Supreme Court adopts new rules for cell phone tracking
Headline Legal News | 2018/06/24 21:32
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.


Court makes no ruling in resolving partisan redistricting cases
Headline Legal News | 2018/06/18 16:53
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.


MMA star Conor McGregor heads to court for melee charges
Headline Legal News | 2018/06/11 23:10
Mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor is due in court for a hearing on charges stemming from a backstage melee that was caught on video.

He's expected to be joined in Brooklyn on Thursday by friend and co-defendant Cian (KEE'-uhn) Cowley.

Video showed what appeared to be McGregor hurling a hand truck at a bus full of fighters after a news conference for the UFC 223 event at Barclays Center in April. Two fighters hurt by broken glass were unable to compete.

Cowley said on Saturday that he hoped to get the case "out of the way." Prosecutors wouldn't say if they expected a resolution. McGregor's lawyer didn't return a message.

Cowley and McGregor have been free on bond. They took a private jet together from Ireland for the hearing.



Man run down, 50 years after killing girl in hit-and-run
Headline Legal News | 2018/06/02 23:01
A Vietnam War veteran who confessed five years ago to killing a 4-year-old girl in a 1968 hit-and-run was trying to protect children when a woman drove her car onto a baseball field in Maine during a game, striking and killing him.

Screaming bystanders and ballplayers fled as Carol Sharrow, of Sanford, Maine, drove through an open gate onto the field Friday night, police said. Video shows the car driving around the infield, turning over home plate and then heading toward the stands behind third base.

Douglas Parkhurst, of West Newfield, was near the park's main gate before he was hit and Sharrow sped away, police said. Parkhurst died on the way to the hospital and no one else was hurt.

"It was awful," said Sanford resident, Karyn Bean, who said she saw Parkhurst being struck. "A car driving through the gate hitting a man who was pushing kids out of the way, then her driving up the road easily doing 50 to 60 miles per hour past us.

"It felt awful because we couldn't do anything."

Sharrow was scheduled to appear in court later Monday to face a manslaughter charge. She was to have an attorney appointed to represent her then.

Sharrow has two previous drunken driving convictions in Maine and New Hampshire, according to Sanford police Det. Sgt. Matthew Jones. Authorities have declined to say whether alcohol was involved on Friday.

Parkhurst was never charged in the hit-and-run death that killed Carolee Ashby on Halloween night in 1968. The statute of limitations had long run out when Parkhurst walked into a police station in 2013 and confessed after two interviews with investigators.

In his four-page confession obtained by the Syracuse Post-Standard during its reporting about the case, Parkhurst said he and his brother had been drinking before he hit the girl. He said his brother was passed out in the back seat.


Court says Baltimore police could fire officer in force case
Headline Legal News | 2018/05/13 19:39
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has ruled the Baltimore Police Department followed procedure when it fired an officer accused of excessive force.

The Daily Record of Baltimore reports Serge Marcien Antonin was fired for repeatedly slapping a detained teenager who allegedly stole a car. The court opinion filed Tuesday says Antonin was charged with assault and two counts of misconduct for the 2013 use of force.

He entered a plea on a misconduct charge in 2015 that said there was enough evidence to convict him but he maintained his innocence. He was put on probation. The other charges were dismissed.

Antonin was fired in 2016 when a police hearing board found him guilty of excessive force. The Baltimore City Circuit Court previously ruled the department didn’t follow policy.


Supreme Court rejects anti-abortion pastor's appeal on noise
Headline Legal News | 2018/04/17 12:18
The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from a pastor who challenged a state law's noise limit that was used to restrict his anti-abortion protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Portland, Maine.

The justices offered no comment Monday in rejecting the appeal from the Rev. Andrew March. He sued after he said Portland police officers repeatedly told him to lower his voice while he was protesting outside the clinic. March says police invoked a part of the Maine Civil Rights Act that applies to noise outside health facilities.

March says the law "targets pro-life advocates" in violation of the Constitution. A district judge temporarily blocked its enforcement, but the federal appeals court in Boston reversed that ruling.



Michigan Democrats back Nessel for state attorney general
Headline Legal News | 2018/04/16 19:17
Thousands of fired-up Michigan Democrats endorsed Dana Nessel on Sunday in a hotly contested race for state attorney general, backing the former prosecutor-turned-civil rights lawyer to wrest back control of an office the party last held 16 years ago.

If elected in November, Nessel — who helped mount a successful legal challenge to the state's same-sex marriage ban — would be Michigan's first openly gay statewide officeholder. She defeated Pat Miles, the former U.S. attorney for western Michigan in the Obama administration, in a fight that drew a record number of delegates to Detroit.

"I want to bring empathy back to the office of Michigan attorney general," Nessel said after her victory inside a packed convention hall in the Cobo Center, where she became the rare candidate to win a convention fight despite not being supported by the influential United Auto Workers union and Michigan AFL-CIO, which had backed Miles. "With the help of not just Democrats in the state but independents and yes, even Republicans, I think we can do that and I look forward to being able to try."

The 48-year-old Nessel, who was a Wayne County assistant prosecutor for 11 years, co-owns a small Detroit law firm that among other things focuses on criminal defense, family law and adoptions for same-sex couples. Barring a surprise, she will be officially nominated at Democrats' next convention in August and face a Republican nominee — either state House Speaker Tom Leonard or state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker — in the November election. GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette cannot run again due to term limits and is instead vying for governor.

Nessel's win sets the stage for a female-dominated Democratic statewide ticket if favorite Gretchen Whitmer wins the gubernatorial primary election in August. Democrats, who flooded the convention despite icy, rainy weather, also endorsed Jocelyn Benson for secretary of state in an uncontested race, and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow is running for re-election to a fourth term.



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