Private Prisons, Fleecing American Tax-Payers

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PRIVATE PRISONS COSTS US ALL

Here in the United States, we have the largest prison population in the entire world. Although prison populations have increased throughout civilized nations, the U.S. outpaces all other industrialized countries incarceration rates by nearly 5 to 1! Simply put, the natural incarceration rate among other modern nations similar to the U.S. trends at 100 prisoners per 100,000 residents, however, here in the United States, the rate is over 500 prisoners per 100,000 residents which equates to 1.6 million prisoners according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

What may be even more troubling are the disparities among ethnic minorities and racial classifications. Black men are incarcerated at rates of 3,074 per 100,000 residents, and Latinos at rates of 1,258 per 100,000, compared to white men who are incarcerated at just 459 per 100,000 residents. Invariably, young black men (ages 18-34) are at least six times more likely to be incarcerated than young white men, according to a recent analysis by Becky Pettit, a University of Washington sociologist.

It is no question that people of color are disproportionately affected by mass incarceration in the United States. However, all Americans bear the brunt of the crippling costs associated with increasing prison populations that saddles both federal and state government budgets across the nation. Many government agencies have turned to the private prison industry for relief from rising costs.

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Privatization to the Rescue

The privatization of U.S. prisons has become a booming private enterprise. Gaining popularity since the early 1980’s, coincidentally, coinciding with the increase of the war on drugs. The U.S. Department of Justice own reports, show U.S. private prison populations have grown 37 percent from 2002 to 2009 alone. At the heart of it all, private prison industry lobbying, has grown exponentially by 165 percent.

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As ThinkProgress reported, private prisons haven’t just expanded their political influence by expending lobbying dollars, they’ve also been remarkably apt at placing friendly lawyers and lobbyists in the offices of major decision-makers like Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ), famous for executing the now infamous Senate Bill, SB1070, a harsh anti-immigrant law designed to increase prison populations.

The number of private prisons operating in the U.S. has increased from 5 in 1998 to 100 by 2008. Leading the pack, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison corporation, has seen over 500 percent profit growth over the last twenty years. As reported, in 2010, the two largest private prison corporations alone received nearly $3 billion in revenue, while their top executives each received annual compensation packages worth well over $3 million.

As Brave New Foundation’s Jesse Lava puts it, the privatization of federal and state prisons “illustrates how greed has become a major driver of mass incarceration—and how the system is more vast [sic] than most citizens imagine.”

States Must Promise to Keep Occupancy Rates at 90% or Above

The Nation reported that CCA officials sent letters to forty-eight governors, offering to take their prison systems off state hands in exchange for a guarantee that their states would keep their facilities up to ninety percent full—regardless of crime rates. Essentially, states in keeping up with their promises, demand higher conviction rates from state and local prosecutors, judges and lawmakers.  Even where criminal activity has diminished, and prison populations reduced, private prison corporations continue to demand bed guarantee provisions in their contracts. These types of guarantee’s made by state officials only serve to exacerbate the already existing inequalities in the U.S. justice system

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But Less Government Oversight Increases Efficiency, Right?

Wrong! Facilities run by private prison corporations are not subjected to the same oversight as state and federal prisons. Lack of transparency, regulation and oversight has only led to deteriorating conditions which in turn, has led to a multitude of multi-million dollar lawsuits and government fines. All of which, invariably makes its way out of tax-payer’s pockets.  As Alex Friedmann, editor of Prison Legal News, who himself was once incarcerated at a private prison has pointed out, “the private prison industry operates in secrecy while being funded almost entirely with public taxpayer money.” In September Bloomberg reported that “the federal government provided almost 43 percent of [CCA’s] $1.76 billion of revenue in 2012, according to its annual report.”

According to the Nation, CCA, and Geo Group, the second largest private prison corporation, have become notorious for providing substandard and sometimes harrowing living conditions to their prisoners. State and federal regulation is necessary to equalize the vast disparities in dollar-for-dollar spending costs on public and privately ran prisons. However, lawmakers are slow to react, if not turning a blind eye all together. As the Arizona Republic’s editorial board pointed out, in a bill passed in 2012, Arizona’s overwhelmingly Republican Legislature effectively eliminated the statutory requirement for the Arizona Department of Corrections to do a cost comparison between public and private prisons. Furthermore, it eliminated the previous statutory requirement for regular comparisons of services provided by private and public prisons, including a hard look at servces such as; security, prisoner health and the safety of facilities. It was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer, who has long been a supporter of private prisons. Transparency will be the key element to shedding light on the billions of tax-payer dollars lining the pockets of wealthy investors and share-holders.

