Friday, March 30, 2012

Bill Giving Prosecution Right to Jury Trial Passes Ohio House

On Wednesday, Ohio House Bill 265, which grants prosecutors the right to a jury trial even when a defendant waives the right, passed the Ohio House 50-42. The bill is sponsored by Republican Rep. Lynn Slaby and Democratic Rep. Sean O'Brien, both former criminal prosecutors at the county level. The bill now heads to the Ohio Senate for consideration. See the Ohio Judicial Conference's judicial impact statement, which discusses the bill's potential conflict with the Ohio Constitution. The impact statement cites Article IV, section 5 of the Ohio Constitution, which grants the Ohio Supreme Court the authority to prescribe rules governing trial procedure. The impact statement notes that in 2008 the Ohio Supreme Court's Commission on the Rules of Practice & Procedure decided against making the change proposed by HB 265.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Stand Your Ground" Law for Ohio?

In the wake of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida, there is more discussion of a "Stand Your Ground" law in Ohio. 

Ohio's current "Castle Doctrine":

SB 184 Analysis

Ohio Revised Code 2901.05

Ohio Revised Code 2901.09


Coshocton Tribune


(Both of the above quote our own Professor Joshua Dressler!)


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Constitutional Authority Statements

This week the Supreme Court's health care arguments draw the nation's attention. What did Congress think about the constitutional authority underlying this law? Answering this question would require delving into the legislative history, a resource whose value is disputed. Committee reports are often seen as one of the more reliable legislative history resources, but the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act apparently generated no committee reports. Had one existed, there is no guarantee that we could find a statement explaining which clause supported this law.

A change of rules in the House of Representatives last year seems to provide researchers a clearer picture of constitutional authority. House Resolution 112-5 requires the sponsor of every bill to identify "as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution." The Resolution also requires constitutional authority statements to be printed in the Congressional Record. Here's an example from the Fallen Heroes of 9/11 Act.

Yet, constitutional authority statements tell us only what the sponsors of legislation believed about constitutional powers at the beginning of the legislative process, before any debate has take place. In part for these reasons, Hanah Volokh argues that these statements could be modified to make them more useful for Congress as well as for the courts.

Hat tip: beSpacific

Monday, March 26, 2012

Missouri School Web-Filter Case

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a Missouri school district in federal court over the district's Internet-filtering software. According to the complaint, the filter "blocks websites supporting or advocating on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) people but permits access to websites that condemn homosexuality or oppose legal protections for LGBT people." In one example, the complaint asserts that the filter blocks a web address for the Supreme Court's 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision (holding that a Texas law criminalizing same-sex intimate sexual conduct was unconstitutional) but does not block web addresses for the Court's 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision (upholding a Georgia statute criminalizing sodomy and later overruled by Lawrence). The problem seems to be that the filter categorizes many pro-LGBT sites as "sexual" and groups these URLs with pornography sites while it categorizes many websites opposing homosexuality and same-sex legal protections as "religious" and therefore acceptable. Last month, District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey granted the ACLU's motion for a preliminary junction on First Amendment grounds. Judge Laughrey ordered the school to discontinue its use of the filtering software as currently configured. See an article on the case in today's New York Times.

Friday, March 23, 2012

FantasySCOTUS Health Care Case Predictions, "the Internet's Premier Supreme Court Fantasy League," includes a "prediction tracker" showing fantasy league players' real-time predictions of the outcome of the upcoming health care case. While a consensus is emerging for three out of the four legal questions, predictors are nearly evenly split as to the much-debated "individual mandate" question. Read more about the league here and see also this related article by several authors including the site's creator.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some Employers Asking for Facebook Logins

The newest interview question: Will you friend me on Facebook?  The Associated Press reports that some employers have been asking job applicants for Facebook access, from "friending" someone from human resources, to login information, including passwords. 

News and commentary:

Wall Street Journal Law Blog

Huffington Post



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Juvenile Sentencing Case at Supreme Court

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in two cases on whether a life without the possibility of parole sentence for a juvenile homicide offender violates the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual punishment prohibition. See SCOTUSblog's case pages for the two cases, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs. These  pages include all of the briefs and the lower court opinion. See also this video commentary from Moritz College of Law Professor and sentencing expert Doug Berman. Berman and a group of his Moritz students submitted a brief as amici curiae in support of 14-year old juveniles-petitioners, Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Ohio Animal Law Proposed

In the wake of the October tragedy in which dozens of escaped animals had to be killed by law enforcement officers, a bill has been introduced that would place new restrictions on the keeping of dangerous animals.

