Court to weigh cocaine cases, could alter sentencing in Ohio
Attorney News | 2016/02/10 18:00
Prosecutors across Ohio are concerned that a ruling under review by Ohio's top court could delay and shorten sentences for suspects caught with cocaine and force costly changes upon law enforcement.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on whether to uphold an appeals court decision calling into question how prosecutors have handled cocaine cases for years. It all comes eastdown to weight.

A state appeals court in Toledo ruled last year prosecutors should have determined how much pure cocaine a suspect arrested in a drug sting had with him or her instead of sentencing him based on the weight of the entire amount.

The appeals court ruled that Ohio's drug laws say that what matters is the weight of the cocaine only — not filler material such as baking soda that's often added by drug dealers to stretch out their supply and increase profits.

Prosecutors along with the state Attorney General's office argue that such a narrow interpretation creates a new distinction for cocaine that isn't applied to any other illegal drugs.




NY court agrees to rehear Ex-Goldman board member's appeal
Attorney News | 2016/02/05 09:04
A federal appeals court in New York has agreed to rehear the appeal of the insider-trading conviction of a former board member for Goldman Sachs and Proctor & Gamble.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday issued an order saying it will rehear the claims of Rajat Gupta (rah-JAHT' GOOP'-tah). His lawyers say his 2012 conviction on conspiracy and securities fraud charges should be tossed because he was innocent and the jury was improperly instructed.

His attorney Gary Naftalis says he is pleased with the court's ruling and believes there are meritorious issues to present on appeal.

The 57-year-old Gupta is confined to his Westport, Connecticut, home. He won't be formally finished serving a two-year prison sentence until next month.



Ohio court approves class action in speed camera case
Attorney News | 2016/02/03 00:42
A state appeals court approved class action status on Monday for thousands of motorists fined for speeding in a southwest Ohio village with citations issued from automatic camera enforcement.

The 12th district appeals court ruling comes as New Miami's police have just launched use of hand-held speed cameras meant to comply with state legislation.

Attorneys for the drivers plan to ask a judge to order New Miami to pay back more than $1 million collected in the less than two years the cameras operated in the village of some 2,200 people. A Butler County judge ruled in 2014 that they violated motorists' rights to due process and ordered them shut off.



Court won't order immediate evaluation of mogul Redstone
Attorney News | 2015/12/22 17:28
A judge Monday declined to order a medical examination of Sumner Redstone but ruled that lawyers for his former companion can take the sworn testimony of two of the ailing media mogul's doctors.

Judge David J. Cowan also ruled that Redstone's longtime attorney, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, may also be deposed about his recent interactions with Redstone, but that any testimony he gives should be restricted to details about medical issues.

The rulings were made in a case pursued by Manuela Herzer, Redstone's former girlfriend who until recently had control over his medical care. She was kicked out of his home in October and contends that the 92-year-old can no longer carry on conversations or make informed decisions.

Redstone's attorney, Gabrielle Vidal, has objected to an independent evaluation of the doctor, citing recent evaluations by his doctors including a brain scan that didn't find any signs of impairment.

She praised Monday's ruling, saying Herzer's actions in the case represent a disregard for Redstone's welfare.


High court takes up challenges to drunken-driving test
Attorney News | 2015/12/13 17:24
The Supreme Court will decide whether states can criminalize a driver's refusal to take an alcohol test even if police have not obtained a search warrant.
 
The justices on Friday agreed to hear three cases challenging laws in Minnesota and North Dakota that make it a crime for people arrested for drunken driving to refuse to take a test that can detect alcohol in blood, breath or urine.

At least a dozen states make it a crime to refuse to consent to warrantless alcohol testing. State supreme courts in Minnesota and North Dakota have ruled the laws don't violate constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that police usually must try to obtain a search warrant before ordering blood tests for drunken-driving suspects. The high court said circumstances justifying an exception to the warrant requirement should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

In the case from Minnesota, police arrested William Bernard after his truck got stuck while trying to pull a boat out of a river in South Saint Paul. Police officers smelled alcohol on his breath and said his eyes were bloodshot. After Bernard refused to take a breath test, police took him into custody.

Bernard was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and a first-degree count of refusal to take a breath test, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison.

He argued that the refusal law violated his Fourth Amendment rights by criminalizing his refusal to submit to a search. A divided Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the law, finding that officers could have ordered a breath test without a warrant as a search incident to a valid arrest.

The North Dakota Supreme Court upheld similar challenges to its test refusal law, ruling that motorists are deemed to consent to alcohol testing. The court called the law a reasonable tool in discouraging drunk driving.

One of the two North Dakota cases the high court will hear involves Danny Birchfield, who was arrested after he drove his car into a ditch and failed a field sobriety test and a breath test. He declined to take to additional tests and was convicted under the state's refusal law, which counts as a misdemeanor for a first offense.

A second appeal from North Dakota comes from Steve Beylund, a driver who was stopped on suspicion of drunk driving and consented to a chemical alcohol test. Beylund later tried to suppress the evidence from that test, but lower courts declined.

In all three cases, the challengers argue that warrantless searches are justified only in "extraordinary circumstances." They say routine drunk driving investigations are among the most ordinary of law enforcement functions in which traditional privacy rights apply.


Kansas court's approval of death sentence not seen as shift
Attorney News | 2015/11/15 05:36
Even though the state Supreme Court recently upheld a death sentence for the first time under the state’s 1994 capital punishment law, Kansas isn’t likely to see executions anytime soon or a shift in how the justices handle capital murder cases.

“Symbolically, there is something different,” said Robert Dunham, head of the anti-capital punishment, nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. “But I wouldn’t read too much into it.”

Several prosecutors are encouraged by this month’s decision in the case of John E. Robinson Sr. — who was sentenced to die for killing two women in 1999 and 2000 and tied by evidence or his own admission to six other deaths, including a teenage girl, in Kansas and Missouri — saying it showed it is possible to preserve a death sentence on appeal in Kansas.

Two Kansas law professors said the 415-page decision in John E. Robinson’s case issued earlier this month suggests the Supreme Court’s examination of future capital cases will remain as thorough as it has been.

The high court’s past decisions overturning death sentences inspired a campaign that almost succeeded in ousting two justices in last year’s elections and handed republican Gov. Sam Brownback a potent issue in the final weeks of his race for re-election. And there are more capital cases before the justices.

Only four days after the Robinson decision, Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., an avowed anti-Semite, was sentenced to death for the fatal shootings of three people at Jewish sites in the Kansas City suburbs.



Court rejects ACLU's request to stop phone record collection
Attorney News | 2015/10/31 04:13
A federal appeals court in New York has rejected the American Civil Liberties Union's effort to stop bulk collection of its phone records while a more limited collection system is put in place.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Thursday that Congress intended for data collection to continue during a six-month transition period before a new law takes effect. Earlier this year, the appeals court in Manhattan struck down the government's mass collection of Americans' phone records, finding Congress never authorized it.

Congress then approved a more limited collection method due to take effect Nov. 29.

The 2nd Circuit says an abrupt end to the current program would harm the public interest in surveilling terrorist threats.

An ACLU lawyer says the civil rights group disagrees with the ruling.




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