The desperate need for Jeff Sessions to turn DOJ's Civil Rights Division upside down has never been on more vivid display than in the juxtaposition of the following stories.

In the first, we see that, under DOJ's consent decree with crime-ridden Baltimore, one subject of considerable attention is the need for police to use the correct pronoun when they interact with citizens.  PowerLine repeats the relevant portion of the decree:

Ensure that BPD officers address and in documentation refer to all members of the public, including LGBT individuals, using the names, pronouns, and titles of respect appropriate to the individual's gender identity as expressed or clarified by the individual. Proof of the person's gender identity, such as an identification card, will not be required. 

To the best of my knowledge (readers please correct me if I'm wrong), there has not been a single episode of murder, robbery or mugging in Baltimore's 288 year history because the police used the wrong pronoun in referring to a gay, bi, or transgender person.

The second story provides a different slant on what Baltimore police might attend to instead of pronouns.


Amplifying Molehills Into Mountains

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This story reminds me of an old REO Speedwagon song:

But I know the neighborhood
And talk is cheap when the story is good
And the tales grow taller on down the line
Ian Millhiser, the Justice Editor at ThinkProgress, informs us:

President Trump "is considering a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border," according to the Associated Press.
But AP did not say that.  Notice the placement of the opening quotation mark.

News Scan

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Officers Injured During Immigration Protest: In the course of an immigration protest in Arizona Thursday evening, rising tensions led to three police officers sustaining injuries. Carmen Duarte at The Arizona Daily Star reports that the protest in Tuscon, Arizona was being held to oppose the recent executive orders regarding the regulation of immigration. Tensions ran high as protesters began assaulting police officers, striking one of the officers in the face and another in the back. None of the officers sustained serious injury although three men have been arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault on a peace officer.

More Fatalities in The Windy City: The number of casualties continues to rise as gun violence continues to run rampant in the streets of Chicago. According to ABC's Stacey Baca and Charles Thomas, "11 people were killed and 11 wounded in shootings over a 48-hour period in Chicago from Tuesday afternoon to Thursday morning, Chicago police said." The highest profile incident among these shootings was the triple shooting which took the life of a 2-year-old boy and his uncle while being streamed on Facebook live.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Drugs): The state of Arizona has disclosed a new plan to solve the problem it has had acquiring the most effective drugs for executions. Tom Dart at The Guardian reports that new execution protocol would call for a death row inmate's lawyer to supply the drugs with which to euthanize his client. "With drugs that can legally be used for lethal injections in short supply, the Arizona department of corrections' latest execution protocol states that attorneys for death row inmates are welcome to bring along their own." Legal scholars are calling this new policy absurd, citing the inability of legal counsel to obtain the proper chemicals in a lawful way, let alone their ability to transport it into the department of corrections.

AI Powered Body Cams?:  The body camera industry is moving toward joining the growing trend of utilizing artificial intelligence in their products. According to Joshua Kopstein at Vocativ, Taser, the leading manufacturer of stun guns, has announced its intent to open an artificial intelligence division to develop a new and unprecedented type of body cam in response to the recent controversy regarding police involved shootings. The idea is to create a camera that operates on an algorithm that allows it to recognize and categorize different objects such as firearms, knives, etc. This would allow police personnel to redact the footage from body cameras with relative ease as they would be able to search through what the camera identified as relevant footage. "Taser predicts that in a year's time, their automation technology will reduce the total amount of time needed to redact faces from one hour of video footage from the current 8 hours to 1.5 hours."

News Scan

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Released Sex Offender Charged With Murder:  A sex offender released from prison last November has been charged with raping and murdering an Ohio State college student.  Fox News reports that 29-year-old Brian Golsby was arrested last Sunday for the murder of 21-year-old Reagan Tokes.  Tokes' nude body was found at a park entrance last week.  Golsby was released from prison last November after serving six years for the 2011 robbery and rape of a woman in front of her 2-year-old child. Without a plea bargain in that case, his conviction would have carried a sixteen-year sentence.  Harrison Hove of WCMH in Columbus reports that Golsby has a record of committing crimes since he was a teenager.  He was on GPS monitoring when he allegedly kidnapped, robbed, raped and murdered the young woman. 

