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Archive for August, 2010

Texas County Plans for a Public Defender Office

August 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Final plans are in the making for Texas residents in Harris County who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.  A $4.1 million grant application has been submited to Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense in plans to develope a public defenders office for adults and juveniles.  If the grants come through, they will provide funding for the offices operations for a year.

How do Public Defender offices work?

The entire public defender system is overlooked by a chief public defender.  From their, the office is further segmented into divisions and headed by a chief and selected assistant pblic defenders, investigators and clerks.  Overseeing the office as a whole would be a coard who is responsible for evaulating the system.    According to Caprice Cosper who is the director at the Office of Criminal Justice Coordination stated that 4 divisiosn are within the plan.  The four hopeful divisions are Misdemeanor Mental Health, Appellate, Felony Trial and Juvenile Trial.

Harris CountySo what would this mean for the future?

This type of established Public Defenders Office will provide a judge the opportunity to appointa private attorney to an indigent (one who cannot afford an attorney) client.  Thusly, a new hybrid system will be born where judges have the choice to select a court-appointed attorney or qualified legal representation from the public defenders office.

So… is this a good idea after all?

Supporters of the public defender office say it will attract top lawyers, have more access to legal resources and be easy for the county to monitor.  Those in favor stand behind the idea that you can potentially higher quality attorneys and access to better investigators.  Some, Such as the 3rd Precinct Commissioner Steve Raddick supports it because it can help those who cannot afford legal representation in Harris County.

Those who appose a public defenders office worry that it could wind up being a similar situation as that found in public defender offices across the nation.  This is a system that easy to bread overworked and underfunded attorneys.  Former president of of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association feels similar stating that “in a perfect world, if you get a public defender system with enough money, it would be fine, but there is always going to be a shortage of money.

Other concerns are that of a power play in which the wealthy are able to hire high-powered attorneys to overpower government lawyers.

It would be interesting to get the take on the issue from Collin County criminal defense attorneys and lawyers from surrounding areas in Texas.

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Arizona Immigration Law: It’s Contageous and Florida Might Catch it!

August 17, 2010 1 comment

An announcment was made yesterday to the Florida legislature that is similar to Arizona’s immigration law by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. McCollum has made a proposal a “stronger,” “tougher” and “fairer” bill that will give law enforcement the right to use “reasonable suspicion” to detain individuals that they believe are in the U.S. illegally. There are 2 weeks left in the republican primary elections and McCollum is trailing in the polls as he comes out with this proposal.

Florida Immigration law
Attorney General Bill McCollum’s bill proposal also makes room for defendeant’s immigration status to be held in question when bond maounts are being set and for higher level charges to be brought against illegal immigrants by prosecuters.
A major point of differentiation from Arizona’s immigration law, is that citizens would NOT have the authority to sue law enforcement agencies for failing to enforce the law. Rather, this would be the responsibility of the Attorney General’s office. A couple of other points are that the bill would:
• make it illegal to employ immigrants and a violation of Florida criminal law that could require an attorney to defend.
• businesses would have to use the Federal E-Verify program prior to hiring anyone
• make it a specific point to prohibit racial profiling.

As can be expected, Immigrant advocacy groups already chimed in about the bill. The executive director of Florida Immigrant Advocacy center in Miami has already criticized the bill in a statement that said the passing of such a bill would augment the current confusion and chaos in the system.

Prog 8 – Don’t go Rushing to the Alter Yet…

August 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Judge Vaugh Walker’s ruling that spun heads on August 4th and allowed for same-sex marriage has been put on stay by the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit which is made up of three judges is set to be hearing arguments the first week of December in San Francisco. During which, both sides of the issue will be addressed.

Prop 8

Prop 8

Normally, only the party being “hurt” by the rulling is granted the right of standing or the right to appeal. This situation is playing out a bit ordinarilly since Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown were against the stay and the appeal of Judge Vaughn Walkers Rulling. A case will have to be made to the Ninth Circuit explaing why those who are not affected by Judge Walkers order has the right to appeal.

And so the wait for equality in marrige continues…

Fatal NYC Construction Accidents on the Rise

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment
New York City is undergoing in serious building boom which is leading towards a rise of 61% in fatal construction accidents.  When dealing with such a case, a New York City Construction accident lawyer would have to question where does the responsibility law- in the workers or negligence of he companies they work for?  The leading cause of the increase can be accredited to falls from hanging scaffolds.

 

To aid in combating this trend, the cities building department and Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will apply vigorous enforcement will be applied to the safety rules along with unannounced construction site inspections.  Falls from hanging scaffolds have been the single greatest factor in the increase. Top officials of OSHA and the city’s Buildings Department said they were disturbed by the trend and vowed vigorous enforcement of safety rules and unannounced inspections of construction sites.
NYC Construction

NYC Construction

Could this be a little bit too late?  Some worker support groups feel that this is the case and that the deaths were preventable.  29 construction workers in 28 incidents have fallen to their death in a year come this September 20th.   Of these workers, 21 were immigrants or had limited English capabilities and 24 were nonunionized.  The 10 companies that these deaths occurred with were small with 10 or less workers.  The year prior, there were a total of 18 deaths within 9 falls.

