Archive | Blind Justice

Court says climate scientist can sue conservative shills for defamation

Climate Scientist Dr. Michael Mann

Climate scientist Michael Mann was given a huge Christmas gift last week when a Court of Appeals ruled that he could move forward with a defamation suit against two conservative writers for the Competitive Enterprise Institute who published lies about Mann and his research on climate change. The Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this. Transcription… Continue Reading →

How The Theocratic Right Wing Guarantees Its Legacy: Grooming Future Judges

New Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles

Earlier this month RhRealityCheck published a chilling exposé of a little-known organization which is quietly supporting, training, and placing law students in key internships in order to promote them into the judiciary. The group promoting these students — Alliance Defense Fund via the Blackstone Legal Fellowship — is a key connector between the fundamentalist Christian right… Continue Reading →

Supreme Court decision effectively eliminates key Virginia blood testing law

The good part is, it does uphold the 4th. The bad part is, if cops rely more on breath tests (which can be unreliable, depending on how often the machines are calibrated), a lot of offenders will get off and will be driving around our streets. As the victim of a hit-and-run, I’m not happy about that:

A Supreme Court decision on June 23, 2016, is expected to have a big impact on the way Virginia drunk driving cases are handled. Legal experts believe that the high court’s Birchfield v. North Dakota ruling, where they decided that a blood draw was invasive to a person’s body and that police officers need to obtain a search warrant before requiring a person to participate in a blood test, is going to force officers to rely more prominently on breath tests when dealing with potential DUI cases.

The high court’s decision will also impact state legislators, who have been given the task of revising a section of the state code that makes it a criminal act when a multiple time offender refuses a blood test after they have been suspected of driving under the influence. While the Birchfield v. North Dakota ruling does still allow the prosecution to use blood tests as DUI evidence, it is no longer constitutional to criminalize someone for refusing them and makes it tougher in most situations to force a blood test on a potential suspect.
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Emoluments clause: Could overturning 185 years of precedent let Trump off the hook?

Independence Hall

ProPublica recently took a look at the Emoluments Clause, the provision of the Constitution which seems to ban payments from foreign countries to Donald Trump’s businesses once he becomes president unless Congress consents. But at least one scholar, whose work we inadvertently overlooked, insists that the clause does not apply to presidents, vice presidents or members… Continue Reading →

2016 recount update – Judge tells Michigan: Start immediately


The Green Party’s push for presidential recounts swung into high gear early Monday as a federal judge in Michigan dismissed GOP objections and ordered that state’s recount to begin immediately, and Jill Stein’s campaign filed a federal suit seeking a statewide recount in Pennsylvania, whose election system they called a “national disgrace.” Michigan Federal Court The… Continue Reading →

Florida Supreme Court rules against arbitration in nursing-home impairment case


With over 46 million people aged 65 or older in the United States, the issue of quality care for the elderly has reached a critical peak. Nursing homes across the country are having to answer tough questions about their practices, and the courts are starting to turn in favor of the American people.

A recent Florida Supreme Court decision reflects this growing sentiment that the elderly should be well-respected and given their full rights under the law. On Thursday, September 22, 2016, justices on the court ruled that a lawsuit concerning injuries sustained at a nursing home should not go to arbitration and should be heard in a court of law.

The Miami-Dade County case revolved around a contract signed by Juan Mendez Jr. after his father, Juan Sr., started receiving care from the Hampton Court Nursing Center. The contract, signed in 2009, stated that if any legal dispute came up it would immediately go to arbitration instead of going through the courts and having a jury decide the outcome of the case.

However in 2011, Juan Sr. dealt with an infection that forced him to have his left eye removed. His son decided to take legal action and brought a lawsuit against the nursing home in support of his father; however, the nursing home continually delayed going to court by arguing that the contract signed should be enforced. Juan Sr. passed away in 2013, and the case was still being delayed by the Hampton Court Nursing Center.

A circuit judge and the 3rd District Court of Appeal sided in favor of the nursing home agreeing that the contract should be honored and that arbitration be used to resolve the case. However, the Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in favor of the plaintiff and argued that the father was not subject to required arbitration because the son had verified the contract without asking his father’s permission.

Justice James E.C. Perry wrote the majority opinion for the decision and argued that if the courts would not honor a contract that a person signs under serious duress, then they would not validate a contract that was signed in “the absence of the party’s agreement altogether.”

He also disavowed the notion that the son was acting as his father’s surrogate when he signed the contract. Perry believed that the father was of sound mind and could have appointed someone to be his guardian if the nursing home had given him the option.