Florida Could End Gun Free Zones:  Two Florida State Legislators have introduced bills which would eliminate all state-imposed restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons for licensed concealed-carry permit holders.  Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald reports that the two bills (SB908/HB803) introduced by Senator Dennis Baxley and Rep. Don Hanfeldt would give Florida's over 1.7 million permit holders the right to be armed almost anywhere in the state.  Senator Baxley said the measure "tests the appetite for legislators to eliminate the illusion called gun-free zones. This bill eliminates the sterile target we have created with noble intentions."  An anti-gun advocate said "These gun-happy legislators have gone too far."  
Kwanwoo Jun, Alastair Gale, and Ben Otto report for the WSJ:

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un issued an assassination order to kill his half-brother after seizing power in 2011 and agents tried to execute it at least once before succeeding this week, South Korea's top spy chief said.

News Scan

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Charges Filed in 11-year-old Girl's Shooting: A 19-year-old male has been arrested and charged with first degree murder in relation to the death of an 11-year-old girl who died from a gunshot wound to the head last weekend in Chicago. According to Stefano Esposito of the Chicago Sun Times, Antwan C. Jones discharged his firearm at a group of people that he "didn't think belonged in the neighborhood." Takiya Holmes, 11, was struck in the head by a stray bullet and passed away this past Tuesday. This one of the three reported shootings involving Chicago children in the past few days.

Washington Abolition Bill Expected to Fall Flat: A bill to abolish the death penalty in the state of Washington received a great deal of public backing this year although house democrats are not hopeful about the bills future. The Seattle Times reports "A House bill on the issue is set for a public hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, but it's not scheduled for a committee vote before a deadline Friday requiring most bills to be voted out of committees." This means that it is likely that the bill will die in committee. Washington currently has a moratorium on capital punishment, preventing executions for those on death row. The most recent execution in the state was in 2010.

More Victims from Criminals Left on the Streets:  A 28-year-old California parolee has been arrested for the January 31 abduction of a woman and the burglary of a house a week later.  KESQ ABC Local News reports that habitual felon Franklin James Scott is facing charges or kidnapping with intent to rape and residential burglary.  Scott confronted a woman, took her belongings and was forcing her towards her car when he fled before police arrived. Scott was convicted in 2007 on charges of assault with intent to commit rape, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment and sexual battery.  Andrew Holder, 27, who on probation for violating the terms of his earlier probation from a drug case in 2010, is being charged with the murder and robbery of 37-year-old Darryl Curtis according to Stephanie Farr at The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Curtis was found in his home  in Holmesburg with a fatal gunshot wound to the head on January 3.  As reported by Roseanne Tellez at CBS Chicago, the two suspects charged by police for the 2013 shooting of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton both had criminal records and one of them was on probation at the time of the girl's shooting.  In fact, it was discovered that 18-year-old Michael Ward had violated his probation 3 times before the shooting occurred.  One week before she was murdered Pendleton had performed at President Obama's second inauguration.  


Malignant Neglect in Berkeley?

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Paul Cassell at the Volokh Conspiracy discusses the "black bloc" thugs who violently forced the cancellation of a speech they disagreed with a couple weeks ago and the curious failure of Berkeley authorities to make any arrests of the thugs.  "If a[] Los Angeles Times reporter can find the black bloc attackers," Cassell asks, "why can't the Berkeley authorities?"

I hope UC Berkeley authorities will be able to announce some progress on the investigation soon. They have said that they are working "in close concert with the FBI on an ongoing investigation into the matter." But the same report indicates that the FBI has not confirmed or denied that it is actually conducting an investigation, and it is not immediately clear whether the FBI will find that the attack warrants federal attention.

Local failure to prosecute those who violently interfere with the rights of others -- because the locals have more sympathy with the thugs than those they attack -- is an old problem.  Congress addressed it in the Ku Klux Act, signed by President Grant in 1871.  This case will warrant federal attention if Berkeley police fail to act. 