 

A Report will be issued by December 18th by a task force who will be examining scaffold safety.  This came from an announcement on Nov. 2nd from the commissioner of Buildings Department and a day after a 25 year old Ecuadorean fell and died outside of an office building near Union Square.

 

Richard Mendelson who is the director of NYC’s OSHA stated that “these are all needless, excess deaths in the city,” he told the Building Trades Employers’ Association, an umbrella group for the city’s largest contractors and construction managers. “And they put workers at risk, they put the public at risk, they really put the industry at risk, because employers who cut corners ultimately suffer not only lawsuits, but also OSHA enforcement and city enforcement.”
Mendelson also continued by saying that “there’s no reason why nonunion workers should have a lower level of protection,” he said. “Obviously there’s a disparity here.”

Constellation Energy Group to Acquire Boston Generating

August 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Constellation energy group is a leading energy supplier for wholesale and retail eclectic gas consumers. They are also recognized as a Fortune 500 energy company that serves both natural and gas customers. This past Monday, the group announced that they are aiming to purchase five power plants throughout Boston for $1.1 billion. If accomplished, this would go down as one of the largest Boston power plant acquisitions and grow the energy production capacities of Constellation by a third.

Constellation Energy Group

Constellation Energy Group

Boston Generating, which is a part of the U.S. Power Generating Co. is expected to file for bankruptcy and hopefully have a seasoned Maryland bankruptcy attorney on hand. This is where Constellation energy group comes in. The Baltimore power plant providers made a deal in the amount of 1.1 billion which would top an auction price. Constellation, who currently serves 13.3 terawatt hours in New England, would acquire 2,950 by purchasing the four plants that are facing bankruptcy.
Already this year, Constellation has purchased two facilities of natural gas in Texas in the amount of $365 million. The company has had its share of trials and tribulations. Their new Southern Maryland nuclear power plant partnership with, Electricite de France is in jeopardy and pending federal loan approvals and guarantees.

Constellation’s financial advisers were Credit Suisse and UBS Investment Bank and its legal adviser was Winston & Strawn LLP.

Covenant Marriage = a “Serious Marriage”

August 11, 2010 1 comment
“I do”…till it gets tough or bored to death do us part.  If you think that the institution of marriages aren’t taken too seriously anymore, your not the only one.  In a way, it seems like people get married and mistake it for a “long” (3ish year commitment) to date each other.  According to divorcerate.com, the numbers for divorce in the United States look something like this.

 

• The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%
• The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%
• The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%

 

In Arkansas 5 years ago, the idea of Covenant Marriage was introduced as well as in a couple of other states including Kansas.   A Covenant marriage is more “strict” union between two requiring a pre-marriage counseling in order to receive a marriage license.  The grounds for a divorce are also more stringent in this form of a marriage in that both have to agree to seek counseling before a divorce is actually issued.  Who knows, an Arkansas attorney could make a career out of this.   Along with that, a divorce can only be fulfilled if:

 

• The other spouse committed adultery
• The other spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment
• The other spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking the divorce or a child of one of the spouses

 

Although the law is a bit more complicated than what is mentioned here- basically it intends to make a marriage… are you ready… a real LIFETIME COMMITMENT.  Who would have ever thought thats what it was all about!
But is covenant marriage having the success it intended?  In Kansas, the organization called Kansas NOW (National Organization for Women) testified against the amendment on March 17, 2010 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  You can read the full testimony of Kansas NOW here.

 

Not a single supporter stood up for Covenant Marriages and it only had the support of two Senators.  Thus, the amendment was removed from the bill.

No Cell Phones in Class… No Cell Phones in Federal Prison…

August 11, 2010 Leave a comment

President Obama has made it against the law for federal inmates to have cell phones. The motives behind this are to prevent federal inmates from orchestrating crimes from behind bars. A study will also be executed to measure the effectiveness of this new law. The new law bans the use or possession of mobile phones and other wireless devices for inmates. If one tries to smuggle in such a device to an inmate, they can spend up to a year in prison. Last year alone, the Federal Bureau of Prisons did away with 2,600+ cell phones in minimum security prisons and about 600 in federal institutions. As one of the most prized purchases in prison, California inmates are known to have paid anywhere from $500 to $1,000 for a cell phone.

Iowa Senator Cherles Grassley stated that “making it illegal for criminals to use cell phones and wireless devices in federal prison cuts their communication link and helps keep our communities safe”.