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Tag: law

Hawaii May Be First State to Enter All Gun Owners into FBI Database

gunsBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Hawaii is poised to become the first state in the nation to enter gun owners into an FBI database.

The Associated Press reports that the database would immediately notify police when a Hawaiian resident is arrested in another state.

In other states, people who are entered into the “Rap Back” database are in “positions of trust,” such as school officials, said Stephen Fischer of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

“I don’t like the idea of us being entered into a database. It basically tells us that they know where the guns are, they can go grab them” said Jerry Ilo, a firearm and hunting instructor for the state. “We get the feeling that Big Brother is watching us.”

Supporters of the law say Hawaii would be safer with the database.

Happy Birthday, Magna Carta

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
Eight hundred years ago today, a group of rebellious English barons met with despotic King John at Runnymede near the Thames River and agreed to a peace treaty , the Magna Carta. Negotiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the charter was meant to settle an aristocratic uprising over the unpopular king’s tax levies. It lasted two months before it was annulled.

The fact that the Magna Carta failed in its initial purpose has not dimmed its eight century luster as an iconic symbol of freedom and the rule of law. Proponents of measures to assure the rights of individuals over the arbitrary authority of the governments have long relied on the document’s mythic status in Anglo American history.

For most of those eight centuries the Magna Carta has stood for the right of free men to a fair and free trial. What women got out of the charter was the right to inherit as widows and to not be compelled to re-marry against their wishes. All in all, not an insignificant step toward gender equality.

However, during the same centuries historians have questioned the authenticity and significance of the document as a basis for all the principles it has come to stand for. Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell referred to it as the “Magna Farta,” a tag that would be considered almost sacrilegious to the constitutionalists in Britain and the United States who reverently consider the document to be the very foundation of our individual liberties.

Nevertheless it remains fashionable to poke holes in the document as having been distorted in order to achieve the ends of centuries of legal reform. They point out that technically the overwhelming majority of its Latin clauses have been repealed, refined, and replaced by subsequent legislation. But these protests are largely ignored by the real world.

Perhaps no groups have relied on the Magna Carta more assiduously than the American colonists and, later, revolutionaries and Constitution drafters. To them the document was the common law basis of the guarantees of the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus, and trial by jury.

Perhaps its most far reaching provision is the one that promises: “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Moreover, whether by myth or historical reality, the document has come to mean much more than its words and original purpose.

Chief Justice Roberts recently quoted the Magna Carta (“To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay right or justice.”) in support of the historical basis for the principle of judicial integrity. Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, 575 U.S. __ (2015) (upholding a Florida law which prohibited judges from personally soliciting campaign contributions).

In the long journey since the 13th Century, the rule of law has protected us from despotism on one side and anarchy on the other. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors, foot soldiers of the Constitution, can take pride in their important role in building our legal system, case by case, so that all individuals can enjoy fair adjudicative procedures and an equal application of the law. As is carved on the outside of the Justice Department building, “Where law ends, tyranny begins. Law alone can give us freedom.”

Whatever its historical anachronicity, the Magna Carta was a first step in the development of the rule of law, not rule of kings or even men, a process that continues today in every police department, federal law enforcement agency, prosecutor’s and U.S. Attorney’s Offices, in which charges and disputes are considered and resolved.

So if you are searching for a milestone to celebrate this week, you could do no better than to toast the enduring legacy of this ancient document.

 

Parker: Happy Birthday, Magna Carta

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office. He is the author of the book “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan 1815–2008″.

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Ross Parker

 

Eight hundred years ago today, a group of rebellious English barons met with despotic King John at Runnymede near the Thames River and agreed to a peace treaty , the Magna Carta. Negotiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the charter was meant to settle an aristocratic uprising over the unpopular king’s tax levies. It lasted two months before it was annulled.

The fact that the Magna Carta failed in its initial purpose has not dimmed its eight century luster as an iconic symbol of freedom and the rule of law. Proponents of measures to assure the rights of individuals over the arbitrary authority of the governments have long relied on the document’s mythic status in Anglo American history.

For most of those eight centuries the Magna Carta has stood for the right of free men to a fair and free trial. What women got out of the charter was the right to inherit as widows and to not be compelled to re-marry against their wishes. All in all, not an insignificant step toward gender equality.

However, during the same centuries historians have questioned the authenticity and significance of the document as a basis for all the principles it has come to stand for. Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell referred to it as the “Magna Farta,” a tag that would be considered almost sacrilegious to the constitutionalists in Britain and the United States who reverently consider the document to be the very foundation of our individual liberties.

Nevertheless it remains fashionable to poke holes in the document as having been distorted in order to achieve the ends of centuries of legal reform. They point out that technically the overwhelming majority of its Latin clauses have been repealed, refined, and replaced by subsequent legislation. But these protests are largely ignored by the real world.

