Constitutional Law Expert Sujit Choudhry Presents an Analysis of Freedom of Speech

Understanding Freedom of Speech 

It’s important to comprehend the legal parameters of the freedom of expression in particular jurisdictions. The right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Human Rights Law. Freedom of speech is basically the right to articulate opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or societal sanctions. The United States Constitution is a document understood best in context form. There have been 27 amendments to the United States Constitution since its inception as America’s founding political document. The First Amendment primarily focused on protecting political as well as religious expressions. In essence, this Amendment was designed to protect the people from government pressure. As late as 1798, the scope of free speech was still up in the air when President John Adams signed the Alien and Sedition Acts. Based on the First Amendment, Americans receive protections from exercising their spiritual beliefs freely without government restrictions. Free speech and a free press are protected under the Constitution on citizens assembling peacefully, but the confusion in this scenario arises when people don’t understand what each of those two things means.

Understanding Hate Speech 

Americans across the board are widely in support of the idea of freedom of expression and yet there is a growing movement that is promoting social justice as well hate speech restrictions. From a legal point of view, those ideas entirely contradict. In a broader sense, there is no constitutional prohibition distinctively addressing hate speech despite the fact that some states have enacted laws that target hate speech. Hate speech may fall under the category of “Fighting Words and Offensive Speech.” According to the First Amendment of the Supreme Court of 1942, the spoken or written works that would likely cause violence are not protected under the law. The general statement against a group that causes emotional distress under the umbrella of free speech cannot be restricted.

Free Speech and College Campuses 

In the United States College Campuses, free Speech is more volatile. It’s believed that colleges are strongholds of democratic deliberation and critical thinking. Moreover, in the last decade dramatic shift in mutual attitudes at institutions of higher learning has been noticed. College environment illustrates why free speech is important and some universities remain devoted to protecting the free exchange of ideas. Many institutions in America are in support of freedom of expression simply because student activism has indeed changed school policies. The concept of human nature apparently helps people to relatively narrow the range of thought and ideas. The only way to broaden these perspectives is to challenge them with competing ideas in favor of emotional growth along with human understanding. Therefore, free speech is fundamental.

Role of Social Media 

The transfer of information was a slow process for the most of America’s history. It’s evident that the transmission of information from coast to coast took weeks before the existence of radio, telegram, and telephones. In the last 50 years, the internet has turned the world into universally acknowledged social standards and people can interact with an increasingly different pool of acquaintances. However, social media exposes a variety of political opinions in real time by bringing new as well different ideas right on your front door. The United States Constitution lawfully protects your fundamental human rights by valuing free speech and advocating generation of new ideas. This promotes respect and creates the safest public atmosphere for all citizens transversely to every political stripe and social issue.

Who is Sujit Choudhry? 

Sujit Choudhry is the Director of the Center for Constitutional Transitions. He is the I. Michael Heyman Professor of Law California University, Berkeley school of Law, where he served as a dean. Choudhry is an expert in comparative constitutional law. Previously Choudhry was the Cecelia Goetz Professor of Law at New York University, and the Scholl Chair at the University of Toronto. Born in New Delhi in 1970, Sujit is an internationally recognized authority on comparative constitutional law and politics. He holds law degrees from Oxford, Toronto, as well from Harvard. Professor Sujit was a Rhodes Scholar in which he served as law clerk to Chief Justice Antonio Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada. He combines a wide-ranging research agenda with in-depth field experience as an advisor to constitution building processes since he has lectured in over two dozen countries including Jordan, Nepal, Libya, South Africa, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Ukraine. Professor Choudhry generates and mobilizes knowledge in support of constitution building by assembling as well as leading international network of experts to produce thematic research projects that offer evidence-based policy options to practitioners and agenda-setting research. Up to date, the Center for Constitutional Transitions has worked with more than fifty professionals from more than twenty-five countries whereby it partners with a global network of multilateral organizations such as think tanks and NGOs.

