Tag Archives | Law

Federal Judge Rules NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Violates Rights

Photo: longislandwins (CC)

Photo: longislandwins (CC)

About time! From NBC New York:

A federal judge ruled that the contentious NYPD tactic known as stop-and-frisk violates constitutional rights, appointing a monitor to oversee reforms and ordering the department to test body cameras for officers.

U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote in the opinion released Monday that she was not ordering an end to the practice, but was seeking to provide remedies “to ensure that the practice is carried out in a manner that protects the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, while still providing much-needed police protection.”

She said the practice violates the Fourth Amendment, the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure, and the 14th Amendment, which forbids the denial of life, liberty or property, without due process.

Mayor Bloomberg said the city would appeal, and accused the judge of ignoring “the real-world realities of crime.” He said the judge’s orders, if implemented, would make New York “a more dangerous place.”

“This is a very dangerous decision made by a judge that I think just does not understand how policing works,” he said…

[continues at NBC New York]

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Russian Man Outwits Credit Card Company Using Its Own Tactics

TinkoffGenius. Via MSN:

Unhappy with the terms of an unsolicited credit card offer he received from online bank Tinkoff Credit Systems, Dmitry Agarkov scanned the document, wrote in his own terms and sent it through. The bank approved the contract without reading the amended fine print, unwittingly agreeing to a 0 percent interest rate, unlimited credit and no fees, as well as a stipulation that the bank pay steep fines for changing or canceling the contract.

Agarkov used the card for two years, but the bank ultimately canceled it and sued Agarkov for $1,363 in charges, interest and late-payment fees. A court ruled that, because of Agarkov’s no-fee, no-interest stipulation, he owed only his unpaid $575 balance. Now Agarkov is suing the bank for $727,000 for not honoring the contract’s terms, and the bank is hollering fraud.

“They signed the documents without looking. They said what usually their borrowers say in court: ‘We have not read it,’” Agarkov’s lawyer said.

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Florida Mom Received Twenty-Year Sentence For Firing Warning Shots To Abusive Husband

firing warning shotsFrom one year ago, a case that has been compared and contrasted with George Zimmerman’s in regards to notions of “self defense” and “Stand Your Ground” in the Florida legal system. Reported by CBS News:

A Florida woman who fired warning shots against her allegedly abusive husband has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville had said the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law should apply to her because she was defending herself against her allegedly abusive husband when she fired warning shots inside her home in August 2010. She told police it was to escape a brutal beating by her husband, against whom she had already taken out a protective order.

Under Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing requirements Alexander couldn’t receive a lesser sentence, even though she has never been in trouble with the law before.

According to a sworn deposition, Marissa Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, said that he and Alexander began fighting after he found text messages to Alexander’s first husband on her phone.

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Atheist Monument Erected At Florida Courthouse

atheist monumentThe organization American Atheists had sued to have the Ten Commandments removed from the front of the county courthouse in Stark, Florida. But instead, in a historic turn of events, it was told that it could have its own monument. Via the Washington Post:

A group of atheists unveiled a monument to their nonbelief in God on Saturday to sit alongside a granite slab that lists the Ten Commandments in front of the Bradford County courthouse.

As a small group of protesters blasted Christian country music and waved “Honk for Jesus” signs, the atheists celebrated what they believe is the first atheist monument allowed on government property in the United States.

The 1,500-pound granite bench bears quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Madalyn Murray O’Hair. It also has a list of gruesome Old Testament punishments for violating the Ten Commandments, including death and stoning.

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Court Rules That Yoga Can Be Taught In California School

yogaDoes yoga belong in schools? Will this throw open the door to Hinduism, Buddhism, and the metaphysical infiltrating our classrooms? (I certainly hope so.) The Huffington Post reports:

In a closely watched lawsuit in the San Diego-area where a family had sued the Encinitas, Calif. school district for what it saw as government sponsorship of religion for its yoga classes, a judge ruled Monday that yoga has religious roots but is not religious the way it’s taught in the district. The family who sued in Monday’s case is Christian.

