Psychic Arrested As She Tries to Flee the Country

One psychic sees a jail cell in her future after the police arrested her on her way out of the country. Police arrested the woman at Miami International Airport. She has open grand theft charges in the State of Maryland.

A private investigator tracked psychic Gina Marie Marks to the Miami International Airport. She was only moments away from boarding a plane to Barcelona. The psychic is 44 years old. Police say that she also goes by Regina Melbourne and Natalie Miller. The private investigator works on behalf of the victim.

Law enforcement officials plan to extradite Marks to Maryland. She says that she doesn’t agree to head back to Maryland to face the charges. That means Florida officials have to win the extradition proceedings before they can try to prove the charges against her. At her bond hearing, Marks told judge Mindy Glazer that she wants to fight the return to Florida, even if that means waiting in a jail cell. State attorneys say that she’s a flight risk.

Because she’s fighting the extradition, the State of Florida can hold marks for up to 90 days. They must follow a procedure to get a governor’s warrant. That order allows them to move her back to Maryland. Judge Glazer says she’s fine with letting Marks sit in a jail cell.

State officials say that it’s not the first time that the law has caught up with the scheming psychic. They say that she has run her scams across the country, and that only she can predict where she’s going to find her next victim. In 2009, Marks landed herself a felony rap after pleading guilty to grand theft. In that case, she cheated five victims out of approximately $65,000.

That conviction wasn’t enough to deter Marks’ efforts. In 2012, she received a conviction for scheming three more victims. She took them for more than half a million dollars. She spent more than a year in prison, and the court ordered her to pay restitution.

In the most recent case, Marks has three victims. She stole more than $82,000 from them by running a scheme that related to fortune telling. She faces charges of grand theft in the State of Maryland. Officials say these are felony charges that could bring a long stint in prison if a jury convicts her of the charges against her.

A private investigator followed Marks’ trail all across the United States. At the airport, he alerted officials to her outstanding warrant. They pulled her aside and prevented her from skipping town. For now, a Florida jail cell is in Marks’ future.



Irma Victims Could Be Arrested At Shelters If They Have Outstanding Warrants

Floridians who are in Hurricane Irma’s path could face a double disaster if they have outstanding warrants. Evacuations are being ordered in many places across the state as residents brace for what could be one of history’s strongest hurricanes. Part of the evacuation plan is setting up shelters, which are monitored by local law enforcement agencies. One sheriff used Twitter to warn residents that they would be arrested if they showed up at a shelter with an outstanding warrant.

Why Arrests Will Take Place

According to a recent story from the ABA Journal about the topic, a sheriff defended the controversial tweets by saying that law enforcement officials have a duty to act on warrants. When people enter shelters, they are asked to present photo identification. A driver’s license or a state identification card will be required. Law enforcement officials can search the identification card’s number and instantly see if there are outstanding warrants.

What Will Happen To People Who Need Shelter

Law enforcement officials assured residents that they would still be sheltered if they were in harm’s way. However, they will be transported to a local jail for shelter until they can see a judge. Since failure to appear for tickets or other minor infractions can lead to a warrant, law enforcement officials encouraged Floridians to be sure that they do not have any outstanding infractions that have not been addressed. People who are avoiding criminal charges will likely face longer jail stays.

When the department that issued the controversial warning tweets was contacted, one sheriff said that their main concern was with violent or sexual offenders. He elaborated with an example saying that allowing a child predator who has a warrant for an offense to stay at a shelter where small children are also housed would be irresponsible and would put other law-abiding residents at risk. Officers who check identification cards will only see if a person has a warrant. They will not know the nature of the warrant or if it is for a felony or a misdemeanor. Legal experts in Florida said that people facing misdemeanor charges should turn themselves in before going to a shelter to be released on bond or on their own recognizance. Obeying evacuation orders is a must for everyone. Failing to obey them because of a warrant or for any reason can result in jail time.

Legal News: The Texas Bar Offers Pro Bono Assistance to Low Income Disaster Victims

The State Bar of Texas issued a notice on its website on August 31st indicating its legal hotline would assist low income people seeking pro bono legal services in the aftermath of devastating flooding which has impacted many parts of Texas. The organization also requested volunteer assistance from attorneys, law students, or paralegals interested in donating their time on behalf of this effort.

