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High court to take new look at affirmative action

High court to take new look at affirmative action

The Supreme Court will once again confront the issue of race in university admissions in a case brought by a white student denied a spot at the flagship campus of the University of Texas.

The court said Tuesday it will return to the issue of affirmative action in higher education for the first time since its 2003 decision endorsing the use of race as a factor in admissions. This time around, a more conservative court is being asked to outlaw the use of Texas’ affirmative action plan and possibly to jettison the earlier ruling entirely.

A broad ruling in favor of the student, Abigail Fisher, could threaten affirmative action programs at many of the nation’s public and private universities, said Vanderbilt University law professor Brian Fitzpatrick.

A federal appeals court upheld the Texas program at issue, saying it was allowed under the high court’s decision in Grutter vs. Bollinger in 2003 that upheld racial considerations in university admissions at the University of Michigan law school.

The Texas case will be argued in the fall, probably in the final days of the presidential election campaign, and the changed makeup of the Supreme Court could foretell a different outcome. For one thing, Justice Samuel Alito appears more hostile to affirmative action than his predecessor, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. For another, Justice Elena Kagan, who might be expected to vote with the court’s liberal-leaning justices in support of it, is not taking part in the case.

Celebrity Legal Cases , a different Standard?

In an examination of famous cases, some of the law’s most popular myths and legends frequently emerge. For example, when defendants like Michael Jackson claimed an alleged vendetta by a hostile prosecutor, their ammunition might miss the mark for courtroom purposes, but these are shots that can resonate like cannon fire in the press. On the other hand, while Scott Peterson’s defense repeatedly dissed “circumstantial evidence” for public consumption, the courtroom reality is that homicides are often “circumstantial” cases, and jurors routinely convict when informed by judges that such evidence is as valid as so-called direct evidence. With Martha Stewart, her strategies did not secure an acquittal but did save a career. And both the Peterson and Stewart cases raise the widely misunderstood issue of why high profile defendants rarely testify.

Kobe Bryant’s defenders had better results marketing “he said, she said” as the linchpin of a weak case, even though such defendants usually are at a serious disadvantage in attempting to overcome what might seem like unsubstantiated accusations. In the end, Bryant’s prosecutors were forced into some serious spinning of their own to try to rationalize a prosecution collapse that was actually a result of their own early failures in DNA testing of the alleged victim. And an examination of the tragic story of Andrea Yates – who drowned her own five children – would reveal why the defense of insanity is so commonly exploited in the courtroom of the public’s mind, yet is so rarely validated by a jury’s verdict. Ultimately, it took an appeals court and a second trial before a jury would find this mentally ill woman to be legally insane.

Circumstantial Case —Who Needs Eye-Witnesses Anyway?

Surprisingly for many members of the public, jurors are generally instructed that circumstantial evidence deserves as much weight as so-called “direct” evidence.

Prosecutions of the Rich and Famous—What Kind of Special Treatment Do They Really Get?
Forget kid gloves or a get out of jail free card. Celebrities get investigators who look under every rock and behind every blade of grass to try to make a case against them. But the rich and famous usually have plenty of money and great lawyers. And so the reality show for celebrities is the best of times and the worst of times whenever their names are in a police file.

Prosecution’s Alleged Vendettas—Do Judges or Juries Care?
Not much, “vendettas” are more significant as a media strategy.

Defense of Insanity—Overly Successful or Overrated?
Very limited and rarely successful since laws changed in the wake of the insanity-based acquittal of John Hinkley, President Reagan’s attempted assassin.

When Defendants Try to Put Victims on Trial Who Gets Convicted?
Usually the defendant. Sounds like a clever plan to skewer the accuser, but attacking victims can often backfire.

Crimes of the Rich and Famous—Should Victims Prosecute or Sue?
Usually both. Despite the prosecutor’s insistence in the Michael Jackson case that the alleged victim seeks only justice, not money, the usual strategy is to prosecute first, then sue; after all, a conviction made a civil suit easy for Mike Tyson’s victim, and even when a prosecution fails, civil damages were still later awarded against O.J.

Only A He-Said, She-Said?

While a one-on-one swearing contest may seem too inconclusive to overcome reasonable doubt, defendants typically have a giant disadvantage – an obvious motive to lie. Seemingly, celebrity cases like Kobe Bryant’s would revise that equation given the accuser’s unspoken opportunity to pursue financial recoveries. But truth is in the eyes and ears of the beholder, and so juries can and do convict simply by choosing to believe the alleged victim. And if jurors believe the accuser, they’ll put the abuser behind bars.

