Articles Posted in Constitutional rights

Sometimes courts must decide cases where a question is raised as to whether the exercise of governmental power violates the rights of a person or a class of persons.  Courts use different tests, different levels of scrutiny, to determine the legality of governmental actions and whether the government is denying due process, equal protection, and other rights.  The most deferential of these tests to the government is called the rational basis test.  Under the rational basis test, the challenged law must bear a rational relationship to a legitimate state purpose.

During the oral argument in the case of Washington, et. al. v. Trump, et. al., the judge questioned whether there was a rational basis for the Executive Order (EO) in light of the fact that the seven countries named have not produced a single terror attack since 2001.  The government seems to be arguing that they do not need a rational basis since the Constitution and laws vest in the President unreviewable authority over immigration.  Alternatively, the government in its appeal brief cites the Boston judge to suggest that a law cannot be questioned if it states “a facially legitimate and bona fide reason” to ensure “the “proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals” and “that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists.”

While under ordinary circumstances, it might be easy for the government to meet this standard, here it is not.  For one thing, there is no mention or explanation given that current screening efforts are insufficient to protect the US, and if they are, what additional screening is necessary.  The Seattle judge obviously thought the fact that there has not been any demonstrated danger to us coming from these countries was important.  Experts have written that the effect of Trump’s immigration EO on our safety and security is lessened by the EO.  The people who have been primarily affected by this are legitimate VISA holders, including women and children, educators, students and relatives of individuals already here.  These people are not a threat to us.  They are the victims of those who are.

So here we are, in Donald Trump’s unreality-fantasy.  Where the President is deranged, unhinged, and out of control.  Where accurate and truthful news is the enemy.  Where fake news and lies determine policy.  Where science is distorted and evidence ignored.  Where prejudice is disguised as reason to justify cruel policies that harm American interests.  Where the President and his aides have unleashed and continue to unleash a virtual torrent of falsehoods.  The crisis we face is unprecedented in our history, unlike anything we have seen before.

Each day brings new horrors, worse than the horrors of the day that preceded it, as Trump exercises power in an unconstitutional and chaotic manner in the delusional belief that his actions are good for our country.  The tragic news of today happens to be Trump’s illegal order banning refugees from seven countries.  None of the terror attacks in this country dating back to well before 9/11 have been committed by persons from the seven countries.  The countries where those terrorists that did come from overseas originated are not in the list.  Although Trump claims this is not a Muslim ban, it only applies in Muslim countries, and it is perceived in the world as a Muslim ban. It doesn’t make us more safe as the people being shut out are people that have already been subject to extreme vetting or green card holders who made the mistake of being abroad at this time. It is stupid and self-defeating. As Malcolm Nance notes, “this will damage us worldwide” and help our enemies. “This will create terrorists.” And this is not who we are. Embarrassingly, Canada by contrast states it is welcoming refugees, using our values to make us look like fools.

The US is now being tested as it never has before.  Today’s NY Times discussed the unprecedented volume of falsehoods in “‘Up Is Down’: Trump’s Unreality Show Echoes His Business Past.”  The story noted that:

You can’t put lipstick on a pig.

Recently the Trump campaign has hired Kellyanne Conway and other spokespeople in attempt to put a positive spin on Trump.  They look nice and speak well.  But you can’t put lipstick on a pig.

I am a Jew.  I was born in New York in 1955.  I may not practice or believe much, but had I been born 15 years earlier in Germany I would have been put to death because I my mother was Jewish.  The death camps were the outcome of years of anti-Semitism, words that people acted upon, taken to its despicable, criminal, and murderous end.

The National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) just wrapped up their annual Las Vegas seminar.  As usual, it was well attended and the presentations were very informative.

The conference featured presentations on Thursday, September 22, on cross-examination by Jim Nesci; accident reconstruction by Steven M. Schoor; succeeding without an expert by Tommy Kirk; and, the psychology of winning by Allen Fox, Ph.D.  The conference continued on Friday, September 23 with presentations on case law update by Don Ramsell; NHTSA’s ARIDE program (Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement) by Tony Palacios; preparing for direct and cross of experts by Virginia Landry; ethics by Jim Nesci and nine other regents; gas chromatography for jurors by Suzanne Perry, M.Sc.; closing arguments by Joe St. Louis and Tommy Kirk; field sobriety test facts and fallacies by Tony Palacios; and, prescription medication issues by Fran Gengo, Pharm. D., Ph. D.  The conference concluded today with presentations on closing argument by Tommy Kirk; cross of the standardized field sobriety tests by John Hunsucker (for attorneys with 1-5 years experience) and by Don Ramsell (for attorneys with over 5 years experience); analyzing a DRE facesheet and narrative report by Steven Oberman and Tony Palacios; breath testing by Jim Nesci; defending the impaired marijuana case by George Bianchi; and, how to try your first DUI case by John Hunsucker.

