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Court: Drug users can be jailed for relapsing on probation
Legal News | 2018/07/13 05:35
In a case that has attracted national attention, Massachusetts' highest court ruled Monday that judges in the state have the authority to order people to remain drug free as a condition of probation and under some circumstances order a defendant jailed for violating the drug-free requirement.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously that such a requirement does not violate the constitutional rights of people with substance use disorder or unfairly penalize them because of a medical condition beyond their control.

The court ruled in the case of Julie Eldred, who was jailed in 2016 after she tested positive for the powerful opioid fentanyl days into her probation on larceny charges. Eldred, who has severe substance use disorder, spent more than a week in jail after relapsing until her lawyer could find a bed for her at a treatment facility.

Eldred's lawyer argued before the high court in October that her client's substance use disorder made her powerless to control her desire to use drugs, and that jailing her effectively criminalized relapse - which often happens in the recovery process.

But the justices said the defendant's claims were based partly on untested science.

"Nor do we agree with the defendant that the requirement of remaining drug free is an outdated moral judgment about an individual's addiction," wrote Associate Justice Barbara Lenk. "The judge here did not abuse her discretion by imposing the special condition of probation requiring the defendant to remain drug free."

The court called the actions of two district court judges and the state probation department "exemplary." The justices noted that Eldred had admitted to police that she had stolen to support her drug habit.

Most addiction specialists - including groups such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse and American Society of Addiction Medicine - view substance use disorder as a brain disease that interferes with a person's ability to control his or her desire to use drugs.


Demonstrators force Fox crew from Supreme Court broadcast
Legal News | 2018/07/10 09:36
Fox News' Shannon Bream said the network had to move a planned live broadcast indoors after she and her crew felt threatened by demonstrators outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday following President Donald Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

People shouted obscenities at Bream and her crew, crowded around and touched crew members as they prepared to air Fox's 11 p.m. Eastern hour from the location two hours after the nomination, she said.

"I've been in the middle of many protesters and signs and chanting and we all do our jobs," Bream said Tuesday. "But last night had a different feel to it."

Bream said Fox felt specifically targeted, although she said other reporters had a difficult time with the crowd. Disturbed by the scene, Fox executives made the decision to move to a nearby studio. Bream had been at the court for several hours, doing live reports during several programs.

The incident on an emotional political night exposed Fox News to a threatening atmosphere frequently faced by reporters at other news organizations at Trump rallies. CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta recently described how an elderly woman swore at him and tried to get him to leave one of Trump's recent rallies.

Bream, who has covered the Supreme Court for 11 years, said that often during demonstrations security separates demonstrators from the press with barricades, but they weren't on duty Monday night. She recalled only one other similar situation, but that happened during daylight hours.



Man charged in bike path killings speaks in court of 'Allah'
Legal News | 2018/06/20 07:01
The man charged with murdering eight people on a New York City bike path and injuring many more spoke out in court Friday over a prosecutor's objection, invoking "Allah" and defending the Islamic State.

Sayfullo Saipov, 30, raised his hand to speak immediately after U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick set an Oct. 7, 2019 date for the Uzbek immigrant's trial.

Earlier, he had pleaded not guilty through his lawyer to the latest indictment in the Oct. 31 truck attack near the World Trade Center. A prosecutor said the Justice Department will decide by the end of the summer whether to seek the death penalty against Saipov, who lived in Paterson, New Jersey, before the attack.

Speaking through an interpreter for about 10 minutes, Saipov said the decisions of a U.S. court were unimportant to him. He said he cared about "Allah" and the holy war being waged by the Islamic State.

At the prompting of Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Houle, Broderick interrupted Saipov to read him his rights, including that anything he said in court could be used against him.

"I understand you, but I' m not worried about that at all," Saipov said.

"So the Islamic State is not fighting for land, like some say, or like some say, for oil. They have one purpose, and they're fighting to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on earth," he said.

After Saipov spoke more, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Beaty interrupted him to object that the judge was letting Saipov make the kind of statement publicly that special restrictions placed on him in prison would otherwise prevent, including discussing "terrorist propaganda."

The judge said he believed Saipov was nearing the end of his remarks and let him finish before warning him that he was unlikely to let him speak out in court again in a similar manner. Saipov, though, would be given a chance to testify if his case proceeds to trial and, if convicted, could speak at sentencing.

Saipov thanked the judge for letting him speak but added at one point: "I don't accept this as my judge."

Prosecutors had been seeking an April 2019 trial date. Houle said the families of the dead and the dozens who were injured deserve a "prompt and firm trial date."

"The victims here are anxious now when that trial is going to be," she said. "The public deserves a speedy trial, and the surviving victims deserve to know when that trial is going to be."

Defense lawyers have said the government should accept a guilty plea and a sentence of life in prison without parole to provide victims' families and the public with closure.



Court makes no ruling in resolving partisan redistricting cases
Legal News | 2018/06/15 00:53
The Supreme Court will consider whether the purchasers of iPhone apps can sue Apple over allegations it has an illegal monopoly on the sale of the apps.

