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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 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
December 20th, 2015
A record number of American cities have enacted efforts to protect LGBT rights, the Christian Science Monitor's Jessica Mendoza reports: "The Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) 2015 Municipal Equality Indexfound that 32 million people now live in cities with explicit and comprehensive equal-rights policies." However, the report notes that protection from discrimination in employment and transgender rights still needs much,... Continue Reading
December 20th, 2015
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act has celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, Indian Country Today Media Network's Rick Kearns reports. The law allows American Indians to repatriate ancestral remains, burial objects and other sacred ceremonial objects from the archives of museums. There may be as many as one million indigenous ancestral remains and cultural objects internationally, the director of the ... Continue Reading
December 20th, 2015
Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe once again suggested Virginia expand Medicaid in his latest budget proposal, but House Republican leaders immediately rejected the plan, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The plan would have used a tax on hospital revenues to generate Virginia's share of the costs of the expansion. Continue Reading
December 17th, 2015
An Arkansas legislative task force has backed Gov. Asa Hutchinson's efforts to get federal waivers from some rules for Medicaid, The Times Record's John Lyon reports. Hutchinson wants waivers like requiring people with incomes of 100 to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to pay premiums and referring "unemployed, able-bodied beneficiaries" to work training before he would agree to maintain the Medicaid... Continue Reading
December 17th, 2015
Koch Industries, the funding powerhouse behind many conservative causes, and President Barack Obama's administration are continuing to push for criminal reform, The Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin reports. Both sides have agreed that a proposed change to white-collar prosecutions should be jettisoned if it will imperil sentencing reform in Congress. The change would require prosecutors to prove that defendants "... Continue Reading
December 17th, 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court, 6-3, has rejected another class action. This time, the majority of the court ruled this week that a class action cannot proceed against DirecTV over early-termination fees because those fees have to handled by private arbitration, The Washington Post's Robert Barnes reports. The majority opinion, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, struck down a California law that makes class-action bans in... Continue Reading

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