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Court picks prosecutor to defend ruling on Arpaio's pardon
Law Firm News | 2018/10/15 23:51
A Los Angeles attorney has been appointed to defend a ruling by a lower court judge who refused to erase the criminal record of former metro Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio after he was pardoned by President Trump.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday picked Christopher G. Caldwell to argue in support of the ruling that dismissed the lawman's case but refused to expunge his record.

The appointment in the appeal came after President Donald Trump's Justice Department refused to handle the case.

Caldwell worked for the Justice Department in the 1980s and, in private practice since then has focused on cases involving the entertainment industry, intellectual property and other areas.

After the six-term sheriff was defeated in late 2016, he was convicted of criminal contempt of court for his acknowledged disobedience of a judge's 2011 order that barred his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. Arpaio was accused of prolonging the patrols for 17 months to boost his successful 2012 re-election campaign.

The pardon of the misdemeanor conviction spared Arpaio — an early supporter of Trump's presidential campaign — a possible jail sentence.

Arpaio is appealing the ruling that refused to expunge his criminal record.

Lawyers for the Justice Department won the conviction. But after the pardon, it sided with Arpaio, arguing that the conviction should be expunged because he was pardoned before it became final.


Texas Supreme Court to hear sex offender law challenge
Law Firm News | 2018/10/06 00:27
The Texas Supreme Court will consider a challenge to the state's retroactive sex offender laws that some say unfairly stack new punishments on those convicted in plea deals.

More than 2,800 sex offenders remain on the Texas registry despite being no longer required to register under terms of their probation, according to an Austin-American Statesman analysis of the list.

Every qualifying sex offender was ordered onto the registry in 2005 after Texas expanded its sex offense laws. But that included some defendants who were promised in deals with prosecutors that they wouldn't have to be on the list after a certain amount of time.

Donnie Miller struck a deal with Travis County prosecutors after he was charged with sexual assault against a woman outside an Austin gentleman's club in 1993. A jury couldn't agree on a verdict at his trial, forcing Miller to face a second trial and more than $20,000 in legal fees.

He made a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty and in exchange, his record would be cleaned if he stayed out of trouble for 10 years. But Miller received a call a year after successfully completing his probation telling him that Texas had changed the rules and that he'd be on the sex offender registry for life, contrary to the terms of his plea deal.

"If I'd known, why would I have taken a plea deal?" said Miller, 48. "I would have borrowed the money for the retrial."

In a lawsuit before the Texas Supreme Court regarding another similar case, San Antonio attorney Angela Moore argues that undoing plea bargains makes the agreements worthless. About 94 percent of criminal convictions are disposed of with pleas, she said.

Texas Department of Public Safety attorneys warn that the lawsuit could relieve many "other sex offenders of their duty to register."

Texas was among several states to expand state law to include offenders from old cases. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in 2003 that Alaska's law retroactively requiring old sex offenders with completed sentences to register was legal because the registry wasn't intended to be punitive.

But recent studies show that public lists can have severe consequences, such as public shaming and limiting job opportunities. Since the Alaska decision, new research has emerged that disproves what policymakers previously thought to be true about sex offenders and the effectiveness of such laws.

The updated findings are appearing in court cases across the country.


Court suspends law license for SC prosecutor facing charges
Law Firm News | 2018/09/26 10:22
South Carolina's Supreme Court has suspended the law license of a prosecutor accused of embezzling money seized from drug defendants to pay for personal trips to Europe and the Galapagos Islands.

The court issued that order Monday for 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson, whose jurisdiction includes Richland and Kershaw counties, along with the state's capital city of Columbia.

Johnson was suspended from office last week following his indictment on more than two dozen federal charges including wire fraud and theft of government funds. His communications director, Nicole Holland, faces the same 26 charges.

State and federal authorities have been investigating the travel and spending habits of Johnson, who logged more than 70 days of travel over a period of less than two years. Trips to locations including Amsterdam, Colombia and the Galapagos Islands were reflected in credit card bills and receipts released by a nonprofit that obtained them through open-records laws.

The money, prosecutors said, was taken from state and federal accounts holding assets forfeited by defendants in illegal drug cases. Johnson recently lost a primary bid for a third term and hasn't responded to messages about charges against him. Previously, he has declined to answer specific questions about his travels but has said he didn't intend for public money to be used for personal expenses.



Rancorous, partisan start for Kavanaugh high court hearing
Law Firm News | 2018/09/04 13:08
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh declared fervently at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday the court "must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution." But that was at the end of a marathon day marked by rancorous exchanges between Democrats and Republicans, including dire Democratic fears that he would be President Donald Trump's advocate on the high court.

The week of hearings on Kavanaugh's nomination began with a sense of inevitability that the 53-year-old appellate judge eventually will be confirmed, perhaps in time for the first day of the new term, Oct. 1, and little more than a month before congressional elections.

However, the first of at least four days of hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee began with partisan quarreling over the nomination and persistent protests from members of the audience, followed by their arrests.

Strong Democratic opposition to Trump's nominee reflects the political stakes for both parties in advance of the November elections, Robert Mueller's investigation of Trump's 2016 campaign and the potentially pivotal role Kavanaugh could play in moving the court to the right.

Democrats, including several senators poised for 2020 presidential bids, tried to block the proceedings in a dispute over Kavanaugh records withheld by the White House. Republicans in turn accused the Democrats of turning the hearing into a circus.

Trump jumped into the fray late in the day, saying on Twitter that Democrats were "looking to inflict pain and embarrassment" on Kavanaugh.


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