Tuesday, June 29, 2010

McDonald v. City of Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court Decision Opened the Door to Legal Challenges of Gun Laws Across the Country

Click here to read the USSC decision in MCDONALD ET AL. v. CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, ET AL.

WASHINGTON (June 28) — By extending the Second Amendment right to bear arms to state and local governments, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday opened the door to legal challenges to gun laws across the country. Whether the decision will change the status quo, though, remains unclear.

The case, McDonald v. City of Chicago, strikes down decades-old gun bans in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Ill. It follows almost two years to the day the court’s landmark Heller decision striking down the District of Columbia’s ban on handgun possession. That case, also decided by an ideologically split court ruling 5-4, applied only to federal laws. Monday’s 214-page decision applies that right to governments at every level.

The decision broadening gun rights was announced just hours before confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan were to begin and underscored just how much is at stake in the makeup of the bench.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, told AOL News he intends “to make sure” Kagan is asked about today’s gun ruling, even though his group has reportedly clamped a lid on testifying at her hearing. “We were assured by the Obama administration that (Sonia) Sotomayor was a Second Amendment supporter, and we saw how that worked out,” he said.

Sotomayor, who was confirmed a year ago as the court’s first Hispanic justice, voted with the liberal minority that would have upheld state and local restrictions on gun ownership and that reaffirmed its dissent in the Heller decision.

As the court recesses for the summer and Justice John Paul Stevens retires from the bench, here is a look at what the gun rights decision means for:

Handgun Bans. They’re done. After the Heller ruling, few observers were surprised that the conservative-led Roberts court would apply its reasoning in the federal enclave to states and local jurisdictions. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito noted that in the previous case, “we held that the Second Amendment protects the right to possess a handgun in the home for the purpose of self-defense.” What’s good in Georgetown, in other words, is good along Lake Shore Drive.

Chicago. That said, the justices sent this particular case back to a lower court. So, for now, the city’s handgun ban will remain in effect. Still, Mayor Richard Daley didn’t wait for the court to rule to make clear what he would do if his city lost. He vowed to follow Washington’s lead when its local law was thrown out. The capital city passed strict new regulations for prospective gun owners, requiring residents who want to buy a gun to first pass a written test and undergo firearms training.

Gun Control. As a lawyer for the liberal advocacy group Alliance for Justice put it, “This doesn’t say you have the right to go marching around the streets with a gun without a license.”
Wrote Alito: “We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as ‘prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,’ ‘laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.’ We repeat those assurances here. Despite municipal respondents’ doomsday proclamations, (this ruling) does not imperil every law regulating firearms.”

Dave Workman of the Second Amendment Foundation, the Bellevue, Wash.-based group that joined the lawsuit to overturn Chicago’s handgun ban, said the regulations cited by Alito are a far cry from “onerous regulations merely designed to discourage people” from exercising their constitutional right to own a firearm. Among them: licensing, registration, “heavy” permit fees and waiting periods of up to six months. “That kind of stuff is in trouble and it’s in big trouble,” he told AOL News.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rapper Rick Ross Sued by Drug Dealer

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I never bought into the hype that Rick Ross was a fraud. Everyone seemed to feel that because he was found to have been a corrections officer in a previous life, that he somehow violated the oath which says that rappers have to be criminals in order to sell records. I don't know how true or false the rumors happen to be, but the fact is that I never cared.

However, when I found out that there is reason to believe that the rapper Rick Ross took his name from the notorious drug dealer "Freeway" Ricky Ross, I thought to myself, "This is just stupid. Why can't the brother just be himself?"


Click to read

Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick indicted on federal fraud, tax charges

Published: Wednesday, June 23, 2010, 3:14 PM

Updated: Wednesday, June 23, 2010, 5:54 PM

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, already in prison for probation violations, was indicted Wednesday on federal fraud and tax charges, accused of a turning a charity into a personal slush fund for cash, travel, yoga, summer camp and even anti-bugging equipment.

The indictment was the latest blow for Kilpatrick, who in May was sent to state prison for at least 14 months for violating probation in a 2008 criminal case tied to sexually explicit text messages and an affair with a top aide.

The indictment said Kilpatrick, 40, created the Civic Fund in 1999 and gained tax-exempt status after declaring that it would be a social-welfare organization to enhance neighborhoods, help youth and improve Detroit's image.