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Progress, Slow but Progress Nonetheless

While there remains much work to be done in reforming America’s love affair with the capitalization of bondage, some progress is being pursued. For instance, the Private Prison Information Act, legislation first introduced over nine years ago, has again garnered support for its reintroduction. Specifically, Texas Congressional Representative, Sheila Jackson Lee, has reintroduced the failed legislation attempt that would require anyone with a federal prison contract—to “make the same information available to the public that Federal prisons and correctional facilities are required to make available.”

In addition, baby steps have also been made by other federal agencies reigning in run-away profits off the prison industry. Pointedly, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finally capped the seemingly unlimited astronomical rates charged by private telecommunications providers to inmates in order to communicate with loved ones on the outside world.

Moreover, Idaho’s Department of Corrections have recently announced that it will take back control of its privately ran prison industry citing over a decade of mismanagement and other problems at the facility including multiple lawsuits alleging rampant violence, under-staffing, gang activity and contract fraud by CCA.

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Conclusion

The Privatization of essential public functions, such as healthcare, incarceration, and rehabilitation have all had the polar opposite effects of their intentions, driving down costs. When you place profits above all else, undoubtedly, the cost of doing business will rise. Footing the bill for this privatization craze are the American tax-payers like you and me who end up paying far more for far less.

Many will attempt turn these debates into arguments over being “tough on crime,” or the inefficiency of government, however, those arguments have failed in the past and will continue to fail whenever we place profits above people. Those who stand to benefit from de-privatization are not just criminals, but the hard working American people who are seeing their tax dollars funneled into private bank accounts.

Who gives a Duck about the First Amendment!

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There has been a lot of social media chatter about the recent controversy surrounding the infamous star(s) of the Duck Dynasty franchise. Apparently, one of the main characters, Phil Robertson made some disparaging remarks in a GQ Magazine interview regarding his views on homosexuality and Jim Crow era race relations. As a result, Mr. Robertson was relieved of his contractual obligations with the A & E television network. Not soon after, every realm of social media became abuzz with outrage; many calling for his head, and others exclaiming constitutional free speech violations. Understandably so, the show has an enormous following, boasting the highest reality show ratings in A&E history with over 11.8 million viewers.

It has been interesting seeing post after post from non-legal-scholars proffering opinions on the constitutionality of various social issues such as this one. As Susan Milligan put it, “somewhere between the vitriolic, anonymous Internet comments and reality TV, we seem to have lost the idea of the true meaning of the First Amendment.” Before having the opportunity to attend law school, I probably would have been one of them.  However, while I’ve never seen the show in its entirety, I do know a thing or two about the Freedom of Speech. Specifically, as written, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law abridging the freedom of speech. Period! It does not afford you the right to publicly express anything you want during the course of your employment exempt from contractual consequences taken by your private employer.

Just ask Justine Sacco, the high-ranking PR executive from the New York-based internet empire InterActive Corp, who was recently fired for a highly offensive Tweet directed at the entire continent of Africa.  Bottom line, the Freedom of Speech only protects statements suppressed by governmental entities such as state, local and federal agencies. The Freedom of Speech does not protect your comments from the repercussions of a private employer.  However, for those less versed in the law, there are exceptions, such as the State Actor Doctrine, where a person who is acting on behalf of a governmental body can be subject to regulation under the United States Bill of Rights. Here, however, last time I checked, A & E is not, nor has it ever been owned, operated by, or received any funding from a government entity.

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But Sarah Palin said  . . . 

Unfortunately, Mrs. Palin is a prime example of selective constitutional self-preference. She recently tweeted, “[f]ree speech is endangered species; those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ [sic] & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all,” which begs the question; what the hell is she talking about? It would appear that legally unsophisticated individuals such as herself love to toss out the “Free Speech Card” whenever it suits their needs, however choose to remain unmindful as to the true meaning of it.

