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Cultivated Compendium is my periodic round-up of important, cutting-edge or interesting legal news as well as some of my original reporting and musings.


 

News and Reporting

January 18th, 2016
The Huffington Post's Melissa Jeltsen has a feature about how women often have to choose between leaving partners who are abusing them and having housing. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families. Jeltson, who focused her piece on New York City, reports that there are going to be 683 city-run units where families can stay indefinitely. "... Continue Reading
January 18th, 2016
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week on whether Puerto Rico has the legal authority to try two gun dealers for allegedly illegal firearm sales after they plead guilty in federal court, USA Today's Richard Wolf reports. The Obama administration has taken the position that Puerto Rico, as a U.S. territory, can't do so. But the Puerto Rico constitution gives the territory autonomous self-government. A majority of... Continue Reading
January 16th, 2016
The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office is arguing to the U.S. Supreme Court that a former member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not need to recuse himself from hearing death penalty cases that he signed off on as the city's top prosecutor, The Legal Intelligencer's Lizzy McLellan reports. In the appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, former Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille approved the decision to... Continue Reading
January 16th, 2016
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has rejected the argument of the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity and the Thomas More Law Society that their First Amendment rights were violated by a California law requiring them to turn over their list of donors to the California attorney general, Election Law Blog's Rick Hasen reports. The groups said they should be exempted from the law because disclosure of their... Continue Reading
January 15th, 2016
Goldman Sachs will pay $5 billion to settle both federal and state inquiries into its sale of "shoddy mortgages," AP's Ken Sweet reports. The sum includes $1.8 billion in mortgage forgiveness and refinancing, $2.39 billion in civil penalties and $875 million in cash payments. The deal is with the U.S. Department of Justice, the New York attorney general, the Illinois attorney genearl and other regulators. Continue Reading
January 13th, 2016
Poynter's Benjamin Mullin has a piece about how 2016 could be the breakout year for drone journalism because the FAA is slated to issue new rules about the commercial use of drones: "It will be a watershed development for American photojournalism writ large, one that will put relatively inexpensive aerial photography, videography and airborne sensors in play for journalists across the United States." The most common use will... Continue Reading
January 13th, 2016
Florida's death penalty law has been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as unconstitutional, The Huffington Post's Cristian Farias reports. The reason? Allowing judges, instead of juries, to impose the death penalty violates the Sixth Amendment. The court ruled 8-1 that only a jury, not a judge, can decide the "aggravating circumstances" that would lead to the decision that execution is the appropriate sentence for... Continue Reading
January 3rd, 2016
Legal writer Linda Hirshman challenges the assumption that the next president will hold great power over the Supreme Court's makeup. The partisan divide is so deep in Washington that it may be impossible to get Supreme Court nominees confirmed, Hirshman says in this Washington Post opinion piece. The consequence would be that judgments of the lower circuit courts of appeal would stand in case the Supreme Court justices were... Continue Reading
January 3rd, 2016
Judicial reform in China is moving apace to make courts independent of the local government, The New York Times' Ian Johnson reports: "Currently, lower-level courts in China are overseen by the county government, whose party boss runs the courts as a wing of the government, like the police force or sanitation services." Under the reform effort, courts would be under provincial administration. Dockets also are being made... Continue Reading
January 3rd, 2016
The Utah Supreme Court has approved a new legal profession: limited paralegal practitioners, The Salt Lake Tribune's Jessica Miller reports. The new legal professional category has been created to help more citizens access the justice system. The LLPs could assist clients outside of the courtroom--but not inside--by filling out forms, representing clients in mediations or preparing settlements. Utah Supreme Court Deno Himonas told... Continue Reading
January 1st, 2016
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are issuing new mortgage bonds this year, which would transfer the risk of default to private investors on all but the safest mortgages, The Wall Street Journal's Joe Light reports. The hope is the new bonds will expand the market for home mortgages as well as prevent taxpayers from being on the hook if another mortgage crisis develops. Light notes that almost all of the U.S. housing market currently... Continue Reading
January 1st, 2016
The difference in net worth between the typical white family and black family is $131,000, ProPublica's Paul Kiel reports. As a consequence of that racial wealth gap, black families have smaller financial reserves to fall back on and more likely to be sued over a debt or land in jail because of unpaid tickets and court fines. Kiel and a reporting partner found that debt-collection lawsuits in three U.S. cities were ... Continue Reading
January 1st, 2016
In Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.'s annual report on the state of the federal courts, he has "implored lawyers to work together and judges to take a more hands-on role to improve a federal litigation system that has grown 'too expensive, time-consuming, and contentious,'" The Washington Post's Robert Barnes reports. Roberts said the 2015 amendments to the federal civil rules provide an opportunity to... Continue Reading
December 30th, 2015
Even though Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer doubts that mass internment would happen again in the United States, ABC News' Alexander Mallin reports. The Supreme Court has never overturned its decision approving of the Roosevelt Administration's detention of Japanese Americans in World War II. But, if... Continue Reading
December 28th, 2015
Over $15 million was spent on the most recent election for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, including $12.2 million in direct campaign contributions and $3.5 million from two independent groups, Associated Press' Christina Almeida Cassidy reports. Almost $10 million was raised by the three Democratic candidates who were ultimately successful in winning seats on the court. Most of that money was raised from labor unions and trial... Continue Reading

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