Law blog roundup

whitey_bulger_12Welcome to Monday, the day before the bar exam begins. For those who are cramming, please remember one thing: It is a test of minimum competence. For those who wish to read on, here are some news items to get the week started.

– Is this where hope goes to die for defense attorneys?

– A whistleblower wins battle but must still wage war.

– Would you represent a juvenile criminal defendant for $350?

– Will reputed mob boss “Whitey” Bulger testify in his own defense?

 

Watts’ unusual dissent

Shirley M. Watts

Incoming Court of Appeals Judge Shirley M. Watts shakes hands with Gov. Martin O'Malley after her appointment Wednesday to Maryland's top court. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Incoming Court of Appeals Judge Shirley M. Watts filed an unusual dissenting opinion in one of her last cases as a Court of Special Appeals judge.

In a 2-1 decision in Costen v. State, the Court of Special Appeals vacated a criminal conviction and sent the case back to Worcester County Circuit Court because of an incorrect application of Maryland Rule 4-246(b), which deals with the waiver to the right of a jury trial.

Court of Special Appeals Judge Timothy E. Meredith, writing for the majority, cited the Court of Appeals’ May decision in Valonis v. State. In that case, the top court more clearly defined Rule 4-246(b), with Judges Robert N. McDonald and Sally D. Adkins dissenting.

Back to Watts: In Costen, not only does Watts dissent with the majority, but she also writes that she agrees with the dissenters in Valonis.

In other words, Watts disagrees with the law as established by the Court of Appeals.

Come September, should a similar case come before her, now she’ll have a chance to change that law.

Law blog roundup

DisneylandHappy Monday and welcome to what we hope is a smooth holiday work week for you. Here are some news items to ponder as you mentally prepare for your Thursday barbeque:

– An incredibly powerful first-person account of domestic violence and its aftermath.

– More on Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s denial Sunday of a request to stop same-sex marriages in California.

– Maryland’s ban on certain kinds of crib bumpers is now in effect.

– Family court judge tells mother: “You’re going to Disneyland!” (HT: Above the Law)

Law blog roundup

DisneylandHappy Monday and welcome to what we hope is a smooth holiday work week for you. Here are some news items to ponder as you mentally prepare for your Thursday barbeque:

– An incredibly powerful first-person account of domestic violence and its aftermath.

– More on Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s denial Sunday of a request to stop same-sex marriages in California.

– Maryland’s ban on certain kinds of crib bumpers is now in effect.

– Family court judge tells mother: “You’re going to Disneyland!” (HT: Above the Law)

Law blog roundup

alarm clockHappy Monday, the first official one of the summer. When you’re done sharing stories with co-workers about the weekend’s supermoon, here are some law tidbits to nosh on:

– SCOTUSblog lives for days like Monday.

– Pennsylvania lawmakers and courts are battling over who gets to define a charity. (HT: Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog)

– The 10 most surprising findings from a CDC study of gun violence in the United States.

– You better be prompt in your arrival time if you’re working at this law firm.

Evidence suggests potential snags in forensic use of social media

Paul Grimm

U.S. District Court Judge Paul W. Grimm

It’s one thing to hear lawyers talk about the “CSI effect,” where jurors expect to see prosecutors present the high-tech evidence that regularly cracks cases on television.

It’s another thing to hear one of the foremost authorities on evidence and discovery say it.

“It’s more powerful than a great opening statement or a tear-inducing closing,” U.S. District Court Judge Paul W. Grimm told a packed seminar during the Maryland State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting in Ocean City.

The Criminal Law and Practice Section’s panel mixed a discussion of the newest technologies with references to Popeye, Mr. Peabody and several utterances of the phrase “if you are of a certain age.”

Those of a certain age could recall where prosecutors needed someone on the witness stand to identify the suspect as the person who committed the crime.

Now, “cell phones are the new, best way to solve crimes,” said Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger. The first three questions investigators ask a suspect is for his name, if he has a cellphone and if he always has his cellphone on him, he added.

Shellenberger described a case where four people were convicted in connection with a murder based on a suspect’s cellphone address book and recent calls. Surveillance cameras helped corroborate the defendants were at the scene of a crime.

In another case, Baltimore County prosecutors were able to obtain a murder conviction by mapping the victim’s and defendant’s cellphone “pings” to cell phone towers to prove they were in the same location at the same time.

“Technology not only solved the crime, it proved the crime,” he said.

