Thursday, June 28, 2007

Supreme Court Rejects Use of Race in School Plans

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected school assignment plans that take account of students' race in two major public school districts.

The school rulings in cases affecting schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle leave public school systems with a limited arsenal to maintain racial diversity.

The court split, 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts announcing the court's judgment. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent that was joined by the court's other three liberals.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion in which he said race may be a component of school district plans designed to achieve diversity.

He agreed with Roberts that the plans in Louisville and Seattle went too far. He said, however, that to the extent that Roberts' opinion could be interpreted as foreclosing the use of race in any circumstance, "I disagree with that reasoning."

The two school systems in Thursday's decisions employ slightly different methods of taking students' race into account when determining which school they would attend.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Judge Suspends Duke D.A.

Already stripped of his law license over his mishandling of the Duke rape case, a judge ordered District Attorney Mike Nifong immediately suspended from office.

From USA Today:
DURHAM, N.C. — A judge suspended District Attorney Mike Nifong effective immediately Tuesday after learning the prosecutor disbarred for his handling of the Duke lacrosse rape case intended to stay in office for another month.
"There is probably cause to believe that the district attorney has engaged in willful misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, which brings the office into disrepute," Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson wrote in his order.

Later Tuesday, state lawmakers were scheduled to take up — and expected to pass — a bill that would allow Gov. Mike Easley to immediately remove Nifong from office.

Nifong, who was disbarred Saturday for breaking more than two dozen rules of professional conduct in his handling of the Duke case, said in a letter issued Monday that he would leave office July 13 — a date that could arrive before the legislation becomes law.

That departure date wasn't soon enough for Hudson, who decided late Monday that he would suspend Nifong from office. He said then that he would order the sheriff to prevent Nifong from carrying out any duties of the district attorney.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A lesson in innocence

The horrible miscarriage of justice in the cases of the Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape is a prime example of why American justice insists that a person charged with a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case with institutions and people.

Duke University has settled with the three players for undisclosed amounts because "it is in the best interests of the Duke community to eliminate the possibility of future litigation and move forward," according to a written statement released by the university.

After the rape charges first surfaced in the spring of 2006, Duke canceled the men's lacrosse season and forced the resignation of coach Mike Pressler. Dozens of Duke faculty members known as the "Group of 88" signed a statement criticizing the lacrosse team.

Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty were suspended from Duke after their indictments. David Evans graduated from Duke just before he was indicted.

"This has been an extraordinary year for Duke students David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann," Duke added in today's statement.

"We welcomed their exoneration and deeply regret the difficult year they and their families have had to endure. They conducted themselves with great dignity during their long ordeal."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Prosecutor Facing Own Hearing

The prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case from last year is now facing a hearing of his own after charges of ethics violations were leveled at him.
RALEIGH, N.C. - More than a year after shocking allegations emerged about Duke University's lacrosse team, prosecutor Mike Nifong was back in court Tuesday — this time as the defendant.

The North Carolina State Bar charged the Durham County district attorney with several violations of the state's rules of professional conduct, all tied to his handling of the lacrosse case.

If convicted by a disciplinary commission hearing the case, he could be stripped of his license to practice law in the state.

Georgia Yo-yo Justice

A Georgia teen imprisoned for consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17, was first told he was being released, but will stay in prison pending a bond hearing next month.
ATLANTA - Genarlow Wilson's joy was short-lived. One minute, a judge ordered him released from prison, saying the young man's 10-year sentence for consensual sex between teens was a "grave miscarriage of justice." Ninety minutes later, Georgia's attorney general said Wilson wasn't going anywhere — the state had appealed.

On Tuesday, Wilson's attorney was fighting to at least get him released on bond during the appeal process. He is now 21 and has been behind bars for more than 28 months.

"Yesterday, they did not consent to a bond," attorney B.J. Bernstein said Tuesday on CNN. "We are hopeful to hurry up and get in front of a judge — one, to get him out pending an appeal, but even more importantly, to get this madness over with."

Bernstein sought a hearing Tuesday in Douglas County court, where Wilson was convicted, even though the district attorney there opposes his release. Douglas County Superior Court Judge David Emerson set the bond hearing for July 5, another three weeks away.

Wilson became a symbol for extreme cases of getting tough on sex offenders when he was sentenced to the mandatory 10-year sentence for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl in 2003, when Wilson was 17.

If he had instead had sexual intercourse with the teen, he would have fallen under Georgia's "Romeo and Juliet" exception. But under the law in 2003, oral sex for teens still constituted aggravated child molestation and carried a mandatory sentence, plus listing on the sex offender registry.

Lawmakers last year voted to close that loophole, but the state's top court said the new law could not be applied retroactively to Wilson's case.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Libby Sentenced; Bush Feels Terrible

Former White House official Lewis "Scooter" Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his lying in the investigation of the outing of a covert CIA agent. His attorneys want him to remain free while his case is on appeal. The judge is not so inclined.

Meanwhile, President George Bush is said to feel "terrible" for Libby's family.