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Court program in Dona Ana County focuses on veterans
Attorney News | 2018/05/27 11:07
A new court program has opened in Dona Ana County that focuses on the substance abuse and mental health issues facing military veterans who have been charged with non-violent crimes.

Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the first hearing in the 3rd Judicial District Court's Veterans Treatment Court program was held on Wednesday.

It's the first veterans court program in southern New Mexico

The judicial district already has other "problem-solving courts," such as a drug court for juveniles and adults that tries to help rehabilitate repeat offenders whose offenses are driven by substance abuse.

Veterans participating in the new program will be given individualized treatment and counseling programs that run an average of 14 months or longer.



California high court to rule on social media access
Attorney News | 2018/05/01 11:12
The California Supreme Court will decide whether Facebook and other social media companies must turn over user content to criminal defendants.

The justices are expected to rule Thursday in a case that has pitted some of Silicon Valley's biggest companies against public defenders.

At issue are requests by a defendant accused in a San Francisco slaying who wants videos and other content posted to Facebook and Instagram by the victim and a witness. The defendant, Lee Sullivan, and a co-defendant, Derrick Hunter, also sought information from Twitter.

Prosecutors charged the two men with murder in an alleged gang-related drive-by-shooting in 2013. Sullivan said the witness was his former girlfriend, and her social media posts would show she was jealous and angry because Sullivan was involved with other women.

The defendants say their constitutional right to a fair trial entitles them to the social media records to prepare their case. Attorneys for the companies say a federal privacy law prevents the release of user content, and the defendants have other ways to get the material.

They could ask the witness for her social media content and get the victim's information from prosecutors, who obtained a search warrant for his Facebook and Instagram accounts and are required to turn over any exculpatory evidence to the defense, the company's attorneys, Eric Miller and James Snell, wrote in a brief to the California Supreme Court.

Sullivan's attorneys have said they could not locate the witness to serve her with a subpoena. Both defendants also say access only to records that support the prosecution's theory of the case does not allow them to mount a complete defense, according to a 2015 appeals court ruling.

That ruling sided with the social media companies and rejected Sullivan and Hunter's requests for information.

"Criminal defendants are looking for a one-stop-shop, a fast lane to get the materials that social media sites might have," said Eric Goldman, co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law.

A decision by the California Supreme Court that overturns the appeals court ruling and sides with the defendants "could substantially change companies' practices," Goldman said.

Google in a brief filed in the case warned that loosening the rules around releasing information would undermine users' confidence in the privacy of their communications and "greatly increase" its burden from requests to disclose user information.

San Francisco's public defender's office countered in its own brief that prosecutors are increasingly offering social media records as evidence and "defendants have a parallel need for these records to defend against charges."


Supreme Court wrestles with administrative law judge case
Attorney News | 2018/04/23 10:21
The Supreme Court wrestled Monday with a case brought by a former financial adviser known for his "Buckets of Money" strategy who is challenging the appointment of the administrative law judge who ruled against him.

The case involves the Securities and Exchange Commission's administrative law judges, who conduct hearings on alleged securities law violations and issue initial decisions. The federal government employs administrative law judges in more than 30 agencies, however, giving the case the potential to have a broader impact.

During arguments Monday, Justice Anthony Kennedy wanted to know "what effect, if any" the case would have on administrative law judges in other agencies. Attorney Mark Perry suggested that the court's decision could impact some 150 administrative law judges in 25 agencies.

The question the justices are being asked to decide is whether the SEC's administrative law judges are SEC employees or instead "inferior officers" of the United States. The answer is important in determining who can appoint them to their positions.

The case before the Supreme Court involves former financial adviser Raymond J. Lucia, who as a radio show host, author and seminar leader promoted a retirement strategy he called "Buckets of Money." Lucia's strategy was that in retirement investors should first sell safer investments, giving riskier investments time to grow.



Lake County courts to switch to online filing system in May
Attorney News | 2018/04/21 10:21
Court officials in northwestern Indiana's Lake County plan to switch next month to an online filing system that's already used by nearly three-quarters of Indiana's counties.

Lake County's circuit and superior courts will switch May 21 to the Odyssey case management system that's supported by the Indiana Supreme Court. Courts in 65 of Indiana's 92 counties currently use that state-funded system.

Mark Pearman is executive director of Lake County's Data Processing Department. He tells The (Northwest Indiana) Times the state is providing the county with the Odyssey software at no cost.

Pearman says that in August, new cases filed with the Lake County Clerk's Office will be scanned into the Odyssey system. The county's court system is scheduled to switch to a completely paperless record system in January.


Supreme Court seems divided over Texas redistricting
Attorney News | 2018/04/21 10:20
The Supreme Court appeared divided Tuesday over Texas' appeal to preserve congressional and legislative districts that a lower court struck down as racially discriminatory.

The justices heard arguments in the latest round of court action over Texas electoral districts that began in 2011.

At issue are two congressional districts and statehouse districts in four counties, and what the challengers say are efforts by Texas Republicans who control the state government to restrain the political influence of a growing Hispanic and African-American population.

The liberal justices seemed favorable to minority voters and civil rights groups that sued over the districts. The court's conservatives appeared to lean toward the state, which also has the support of the Trump administration. Justice Anthony Kennedy said nothing to indicate where his potentially decisive vote would fall.

The justices last year kept the challenged districts in place, even after the lower court ruling. Texas held primary elections in those districts in March.

Max Renea, Hicks, a lawyer for the plaintiffs told the justices Tuesday that even if his side wins at the high court, it is unlikely that new districts would be used before the 2020 elections, the last voting cycle before the next census.

The case is the third major dispute this term that is focused on redistricting, the drawing of electoral maps following the once-a-decade census. The high court's other cases, from Maryland and Wisconsin, focus on the drawing of political districts for partisan advantage.

The Texas situation is unusual. Based on the 2010 census, Texas was awarded four new congressional districts, attributable mainly to the influx of Hispanics.

After the state's original electoral maps were found to be probably unconstitutional, a three-judge federal court produced interim districting plans that were used in the 2012 elections.

In 2013, Republicans rushed to permanently adopt those maps to use for the rest of the decade.

But opponents criticized the adopted maps as a quick fix that didn't purge all districts of the impermissible use of race.

In 2017, the same judges who approved the interim maps in 2012 agreed with the challengers that the maps were the product of intentional discrimination.


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