The government, however, said the goal seemed to be to enrich Kilpatrick. He is charged with failing to report at least $640,000 in taxable income between 2003 and 2008, the value of the cash, private jet flights and personal expenses paid by the fund.

Kilpatrick used the fund to pay for yoga and golf, camp for his kids, travel, moving expenses to Texas, a crisis manager, cars, polling, political consulting and much more, including "counter-surveillance and anti-bugging equipment," according to the indictment.

The indictment said donors were fooled into believing their money would be going to other legal purposes.

"It is important that public officials not escape prosecution just because they leave office," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement. "Public officials need to be held accountable to deter them and others from cheating our citizens in the future."

To continue to read:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

AP: Judge block Gulf offshore drilling moratorium

Jun 22 01:54 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal judge in New Orleans has blocked a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling projects that was imposed in response to the massive Gulf oil spill.

Several companies that ferry people and supplies and provide other services to offshore drilling rigs had asked U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans to overturn the moratorium.

President Barack Obama's administration has halted the approval of any new permits for deepwater drilling and suspended drilling at 33 exploratory wells in the Gulf.

Feldman says in his ruling that the Interior Department failed to provide adequate reasoning for the moratorium. He says it seems to assume that because one rig failed, all companies and rigs doing deepwater drilling pose an imminent danger.

Source: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9GGFHKG0&show_article=1

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Black Scholar Says NCAA Legally Exploits Black Men

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World

Professor Billy Hawkins of The University of Georgia has released a controversial new book that describes the experiences of NCAA athletes by comparing them to slaves on a plantation. According to the research of professor Hawkins, black athletes are exploited by the NCAA physically, financially and intellectually.

Hawkins cites the massive revenue earned by the NCAA via March Madness, which includes a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract with CBS sports. In spite of seemingly unlimited revenues to encourage athletes to stay focused academically, Hawkins notes that nearly one-fifth of the 64 teams participating in the NCAA tournament had graduation rates of less than 40 percent. Across the 36 sports monitored by the NCAA, men's basketball has the lowest graduation rates, where less than two-thirds of the players earn degrees.

The dismal graduation numbers for the NCAA support Dr. Hawkins' research, in which he argues and shows that black athletes at predominantly white institutions are being exploited while being neglected academically. In his book, "The New Plantation," the well-respected Professor of Sport Management and Policy uses a plantation model to present the black male athletic experience as part of a broader historical context.


Click to read

Friday, June 18, 2010

Report: Cambridge Police Don't Racially Profile

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, The Institute for Black Public Policy

A recent report to be published Thursday in the Boston Globe is set to show that the Cambridge Police Department does not use racial profiling, as it was accused of doing during the controversial case last summer involving Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates. The report, compiled by the New England Center of Investigative Reporting, analyzed 392 disorderly conduct arrests between 2004 and 2009. During that time, 57 percent of those arrested were white, and 34 percent were black. These numbers almost directly mirror the percentages in the community in which the arrests were made.

I did a great deal of CNN commentary on the Henry Louis Gates case, and to the ire of some of my fellow black scholars at Harvard, I firmly held the position that the Gates case was not about racial profiling. Not to say that the officer didn't violate procedure, but the truth is that there was almost nothing about that case that made me believe that Professor Gates was arrested because he was black.


Click to read

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Reggie Wayne's Mistress Takes Him for his Money: He files suit against her

AOL Black Voices

NFL star Reggie Wayne is finding out the hard way that giving your credit card number out to anyone may not be such a good idea. Wayne, who is married, is suing his ummm, girlfriend Natasha McKenzie. In the affidavit, Wayne is alleging that McKenzie did it big on Wayne's credit card without asking his permission.

As the story goes, McKenzie, who is 26 years old, just needed Wayne's credit card for a "few little things," like paying her cell phone bill and buying a plane ticket. She was allegedly going to buy the ticket to come and visit Wayne to spend "quality time" with him. To Reggie's surprise, Natasha and her friends "got a little jiggy" with the credit card and charged up $95,000 worth of "necessities." Actually, there were 333 necessities on her list, which is the number of charges she allegedly made to the account.