Professor Choudhry’s research addresses a wide range of issues in comparative constitutional law along with politics. He has written extensively on Canadian constitutional law. The fields he has concentrated more includes; constitutional design as an instrument to manage the change from violent conflict to diplomatic democratic politics, constitutional design in ethnically divided into societies, constitutional design in the context of transition from authoritarian to democratic rule, basic methodological questions in the study of comparative law, minority and group rights, official language policy, Bills of rights and proportionality. He also discussed issues related to federalism, decentralization, and secession. Professor Choudhry has published over 90 articles, book chapters, working papers, along with reports. Central to such an endeavor, the books include; “The Migration of Constitutional Ideas” (Cambridge, 2006), “Constitutional Design for Divided Societies: Integration or Accommodation?”(Oxford, 2008), “The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution” (Oxford, 2016), and “The Constitution Making” (Edward Elgar, 2016). In collaboration with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Professor Sujit Choudhry is currently co-leading three global collaborative research projects. The projects are; “Dealing with Territorial Cleavages in Constitutional Transitions,” “Security Sector Reform and Constitutional Transitions in Emerging Democracies” and “Security Sector Oversight” which will yield a series of research and policy outputs to be published in 2017.

Interviews with Sujit Choudhry: 

Ideamensch

CEO/CFO

Daniel Budzinski Podcast

I-CONnect

False Memories and False Confessions – NPR Discusses the Case of the Beatrice Six

In 2009, six individuals from Beatrice, Nebraska were exonerated for the crime of murdering an elderly woman in 1985 after new DNA evidence was brought to light proving their innocence. Even so, many of the members of the “Beatrice Six” still report having memories of committing the crime the night it happened. In a recent report from NPR’s ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, host Audie Cornish talked with The New Yorker writer Rachel Aviv about why this may be.

During their discussion, they talk about what happened at the scene of the crime. Police could find no leads as to who could have be the perpetrator despite large amounts of physical evidence left behind. An informant implicated JoAnn Taylor and Joseph White as suspects, who were arrested. Neither could remember the events of the night due to being intoxicated and were convinced of their wrongdoing by police threats.

After being told to recount who else was responsible for the crime through dreams by psychologist Wayne Price, Taylor and White eventually implicated Thomas Winslow, James Dean, Kathy Gonzales, and Debra Shelden as accomplices. All were eventually tried and convicted for crimes they never committed.

Aviv goes on to explain why Doctor Price asked them to do this, talking about how the idea of recovering repressed traumatic memories through things like dreaming was a popular idea in psychology at the time. Calling it an “epidemic”, she goes on to say it was quickly discredited after reaching its most pervasive form.

Despite not having committed the crime, two of the Beatrice Six still to this day report having vivid memories of what happened that night. Aviv then talks about the idea of implanting false memories into people and how it shapes who they are, planning to expand on the topic in a future issue of The New Yorker.

For JoAnn Taylor and Joseph White, this is what happened. Despite not having committed any crimes, they were convinced that they had by the police’s detailed descriptions of what could have happened, implicating four unrelated parties based on poor advice from a psychologist.

At the time of their release, the true culprit of the crime was caught based on the same DNA evidence that freed the Beatrice Six. The five surviving members (White died in 2011) are currently engaged in a lawsuit against Gage County, Nebraska over false imprisonment and police misconduct.

Bill Cosby’s Trial Ends in Mistrial

After 53 hours of deliberation, the judge in Bill Cosby’s trial says that the jury is hopelessly deadlocked. Judge Steven O’Neill  says that he hopes to schedule a new trial within 120 days in the case where Cosby is accused of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand who is director of operations of Temple University’s women’s basketball team in 2004 when the alleged assault occurred. Bill Cosby plead not guilty, although he had paid Constand an undisclosed amount of money following her civil suit in 2006.

Why Cosby’s Mistrial?

The jury in their sixth day had already asked the judge 12 questions including the definition of reasonable doubt. Five of them were requests to review what Constand and Cosby said in court. In the end, however, the jury asked the judge for a definition of reasonable doubt shortly before the mistrial was declared.