News Scan

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Federal Judicial Appointments:  While partisan battles swirl around the President's nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, as noted by Kent Scheidegger in a recent post, appointments to federal district courts and courts of appeal are also of great importance.  Josh Katz of the New York Times discusses the opportunity the new administration will have to reshape the federal judiciary over the next four years.  While Senate Republicans have been blamed for obstructing confirmation of President Obama's judicial appointments, Mr. Katz notes that over the past eight years Obama's appointments have replaced about 40% of today's federal judiciary.  This suggests that much of the reshaping has already been done. 

Florida Court Upholds Death Sentence:  The Florida Supreme Court has upheld a jury's unanimous 2008 verdict to sentence the murderer of a corrections officer to death.  Orlando Sentinel journalist Gal Tziperman reports that the court's 5-2 opinion held that because the sentencing jury was unanimous in sentencing murderer Enoch Hall to death, his sentence did not violate the Supreme Court's Ring v. Arizona requirement that the authority to impose a death sentence rest with the jury.  In 2008, while serving a life sentence for kidnapping and sexual battery, Hall attacked and killed Donna Fitzgerald, a 50-year-old corrections officer, stabbing her 22 times with a metal shank.  Other officers found Office Fitzgerald's body with her pants and underwear pulled down to her knees.  

Ohio Swamped With Overdose Deaths:  Following a narrative that is playing out across the country, the state of Ohio is being overwhelmed with fatal overdoses of heroin and fentanyl.  KTLA5 reports that the Montgomery County Coroner is running out of space to hold the bodies of overdose victims.  In January 2017 the county, which includes the city of Dayton, had already had 145 overdose deaths, representing over 60% of the total autopsies for that month.  In Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, there were 517 overdose deaths last year, up from 228 in 2015. This is compelling evidence that America needs to reduce sentences for the "non-violent" crime of drug dealing.     


Donald Trump and Improving Police Morale

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Police are public officials with a tremendous amount of power.  They warrant at least as much scrutiny as any other public official, if not more.  But scrutiny is one thing, while a cascade of reflexive, unbalanced and often vitriolic criticism is something else.  Or to put it more bluntly, criticism is criticism but hate is hate.

There is a widespread suspicion among those who follow the subject that growing police caution in the wake of escalating condemnation (caution known as the "Ferguson effect" and noted by, among others, Jim Comey of the FBI and Chuck Rosenberg of the DEA) has contributed to increased aggressiveness by criminals over at least the last two years.  That, in turn, is thought to be one of the reasons violent crime in our major cities surged in 2015 and 2016.  Sharply increased crime is one the "legacies" from President Obama that the press tends to be less than eager to cover  --  or, when it is covered, to identify as rooted in Obama's Justice Department and its kindred spirits such as, for example, Black Lives Matter and the ACLU.

Increased crime and related low police morale are, nonetheless, facts the new Administration has no choice but to confront.  Fortunately, it appears from this illuminating LifeZette article by Edmund Kozak that President Trump is off to a good start.

#NeverReplaceable

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Justice Antonin Scalia died a year ago today.

There has been much discussion about his replacement.  In the sense I have in mind today, the talk is pointless. Scalia was a once-in-a-lifetime intellect and a larger than life character.  Someone will eventually sit in his seat, but he will never be replaced.

I will repeat two tributes to him C&C published last year, here and here.

A Flawed Restraining of a Flawed Order

Michael McConnell, Stanford Law Professor and Hoover Institution scholar, has this article at Hoover on last week's Ninth Circuit decision.

Toning It Down

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has this editorial regarding presidents' attacks on the judiciary -- both the current and preceding presidents.

News Scan

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27 Shootings, Including 2 Young Girls, Another Chicago Weekend: Between Saturday and Sunday this past weekend, 27 shootings occurred in the city of Chicago. Elvia Malagon at the Chicago Tribune reports that among the over two dozen shootings in Chicago last weekend.  Two of the victims were young girls, ages 11 and 12, both receiving gunshot wounds to the head. As of now both girls are in critical condition and on life support.    Nereida Moreno and Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas report local residents have expressed their belief that the police just don't have the manpower to combat the violence at this point, and that they would support the National Guard coming to Chicago to patrol the streets.