If you love this country as much as the red, white and blue camping chairs and window flags from Walmart suggests, I would advise taking the time to actually understand the constitutional rights and limitations this country has afforded us. Otherwise, respectfully, I would suggest keeping quiet when proclaiming constitutional rights that don’t exist.

 

Got Any [Bit]Coins to Spare?

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GOT ANY SPARE (BIT) COINS

By now, if you’re still one of those folks asking, “what the hell is a Bitcoin?” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Introduced in 2008 by a group of programmers under the name Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin is defined as peer-to-peer technology that operates outside of central authority or banks. Bitcoins, which exists solely in software, uses cryptography to control transactions and prevent the re-use of spent currency. When a payment has been validated, it becomes public record once recorded in a public ledger known as the blockchain. Payments are then processed by a network of private servers owned and operated by “miners” who benefit from transaction fees and newly minted Bitcoins. Currently, there are roughly 12 million Bitcoins in circulation trading at about $965 each as of today.

In early 2012, when Bitcoins popularity began to catch the eye of mainstream financial insiders such as The Economist, it was initially charecterised as currency for online black market traders like the infamous Silk Road.  Internet black markets, such as Silk Road were described as havens for all things illegal including; drugs, guns, pirated software, and pornography due to the untraceable nature of Bitcoins. However, that was so 1-year ago, and a lot has changed since the relatively unknown currency emerged on the scene. As of today, Bitcoins are increasingly being used as payments for legally legitimate services and products. Both online and brick & mortar merchants have begun accepting the digital currency due to its attractive low transaction fees. Typically, a credit card processing company charges up to 3% per transaction whereas Bitcoin transactions can be below 1%.

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Laws Governing the Use of Bitcoins

In a recent federal case surrounding a Bitcoin Ponzi scheme, SEC prosecutors contended that Bitcoins were considered “security,” defined as; “any note, stock, treasury stock, security future, security-based swap, bond…[or]investment contract” according to U.S statute 15 U.S.C. § 77b. Federal Judge Amos L. Mazzant agreed, ruling that it was clear that Bitcoins can be used as currency and the “only limitation of Bitcoin is that it is limited to those places that accept it as currency.”

Currently, like many other forms of technology, there is no specific law governing its use. Initially, deemed “experimental currency” in a high-risk environment, U.S. government officials sought clarification of its legal use. After extensive testimony before the U.S Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the U.S. Justice Department described Bitcoin currency as a “legal means of exchange.”  Bloomberg Business reported that “government agencies from the U.S. Secret Service to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network have weighed in to say that the virtual currency that’s designed to be difficult to trace has potential benefits, as well as risks.”

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Future of Bitcoins

So what does that all mean?

Essentially, Bitcoins, as of now, are considered a legal form of currency capable of being exchanged in the U.S. and worldwide markets. So long as retailers, service providers, and online merchants who accept Bitcoins continues to grow, expect Bitcoins to remain legal. On average, there are currently about 30 Bitcoin transactions per minute, however that number is expected to grow exponentially, estimated a report published earlier this month. Bitcoin trading has increased nearly 500 times over the past year, and steadily increasing at rates predicted by industry economist. Moreover, since Bitcoins are created by miners operationg powerful servers capable of completing robust software algorithms embedded within the currency itself, expect Bitcoins volume to increase, both as miners and computing power increases.

How Can You Benefit from Bitcoins?

Bloomberg business news reports that savvy U.S investors have begun allocating more and more of their investments to Bitcoin currency in order to diversify their portfolios. Further, many Wall Street investment firms have begun offering investors options to buy Bitcoins for individual retirement accounts (IRA’s).  Bitcoin Investment trusts have also cropped up creating more than $15 million in funds. Simply put, if you’re interested in spreading your profits and losses out, Bitcoin investments may be a viable option.

Conclusion

While Bitcoins have been given the green light by U.S. treasury officials, it’s still a relatively new trading platform and should be approached with caution. Consequently, according to Bitstamp, in the time it took to compose this post, Bitcoins value increased by nearly a dollar!  However, Bitcoin trading volatility has been influx due to recent Senate inquires and the subsequent validation by U.S officials as an authentic currency. Therefore, once all the dust settles, and you get all the facts, maybe you’ll have a few (Bit)Coins to spare!