Camille Cosby’s Statement

While Bill Cosby who is now 79 made no statement after the mistrial was declared, a spokesman for Cosby’s wife Camille read a statement which included calling the:

  • District attorney-heinously and exploitively ambitious
  • Judge- Overtly and arrogantly collaborating with the district attorney
  • Counsel for the accuser- Unethical
  • General media- Blatantly vicious entities

What did Bill Cosby Allegedly do in 2004?

Bill Cosby admits that he had sex with Constand in 2004. He, however, says that it was consensual. He also says that he gave Constand three half-pills of Benadryl. About a year later, Constand told her mother that Cosby raped her. She reported the incident to the police a few days later. At that time, the district attorney did not press charges because there was a lack of evidence.

Cosby’s Health

Cosby’s lead attorney says that he is very worried about his client’s health on the day after the mistrial was declared. Cosby who is 79 years old is legally blind. He uses a cane for mobility. Cosby was arrested in December 2016, and he appeared to stumble entering the building where his passport was revoked. At that time, bond was set at $1 million.

Possible Outcome

If the district attorney retires the case, then Cosby could be sentenced to 10 years in prison. He would also have to register as a sex offender if found guilty. While the district attorney has said that he will retry the expensive case, he has not filed the paperwork to start the process again.

 

Excessive Fee Litigation by Mutual Funds Face Serious Implications with the Passing of the Financial CHOICE Act by the House

The passing of the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10) on June 8, 2017, along House party lines aims to replace and repeal several clauses of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Financial CHOICE Act is a big reform for financial regulation which will contain possible amendments to section 36(b) of the 1940 Act that will raise the burden of proof and heighten the standards of pleading for plaintiffs in situations of litigation fee that are excessive. It was passed 233-186 along the party divide.

Investment advisers face a fiduciary duty imposed by section 36(b) instead of the compensation they receive for the advisory services they provide to funds which give the shareholders of the funds a private action right to enforce the duty against all the affiliates and their advisers who receive the compensations from the funds. By a preponderance of the available evidence, the burden of proof will be on the plaintiffs who will be required to show that the fee they pay for advice is excessive. In other words, they will need to give evidence that the services the defendant rendered and the fee charged are so disproportionate that they do not bear any relationship, and that the negotiations could not take place at an arm’s length.

Therefore, the Financial CHOICE Act will impose a requirement that under Section 36(b) any complaint brought should state all the peculiar facts that establish a breach of fiduciary duty, and to prove that if any such alleged facts are based on existing beliefs and information, the complainant shall use all means to state the peculiarities on which the facts and opinions are based or on which the opinion are formed. Apart from the raised or stricter standards of pleading that the complainants will have to face, the plaintiffs will also be confronted by heightened burden of proof imposed by the Act from a state of legal “preponderance of the evidence” to a legally acceptable state of “convincing and unequivocal evidence.”

The new rules will not make the playing field any simpler for all the parties involved, and in the event of a process of litigation, it is clear that the cases will be long-drawn and complicated. Under the Financial Choice Act, the shareholder of a fund will have the burden to prove that there was a breach of fiduciary duty by convincing and clear evidence.

 

Trump’s Justice Appointed, Debate Over Travel Ban Rages On

The travel ban, or immigration pause as the lawyers are calling it, has been held up in court once again. As this is being weighed, Donald Trump visited the Supreme Court this last week to attend the appointment of his newly-appointed justice, Neil Gorsuch.

Donald and Melania Trump attended, but did not speak at, the event honoring the appointment of Gorsuch to the nation’s highest court. Justice John Roberts offered Trump favorable words in his opening comments.

Gorsuch has been the subject of controversy for some time, since the only reason he was able to be appointed was that the Republican-led Senate refused to consider Obama’s pick for justice, Merrick Garland, for most of last year.

