Supreme Court Defers Ruling on DACA

CNN recently reported that the Supreme Court has announced that it will not hear arguments from the Trump Administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). President Trump previously announced that he intended to end DACA by March 5. This announcement by the Supreme Court has the effect of easing the tension in Congress, which would have had to act very quickly to find a solution to the more than 700,000 people residing in the U.S. under DACA.

 

Lawmakers were in a serious bind before the Supreme Court’s recent announcement to postpone hearing arguments on the end of DACA because very little progress had been made in the way of a bipartisan compromise. Both parties remain steadfast in their positions. The Trump Administration had pushed the issue by announcing March 5 as the deadline by which any DACA participants would have to renew their application to the program. The administration announced that it would no longer be accepting new applications or renewing previously filed ones after that date.

 

It is important to keep in mind that the Supreme Court’s announcement does not reflect a ruling on the merits of whether President Trump is allowed to end the DACA program. Rather than considering the issue substantively, the Supreme Court has left it to the lower courts to reach an opinion either way in the meantime. California federal District Judge William Alsup previously ruled that the administration could not end the program, and the administration appealed directly to the Supreme Court instead of appearing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals first. The next step is that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will consider an appeal from Judge Alsup’s ruling. President Trump said that the Justice Department will continue winding down DACA in the interim in an orderly fashion.

Mueller Seeks Charges Against Rick Gates Dropped, Indicating Important Testimony

Business Insider has reported that a Virginia court has granted a request to dismiss over 20 of the criminal charges brought on Rick Gates at the request of Robert Mueller. This turn of events signals perhaps that the former deputy chairman for the Trump Presidential Campaign might have substantial information that can assist the Mueller investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. The charges were brought upon Gates last Thursday in a session alongside former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and involved a bevy of financial crimes. Gates had already pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to federal investigators.

Gates is well known in his role as a deputy to Manafort during the 2016 election. He survived Manafort’s ousting and maintained on the campaign during the Steve Bannon phase, working on the transition team and advised the White House until questions surrounding his ties to Russia forced a departure. Gates was charged in October with the crimes he recently pleaded guilty to.

The former deputy chairman’s privileged role in the campaign as well as close working relationship to Manafort makes him a high-value target for information. The scale at which the Mueller investigation has retracted charges against Gates indicates that special counsel Robert Mueller might be able to extract critical information on both the criminal conduct of Paul Manafort and the extent of which the Russian Government sought to penetrate the 2016 election. Paul Manafort himself has maintained that he is innocent of any wrongdoing while the Russian government denies any role in influencing the election.

Rick Gates would be the third person in the Mueller investigation to agree to a plea deal following campaign aide George Papadopoulus and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The Mueller investigation is still ongoing.

Justices Question Lawyers In Case That Could Dramatically Affect Public Sector Unions

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument relating to an important case that could determine whether public sector unions can collect involuntary fees from nonmembers. Based on the questions the justices asked, experts believe that the outcome of the case could be determined by the newest member of the court, Neil Gorsuch, who did not ask any questions during the proceedings.

Arguments lasted about an hour, and the questions that came from the court’s conservative wing seem to suggest that they were sympathetic with the arguments made by anti-union groups. They argued that forcing nonmembers to pay fees to the unions — to cover costs related to negotiating collective bargaining agreements with local and state governments — was tantamount to restricting the freedom of speech of those nonmembers. Conversely, justices who represent the liberal wing of the court asked questions that suggest that they were supportive of continuing the fees.

At issue was whether negotiating collective bargaining agreements was a political activity. The conservative justices seem to think that it is, while the unions and their liberal supporters on the court insist that negotiating the contracts is separate from their political activities.

Outside the court, protesters on both side of the issued attempted to get their voice heard on the issue. Those supporting union rights held signs that insisted that the country needed good union jobs, while their counterparts held signs that stated that they were standing with Mark. The latter refers to Mark Janus, who is a an Illinois state worker and the plaintiff in the case.

Currently, more than 20 states require around 5,000,000 workers to pay these fees, which are called “agency fees.” If these fees were disallowed, it would be a major setback to unions, and could affect what can spend in political races. Commonly, unions support Democratic candidates over Republicans.

Legal Education Leader Dies At Age 106

Isidor Starr decided that the law was a great foundation to teach civics to high school students. As a teacher and law student, he decided to use legal lessons to get his students thinking about social studies and the American justice system. He influenced generations of students until his death in February 2018.

Instead of having students simply listen to a lecture, he wanted to make students evaluate the political system. He explained how things are in society and then asked students if it should be that way. He said it was a great way to help students understand concepts and become active participants in their society.