This is the endorsement of the New York Times.  I was going to write one but the Times did a great job with it.  So I am reprinting it here.  I will add that her Supreme Court and other judicial picks will be much better than any her opponent would choose.

In any normal election year, we’d compare the two presidential candidates side by side on the issues. But this is not a normal election year. A comparison like that would be an empty exercise in a race where one candidate — our choice, Hillary Clinton — has a record of service and a raft of pragmatic ideas, and the other, Donald Trump, discloses nothing concrete about himself or his plans while promising the moon and offering the stars on layaway. (We will explain in a subsequent editorial why we believe Mr. Trump to be the worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history.)

But this endorsement would also be an empty exercise if it merely affirmed the choice of Clinton supporters. We’re aiming instead to persuade those of you who are hesitating to vote for Mrs. Clinton — because you are reluctant to vote for a Democrat, or for another Clinton, or for a candidate who might appear, on the surface, not to offer change from an establishment that seems indifferent and a political system that seems broken.

The Supreme Court decided two Fourth Amendment cases this week that diminish our freedom from police searches.  The Fourth Amendment says:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Starting with the Supreme Court’s decision in Terry v. Ohio, in 1968, police have been allowed to stop a person without probable cause if they have an articulable reasonable suspicion that the person has, is, or is about to break the law.  Under the exclusionary rule, the government is not allowed to use in court evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment.  The exclusionary rule exists to deter officers from breaking the law.

I have been reflecting on Memorial Day and paying tribute to the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our liberty.

We are very fortunate to live in a place where an accused is presumed innocent, and has a right to notice, counsel, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, against compelled self incrimination and against unreasonable search and seizure. We also have constitutional rights to equal protection, due process, and freedom of speech and religion, and against government establishment of religion.

Each generation has a responsibility to fight to keep the rights and ideals enshrined in our Constitution alive. As lawyers, we have a special responsibility to give meaning to these rights that define us as a nation of laws and liberties, and we fight in court every day to ensure that the government promotes our rights, and does not encroach on them. We know from experience that many of our citizens take these rights for granted and don’t agree with them unless or until they face charges. As many of us know all too well, many of our prosecutors and judges give only lip service to our rights and achieving justice in many cases requires hard work by us, and is not always successful.

The National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) just concluded its second annual Serious Science seminar Saturday in Ft. Collins, Colorado.  Attended by 21 lawyer students, the five day seminar featured a day and a half of lectures by the nation’s leading experts on forensic blood alcohol testing, Jimmie Valentine, Ph.D., Carrie Valentine, Ph.D.Janine Arvizu, NCDD Regent Joe St. LouisPatricia Sulik, Ph.D. and Robert Lantz, Ph. D., followed by a tour of a working forensic laboratory, Rocky Mountain Instrumental Laboratories. Rocky Mountain Instrumental Laboratories in Ft. Collins, Colorado, is run by Patricia Sulik, Ph.D. and Robert Lantz, Ph. D.

The science portion was followed by three days of lectures and breakouts on trial techniques  taught by by two veteran faculty members of the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College, Marjorie Russell, and Francisco “Paco” Duarte.   The TLC website says:

Trial skills are only part of being a force in the courtroom. The trial lawyers’ power originates from within. Knowledge of oneself gives the lawyer the capability to know others and to connect with each person in the courtroom including the witnesses, the judge and the jurors. The power of TLC’s methods come alive through creative, spontaneous, outside-the-box innovations that capture juries and move them to justice.

Today the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the cases of Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S.Ct. 614 (2015); Bernard v. Minnesota, 136 S.Ct. 615 (2015); and Beylund v. Levi, 136 S.Ct. 614 (2015).

Leonard R. Stamm, along with Donald Ramsell and Jeff Green, co-authored an amicus brief filed on behalf of the National College for DUI Defense and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, in these three cases on February 11, 2016.

The issue in the case was whether a state may make it a crime to refuse a warrantless breath test, or put differently to exercise one’s constitutional right to require the state to comply with the Fourth Amendment.   Maryland has a sentencing enhancement of up to 60 days that may apply if a person is found by a judge or jury to have knowingly refused a test.  The National Park Service, which controls a number of roads in Maryland, including the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, has a regulation, 36 CFR § 4.23(c) that makes it a crime to refuse a breath test, with a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.  In both state and federal DUI cases, a suspect is told there is a possible jail sentence if he or she refuses to submit to a breath test.  As a result, every breath test in state and federal court in Maryland is subject to a motion to suppress alleging that giving that advice is coercive and in violation of the Fourth Amendment.