Reggie originally took the charges to police in April. He has had the uncomfortable challenge of keeping this information from his wife. McKenzie claims that Wayne knew about the charges all along, and that she is only being scapegoated because either his wife found out about her or he has moved on to another mistress. Either way, this entire situation is a little bit strange. Wayne is not the only athlete to be taken for big money as the result of an affair. Tiger Woods allegedly paid millions to keep some of his mistresses quiet.


Click to read

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Officer Taped Spraying Pepper Spray in Detained Suspect's Face

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University

I am not quite sure what to make of the ruffled YouTube video that is now scouring the web out of Paterson, New Jersey. In the video, the woman filming, who mentions that her mother works in the sheriff's office, is taping a New Jersey police officer holding a black man to the ground. The man clearly has his hands behind his back and appears to be restrained.

As the woman videos the incident from a distance, the officer inexplicably grabs the man, turns him around and puts pepper spray into his eyes. He appears to do it twice.


Click to read

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

15-Year Old Boy Beaten By Police

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Oscar Grant Trial Has No Black Jurors

Oscar Grant Trial Has No Black Jurors

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

On New Year's day of 2009, Oscar Grant was shot in Oakland, California. The shooter was a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer by the name of Johannes Mehserle. Grant was 22-years old at the time of his death, and the shooting was captured by cell phone cameras and disseminated throughout the Internet. Adding insult to injury, the Grant family just found that there will be no African American jurors in the trial of grant's shooter.

Jack Bryson, whose sons were with Grant the night he was killed, was angry about the jury selection.

"This is like a slap in the face," Bryson told The Associated Press. "This case came all the way to Los Angeles after the judge in Alameda County said they couldn't get a fair and impartial jury there.
"This is the best you can do, and you did this in two days. We could've stayed back in Oakland for this."

Click to read

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Who is Responsible for Federal Disaster Cleanup? BP or the Federal Government

Well, let's look at WHAT THE LAW SAYS in who is responsible:

Clean Water ActSection 311 - Oil and Hazardous Substances Liability
§ 1321. Oil and hazardous substances liability

