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”
On Friday, the Virginia Supreme Court handed down its revised decision in Jaynes v. Commonwealth, an appeal of a criminal conviction under Virginia’s anti-spam statute. The defendant, Jeremy Jaynes, was at the time of his arrest one of the most prolific spammers in the world, sending at least 10 million e-mails a day using 16 high-speed data lines, according to prosecutors. He used his e-mails to sell dubious software products, raking in $400,000 to $750,000 per month.
Jaynes argued that Virginia’s anti-spam statute violated the First Amendment. The statute prohibits sending “unsolicited bulk electronic mail” after having intentionally falsified the e-mail header information, i.e., the information indicating the source of the e-mail. That’s a little different than your average spam statute, which typically prohibits only “unsolicited commercial e-mail.” According to the unanimous Virginia Supreme Court (four members of which switched their votes on rehearing), prohibiting non-commercial bulk e-mailers from forging the header information violates the First Amendment right to speak anonymously.
In a fascinating case decided this week, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed the suppression of a video recording apparently showing a husband having sexual intercourse with his wife, a stroke victim who was unconscious and lived in a nursing home. See State v. Johnson (Appeal No. 2007AP1485-CR, 9/11/2008). The husband was charged with second degree sexual assault, a class C felony, which can result in imprisonment up to 40 years. The offense occurs when a defendant “has sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a person who the defendant knows is unconscious.” Wis. Stat. § 940.225(2)(d). The statute further provides that “A defendant shall not be presumed to be incapable of violating this section because of marriage to the complainant.” Wis. Stat. § 940.225(6). Continue reading “Privacy Interests in Extremis”
Now that classes have started and the interview season is upon us, it’s always interesting to examine what law firms will do to be attractive to law students. As a creative method to demonstrate to law students that it truly is different, Halleland Lewis in Minneapolis developed an interactive website to demonstrate the questions and answers in a typical law firm interview. First, this website is hilarious, and bravo to Halleland for breaking the mold. Second, this is a great example of ostensibly understanding the difference between what people say and what they mean. Finally, if Halleland actually has the work environment that it describes, it sounds as if problem-solving, teamwork, and collaboration are all valued. I think I know some students who should be calling you shortly!
Cross posted at Indisputably.
I recently screened The Paper Chase (1973) in one of my law school classes. While the majority of current law students are more familiar with recent pop cultural portrayals of legal education such as Legally Blonde (2001), The Paper Chase seems to me to set the stage for those portrayals, especially through the character of Professor Kingsfield and the images from his menacing Socratic classes. I interpret The Paper Chase as the fictional story of a law student encountering and then overcoming the dehumanizing forces of legal education. Continue reading “The Paper Chase: What Does the Film Tell Us About Contemporary Legal Education?”
This important question is explored in a forthcoming mini-symposium in the Boston University Law Review. The lead article, written by Professors Jennifer Collins, Ethan Leib, and Dan Markel, argues that if criminal law is going to be used to enforce the responsibilities of family members to one another, then there also ought to be ways for people in other types of caregiving relationships to make their responsibilities criminally enforceable. Continue reading “Should Criminal Law Be Used to Enforce Family Responsibilities?”
In an unsual case (as far as the success rates of these cases (and here) go), and one that might still be overturned by an appellate court, the DOL’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) finds in favor of a mine cleanup whistleblower.
In Dixon v. Dept. of the Interior, No. 06-147 (8/28/08), the ARB found that a federal employee of the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) engaged in protected activity under the whistleblower provisions of several environmental statutes. Consequently, he properly received back pay and compensatory damages. Continue reading “A Whistleblower Wins! A Whistleblower Wins!”
When I became a legal writing professor, one of the first and most surprising things I learned was how important the “IRAC” (Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion) formula has become in most legal writing teaching nowadays. Almost every legal writing textbook relies on some version of the formula. In fact, so many legal writing professors have developed their own personalized version of the formula that the variations of the acronym form a dizzying alphabet soup: CREAC, CRuPAC, RAFADAC, IRLAFARC, etc., etc., etc.