As the 5-4 conservative majority is now restored, things may be looking up for Trump’s travel ban which is slated to be weighed by the justices on its constitutionality. The court is also looking at a request to allow the ban to go into effect preemptively until litigation can be thoroughly carried out. It’s possible that Gorsuch may be the linchpin in these proceedings in favor of the Trump administration.

Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland have blocked the travel ban, calling it unconstitutional and clearly a religious ban, despite the rhetoric of the Trump administration. The appeals process has now sent that up the pipeline to the Supreme Court and its newly-appointed justice.

While justices are supposed to be apolitical and judge solely on the legality of a matter, the fact of the matter is the political and judicial worlds are far more entangled than many may think. A justice newly appointed by Trump may also be more likely to assist in pushing through a Trump agenda, but there’s no way of knowing for sure until litigation is completed.

The Trump administration currently has a lot of legal battles to fight. Trump is also under investigation by a special committee for obstruction of justice in his recent firing of James Comey.

Further Analysis Of Dakota Access Pipeline’s Environmental Impact Ordered

The Dakota Access Pipeline has been a major source of debate in the political and environmental spheres as of late. Now, a U.S. federal judge had ordered that debate to continue.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington determined that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not analyze the possibility of a catastrophic oil spill to satisfactory levels. Such an oil spill could have negative effects on the livelihood of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, he claims. The judge found that federal permits issued for the pipeline violated the law by not thoroughly completing this investigation.

As of now, the pipeline has not been stalled again, but pending the results of an investigation, it could find itself dead in the water again. The Corps will be required to resume their investigation and will need to reconsider certain aspects of its past investigation.

People on both sides of the issue are disturbed by this outcome. Those against the pipeline are upset that the pipeline hasn’t been definitively stalled to allow the investigation to run its course. Those in support of the pipeline are worried that the findings in the Corps investigation could persuade the court to take further action to dismantle the pipeline once and for all, killing their considerable investment.

The Corps themselves believe they will be able to persuade the court to allow construction to continue while they address the discrepancies in their analysis. They believe that the errors found can be addressed quickly and will not require much time or effort to warrant a halt to construction.

Donald Trump famously pushed the pipeline through with an executive order shortly after he was sworn into office. However, that rush he placed upon the Corps has now been found to be unlawful and may not only endanger the pipeline but come back to bite him politically as well.

 

President Trump Adds Lawyer From Washington To His Legal Team

The president has a new lawyer on his legal team now. He chose to add a veteran lawyer named John Dowd to his team. Mr. Dowd was added to represent the president in the recent allegations about the possible collusion in Russia with the Trump campaign. This investigation also includes the criminal probe which is being lead by special counsel Mueller.

Lawyer John Dowd has represented many white-collar criminal cases and will be in partner with other lawyers in Trump’s team which includes a defense lawyer from New York named Marc Kasowitz. Dowd is known for representing United State’s Senator John McCain during an investigation on congressional ethics charges in a bank scandal in the late 1980s to early 1990s. Mr. McCain was cleared on all charges in the matter and owed it to the hard work of Dowd.

The investigation including the President states that Russia denies any interference and that the White House denies to have had any collusion with Moscow in the situation. A special counsel is currently looking into the matter to find out whether Trump is trying to obstruct the investigation. Mueller is turning his investigation around to find if there are any possible ties between the government in Russia and President Trump’s campaign. There are allegations stating that some U.S. officials were meddling in the election in 2016.

James Comey, the former FBI Director, has testified earlier in the month that the president had asked him to stop the bureau’s investigation that is ongoing of Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser. Both the House Intelligence Committees and the Senate are performing their own investigations about the possible ties between the government in Russia and president Trump’s campaign. According to Reuters.com, the legal team for Trump are also expecting a new lawyer to be added for fighting these allegations on the president.

Suicide by text – Guilty!

Michelle Carter faces 20 years in prison after a Massachusetts judge found her responsible for the suicide death of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III. Conrad killed himself in 2014 by Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

In presenting his rationale for the manslaughter conviction Judge Lawrence Moniz called Ms. Carter’s actions “reckless” with a “wanton” disregard. Ms. Carter opted for a trial by judge and rejected her right to a jury trial.