Pro Bono Assistance

The hotline will match callers with pro bono service providers in their local area. The free service offers assistance in English, Spanish or Vietnamese. Last week, Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast several times. It caused some fatalities, and produced extensive property damage. The heavy rains which accompanied the storm contributed to flooding in some locations.

In the aftermath of the disaster, officials anticipate many people will contact the legal services hotline requesting answers to a wide array of questions. Areas of concern will likely extend from the disaster relief process and documentation requirements for obtaining assistance, to inquiries concerning storm cleanup and landlord-tenant issues. Consumer protection issues relating to contractor services may also figure prominently as a topic.

Disaster Relief For Impacted Attorneys And Law Firms

The Texas State Bar also has sought to help attorneys and law firms within disaster areas obtain ready access to resources such as shelter, cleanup assistance and access to temporary office space. The widespread flooding disrupted many Texas legal practices. The website has posted a lengthy list of courthouse closures and delays in impacted communities.

The recent flooding did not create hardships in some cities in Texas. However, it caused massive disruptions in others. The storm left extensive flooding in its wake in coastal areas. Some estimates indicate the total loss of between 30,000 and 40,000 homes in Houston alone, for instance. In Beaumont, the storm left 120,000 people without water. The full scope of the crisis in some areas may only become fully apparent in coming weeks and months.

A Long Term Recovery Process

While many Texans residing in flood plain areas do carry federal flood insurance, some experts believe 80% of the state’s population lacks this coverage. Some houses sustained water damage in areas which have not witnessed flooding in the past. Attorneys seeking to follow the response of the legal profession in Texas to the natural disaster can find updated information posted by the Texas State Bar.



Legal Group Launches Website Designed to Combat Fraud Against the Elderly

A legal service organization based in Boca Raton, Florida has launched a new website, which helps reinforce the firm’s objective of preventing the elderly from becoming victims of financial fraud.

According to a press release published Thursday (August 24th) via, the Silver Law Group just started a website called This digital platform was designed to protect seniors from those who use the internet to prey on them with the intent to financially exploit. The site also helps people get help who have been victims of rogue stockbrokers and investment advisors that take advantage of people.

Financial fraud against the elderly is a crime that is becoming increasingly more prevalent as the American population continues to grow older. However, the big problem with the gross financial exploitation of seniors is that it goes unreported in a sizable percentage of all criminal cases.

This creates a major cause for alarm when it comes to the aging public and the loved ones who are responsible for their care. According to the Adult Protective Services (APS), a measly one out of 44 incidents of financial fraud against the elderly are reported to law enforcement agencies and APS on an annual basis.

Additionally, around one out of 20 members of the elderly population can attest to being financially defrauded in some shape, way, form, or fashion in recent history. Scott L. Silver is a Managing Partner of the Silver Law Group. His organization’s new website has obviously been formed at a time when these kinds of protections for seniors are desperately needed.

“Elder financial fraud has grown into a social crisis, with seniors losing roughly $37 billion dollars a year because of it,” Silver said in a statement, according to

“Licensed members of the financial services industry are partially responsible, and many victims don’t know that there are legal ways to seek justice and possibly recover lost money. Our firm is changing awareness of the issue and putting pressure on unethical financial advisors and brokers,” he continued. has an abundance of helpful information, which can educate families about the different forms of financial fraud that are frequently committed against seniors. The site also keeps the public abreast as it pertains to recent legislative or regulatory changes, which are undertaken by numerous government agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Silver is a staunch advocate of the elderly who has appeared on various news outlets to offer expert opinion on this growing issue.




$417M Awarded In Case Linking Johnson to Johnson’s Baby Powder To Cancer

A jury in Los Angeles ordered Johnson to Johnson to pay $417 million to a woman who developed ovarian cancer after using Johnson to Johnson baby powder. Eva Echeverria is a 63-year-old medical receptionist from Los Angeles. She is one of the thousands of women who have sued Johnson to Johnson.

There are studies that date back to 1971 that link Johnson to Johnson baby powder. Only a few cases have gone to trial. However, most of the courts have ruled in favor of the plaintiff. In May 2017, a woman in Virginia was awarded $110 million. Another woman was awarded $72 million, but she died before the verdict was reached. Additionally, there was a woman in Sioux Falls, SD who was awarded millions of dollars, but she also died before the verdict was reached.

