Category Archives: Supreme Court

AltLaw Beta: Free Boolean-searches of SCOTUS/Federal Courts of Appeal Decisions

AltLaw

AltLaw, the newest and one of the more promising internet legal resources to hit the scene, is now up and running and available for free public advanced searches of case law.

It’s a sort of Google for Supreme Court and Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal decisions, and clearly holds promise to democratize the availability of relevant and useful case law in the States. LEXIS and Westlaw, of course, have long monopolized the availability of such information in any searchable or useful form, and have charged a pretty penny to those that want to easily search case or other resources (via “Natural Language” or the far more powerful, but underused, advanced/Boolean search engines). AltLaw now makes Boolean searching entirely free.

The catch: at startup, AltLaw’s coverage of SCOTUS case law extends fully only back to May 1991, and the Federal Courts of Appeals in a more irregular spread–the 7th Circuit back only to October 1999, and at best, the 1st Circuit back to 1992. Complete details about AltLaw’s initial coverage are posted HERE.

AltLaw is a joint project of Columbia Law School and the University of Colorado Law School. The site touts, amazingly, advanced searching options akin to LEXIS and Westlaw, including proximity searching, Boolean searches, concentration searches, wildcard searches (my fave), among others. The site also intimates that West Reporter Citations will be added.

Yet another step in making U.S. case law readily available to the citizenry, along the lines of what Cornell’s indispensible Legal Information Institute has done, for example, in making the U.S. Code and Code of Federal Regulations, among LII’s many other items, very quickly searchible and accessible for free.

Thanks to fellow appellate litigator Greg May at The California Blog of Appeal, and Harvard’s Info/Law for the story.

Lime

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Filed under Appellate Law, Criminal Law, Education, International, Law, Supreme Court, Tech

Crack v. Cocaine: The Supreme Court to Rule on Decreased Punishment for Powder Cocaine

The Supreme Court added to its docket United States v. Kimbrough, 06-6330, which involves the application of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“Guidelines”).

Note – Crack cocaine (hereinafter “crack“) is cocaine hydrochloride that is processed with baking soda to form of cocaine capable of being smoked. Cocaine in powder form will be referred to as “cocaine.”

Synopsis – Kimbrough was sentenced to 120 months for possession of 50 grams of crack cocaine. The range under the Guidelines was 168 – 210 months. The judge made the downward departure from the Guidelines based upon his disagreement with the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. This disparity in sentencing is known as the “100:1 crack/powder ratio,” which means that a defendant who deals 100 pounds of powder cocaine faces the same punishment as the defendant who deals 1 pound of crack.

Issue – The Court will decide whether a judge may deviate from the Guidelines if he disagrees with the decreased punishment for powder cocaine by giving a shorter sentence than required.

State of the Law – In United States v. Booker, the Supreme Court held that sentence enhancements, under the Guidelines, based upon facts found by the sentencing court and not a jury, violated the Sixth Amendment. The Booker majority remedied this Continue reading

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Filed under Appellate Law, Law, Supreme Court

Lawyering Tip: RSS Legal Feeds

If any of you use RSS readers or depend on the internet for news related to your profession (or simply for enjoyment), you should be familiar with Netvibes. Netvibes is perhaps one of the more elegant and streamlined RSS readers out there. It’s been my intention to post a full review of the site in a future posting.

Until then, I’m publishing my law-related feeds in the shared section of Netvibes. The feeds, almost 50 sites in all, are a compilation of several dozen of the best legal sites and blogs out there, and via Netvibes, makes reading the content quite easy.

Simply float your mouse over a given headline, and you’ll get a bubble with a paragraph selection of the news item or blog post. Click on the headline, and you’ll be given a mini-RSS reader within Netvibes, without actually having to exit to another website. I’ve played around with software-based and web-based readers, including Windows Live, Google, and others, but I’ve continued to return to Netvibes as my main reader. The interface is very fast, and makes quickly locating the articles of interest a breeze.

Harry Lime’s Legal Feeds via Netvibes. Enjoy! And please send any good sites my way, I’d be glad to add to the pot.
HL

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Filed under Appellate Law, Criminal Law, Law, Military Justice, Military Law, Supreme Court, Tech, Windows Vista

Supreme Court or YouTube: Scott v. Harris

Scott v. Harris, 127 S.Ct. 1769 (2007), involves a 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 action against a state police officer. Harris was involved in a high-speed chase, during which he was being chased by the police. Deputy Scott pulled Harris over by hitting the rear of his car, known as Pursuit Intervention Technique, attempting to get him to come to a stop. Harris lost control, crashed, and thereafter found his limbs inoperative.