Parolee Fires on Police Officers: A 28-year-old parolee received multiple gunshot wounds Friday afternoon after firing a pistol at police officers. According to Anita Chabria at the Sacramento Bee, officers from the Sacramento Police Department approached the suspect at the 2900 block of Del Paso Blvd. under suspicion that he was a dangerous parolee-at-large. The suspect drew a pistol and fired at a K-9 officer and 3 officers returned fire. The suspect sustained multiple injuries but survived the shooting and is in stable condition.

Execution Date Set For Fort Worth Murderer:  An execution date has been set for a man convicted of murder in 2004.  According to Mitch Mitchell at the Star-Telegram Tilon Lashon Carter, 37, was scheduled to be put to death Tuesday but received a stay of execution Friday on a legal technicality. His new execution date is May 16, according to an order signed by state District Judge Mollee Westfall, who presides over the 371st District Court in Tarrant County. Carter was convicted for the robbery and the 2004 murder of an 89-year-old Bell Helicopter retiree.

A:  To the morgue.

And what are the ideas behind sentencing reform?  We know them pretty well by now:  That we should be readier to give second chances, that youthful offenders in particular need understanding, that we must resist the impulse to incarcerate, that racial bias pervades the system, and that opportunities for education and community involvement are better than warehousing people.

See if you can spot any of those ideas in this story, described in more detail after the break.  Then see if you can figure out why the jurisdiction involved is one of the most dangerous and miserable cities in America.

Lesson 3: Judge-Shopping Must Be Curbed

Here is the third lesson to be learned from the debacle noted this morning.

Plaintiffs seeking to enjoin government actions have way too much choice where to file their suits.  Further, there is not enough control on conflicting decisions when it comes to injunctions.

The WSJ article noted in a previous post this morning reports on the development of the strategy of the opponents:

Democratic attorneys general and their aides held a series of conference calls. They agreed to mount separate lawsuits across the country. The goal: try lots of different arguments to block the ban in hopes that one of them would succeed.

Minnesota's attorney general, Lori Swanson, joined the Washington lawsuit. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman joined the American Civil Liberties Union's case in federal court in Brooklyn. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey did the same with an ACLU case in Boston.

Not only did they throw as much against the wall as they could to see what stuck, they threw it against as many walls as they could, and it only needed to stick to one.  Judge Gorton in Boston declined to extend his earlier, temporary block of the executive order, but Judge Robart in Washington did block it, and the result was that it was blocked.  Conceivably, a group of persons opposed to some government action could file coordinated suits in every district in the country, and they would only have to win one to get a halt for the time being.

Even when only one suit is filed, broad venue rules and "related case" rules give the challengers too much leeway to steer cases to the judges they know will be favorable to them.  The habeas corpus "fast track" regulations were held up for over three years by order of a judge with no jurisdiction in a case steered to her in exactly that manner.

Congress should take a hard look at the rules regarding venue in cases that seek nationwide injunctions.  "Venue" sounds like a boring subject, but this case illustrates how much it can matter.

Lesson 2: Lower Court Appointments Matter

Here is the second lesson to be learned from the debacle noted this morning.

Supreme Court appointments are critically important, but lower court appointments are important, too.

The Supreme Court is one court of nine people.  It cannot and does not correct every wrong decision rendered by lower courts.  Not even close.  The high court takes about 1% of the cases it is asked to take.  It takes a higher percentage when the Government is asking, but not all.

Bad appointments to lower federal courts can have very long-lasting effects.  The Ninth Circuit was expanded during Jimmy Carter's single term.  The appointments he made, no doubt strongly influenced by California Senator Alan Cranston, produced the notorious "Ninth Circus" that plagued the Far West for an entire generation.

One of those appointees is reported to have said, regarding the Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit decisions, "They can't reverse them all."  Whether he really said that and whether, if so, he was joking (as he claims) is beside the point.  It is undeniably true.  The Notorious Ninth commits far more errors than the Supreme Court can possibly correct, and it does so knowing that many of these decisions are contrary to what Supreme Court precedents actually require.  Even when they are eventually reversed, those errors do damage in the interim, and the interim can be a long time.

