Tag Archives: Supreme Court

LA Supreme Court: It’s Reasonable to Believe “Give Me a Lawyer Dog” was Request for a Dog Who is a Lawyer

Lawyer Dog Louisiana Supreme Court Canine Attorney

Lawyer Dog should really ask Grumpy Judge to recuse herself. #JusSayin

Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a ruling on a motion to suppress evidence against Warren Demesme, who is currently awaiting trial in New Orleans. By a 6-1 majority the court denied that motion, which maintained that statements Demesme had made should be thrown because the police had ignored his request for legal counsel during interrogations.

What’s gotten a lot of attention (and rightfully so) since that ruling is the courts’ contention that Demesme’s request was ambiguous and unclear. But even more so for the reasoning behind the ruling. Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly argued in his response to the motion that Demesme’s statement, “just give me a lawyer dog,” could be misinterpreted by a “reasonable officer” based on the use of the words “lawyer dog.”

In a brief accompanying the decision, Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton agreed that the defendant’s use of “lawyer dog” could be misconstrued to mean something else and therefore did not qualify as a request for counsel.

Via the Washington Post:

Warren Demesme, then 22, was being interrogated by New Orleans police in October 2015 after two young girls claimed he had sexually assaulted them. It was the second time he’d been brought in, and he was getting a little frustrated, court records show. He had repeatedly denied the crime. Finally, Demesme told the detectives:

“This is how I feel, if y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog ’cause this is not what’s up.” The punctuation, arguably critical to Demesme’s use of the sobriquet “dog,” was provided by the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office in a brief, and then adopted by Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton.

Demesme subsequently made admissions to the crime, prosecutors said, and was charged with aggravated rape and indecent behavior with a juvenile. He is being held in the Orleans Parish jail awaiting trial.

The public defender for Orleans Parish, Derwyn D. Bunton, took on Demesme’s case and filed a motion to suppress Demesme’s statement. In a court brief, Bunton noted that police are legally bound to stop questioning anyone who asks for a lawyer. “Under increased interrogation pressure,” Bunton wrote, “Mr. Demesme invokes his right to an attorney, stating with emotion and frustration, ‘Just give me a lawyer.’” The police did not stop their questioning, Bunton argued, “when Mr. Demesme unequivocally and unambiguously asserted his right to counsel.”

Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton

Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton

Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly responded in his brief that Demesme’s “reference to a lawyer did not constitute an unambiguous invocation of his right to counsel, because the defendant communicated that whether he actually wanted a lawyer was dependent on the subjective beliefs of the officers.” Daly added, “A reasonable officer under the circumstances would have understood, as [the detectives] did, that the defendant only might be invoking his right to counsel.”

Bunton’s motion to throw out Demesme’s statement was rejected by the trial court and the appeals court, so he took it to the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in a ruling issued last Friday and first reported by Reason, could have denied the appeal without issuing a written ruling, which it does in most cases. But Justice Crichton decided to write a brief concurrence “to spotlight the very important constitutional issue regarding the invocation of counsel during a law enforcement interview.”

Crichton noted that Louisiana case law has ruled that “if a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal . . . the cessation of questioning is not required.” Crichton then concluded: “In my view, the defendant’s ambiguous and equivocal reference to a ‘lawyer dog’ does not constitute an invocation of counsel that warrants termination of the interview.”

So…

There’s a lot of things wrong with that decision. The most obvious issue is that they didn’t actually provide him with a dog who is a lawyer, as they claim they thought he had requested. It’s probably not the wisest move to request a dog to represent you in court, but if he’s a good boy and graduated from an accredited law school, who am I to cast aspersions?

Of course, that’s kind of the biggest problem with the “logic” of this ruling. They couldn’t give him a “lawyer dog” because, outside of memes on the internets, it’s not an actual thing. At this point in history, not one single dog has ever managed to pass the bar exam. Not Lassie, not Rin Tin Tin, not Benji, not even Snoopy. Scooby Doo is way to high to even think about taking the SAT’s, let alone the LSAT’s, and don’t even get me started on Marmaduke.

If any dog could have pulled it off, it obviously would have been Brian Griffin, but he died tragically after eating chocolate out of the garbage years ago. So, he’s not available right now.

What it boils down to is, if somebody asks for legal council, as is their constitutional right under the Sixth Amendment, you shouldn’t just be able to pretend you didn’t understand them because they used some (not uncommon) slang. In fact, if for some reason they ask for a “lawyer dog,” but there aren’t any available (or willing to work pro bone-o), then you give them a lawyer human instead.

It’s hard to have a lot of faith in the U.S. Injustice System, especially after rulings like this (not to mention all the coerced confessions and false convictions they allow for). However, you would hope that some sense of common decency and shame would compel the next appeals court this goes in front of to render a proper ruling on this nonsense.