The case stems from a situation where Mr. Roy, a severely depressed young man, had told his girlfriend and confidant, Ms. Carter, that he wanted to die. He told her he was going to kill himself but wasn’t sure how he should do it. After research by himself and Ms. Carter it was decided he would kill himself by placing a generator in his vehicle and seal off any fresh air from the carbon monoxide.

Some say the guilty verdict in this suicide by text message is a “slippery slope” against free speech, assisted suicide, and that it muddles the water regarding criminal liability versus personal responsibility. Little focus was placed on earlier text messages where Ms. Carter initially suggested Mr. Roy get help and possibly go into a “mental hospital”.

“But the mental hospital would help you. I know you don’t think it would but I’m telling you, if you give them a chance, they can save your life,” she texted on July 19. 2014.

Roy, 18, committed suicide in 2014. The Massachusetts District Attorney held fast that had Ms. Carter contacted someone who could actually help, Mr. Roy would not have been successful. Their claim was Ms. Carter helped to instigate the suicide when, among other things, sent a text to Mr. Roy “ordering” him to get back into the vehicle and go through with it. She went as far as to text that his parents would “get over it”.

Now, 20 years old, Ms. Carter’s defense team presented expert testimony from Dr. Peter Breggin wherein he stated she was “involuntarily intoxicated” because of the anti-depressant she was taking. The expert explained it is an SSRI pharmaceutical Celexa and caused her to have “erratic” behaviors. The DA countered with its own expert who simply said there is no such thing as “involuntary intoxication” cause by Celexa.

The full accounts of the texts conversations can be read here

Sources:
http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2017/06/teen-guilty-of-manslaughter-for-encouraging-friends-suicide-with-texts.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4612636/Conrad-Roy-s-parents-speak-Michelle-Carters-trial.html

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a10017083/michelle-carter-involuntarily-intoxicated-defense-claims/

A Request from ABA to The Supreme Court to Insist on Funding Sufficiency for Investigations After a Conviction

In an amicus brief that was filed Friday by the ABA, the legal organization demands that the U.S Supreme Court must not admit the decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans that imposes stiffer customary conditions for investigating post-conviction claims. The PDF brief indicated the intention of Avestas Manuel Carlos to seek funds from the court for hiring a legal professional he thought should have been contracted by the first attorneys he engaged in the Avestas v. Davis hearing. When the Federal law establishes that there is a reasonable necessity for a defendant to be represented, then it permits the solicitation of funding.

A case that came to the limelight was in 2016 when the 5th Circuit set a precedent for individuals like Avestas who demonstrated a reasonable need for representation but could not meet the high cost or standards for legal representation without recourse to funding by the court for the development of the case. But according to the amicus brief by the ABA, the decision by the tribunal was “restrictive and circular and, therefore, it supported the argument. According to the amicus brief, the rule of “substantial need” requires the establishment of a viable claim on the merits of the case by the counsel before the circuit can permit the funding necessary for the investigation of the merits.

The brief noted that the attorneys should have carried out an adequate and independent verification of the facts to uphold Avestas’ argument that his initial counsel was ineffective and so did not meet the requirement of effective assistance. The views are supported by the Criminal Justice Standards and Death Penalty Guidelines by ABA. If the original attorney was ineffective, the brief highly recommends the need for further investigations because the required information might be contained in the records of the prior proceedings by the court. Failure to fund the experts or investigators, according to ABA Death Penalty Representation Project, often leads to ineffective assistance.

And the brief claims that are a problem because in the case like that of Avestas, the ruling by the 5th Circuit sets up a Catch-22 situation for the defendants because they cannot hire an investigator before furnishing the court with the same facts that the investigator would be expected to unearth. The standards are much higher than what the Federal Statutes prescribes. The brief concludes that such results prevent the attorneys from acting in consistence with the professional standards.

