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Lawsuit seeks Confederate statue’s removal from courthouse
Criminal Law Updates | 2021/05/05 20:48
Civil rights advocates sued a Maryland county on Wednesday to seek the court-ordered removal of a Confederate monument from a courthouse lawn on the state’s Eastern Shore, calling it a racist symbol of oppression.

In their federal lawsuit, an NAACP branch leader and a defense lawyer say the “Talbot Boys” statue in Talbot County is the last Confederate monument remaining on public property in Maryland besides cemeteries and battlefields.

The lawsuit claims that a statue glorifying the Confederacy on the lawn outside the county courthouse in Easton, Maryland, is both unconstitutional and illegal under federal and state laws. Keeping it there “sends a message that the community does not value Black people, that justice is not blind, and that Black people are not equal in the eyes of the county,” the suit says.

“For Black employees and litigants entering the courthouse, the statue is, in its least damaging capacity, intimidating and demoralizing,” it adds.

In August 2020, Talbot County Council members voted 3-2 to keep the memorial on the courthouse lawn.

Council President Chuck Callahan was among the three members who voted to keep the memorial. He did not immediately respond Wednesday to an email and phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The memorial, dedicated in 1916, commemorates more than 80 soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. A website advocating for it to stay on the courthouse lawn calls it “a piece of history and a splendid work of art that tells the story of brother vs. brother where North and South came together, the border state of Maryland.”

The lawsuit says the statute, erected 50 years after the Civil War ended and during the Jim Crow era, was funded primarily by a prominent white lawyer who “embraced ideals of slavery.”

“It is also telling that no monument was erected to honor the sacrifices of those from Talbot County who fought for the Union ? particularly since Maryland was not part of the Confederacy,” the suit adds.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include Richard Potter, president of the Talbot County branch of the NAACP, and Kisha Petticolas, a Black lawyer who works in Talbot County for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers, including from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, filed the federal lawsuit in Baltimore.

It asks the court to order the statute’s permanent removal from the courthouse area and bar its display at any other county property. It also seeks unspecified monetary damages for the plaintiffs.


Court to hear appeal of Dallas officer who killed neighbor
Criminal Law Updates | 2021/04/27 20:19
A Texas court is scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday on overturning the conviction of a former Dallas police officer who was sentenced to prison for fatally shooting her neighbor in his home.

An attorney for Amber Guyger and prosecutors are set to clash before an appeals court over whether the evidence was sufficient to prove that her 2018 shooting of Botham Jean was murder.

The hearing before a panel of judges will examine a Dallas County jury’s  2019 decision to sentence Guyger to 10 years in prison for murder. It follows the recent conviction of a former Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, again focusing national attention on police killings and racial injustice.

Guyger is not expected to appear in court Tuesday and the appeals panel will hand down a decision at an unspecified later date.

More than two years before Floyd’s death set off protests across the country, Guyger’s killing of Jean drew national attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of Black men by white police officers.

The basic facts of the case were not in dispute. Guyger, returning home from a long shift, mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was on the floor directly below his. Finding the door ajar, she entered and shot him, later testifying that she through he was a burglar.

Jean, a 26-year-old accountant, had been eating a bowl of ice cream before Guyger shot him. She was later fired from the Dallas Police Department.

The appeal from Guyger, now 32, hangs on the contention that her mistaking Jean’s apartment for her own was reasonable and, therefore, so too was the shooting. Her lawyers have asked the appeals court  to acquit her of murder or to substitute in a conviction for criminally negligent homicide, which carries a lesser sentence.

In court filings, Dallas County prosecutors countered  that Guyger’s error doesn’t negate “her culpable mental state.” They wrote, “murder is a result-oriented offense.”

Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, told the Dallas Morning News that the appeal has delayed her family’s healing.

”I know everyone has a right of appeal, and I believe she’s utilizing that right,” Jean said. “But on the other hand, there is one person who cannot utilize any more rights because she took him away.

“So having gotten 10 years, only 10, for killing someone who was in the prime of his life and doing no wrong in the comfort of his home, I believe that she ought to accept, take accountability for it and move on,” she said.

Guyger could have been sentenced to up to life in prison or as little as two years. Prosecutors had requested a 28-year sentence ? Botham Jean would have been 28 if he were still alive during the trial.

Under her current sentence, Guyger will become eligible for parole in 2024, according to state prison records.

Following the trial, two members of the jury said the diverse panel tried to consider what the victim would have wanted when they settled on a 10-year prison sentence.

Jean ? who went by “Bo” ? sang in a church choir in Dallas and grew up in a devout family on the island nation of St. Lucia. After sentencing, Brandt Jean embraced Guyger in court and told her his old


High court sides with Google in copyright fight with Oracle
Criminal Law Updates | 2021/04/05 17:56
The Supreme Court sided Monday with Google in an $8 billion copyright dispute with Oracle over the internet company’s creation of the Android operating system used on most smartphones worldwide.

To create Android, which was released in 2007, Google wrote millions of lines of new computer code. But it also used 11,330 lines of code and an organization that’s part of Oracle’s Java platform.

Google had argued that what it did is long-settled, common practice in the industry, a practice that has been good for technical progress. And it said there is no copyright protection for the purely functional, noncreative computer code it used, something that couldn’t be written another way. But Austin, Texas-based Oracle said Google “committed an egregious act of plagiarism,” and it sued.

The justices ruled 6-2 for Google Inc., based in Mountain View, California. Two conservative justices dissented.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote  that in reviewing a lower court’s decision, the justices assumed “for argument’s sake, that the material was copyrightable.”

“But we hold that the copying here at issue nonetheless constituted a fair use. Hence, Google’s copying did not violate the copyright law,” he wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissent joined by Justice Samuel Alito that he believed “Oracle’s code at issue here is copyrightable, and Google’s use of that copyrighted code was anything but fair.”