During the Bush 43 Administration, the judge-pickers had a motto of "no more Souters" for the Supreme Court, but they did not apply that principle to the lower courts.  They made some solid picks, but they made some that cannot be explained on any basis other than politics and personal connections.

Lesson 1: Line and Staff

Here is the first lesson to be learned from the debacle noted this morning.

The chief executive of an organization of any size has two kinds of subordinates.  In the military, the commanders of the component units are the "line," while the people in the chief commander's office are the "staff."  Other organizations may use different terminology, but the distinction is always there in one form or another.

Relying too much on the staff and not keeping the line officers in the loop is a major error.  In the very early days of the Trump Administration, some of the important line positions were vacant, and some still are, because of stalling in the Senate.  The Acting Attorney General at the time of the travel restriction executive order was a dyed-in-the-wool leftist holdover from the Obama Administration.  The extent to which the Secretary of Homeland Security was in the loop has been the subject of conflicting reports.

President Trump nominated some solid people to head the government departments, and the confirmations are coming in now, albeit delayed.  He needs to use them and listen to them.  That is not to say he shouldn't listen to his staff also, just not exclusively.

A Debacle and a Learning Moment

The WSJ has this editorial titled Trump's Judicial Debacle noting a number of ways that the Administration and the courts were both wrong. "President Trump's immigration executive order has been a fiasco from the start, but the damage is spreading as a federal appeals court on Thursday declined to lift a legal blockade. Now the White House order has become an opening for judges to restrict the power of the political branches to conduct foreign policy."

The editorial goes to explain several ways the Ninth Circuit decision is wrong and how the Administration seemed ill-prepared to defend the order.  At the end, the editorial has some worthwhile thoughts on what to do now.

There are lessons to be learned from this debacle, though.  I will note a few of them in separate posts.
Jose de Cordoba and Santiago Perez have this article in the WSJ with the above headline.

MEXICO CITY--Influential Mexicans are pushing an aggressive and perhaps risky strategy to fight a likely increase in deportations of their undocumented compatriots in the U.S.: jam U.S. immigration courts in hopes of causing the already overburdened system to break down.

The proposal calls for ad campaigns advising migrants in the U.S. to take their cases to court and fight deportation if detained. "The backlog in the immigration system is tremendous," said former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda. The idea is to double or triple the backlog, "until [U.S. President Donald] Trump desists in this stupid idea," he added.

Talk about stupid ideas.  A concerted attack on our judicial system by foreign influences might just spur Congress to fund a big expansion of the system and thereby increase deportations.  Nothing makes Americans come together quite like being attacked from outside.  "Perhaps risky" is an understatement.

Alabama Senator and Attorney General

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Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, as we all know, resigned his Senate seat to take the helm at the U.S. Deparment of Justice.  Gov. Robert Bentley promptly appointed Attorney General Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate seat.

Now AP reports:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Longtime district attorney Steve Marshall has been appointed as Alabama attorney general.

Gov. Robert Bentley announced the appointment Friday. It came a day after Bentley named former AG Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate seat that Jeff Sessions left to become U.S. attorney general.

Bentley in a statement said Marshall is a "well-respected district attorney with impeccable credentials and strong conservative values."

Marshall has been a Marshall County district attorney since 2001.
Yesterday I said the Administration should, in addition to rewriting the travel restriction executive order, take the present case up to the Supreme Court.  That was based on a legal assessment that the Ninth Circuit decision is wrong.  (See also Rivkin & Casey in today's WSJ.)

In addition to the reasons that I gave yesterday, let me add that the claim that this order is a "Muslim ban" is absurd.  Based on data from the Pew Center, I estimate that the seven countries in question have only 11% of the world's Muslim population.  If one wanted to ban a whole group of people, an action that only affects one out of nine of the group is not the way to go about it.