I have a suspicion this might be a big part of the reason why the State of Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world.

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Booking Fees and Incarceration Costs; The Latest Revenue Generation Tools For Money Hungry Governments

The Supreme Court is preparing to consider the legality of a couple of new methods the police and courts have devised to generate revenue for the State. Several states, including Minnesota, Colorado, and Kentucky, have begun implementing fees and “incarceration cost” reimbursement charges against those who are arrested as a way to raise money for police and governmental budgets.

Much like their earlier forerunner to policing for profit, asset forfeiture and seizure laws, these fees are not based on a conviction and many times those subjected to them don’t even end up having charges filed against them. Another similarity is that the process for recouping them are either non-existent or so difficult or expensive that it generally makes it not worth the effort and most people simply allow the theft to stand.

Of course, that’s the point, since the policies have nothing to do with justice, but rather are solely intended to raise revenue for the State and its enforcement structures.

Via the New York Times:

Corey Statham had $46 in his pockets when he was arrested in Ramsey County, Minn., and charged with disorderly conduct. He was released two days later, and the charges were dismissed.

But the county kept $25 of Mr. Statham’s money as a “booking fee.” It returned the remaining $21 on a debit card subject to an array of fees. In the end, it cost Mr. Statham $7.25 to withdraw what was left of his money.

The Supreme Court will soon consider whether to hear Mr. Statham’s challenge to Ramsey County’s fund-raising efforts, which are part of a national trend to extract fees and fines from people who find themselves enmeshed in the criminal justice system.

Kentucky bills people held in its jails for the costs of incarcerating them, even if all charges are later dismissed. In Colorado, five towns raise more than 30 percent of their revenue from traffic tickets and fines. In Ferguson, Mo., “city officials have consistently set maximizing revenue as the priority for Ferguson’s law enforcement activity,” a Justice Department report found last year.

An unusual coalition of civil rights organizations, criminal defense lawyers and conservative and libertarian groups have challenged these sorts of policies, saying they confiscate private property without constitutional protections and lock poor people into a cycle of fines, debts and jail.

The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a separate challenge to a Colorado law that makes it hard for criminal defendants whose convictions were overturned to obtain refunds of fines and restitution, often amounting to thousands of dollars. That case, Nelson v. Colorado, will be argued on Jan. 9.

The Colorado law requires people who want their money back to file a separate lawsuit and prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence.

The sums at issue are smaller in Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul. But they are taken from people who have merely been arrested. Some of them will never be charged with a crime. Others, like Mr. Statham, will have the charges against them dismissed. Still others will be tried but acquitted.

It is all the same to the county, which does not return the $25 booking fee even if the arrest does not lead to a conviction. Instead, it requires people like Mr. Statham to submit evidence to prove they are entitled to get their money back.

When the case was argued last year before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Paul, a lawyer for the county acknowledged that its process was in tension with the presumption of innocence.

“There is some legwork involved,” the lawyer, Jason M. Hiveley said, but noted that it is possible for blameless people to get their $25 back. “They can do it as soon as they have the evidence that they haven’t been found guilty.”

The legwork proved too much for Mr. Statham. He never got his $25 back.

He did get a debit card for the remaining $21. But there was no practical way to extract his cash without paying some kind of fee. Among them: $1.50 a week for “maintenance” of the unwanted card, starting after 36 hours; $2.75 for using an A.T.M. to withdraw money; $3 for transferring the balance to a bank account; and $1.50 for checking the balance.

In its appeals court brief, the county said the debit cards were provided “for the convenience of the inmates,” who might find it hard to cash a check.

Mr. Statham is represented by Michael A. Carvin, a prominent conservative lawyer who has argued Supreme Court caseschallenging the Affordable Care Act and fees charged by public unions.

Mr. Carvin said the county’s motives were not rooted in solicitude for the people it had arrested. “Revenue-starved local governments are increasingly turning toward fees like Ramsey County’s in order to bridge their budgetary gaps,” he wrote in a Supreme Court brief. “But the unilateral decision of a single police officer cannot possibly justify summarily confiscating money.”

“Providing a profit motive to make arrests,” he said, “gives officers an incentive to make improper arrests.”

Obviously, these debit cards with their outrageous fees are anything but convenient. Also, while it’s beside the point from the start, the notion that an arbitrary fee based on no crime having been committed is valid because in the eyes of the courts it is not a large fee represents a unnecessary and undue hardship for many poor people that are barely making it on what they have already.