Continue reading

An insider’s look at Maryland v. King

Supreme CourtKannon K. Shanmugam, Alonzo Jay King Jr.’s lawyer, was reviewing the amicus briefs filed to the Supreme Court in support of Maryland’s DNA collection law when he started counting. Forty-nine states had filed briefs.

Shanmugam was encouraged.

“Someone held out!” he recalled to laughter during a panel session at the Maryland State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting. “Then I realized it was Maryland.”

Shanmugam was gracious in defeat Thursday as he provided the lawyers and judges in Ocean City with his perspective on Maryland v. King, which reinstated the state law permitting police to collect DNA samples from people arrested on charges of committing or attempting to commit a violent crime.

“I think this is a case we will look back on in 10 or 15 years and say, That was the case from this term that had the largest impact,” said Shanmugam, a partner at Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington.

As Shanmugam was doing research for his case, he discovered the Supreme Court had never decided on the constitutionality of fingerprinting, let alone DNA testing. (He also found that since the Maryland law’s adoption, there were 20 cases where a suspect was arrested and not convicted but DNA led to the prosecution of another crime.)

Both sides agreed there was a search in the case: Shanmugam’s strategy was to argue to that DNA is different from a fingerprint when it comes to a search.

“DNA testing is not used for identification, it’s simply to show that someone committed a crime,” he said, an argument championed by Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent.

Shanmugam called the oral argument “fascinating.”

“It felt like one of those relatively few cases where the decision is in doubt during the argument,” he said.

(Also in attendance at oral arguments and Thursday’s panel were Court of Appeals Judges Glenn T. Harrell Jr. and Mary Ellen Barbera, with the latter introducing herself to Shanmugam after the discussion ended.)

The majority, Shanmugam said, placed weight on the fact King had been arrested previously, meaning King had “lost some some expectation of privacy.”

The narrowness of the reasoning was deliberate, Shanmugam added.

“The court is mindful of the fact one of the major issues it will deal with [in the future] is the Fourth Amendment and emerging technologies, particularly used by law enforcement,” he said.

That’s why Justice Samuel A. Alito called the Maryland v. King “one of the most important criminal procedure cases in the last 10 years,” Shanmugam said.

“I’m now the guy who lost the most important criminal procedure case in the last 10 years,” he added with a smile.

Law blog roundup

RockwellA happy soggy Monday to you on a week where many of the state’s lawyers will be heading “downy ocean” and we all celebrate Old Glory. Here are some law links to chew on:

– As online privacy dominates the news, Ron Miller of the Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog has details on a new Maryland Rule concerning personal information and court records.

– Why some lawsuits over Obamacare will come from the health care legislation’s supporters.

– “A Cuyahoga County prosecutor was fired this week after he admitted posing as a woman in a Facebook chat with an accused killer’s alibi witnesses in an attempt to persuade them to change their testimony.” (HT: Above the Law)

Steve Martin and his banjo (HT: Lowering the Bar)

Chewbacca and his light-saber cane

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The pro bono work of general counsels is under debate in Arizona.

The state’s supreme court is considering a law that limits the pro bono work in-house counsel can do in the state. General counsels can perform legal work in Arizona even if they are not licensed in the state, but state laws restrict corporate attorneys from representing third parties in pro bono cases. In order to do so, they have to go through another certification process.

The Association of Corporate Counsel is urging the court to change the rules and the petition by the state’s bar association is pending in court.

So here’s our question for you:

Do you think general counsels registered but not licensed in a state should be able to do pro bono work in that state without restrictions?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

Follow us on Twitter for In-House news and discussion: @TDRInHouse

Legal news roundup

Hobby LobbyHappy (rainy) Friday everyone! Here’s your pre-Memorial Day weekend legal news round-up:

– The Brooklyn district attorney’s office will face numerous challenges as it begins an unusual examination of 50 homicide convictions originally looked into by one police detective, Louis Scarella. Scarella , who is now retired, has come under fire some of the methods he used while investigating these cases. This includes using the same drug addict as an eyewitness. Mr. Scarcella has denied wrongdoing.

– Hans G. Poppe, a Louisville lawyer whose fainting caused a mistrial in a medical-malpractice trial is being sued by the insurance company providing medical malpractice coverage to the defendant doctor and hospital he filed suit against.

– Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. on Thursday asked a federal appeals court to exclude it from part of the federal health care law that requires it to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill. The chain of arts-and-crafts stores argued that businesses should be able to seek exception from that section of the health law if it violates their religious beliefs.