By Dan Brillman
Earlier this week, the Ninth Circuit ruled on appeal that disguised witnesses in criminal proceedings do not necessarily violate the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause, which ensures that any criminal defendant has the right to directly face witnesses, and vice versa. The idea is that the witness would be more apt to tell the truth when in the presence of the person they're accusing, or at least their lies would be more transparent.
But what about trials where the defendant needs protection? In U.S. v. Jesus-Castaneda, the defendant was convicted on drug-trafficking charges, with help from a confidential informant, reports the blog A Public Defender. The confidential informant who testified against Jesus-Castaneda was allowed to disguise himself in a wig and mustache for security reasons. Jesus-Castaneda's lawyer appealed, arguing that the disguise went against both the Confrontation Clause and the defendant's right to due process.
In reviewing the case, the Ninth Circuit found that allowing a confidential informant to wear a wig and mustache in the face of potential retaliation from an accused drug dealer was "necessary to further an important state interest, namely a witness's safety." The court also ruled that Jesus-Castaneda's due process rights were not violated because the evidence was so overwhelming that he would have been convicted anyway.
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
A lawsuit filed by a Christian school against two of its former teachers for failing to provide proof of their Christian faith could test the limits of religious freedom, the Associated Press reports.
After Calvary Chapel of Thousand Oaks purchased the secular Little Oaks School in 2009, it told employees that if they wanted their contracts renewed, they needed to prove their allegiance to Christianity with a reference from a pastor. Two teachers who lost their jobs threatened to sue unless the school paid them $150,000 each. On Jan. 23, Calvery Chapel pre-emptively filed its own lawsuit to prevent the teachers from suing in state court.
“We're a Christian school,” Rev. Rob McCoy, pastor of the church and headmaster of the school, told the Ventura County Star. "We were coming to the point where we were establishing a Christian curriculum. We wanted to make sure teachers subscribed to that faith."
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case filed by Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church that ministers cannot sue their churches claiming they had been fired in violation of employment discrimination laws. But according to James Sonne, director of the Religious Liberty Clinic and a lecturer at Stanford University Law School, who spoke to AP, the court did not specify in that ruling what constituted a religious worker, leaving teachers uncertain of their status under the law.
All in the timing
By Caitlin Tremblay
A recent law school grad from Kentucky won’t become a
full-fledged lawyer just yet.
to the National Law Journal, Jasmine Parker, a 2011 graduate of Northern
Kentucky University Chase College of Law, was denied admission to the Ohio bar by the state’s
Supreme Court because she kept writing an answer to the bar exam after time was
called, though it might have been for only 60 seconds.
Two witnesses who also took the exam claimed they saw Parker continuing to write after students
were told to stop. One said Parker scribbled
for up to a minute, while the other said she wrote
at least two additional lines.
Parker denied the accusations at first. In subsequent hearings she
said she didn’t remember if she had kept writing or not, but that is was
possible she had.
While the court denied Parker
admission to the bar, it said she showed
sincere remorse and could reapply on or after Feb. 1.
Fish and chips
By Ted Botha
Could one man's search for clams off the coast of
Massachusetts lead to the future construction of casinos in any
state that has a coastline? That might be the outcome of a Jan.
18 ruling by Plymouth Superior Court Judge Richard Chin allowing
a lawsuit by a Mashpee Wampanoag tribe member, according to Capecodonline.
Back in 2010, Mashpee Wampanoag member David Greene went
fishing for quahog clams in the seaside town of Mattapoisett. He
was arrested by the then deputy shellfish warden, who also
confiscated the quahogs. Greene sued, claiming his rights were
violated, and last week Chin said the lawsuit could proceed.
The case is being closely watched, Capecodonline says,
because it could set a precedent for how coastal towns have to
deal with the fishing rights of tribe members.
"If Greene eventually wins the suit, it could ultimately
have implications for Mashpee Wampanoag tribe's casino plans in
southeastern Massachusetts," Capecodonline says. "There is
precedent for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to consider
fishing rights as a way of demonstrating a tribe's historic ties
The Mashpee Wampanoag, which hopes to put up a $500 million
casino, according to the Associated Press, has no reservation
lands of its own and has asked the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs
for approval to put a 146-acre site in Taunton into federal
trust. "To win the designation, " says the AP, "they must prove
both historic and modern ties to the land."
Tribal council Chairman Cedric Cromwell applauded Chin's
decision as "exceptional news" for the tribe, says
"The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and our individual members have
never ceded our original rights to fish as we have done since
time immemorial," he said.
Summary Judgments for January 30
Summary Judgments for January 29
Summary Judgments for January 28
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