Because of Starr’s efforts, law became a part of social studies on all educational levels. He began using the law in his civics classes at Brooklyn Technical High School in 1934. At the time he was a student himself at St. John’s University’s law school.

Legal experts say that Starr’s methods changed the environment in the classroom. Instead of sitting in their seats, the students became engaged. They raised their hands and had opinions.

Starr branched from teaching into studying and advocating for legal-based education. He went on to earn advanced degrees on the topic. Colleagues also say that Starr had a sharp sense of humor.

Starr says that it’s important for lawyers to work with educators. He says that individuals can respect the rule of law when they understand it. He says that when students are interested and inspired, they have a greater appreciation for the rule of law. They can also help think of ways to make the legal system better.

Legal experts say that Starr’s influence is behind the American Bar Association’s efforts to educate the public on topics of law. They maintain a website with legal primers and popular interest articles. They say Starr influenced education and the legal profession for the better.

Supreme Court Rules Guilty Pleas No Longer Bar Appeals

In the eyes of many lawyers, a guilty plea means the end of a case. Once the defendant accepts guilt and the court assigns a punishment, it’s time to file away any relevant documents, send out the final bills and move on to the next case. A recent Supreme Court decision, Class v. United States, No. 16-424, might change that.

According to the New York Times, some cases may still be appealed after a guilty plea is submitted. The justices voted 6-to-3 in favor of defendant Rodney Class’s right to appeal. Class had pled guilty to a crime after carrying guns and ammunition onto the National Capitol’s grounds. The weapons and ammo were in Class’s car.

Class originally pled guilty as part of a plea bargain. These deals, considered controversial by many, keep cases flowing through the justice system. Many prosecutors have argued it’s impossible to take every alleged criminal to trial. Plea bargains offer reduced punishment in exchange for an admission of guilt. Defendants benefit from lenient sentencing, and the state benefits by avoiding long, costly trials. Critics argue defendants are forced into the deals by impossibly high bail amounts and fears of vindictive sentencing by judges.

Before the Supreme Court’s ruling, accepting a plea bargain meant it was impossible to appeal. Now, defendants like Class will be able to appeal guilty pleas on constitutional bargains. Class had tried to argue he had a Second Amendment right to his firearms. The appeals court had denied his right to appeal the case.

Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion. Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts joined him. Justices Kennedy, Thomas and Alito dissented.

Public Defenders In Los Angeles Protest Hiring Of New Boss

A group that included over 150 public defenders that work for the county of Los Angeles protested on Monday in response the appointment of their new chief. The source of the conflict stems from the fact that many feel the newly hired public defender Nicole Davis Tinkham is not qualified for the position that has been granted to her.

Deputy public defender Alisa Blair has been vocal In expressing her displeasure with the hire points out that Tinkham has not tried one criminal case in her legal career. This, Blair says, would qualify Tinkham for only an entry-level position with the office if ordinary standards were followed.

Some deputy public defenders are also concerned with Tinkham’s past work history of defending sheriff’s deputies working with the county both while involved in private practice and later as an employee working for the Office of the County Counsel. Tinkham’s detractors believe that this history from Tinkham could make It more difficult for public defenders to gain the trust of those they are instructed to defend.

Approximately 390 of the 650 public defenders that work for Los Angeles County added their signatures to a letter that addressed these concerns before the hiring of Tinkham was made final.

Monday’s protest took place at lunchtime on a day that the Los Angeles Superior Court was closed for business. Christine Rodriquez, a Deputy Public Defender that took part in the protests, said this time was chosen in order to avoid any disruption of the work of public defenders.

Brenden Woods, Alameda County Public Defender, was present at the protest and spoke in support of Tinkham’s hiring. Protesters have also gained the support of Jeff Adachi, Public Defender of San Francisco as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

Legal Issues Prevent Chinese Takeover of Chicago Stock Exchange

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has scored a major legal victory that reflects the wishes of the White House under the leadership of President Donald Trump. On February 15, the Reuters news agency reported that the purchase of the Chicago Stock Exchange, abbreviated as CHX, to Chinese investors was halted due to regulatory concerns.

Although selling the CHX is a transaction that has been pending since 2015, its preliminary approval was not issued until August of 2017. Shortly after announcing the approval, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton clawed it back and called for a deeper legal review of the transaction. Legal analysts believe that Clayton’s appointment by President Trump explains the sudden decision to block the sale.

The Trump administration has been very critical of China’s rise in the American financial sector. Over the last few years, Chinese investors have been courting American investment banking firms, and their influence is being felt on Wall Street. The CHX purchase proposal was initiated by the Chongqing Casin Enterprise Group; the tender offer of $25 million was presented in February 2016. Legislators who followed the transaction alleged that the Chongqing Casin group was connected to the Chinese government, a situation that would put the U.S. financial markets in an uncomfortable position.