S.B. 310

Analysis of S.B. 310

State Sen. Balderson's Guest Column on Regulation of Wild Animal Ownership

Columbus Dispatch

Dayton Daily News

Toledo Blade

Monday, March 19, 2012

Health Care Oral Argument Audio

The dates for U.S. Supreme Court oral argument on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are fast approaching, scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week. While under the court's longstanding policy there will be no live audio or visual coverage, the court recently announced that it plans to make audio recordings available in the afternoon of each argument day. Typically audio files are available on Fridays of argument weeks. Audio files and written transcripts will be available on the court's website. To access court filings and other resources related to the health case cases, see SCOTUSblog.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Landmark International Criminal Court Verdict

Today, a three-judge trial chamber of the International Criminal Court unanimously issued a decision finding that Democratic Republic of Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo committed war crimes. The court found Dyilo guilty of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 into his militia, and actively using them in hostilities. See more details from the BBC and JURIST, which indicate that this is the court's first trial verdict since its inception ten years ago. See also video of today's proceedings.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More on the Alleged Ohio Amish Beard-Cutters

An update in the case of the men accused of cutting the beards of fellow Amish men: all 12 defendants have pleaded not guilty, and plan to challenge the constitutionality of the hate crimes law.

Washington Post

Canton Repository

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Fracking Rules

In January, we discussed Ohio's fracking shutdown after a number of earthquakes around Youngstown. The shutdown has led to a shift in Ohio's brine disposal rules. On Friday, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources a new regulatory framework, including a prohibition on new wells in earthquake-susceptible pre-Cambrian rock formations. As the Columbus Dispatch reports, some remain concerned, in part because there is no mandate for seismic surveys before a well is drilled.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Old Maps Online

Old Maps Online, a collaboration of  The Great Britain Historical GIS Project based at the University of Portsmouth, UK and Klokan Technologies GmbH, Switzerland, is a portal to digitized historical map collections. The site provides links to maps of various parts of the globe, including historical maps of Ohio. For instance, see an 1804 Ohio map and an 1872 Ohio railroad map from the David Rumsey Map Collection.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Father Charged with Disturbing the Peace for Using Laser Pointer at Hockey Game

A Massachusetts "hockey dad" may have taken winning too seriously.  He is accused of shining a laser pointer into the eyes of players on the opposing team.  His daughter's team won, but the victory is bittersweet:  the father has been charged with disturbing the peace. 

Boston Globe

Fox Sports

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

(Un)limited Executive Power

What procedures should channel the power exercised by the executive branch? In recent remarks, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder defended the use of lethal force against American citizens abroad, noting that “the Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” The New York Times summarizes Holder’s arguments, which seem to rely on his interpretations of Congressional action in the form of the Authorization to Use Military Force (Public Law 107-40).

In a very different context, a recent Ohio Supreme Court opinion analyzed whether a state agency fulfilled procedural requirements imposed by the Ohio Revised Code. In a 4-3 opinion, In re Application of Buckeye Wind, L.L.C., the Court upheld the Power Siting Board’s decision to authorize construction of a new wind farm, despite some security and environmental concerns. While Ohio’s administrative procedure laws expressly remove the public utilities commission from their requirements (per Ohio Rev. Code 119.01), special hearing requirements for the board can be found in the public utilities statutes. The Court found that the Board had “acted in accordance with all pertinent statutes and regulations,” following the procedure outlined by the Ohio Revised Code. For more on this opinion, see the Columbus Dispatch’s coverage.

For those interested in exploring executive power and what kinds of procedures should guide it, see Richard J. Pierce’s Administrative Law Treatise (available in the Moritz Law Library’s reserve room).

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

High Movie Concession Prices: Michigan Man Sues

Joshua Thompson has filed a class-action lawsuit in Michigan because of their high prices on snacks and drinks.  The lawsuit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, accuses theaters of violating the Michigan Consumer Protection Act by overcharging on concessions.

Detroit Free Press

Huffington Post

Wall Street Journal Law Blog

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Internet Archive's Physical Archive

The Internet Archive, a non-profit organization providing free online access to a vast amount of digitized books and other works, including many legal titles, has apparently also been building a physical archive of printed books. See founder Brewster Kahle's explanation of the physical archive's purpose as well as a recent story in the New York Times.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Maryland Passes Same-Sex Marriage Legislation

By enacting Senate Bill 241 yesterday, Maryland became the eighth state to permit same-sex marriage, joining Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire, in addition to the District of Columbia. See coverage from the Baltimore Sun. See also the library's same-sex marriage research guide for information on other states.