Eva was too sick to attend court. She made a video detailing how her life had been changed after using Johnson to Johnson baby powder. In the video, she stated that she started using Johnson to Johnson baby powder when she was 11-years-old. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Eva knows that she probably will not live a long. She stated that she is not doing this for herself. She wants to help women who are dealing with a similar situation. Carol Goodrich is the spokeswoman for Johnson to Johnson baby powder. She stated that she is saddened by the fact that people have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. However, Johnson and Johnson plans to file an appeal.

Carol stated that there are studies that prove Johnson to Johnson baby powder is safe. She also stated the studies linking baby powder to ovarian cancer have not yielded consistent results. Talc is one of the ingredients in baby powder. It is similar to asbestos, which is a known carcinogen.

President of the ABA Denounces Events in Charlottesville

The President of the American Bar Association (ABA), Linda Klein, has recently denounced the heinous events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her reasoning is that, although the United States’ Constitution protects free speech and the right to assemble, violence against other peoples is never protected by the United States’ Constitution.

In the official statement made by the entire American Bar Association about the Virginia tragedy that took place over the weekend President Klein makes it clear that it’s mourning but ever vigilant. The ABA is keeping track of the legal details to make sure that the Department of Justice investigates all possible civil rights’ violations that may have taken place in Virginia over the weekend. Ill intent and premeditation might not be as difficult to prove in this case as in others.

The rights of freedom of expression and freedom of speech are enshrined in the Constitution, but that doesn’t mean that rallies can even boil over into overt violence without legal ramifications. In its official statement the ABA blamed an overall political environment that has become “so divisive and driven by differences and hatred” for spurring on the horrible events that took place in Virginia.

The American Bar Association called for all peoples to come together and stoke a communal need protect the rights of all citizens. After all, the right to free speech and freedom of expression are predicated on the notion that we all must share a tolerance for the beliefs of others. The rights of all 320 million Americans are protected under the United States’ Constitution and our communities ought to reflect that mutual respect, according to ABA President Klein.

This clarion call for tolerance might be catching on in the community at large since a new movement under the hashtag banner of “#unitetheright” has taken off, according to a recent Washington Post article. President Klein muses that perhaps Americans have become so fixated on the issues that divide this great nation that Americans have lost sight of the common values that make it great.

Justice, in the end, might yet prevail. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating possible civil rights’ violations and allegations of hate crimes swirling around the rallies that took place in Virginia over the weekend. President Klein and the rest of the ABA hope that these investigations proceed unimpeded by politics and that communities mourn and mend along commonly shared values.


The Justice Department Is Giving Local Police Stations The Ability To Confiscate property

With the new administration, the Justice Department is now reinstating an old program that allowed local law enforcement to confiscate goods of suspected criminals. Law enforcement will also have the right to keep or sell the goods and use the funds for their operations.

At the surface, it may seem acceptable for criminals to have a property that was purchased with dirty money liquidated to help the local community. In reality, it can also be abused to simply steal property as law enforcement only needs suspicion or association to confiscate.

Attorney General Eric Holder from the previous administration had gotten rid of the program allowing confiscation without criminal convictions. This had ultimately led to corrupt officers needing to go through the proper legal channels to confiscate goods and ultimately had thwarted theft. It was still allowed to a certain degree when there were major threats to public safety.

Most state laws have their own rules regarding property seizure and most of them are so strict that it is difficult to do it without conviction. Thanks to the forfeiture sharing program, police can bypass state law and go right for the property. They can keep 80 percent of the proceeds and the federal government keeps their 20 percent cut.

Abuse Of Power?

The ACLU is already panicking about the possibility of this program being abused like it was before under the Bush administration. They claim that forfeiture in the first place is a violation of our rights and it is especially abusive when it is done without prosecution.

For example, Rhonda Cox had her vehicle taken by the police when it was suspected that stolen parts were used to repair it. In this case, the law enforcement used a policy that is supposed to take down drug kingpins and threats to national security but instead used it to make a few thousand dollars in revenue.

Since the new Attorney General Sessions is a supporter of the War on Drugs, it is suspected that the confiscation program will be used two-fold. The Attorney General assures us that there are safeguards to prevent abuse, but it was not the case when used previously.

Besides, the majority of the general public is against seizure of property without a prosecution. It is also hypocritical that Sessions claims to support states rights in most cases but is fine with overriding state seizure laws when it is convenient.