Cosby Case Called a Mistrial

Over the past few months, one of the most followed criminal cases in the world has been the case against Bill Cosby. Cosby, who is one of the most successful actors and comedians of all time, was charged with assaulting several women over the past twenty years. After several weeks of deliberations, and over a year of case preparation, the jury finally finished their discussions and announced a verdict (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/17/arts/television/bill-cosby-trial-day-11.html?_r=0).

While many people were expecting that the jury would be able to come to a conclusion, it appears that the 12 person jury has ended in a deadlock and was not able to come up with a conclusion. After the jury spent 50 hours discussing the case, the 12 people ended up declaring a mistrial.

The result of the case was a surprise to many people, but the lack of a decision was expected by others. While there were several different women that came forth, the lack of physical evidence made it hard for people to convict. It is believed that this is the main reason why some jurors were not willing to vote guilty during the deliberations.

While Cosby is now considered a free man, it is not yet clear whether his legal troubles are behind him. The prosecuting attorneys have stated that they will likely pursue another case against him, which is possible given the fact that it was a mistrial and that he was not proven not guilty. However, while the prosecutors may want to pursue another case, there is a chance that they will not be given the opportunity to do so by the state given the amount of resources that go into high-profile criminal cases.

At this point, the criminal legal process is still up in the air, but Cosby could still face some civil charges and convictions. Even though there was a mistrial in the criminal court, he could still be found guilty in the civil court system. While this would not result in a criminal penalty, it could result in a very severe financial penalty that he will be required to pay to the plaintiffs in any civil court trial.

 

Michigan Takes a Step Towards Allowed Concealed Carry Without a License

The Michigan House of Representatives recently passed a bill that removes permitting and licensing requirements for concealed carry in Michigan. The legislation now moves to the Senate. If it’s successful there it heads to Governor Snyder for consideration.

The bill doesn’t change the law that prohibits felons from owning or possessing a firearm. However, in addition to removing the permitting requirement, the bill also reduces penalties for failing to have identification and for failing to disclose the weapon to a law enforcement officer. There are a few other notable provisions in the bill including a repeal of the current law that prohibits security guards from carrying concealed except while they’re performing their duties. The law also removes firearms from the list of included weapons when a law or regulation prohibits possession of dangerous weapons.

Michigan law currently allows residents to openly carry without training or a permit. Some people say that requiring a permit for concealed carry but not open carry is unfair, and that it only creates costs and bureaucracy. Others say that regulations are justified because of ongoing struggles with gun violence and because training requirements improve gun use and safety. The vote fell largely on party lines with Republicans voting for the measure while Democrats opposed it.

Currently, a person who wants to concealed carry in Michigan must apply for a permit. The applicant must file the application in the county where they live. There are fees to pay, and a person must submit their fingerprints as part of the application process. They must complete a training course that teaches them how to use and care for their weapon.

In addition, an applicant for a concealed carry permit in Michigan may not be the restrained party in a personal protection order or have been found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity. There are other requirements that prohibit people with certain criminal convictions from receiving a permit. There’s also a residency requirement for a successful application.

There’s no indication as to whether Governor Snyder would approve the bills. In 2012, Snyder vetoed legislation to allow concealed carry in gun-free zones like schools. Snyder vetoed that bill in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting that took the lives of twenty students and six adults.

Source: Detroit Free Press: http://www.freep.com/story/news/2017/06/07/no-permit-training-needed-concealed-carry-guns-passed-house/378659001/

Supreme Court Rules for Veteran in Family Law Pension Dispute

The U.S. Supreme Court came down unanimously on May 15, 2017 in favor of a U.S. veteran. His ex-wife claimed that he owed her reimbursement for his waived retirement pay that the court awarded to her in the divorce. Justice Breyer authored the opinion in favor of U.S. Air Force veteran John Howell. The justices ruled that Howell doesn’t have to reimburse his ex-wife for waived pension pay despite the divorce judgment calling for the same.