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Update: Investigation Opened Into Misconduct and Fraud by Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Bryan Jeffers of South East Missouri (SEMO) CopBlock, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. It is an update of a previous submission about potential misconduct and fraud by Sheriff Dean Finch of Wayne County, Missouri. This post was originally published at the website of SEMO CopBlock under the title, “Did Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch violate the Hatch Act?

In addition, Bryan stated:

This Email was sent to me right before I shared this story.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has opened a case file and started an investigation into Sheriff Dean Finch’s misconduct. It would be great if Dean is charged and convicted of breaking the Hatch Act. It may not land him in prison as we’d prefer, however, it will be justice, no matter how small the punishment may be.

dean-finch-hatch-act-investigation

Click for full size image.

Did Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch Violate the Hatch Act?

To understand if Dean Finch violated the Hatch Act we first have to understand what the Hatch Act is about. The Hatch Act of 1939 was named after Senator Carl Hatch a Democrat from New Mexico who wrote it. The Hatch Act is officially, an act to prevent pernicious political activities. The act was amended in 2012. As such, we will focus on the 2012 amended version.

In 2012 President Barack Obama signed the “Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012.” It modified penalties under the Hatch Act to allow for disciplinary actions in addition to removal for federal employees; clarified the applicability to the District of Columbia of provisions that cover state and local governments; limited the prohibition on state and local employees running for elective office to employees whose salary is paid completely by federal loans or grants. (The complete law can be found here.)

According to subsection 7324. Political activities on duty; prohibitions
Picture

PictureSEMO Cop Block obtained evidence of Dean Finch allegedly violating three of four prohibitions. In the picture provided, Dean Finch is seen at the Ozark Heritage Festival, campaigning in uniform with badge and belt present, with a county issued shirt on.

According to Subsection 7324, “An An employee may not engage in political activity, while the employee is on duty. As you can see from the picture provided the Sheriff is on duty, and in uniform.  Both of the accusations could be covered by Subsection 7324 A(1), and A(3).


In the festival’s parade, Dean Finch allegedly violated the Hatch Act early the same day by campaigning in a parade while he was driving the vehicle that he leases to the county, and is paid $0.54/mile when he drives it (read more here)
Did Dean add the mileage he drove during the parade to his mileage log he is paid from? According to the subsection 7324 – (4) it is prohibited “using any vehicle owned or leased by the Government of the United States or any agency or instrumentality thereof.” Hence Dean drove his leased vehicle during a campaigning session by driving the county leased vehicle throughout the “Ozark Heritage Festival” with a sign the read “Wayne County sheriff Dean Finch” on both sides of the vehicle. Isn’t this a violation of the Hatch Act?
We at SEMO Cop Block believe so. Dean Finch should be charged, convicted, and punished to the fullest extent of the law. According to subsection 732:

Dean Finch should be subject to removal and not allowed to hold any elected office for a period not to exceed 5 years. A fine not to exceed $1,000.

SEMO Cop Block has not just written up this article, we have filed a complaint with The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). (You can read the complaint here) The OSC is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency. Their basic authorities come from four federal statutes: the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Hatch Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The OSC would be the one in charge of investigating the Hatch Act complaints.

If you believe Dean Finch or anyone else has violated the Hatch Act, the OSC contact information is:

U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, NW
Suite 218
Washington, DC 20036
Hatch Act Hotline:           (202) 254-3650 or (800) 854-2824
Hatch Act Fax:                 (202) 254-3700
E-mail:                              [email protected]
Website:                          www.osc.gov

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has opened a case file and started an investigation into Sheriff Dean Finch’s misconduct. It would be great if Dean is charged and convicted of breaking the Hatch Act. It may not land him in prison as we’d prefer, however, it will be justice no matter how small the punishment may be.

The ‘NATIONAL SHERIFFS’ ASSOCIATION” has been trying to change the law to not include sheriffs, but has failed in every attempt they’ve made. In a letter they wrote in 2012, they say:

“HB 498 would clarify current law to allow sheriffs, in their official capacity, to participate in political activities. Moreover, it also clarifies allowable political activities of a sheriff to include, but not limited to, endorsing a candidate through print, radio or TV ads, speaking at political events, attending or sponsoring fundraisers.” (full letter here)

The bill they asked for was referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and Labor Policy. The bill has never made it out of the subcommittee.

The Supreme Court has several times declined to hear challenges to the act and has twice upheld its constitutionality. In a 1947 case brought by the CIO, a divided court found that Congress had properly exercised its authority as long as it had not affected voting rights. Then again In 1973, in a case brought by the National Association of Letter Carriers. A 6 to 3 decision found the act is neither too broad nor unclear.
The Hatch Act is there to prevent people who are paid in part or completely by the Federal Government from campaigning in uniform or while on duty. The Supreme Court has ruled twice on its fairness and broadness. Congress did not vote or discuss the bill brought to them by the National Sheriffs’ Association.