(b) Congressional declaration of policy against discharges of oil or hazardous substances; designation of hazardous substances; study of higher standard of care incentives and report to Congress; liability; penalties; civil actions: penalty limitations, separate offenses, jurisdiction, mitigation of damages and costs, recovery of removal costs, alternative remedies, and withholding clearance of vessels.
  • (1) The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that there should be no discharges of oil or hazardous substances into or upon the navigable waters of the United States, adjoining shorelines, or into or upon the waters of the contiguous zone, or in connection with activities under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act or the Deepwater Port Act of 1974, or which may affect natural resources belonging to, appertaining to, or under the exclusive management authority of the United States (including resources under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976).
  • (2) (A) The Administrator shall develop, promulgate, and revise as may be appropriate, regulations designating as hazardous substances, other than oil as defined in this section, such elements and compounds which, when discharged in any quantity into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines or the waters of the contiguous zone or in connection with activities under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act or the Deepwater Port Act of 1974, or which may affect natural resources belonging to, appertaining to, or under the exclusive management authority of the United States (including resources under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976), present an imminent and substantial danger to the public health or welfare, including, but not limited to, fish, shellfish, wildlife, shorelines, and beaches. (B) The Administrator shall within 18 months after the date of enactment of this paragraph, conduct a study and report to the Congress on methods, mechanisms, and procedures to create incentives to achieve a higher standard of care in all aspects of the management and movement of hazardous substances on the part of owners, operators, or persons in charge of onshore facilities, offshore facilities, or vessels. The Administrator shall include in such study (1) limits of liability, (2) liability for third party damages, (3) penalties and fees, (4) spill prevention plans, (5) current practices in the insurance and banking industries, and (6) whether the penalty enacted in subclause (bb) of clause (iii) of subparagraph (B) of subsection (b)(2) of section 311 of Public Law 92-500 should be enacted.
  • (3) The discharge of oil or hazardous substances (i) into or upon the navigable waters of the United States, adjoining shorelines, or into or upon the waters of the contiguous zone, or (ii) in connection with activities under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act or the Deepwater Port Act of 1974, or which may affect natural resources belonging to, appertaining to, or under the exclusive management authority of the United States (including resources under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976), in such quantities as may be harmful as determined by the President under paragraph (4) of this subsection, is prohibited, except (A) in the case of such discharges into the waters of the contiguous zone or which may affect natural resources belonging to, appertaining to, or under the exclusive management authority of the United States (including resources under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976), where permitted under the Protocol of 1978 Relating to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, and (B) where permitted in quantities and at times and locations or under such circumstances or conditions as the President may, by regulation, determine not to be harmful. Any regulations issued under this subsection shall be consistent with maritime safety and with marine and navigation laws and regulations and applicable water quality standards.
  • (4) The President shall by regulation determine for the purposes of this section those quantities of oil and any hazardous substances the discharge of which may be harmful to the public health or welfare or the environment of the United States, including but not limited to fish, shellfish, wildlife, and public and private property, shorelines, and beaches.
  • (5) Any person in charge of a vessel or of an onshore facility or an offshore facility shall, as soon as he has knowledge of any discharge of oil or a hazardous substance from such vessel or facility in violation of paragraph (3) of this subsection, immediately notify the appropriate agency of the United States Government of such discharge. The Federal agency shall immediately notify the appropriate State agency of any State which is, or may reasonably be expected to be, affected by the discharge of oil or a hazardous substance. Any such person (A) in charge of a vessel from which oil or a hazardous substance is discharged in violation of paragraph (3)(i) of this subsection, or (B) in charge of a vessel from which oil or a hazardous substance is discharged in violation of paragraph (3)(ii) of this subsection and who is otherwise subject to the jurisdiction of the United States at the time of the discharge, or (C) in charge of an onshore facility or an offshore facility, who fails to notify immediately such agency of such discharge shall, upon conviction, be fined in accordance with title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both. Notification received pursuant to this paragraph shall not be used against any such natural person in any criminal case, except a prosecution for perjury or for giving a false statement.
  • (6) Administrative penalties. (A) Violations. Any owner, operator, or person in charge of any vessel, onshore facility, or offshore facility-- (i) from which oil or a hazardous substance is discharged in violation of paragraph (3), or (ii) who fails or refuses to comply with any regulation issued under subsection (j) to which that owner, operator, or person in charge is subject, may be assessed a class I or class II civil penalty by the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating or the Administrator. (B) Classes of penalties. (i) Class I. The amount of a class I civil penalty under subparagraph (A) may not exceed $ 10,000 per violation, except that the maximum amount of any class I civil penalty under this subparagraph shall not exceed $ 25,000. Before assessing a civil penalty under this clause, the Administrator or Secretary, as the case may be, shall give to the person to be assessed such penalty written notice of the Administrator's or Secretary's proposal to assess the penalty and the opportunity to request, within 30 days of the date the notice is received by such person, a hearing on the proposed penalty. Such hearing shall not be subject to section 554 or 556 of title 5, United States Code, but shall provide a reasonable opportunity to be heard and to present evidence. (ii) Class II. The amount of a class II civil penalty under subparagraph (A) may not exceed $ 10,000 per day for each day during which the violation continues; except that the maximum amount of any class II civil penalty under this subparagraph shall not exceed $ 125,000. Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, a class II civil penalty shall be assessed and collected in the same manner, and subject to the same provisions, as in the case of civil penalties assessed and collected after notice and opportunity for a hearing on the record in accordance with section 554 of title 5, United States Code. The Administrator and Secretary may issue rules for discovery procedures for hearings under this paragraph.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/Region7/laws_regulations/CWA/section311.htm

CWA § 311 mandates that the President issue regulations establishing procedures,
methods, equipment, and other requirements to prevent discharge of oil and hazardous
substances from vessels and facilities and to contain such discharges. 33 USC § 1321(c)(1)(A).

The EPA has been delegated the authority to regulate non-transportation related onshore facilities, and the Coast Guard has the authority to regulate tank vessels, transportation-related facilities, and offshore facilities (such as platforms).

So if the LAW (CWA § 311) states that the President (i.e. EPA) has the responsibility of cleaning up discharges of oil in navigable waters of the U.S., why is this not the focus?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court: Suspects Must Say They Want to Remain Silent (Expansion of Miranda Rights)

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Want to invoke your right to remain silent? You'll have to speak up.In a narrowly split decision, the Supreme Court's conservative majority expanded its limits on the famous Miranda rights for criminal suspects on Tuesday - over the dissent of new Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said the ruling turned Americans' rights of protection from police abuse "upside down."