But the ruling will likely not settle the ongoing debate in over whether yoga, which has grown immensely in popularity, is most closely related to its religious roots in Hinduism, is a more general spiritual practice or is a non-religious and non-spiritual pursuit.

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Obama Administration Proposes Weakening Freedom Of Information Act

freedom of information actObama pushes for officials to gain the right to lie about the existence of documents or materials. Via the Denver Post:

The federal Freedom of Information Act was supposed to be a torch that journalists, advocates and ordinary people could use to cast a light on the operations of their government. It’s profoundly disappointing to see the Obama administration proposing changes to FOIA that would allow federal agencies to lie about the very existence of information being sought.

The worst among them is the proposed change that would allow the government to tell those requesting information under FOIA that the material does not exist when, in fact, it does. The change would apply to certain law enforcement or national security documents.

Currently, the government can issue what is called a Glomar response, which is when the government neither confirms nor denies the existence of the material.

That term was coined after a Los Angeles Times reporter in the mid-1970s attempted to obtain information about the CIA’s Glomar Explorer, a vessel built to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

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Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Portion Of Voting Rights Act

voting rights actThe Supreme Court giveth some rights, and taketh others away. The Los Angeles Times reports:

A sharply divided Supreme Court has struck down a key part of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965, freeing the Southern states from federal oversight of their election laws and setting off a fierce reaction from civil rights advocates and Democratic leaders.

The court’s conservative majority moved boldly Tuesday to rein in a law revered by civil rights groups that is credited with transforming the South by ensuring blacks could register and vote. In doing so, the court eliminated a tool that the Justice Department used hundreds of times to prevent cities, counties and states from adopting allegedly discriminatory voting rules.

Speaking for a 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. pronounced the Voting Rights Act’s pre-clearance process a “resounding success” — and then declared it unconstitutional. The decision is likely to be felt in small towns and cities across the South, legal experts said.

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China To Introduce Death Penalty For Egregious Polluters

pollutersHarsh but fair? Via Scientific American:

Chinese authorities have given courts the powers to hand down the death penalty in serious pollution cases, state media said, as the government tries to assuage growing public anger at environmental desecration.

A new judicial interpretation which took effect on Wednesday would impose “harsher punishments” and tighten “lax and superficial” enforcement of the country’s environmental protection laws, the official Xinhua news agency reported: “In the most serious cases the death penalty could be handed down.”

Protests over pollution have unnerved the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party. Thousands of people took to the streets in the southwestern city of Kunming last month to protest against the planned production of a chemical at a refinery.

Severe air pollution in Beijing and large parts of northern China this winter have added to the sense of unease among the population.

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Texas Becomes First State Requiring A Warrant For Email Spying

email spyingI never thought I’d say this, but, has Texas set an example that should be followed on the federal level? Ars Technica reports:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has signed a bill giving Texans more privacy over their inboxes than anywhere else in the United States.

On Friday, Perry signed HB 2268, effective immediately. The law shields residents of the Lone Star State from snooping by state and local law enforcement without a warrant. The bill’s e-mail amendment was written by Jonathan Stickland, a 29-year-old Republican who represents an area between Dallas and Ft. Worth.

Under the much-maligned 1986-era Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), federal law enforcement agencies are only required to get a warrant to access recent e-mails before they are opened by the recipient. As we’ve noted many times before, there are no such provisions in federal law once the e-mail has been opened or if it has sat in an inbox, unopened, for 180 days.

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Supreme Court Rules Against Patenting Of Human Genes

 Patenting Of Human GenesGreat to know that I’m not infringing on anyone’s copyrights with my existence. The Los Angeles Times reports:

In a unanimous ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that human genes are a product of nature and cannot be patented and held for profit, a decision that medical experts said will lead to more genetic testing for cancers and other diseases and to lower costs for patients.

The decision invalidates a Utah company’s patents on two genes that are linked to breast and ovarian cancer, and is likely to lead to several thousand other gene patents being tossed as well.

The court’s decision also came as a relief to the biotech industry. While the justices agreed “naturally occurring DNA” cannot be patented, they also said DNA “synthetically created” in a lab can be patented. Industry lawyers had worried the court could issue a sweeping decision that would wipe out patents for genetically engineered drugs or farm products.

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