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Increasing Access to Legal Services begins with Lowering Law School Tuition

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INCREASING ACCESS TO LEGAL SERVICES

I recently ran across a post on a fairly well circulated legal blog where the author advocated for allowing Unlicensed Practice of Law commonly known as UPL, to reduce the cost of legal services. In other words, allowing individuals who have not been licensed by any state bar association such as; document preparers, paralegals, and law students to administer legal advice.

Unfortunately, while the author’s heart is in the right place – addressing inadequate access to legal services – the solution he proposes is fatally flawed. To suggest, allowing those without law licenses, such as paralegals, to practice law is unsound and suggests  one’s life, liberty and well-being wouldn’t be outcome dependent. Using the authors logic, those who cannot afford health care would be diagnosed and treated to by unlicensed doctors and practitioners. Can’t afford the high cost of surgery? Maybe a surgeon who isn’t licensed by the medical board can help out.

The author, however, makes some legitimate points. For example, requiring a law license for simple matters such as document preparation is indeed overkill, as evidenced by the emergence of self-service legal services. (Think LegalZoom) However, the author also regrettably adds that by allowing non-lawyer investors to purchase and run law firms, it would result in more efficient legal services and lower costs. Unfortunately, the last I checked, deregulation has done little to improve quality and provide long-term sustainable lower costs to consumers in any market.

The author’s overall analysis was incomplete. Although he briefly touched on the pink elephant in the room – acknowledging that “free legal services are limited to certain legal issues,”-  he leaves out an entire segment of the U.S. legal system in need of adequate legal services, Criminal Defendants. According to the Administrative office of the U.S. Courts , in Federal courts alone, there has been “a 70% jump in the number of pending federal criminal cases in the past decade.” At the same rate, civil federal litigation has been held up at an alarming rate due to the influx of criminal cases.

But criminals are entitled to an attorney if they cannot afford one, right? Yes, federally through the Sixth Amendment and later applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment in Gideon v. Wainwright.  However, that does not always amount to adequate representation. Justice Anthony Kennedy recently opined on how 97 percent of all federal cases and 94 percent of all state cases end in plea bargains, leaving serious questions as to the efficiency of criminal legal representation.

WELL WHAT’S YOUR BRIGHT IDEA?

I don’t think allowing UPL by non-lawyers is the key to increasing access to and improving the limited legal representation that exists. In my opinion, lowering the overall cost of a legal education would be a good start to increasing access to affordable legal representation.  The ABA Journal reports that the average cost of a legal education with living expenses is around $216,406 for the year 2013! Simply put, on a ten year repayment plan, the monthly cost to repay that amount is over $2500 month, or nearly $16 per hour, per forty-hour work week for the next ten years. On top of that, factor in that attorneys generally earn between $40-65,000 a year before taxes, which amounts to $20-32 per hour in salary. With half, or nearly a third of your salary accounted for in student loan debt, how could anyone afford to provide affordable legal services?

Lowering the cost of legal education

Programs do currently exist that promise to vastly reduce, or even eliminate a young lawyers student loan debt if they work in the public sector for at least ten (10) consecutive years. However, the long term effect of these programs remains to be seen. Mark Kantrowitz, a higher education expert, suggests that law students loan “costs are so out of sync with their employment rates and their incomes that whatever comes later on with other [graduate] programs will probably happen first with law schools.” Simply put, law school tuition is the most grossly over-adjusted post-graduate tuition rates that exist, and if they can fix our problem, they can fix any graduate program with similar issues.

None of this helps us reduce the cost of attending law school; it only reduces the amount students have to pay back. However, schools do exist with reasonable debt to income ratios. Take for instance, Brigham Young University Law School, where the average student debt load was $56,000 and the median starting salary was a healthier $86,000. Usnews.com  reported the ten best law schools where debt to income for the cost of education were the most modest in the nation. What possibly could these schools be doing that other schools aren’t? For starters, they aren’t privately ran institutions charging whatever they wish for tuition. Though unranked schools weren’t included, the emergence of private schools has arguably increased the overall cost of attendance for many newly minted JD’s.