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, said a suspect who goes ahead and talks to police after being informed he doesn't have to has waived his right to remain silent. Elena Kagan, who has been nominated by President Barack Obama to join the court, sided with the police as U.S. solicitor general when the case came before the court. She would replace Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the dissenters.A right to remain silent and a right to a lawyer are at the top of the warnings that police recite to suspects during arrests and interrogations.

But Tuesday's majority said that suspects must break their silence and tell police they are going to remain quiet to stop an interrogation, just as they must tell police that they want a lawyer.This decision means that police can keep shooting questions at a suspect who refuses to talk as long as they want in hopes that the person will crack and give them some information, said Richard Friedman, a University of Michigan law professor."It's a little bit less restraint that the officers have to show," Friedman said.

The ruling comes in a case in which a suspect, Van Chester Thompkins, remained mostly silent for a three-hour police interrogation before implicating himself in a Jan. 10, 2000, murder in Southfield, Mich. He appealed his conviction, saying he had invoked his Miranda right to remain silent by remaining silent.Kennedy, writing the decision for the court's conservatives, said that wasn't enough."Thompkins did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk to police," Kennedy said. "Had he made either of these simple, unambiguous statements, he would have invoked his 'right to cut off questioning.' Here he did neither, so he did not invoke his right to remain silent."

He was joined in the 5-4 opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.Prosecutors cheered the decision, saying it takes the guesswork out of when police have to stop questioning suspects. "Is it too much to ask for a criminal suspect to say he doesn't want to talk to police?" said Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association.

This is the third time this session that the Supreme Court has placed limits on Miranda rights, which come from a 1966 decision - it involved police questioning of Ernesto Miranda in a rape and kidnapping case in Phoenix - requiring officers to tell suspects they have the right to remain silent and to have a lawyer represent them, even if they can't afford one.Earlier this term, the high court ruled that a suspect's request for a lawyer is good for only 14 days after the person is released from police custody - the first time the court has placed a time limit on a request for a lawyer - and that police do not have to explicitly tell suspects they have a right to a lawyer during an interrogation.

For Justice Sotomayor, deciding to make suspects speak to have the right to remain silent was a step too far. Sotomayor, the court's newest member, wrote a strongly worded dissent for the court's liberals, saying the majority's decision "turns Miranda upside down.""Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent - which counterintuitively requires them to speak," she said. "At the same time, suspects will be legally presumed to have waived their rights even if they have given no clear expression of their intent to do so. Those results, in my view, find no basis in Miranda or our subsequent cases and are inconsistent with the fair-trial principles on which those precedents are grounded."She was joined in her dissent by Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.Supreme Court nominee Kagan had sided with the police in this case. As solicitor general, she told the Supreme Court that the Constitution "does not require that the police interpret ambiguous statements as invocations of Miranda rights."

"An unambiguous-invocation requirement for the right to remain silent and terminate questioning strikes the appropriate balance between protecting the suspect's rights and permitting valuable police investigation," Kagan said in court papers.Thompkins was arrested for murder in 2001 and questioned by police for three hours. At the beginning, he was read his Miranda rights and said he understood.The officers in the room said Thompkins said little during the interrogation, occasionally answering "yes," "no," "I don't know," nodding his head and making eye contact as his responses. But when one of the officers asked him if he prayed for forgiveness for "shooting that boy down," Thompkins said, "Yes."

He was convicted, but on appeal he wanted that statement thrown out because he said he had invoked his Miranda rights by being uncommunicative with the interrogating officers.The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati agreed and threw out his confession and conviction. The high court reversed that decision."

In sum, a suspect who has received and understood the Miranda warnings, and has not invoked his Miranda rights, waives the right to remain silent by making an uncoerced statement to police," Kennedy said. "Thompkins did not invoke his right to remain silent and stop the questioning. Understanding his rights in full, he waived his right to remain silent by making a voluntary statement to the police. The police, moreover, were not required to obtain a waiver of Thompkins' right to remain silent before interrogating him."Sotomayor called that reasoning "a substantial retreat from the protection against compelled self-incrimination that Miranda v. Arizona has long provided during custodial interrogation."

The case is Berghuis v. Thompkins, 08-1470.