Short Take: Until They’re 55

Eric Turkewitz has been carefully watching the New York legislature, as it’s been busy writing new laws now that the Democrats hold a majority in the Senate for the first time in memory. The latest, called the “Child Victims Act,” has significant ramifications for both civil and criminal practice. Taking a moment off from neglecting the subways, Governor Cuomo signed the bill into law.

Today New York joined the growing list of states that allows victims of child sexual assault to come forward and bring suit for that assault, even if the attack is decades old. The law will also extend the statute of limitations on criminal actions.

On the civil side, the Child Victims Act will allow people to proceed up to the age of 55, where they claim that they were sexually assaulted as kids.

On the criminal side, the statute of limitations won’t start to run until the child has turned 23.

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The Inexperienced Juror

During voir dire, jurors are asked whether there is any reason why they can’t be fair and impartial. One juror in Massachusetts answered the question honestly.

Q.: You feel like you might have a bias in the case?
A.: Yeah. I worked with, like, low income youth in a school setting. I worked a lot with people who were convicted of — like teenagers who were convicted of drug crimes. And frankly, I think the system is rigged against young African American males. I’m happy to serve on the jury trial — on the jury because I think it’s important, but —

Q.: You think that belief might interfere with your ability to be fair and impartial?
A.: I don’t think so.

After further prodding at the bench, questioning by the court concluded with this: Continue reading

Punishing Amazon, The Bad Corporate Citizen

Amazon pulled out, because it could. Its plan to build a campus and corporate headquarter in Queens was hardly perfect, but no plan could be. Still, the benefits to New York exceeded the $3 billion in tax incentives and New Yorkers supported it.

There were all sorts of problems with the deal New York cut to bring Amazon to the city, and Amazon is no paragon, but its abrupt withdrawal was a blow to New York, which stood to gain 25,000 jobs and an estimated $27 billion in tax revenue over the next two decades. This embarrassment to the city presents a painful lesson in how bumper-sticker slogans and the hubris of elected — and corporate — officials can create losers on all sides.

Overall, support was 56% for Amazon. Notably approval increased to 70% for Blacks and 81% for Latino. Continue reading

Spin Shots (Video Update)

Willie “Bo” McCoy was only 21 years old, and now he’s dead. Did six cops need to pump bullets into him? That’s a hard question to answer, particularly since he can’t speak to what was going on in his head since he’s dead. But that doesn’t do much to provide an answer.

Officials in Vallejo told the San Francisco Chronicle that police discovered the local artist, identified as Willie McCoy or “Willie Bo,” sleeping in a drive-through lane with a handgun in his lap over the weekend.

Police were reportedly called to the restaurant late Saturday after an employee said he found a driver slumped over in his car.

Why was he “slumped over” in his car blocking the drive-through lane at the Taco Bell? Why did he have a gun in his lap? It’s hard to fault the restuarant employee for calling the cops, under the circumstances, and the fact that six cops showed for this call isn’t surprising. Guns do that to cops, bringing more than the drunken guy who won’t leave Taco Bell alert. Continue reading

20 And Out

At Vox, German Lopez proffers what he calls the “radical” notion of capping all prison sentences at 20 years.

It’s time for a radical idea that could really begin to reverse mass incarceration: capping all prison sentences at no more than 20 years. It may sound like an extreme, even dangerous, proposal, but there’s good reason to believe it would help reduce the prison population without making America any less safe.

To the extent it might sound dangerous, that’s the by-product of the past 50 years of tough-on-crime appeal to our emotions, that bad things, horrible crimes, were happening and threatened our lives, our safety, our loved ones. The fix was to lock them away, for longer, then longer, then longer still. Continue reading

Should HLS Prawf Ron Sullivan Wear Both Hats?

[Ed. Note: As noted in the comments, this post is flawed in that Winthrop House is an undergrad dorm, and as far as the available information shows, this protest is by undergraduate students, not law students.]

Students at Harvard Law School have gained a bad reputation. Too social justice warrior, not enough lawyer. But when one of their prawfs announced he was taking on an outside gig as part of the Harvey Weinstein legal team following Ben Brafman’s falling out, what did he expect to happen?

Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood film producer who has been accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women, has hired Harvard Law School professor and Winthrop House Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. to represent him in his Manhattan sexual abuse case.

Sullivan — who heads the Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute — will serve on Weinstein’s legal team with lawyers Jose Baez and Pamela Mackey.

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When The Fisc Runs Dry

Detroit had money problems, but it came out of bankruptcy. It was called a “rebirth.” That didn’t help the fund with which to pay the judgments for the people wrongfully convicted, wrongfully imprisoned. It’s effectively broke.

“The current balance in the fund is so low that a single case or two could deplete it,” Rossman-McKinney said. “We cannot and should not lead people to believe they will be compensated for their wrongful incarceration if we are unwilling to appropriate the necessary funds.”

Michigan Department of Treasury spokesman Ron Leix said last week the exoneration fund contained about $1.6 million — or $400,000 less than the $2 million it owes just one wrongfully convicted murderer, Richard Phillips. Phillips spent 46 years in prison before his case was overturned, making him the longest-serving wrongfully convicted inmate in U.S. history, according to the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan.

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Tuesday Talk* Yenta Alert: The Other Date Rape

Female students at Towson University are in fear for their safety, but the Towson cops are on the case.

The Baltimore Sun reports that a woman in her mid-50s has been visiting the campus of Towson University in Maryland pestering female students. The mom reportedly approaches her victims, shows them a photo of her eligible son and asks if they are interested in dating him.

That’s right. Victims. This was flagrantly non-consensual, this predator forcing an image in the unwitting faces of survivors. And who poses this threat to their safety? Continue reading

Duke Shoots And Misses The Point

It was alleged to have happened in 1999, which just happens to be 20 years ago. Meredith Watson’s attorney wrote a statement alleging two rapes, one by an unnamed Duke basketball player, the other by now-Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. According to the lawyer’s statement, they happened at Duke University. They happened 20 years ago.

But Watson graduated from Duke long ago. Other than being the site of these two-decade old allegations, Duke has nothing to do with this, but that’s not going to stop it from pretending it’s relevant.

Duke’s interest in an allegation from 1999 goes well beyond sports. The university and its administrators had reporting obligations under both Title IX and the Clery Act. These are federal laws designed to prevent and deter sexual harassment, violence and discrimination on college campuses. While potential civil liability and government fines under these laws have likely passed due to the impracticality of enforcement two decades later and the expiration of relevant statutes of limitation, the university will nonetheless want to self-assess its compliance.

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Short Take: Cultural Appropriation of the Mongols

There’s a possibility that a group of Assistant United States Attorneys plan to hop on their chopped hogs and take to the road, their rep ties flapping in the wind. And should they do so while wearing the colors of the Mongols Motorcycle Club, the enforcement of trademark against them might raise a hoary issue.

In 2008, the government filed RICO, or racketeering, charges against certain members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club. In the process, the Justice Department also sought forfeiture of the club’s trademark in its logo, a distinctive design that combined words and images to signify membership in the group.

After members were indicted, the Justice Department obtained a pretrial order authorizing confiscation of items bearing the Mongols’ logo.

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