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Private law school tuition, on average, is $40,585 per year compared to just $23,590 for public law schools. However, all cannot be blamed on greedy private law school investors. A recent U.S. News & World Reports study show that while private law school tuition increased four (4) percent year over year, public law school has increased six (6) percent. Either way, the cost of law school tuition has outpaced the rise of inflation by 3 to 1. Nowhere on earth would this business model make sense and it’s all being financed on the backs of aspiring attorney’s, many of which, myself included, went to law school to help people. With the crushing debt loads students are taking on, it’s increasingly difficult to help anyone who cannot afford to pay the cost of being a lawyer.

High Stakes at High Noon, Patent Litigation Showdown

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     One gentleman in particular can arguably be credited for the way most of us use the Internet today! Michael Jones, a patent holder, and also the source of numerous legal battles which have resulted in hundreds of lawsuits and millions of dollars in settlements.  The patent Jones holds is based on an encryption algorithm invented in 1987 well before the Internet became available.

Essentially, many commerce and communication sites use what’s called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol to communicate securely over the Internet. Specifically, a SSL session encrypts data flowing between two parties, usually the end-user (yourself), and the content provider (think Amazon, GoDaddy, etc.) Internet content providers that utilize SSL protocol encryption includes everything from email providers, Internet faxing, IM’ing, to voice over IP (VoIP) vendors.

However, Mr. Jones patent, US Patent No. 5,412,730, which was originally granted in 1989, predates the internet all together. One may ask, how can a patent before the internet, control internet content providers today? Apparently his original patent application was written broadly enough to justify “suing hundreds of websites yet narrow enough that the case shouldn’t be dismissed as irrelevant over the encryption that existed at the time,” Joe Mullin reported for arteschnica.com. To date, Mr. Jones has received confidential settlements from over 120 web content providers for SSL protocol use.

One particular company however, decided it would not pay Mr. Jones licensing fees for a patent that was issued before the technology being used was created. Newegg, an online digital retailer, decided to forgo any talks of settlement and take its patent claim defense to the court of law. Specifically, New Egg’s top attorney, Lee Chang, has determinately decided not to pay any settlements to Mr. Jones or his holding company associated with the patent. Mr. Lee basically summarized Mr. Jones and his subsequent holding company as a “Patent Troll,” as he and his legal team prepares for court.

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A Patent Troll is defined as “a person or company who enforces patent rights against accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees, but does not manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents in question.” Simply put, it’s loosely analogous to cyber-squatters, those who pre-purchase popular website domains in hopes of cashing in from anyone wishing to purchase that domain later. The White House conducted a study and discovered that patent-troll related lawsuits were up 400% since 2005, and victims of patent trolls paid nearly $29 billion in 2011 alone.

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The reason this court battle is so significant is because most corporations who are hit with a patent challenge simply weigh the cost of patent litigation against paying licensing fee’s then usually opt for the less expensive latter. The result of this cost benefit analysis usually leaves patent holders like Mr. Jones with a nice portfolio of royalty paying clients. Mr. Lee’s decision to fight back is being held as courageous among many industry insiders.  Principally, a court victory for Newegg, an any subsequent precedent that is set by the court’s outcome would affect all potential SSL protocol users both past and present.  Corporations currently paying licensing fees for Mr. Jone’s preexisting technology include heavyweights like; Verizon, Lowe’s, CVS, Sprint, Amway, State Farm and Aflac.

Newegg and Mr. Jones’ holding company, TQP Development, will face off in federal court in Marshall, Texas. This particular venue has long been held as a favorite among patent litigators because of its seemingly speedy litigation processing. Although TQP’s patent expired in May 2013, the law provides patent holders to seek retro-active claims up to six years prior. We’ll continue to monitor this one and report on the outcome!