Harris sued Deputy Scott on the theory that hitting the back of his vehicle was excessive force resulting in an unreasonable search under the Forth Amendment. The 11th circuit held that Deputy Scott was not entitled to immunity, because the law was sufficiently clear at the time to give reasonable law enforcement authorities fair notice that ramming a vehicle under the circumstances of this case was unlawful.

The Supreme Court found that the threshold question of whether Deputy Scott violated the Fourth Amendment was resolved, in large part, by the video Continue reading

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UPDATE: Court of Military Commissions and Review Rules available

The Pentagon has freshly updated and made available to the public a cartload of Military Commissions materials. Earlier this month we noted that the site hadn’t been updated for several months. That’s been remedied. On the site are:

  • Rules of Practice for the Court of Military Commission and Review
    • After a very quick perusal, I notice nothing too remarkable here–they look like, as we were led to suspect, a typical Court of Criminal Appeals’ rules, modified for the Commissions context. Many rules are footnoted “taken from ACCA (Army Court) rule” this or “Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces Rule” that. I will note that Rule 30 states that “The Clerk of Court is authorized to release unclassified filings with the CMCR and CMCR decisions. Filings and decisions will be available at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/commissions.html.” That openness is certainly welcome, hopefully the link will be continually and timely updated.
    • Admission to practice requirements (as if you’d want to): “to be eligible for admission to the Bar of the CMCR, an attorney must be a member in good standing of the Bar of the highest court of a state, territory, commonwealth, or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, or of the Bar of a Federal Court.” Proof of good standing is required. Foreign attorneys may gain honorary membership.
  • Approval and Promulgation of Rules of Practice
  • Multiple recent documents from the Khadr Commissions case that AO has reported on, inter alia, HERE (Khadr and Hamdan dismissal), HERE (reconsideration denial), and HERE (Khadr appeal), including: Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Appellate Law, International, Law, Military Justice, Military Law, Supreme Court

POTUS applies Geneva Conventions to the CIA

The President yesterday signed an Executive Order, entitled “Interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to a Program of Detention and Interrogation Operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

The White House Press release is HERE, and the full text of the Executive Order follows below my brief analysis.

Note that the Military Commissions Act requires this Executive Order. MCA, Sec 6(a)(3) : states that “As provided by the Constitution and by this section, the President has the authority for the United States to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and to promulgate higher standards and administrative regulations for violations of treaty obligations which are not grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.” The section continues to state that POTUS “shall issue [such] interpretations . . . by Executive Order,” and that such EO “shall be authoritative (execpt as to grave breaches of common Article 3) as a matter of United States law, in the same manner as other administrative regulations.”

As you read, note a few additional things. First off, the EO requires that CIA detainees “receive the basic necessities of life.” However, the Washington Post reports that a “senior administration official” states that “sleep” does not fall within the “basic necessities” category.

Second, the President reaffirms his 7 February 2002 determination that al Qaeda, Taliban, “and associated forces” are “unlawful enemy combatants who are not entitled to the Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Appellate Law, International, Iraq, Law, Military Justice, Military Law, Politics, Supreme Court

Parker Second Amendment Case headed to SCOTUS

We reported earlier that Parker v. District of Columbia, 04-7041 (D.C.Cir, 9 Mar 2007), the D.C. Circuit Court that struck down parts of the 31-year old D.C. gun laws as unconstitutional, was headed to the Supreme Court.

Not surprisingly, today that became a reality. Although the petition was due August 7th, D.C. officials announced today they’d be asking for a 30 day extension to file their petition. At a press conference, Mayor Adrian Fenty announced: “We have made the determination that this law can and should be
defended and we are willing to take our case to the highest court in
the land to protect the city’s residents. Our handgun law has saved
countless lives–keeping guns out of the hands of those who would
hurt others or themselves.”

If SCOTUS takes the case, it will be only the second time in 70 years that the Court has considered the breadth of the Second Amendment.

More as the case develops.

Lime out

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