Perhaps no groups have relied on the Magna Carta more assiduously than the American colonists and, later, revolutionaries and Constitution drafters. To them the document was the common law basis of the guarantees of the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus, and trial by jury.

Perhaps its most far reaching provision is the one that promises: “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Moreover, whether by myth or historical reality, the document has come to mean much more than its words and original purpose.

Chief Justice Roberts recently quoted the Magna Carta (“To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay right or justice.”) in support of the historical basis for the principle of judicial integrity. Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, 575 U.S. __ (2015) (upholding a Florida law which prohibited judges from personally soliciting campaign contributions).

Read more »

Opinion: Unpaid Scholarships at Justice Department ‘Misguided And Unethical’

By Sarah Mahmood
PolicyMic.com

If you naively thought that the unpaid internship grind would end after college, when all your uncompensated hard work would land you a fancy job upon graduation, you thought wrong.

Forget college, it apparently doesn’t even end after graduate school. What’s even more disheartening is that not only is this practice sanctioned by the government, in this case it is the government: the Department of Justice (DoJ) has currently employed 96 unpaid assistant attorneys, and its jobs website features advertisements for 12 more such positions.

For a Department charged with looking after the public interest, this is a misguided and unethical policy.

To read more click here.

Sentences Rise While Crimes Fall, Legal Experts Say

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

When William Jefferson was convicted on public corruption charges in 2009, he got hit with a  13-year sentence–the highest prison term a Congressman has ever received. Bernie Madoff, the financial scammer who pleaded guilty in New York in 2009 to running a massive Ponzi scheme, was handed a whopping 150-year sentence. And just recently, the ever-chatty former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, convicted of public corruption charges, was given 14 years–the harshest sentence an Illinois governor has ever received in a state known for its history of public corruption.

In federal courts across the United States, criminal sentences collectively have risen steadily in recent years, all while actual crime levels are falling.

“The national data is crystal clear on this,” Harvard Law Professor Ron Sullivan said in a phone interview with ticklethewire.com. “Sentences are getting increasingly harsher even though the crime rate is lower.” Sullivan teaches courses in criminal law and criminal procedure at Harvard Law.

Sullivan attributes the change in the last couple decades to a shift from discretionary sentencing to sentences often determined by federal sentencing guidelines — even after the guidelines went from mandatory to discretionary.

The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 sought to bring more consistency to federal sentencing, with mandatory sentences for certain convictions and for determinate sentencing–a firm and automatic sentence for different crimes and actions. The act created the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) and the federal sentencing guidelines used in federal cases today. It also put some judges in a regrettable position when they felt the guidelines were excessive, but could do little about it.

Ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham/gov photo

But in 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory guidelines were in violation of the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury, in the case United States v. Booker. The guidelines then became legally regarded as suggestions, not requirements.

Still, judges almost always at least start with the guidelines, and a federal case law requires a judge to write their reasoning for departing from the guidelines if sentences exceed them by a certain percentage.

Ex-Rep. William Jefferson

Studies clearly point to the hike.

In November of 2004, the USSC published a report called “Fifteen Years of Guidelines Sentencing,” a look at the impact of the changes since sentencing reform was initiated.

“The data clearly demonstrate that, on average, federal offenders receive substantially more severe sentences under the guidelines than they did in the pre-guidelines era,” the report states. The first year in which a majority of federal offenders were sentenced under the guidelines–a period between 1987 and 1989–the average prison sentence nearly doubled; by 1992 it had more than doubled, from 26 months in 1986 to 59 months in ’92.

A 2006 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission evaluating the impact of the Supreme Court’s Booker decision found that “the majority of federal cases continue to be sentences in conformance with the sentencing guidelines.” The report placed the rate at which federal judges conformed to sentencing guidelines at 85.9 percent, and found that the average sentence length had actually increased after Booker. Above-guideline sentences doubled after Booker, according to the report.

The decade between 1997 and 2007 saw about a ten percent rise in the rate of prison sentences for federal offenders, according to a January 2009 report by the United States Sentencing Commission entitled “Alternative Sentencing in the Federal Criminal Justice System.” That corresponded with a decrease in alternative sentencing like probation, or combinations of lower prison terms with probation and other alternatives.

Legal experts suggest the shift to tougher sentences is also, at least in part, due to changing attitudes about incarceration. They say the popularity of the rehabilitative component of incarceration declined in the 1970s, which precipitated the reform of the 80s. Incarceration became more about taking the criminal element out of society.

Ex-Gov Rod Blagojevich

The crew of crooked Illinois governors provides a little snapshot of the upward climb in sentences. In 1973, Ex-Gov. Otto Kern Jr. was convicted on 17 counts including bribery, conspiracy and perjury, and was sentenced to three years in prison.  He was released early after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Ex-Gov. George Ryan was convicted on public corruption charges in 2006 and got 6 1/2 years in prison.  As an aside, Ex-Gov. Daniel Walker, who had already left office, was convicted in 1987 on charges related to the First American Savings & Loan Association in Illinois and got seven years.