The court said Monday that it will take a case from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which ruled in January that the purchasers of iPhone apps could sue Apple. Their lawsuit says that when a customer buys an app the price includes a 30 percent markup that goes to Apple.

Apple had argued that it did not sell apps, but instead acted as an intermediary used by the app developers. Apple won initially in a lower court which dismissed the lawsuit.

In Wisconsin, the Democrats prevailed after a trial in which the court ruled that partisan redistricting could go too far and indeed, did in Wisconsin, where Republicans hold a huge edge in the legislature even though the state otherwise is closely divided between Democrats and Republicans.

The Supreme Court said that the plaintiffs in Wisconsin had failed to prove that they have the right to sue on a statewide basis, rather than challenge individual districts.

The Democrats will have a chance to prove their case district by district.

Waiting in the wings is a case from North Carolina that seemingly addresses some of the high court's concerns. The lawsuit filed by North Carolina Democrats has plaintiffs in each of the state's 13 congressional districts. Like Wisconsin, North Carolina is generally closely divided in politics, but Republicans hold a 10-3 edge in congressional seats.

The majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Wisconsin case cast doubt on the broadest theory about the redistricting issue known as partisan gerrymandering.

Roberts wrote that the Supreme Court's role "is to vindicate the individual rights of the people appearing before it," not generalized partisan preferences.


Lohan fails to convince court her image is in video game
Legal News | 2018/03/28 02:33
It looks like "Game Over" for actress Lindsay Lohan in her state court fight against a software company for using what she claims is a likeness of her in a video game.

Lohan's lawyer argued before New York's top court that Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. violated her right to privacy by incorporating "look-a-like" images of her in the game "Grand Theft Auto V."

But the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the satirical representations of "a modern, beach-going" young woman are not identifiable as Lohan. The court affirmed a ruling from a lower state appeals court dismissing her lawsuit.

Similar claims against Take-Two by "Mob Wives" television star Karen Gravano also were dismissed in a separate ruling.

A message left with Lohan's lawyer wasn't immediately returned.



Wisconsin Supreme Court primary will leave just two
Legal News | 2018/02/12 03:06
The latest battle over the ideological balance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court plays out in the Feb. 20 primary, where one of three candidates will be eliminated a head of a spring election.

Partisan politics have weighed heavy over weeks of campaigning. Madison attorney Tim Burns has most embraced his liberal beliefs, while Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet sought to appear as a moderate. Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock, an appointee of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, has the backing of conservatives.

The primary is the first statewide race this year, and while officially nonpartisan, it could be a bellwether for how Republicans and Democrats stand heading into the fall. Turnout is expected to be low, likely less than 10 percent.

The top two vote-getters advance to the April 3 general election, with the winner replacing outgoing conservative Justice Michael Gableman. He decided against seeking another 10-year term.

The court is currently controlled 5-2 by conservatives, so no matter who wins the ideological control will not change. Burns, who represents clients nationwide in lawsuits against insurance companies, is the only non-judge in the race. He also has little experience litigating in Wisconsin courtrooms, having argued only one case in state court and six in federal court in Wisconsin.

Burns argues his experience outside of Wisconsin is a strength that will help him fix what he views as a broken system. And, he argues a victory for him will energize liberals across the state headed into the fall.

Dallet argues that Burns has gotten too political. But she's walking a fine line trying to win over many of the same liberal voters Burns is appealing to. She ran a commercial attacking Trump and has criticized the current Supreme Court for voting in 2015 to end an investigation into Walker and conservatives.



Court: Lawsuit alleging coerced confessions can go to trial
Legal News | 2018/02/05 15:44
A lawsuit that accuses Evansville police officers of violating three teenagers' constitutional rights by coercing confessions in the killing of a homeless man can proceed to trial, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed there's enough evidence that officers deliberately coerced confessions from siblings William and Deadra Hurt in the death of 54-year-old Marcus Golike to warrant a civil trial.

"False confessions are a real problem ...," the judges wrote in their opinion, which describes the issue of whether police tactics are enough to make confessions involuntary "the ultimate legal question," The Evansville Courier & Press reported .

The suit filed in 2014 on behalf of William, Deadra and Andrea Hurt and their mother, Debbie Hurt, accuses detectives of threatening the teenagers, feeding them facts to coerce confessions and then ignoring evidence disproving those statements, and even manufacturing some evidence.

William Hurt was 18, Deadra Hurt 19 and Andrea Hurt 16 at the time of their arrests in the June 2012 killing of Golike, who was beaten, strangled and dumped in the Ohio River. Another teenager who was also arrested is not a party to the suit.

All charges in the case were ultimately dismissed against everyone but William Hurt, who refused a plea deal. A jury acquitted him of murder in February 2013.

Police began focusing on the teenagers after learning that Golike had visited the Hurt family before his death.

The suit's defendants include the city of Evansville, its police department, four city police detectives and their three supervisors at the time, one of whom is now deceased. The suit also names two Kentucky State Police detectives who were involved because Golike's body was found in their jurisdiction.

"At this juncture, the court has to take the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and then there is an issue for a jury or a judge to decide," said Keith Vonderahe, who's one of several attorneys representing the Evansville officers.




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