AA's Popular Posts

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunshine State Shakeup: Is Florida's Drug Law Unconstitutional?

Sunshine State Shakeup: Is Florida's Drug Law Unconstitutional?
floridaYou might think that, by now, the constitutionality of all 50 states’ drug laws would have long-been settled. After all, the drug laws have mostly been on the books for several decades, and there’s really never been a shortage of people who would have been well-served by seeing a drug law shot down.
But down in Florida, there’ve been a spate of challenges to one of the state’s key drug laws. And at least two of them have been successful. The result, as I write in Monday’s WSJ: confusion among lawyers and possibly thousands of convictions ultimately being overturned.
To win a conviction under the drug laws of most states, a prosecutor has to convince a jury that the defendant knew he owned or sold an illicit substance. But in 2002, Florida became the only state in the country to do away with the “knowledge requirement” in its main drug law.
A federal judge in Orlando was the first to strike a blow to the law late last month, ruling that a central part of Florida’s Drug Abuse Prevention and Control law violated the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
Then, last week, a state judge in Miami cited Judge Scriven’s opinion in overturning the drug-distribution convictions of 39 defendants. Judge Milton Hirsch acknowledged that the “overwhelming majority” of the 39 defendants “may have known perfectly well that their acts of possession or delivery were contrary to law.” Nevertheless, he shot down the law on grounds that it “reaches beyond those who willfully do wrong. . . and includes within its wingspan those who meant no wrong.”
The office of the Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, has filed notices of appeals in both cases. “This decision conflicts with binding state court precedent upholding Florida’s drug law,” said Bondi, shortly after Judge Hirsch issued his ruling on Wednesday. “This decision is flawed and it unduly hinders prosecutors’ efforts to keep criminals off our streets.”
The issue will likely be settled by a higher court—the Florida Supreme Court, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or, possibly, the U.S. Supreme Court. It is unlikely that Florida will see a mass exodus of its prison population until then.
But if the key part of the law is ultimately struck down, “it could get pretty chaotic,” said James Felman, the lawyer for Mackle Vincent Shelton, whose conviction Judge Scriven overturned.
According to the Florida Department of Corrections, nearly 94,000 people have been sent to state prisons for drug crimes since the start of 2002. Jo Ellyn Rackleff, a department spokeswoman, said most of them were convicted under the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control law.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

American Bar Association urges Congress to reject birthright law

American Bar Association urges Congress to reject birthright law

TORONTO — The American Bar Association passed a resolution Tuesday urging the U.S. Congress to reject any changes to the Constitution that would eliminate automatic citizenship for anyone born in the United States.
About 400 members of the attorneys association, which is holding its annual meeting in Toronto, passed the resolution in a voice vote.
Some Republican lawmakers have called for legislation to repeal birthright citizenship and have proposed a constitutional amendment.
Outgoing American Bar Association President Stephen Zack said in an interview that racism is underlying the call to change the constitution. Zack, the first ABA president of Hispanic origin, said it was an important statement by the American Bar Association that the U.S. Constitution must be respected.
“This is something that should be avoided at all costs,” Zack said. “Certain issues are not really about what the words are about, but what the underlying concerns are about.”
The ABA debated the issue last week ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
John Eastman, a conservative law professor at Chapman University in Orange, California, argued that it’s an open question whether the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment allows for citizenship for anyone born in the U.S. and said it’s time for the U.S. Congress to clarify the issue.
Eastman challenged a claim before the Supreme Court that Yaser Esam Hamdi, who was seized by U.S. troops on the Afghanistan battlefield in 2001, was a citizen because he was born in Louisiana while his Saudi parents were in the U.S. on a temporary work visa.
Eastman called it odd that a man who had little connection to the U.S. could be considered a U.S. citizen. The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that Hamdi had the right to use U.S. courts to challenge his detention.
Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is based in Los Angeles, said the Latino community is most at issue in discussions about citizenship by birth and said it’s hard not to see that the reinvigorated debate is really about opposition to demographic changes.
Saenz said the issue is closely tied to the efforts by some states, such as Arizona, to limit immigration.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Overriding a Key Education Law

Overriding a Key Education Law

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced that he will unilaterally override the centerpiece requirement of the No Child Left Behind school accountability law, that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014.

Mr. Duncan told reporters that he was acting because Congress had failed to rewrite the Bush-era law, which he called a “slow-motion train wreck.” He is waiving the law’s proficiency requirements for states that have adopted their own testing and accountability programs and are making other strides toward better schools, he said.

The administration’s plan amounts to the most sweeping use of executive authority to rewrite federal education law since Washington expanded its involvement in education in the 1960s.

Conservatives said it could inflame relations with Republicans in the House who want to reduce, not expand, the federal footprint in education. But Mr. Duncan and White House officials described their plan as offering crucial relief to state and local educators as the No Child law, which President George W. Bush signed in 2002, comes into increasing conflict with more recent efforts to raise academic standards.

The law made its focus the use of standardized test scores in schools, particularly those serving minority students.

“I can’t overemphasize how loud the outcry is for us to do something right now,” Mr. Duncan told reporters on Friday in a conference call that he said could not be reported until midnight Sunday.

Melody Barnes, director of President Obama’s White House Domestic Policy Council, who joined Mr. Duncan in the announcement, said that all states would be encouraged to apply for waivers from the law’s accountability provisions, but that only states the administration believed were carrying out ambitious school improvement initiatives would get them.

“This is not a pass on accountability,” Ms. Barnes said. “There will be a high bar for states seeking flexibility within the law.”

Under the current law, every school is given the equivalent of a pass-fail report card each year, an evaluation that administration officials say fails to differentiate among chaotic schools in chronic failure, schools that are helping low-scoring students improve, and high-performing suburban schools that nonetheless appear to be neglecting some low-scoring students.

About 38,000 of the nation’s 100,000 public schools fell short of their test-score targets under the federal law last year, and Mr. Duncan has predicted that number would rise to 80,000 this year.

Skeptics said Mr. Duncan’s predictions were exaggerated, but a huge number of schools are falling short under No Child’s school rating system. Eighty-nine percent of Florida’s public schools, for instance, missed federal testing targets, although 58 percent of Florida schools earned an A under the state’s own well-regarded grading system.

When Mr. Duncan sketched an outline of the administration’s waiver plan in June, Representative John Kline, the Minnesota Republican who is chairman of the House education committee, demanded that Mr. Duncan show by what legal authority he would override the federal law. Mr. Duncan responded by citing provisions of the No Child law itself that give the education secretary broad waiver powers.

On Friday, Mr. Kline said in a statement, “I remain concerned that temporary measures instituted by the department, such as conditional waivers, could undermine” efforts by Congress to rewrite the law.

Mr. Kline’s committee has completed three overhaul bills focusing on elimination of federal programs, financial flexibility for states, and charter schools. But the committee has not yet produced bills rewriting the law’s crucial school accountability and teacher effectiveness provisions.

Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who is chairman the Senate education committee, said he understood why Mr. Duncan was pursuing the waiver plan, since “it is undeniable that this Congress faces real challenges reaching bipartisan, bicameral agreement on anything.”The No Child Left Behind law is the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a 1965 law that over the years has become the main federal law on public schools. It has been rewritten in ways that have allowed nearly every president since its original architect, Lyndon B. Johnson, to put his policy stamp on it, usually in the first term. That has eluded President Obama so far, despite his campaign pledges to fix the law’s flaws.

In Friday’s conference call, Mr. Duncan and Ms. Barnes said theDepartment of Education would issue guidelines next month inviting states to apply for the waivers. For a waiver to be approved, they said, states would need to show that they were adopting higher standards under which high school students were “college- and career-ready” at graduation, were working to improve teacher effectiveness and evaluation systems based on student test scores and other measures, were overhauling the lowest-performing schools, and were adopting locally designed school accountability systems to replace No Child’s pass-fail system.

Those requirements match the criteria the administration used last year in picking winning states in its two-stage Race to the Top grant competition. Ms. Barnes said states would not be competing against one another with their waiver applications. But the similarity irked critics.

“It sounds like they’re trying to do a backdoor Round 3 of Race to the Top, and that’s astonishing,” said Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute. He called Mr. Duncan’s plan “a dramatically broad reading of executive authority.”

The plan appears likely to gain broad support from state education officials, however. More than a dozen states have already asked the department for changes to their No Child school accountability plans, or are about to do so, said Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. “Many states feel that we need major changes in the law, because it’s identifying such an outlandish number of schools that it’s losing credibility,” he said.

The law allowed states to adopt local academic standards and determine their own passing scores on tests after it took effect in 2002. The requirement that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014 encouraged lower standards, which make it easier for more students to score as proficient. Since early 2010, however, more than 40 states have agreed to adopt higher standards, and the 2014 deadline is complicating their efforts, Mr. Duncan said.

In Tennessee, for instance, 91 percent of students scored at or above the proficient level in math under the state’s old standards, but under new, tougher standards adopted recently, the proportion plummeted to 34 percent.

“The current law serves as a disincentive to higher standards, rather than as an incentive,” Mr. Duncan said.

Friday, August 5, 2011

New York State Bar Prez Says Law Students Need Better Training

New York State Bar Prez Says Law Students Need Better Training

The debate about whether law schools should focus more on preparing their charges to actually practice law, rather than to merely think like lawyers, continues to rage.
At an American Bar Association meeting in Toronto, the New York State Bar Associationpresented the ABA with a resolution, urging the ABA to emphasize the importance of teaching practice skills to law students, according to this report in the New York Law Journal. (HT:  ABA Journal.)
The New York bar is asking the national bar to evaluate its legal education standards with a view toward “enhancing clinical work and supervised activities such as meeting with clients inside and outside the clinical setting and in court,” according to the NYLJ.
“Legal education should have more of an emphasis on making sure graduates are ready to practice law,” New York State Bar President Vincent E. Doyle III told the NYLJ. “It is something that has been de-emphasized, and it shows. Our research and our own experience show that graduates are less prepared to practice law.”
Here’s a WSJ report last month by our own Patrick Lee about how some law schools are answering the call to emphasize the practical over the theoretical.
Richard A. Matasar, dean and president of New York Law School, agrees with the view that graduates need to be more practice ready, the New York Law Journal reports.
“There is going to be a push toward more practice readiness at most law schools,” he said. “It is driven by the market. We need to send our graduates out in a way that makes them more effective, and the schools recognize that.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

ACLU might sue over law limiting teachers' Facebook use

ACLU might sue over law limiting teachers' Facebook use
By Brendan Sasso

The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri is considering suing the state over a new law that prohibits teachers from sending private message to students on social-networking sites such as Facebook.

"I do think there are First Amendment issues with the law," said Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, signed into law last month by Gov. Jay Nixon (D), bans teachers from establishing an Internet site "which allows exclusive access with a current or former student."

GOP State Sen. Jane Cunningham, the author of the law, said it is designed to prevent teachers from having inappropriate contact with students. She also noted the law defines a "former student" as a person who is 18 years of age or younger, who has not graduated.

Cunningham told The Hill she wants to encourage teachers to help students outside of the classroom, but an epidemic of sexual misconduct by teachers in Missouri and around the country convinced her of the need to keep teacher-student communications public.

According to Cunningham, many inappropriate relationships between teachers and students begin with private electronic communications.

She said the law is not intended to prevent teachers from establishing social-media profiles or even from being "friends" with students on social sites — only from sending them private messages.

"A good teacher who is really working with a student in an appropriate way, they are going to welcome parents and department heads being able to see the good work they're doing," Cunningham said.

Rothert of the ACLU said the way the law is written, it might prevent teachers from even establishing Facebook accounts.

"The law is much broader than what it's supposed to do," Rothert said.

Even if the law is rewritten to ban only private communications between students and teachers, Rothert said he would still be concerned that it violates the First Amendment's free-speech protections.

"I think the people who wrote the law don’t understand how Facebook works, or more broadly, how the Internet works," Rothert said.

According to Rothert, any measure that curbs free speech must be narrowly tailored to address a problem.

"It's fairly easy to conceive of ways that this could be much more narrow," he said.

Facebook is also investigating the legality of the law.

"Every day, there are more stories of innovative teachers using social networks as a valuable educational tool — from answering simple homework questions online to helping identify bullying," a Facebook spokesman said. "It is imperative that this law does not limit schools' and teachers' ability to use technology in this way to educate Missouri's children, and we are working with the education and legal communities to investigate."

The law requires school districts to create rules for the use of other "electronic media" that are at as least as stringent as the rules for social-networking sites.

Rothert said this provision might ban emails or text messages between students and teachers.

Rothert said he hopes to convince the legislature to revise the law or to work with school districts to implement the requirements in ways that do not infringe upon the First Amendment rights of teachers and students.

But if those efforts fail, Rothert said, the ACLU is prepared to go to court over the issue.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Abortion foes target Romney's law

Abortion foes target Romney's law

Group aims to undo universal health care
By Michael Levenson

Mitt Romney, who has struggled to persuade some social conservatives that he is a committed opponent of abortion rights, could face a new headache from his home state’s leading antiabortion group, which is launching a ballot campaign to repeal the universal health care law that he signed in 2006.

Anne Fox, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, said yesterday that repealing the law is a “prolife’’ issue because the law could lead to what she said would be the rationing of prenatal care and other medical services.

“The way it’s constituted, they’re going to have to deny care,’’ Fox, standing with two members of the Citizens for Life board, told reporters outside the State House. “It could be care to the unborn, care to pregnant women, care to someone with disabilities, but they’re going to be denying care, and that’s the prolife concern.’’

If she succeeds in placing the question on the 2012 ballot, her campaign could complicate Romney’s efforts to persuade Republican primary voters that he is solidly aligned with activists who oppose abortion. Romney ran as an abortion rights supporter during his 1994 US Senate campaign and 2002 campaign for Massachusetts governor. But he changed positions in 2004, as he geared up for his 2008 presidential campaign.

Romney has walked a fine line on the health care issue, as well, defending his law as a state solution to a state problem, while calling for a repeal of the national law, which he has denounced as a power grab.

It is highly unusual for a group that opposes abortion rights to challenge a Republican presidential candidate who embraces its cause. But some abortion opponents have questioned the sincerity of Romney’s beliefs.

During the 2008 Republican primary, for example, antiabortion activists protested outside several of his campaign appearances, while another candidate, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas attacked Romney’s shift on abortion.

Fox said her group is not trying to undercut Romney’s presidential campaign, merely one of the laws he signed.

“I have no problem with Mitt Romney,’’ she said. “If he is the nominee, we will back him to the hilt.’’

Even so, Citizens for Life, which is the state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee, had a statement on its website yesterday, blasting the state law in much starker terms.

“RomneyCare covers abortions, and the mandate forces citizens to participate in a system which strives to make the murder of unborn children as cheap as $50,’’ the statement said. “There are, however, many more ways which this requirement offends against both the sanctity of human life, principles of ethical medicine and simple common sense.’’

Yesterday, Citizens for Life removed the statement from its website and immediately began distancing itself from that line of attack, after being contacted by Peter Flaherty, Romney’s liaison to social conservatives. Fox blamed the statement on a staff member at Citizens for Life, and said it did not reflect the group’s views.

“I was extremely upset,’’ she said. “He has removed it. I thought, ‘Where did this come from, because it had my name on it, and I never wrote it.’ ’’

The ballot question could repeal the mandate that requires all residents to have health insurance. That mandate is also the backbone of the national health care law that President Obama signed last year. Fox’s group opposed that law, as well, by running Internet and radio ads.

She said her organization is beginning to gather signatures and will launch a website, www.repeal-romneycare.com, in hope of placing the issue on the ballot in November 2012, when Romney hopes to be the Republican presidential nominee. To do so, Citizens for Life will need to gather 68,911 signatures by November and another 11,485 signatures by June.

Fox declined to discuss her budget, but said she would seek support from the group’s 200,000 members.

Romney’s spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, released a statement about the ballot campaign, saying: “Governor Romney shares with [Massachusetts] Citizens for Life a commitment to protecting human life. However, he signed the health care bill into law because he believes it was right for Massachusetts, and he continues to support it.’’

The referendum, even if it reaches the ballot, could face steep odds. In June, a poll by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Globe found that 63 percent of Massachusetts residents support the law, up 10 percentage points in the past two years. Only 21 percent said they were against the law. The state law has also had broad support from the state’s major business, labor, and advocacy organizations.

“We don’t see it having much chance of success,’’ said Brian Rosman, research director of Health Care for All, a group that supports universal health coverage. He said that, contrary to Fox’s assertion, the law has not rationed care. He pointed out that about 400,000 more people have obtained health insurance since the law was signed.

“Health care is rationed in the US by income, and what health reform did in Massachusetts is provide low-income people an opportunity to get affordable coverage, and the results have been dramatic in terms of improved health, more access to preventive care, and more people able to get health care services,’’ he said. “The public is benefiting dramatically.’’

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Is It Time to Take Away My Right to Vote... For Judicial Candidates?

Is It Time to Take Away My Right to Vote... For Judicial Candidates?

By Jessica Levinson

According to an old adage, no one is above the law. But does that include a sitting judge? Apparently so. The fate of California Superior Court Judge Harvey Silberman is now in the hands of a Southern California jury.
Silberman is accused of trying to convince his former opponent, Deputy District Attorney Serena Murillo, to drop out of a 2008 judicial election for the seat Silberman ultimately won. Silberman is charged with offering -- through intermediaries -- to pay Murrillo's filing fees (totaling less than $1,800) if she agreed to drop out of the race. That move would have allowed Silberman to run unopposed. For this purported conduct, Silberman was charged with an elections code violation. The code prohibits the payment or solicitation of money in an effort to deter another from running for office.
Prosecutors also accused Silberman's consultants -- without Silberman's knowledge -- of later telling Murillo that Silberman would drop out of the race if Murillo would pay more than $80,000 to cover the cost of Silberman's ballot statement. Murillo, instead of accepting either alleged offer, went to the district attorney's public integrity division.
The sordid Silberman affair points to a larger question: should judges be elected? On the federal level, district court judges, court of appeals judges and Supreme Court justices are nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. U.S. bankruptcy judges are appointed to 14-year terms by U.S. court of appeals judges. U.S. magistrate judges are appointed to eight-year terms by district court judges.
Things are often different on the state level, where the voters directly weigh in on the composition of the state judiciary. In my home state of California, for instance, trial judges are elected, or appointed by the governor if there is a vacancy, to six-year terms. Every six years superior court judges stand for retention elections and may be challenged by otherwise qualified California attorneys. Justices of the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are appointed to 12-year terms by the governor and confirmed by the California Commission on Judicial Appointments. Justices stand for retention elections at the end of their 12-year terms.
Does being a good jurist have anything to do with being a good judicial candidate? Would moving to a system where both trial and appellate court judges are appointed and confirmed, rather than elected, create a judicial branch with better-qualified, less political judges?
Since leaving the bench, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has advocated for the abolition of judicial elections. As Justice O'Connor once stated, "Judicial elections are just difficult to justify in a constitutional democracy in which even the majority is bound by the law's restraints."
Can we count on judges to be truly independent, to make decisions only based only on the law, and not based on politics and/or what is popular, if they must stand before the public every few years in order to keep their jobs?
Judicial elections may be increasingly problematic as the U.S. Supreme Court continues to dismantle campaign finance reforms. Judicial elections are therefore ever more susceptible to the influence of large inflows of money. Will it be any surprise when special interests pour large sums of money into judicial races?
The Silberman matter sheds light on troubling questions concerning the propriety of judicial elections. One thing that does seem clear is that voters will be loath to give up their ability to directly determine the composition of the judicial branch.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Hosts Anti-Abortion Law Celebration

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Hosts Anti-Abortion Law Celebration

Gov. Rick Scott on Saturday hosted a celebration of the four new laws intended to limit access to abortion. Dozens of pro-life activists gathered at the manion for the event, along with several of the bill's sponsors and supporters , including representatives Matt Gaetz, Rachel Burgin, Dennis Baxley, Larry Ahern, Elizabeth Porter, Kelli Stargel and Keith Perry.

Asked why he held the bill-signing ceremony a month after the laws went into effect, Scott said: "A lot of people put a lot of effort into these things. I think they want to have an event to memorialize it. For these bills, a lot of these people have worked on these bills for years and years, and it's a way for them to celebrate the accomplishments."

Lawmakers passed five abortion-related bills in the 2011 session. One requires women to receive an ultrasound before undergoing an abortion and be offered the opportunity to have it described to her. Another tightens requiremens for parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion. A third prohibits insurance policies created through the federal health care law from covering abortions, and the fourth redirects proceeds from Choose Life license plates from counties to Choose Life, Inc., which counsels pregnant women. Lawmakers also passed a bill proposing a Constitutional amendment, which doesn't require the governor's signature, that would prohibit using tax dollars to pay for abortions."It would be hard to top this session for the pro-life cause. We had great success," Gaetz said.

Asked what his response it to those who say the laws limit choice for women, Gov. Scott referred to the ultrasound bill, passed by a previous Legislature but vetoed by then Gov. Charlie Crist. "You should have the opportunity to see see an ultrasound of your child," Scott said. "It's your choice. You don't have to. This creates choice. I think it's very positive."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bradlee Dean’s Lawyer Claims Rachel Maddow’s Career Is Over For Telling The Truth

Bradlee Dean’s Lawyer Claims Rachel Maddow’s Career Is Over For Telling The Truth
by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
Radio minister and former rock singer Bradlee Dean may want to have his and his lawyer’s head examined. It is possible to sue someone for defamation if- and only if- you can prove that the information that they disseminated was both patently false and designed to hurt the career of a particular person. The problem here is that what Dr Rachel Maddow told her viewers was, well, the truth. She aired a clip of Dean praising the murder of lesbians and gays by Muslims in its entirety, and then aired the disclaimer by Dean that he did not call for the murder of lesbians and gays.
The fact that his ministry and personal finances have been severely damaged over this is not her fault. People today are far less tolerant of homophobes like Dean than they were a decade ago. The trial will be very quick. The lawyers for Dr. Maddow and MSNBC will say “Mr. Dean, did you or did you not say these things in this clip here?” Dean will say, under oath, “Yes, sir” The lawyers will then ask “did you or did you not issue this disclaimer also found in this clip?” Dean will say “Yes, sir.” The lawyers will then say “So, exactly how did Dr. Maddow defame you and destroy your ministery?”
That is not stopping Dean’s lawyer Larry Klayman from claiming that Maddow’s career was over. The two spoke by phone to the Michele Tafoya Show on CBS Radio. According to Talking Points Memo:
Maddow is “trying to destroy Bradlee Dean, trying to destroy Bachmann,” Klayman said, adding that Maddow’s remarks were the “most outrageous statement I’ve heard in my entire life, and I’ve lived a bit here.”
Tafoya, pressing Dean a bit on his position on homosexuality, asked him if he indeed believes it is an “abomination.”
“If you’re asking if I’m in agreement with the word of God, then yes I am,” Dean responded.
Maddow’s remarks have harmed both Dean’s reputation and finances, Klayman said. “You can’t just say whatever you want,” he said. “This is going to cost MSNBC hundreds of millions of dollars and will probably end the career of Rachel Maddow.”
Yes, she reported exactly what Dean said without much in the way of condemnation or anything other than laughing her backside off. So, how this is going to cost MSNBC or Dr. Maddow anything is rather hard to figure out. At issue is this statement from Dean:
“Muslims are calling for the execution for homosexuals in America, this was just released yesterday and it shows you that they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible, the Judeo Christian God. They seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do. Because these people are livid about enforcing their laws, they know homosexuality is an abomination. And I continually reach out to the homosexual communities on this radio show, and I warn them, which ones love? Here you have Obama condemning it behind the backs of the homosexuals but to their faces he’s promoting it. I say this to my gay friends out there the ones that continuously nitpick everything I say. Hollywood is promoting immorality and the God of the Heavens in Jesus names is warning you to flee from the wrath to come, yet you have Muslims calling for your execution. If America won’t enforce the laws, God will raise up a foreign enemy to do just that’s what you’re seeing in America today. Read Leviticus 26 America.”
Dean also said “The bottom line is this … they [homosexuals] play the victim when they are, in fact, the predator. On average, they molest 117 people before they’re found out. How many kids have been destroyed, how many adults have been destroyed because of crimes against nature?” In fact, the last statement has been proven manifestly incorrect repeatedly despite constant repetition by the homophobes out there.
And this clip from Dr. Rachel Maddow:
Visit msnbc.com for breaking newsworld news, and news about the economy
Klayman is also claiming that MSNBC and Dr. Maddow are trying to sabotage the Presidential Campaign of Michele Bachmann by going after Dean, though that claim is also untrue since this began back during the Minnesota gubernatorial race. Here is the audio of the program:
Dean has been doing a lot of ducking and only going on supportive venues for his interviews. He canceled an appearance on Michelangelo Signorile’s show recently, but appeared on the show of Alex Jones. Dean, of course, pulled out all the stops on his homophobia by claiming that lesbians and gays are targeting children for recruitment. Of course, that is false. Rather religious leaders love to target children for recruitment. What is the old Jesuit motto? “Give me a child until the age of seven and he is mine for life.” Dean and Jones talked about children as young as seven being taught about ‘fisting’, which is rather absurd. Here is the transcript:
DEAN: It’s about protecting a particular people who are being attacked, namely the young in public high schools and that’s what this is really about and what they want to do is they want to keep me on the defense so they can stay on the offense so they can continuously play the victim.
JONES: All over the country, it is a fact, and I wouldn’t want heterosexuals [sic] recruiting 7-year-olds. They target children and I can’t even say on the radio for 20 years what’s been taught.
DEAN: Yep.
JONES: But they teach children sexual acts that can kill you.
DEAN: Yep.
JONES: I mean, we’re talking about fisting, ladies and gentlemen. Things like that are taught to 7-year-olds.
Dean, basically, is claiming that people who have an agenda opposite or opposed to his are targeting him for destruction for a variety of reasons. This is not defamation. That is the normal course in a political debate. So, honestly, Dean might want to walk away before he and his ministry are in worse shape than they are now.
The allegations by Bradlee Dean and You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International (YCR) are completely without merit. The American Independent News Network stands firmly behind our news site, The Minnesota Independent; our reporter, Andy Birkey; as well as their reporting on Dean and his ministry. The complaint describes Birkey as taking “a ‘special interest’ in Plaintiffs Dean and YCR because he is a secularist and/or atheist and gay activist with a politically left ideology who despises people of faith.” However, in giving Birkey and The Minnesota Independent first prize for Best Continuing Coverage of their reporting on YCR, the 2010 judges for the Minnesota Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist’s Page One Awards stated, “the reporter [Birkey] takes a deep-dive with an even-handed approach into a weighty subject sure to provoke controversy from various standpoints. Leads readers to think about serious public policy and constitutional issues.”

All defendants rest cases in Ala. gambling trial

All defendants rest cases in Ala. gambling trial

Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - All nine defendants in the federal gambling corruption trial have rested their cases after calling only one defense witness.
Lawyers for Macon County casino owner Milton McGregor and the other eight defendants walked one at a time to the microphone at the start of court Friday and announced their clients were resting their cases.
Prosecutors spent more than seven weeks putting on 17 witnesses. Prosecutors say the defendants, including four former and current state witnesses, conspired to buy and sell votes on a bill to legalize electronic bingo at some locations in Alabama.
Defense attorneys started putting on the cases Thursday morning after U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson refused to throw out any of the charges. Only one witness was called Thursday by defendant Tom Coker, who joined the other defendants in resting Friday.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

5 years later, states struggle to comply with federal sex offender law

5 years later, states struggle to comply with federal sex offender law
By Emanuella Grinberg

This story was assisted by an H.F. Guggenheim/John Jay reporting fellowship from the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College.

(CNN) -- Five years ago this week, President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act with the intention of making it the law of the land for keeping tabs on sex offenders.

Named for the 6-year-old whose slaying by a stranger galvanized child safety reforms and turned his father, John Walsh, into one of the nation's most recognizable victims' advocates, the law set forth the most comprehensive national standards to date for monitoring sex offenders in America's communities.

This week also marks a key deadline for states, tribes and U.S. territories to meet the act's requirements or face a 10% cut in federal justice assistance funding, not exactly small change in tight economic times.

As of Wednesday, the 30th anniversary of Adam Walsh's disappearance from a Florida department store, 14 states, nine tribes and the territory of Guam had "substantially implemented" what's known as the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA, provisions of the Adam Walsh Act. On the eve of the July 27 deadline, last-minute submissions were trickling into the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking, known as the SMART office.

The law expanded the categories of crimes eligible for registration and increased the period and frequency of registration for certain adults and juveniles, effectively growing registries by as much 500% in some states. It called for jurisdictions to retroactively register some adult offenders who'd already done their time on the registry. It also called for registration of certain juveniles who'd been shielded from the registry in the past, based on the notion that confidentiality offers them a greater likelihood of rehabilitation.

The goal was to corral the information into a national public registry and FBI database. But the act is still very much a work in progress.

It's not from a lack of desire, said Susan Frederick, federal affairs counsel with the National Conference of State Legislatures. Since 2008, 48 states have enacted nearly 350 laws related to residency restrictions, sentencing and monitoring sex offenders, according to an NCSL database.

"States are very sympathetic to the need to supervise and penalize registered sex offenders. There's no softness on that population," Frederick said. "But any time you're going to be collecting and cataloging information on more people more often, that comes at a high cost. The question is whether it's worth it."

Many states don't want to change their laws; others believe the legislation's cost outweighs its predicted benefits, she said. Texas has put the estimated federal funding cuts at $1.4 million, compared to a cost of $38.7 million.
To see how the law has fared in practice, one need look no farther than Ohio, the first state to adopt the law in its original, most stringent form, in 2007.

Adam Walsh was 6 years old when a stranger took him from a Florida store. His decapitated body was later found.

Ohio's version of the Adam Walsh Act, SB 10, has resulted in more than 7,000 legal claims, according to the state public defender's office. It also has led to years of litigation, two state Supreme Court rulings and separate registry criteria for sex offenders whose crimes occurred before and after the law's enactment.

The slow unraveling of Ohio's law underscores some of the major criticism of the new federal scheme and the registry in general: that it stigmatizes offenders beyond hope of rehabilitation while giving the public a false sense of security.

The federal agency created to help the states implement the act acknowledges that compliance has been an uphill battle. It has also listened to the states' concerns and issued supplemental guidelines that offer states more flexibility than Ohio had when it adopted its law.

Controversial legal issues like retroactive registration -- requiring an offender who was sentenced before the legislation to follow the new rules -- and juvenile registration get the most notice. For most states, however, the biggest hurdles are implementing technology and adjusting statutes, said Linda Baldwin, director of the SMART office.

"What happens across the board is some states are finding it more difficult to implement SORNA depending on their starting point," she said. "We've found that states whose systems are not centralized and digitized have had to make great changes to their registry system, but those changes require an investment that states have been able to apply to our office for funding for."

Uniform laws and a centralized database enable law enforcement to share information and ensure offenders don't slip through the cracks, Baldwin said. Community notification makes information about released sex offenders broadly available through various means, such as postcards in the mail, phone calls, e-mail alerts and police going door to door.

Online registries don't include everyone who is a threat, she said, because not all dangerous predators are known to law enforcement. Online registries also are not a tool to reduce repeat offenses, she said.

"It's hard to measure whether these important public safety goals are being met and figuring out how to measure that is challenging and may take years for us to complete," Baldwin said. "But what we've found is, as an alternative, many people are focusing on registration notification programs as tools to reduce recidivism, which really is not a major goal of these laws."

She stressed that the registries are "primarily a law enforcement tool, an ability to allow the public to take measures to protect themselves."

The effectiveness of registries -- for sex crimes and other offenses -- has long been a topic of debate. Supporters like Baldwin tout their public safety benefits, while critics say they can have the unintended consequence of destabilizing sex offenders.

"Public notification creates barriers to successful sex offender management and treatment and supervision," said Alisa Klein, Public Policy Consultant for the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers and co-author of the report, "A Reasoned Approach: Reshaping Sex Offender Policy to Prevent Child Sex Abuse (PDF)."

Offenders re-entering the community need strong support systems to prevent them from reoffending, she said, through family, faith communities and a steady job.

"Going on a public registry creates an immediate stigma. It can prevent employment, prevent them from living with families, get them thrown out of faith communities; it has the consequence of putting someone in an emotional state that may make them more likely to reoffend," she said.

Some states have attempted to evaluate the benefits of SORNA. In Texas, home to more than 60,000 registered sex offenders, a 2010 report from the Senate Criminal Justice Committee (PDF)concluded, "It is clear registries do not provide the public safety," noting the issue contained "gray areas."

The California Sex Offender Management Board also recommended against implementing the provisions of the Adam Walsh Act, stating, "California state law and practice related to offender risk assessment, juvenile registration and sex offender monitoring is more consistent with evidence-based practice that can demonstrate real public safety outcomes."

Who commits sex crimes against children?
- Family member: 34.2% 
- Acquaintance: 58.7% 
- Stranger: 7% 

-- U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000

People on both sides of the debate agree that truly dangerous sexual predators, such as pedophiles and rapists, need to be monitored closely if they're going to be released into communities.

The federal law uses a three-tiered system based on the sex crimes offenders are convicted of to determine the length of time they must remain on the registry and the frequency with which they must check in with law enforcement. Critics say that using offense-based registration instead of an approach based on risk-assessment -- favored by states like Texas and California -- pulls too many offenders onto the registry and overburdens law enforcement, preventing police from keeping a close eye on the worst of the worst.

"I think we would have a better use of our time if we could determine who the most dangerous ones are," said Sheriff Jeff Grey of Mercer, Ohio. "Sometimes we get tied up registering the ones who are trying to do the right thing and don't have time to look for the ones that are out of compliance, but just because someone's registering and doing everything he's supposed to doesn't mean he's not going to reoffend."

In Ohio, law enforcement is working closely with the state Attorney General's Office to explore ways that technology can streamline the process. Sheriffs' departments use software that sends e-mail notifications to offenders or calls them seven days before they have to register. If the e-mail bounces back or the call goes to the wrong person, law enforcement knows an offender is not complying, Grey said.

The state also recently released an iPhone app -- Shaquille O'Neal is its spokesman -- that locates registered sex offenders in a given area. Authorities in Ohio also are looking into kiosks to allow offenders to self-register through iris and fingerprint scans at the sheriff's department if the technology proves reliable.

"We need to keep up with the technology because it's there to help us do the job," said Grey, chairman of the sex offender registration and notification committee for the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association.

Besides Ohio, states that have adopted SORNA are Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The number of offenders on Wyoming's registry increased from 125 to 1,450 after the state moved from risk-based assessment to a tier system for registration, said Kevin R. Smith, deputy director of the state's Criminal Justice Information Services.

The biggest change for Wyoming involved juveniles, who were exempt from registration under old state law. New guidelines passed in January 2011 allowed Wyoming to exclude juveniles from appearing on the online registry, but they're still subject to community notification, he said.

"It's always been a difficult decision for the Legislature, the need to register juveniles for public safety versus the idea of confidentiality to rehabilitate juveniles." Smith said. "Wyoming didn't want to be seen as any more or any less restrictive than the national standard. ... We didn't want to be seen as the place to come to that was easier on sex offenders."

There's a saying among critics of the registry, that the rare cases of "stranger-danger" inspire the most sweeping legislative reforms. The slayings of Adam Walsh, Jacob Wetterling, Jessica Lunsford and Dru Sjodin, all sparked legislation that has been incorporated in the Adam Walsh Act.

Sadly, it often takes a tragedy to inspire needed reforms, said Linda Walker, Sjodin's mother. She thinks if the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website had existed in 2003, it might have saved her daughter's life.

The abduction and murder of Dru Sjodin led to a law named after her that established a national sex offender registry.

Neither Sjodin, a University of North Dakota student, nor her mother knew that a sex offender considered likely to reoffend was living across the border in Crookston, Minnesota. Alfonso Rodriguez was released from prison in May 2003 after serving 23 years for sexual violence against a Crookston woman. He abducted Sjodin from a mall parking lot in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on November 22, raped and murdered her. Rodriguez is awaiting execution on federal death row.

Sjodin's death inspired Dru's Law, which required convicted child molesters to be listed on a national online database and face a felony charge for failing to update their whereabouts. It was included in the Adam Walsh Act and signed into law the same day, five years ago.

Sjodin's mother has become a member of a club no one wants to belong to: The Surviving Parents Coalition. The group advocates for legislative initiatives in areas of child safety education, the expansion of DNA laws and national standards for sex offender legislation -- Walker's main focus.

She maintains that the Adam Walsh Act sets minimum standards, not a ceiling, so the public can protect itself.

"Our borders, we don't see them, and we're such a mobile nation, we move to different communities frequently, so this gives you a better awareness of who you might be living among," she said.

"I get so angered that we humanize these people who choose to victimize. We give these offenders two, three, four different chances -- what does that say to the victims?"

Some people would rather die than face a lifetime on the registry. One of those people, Roy Martin, hanged himself in his garage after learning he would be reclassified as a Tier III offender in Ohio.

Martin was released from prison in 2004 after serving 10 years for raping a female relative, though he maintained his innocence, said his lawyer, Shimane K. Smith.

Under the state's Megan's Law, which took effect in 1997, a judge classified Martin a sexually oriented offender, which meant he had to register once a year for 10 years after his release. Then he received a letter in November 2007 from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation notifying him that under Ohio's SB 10, he would be reclassified effective January 1, 2008, as a Tier III offender.

For the rest of his life, he would have to check in every 90 days with law enforcement to confirm his home address, employer, school address and Internet identifiers and vehicle make.

His sex offender status was already a source of deep shame for the introverted, 50-year-old construction worker, who was prone to drinking in times of despair, said his companion, Denise Sees.

"You go to get a job, they know your record, they don't want you. Everybody knows who you are. You're marked for life," she said.

She never suspected he was capable of killing himself. But upon reflection, there were signs to indicate he had prepared for it, she said. He cleaned up the garage, organized his tools, finished an addition to the house. Then, early in the morning of February 27, 2008, he came home smelling of alcohol.

"I went to bed; told him we didn't have to talk about it. In the middle of the night, I heard coughing. I thought he was smoking a cigarette. I woke up the next morning and was calling for him. He was in the garage. He had hung himself with a cord," she said.

He didn't leave a note, but she knew that the prospect of lifetime registration was too much to bear.

"If you've not been involved in it you do not know what it's like," she said. "I just think him having that label on him, he couldn't take it anymore. I think he thought that was his best choice."

Since Martin's suicide, retroactive registration under SB 10 has been found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court in two cases, including a July 13 ruling that found imposing "current registration requirements on a sex offender whose crime was committed prior to the enactment of SB 10 is punitive."

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he does not agree with the court's decision in State v. Williams (PDF), but his office will not appeal the ruling. He does plan to seek clarification on how the panel reached its decision and how that could apply to cases down the road.

DeWine, a former U.S. senator and representative, continues to support public registration. His next step is to figure out how to make sure offenders retain their pre-SORNA classification.

"The public has an interest in making sure these people check in with police and that we know where they are," he said. "The public policy goal of the attorney general's office is to make sure that the sex offenders who were classified before remain classified."

The recent court ruling creates a cliffhanger ending for those watching three juvenile cases that raised similar claims regarding retroactive registration.

"We think with the court's finding that SB 10 can't be applied retroactively to adults should lead to the same finding for children," said Brooke Burns with the Ohio Public Defender's Office, who represents two juveniles in claims that retroactive application of the law for juveniles is unconstitutional.

The cases underscore concerns nationwide that placing teens on a public registry will stigmatize them and hamper their chances of moving beyond the offense.

Given juveniles' positive response to treatment and room for cognitive development, the juvenile system has traditionally been regarded as rehabilitative, unlike the adult system, which counts punishment among its goals, Burns said.

"The court's finding that registration is punishment opens the door for us to start advocating that juveniles cannot be given a punishment because they're in juvenile court, which in itself is a rehabilitative system," she said.

Another scenario she hopes for is that the court might consider terminating the requirement to register at 21, the age at which the juvenile court loses jurisdiction over an offender -- except when it comes to the registry, Burns said.

"The only penalty that sticks beyond the juvenile system in and of itself is registration," she said. "We hope with (the court calling the registry) punishment, perhaps the court will find ... that you cannot impose a lifetime punishment on children or a person when the court that imposed it only has jurisdiction on a person 'til 21."

The use of the word "punitive" in the ruling has been a source of hope to opponents of the registry, who disagree with case law that says sex offender registration does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment because it is a civil remedy intended to protect the public.

Critics of the registry say it perpetuates fears that strangers are most likely to commit sex offenses on children, when research shows the most frequent perpetrators are relatives and acquaintances. Victim advocacy groups and policy think-tanks cite volumes of academic research and a Department of Justice study to support the argument that registries are not a cure-all for preventing sex crimes against children.

"It's such a misleading statement to send to the public that we somehow have a notion of where all sex offenders are and that we can keep the public safe from them because we have a registry," said Elizabeth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "It's fueled by awful things that happened to children and very understandable, but unfortunately that's not a fix that makes sense for most offenders."

Sex crime prevention begins in the home, she said, by instructing parents of the warning signs and teaching children not just about good touches and bad touches, but also about basic respect.

"Primary prevention is very long-term work that involves a cultural shift in terms of how we deal with children, what we teach children, the messages communities send toward children and women," she said. "There are still a lot of cultural norms that allow for the victimization of people who are vulnerable."