 

Texas Prosecutor Finally Convicted for Wrongful Conviction

Texas Prosecutor Finally Convicted for Wrongful Conviction
Texas Prosecutor Finally Convicted for Wrongful Conviction

TEXAS PROSECUTOR CONVICTED FOR WRONGFUL CONVICTION

     For the first time in American history, a Texas Prosecutor Finally Convicted for Wrongful Conviction.Ken Anderson, former prosecutor, was criminally charged, convicted, and sentenced for his role in intentionally withholding exculpatory evidence from then Defendant, Michael Morton, who was charged with murder in 1986. Mr. Morton was subsequently sentenced to life in prison in 1987 and served over twenty-years before being released. Mr. Morton was eventually exonerated of all charges in 2011 after DNA evidence cleared him from the possibility of beating and killing his wife in 1986. Michael Morton was present at Mr. Anderson’s sentencing but refrained to comment.

Ken Anderson, 61, served as district attorney when he withheld evidence from Mr. Morton’s defense team. He eventually went on to serve as Judge in Williamson County Texas for over eleven (11) years before resigning this September in light of allegations.  Perhaps what’s most ironic is that Mr. Anderson’s plea agreement precludes Mr. Morton from pursuing any further civil actions against the former district attorney. As a result of Mr. Anderson’s conviction, he will be disbarred and must serve five-hundred (500) hours of community service. Additionally, Mr. Anderson will serve ten (10) days in the Williamson County Jail.

Mr. Anderson initially responded in 2011, while proclaiming his own innocence, offered a flagrantly hypocritical apology, stating that “it’s inconceivable that this happened.” For his role, Mr. Anderson plead No-Contest to the 1987 criminal contempt of court charge and voluntarily agreed to surrender his law license.

Mr. Anderson, though now a convicted criminal, got off extremely light! Ten-days in the County Jail hardly compares to the twenty-four years Mr. Morton served in prison. Moreover, 500 hours of community service pales in comparison to the lost memories, productivity, and opportunities that Mr. Morton missed out on. Mr. Anderson’s sentence isn’t even analogous to a slap on the wrist compared to what Mr. Morton endured. Though Mr. Anderson also lost his license to practice law, at 61 years old, it will hardly have as significant of an impact as portrayed. Yes, while a law license equates to a lawyers livelihood, and without it, our professional skills would be insignificant, at 61 years of age, Mr. Anderson was nearing retirement anyway.

SHOT ACROSS THE BOW

     While I’m grateful, for the first time in history, a prosecutor has been prosecuted and convicted for his criminally negligent conduct, I certainly hope it won’t’ be the last. The Innocence Project  reports that since DNA evidence has been used, there have been over three-hundred elven (311) post-conviction DNA exoneration’s in the United States. Of those exonerated, eighteen (18) of which were sentenced to death, an additional sixteen (16) were sentenced for capital murder. The average prison stay for a wrongly convicted innocent person is nearly fourteen (14) years before exoneration. In Arizona alone, the AZ Justice Project reports there have been eleven (11) wrongful convictions overturned, and over forty-five (45) cases in court or under the supervision of a review team.

Though, Mr. Morton was white, race undoubtedly plays a factor in wrongful convictions. Of the 311 post-conviction DNA exoneration in the United States since 1989, 193 were Black. Simply put, 62% of all exonerated convictions were Black men, though Black men roughly comprise 40% of the US prison population and only 6% of the American population, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).  That said, more needs to be done! Hopefully, more will be the literal translation of an Independent Review being established in Williamson County to audit every case Mr. Anderson has ever prosecuted.

Given the grave statistics, absent any state statutory recourse, there should be federal legislation requiring prosecutorial audits wherever wrongful convictions are overturned. We cannot continue to rely on individual municipalities to simply “do the right thing.” There needs to be systematic checks and balances that are mechanically triggered wherever prosecutorial misconduct is found. Here, lies a perfect example and opportunity to do so! That said, at a minimum, I hope this serves as a shot across the bow to all over-zealous prosecutors blinded by the tunnel-vision their professional aspirations create.  I sincerely hope those who cut seemingly insignificant corners in pursuit of justice are put on notice by Mr. Anderson’s conviction.

Texas Prosecutor Finally Convicted for Wrongful Conviction

Arizona Supreme Court v. Arizona State Legislature

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This week the Arizona Supreme Court heard oral arguments from a Maricopa County deputy attorney Susan Luder, arguing for the right to charge Arizona drivers who have ingested marijuana – in some cases months prior to driving – with a DUI.