Sarah Palin’s Lawsuit Against The Times Progresses

The lawyers for the New York Times took an aggressive public stance recently, declaring that they intend to seek an early dismissal of Sarah Palin’s defamation suit against the Times. If this legal maneuver succeeds, it will put an immediate stop to this legal drama. Palin initiated the suit when the Times published an article that explicitly linked Palin with a tragic mass shooting. According to the lawyers representing the newspaper, the Times did not intentionally act with actual malice when it published the editorial. Although pushing for early dismissal is a fairly common move for civil defendants, experts believe that in this case, there is a good chance that the maneuver may have teeth. U.S. law says that in order for Palin to win, a preponderance of evidence must show that the Times acted with malice.

Palin filed this lawsuit in response to the newspaper’s June 14 editorial, which linked a 2011 shooting in Tucson with Palin’s pro-gun stance. According to the editorial, Palin’s political action committee had produced an ad that showed Democratic lawmakers beneath crosshairs. In reality, the ads in question only showed crosshairs superimposed over Democrat-held districts. Experts are divided about whether the alleged defamation represented a deliberate attempt to cause Palin harm. If the court rules that the defamation statue does apply in this case, Palin might win compensatory and punitive damages. Sources report that Palin’s team is seeking at least $75,000 in damages. Few believe that this case will settle out of court under any circumstances.

According to the lawyers defending the Times, the alleged offense was nothing more than a simple mistake that was corrected within 12 hours. Generally, newspapers are not held legally liable for honest mistakes. In this matter, the Times is represented by the law firm of Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz. This is a serious firm with a long history of courtroom success. The presiding judge in this case is Southern District Judge J. Rakoff. Most commentators on both sides of the issue agree that Rakoff is an impartial force that should decide the case in a fair, dignified manner. Although defamation suits are fairly common, evidentiary standard for success is quite high for suits such as this. Therefore, most legal experts believe that Palin’s legal team will have a tough time succeeding. In any case, it could take quite some time before this civil legal matter is fully resolved.

A Federal Judge Block’s California’s Gun Control Law

Recently, a judge blocked a new California law dealing with gun control. The law in question banned high-capacity magazines that were capable of containing 10 or more rounds. Back in 2000, California made it illegal to buy or sell equipment of this nature in the state. Under the new law, anyone convicted of possessing a high-capacity magazine can face a maximal charge of $100 and as much as one year in a jail cell. The National Rifle Association (NRA) of San Diego quickly sued to stop the law, claiming it was unconstitutional. This is hardly surprising, since the NRA is one of the most active litigants in the area contesting gun control legislation.

A federal court in San Diego issued a preliminary injunction in favor of NRA. This injunction immediately halted the enforcement of this state law. Although a Sacramento court previously upheld this law, the new ruling will take precedence in the state of California. This is a controversial decision in many ways. Quite a few legal scholars are furiously debating whether or not this was a justified ruling. In time, it will become more clear exactly what fate high-capacity magazines have in California.

In his 66-page ruling, Judge R. Benitez excoriated the gun control law in question. According to Benitez, the new law crosses the line into violating the Second Amendment, the U.S. constitutional amendment granting its citizens gun rights. Of course, California has the option to appeal this ruling. It is possible that this ruling will make it all the way up to the Supreme Court. If that happens, the newly installed Justice Gorsuch may take the spotlight in his new role as a conservative-leaning Supreme Court justice. At the same time, Justice Anthony Kennedy has often played the role of the swing voter in cases such as these. Whatever the final outcome of this case, it may take quite some time before it is fully resolved.

In Illinois, Judge Stops Tax on Sugary Drinks From Going Into Effect

Hours before it would go into effect, an Illinois judge stopped the completion of a Chicago legal effort that would tax drinks with high sugar content.

Citing that the lawsuit filed by vendors must first blow over, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Kubasiak temporarily paused the implementation of the sugary tax. It was meant to begin on Saturday. The lawsuit, which sellers submitted on Tuesday, calls the mandate “unconstitutionally vague” and contends that it will unfairly tax different beverages in different amounts.

Kubasiak said that he believed his choice will safeguard concerns for all sides.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle immediately made a statement that the county would try to undo this ruling and continue to pursue the tax.

The Cook County measure follows in the footsteps of sweetened drink tax laws already in place in Seattle, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Pertaining to soda, sports beverages, and energy drinks, the bill was ratified by the county’s Board of Commissioners in November.

