Sixth Amendment

In a criminal case in federal court, if you are acquitted at trial of almost all of the charges against you, you can still be sentenced as though you were convicted of all of the charges against you, when the judge disagrees with the jury’s decision. That is off-the-rails crazy.

The point of a trial, of course, is to figure out if someone is going to go to prison for doing something. The jury’s decision about what a person did should be what controls what crime the person is sentenced for committing. Yet that’s not what judges do.

To be sure, there are some cases where judges use sentencing decisions to express concerns, perhaps, about the jury’s verdict. Such as when Barry Bonds was given a light sentence for committing something that was probably not a crime. Or when a woman in Indiana was convicted in a highly questionable prosecution after being inappropriately skewered with unfair questions on cross.

But that’s a judge using her power to set a sentence while respecting the decision of a jury. She accepts what the jury decided, then takes that into account — in addition to other things — when imposing sentence.

When a judge gives someone more time in prison based on something that a jury already decided the person wasn’t guilty of, it’s very different. That’s an insult to the jury and is really hard to square with how the law of federal sentencing has been developing lately.

This week, the Supreme Court had a chance to fix that. It didn’t.

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The white-collar bar is a varied and wonderful thing.

On one hand, there are the large-firm players — the FCPA mongers and the folks doing criminal antitrust work who fly all over the globe representing clients in lucrative conference room litigation that will rarely see a courtroom.

These cases are well-funded. Even if the client has a higher chance of French kissing the Chief Justice during the State of the Union address than of being indicted, as long as he’s indemnified by a large company, many firms will do everything they possibly can to be completely and fully ready for an indictment that will never come. I haven’t yet heard of a mock jury for a client in an investigation that isn’t going to be indicted, but I think that’s only because no one has thought it up yet. (And, to my friends currently representing such indemnified clients, you’re very welcome for the suggestion.)

For these folks, attorney-client privilege exists and is relatively easy to preserve. It’s good to be pre-indictment and it’s good to be indemnified.

But, for the rest of the folks accused of white-collar crimes, our Department of Justice is only too happy to make folks choose between a preserved attorney-client privilege and the Sixth Amendment.

How?

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That’s what some people are saying.

It’s a brutal attack on an attorney running for governor, blasting him for representing criminal defendants. How can he protect battered women when he helped their abusers beat the rap? How indeed. Oh, and it’s not just that he helped their abusers, he did so for money. Because counseling the accused for fees in this country is where all the money is. It’s a seedy racket no way at all as admirable as, I don’t know, lobbying elected officials for political favors at the expense of the citizenry. If only this guy was smart enough to take hundreds of thousands to poison rivers and streams he wouldn’t be such a scumbag.

This ad is just goddamned brilliant at connecting the disingenuous dots for the easily duped.

And this message was “approved” — ultimately — by a former prosecutor who’s now being investigated by the office he once led….

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* There’s a guy called the “Good-Grammar Bandit” out there and he’s a high priority target of the FBI? Allow me to take this opportunity to tell the FBI their doing a good job. [Lowering the Bar]

* Some folks have asked me incredulously about yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs item about Louisiana and Oregon allowing convictions with non-unanimous juries. So here’s some background on how that came to be. [Constitutional Accountability Center]

* Speaking of Louisiana, a lawyer has filed suit against Morris Bart, a major personal injury law firm, for unpaid wages. From what we’re hearing this may be the tip of the iceberg for these sorts of allegations — lots of people have been leaving the firm recently and that’s a recipe for complaints going both ways. [Louisiana Record]

* Florida may not regulate real guns any time soon, but one 11th Circuit judge is ready to regulate the hell out of shotgun pleadings! [South Florida Lawyers Blog]

* Lawyers are bad at social media. They’re bad at social reality, why did we expect them to be good at social virtuality? [CMS Wire]

* ADA’s father was kidnapped (and recovered). Yikes. [WRAL]

* A follow-up on our prior Sriracha lawsuit coverage. [USA Today]

* A look at the legal issues in the most recent episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you saw it (and Captain America to the extent they are intertwined), you know there were some heavy legal issues at play. [Legal Geeks]

* Want to see a really terrible version of 12 Angry Men? Watch it in Louisiana or Oregon, the two states that allow criminal convictions even when jurors are holding out. The Supreme Court has an opportunity to fix that, let’s see if they will. [Constitutional Accountability Center]

* Speaking of 12 Angry Men, this chart of the Dungeons & Dragons alignments of each juror is entertaining. [Imgur]

* The judge in the Janice and Ira Schacter kerfuffle invoked Above the Law in her decision as proof that the accusations against Ira Schacter were in the public eye. Thanks for specifically promoting us over the rest of the NY media Justice Laura Drager! [NY Post]

* Watch a bunch of law students talk about cats on Facebook. Will it end in douchebag posturing and threats of lawsuits? Of course it will! [Legal Cheek]

* “Volunteer Liquor Commissioner” was disciplined for operating a Facebook page for people complaining about the police. He’s suing. Better question is what does a “Volunteer Liquor Commissioner” even do? [IT-Lex]

* Allegations that Disney ripped off the trailer for Frozen from an animated short. They should really let it go. [Hollywood Reporter]

* Chief Justice John Roberts says he’s a minimalist. He’s wrong. [Election Law Blog]

* Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP. The IRS decided to keep going with the old product. So now your tax records are at risk. Enjoy the fruits of budgeting with anti-IRS legislators! [TaxProf Blog]

* Guys in my high school White House dropped threats to veto defense bills authorizing infinite detention of U.S. citizens all the time, it was no big deal. Nothing like bastardizing the Sixth Amendment. [New York Times]

* So much for occupying the court system, eh? This judge won’t budge on dismissals, and more than half of the OWS protesters who appeared in court yesterday accepted an offer over going to trial. [Bloomberg]

* Gibson Dunn says that it will file a motion to dismiss Paul Ceglia’s Facebook suit in January. Now taking bets on whether Ceglia will have another lawyer by then. [Buffalo News]

* Just like Michael Jackson, Conrad Murray’s money was gone too soon. He’s requesting a public defender to handle the appeal of his conviction for involuntary manslaughter. [CNN]

* Lindsay Lohan was finally able to please Judge Sautner during her probation progress hearing. She was also able to please her adoring fans, because she reportedly flashed her bra. [USA Today]

Facebook’s lawyers have been looking for a rumble over the company’s responsibility to turn over user account information in legal cases. Now they’ve got one, thanks to a California juror and his grandstanding defense attorney.

The case stems from a gang violence criminal trial. Members of the Killa Mobb were being tried for a 2008 attack on a San Francisco man at a gas station. One of the 12 angry apathetic men in the jury box, Arturo Ramirez, posted to Facebook during the course of the trial that it was “boring.” Now the Killa Mobb’s defense attorneys want to get a hold of those postings, and any responses from Ramirez’s friends, to prove that he may have been biased — so the Mobb members can get a new trial.

Facebook refused to turn over Ramirez’s information, citing a 1986 law that protects Americans’ electronic communications. Ramirez originally told the Sacramento Bee that he was willing to turn the status messages over, but that was before he linked up with his own defense attorney, Ken Rosenfeld, who looks like he might like a little media attention. Rosenfeld’s now planning to fight tooth and nail to keep his client’s Facebook privacy settings high…

Continue reading at The Not-So Private Parts….