John and Sandra Howell divorced more than twenty-five years ago. The judgment called for John to pay half of his retirement pay to Sandra. Since that time, John elected to waive portions of the retirement pay. For the waiver, he received disability pay instead. While a veteran pays taxes on retirement pay, they don’t pay taxes on disability pay. Because of the waiver, John’s disability pay was $250 per month less than his pension pay would have been.

Even though the divorce judgment calls for John to reimburse Sandra for the difference of $125 per month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the provision of the divorce judgment is unenforceable. John doesn’t have to reimburse Sandra anything even though the waiver is his choice. Sandra is simply out the money.

The lower state courts ruled in succession in the former wife’s favor. They focused on making the ex-wife whole for what she lost because of the ex-husband’s disability election. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the state rulings citing the federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). They said that the USFSPA allows a court to split disposable retired pay except any portion waived for disability benefits. They cited the prior case Mansell v. Mansell which concluded that the state courts can’t divide veteran disability benefits.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states just don’t have the authority to divide disability benefits even if the result is that an ex-spouse doesn’t get what they expected. They also ruled that requiring reimbursement of the amount from one spouse to another isn’t a lawful substitute, either. Even though the court admits that the ruling might create a difficulty for former military spouses, they say that state courts always have the option to adjust spousal support.

Sources: http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/05/opinion-analysis-unanimous-court-rules-veteran-family-law-case/

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1031_hejm.pdf

Plaintiffs Continue to Join Larry Nassar Lawsuit

Plaintiffs continue to come out of the woodwork to join a lawsuit against former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University employee Larry Nassar. Four more Plaintiffs have requested to join the lawsuit that accuses Nassar of ongoing, systemic, sexual abuse over a period of decades. Plaintiff filed a request with the court to allow them to amend the complaint in order to add the new plaintiffs to the case.

Although Nassar headlines the lawsuit, there are many people and organizations on the defensive including Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, and Twistars Gymnastics Club which produced 2012 Olympian Jordyn Wieber. Most of the plaintiffs identify themselves as Jane Doe. In addition to Nassar’s abuse, the lawsuit alleges that the other accused organizations failed to take steps to protect the abuse victims and failed to properly respond to allegations about the alleged abuse. The lawsuit calls MSU deliberately indifferent to the allegations against Nassar.

Nassar faces criminal charges in the State of Michigan addition to the civil suit against him. The criminal charges allege sexual abuse as well as possession of child pornography. A preliminary examination bound Nassar over to the Michigan Circuit Court for trial on the criminal allegations.

While Nassar defends the charges against him, witnesses are doing their best to run from participation in the case. One of those witnesses running is former USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny. He got the court to postpone his deposition in the matter so that he could attend the Indianapolis 500 and network for job hunting purposes. Attorneys for the plaintiffs shot back that a party isn’t a good reason to skip a court-ordered deposition. Penny resigned as president of USA Gymnastics amid growing pressure from the gymnastics community and threats from the U.S. Olympic Committee to withdraw funding from the sport’s national governing body. Penny collected a golden parachute of approximately $1 million from USA Gymnastics.

Famed Olympic gymnastics coach Don Peters also wants the court to quash his subpoena for deposition in the case. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case hope that the deposition will provide insight on the matters relating to the allegations against the defendants as well as information about USA Gymnastics’ financial practices. Attorneys for Peters say that the deposition in the Nassar case is an abuse of discovery and an improper attempt to gain discovery for another case.

Sources:

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/deposition_delay_granted_in_sex_abuse_case_so_job_hunting_official_can_atte

http://statenews.com/article/2017/06/nassar-plaintiffs-to-file-amended-complaint

Attorney for banned gymnastics coach Don Peters seeks to quash subpoena

Anacapa Law Group Inc Finds Justice for Polluted Water Ways in California

MATTCO Manufacturing is an independently owned company that specializes in offering oilfield services. The manufacturing company was established in 1974 and has been a sole active provider of a plethora of products generated from custom tailored components. The products seek to complete the OEM solutions for pumps as well as draw works equipment companies. The company specializes in the primary production of three products namely: MATTCO, TTE, and Bear. The products originate from the United States of America. Useful as the products may be, the reports channeled to the court stated that this company has contributed to more environmental damage.