It all stems from a December 2010 traffic stop for speeding and an unsafe lane change by Mr. Shilgevorkyan, the Appellant, who was subsequently taken to a County Sheriff’s command post where he consented to a blood test. It should be noted Arizona utilizes a very strict implied consent law which essentially penalizes refusing a blood alcohol test with an automatic twelve (12) month driver’s license suspension. That said, Appellant’s blood test eventually revealed approximately eight (8) Nano grams of Carboxy-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Carboxy-THC) State ex rel. Montgomery v. Harris ex rel. Cnty. of Maricopa, 301 P.3d 580, 581 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2013).

The Appellant was subsequently charged with violating Arizona law, A.R.S §28-1381(A)(3), which essentially makes it ”unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle in this state … [w]hile there is any drug defined in section 13–3401 or its metabolite in the person’s body.” Id.  Mr. Shilgevorkyan’s charges were later dismissed in Justice Court during an evidentiary hearing where the prosecution failed to convince the court the presence of marijuana metabolites could impair ones driving.

Later, the Maricopa County Superior court affirmed the Justice court’s ruling, where it determined the statute was ambiguous as to whether the term “metabolite” was meant to be plural or singular. In doing so, the court ruled that the “[s]tate had not shown “the legislature necessarily intended to include all possible derivatives of drugs—particularly inactive end products that no longer affect an individual.” Id.

The State could not let sleeping dogs lie where they lay and appealed the ruling to the Arizona Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals stuck to the strict language of State v. Hammonds, citing Stave v. Phillips ,determining that  AZ’s strict DUI “statute created a flat ban on driving with any proscribed substance in the body, whether capable of causing impairment or not.” Id. at 582. The court even followed up with case-law allowing courts to construe statutory language plurally where it would “enable the court to carry out legislative intent.” Id at 583.

According to Capital Media Services Reporter, Howard Fischer, the deputy County Attorney was unable to dispute the County’s own expert witness who agreed with Appellant that the presence of marijuana metabolite would not indicate if someone is impaired or not.  The attorney for the Appellant, Michael Alarid, said that the ruling would essentially ban driving by anyone with trace amounts of Carboxy-THC in their blood, and noted it would be an “absurd result.”  The Supreme Court Justices gave no clear indication on which way they were leaning.

Arizona already, argubly, has some of the toughest DUI laws in the United States. There is no public policy need or conern to make them even tougher.  Arizona is known for its libertarian spirit, the notion that government should remain as least intrusive as possible. However, here, the law as applied, would make what you do in the privacy of your home weeks before entering the public doman, a concern of the State. This logic flies in the face of free spirit in Arizona.

This case involves two sides, the Arizona Legislature and the Arizona Supreme Court. The AZ legislature, in their infinite wisdom, left the language overly inclusive.  It is now up to the Supreme Court to narrow the broad net cast by Arizona Legislature’s oversight. We can only hope our states Supreme Justices can reign in some of the hypocrisy that has come out of Arizona the past few years which undoubtedly winds its way up to the United States Supreme Court docket. Think SB1070! Let’s all do our part in keeping Arizona out of the national news for more silliness. All eyes are on the Supreme Court!

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Hello world!

Welcome to the Prospectives of the The Cadillac Lawyer! First, let me start by saying that the term “Cadillac Lawyer”  is clearly a spin-off from the well-known novel and movie (with whathisface) by one of my favorite legal inspired authors. This unique and fun twist showcases both my passion for the law and my affinity for Cadillac’s.

My love of Cadillac’s started early in life, my grandfather’s long sleek luxurious land yacht would seamlessly pull into our driveway just missing the thirty foot oak at the foot of the driveway by inches before floating to a stop. Specifically, I remember the distinct crest and with ducks and birds and some other fascinating shiny objects that would awe a six year old. Eventually, my dad owned one, which he passed down to me as one of my first cars. Currently, I own one, which I will quite likely pass down to my sons as a  one of their first cars. Over the years I’ve come to cherish all ranges of American made luxury items from Cadillac’s to Brooks Brothers suits. Not for there status, but for what they represent, a symbol of American made quality!

Much like legal analysis, quality, and maintaining that level of quality should be a lawyer’s number one priority! Join me, as we analyze contemporary American legal issues from an urban intellectual prospective.

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