The rise of IRAC seems to have gone hand in hand with the increasing professionalization of legal writing teaching. At the same time, legal writing teachers have long debated the uses and misuses of IRAC in legal writing and in legal writing teaching. For example, almost the entire November 1995 issue of The Second Draft (bulletin of the Legal Writing Institute) was devoted to the question of “The Value of IRAC.” Continue reading “Did You Learn About IRAC in Law School? How Did IRAC Become Such an Important Part of Legal Writing Teaching? And Should it Be?”
The federal money-laundering statute prohibits both the concealment of proceeds from crime and the use of such proceeds to promote illegal activities. While designed primarily with drug kingpins in mind, the statute’s broad language can easily become a trap for low-level criminals doing fairly routine things. (I posted recently on a good example of an aggressive use of the money-laundering statute.) Expansive readings of the statute mean that the penalties attached by Congress to many predicate offenses become meaningless, as nearly everyone becomes subject to the twenty-year maximum prison term triggered by a money-laundering conviction. Responding to this concern, the Supreme Court recently adopted narrow constructions of the money-laundering statute in two cases, United States v. Santos, 128 S.Ct. 2020 (2008), and Cuellar v. United States, 128 S.Ct. 1994 (2008). The cases may point the way towards a more discriminating money-laundering jurisprudence that attempts to reserve the harsh penalties of the statute for the most deserving defendants. Continue reading “Supreme Court Raises Doubts About the Money-Laundering Trap”
This afternoon in Eisenberg Hall, three distinguished scholars kicked off the first installment of the Centennial Symposia celebrating the 100th anniversary of Marquette University’s acquisition of the Milwaukee Law School and the Milwaukee University Law School. (A podcast is here.) This session, entitled “The Origins of Marquette University Law School,” featured Joseph A. Ranney, a legal historian, shareholder in DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C., and adjunct professor at the Law School; Professor J. Gordon Hylton of the Law School (who is organizing the symposia); and Dr. Thomas J. Jablonsky, the Harry G. John Professor of Urban Studies at Marquette.
I am linking here to an interesting article from the ABA Journal last week pointing out that a lawyer’s reputation is much like your savings account-add a little to it each year and it can make you rich over time. I like this framework of reputation for two reasons: One, it suggests that a good reputation is worth money in the bank. We know anecdotally and from laboratory studies that this is true. Second, the idea of savings in a bank account is a great analogy in terms of reminding lawyers that every little thing they do can help or hurt that reputation. It’s not just the end of year bonuses that add to your savings, it’s the monthly deposits as well. Similarly, it’s not just the grand gestures in large negotiations that make your reputation, it’s how you act on a daily basis with your counterparts Although the book referred to in the ABA Journal is for young lawyers, I think this provides good advice all around!
Cross posted on Indisputably.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Exec Scott Walker laid out their visions for the future of mass transportation in Milwaukee at today’s On the Issues with Mike Gousha program at the Law School. (A podcast is here.) The transportation issue invites vision statements in part because $91.5 million in federal funds are set aside for mass transit in Milwaukee and in part because Milwaukee’s once prized transit system is badly broken. Without an agreement between Barrett and Walker, the federal funds are unlikely to be released. But an agreement between those leaders will be hard to come by: the mayor looks to cities that are growing and thriving and sees rail service as a key component of the local transportation strategy; the county exec looks at Milwaukee’s deteriorating bus system and wants those federal funds to shore up and improve county bus transportation.
Where Barrett sees local rail service as a critical economic development tool that can invigorate the region, Walker sees inflexible routes and minimal practical benefit. Where Walker sees improved bus service as a reliable system for moving workers and students, Barrett sees a county bus system that is in a “death spiral” which cannot be fixed just with more buses. Continue reading “Mayor Barrett and County Exec Walker on the Future of Mass Transit in Milwaukee”