– Bryan Jeffers
   SEMO CopBlock

 

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Las Vegas Cops Demand ID, Attempt to Intimidate, Then Issue Threat When Refused

The videos and description within this post were shared with the CopBlock Network by a reader from Las Vegas named Carter, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

The videos included with this post begin with a group of Animal Control officers attempting to get a Carter to provide them with his identity and allow them access to his dogs. The reason given to justify that is that they received a report of a kid being bit by a dog five days earlier. When Carter refuses to do so without them providing some sort of probable cause that the dogs involved were his, the Animal Control officers call the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for backup.

A pair of LVMPD officers arrive and also begin demanding ID from Carter, incorrectly telling him that he is required by law to tell them his identity. Instead, he cites the requirement for a legal detention, per the Supreme Court ruling in “Terry vs. Ohio,” that they have probable cause to believe he is either committing, is about to commit, or has committed a crime.

Of course, in Nevada you are not required to identify yourself to the police unless you have been legally detained or are under arrest. However, the police are in fact required to give their name and badge number and, in spite of that, every one of them refuse to do so when it is requested.

In the end, having realized that their attempts to intimidate Carter have very badly failed, the half dozen police and animal control officers walk back to their vehicles. In the process, one of the LVMPD gang members threatens Carter saying, “don’t let me catch you jaywalking” and “you better watch yourself.”

Click the banner to submit content to CopBlock.org

Click the banner to submit content to CopBlock.org

If you have a video, personal story involving police misconduct and/or abuse, or commentary about a law enforcement related news story, we would be happy to have you submit it. You can find some advice on how to get your submission published on the CopBlock Network within this post.

Date of Incident: September 27, 2016
Department Involved: Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Las Vegas City Marshals & Animal Control
LVMPD Phone No.: (702) 828-3111
Animal Control Phone No.: (702) 633-1390

Animal Control officers came to my house and asked for my name and to see my dogs because they had a report of a kid having been bitten five days earlier while riding a bike. I told her she had the wrong residence. She Continued to demand to look at my dogs and for me to tell her my name.

I still refused and then she called police from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. When officers from the LVMPD arrived they tried to further intimidate me in to giving them my identity. They continued with their efforts until I cited the requirements for a legal detention (and by extension an obligation to identify oneself in Nevada) under Terry vs. Ohio.

– Carter

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Federal Judge Richard Posner Sees No Value in Studying “Outdated” Constitution

According to Judge Richard Posner, of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the “eighteenth-century guys” responsible for writing the Constitution could never have foreseen modern culture and technology.

Therefore, in his eyes, it’s just a waste of time for judges to study the Constitution and the history behind it, since it’s irrelevant to today.

Those comments came in an article as part of an ongoing series of articles entitled the “Supreme Court Breakfast Table,” which bills itself as, “An email conversation about the news of the day.” It’s hosted at Slate.com and features a discussion of issues relating to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Justices.

Within that post on June 24th, Judge Posner stated:

I see absolutely no value to a judge of spending decades, years, months, weeks, day, hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution, the history of its enactment, its amendments, and its implementation (across the centuries—well, just a little more than two centuries, and of course less for many of the amendments). Eighteenth-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc., of the 21st century. Which means that the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the post–Civil War amendments (including the 14th), do not speak to today. David Strauss is right: The Supreme Court treats the Constitution like it is authorizing the court to create a common law of constitutional law, based on current concerns, not what those 18th-century guys were worrying about.

In short, let’s not let the dead bury the living.

Nor, according to Mediaite.com, is this the first time Judge Posner has expressed that he gives no fucks about the Constitution and its old-timey ways:

Posner, an influential jurist who has served as a federal judge for thirty-five years, has previously voiced his disregard for the Constitution. “I’m not particularly interested in the 18th Century, nor am I particularly interested in the text of the Constitution. I don’t believe that any document drafted in the 18th century can guide our behavior today,” he said during a 2015 colloquium.

Judge Richard Posner 7th CircuitThis is why the reliance on the courts and the Constitution itself for justice is an exercise in futility. Regardless of what the original founders meant when they wrote it, the people wearing those robes right now are the ones that interpret it now and guess who they work for.

I can give you this little hint if you need it. Whenever you end up in court it will be the same people that guy sitting at the other table works for. It will also be the same people those guys that escorted you into that courtroom work for.

Some of them, like Judge Posner, don’t even pretend to respect the protections the Constitution supposedly provide. Recent rulings essentially eliminating Fourth Amendment protections should be evidence enough that he’s not alone in that disdain.

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