A decision from SCOTUS in a criminal case, Rosemond v. US, in which Justice Kagan gives comprehensive, and at times colorful, treatment of the issue of complicity. Although Rosemond was convicted under a Federal statute relating to use of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime, the opinion doesn't focus on that, instead honing in on the concept of mens rea: did the defendant know, and thus intend, that a gun would be used? It may well have broader application, to things like the firearm specifications under Ohio law. We'll take a closer look at that later in the week. (Speaking of which, only four posts this week: I'm in a rape trial, have a brief due in the 8th on Wednesday and the Supreme Court the week after, and... Oh, who am I kidding? I'm going to kick back and binge-watch the second season of House of Cards. So there.)
They blinded me with science. I've been hanging out on a political forum for the past twenty years, and it used to be that I'd have to go over to the library if I wanted to research some issue like gun control or capital punishment. That's so fifteen minutes ago; if you can't find it with Google, it doesn't exist.
And not just news or political issues. Let's say, for example, that you wanted to find out whether that marijuana joint a day is not only slightly addling your mind and making a bag of Doritos seem like the Holy Grail, but increasing the risk of your getting lung cancer. What you'd do is swing by the National Center for Biotechnology Information database, a search engine which allows you to download thousands of peer-reviewed papers on virtually any subject pertaining to "biomedical and genomic information." In fact, get a box of Oreos, put some Zeppelin on, and kick back and prepare to become informed. Because there's twenty thousand articles on marijuana alone. And you'll be relieved to know that while your habit may make holding a steady job more challenging, you don't have to worry about spending your end days coughing up chunks of your lung. The largest study ever done on the subject, which included people who'd smoked more than 22,000 joints over their lifetime, found that there was no association between Mary Jane and getting lung cancer. In fact, not only is there no indication of correlation between the two, but smoking an occasional doobie might actually have a protective effect. Just think: toking away so you can engage in those pointless hours-long debates about which was the worst rock group of the 1980's will also protect you from the Big C.
So here's the head of the National Institutes of Health, which runs the Biotech Information database, speaking at a dinner last week:
We don't know a lot about the things we wish we did [with respect to marijuana]. I've been asked repeatedly, does regular marijuana smoking, because you inhale deeply, increase your risk of lung cancer? We don't know. Nobody's done that study.
There are a lot of ways to tell when a marriage just isn't working out. You don't talk anymore, you don't share experiences, there's a lack of intimacy, you grow more distant from each other...
Two felony domestic violence cases in three years is also a pretty good indicator.
It's become more common in appeals from guilty pleas to see an assignment of error that the judge failed to inform the defendant of the effect of pleading guilty, and so it is in State v. Williams. I've always had a hard time following this if, as here, the claim is unaccompanied by any reference to the transcript where the defendant expressed some lack of comprehension. I mean, you're pleading guilty. What, you think it means you're going to win a toaster? Williams nonetheless provides one of the two "wins" for defendants this week; the State concedes that Williams' offenses, attempted murder and felonious assault, should have merged. Since the sentences were run concurrently anyway, it's unlikely that Williams will be breaking out the party hats.
For the blog, not me. Sorry for the downtime. Below this you'll see the Case Update, and below that the Friday Roundup. (Yes, that's back, and we're back to posting five days a week.) The comment feature now works, too. Glory days.
The decline of our civilization accelerated last week with the oral argument in the Supreme Court in Octane Fitness v. Icon Health and Fitness. Not the case itself, which dealt with attorney fees in patent cases; it is extremely unlikely that you will ever see those four words in this blog again. Nor was the defining event a spectator, Noah Newkirk, using the occasion to stand up and protest the Court's 2010 ruling in Citizen's United. Such outbursts, while rare, are not unheard of, the last coming eight years ago when a protester started yelling about Jesus Christ during an argument in an abortion case. No, it was the fact that Newkirk's demonstration was secretly recorded. The Court doesn't even unsecretly record their sessions.
Oh, the humanity! Newkirk got out a couple of sentences before he was trundled off by the gendarmes, to be charged with violating a Federal law banning a "harangue" or using "loud threatening or abusive language" in the Supreme Court building. Good luck with that. Free speech much?
Big news from SCOTUS. Not really. The Potamac Nine did come down with a decision in a criminal case, Fernandez v. California. The Highly Abbreviated Version of What Went Down: the cops arrested Fernandez at his home, and he objected to a search. An hour later, the cops drove back and got consent to search the home from Fernandez' girlfriend, who was living there. The Court okayed the search.
There's something to talk about here, and we'll kick that around next week. But what I found interesting was the last paragraph of Alito's opinion for the 6-3 majority. It starts out, "Denying someone in [the girlfriend's] position the right to allow the police to enter her home would also show disrespect for her independence."
Glad to see Alito taking up the pro-feminist cudgel, even it took being able to keep some guy in prison to do it.
I do a lot of appeals -- 170, my BFF Lexis tells me -- and I'm constantly amazed at how much I still learn. I've had two recent epiphanies. The first is that the best time to start practicing for oral argument is just before you write your brief. The second is what an advantage it is to be the appellant.