However, sometimes there are strategic reasons for not taking a position.  Even though the decision is wrong, and clearly so in my opinion, there may not be five votes on the present eight-member Supreme Court to overturn it.  Affirmance by an equally divided court is a nothingburger, and that would be a real possibility.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the presence of this very hot-button case in the Supreme Court would give the Democrats and the left-leaning media ammunition in the critically important confirmation battle for Judge Gorsuch.  The Democrats will ask him about the case or questions closely related to the case, he will decline to answer, and even though that declination is quite proper it will look evasive on camera.  The Dems will still try to use it, of course, but their efforts will be less effective if it is behind us.

Sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on.  While the Administration's legal position is correct, taking the case up to SCOTUS may not be strategically wise.

Update:  The Ninth Circuit this afternoon ordered briefing on whether to hear the case en banc.

News Scan

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Florida Seeks to Ban Sanctuary Cities: Florida lawmakers have introduced legislation that would target "sanctuary cities" and the public officials who refuse to cooperate with immigration law. Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald reports that  SB 786 introduced by State Senator Arron Bean and HB 697 introduced by Rep. Larry Metz would ban sanctuary policies throughout the state.  "We're also looking at removing the umbrella of your sovereign immunity for elected individuals, boards and constitutional officers," Bean said -- which would allow victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to then sue city and county officials if they don't fully comply with enforcing federal immigration laws.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article130192194.html#storylink=cpy
Uber Driver With Criminal Record Robs Customer:  A female Uber Driver in South Florida, with prior convictions for drug offenses including cocaine possession with intent to distribute and an arrest for second-degree grand theft has been arrested for robbing a customer.  According to David J. Neal at the Miami Herald, the victim who requested to remain anonymous, allowed the woman to enter his home to go to the bathroom.  He subsequently passed out, possibly due to a drugged bottle of water she offered him while driving him home.  He awoke several hours later to find that he had been robbed. The driver took a firearm, a small safe, and his tax returns from 2012-2015 which suggests a possible intent to steal the victims identity. The driver currently faces charges of armed robbery and attempted identity theft.  U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer called South Florida the "epicenter of identity theft."

Different Takes on Ninth Circuit Ruling:  By now everyone has heard about yesterday's 9th Circuit ruling to uphold the stay of President Trump's executive order to temporarily halt immigration from seven Middle East countries.  The contrast in how this ruling is being reported is interesting.  Adam Liptak at the New York Times reports "The appeals court said the government had not justified suspending travel from the seven countries. The government has pointed to no evidence," the decision said, "that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States." The article includes several stories of scheduled reunions of immigrant families and refugees coming to America, quoting the World Relief Corporation which called the ruling "fabulous news" for 275 newcomers who are scheduled to arrive in the next week, many of whom will be reunited with family.
The Ninth Circuit has declined to stay the temporary restraining order issued by Judge Robart in Washington State preventing enforcement of Executive Order 13769, the controversial travel restrictions on nationals of seven countries.

The Ninth is, of course, correct that due process protections apply to legal permanent residents (i.e., "green card" holders).  Yet even though the Administration has said it won't apply the limitations to permanent residents, it held that such application was not moot.

Felons, Weapons, and Knowledge

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When a convicted felon is not allowed to possess a firearm, what knowledge must be established to prove a violation?  The California Supreme Court addressed that issue today in the context of probation violations in People v. Hall, S227193.  U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has dissented in favor of the defendant on a related issue.

In the California case, drug dealer LaQuincy Hall was given probation upon the condition, among others, that he "may not own, possess or have in [his] custody or control any handgun, rifle, shotgun or any firearm whatsoever or any weapon that can be concealed on [his] person."

Although he made no objection in the trial court, Hall claimed on appeal that the condition needed to be modified to prohibit only "knowing" possession.

Given the relevant case law, the firearms condition is properly construed as prohibiting defendant from knowingly owning, possessing, or having in his custody or control any handgun, rifle, shotgun, firearm, or any weapon that can be concealed on his person....  Because no change to the substance of either condition would be wrought by adding the word "knowingly," we decline defendant's invitation to modify those conditions simply to make explicit what the law already makes implicit.  A trial court, however, remains free to specify the requisite mens rea explicitly when imposing a condition of probation.

Sessions' First Speech as Attorney General...