PD Seeks Dismissal of 6 Cases, Says Defendants Were Arrested During ‘Voyeuristic Reality TV Show’

A public defender in Florida is seeking the dismissal of six criminal cases, contending that the defendants were arrested during the filming of a “voyeuristic reality television show” by Broward County sheriff’s deputies who received financial incentives from producers. The show, Police Women of Broward County, is aired by TLC/Discovery Channel. Assistant Chief Public Defender Gordon Weekes Jr. contends in a motion filed last week for one of the six cases that the cases are tainted because the arrests were made during filmed episodes and represent “manufactured, rather than detected, crime for the benefit of the lowest form of entertainment: a voyeuristic reality television show,” the South Florida

Apple Reportedly Threatens to Sue Over Steve Jobs Action Figure

Apple is allegedly threatening to sue the Chinese maker of an action figure with an uncanny resemblance to the company’s late founder. Supposedly set to debut in February for $99 by In Icons, the Steve Jobs doll might not make it to store shelves. Apple reportedly claims that any toy resembling the computer giant’s logo, person’s name, appearance or likeness of its products is a criminal offense, MSNBC’s Technolog and the UK’s Telegraph report. Apple shut down previous attempts to market Steve Jobs action figures in 2010. The action figure, which is already for sale on eBay for $135, comes with a pair of…

Indy Lawyers Prepare For Super Bowl’s Impact

As football fans prepare to descend on Indianapolis for Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 5, the city’s lawyers are busy prepping contingency plans to ensure legal business continues as normal. From addressing parking concerns for court hearings, to allowing remote access to firm servers, to adjusting office hours to account for boosts in traffic congestion, law firms, courtrooms, office managers and administrators have considered nearly every angle, the Indiana Lawyer reports. “This will be a fun and exciting time for our city, and everyone will have to be flexible and accommodating in what we do so that we’re viewed not only as good hosts but productive professionals,”…

Former Montana Municipal Judge Takes Plea in Federal Bribery Case

A former municipal judge for Butte and Silverbow County, Montana, has taken a plea in a bribery case. Steven J. Kambich, 53, who has been on the bench there since 2004, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Missoula to a single county of bribery. It concerned $13,000 in payments he is accused of accepting in exchange for leniency in 10 more traffic and misdemeanor cases in 2008 and 2009, according to the KBZK/KXLF Media Center. He resigned last month, citing personal reasons. The FBI began a probe after receiving a tip that Kambich was accepting bribes, then reportedly confirmed…

Federal Judge Says Allen Stanford Lawyers Can’t Quit, Must Defend Him in Upcoming $7B Fraud Trial

A federal judge in Houston has nixed an effort by lawyers for R. Allen Stanford to withdraw from his defense less than two weeks before he is scheduled to stand trial in a $7 billion fraud case. Although they claim not to have had enough time and resources to prepare adequately for trial, attorneys Ali Fazel, Ken McGuire, John Parras and Robert Scardino have all been representing Stanford for the better part of a year or longer, noted U.S. District Judge David Hittner in a brief ruling denying their motion to withdraw. He also refused their alternative request for an…

Jailed Lawyer Says He Doesn’t Remember Teen Sex-Sting Guilty Plea, Seeks Do-Over

When he signed a plea agreement last year concerning a trip to Florida for the alleged purpose of helping a 14-year-old boy explore intimacy, he wasn’t in his right mind, a Maryland lawyer told a federal court in Orlando in a handwritten motion yesterday. Stressed, anxious, tearful and suicidal, he doesn’t even remember what happened, Howard Scott Kalin said in a motion seeking to vacate his plea due to what he describes as ineffective counsel, diminished mental capacity and malicious prosecution. reports the Orlando Sentinel. Pressured by his lawyer to take the plea last year, Kalin, now 48, says in…

NJ Prosecutor Seeks Court Permission to Conduct State’s First Juror Background Checks

Citing a growing concern about potential jurors who conceal criminal convictions in order to qualify to serve on a panel, a New Jersey prosecutor is seeking court permission to perform criminal background checks on those in Essex County. Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray is scheduled to argue a motion today in superior court in Newark that seeks permission to perform background checks on all jurors in the county’s cases. To do so, her office needs only their birth dates and court approval, the Star-Ledger reports. However, opponents including the state public defender’s office and the American Civil Liberties Union…

Judge OKs Jury’s $1.3M Retaliation Award to DA’s Office Investigator

A Santa Barbara judge brought in to oversee a California retaliation case against the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office after local judges recused themselves has OK’d a $1.3 million jury award to a former investigator. However, an attorney for the county and the DA’s office said they intend to appeal the verdict in favor of former DA’s office investigator Robert Velasquez, who said he was forced into retirement after testifying truthfully in discrimination cases brought by two other office employees, the Ventura County Star reports. Attorney Mark Pachowicz of Camarillo represented Velasquez and Jeffrey Held of Wisotsky, Procter & Shyer…