Jenkins Competitors Advance to Finals

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Congratulations to the students who advanced to the Final Round of the Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition:

Susan Barranco and Kyle Mayo

Matthew Hall and Nicholas Zepnick

All the teams did a spectacular job in the Semifinal Round tonight.  The Final Round will be held this Wednesday, April 6 at 6:00 p.m. in the Appellate Courtroom at the Law School.  A reception will follow.  Please rsvp online on the Law School’s website.

Connick v. Thompson: Both Answers Are Right — What Was the Question Again?

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In Supreme Court cases, the majority and dissent sometimes talk right past one another, framing the question for decision so differently that they almost seem to be writing about different cases.  See, e.g., the dueling opinions earlier this week in Connick v. Thompson (No. 09-571).  Thompson was convicted of attempted armed robbery and murder, and then sentenced to death.  A month before his execution, a bloodstained swatch of cloth came to light that proved Thompson was not the perpetrator in the robbery prosecution.  The murder charge was eventually retried, and Thompson was acquitted.  In all, he served 18 years in prison based on his wrongful convictions.  Moreover, it turns out that an assistant district attorney who was part of the team that prosecuted Thompson deliberately withheld the swatch.  The District Attorney’s office now concedes that Thompson’s constitutional rights were violated under Brady v. Maryland.  The question now is whether the DA’s office should be civilly liable to Thompson for this violation.

Prior cases interpreting 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (the federal civil rights law Thompson invoked in his lawsuit) reject vicarious liability for the government when a government employee violates consitutional rights; in order to recover, as matters unfolded, Thompson was obliged to show that the District Attorney had been deliberately indifferent to a need to train his subordinates regarding their Brady responsibilities.  Prior cases also establish that a “failure to train” claim must ordinarily be based on multiple violations of constitutional rights; a single violation, such as that suffered by Thompson, would require extraordinary circumstances to justify relief.

So much everyone agreed on.  Continue reading “Connick v. Thompson: Both Answers Are Right — What Was the Question Again?”

Chisholm: Revise Truth-in-Sentencing, Support “Smart” Use of Alternatives to Hold Down Costs and Fight Crime

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Uncategorized, Wisconsin Criminal Law & ProcessLeave a comment» on Chisholm: Revise Truth-in-Sentencing, Support “Smart” Use of Alternatives to Hold Down Costs and Fight Crime

Crime can continue to go down in Milwaukee and spending on criminal justice can be controlled successfully, but only if steps are taken to give local judges, prosecutors, police and others involved in criminal justice tools, incentives and support in doing so, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said in a speech Friday at Marquette University Law School.

In what he described as a major policy statement, Chisholm called for modifying the state’s truth-in-sentencing law and maintaining support of programs that assess the risks and needs of people charged with crimes so that fewer end up in prison and more end up on paths that lead  away from re-offending.

“Both sides of the political spectrum must acknowledge that talking tough on crime has reached its limits,” Chisholm said. “Being smart on crime is the solution.”

(The text of Chisholm’s comments can be read here and a video of his speech and a question and answer session following it can be viewed here.)

Chisholm said such “smarter” efforts are paying off in Milwaukee, but are in danger of being undermined by major cuts in federal anti-crime programs and in state aid to criminal justice  work. Continue reading “Chisholm: Revise Truth-in-Sentencing, Support “Smart” Use of Alternatives to Hold Down Costs and Fight Crime”

Simon to Speak on Punishment for Murder

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I’m looking forward to the upcoming George and Margaret Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law.  Berkeley Professor Jonathan Simon will be visiting us on January 24 at 12:30 to speak on punishment for murder.  Here is the teaser:

Although the death penalty may be dying out in the United States, the end stage of capital punishment leaves us grasping more than ever for principles that could govern the power to punish those who are convicted of society’s most feared and loathed category of crime. This need is particularly acute in the United States, where the rise of general incapacitation as the dominant purpose of punishment has produced sentences that are far in excess of international and historic American standards. Professor Simon will suggest that these sentences help to anchor an overall structure of imprisonment that appears unjust and unsustainable, argue for a new version of selective incapacitation limited by dignity as the central purpose of imprisonment, and propose a restructuring of the law of murder to effectuate those goals.

More information about Simon’s lecture, including details about how to RSVP, is hereContinue reading “Simon to Speak on Punishment for Murder”

The IRS’s Hollow Victory in Crane v. Commissioner, 331 U.S. 1 (1947)

Posted on Categories Business Regulation, Public, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on The IRS’s Hollow Victory in Crane v. Commissioner, 331 U.S. 1 (1947)

[Editors’ note: This is the fourth in our series, What Is the Most Important U.S. Supreme Court Case in Your Area of the Law? The first three installments are here, here, and here.]

There are many important Supreme Court tax cases.  However, few are identifiable just by reference to a footnote number.  Tax scholars and academics will easily recognize the Supreme Court’s decision in Crane v. Commissioner simply by reference to footnote 37.  In my opinion, Crane is the most important case in tax history, and footnote 37 is the most famous footnote.

The issues presented in Crane arose when the taxpayer inherited an apartment building from her husband.  Continue reading “The IRS’s Hollow Victory in Crane v. Commissioner, 331 U.S. 1 (1947)”

Seventh Circuit Narrows Reach of Armed Career Criminal Act

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Federal Criminal Law & Process, Public, Seventh CircuitLeave a comment» on Seventh Circuit Narrows Reach of Armed Career Criminal Act

On Friday, in United States v. Smith, the Seventh Circuit held that a conviction in Indiana for criminal recklessness could not be used as a predicate offense for a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act.  Ordinarily, felons found in possession of a firearm face a maximum sentence of ten years.  However, the ACCA raises the minimum to fifteen years for felons who have at least three prior convictions for “a violent felony or a serious drug offense.”  The Seventh Circuit’s decision to vacate Smith’s ACCA sentence last week illustrates the importance of Begay v. United States, in which the Supreme Court held that DUI does not count as a “violent felony” for ACCA purposes.  Prior to April, when Begay was decided, Seventh Circuit precedent indicated that a felony conviction for criminal recklessness counted; now, in light of Begay, the Seventh Circuit has adopted a new approach. Continue reading “Seventh Circuit Narrows Reach of Armed Career Criminal Act”