David Ruskin, the lawyer for the Illinois Retailer’s Association, argued that if the tax was implemented and then rescinded, consumers would have no way to get their money back. Ruskin also said that the repercussions would be severe for grocers who refused to adhere to the “unconstitutionally vague” tax.

While acknowledging that the law may be flawed, county lawyer Sisavanh Baker explained that without the tax, Cook County would be deprived of $17 million of potential monthly revenue. In Preckwinkle’s statement, she mentioned that she hoped to address the loss of income with personnel cutbacks, among other ways.

Ruskin also claims that the tax on sugared drinks would leave these businesses out from inclusion with the SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This program assists low-income people in affording groceries.

However, the county’s attorney, James Beligrates, asserts that the lawsuit’s claim about SNAP is misleading because these businesses wouldn’t receive the tax on the SNAP goods.

The two sides will make their arguments at a hearing on July 12th.

Texas Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling on Gay Marriage Benefits

Almost exactly two years ago, in late June 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal and states with bans against gay marriage were acting unconstitutionally. Gay marriage is a hot-button topic in the United States; even though gay marriage is legal, many American citizens continue to argue against same-sex marriage.

Texas is known for having staunchly conservative stances towards many controversial issues. Although citizens of every state, including Texas, are not exclusively against or in support of gay marriage, the Texas Supreme Court has taken a stance against gay marriage.

Married couples in the United States are recipients of several benefits, including saving taxes through joint returns, being exempt from gift and estate taxes for belongings left to spouses, spousal Social Security benefits, among many others. Texas’ Supreme Court recently ruled that couples in same-sex marriages are not privileged to benefits provided for marriage through the United States government.

The 2015 United States Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriages was legally known as Obergefell v. Hodges. Although this case did make it legal for gay and lesbian couples to legally tie the knot, spousal benefits such as Social Security payments to significant others were not taken care of. Because the 2015 Supreme Court ruling did not touch on spousal benefits, the Supreme Court of the state of Texas found that spousal benefits were not due to same-sex married couples.

Same-sex marriage controversy in Texas dates back four years ago to 2013. Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker granted spousal benefits to a same-sex couple, in which the city they lived in approved of same-sex marriage. Mayor Parker was sued by Texas state Republicans and two Houston citizens, reversing the decision of granting them benefits as a married couple.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and social group Texas Values broke news as publicly supporting the court’s recent decision, whereas LGBT groups in Texas have publicly opposed the decision. LGBT legal support group Lambda Legal stated they plan to appeal the oppositional ruling made June 30th, 2017, in Texas’ Supreme Court up to the level of United States Supreme Court. However, because the Supreme Court hears only a tiny fraction of cases forwarded to their jurisdiction, the recent ruling is likely to go unchanged.

Finding a Lawyer

There are a lot of people today who need legal advice. With all of the changes going on in the industry, it is hard for people to keep up in some cases. One of the biggest changes that is happening is the move to online legal advice. Every industry is changing with the new options that are available online. This is especially true in the legal world. Here are some of the ways that legal advice online can impact the industry in the future.

Cheaper Services

One of the reasons that legal advice is so expensive is that there are few options in many areas. If you want to get legal advice, you generally have one or two places to go in small towns. With more competition online, the legal service teams will have to lower their prices in order to compete.

Overall, this is a good thing for the industry. Far too many people have to spend thousands of dollars for simple legal advice. This is hurting a lot of families who need quality legal advice at an affordable price.

Better Service

Another great thing about offering legal services online is that the customer service will be better. Instead of having to wait for someone to get back with you over a couple of days, you can generally get legal advice almost instantly. A lot of people are excited about all of the potential changes that are going to happen because of this shift.

If you are stuck in a legal issue, it is nice to be able to go online and find a lawyer who fits within your budget and timeline. Not only that, but you can read online reviews before you go out and decide who you want to hire.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of people who do not like to deal with lawyers. With all of the changes that are starting to take place in the industry, now is the time to understand how these changes will impact you. Many people are excited about the future of the industry. In the coming years, many experts believe that more innovation is needed in order to keep the industry moving forward. For consumers, all of these changes either mean more options or less expensive services. This is great for an industry that has a lot of negative connotation from many people.

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.

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, the legal team for Trump are also expecting a new lawyer to be added for fighting these allegations on the president.

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.