Foreign ownership of major American financial exchanges is not new; the International Securities Exchange, for example, was owned by a German entity until 2016, when it was sold to the Nasdaq. The CHX deal required greater due diligence that proved to be burdensome for the Chongqing Casin investors, and the greater scrutiny was certainly political since the Trump administration considers China to be a financial and economic adversary.

Although the CHX has a certain historical prestige, its current volume of operations account for less than one percent of all securities listed on Wall Street. Some analysts believe that the SEC may have strategically communicated its decision to block the sale right before the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Graffiti Ruled to be Worth Millions in New York Case

Graffiti is usually considered to be an eyesore, but in at least one case it has been labeled as valuable artwork. It was deemed so valuable in this case that a court has awarded millions of dollars to those responsible for its creation, this to compensate for its destruction.
The graffiti in question had covered a complex of buildings in the Queens section of New York City. The owner of the property had the graffiti erased in 2013 as part of a renovation project that would ultimately involve the razing of the buildings and their replacement with luxury apartments. However, some of the graffiti was considered artwork of a “recognized stature,” and was thus protected under the Visual Artists and Rights Act, a federal law enacted in 1990. It was this law that served as the basis of the court action.
A jury ruled against the property owner, leading to the awarding by a federal judge of $6.7 million to 21 graffiti artists. Although the jury had initially concluded that only 36 separate pieces of artwork were legally protected, the judge increased the number to 45 when he approved of the damages, which were the largest allowed under the law. Several art experts had testified that the graffiti was of sufficient stature to receive protective status. More about the case is available at www.reddit.com/r/LegalNews.
The graffiti had actually been authorized by the owner in 1993 as a means of fighting crime that was rampant in the area. The complex would subsequently become a tourist mecca because of the unique murals that some considered more than simple graffiti. However, it was generally agreed upon by both sides that the buildings would eventually be taken down.
The law had in the past been used against clothing designers who had copied the work of graffiti artists, with those cases being classified as “intellectual” thievery. However, this is the first time it was cited to protect specific examples of graffiti.

Florida Senators Get Law Enforcement To Help In Puerto Rico

Florida Senators are trying to send out law enforcement in order to curb the crime in Puerto Rico. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio sent a letter to Jeff Sessions on Thursday. The letter urged Sessions to work with law enforcement in order to curb the crime. There have been several reports of increased crime in Puerto Rico. Many of the businesses in the area are closed. Some places still do not have any power.

There were 46 murders last month. This is twice as many murders as there were last year around this time. Many of these murders are due to gang activity. Gang activity has been on the rise because of diminished police presence.

It has been four months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. It is estimated that 500,000 people in this country do not have any power. Christina Rodriquez has talked about how difficult it is to live in a place without any power. She said that she cannot buy any milk or eggs. She also stated that she cannot buy any eggs.

Christina and her husband Luis have been eating spam and canned sausages for months. She stated that might die of high blood pressure because of the massive amount of sodium. Despite the fact that there is a lot of crime in Puerto Rico, many people are coming together and making the most of a bad situation. Christina stated that many people are coming together and helping each other.

They do not have much, but they are sharing what they have. Christina and Luis cook for several people each day. They were serving 300 meals per day at one point.

Emojis and Emoticons Become a Legal Matter

In the legal profession, emojis and emoticons have become an urgent matter, even to the point that serious attempts are being made to determine what they mean and what should be done with them.
An emoji is a graphic symbol, often a “happy” face, which can be used to decorate a page of text. An emoticon is a visual representation that is usually comprised of numbers, letters or punctuation marks. Both are widely used in electronic messaging. Though seemingly harmless, they create a problem when the symbols accompany text in legal communications. The issue is whether emojis and emoticons somehow supplement or alter the meaning of the written information, clouding communications that are by their nature adversarial.
In one sexual harassment case, an emoji with a kiss mark on its face may have been an attempt to further humiliate the victim. In a similar case, an emoji seemed to represent merely another advance by the person accused of harassment. An Internet messaging case in Michigan involved the use of a visual representation that appeared to defame a local official, although a state court later ruled that the artwork was in fact insignificant. In still another incident, a judge ruled that artwork appearing on written communications had to be shown to a jury.
According to available statistics, emojis and emoticons appeared in 33 U.S. court cases last year. This indicates a rapid increase in their use in recent years, with 25 such appearances reported in 2016 and only 14 in 2015. More about this matter is available at www.reddit.com/r/law.
Those in the legal profession have begun to tackle this matter through meetings, seminars and the dissemination of official documents. Some of these symbols are more obvious than others, but it may still take a legal mind to decipher what each one of them means.