Only eight justices heard the case because it was argued in October, after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg but before Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court.

In a statement, Google’s chief legal officer, Kent Walker, called the ruling a “victory for consumers, interoperability, and computer science.” “The decision gives legal certainty to the next generation of developers whose new products and services will benefit consumers,” Walker wrote.

Oracle’s chief legal officer, Dorian Daley, condemned the outcome. “The Google platform just got bigger and market power greater. The barriers to entry higher and the ability to compete lower. They stole Java and spent a decade litigating as only a monopolist can,” she wrote in a statement.

Microsoft, IBM and major internet and tech industry lobbying groups had weighed in on the case in favor of Google. The Motion Picture Association and the Recording Industry Association of America were among those supporting Oracle.

The case is Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc., 18-956.


Raimondo makes historic nomination to state Supreme Court
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/12/08 19:42
Gov. Gina Raimondo nominated two women Tuesday to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, including one who, if confirmed, would become not only the first Black justice, but also the first person of color on the state's highest court.

Superior Court Judge Melissa Long was nominated to replace Justice Francis X. Flaherty, who announced his retirement in October.

Long was appointed by Raimondo to the Superior Court in 2017. Before that, she was deputy secretary of state and director of administration in the secretary of state's office. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the George Mason University School of Law.

Raimondo also nominated state Sen. Erin Lynch Prata to the high court. She is the chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee and would replace Justice Gilbert Indeglia, who retired in June. She has degrees from Boston College and the Catholic University of America law school.

If Long and Lynch Prata are confirmed, the five-member court will be majority female for the first time. Raimondo also announced several other judicial nominations.

The Democratic governor named Linda Rekas Sloan to the Superior Court. If approved, Rekas Sloan would be the first Asian-American on the court.

The governor also named Central Falls Municipal Judge Elizabeth Ortiz to the Family Court bench, making Ortiz the first Latina nominated to the court that oversees child custody, divorce and juvenile matters.

“I am thrilled to appoint this group of talented public servants to our state’s highest courts,” Raimondo said in a statement. “As governor, one of my most important and sacred responsibilities is to appoint high-caliber judges who reflect the diversity of the Rhode Islanders they serve. I am confident that each of these nominees will fairly and honorably uphold the laws and values of our state.”





Biden win over Trump in Nevada made official by court
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/11/25 18:55
The Nevada Supreme Court made Joe Biden’s win in the state official on Tuesday, approving the state’s final canvass of the Nov. 3 election.

The unanimous action by the seven nonpartisan justices sends to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak results that will deliver six electoral votes from the western U.S. battleground state to Biden.

The court action drew extra scrutiny amid legal efforts by the state GOP and Trump campaign to prevent sending vote-by-mail ballots to all 1.82 million active registered voters and then to stop the counting of the 1.4 million votes that were cast.

Nevada’s six Democratic presidential electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 14 in the state capital of Carson City.

Biden won Nevada by 33,596 votes, according to results approved by elected officials in Nevada’s 17 counties — including Clark County, which encompasses Las Vegas, and Washoe County, which includes Reno.

Biden got 50.06% of the vote and Trump 47.67%. Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican who has avoided the public eye in recent weeks, presented the results to the court.

She noted the first-ever use of all-mail balloting statewide in a general election, same-day voter registration and early voting. “The result was more of a hybrid model where voters had a choice of how to participate,” she said, adding that a record number of voters participated.

Certification of the vote does not stop several lawsuits pending in state and federal courts.

They include bids by two Republican congressional candidates and a state Senate challenger to obtain re-votes in those races, an open-records case by the state GOP, and a U.S. District Court action alleging that thousands of ineligible people voted.

A federal judge in that case declined a bid for an immediate injunction that would have stopped the use of a signature verification scanner during the vote count.

Jesse Binnall, an attorney for the Trump campaign who is handling an election challenge pending before a state court judge, said Tuesday he intends to prove that so many fraudulent votes were cast statewide that Trump won Nevada.

Turnout among the state’s more than 1.8 million active registered voters was almost 77.3%, including mail, early voting and Election Day ballots cast amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to secretary of state data.

That was up from a turnout of 76.8% during the presidential election in 2016, when Democrat Hillary Clinton carried Nevada by a little under 2.5% over Trump. Nevada was one of several states due to certify the election on Tuesday.


High Court Won't Take up Ex-Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis' Case
Criminal Law Updates | 2020/10/05 16:07
The Supreme Court is leaving in place a decision that allowed a lawsuit to move forward against a Kentucky clerk who was jailed in 2015 after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The high court said Monday it would not take the case involving Kim Davis, the former clerk of Rowan County, and two same-sex couples who had sued her. Soon after the 2015 Supreme Court decision in which same-sex couples won the right to marry nationwide, Davis, a Christian who has a religious objection to same-sex marriage, stopped issuing all marriage licenses.

That led to lawsuits against her, and a judge ordered Davis to issue the licenses. She spent five days in jail after refusing. Davis had argued that a legal doctrine called qualified immunity protected her from being sued for damages by couples David Ermold and David Moore as well as James Yates and Will Smith. Their case will now move forward. Davis, a Republican, ultimately lost her bid for reelection in 2018. Democrat Elwood Caudill Jr. is now the county’s clerk.

Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas wrote for himself and Justice Samuel Alito that while he agreed with the decision not to hear the case, it was a "stark reminder of the consequences" of the court's 2015 decision in the same-sex marriage case. Because of that case, he wrote, “those with sincerely held religious beliefs concerning marriage will find it increasingly difficult to participate in society without running afoul" of the case “and its effect on other antidiscrimination laws.”



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