Before Congressman Jefferson’s history-making 13-year sentence, former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif) set the record in 2006 when he got eight years for bribery involving the defense industry.  Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, the legendary Illinois Democrat,  got 17 months after pleading guilty in 1996 for mail fraud. (Jefferson is free pending his appeal).

The tougher sentences involving public officials may also be a sign that the public and judiciary are becoming increasingly agitated about crooked politicians, and politicians in general. Real Clear Politics reports the average job approval rating for Congress at 12 percent, though some polls report as low as eight.

Bernie Madoff

“The quid pro quo–taking money in exchange for improper use of a public office–is viewed as undermining confidence in government and fostering distrust of public officials,” said George Washington University Law Professor Stephen Saltzburg, “which ultimately harms a democracy.”

“Federal judges have been increasingly tough on most, if not all, defendants who have breached the public trust by seeking to profit through the illegal acceptance of funds,” said Saltzburg.

Legislators see higher sentence recommendations as a low-cost means to look tough, even though they know judges will most often hand down sentences well below the highest recommendations, Harvard Prof. Sullivan says. “They know that most people probably are not going to get the top level sentences, but will get some sentences somewhere lower on the range,” which are still tough and pushes sentences up overall, he said.

Further more, prosecutors are more often using very high sentences instrumentally to induce plea bargains. “Most rational actors can’t take the risk of extraordinarily high sentences,” said Sullivan, “so they are kind of forced to accept plea bargains.”

John Janiszewski, an attorney in Detroit, agrees. “Only about five to ten percent of cases go to trial,” he says. “Most end in a plea deal.”

“Determinative sentencing and mandatory sentences really take the human element of any case out of the judge’s hand,” Janiszewski says, “and in criminal cases the human element is really important; every case is different.”

 

 

Feds Probing Cases of Fed Judge Who Had Relation with Stripper and Drugs

Judge Jack Camp/daily report

Judge Jack Camp/daily report

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

Now comes more fallout from the federal judge in Atlanta who pleaded guilty last month to buying drugs for a felon — a stripper — he was having an affair with after meeting her at the Goldrush Showbar.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillen Yates announced in Atlanta Thursday that her office is investigating whether any of the cases U.S. District Judge Jack Camp handled were influenced by the use of drugs or racial bias.

“From May of 2010 forward, there is evidence that Camp’s judicial decision making process may have been impacted by bias and/or impairment and it has been established that he was involved in criminal conduct during this period,” Yates said in a statement. “Therefore, we will not object to a defendant’s request for a resentencing in any case in which the defendant was sentenced during this time.”

Yates said a woman — she referred to only as “Witness 1” — alleged that Camp, 67, used drugs, expressed racial bias about court cases and used a racial epithet in private. Her office declined to confirm that Witness 1 was the stripper Camp had an affair with, though court documents show that the stripper cooperated with investigators, which resulted in Camp’s arrest in October, and his eventual downfall.

On Nov. 19, Camp, who was on senior status, pleaded guilty to aiding a felon in possessing illegal drugs, possessing illegal drugs and giving his government issued lap top to the stripper he was having an affair with. He has resigned as a federal judge, which is lifetime presidential appointment. Sentencing is set for March 4.

To read more click here.

Oops! President Obama Offends DEA Agents in Drug War Comments

obamaBy Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama insulted — albeit inadvertently — the folks at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration today by mentioning the FBI instead of their agency in remarks about the war on drugs.

At a town hall meeting in Washington aired on MTV, the president told a group of young people that his administration is serious about “federal drug enforcement.”

But, he added, “we have to figure out who is it we’re going after because we’ve got limited resources. So decisions that are made by the Justice Department or FBI about prosecuting drug kingpins versus somebody with some small amount, those decisions are made based on how can we best enforce the laws that are on the books.”

Some DEA agents were insulted, saying the DEA is the lead agency on the war on drugs, not the FBI.

“That just goes to show his lack of knowledge,” said one DEA agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Again, it shows me his inadequate knowledge of drug law enforcement. He has no clue.”

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

DEA Seeking Experts in Ebonics for Narcotics Cases

dea_color_logoBy Allan Lengel
For AOL News

If you speak Ebonics, the federal government may have a job for you.

The Drug Enforcement Administration wants to hire people fluent in Ebonics to help monitor, transcribe and translate secretly recorded conversations in narcotics investigations, according to the website The Smoking Gun and DEA documents.

The Smoking Gun reports that up to nine Ebonics experts will work with the DEA Atlanta Division after obtaining “DEA Sensitive” security clearance.

Ebonics, or “Black English,” generally is defined as a nonstandard form of English spoken by African-Americans.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST