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Friday, August 2, 2013

law requires cord blood from some teen moms

New Miss. law requires cord blood from some teen moms

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — If a girl younger than 16 gives birth and won't name the father, a new Mississippi law — likely the first of its kind in the country — says authorities must collect umbilical cord blood and run DNA tests to prove paternity as a step toward prosecuting statutory rape cases.

Supporters say the law is intended to chip away at Mississippi's teen pregnancy rate, which has long been one of the highest in the nation. But critics say that though the procedure is painless, it invades the medical privacy of the mother, father and baby. And questions abound: At roughly $1,000 a pop, who will pay for the DNA tests in the country's poorest state? Even after test results arrive, can prosecutors compel a potential father to submit his own DNA and possibly implicate himself in a crime? How long will the state keep the DNA on file?

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant says the DNA tests could lead to prosecution of grown men who have sex with underage girls.

"It is to stop children from being raped," said Bryant, who started his career as a deputy sheriff in the 1970s. "One of the things that go on in this state that's always haunted me when I was a law-enforcement officer is seeing the 14- and 15-year-old girl that is raped by the neighbor next door and down the street."

But Bear Atwood, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said it's an invasion of privacy to collect cord blood without consent of the mother, father and baby. She also said that an underage girl who doesn't want to reveal the identity of her baby's father might skip prenatal care: "Will she decide not to have the baby in a hospital where she can have a safe, happy, healthy delivery?"

The law took effect July 1 but hasn't been used yet. Cord blood samples would have to be taken immediately after birth, and the state medical examiner is setting administrative rules for how the blood will be collected and stored. Megan Comlossy, health policy associate for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said she thinks Mississippi is the first state to enact a law authorizing the collection of blood from the umbilical cord — a painless procedure — to determine paternity.

Bryant's staff says the idea for the law came from public meetings conducted by the governor's teen pregnancy prevention task force — a group that focuses mostly on promoting abstinence.

Statistics put the state's teen pregnancy rate among the highest in the country. In 2011 — the most recent year for which statistics are available — there were 50.2 live births in Mississippi per 1,000 females ages 15-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The nationwide rate was 31.3.

And more than half Mississippi's 82 counties reported at least one pregnancy by a 10- to 14-year-old girl in 2011, according to an Associated Press analysis of state statistics.

The governor's staff also said it heard disheartening information from Chancery Judge Janace Harvey Goree, whose district covers four counties in central Mississippi.

In an interview with the AP, Goree said she was disturbed to learn that several middle school girls had become pregnant in recent years in Holmes County, where she lives. In the poor, mostly rural county, middle school and high school students are on the same campus in some places.

"Most often, it is not middle school boys that are getting the middle school girls pregnant," Goree said.

As a chancery judge, Goree oversees child support cases.

"When you're seeking child support quite often in these situations, they don't identify the father and so quite often you don't know until way down the road that the person who is the father is a relative or the boyfriend … of someone else in the household," she said.

The governor said he worked with Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, on the cord blood bill. The final version passed the Senate unanimously and the House 98-17. The issue of cost received little debate.

The bill's main sponsor, Republican state Rep. Andy Gipson, said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that DNA left on objects, such as saliva on a disposable cup, can be tested as evidence in a criminal case. He said he thinks umbilical cord blood fits that description.

"We're not taking blood from the baby," Gipson said. "We're not taking blood from the mother. We're taking blood that is discarded … literally discarded."

Gipson said he doesn't believe a man who fathers a child with an underage girl should have a reasonable expectation of privacy. "Most cases would involve a suspect who is pretty well identified," he said.

Democratic state Rep. Adrienne Wooten voted against the bill, saying it will mostly hurt poor women and could lead a prosecution "fishing expedition to find out who the father is."

"I think that that is totally outside the boundaries of what we as a Legislature should be doing," said Wooten, who, like Gipson, is an attorney. "We already have laws that deal with statutory rape."

The attorney general's office doesn't keep statistics on the number of cases that district attorneys pursue in Mississippi under the state's longstanding statuary rape law, spokeswoman Jan Schaefer said.

"A lot of DAs and judges don't want to take these cases on," Bryant said. "Oftentimes, the female doesn't want to press charges or the parents do not want to. So, we've just got to stop this."

The new law says it's reasonable to think a sex crime has been committed against a minor if the baby's mother won't identify the father or lists him as unknown, or if the identified father disputes paternity, is 21 or older, or is deceased. The law says health care workers and facilities cannot face civil or criminal penalties for collecting cord blood, and failure to collect is a misdemeanor offense. The law doesn't address whether the mother can refuse blood collection or what would happen to her if she does.

Goree said she supports using the law to prosecute older men but is concerned it could be on teenage boys.

"It's a different problem than a 13-year-old impregnated by a 21-year-old or a 30-year-old," she said. For the bigger age gap, Goree said, "I have no sympathy."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sexy résumé lands law grad fleeting fame if not job

Sexy résumé lands law grad fleeting fame if not job

 A lawyer desperate to get a job has made an impression on the legal community here, but not necessarily in a good way.
2009 Villanova Law School grad Brian Zulberti said he was about two Red Bulls into a late-night push to e-mail every lawyer he could find in the legal directory when he decided to add a photo.
Not a typical head-and-shoulders, suit-and-tie mug photo, it was a picture of Zulberti, 30, in a T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, showing off his sculpted arms. Within a day of sending out his second round of e-mails, he became an Internet sensation.
"I was desperate to an extent," said Zulberti, adding he thought throwing in a little sex appeal might improve his chances.
This attracted the attention of the Above the Law Blog — apparently tipped off by an unimpressed lawyer that received it — which posted an item about Zulberti's letter and photo under the search term "Bad ideas."
"Seriously? Has this man no shame?" wrote Staci Zaretsky on the blog. "Who needs a résumé when you can send a selfie instead?"
The blog then went one step further and chastised Zulberti for pictures on his unsecured Facebook page, including one racy naked torso shot of Zulberti, his underwear dangerously low, holding a sign over his face that cried out for better grammar: "HIRE ME!!! no … as a Lawyer, … NOT A ESCORT… wait is it something I'm wearing."
"A picture is worth a thousand words, and here, all of those words seem to be: NO NO NO NO NO NO," Zaretsky wrote in the blog.
That started the explosion.
The blog post went viral on social media and Zulberti said he suddenly started getting a flood of friend requests on Facebook, less than 12 hours after he sent out his last batch of job-seeking e-mails. His voice mail and e-mail were soon swamped with messages.
Some were supportive, telling him not to give up hope. More called him a disgrace to Delaware, where he had just joined the bar. A number of friends told him to turn on his Facebook privacy settings.
That also was the advice of Delaware attorney and employment law expert Molly DiBianca.
"This is just wrong on so many levels," she said. Law firms want someone who is serious, professional and can show discretion. The images Zulberti posted of himself show "just the opposite."
"I'm sort of stunned by this picture. I can't stop looking at it," DiBianca said, noting that on top of everything there is a grammatical error in his "Hire Me" sign, which she said "looks like a 4-year-old wrote it."
Zulberti said soon after the blog mocked him, he started getting calls from media organizations and friends started sending him links to stories that had been posted about him from as far away as Croatia.
Among his Web hits:
• Gawker, "Lawyer Asks Hiring Firms to Google Him. Puts nude selfie on Facebook"
• MSN, "Law school grad bemoans job search, flaunts toned arms in cover letter"
• And even The Mail Online, the website of London's Daily Mail tabloid, "That's one way to bulk up your résumé!"
Some are getting the story wrong or at least misunderstanding it, Zulberti said.
"I never sent any pictures in my underwear to employers," he said. "I sent a picture in a muscle shirt. I will allow others to debate whether or not that was appropriate."
He said he already has talked to one Philadelphia radio show and has been invited to appear on The Steve Harvey Show.
The American Bar Association Journal website pointed to Zulberti's story as a cautionary tale both about the desperate job market, particularly for would-be lawyers, and the dangers of over-sharing on social media. Tuition and fees at Villanova Law School for the 2012-13 school year was $38,910, according to the Pennsylvania university's website.
073013 brian zulberti
But Zulberti said as far as he is concerned he sees no moral to the story.
Zulberti said he didn't intend to set off a social media firestorm. But now that it has arrived he is going to milk it, and enjoy it, for all it's worth.
"I went from being a guy with no job to a guy with no job on TV," he said with a laugh, sitting in his father's home where he lives.
In a YouTube response to Above the Law, Zulberti said while he initially felt the blog item was "rather insulting" and mean, the author also called him "a young stud."
"So it balances out," he said in the video, which has received nearly 10,000 views.
And through all the craziness, Zulberti has defiantly kept his Facebook page public and has continued to post provocative pictures of himself. Zulberti said to turn on privacy filters at this point would be to change who he is.
"I am the guy who takes pictures of himself in his underwear," he said, adding he thinks the images are funny and lawyers should be allowed a sense of humor.
"There is something to be said for being true to one's self in a job search," DiBianca said, but she added that people looking for a job have to be concerned about being a cultural fit with their employer. Reputation is an important part of being an lawyer. "And this does not come off professionally, to say the least.
"You have to keep client matters confidential," she said. "And he doesn't seem to understand the boundaries or lines of confidentiality very well."
Despite the largely negative online and media attention he's received, Zulberti said the job search is going well. He has received several invitations to submit his résumé, and one interview he had Friday went so well that he is hopeful it will lead to a job offer.
Zulberti said he recognizes that "the social media death hammer" ultimately may crush his legal dreams but hopes people judge him on his legal abilities and not Facebook pics of his pecs.
"All I need is one job," Zulberti said, even if 9,999 out of 10,000 potential employers don't like him. If he gets that job, he said he will have the last laugh.
"I feel I could be a very good attorney some day," he said.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Court overturns passport law implying Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem

Court overturns passport law implying Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem

By Ann E. Marimow

A federal appeals court Tuesday found unconstitutional a law that gives thousands of Americans born in Jerusalem the option of listing Israel as their birthplace on U.S. passports.
In a separation-of-powers dispute centered on Middle East politics, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the law passed by Congress in 2002 “impermissibly intrudes” on the powers of the president.
“While the president’s foreign affairs powers are not precisely defined, the courts have long recognized the president’s presumptive dominance in matters abroad,” Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote in a 42-page opinion.
At issue is a provision of a 2002 foreign-relations act that challenged the U.S. policy of neutrality over the sovereignty of Jerusalem, a holy city claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. The law allowed Jerusalem-born Americans to request that official documents list their birthplace as Israel.
Because of U.S. foreign policy regarding Jerusalem, the State Department — under Republican and Democratic administrations — has refused to follow Congress’s direction.
“Congress plainly intended to force the State Department to deviate from its decades-long position of neutrality on what nation or government, if any, is sovereign over Jerusalem,” Henderson wrote. She was joined by judges Judith W. Rogers and David S. Tatel, who also wrote a concurring opinion.
The case, which reached the Supreme Court in 2011, was brought by Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky, U.S. citizens whose son Menachem Binyamin was born in Jerusalem in 2002. The couple want their son’s passport to say he was born in Israel.
Zivotofsky attorney Nathan Lewin argued that the legislation “simply and neutrally” regulated the form and content of the passport.
Lewin said in a statement Tuesday that the “difficult case” calls for resolution by the Supreme Court. He described the State Department’s passport policy as an “isolated holdout, denying what is universally acknowledged, to the detriment of a right that a duly enacted law gives to American citizens.”
The Zivotofskys’ attorneys noted in court filings that the State Department has acknowledged inadvertently issuing passports with Israel as the birthplace to citizens born in Jerusalem and that there had been no harm done to U.S. foreign policy interests.
But the court said it found compelling the State Department’s position that the “reversal of United States policy” could “provoke uproar throughout the Arab and Muslim world and seriously damage our relations.”
The court’s opinion cited submissions from the department that argued the law “runs headlong into a carefully calibrated and long-standing executive branch policy of neutrality toward Jerusalem.”
Since Israel’s creation in 1948, Henderson wrote, U.S. presidents have “steadfastly declined to recognize any foreign nation’s sovereignty over that city.” The executive branch has made clear that the status of Jerusalem must be decided not unilaterally by the United States but by all the relevant parties.
In March 2012, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the D.C. Circuit, ruling in an 8 to 1 decision that the lower court could rule on the constitutionality of the law. The appeals court had earlier dismissed the case, writing that it posed a political question beyond the scope of the court’s authority.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Florida had first Stand Your Ground law, other states followed in 'rapid succession'

By Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer, NBC News

In speaking out against "Stand Your Ground" self-defense laws this week, Attorney General Eric Holder criticized legislation that has been enacted in some two dozen states and has been backed by powerful gun lobbyists since the first such law was passed in Florida in 2005. 
Stand Your Ground laws — sometimes referred to as "Shoot First" laws by detractors — change the legal definition of self-defense for citizens who feel they are being confronted with deadly force or imminent danger. They have been part of the public discussion around the George Zimmerman trial; although the legal team arguing on behalf of the man who was found not guilty of shooting Trayvon Martin did not ask for an immunity hearing under the law, the instructions given to the jury borrowed language from the statute.
Normally, a citizen has a duty to retreat when confronted with what they perceive to be deadly force. The Stand Your Ground doctrine mostly removes that, meaning citizens who feel threatened are no longer required to try to quell a situation first before having the right to use deadly force in self-defense.
With major support from the National Rifle Association under a Republican state legislature during Gov. Jeb Bush's administration, Florida became the first state to enact a Stand Your Ground law on Oct. 1, 2005. Since then, Stand Your Ground law has been invoked in more than 200 cases in Florida where charges were dismissed or defendants were acquitted or not charged at all, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
There are three parts to Florida's Stand Your Ground law. It states that a person is presumed to have reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm when using defensive force if an intruder has broken into his or her home or vehicle and is justified in using force; it states that a person does not have a duty to retreat if he or she believes death or bodily harm is imminent; and it provides immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.
What made it such radical legislation was the automatic presumption of reasonable fear. Inside Florida homes and cars, it overrode previous self-defense laws that required proof that an individual felt a reasonable enough level of fear to use self-defense.
Florida as a model
In other states, "Stand Your Ground" laws are strikingly similar to Florida's.
"The biggest difference in any of the laws are where they have the right to defend themselves. Some require that you be in your home or your car. Some have expanded that to say you can just be on the street corner," said Ryan Sibley, a writer and researcher at the non-profit think tank Sunlight Foundation.
Here are several other notable Stand Your Ground differences by state, as well as some court cases where it's been applied:
Texas: A person can only use Stand Your Ground if they have the right to be present at the location where the deadly force is used, and has not provoked the person against whom the deadly forced is used.
In November 2007, Joe Horn, 61, of Pasadena, Texas, saw two burglars break into his neighbors' home, according to The New York Times. He grabbed his shotgun and called 911, offering to the 911 operator, "I've got a shotgun; do you want me to stop them?" Despite the emergency operator telling him no, he allegedly went over and killed the two men. Horn claimed self-defense and wasnot indicted when he went before a grand jury.
North Carolina: Exceptions to the use of deadly force as listed in North Carolina's law are against police officers or law enforcement, bail bondsmen and landlords. Stand Your Ground passed in North Carolina in 2011. 
Kansas: Kansas' Stand Your Ground law specifies the person can't be engaged in illegal activity while defending him or herself. The law, enacted in 2006, has rarely been applied in Kansas, The Wichita Eagle notes. 
Louisiana: Byron Thomas, 21, of Lafourche Parish, La., was cleared by a grand jury in the death of 15-year-old Jamonta Miles in February 2012 because he claimed he acted in self-defense when he shot an SUV the boy was in. The two may have been in rival gangs, according to Louisiana's HoumaToday.com; Thomas fired on the vehicle after getting into an argument while trying to buy marijuana. Louisiana's Stand  Your Ground law passed in 2006.
Arizona: In April 2012, Cordell Jude, 22, was driving in Phoenix when Daniel Adkins Jr. walked in front of him with his dog. "Watch it!" Jude yelled to Adkins, who was mentally disabled, according to USA TODAY. Adkins then swung what looked like a pipe in the air and Jude shot and killed him — the pipe-like object turned out to just be a dog leash. Jude claimed self-defense; he remained free for three months, but now faces second-degree murder charges and is set to go to trial next month, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff's office. The Arizona Stand Your Ground law passed in 2010.
Oklahoma: In 2010, Carl England of Tulsa was shot in the chest and killed after attacking another man he accused of breaking into his daughter's apartment. His killer, Pernell Jefferson, 37, was not charged with the murder, due to Stand Your Ground, but is serving a six-year sentence on a weapons charge, according to The Associated Press. Oklahoma enacted its Stand Your Ground law, which closely mirrors Florida's, in 2006.
Georgia: John McNeil hired Brian Epp, a construction company owner, to build a new house for him in Cobb County, Ga., in 2005. In December 2005, McNeil's son got into an argument in the backyard with Epp, who allegedly pulled out a pocketknife. Upon hearing this, McNeil rushed home and fired a warning shot with his gun, reported Salon.com. But Epp charged toward him, allegedly reaching for his pocket knife again. McNeil fired another shot, this time hitting Epp in the head and killing him. In 2006, despite the state passing a Stand Your Ground law earlier in the year, McNeil was sentenced to life in prison, which was later reduced after he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The laws' origins
Many of the 20-plus states that have this type of legislation passed it quickly after Florida did.
"It happened very, very quickly, in rapid succession," said Jeannie Suk, a Harvard law professor who has written extensively about self-defense and criminal law. "The National Rifle Association at the time stated its intention to do it in Florida and then use it as a jumping-off point for a sweeping change in self-defense law across the country. They were not at all shy or apologetic about that. This was the goal." 
The laws, while less than a decade old, are steeped in centuries-old principles.
"There's a lot of misperception right now going on about these Stand Your Ground laws, as if they sprung out of nowhere, with no precedence or no history to them," Suk said.
In fact, they have their foundation in the Castle Doctrine — a 17th century English common law that was eventually brought to all states in the U.S. — which says that if an intruder breaks into an individual's home, the individual is not obligated to try to retreat before defending him or herself with force.
Everywhere else, according to the Castle Doctrine, individuals can use deadly force to defend themselves only after retreating as far as possible — "the phrase was to the wall at one's back," said Suk — with the idea being that in a public place in the 1600s, the king and his men were supposed to keep the peace while all other people stepped aside. But at home, or inside the castle, deadly force without retreating first was allowed.
"In no states were you obligated to try to retreat from your home if attacked in your home," Suk said. "Both in England and when it was transplanted to the U.S., every single state said you didn't have to retreat from an intruder."
But, she added, that doesn't mean one is excused from the requirements of the regular self-defense law, which generally requires citizens show they're in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death that is imminent.