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...is less than three minutes and to the point.  My take-away is this:  Wishful thinking is out, hard thinking is in. Endless, mushy conferences are out, targeted action is in. We have a serious problem with rising crime, and we will use the full forces of the Department to deal with it.

This is almost enough to make me want to sign back up as an Assistant US Attorney. Almost.

The Attorney General's remarks, with the President listening, are here.

News Scan

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Bill Would Split 9th Circuit:  Legislation to divide jurisdiction of the nation's largest federal appellate circuit has been introduced in both houses of Congress this year.  Barnini Chakraborty of Fox News reports that the Senate bill, introduced by Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain would leave Oregon, California, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in the 9th Circuit, and put Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Arizona and Alaska in a new 12th Circuit.  A House bill introduced by Rep. Andy Briggs and four other Arizona Republicans would leave Washington in the 9th Circuit.  The current circuit presides over 20%  of the U.S. population and 40% of the nation's land mass.  Because of its size, according to Senator Flake, it can take the court 15 months to hand down a decision. 

Baltimore Looking For Answers:  With over a killing a day in Baltimore so far this year, the city's mayor announced "We've got a crime problem in our city."  The city suffered a record 344 murders in 2015 and another spike in violent crime over the first six months of last year, according recent FBI statistics.   Luke Broadwater & Allison Knezevich of the Baltimore Sun report that while the Mayor has authorized the hiring of an additional 100 police officers to patrol the city, some believe that restoring pro-active policing will be necessary to reduce the violence.  John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer, noted that a Justice Department report on policing in Baltimore released last Summer contained nothing about preventing crime.  He believes that officers need to be allowed to "confront criminals again.  What's been harmful is the idea the police shouldn't enforce quality-of-life issues." 

Repeat Felons Preying on Women:  Sacramento police arrested parolee David Hamilton Tuesday, for the burglary and rape of a 48-year-old mother of two.  Bill Lindelof of the Sacramento Bee reports  that Hamilton entered the victim's home through a window and raped her in her bed at knifepoint.  The victim was able to text a relative to call 911.  Police arrived just as Hamilton was entering the bedroom of one of the children and arrested him.  In another story, LIndeof reports that habitual felon Jerry West was convicted Tuesday for sexual assaults, robberies, kidnapping and carjackings involving four women in August and September of 2015.  West, who had two priors for carjacking, was nonetheless armed and back on the streets to commit these new crimes.  Under California's groundbreaking alternative sentencing policies 66% of the state's largest cities had increased violent crime last year, according to the FBI's Preliminary Uniform Crime Report for 2016.     
A picture is still worth a thousand words.
Sen. Sessions' farewell speech to the Senate, and his appreciation of his new responsibilities, is here.

Key line:  "This is a law enforcement office, first and foremost."

Spinning the Bad News on Crime

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Sentencing Law and Policy has this entry up today:  "New report details stability of California crime rates during period of huge sentencing reform."  

That must be good news, right?  Much more leniency and no crime increase?  Here's the key paragraph:

The statewide urban crime rate stabilized from 2010 to 2016, after decades of decline.

Urban crime rates in California declined precipitously through the 1990s and 2000s (See Appendix A).  Since 2010, crime in California has stabilized, hovering near historically low levels. Comparing the first six months of 2016 to the first six months of 2010, total crime rates experienced no net change, while property crime declined by 1 percent and violent crime increased by 3 percent.

For a more clear-eyed look at what's going on, here's the translation:

After dropping massively for twenty years due in large part to more and more aggressive policing and greater use of incarceration, crime rates are no longer falling.  Instead, in its period of "reform," in which those policies have been left behind, California has thrown away six years of progress against crime, and is now back to 2010 levels  --  with the momentum of change in exactly the wrong direction.

Attorney General Sessions

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Jeff Sessions has been confirmed as United States Attorney General, 52-47.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted yes, and Senator Sessions himself voted "present."  All others voted down party lines.

That is most unfortunate.  Jeff Sessions is a well-qualified nominee, and the attacks on him have been shown to be spurious, yet only one Senator from the opposition party has the spine to cross the aisle.

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