He also believed that the father’s mental state had nothing to do with the case and that one cannot use “common law contract principles” to avoid complying with Florida legislature laws regarding guardianship.

Attorney Peter Tragos commented, “This case is just one of many around the country that have confronted the issue of allowing arbitration to stand when a resident or family member signs a contract before admission.”

The facts have obviously varied in each case, but Justice Perry believes that appeals courts have been divided when dealing with situations similar to that of the Mendez’ family. He felt that it was his duty to right the wrong that had been done to Juan Sr. and others like him in Florida and proudly helped overturn the decision.


A primer on permanent stalemate: Federal judicial selection, post-election


In the New Yorker’s October 3 issue, Jeffrey Toobin attempts to predict the future in “The Supreme Court After Scalia.” Mr. Toobin devotes much of the piece to discussing how the progressive-conservative balance of the Court might change with a ninth Justice replacing Scalia if Secretary Clinton or Donald Trump is elected, and the ensuing consequences… Continue Reading →

Another crime is live-streamed on Facebook

THE SHARD - Ciobul
After shooting is ex-wife and killing his son, a North Carolina man broadcast a confession of his crime and his intention to murder his in-laws and possibly take his own life on Facebook Live.

The man, Earl Valentine, began recording his confession on his cell phone from his car, stating that his ex-wife, Keisha Valentine, “deserved what she had coming” because she had lied to him and taken out a restraining order against him. Keisha Valentine survived the gunshot wound, but her teenage son, who was shot in the chest after confronting his father, did not. Her restraining order against her abusive ex-husband had recently expired.

It is not the first time evidence of a violent act has been broadcast on Facebook Live since its launch in April of this year.

In June, a man in France live-streamed from the bloody scene of double homicide in the home of a French police captain and his partner as he proclaimed his allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group and urged viewers to go out and kill police officers. In the same month, a young man live-streaming on Facebook as he walked down the streets of Chicago unwittingly recorded his own fatal shooting death.

The most viral of the Facebook Live recordings was that of Philando Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who began live-streaming after a police traffic stop turned fatal when the officer shot and killed Castile inside the car. In the video that sparked outrage across the country after reaching 5 million people, Reynolds sits in the passenger’s seat beside her boyfriend whose shirt is soaked in blood from the wound with her four-year-old watching from the backseat. She speaks with the police officers calmly as Castile is fading beside her and the police officer seems to panic in response.

The video posted to Reynold’s Facebook was removed by Facebook moderators for a few hours because of the sensitive material, but later went back up after people protested. Videos on Facebook that are flagged for having disturbing material now have a disclaimer that prompts the viewer to respond whether or not they want to continue watching.

Along with other streaming platforms, like Twitter’s Periscope, Facebook Live has become a major player in the realm of real-time video sharing on social media, allowing users to record moments as they are happening. This new format of video streaming personal moments in real-time has thrust Facebook into the spotlight with grisly footage appearing multiple times since the launch.

While Facebook has appointed a team to monitor the live-streams, it is a difficult endeavor to censor violent or obscene content that users post when it is happening. As the Facebook Live moderators are seeing the videos and judging the content, viewers around the world can also watch, too, challenging them to establish rules for themselves as watchdogs and curators and also for the producers and consumers of these videos on Facebook.

Defense attorney Angie DiPietro commented, “Like police camera recordings, these live videos streamed by users add another layer of criminal evidence that can appear in court, incriminating those who opt to record their own confessions or the violent acts perpetrated by others. “

The sharing feature has also led to criminal charges as well. In April of this year a young woman in Ohio went to court with a slew of serious charges against her after recording the rape of her friend on Periscope, which she claimed that she videotaped for evidence. Her lawyer pleaded on her behalf that she was caught up in the moment and its intensity without considering the consequences of the video.
In the case of Earl Valentine, his Facebook Live confession was reposted to YouTube, and local law enforcement agencies in Norlina, North Carolina, just shy of the Virginia border, began searching for him. With the help of the FBI and U.S. Marshals, they found Valentine at a Days Inn in Virginia, where he shot and killed himself upon seeing that he was surrounded by police. He did not harm his in-laws as he had promised in his video.

Had he been taken in custody alive, Earl Valentine would have faced serious criminal charges including first-degree murder and attempted murder. Instead, his confession will continue to live on in the Internet, proof of the muddy waters of social media live-streaming and the new frontier it has created for criminal justice.



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