The Supreme Court, this week, issued opinions in two key Miranda rights decisions.
Florida v. Powell: Tuesday, February 23, 2010. Click here for the opinion. The 7-2 opinion, with Justices Stevens and Breyer dissenting, clarified a Miranda statement issue. Kevin Dwayne Powell was arrested and convicted of illegally possessing a firearm. He signed a Miranda statement that stated “You have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of our questions. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for you without cost and before any questioning. You have the right to use any of these rights at any time you want during this interview.” Though the Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction because the statement did not explicitly say that Powell had the right to an attorney during the interview, the U.S. Supreme Court, through Justice Ginsburg, held that the words were sufficiently clear and that the understanding of the statement was that an attorney could be present during the interview.
Big Tobacco and the U.S. Government are back before the Supreme Court for a case that began during the Clinton Administration. The government’s preliminary $294 billion victory over the preeminent tobacco producers of Philip Morris USA (subsidiary of Altria Group Inc.), R.J. Reynolds, British American Tobacco Investments Ltd, and Lorillard Tobacco Co., was ultimately set aside by the courts barring it from collecting the funds. While the Obama Administration has renewed the fight to collect government money, the tobacco companies have filed appeals arguing that the government improperly used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) laws to achieve a verdict. For more on this recent development, click here.
O’Hare Airport is about to give air passengers a new reason to fly out of Midway Airport: full-body scanners. These are the same type of full-body scanners that failed to detect the explosives in the underwear of the infamous Underwear Bomber; mainly because passengers of flights headed for the U.S. were not to be placed in these machines. The reason? The U.S. has a thing called the right of privacy. Click HERE for full details.
Apparently, this concern has been brushed aside for the ever-increasing issues with air safety in the U.S. The scanners will only be used as a second stage screening. That is, if you fail the pass through the magnetometer, you will get to try out the new body scanner. If you do not want to, you can always elect for the old fashioned “pat down” method. As bad as a pat down sounds, is it really worse than something the ACLU calls a “virtual strip search”?
United States District Court Judge Jed Rakoff signed off on a $150 million deal today that closes the fight with the Securities Exchange Commission for bonuses paid to Merrill Lynch employees. This fine is an improvement on the previously discussed $33 million settlement, but still paltry in comparison to the $3.6 billion paid to Merrill employee’s in 2008. For more information, please click here.
Additionally, for more background information about the deal that originally cost Bank of America $50 billion for the acquisition of Merrill, but ultimately needed the support of the U.S. Government in order not to collapse, click here
- Corporate personhood is the legal doctrine which holds that corporations are separate entities that deserve to be treated as persons under the 14th Amendment.
- Has not always been this way; industrial revolution changed the prevalence and role of corporations.
- Corporations today are still considered persons, but it may have all started with a head note error.
This article is by Christopher Hoffman, a 2L at Chicago-Kent.
“Corporate personhood” refers to the legal doctrine which recognizes a corporation as a “self-autonomous, self-directed entity in which rights inhered,” including constitutional rights such as freedom of speech. In essence, the doctrine holds that corporations are separate entities from their individual shareholders that deserve to be treated as “persons” under the 14th Amendment. Today, the doctrine is universally accepted in American jurisprudence, although some critics question the wisdom of granting the same constitutional rights belonging to “natural” persons to corporations who, with the backing of the State, may “live” forever while aggregating vast sums of wealth. Recently, during oral arguments in Citizens United v. FCC, Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested that the Supreme Court may have erred originally by imbuing “a creature of state law with human characteristics.” Justice Sotomayor’s statement raised more than a few eyebrows as it was a relatively rare shot across the bows of the corporate world from such a prominent jurist.
Can police search your cell phone without a warrant? A new case is in the works in San Mateo County, California to decide just that. Please see CNET for more details of the case and an interesting analysis.
This case will be important as we increasingly rely on our mobile phones, laptops and even Kindles to hold our private information. The problem seems to come down to different understandings of the structure and use of electronic storage. We see the same kind of problems in E-discovery. Judges that are not extremely familiar with modern electronics and storage try to compare these devices to traditional methods of document storage; sometimes, these comparisons do not fit correctly, which can lead to the improper outcome. A great illustration of this is seen in the Microsoft/Netscape antitrust suit. Click here for many of the details.
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