Lawsuit

On 7th June 2017, an environmental group took the streets with the aim of suing MATTCO Forge Inc. The lawsuit stated that the company was violating the federal law. The community of California against toxics filed a major complaint against MATTCO Forge Inc through the district court of California. The lawsuit indicated that MATTCO Forge Inc was discharging storm water and channeling it to the waterways of Los Angeles. According to the statement released by the complainant, the environment pollution was beyond control, and the waterways were damaged beyond explanation. The plaintiff stated that MATTCO continuously discharges pollutants as well as contaminated water from the manufacturing facility. In turn, the discharge redirects into the waterways.

Agreement

While pursuing justice, the plaintiff stated that it was important to summon the defendant to comply with the terms of compensation, monitoring as well as reporting requirements. The compensation strategies also included the defendant being ordered to pay up to $ 37,000 penalty per day. The payment was meant to be made from March 21, 2012, through November 2, 2015. The defendant, MATTCO, was also ordered to restore the original state of the water. This is because the company played a primary role in contributing to the damages. Apart from the two settlement schemes, the company was ordered to settle the attorney fees. Through the services of Jesse Colorado from Anacapa Law Group Inc, the state of California received compensation for polluted waterways.

Anacapa Law Group Inc

Anacapa Law Group is a law firm in California. The company has been of excellent service at seeking justice for the people of California. With a team of professional lawyers like Jesse Colorado, a lawyer specializing in environmental justice, Anacapa Law Group is dedicated to improving the California justice system by initiating justice. Since its establishment, the law firm has won several lawsuits geared towards improving the lens of justice in the society.

Source: http://ecologycenter.org/directory/directory-entries/california-communities-against-toxics-ccat/

Utah Signs Lowest Drunk Driving Limit in the United States

Americans know Utah for its beautiful mountains and its famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and now it’s famous for having the toughest drunk driving laws in the United States. On March 24, 2017, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed legislation that lowers Utah’s drunk driving legal limit to .05. The state is the first in the country to move the legal limit down to .05 from the .08 limit that exists currently in the rest of the country. The new law doesn’t take effect immediately but instead begins on December 31, 2018.

Tourist and hospitality groups oppose the measure, worried that tourists may take their dollars elsewhere because of the change. Tourism and commerce groups say that they expect a decline in revenue as the new measures may prompt people to avoid alcohol completely. Herbert says that the law isn’t about drinking but rather road safety. Herbert says that the law is simply good public policy. He believes the law is going to save lives.

Legislators expect more fine tuning before the law goes into effect. Among the topics for discussion are what the penalties should be when a person has a blood alcohol level of at least a .05 but lower than a .08. Some say reduced penalties are appropriate in a case like that. Commerce groups want to see the state completely delay implementation of the law until other states follow suit. Both sides say now that the law is official they’re interested to work together to tweak the law’s finer points.

The National Transportation Safety Board has advocated for lowering legal limits for several years. They say that the evidence shows that a person’s ability to drive becomes impaired by alcohol long before they reach .08. They say that by the time a person’s blood alcohol content reaches a .08, their risk of a fatal crash has already doubled.

In the rest of the United States, the legal limit remains .08. However, commercial drivers in most states face a lower drunk driving limit. For these drivers, stiffer penalties for drunk driving and a lower legal limit are already the norm.

Governor Herbert dismisses those who call the measure religiously motivated. He points to Rome as another location that uses a legal limit lower than .08. Herbert says that Rome doesn’t have a large Mormon population, and their legal limit is similar to Utah’s new legal limit.

Sources: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/24/utah-governor-signs-bill-lowering-blood-alcohol-li/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/utah-adopts-stricter-drunk-driving-law-us_us_58d4220de4b02d33b749d400