suing to block the use of their products in executions.

The companies say they publicly declared they didn't want their products used in executions and allege that Nevada improperly obtained their drugs.


Filing period opens for West Virginia Supreme Court seat
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/08/06 16:16
The filing period has begun for a special election for the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The filing period for the unexpired seat of former Justice Menis Ketchum started Monday and runs through Aug. 21. The special election will be held concurrently with the Nov. 6 general election.

Candidates must be at least 30 years old, residents of West Virginia for at least five years and admitted to practice law for at least 10 years.

Ketchum announced his retirement last month. He had two years remaining in his term.

Last week prosecutors said Ketchum has agreed to plead guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud stemming from the personal use of state-owned vehicles and fuel cards. He faces a plea hearing and up to 20 years in prison.


Top court: Social media posts violate no-contact order
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/07/26 23:18
Social media posts can represent a violation of a protection order, the state's highest court ruled on Tuesday, affirming the conviction of a man who made threats on Facebook.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court rejected Richard Heffron III's arguments that his Facebook comments were a protected form of speech, that the posts didn't constitute direct or indirect contact, and that he wasn't told that his posts represented a violation.

In its ruling, the court concluded Heffron's social media comments violated the court-approved no-contact order and were outside the realm of constitutional protections.

"The court correctly determined that Heffron's communications with the protected person fell short of those that deserve constitutional protection," Justice Jeffrey Hjelm wrote, noting that the conviction "did not place his First Amendment rights at risk."

Heffron and the woman with whom he'd had a relationship were no longer Facebook friends but still had friends in common. In the posts, Heffron referred to the woman by name and threatened to harm her. A friend brought the comments to the woman's attention.

James Mason, Heffron's attorney, said courts in other states have reached different conclusions but that the facts didn't perfectly align with the Maine case.

"Obviously I'm disappointed," Mason said. "I think that there was no evidence that he ever intended to have these comments reach her."

After being convicted, Heffron was ordered to serve 21 days in jail, which was the length of time he was jailed before posting bail. He also was sentenced to a year of probation.

Mason said the ruling served as a cautionary tale. "It lets people know that they do need to be careful about what they post on the internet," he said. "It makes it clear that you have limited First Amendment protections on the internet, especially on Facebook."


City attorney criticizes law used to arrest Stormy Daniels
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/07/20 13:40
An Ohio city attorney has recommended that the state law police cited to arrest porn actress Stormy Daniels should not be enforced.

In a memo to the city's police chief, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein says Wednesday that future charges filed under that law will not be prosecuted. Klein has also dismissed charges brought against two other employees arrested with Daniels.

The law states dancers at "sexually oriented" businesses are prohibited from touching customers and vice versa.

Klein says the law is "glaringly inequitable" because its applicability depends on how regularly the employee performs. He also says employees who touch police are not in violation because on-duty public officials are not legally considered patrons.

Daniels' lawyer says he applauds Klein's decision. Messages seeking comment were left Wednesday for Columbus police.


Schumer rallies opposition to Trump anti-abortion court pick
Lawyer Blog News | 2018/07/01 18:02
The Senate's top Democrat tried Monday to rally public opposition to any Supreme Court pick by President Donald Trump who'd oppose abortion rights, issuing a striking campaign season call to action for voters to prevent such a nominee by putting "pressure on the Senate."

With Trump saying he'll pick from a list of 25 potential nominees he's compiled with guidance from conservatives, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said any of them would be "virtually certain" to favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that affirmed women's right to abortion. They would also be "very likely" to back weakening President Barack Obama's 2010 law that expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans, he said.

Schumer said that while Democrats don't control the Senate — Republicans have a 51-49 edge — most senators back abortion rights. In an unusually direct appeal to voters, he said that to block "an ideological nominee," people should "tell your senators" to oppose anyone from Trump's list.

"It will not happen on its own," the New Yorker wrote in an opinion column in Monday's New York Times. "It requires the public's focus on these issues, and its pressure on the Senate."

Trump has said he is focusing on up to seven potential candidates, including two women, to fill the vacancy of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote on the nine-member court. He's said he'll announce his pick July 9.

Schumer's column appeared a day after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would oppose any nominee she believed would overturn Roe v. Wade. Collins said she would only back a judge who would show respect for settled law such as the Roe decision, which has long been anathema to conservatives.


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.



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