Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Supreme Court back in session

It's not the first Monday of October yet, but the Supreme Court had its first conference after the summer and granted cert in six cases, including two pro se petitions written in long hand. From the AP:

Well-heeled clients pay tens of thousands of dollars to hit the legal jackpot - Supreme Court review of their appeals. But on Tuesday, the court decided to hear cases filed by two people who couldn't afford or didn't bother to hire an attorney.

One was written in pencil and submitted by an inmate at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. The other was filed by a man with no telephone living on Guam.
Kim Lee Millbrook, a prisoner at the federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., sued the government after accusing prison guards at the Special Management Unit of sexually assaulting him in May 2010. Prison officials said Millbrook's claim was unsubstantiated.

The lower courts threw out Millbrook's lawsuit, but justices said they would use his appeal - carefully written in longhand - to decide the narrow issue of when the government can be sued for claims of abuses by federal prison guards. Millbrook wrote on a form that can be printed off the Supreme Court website that he was proceeding without a lawyer because he couldn't afford to pay one. He is not scheduled to be released from prison until 2033.

Steven Alan Levin, the petitioner on Guam in the other case granted by the Supreme Court, did not say whether he couldn't afford a lawyer or just wanted to proceed on his own. Levin did not file as a pauper; he paid the $300 fee required to file a petition.

Levin sued over a Navy surgeon's performance of unsuccessful cataract surgery on him. He was operated on in March 2003 at the United States Naval Hospital in Guam. Levin said he withdrew his consent for the surgery before the operation began but doctors proceeded anyway. Levin suffered complications, which require ongoing treatment.

Levin sued the U.S. government for medical malpractice and battery. The courts threw out the medical malpractice complaint and kept the battery charge. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the government is also immune from being sued for battery. The high court will now decide whether the government can be sued for improper actions committed by military medical personnel while on the job.
How many people are going to be calling these two to take their cases pro bono?  Problem is that Levin doesn't have a phone and Millbrook is in a maximum security prison.  So it's not going to be so easy to sign these guys up...

According to SCOTUSBlog, the other cases are:
Gabelli — calculation of the five-year limitation on the SEC’s power to impose a penalty for securities fraud.

McNeely – police authority to take a blood sample from a driver who allegedly was drunk, when the officer has no warrant but wants to act quickly because of the chemical fact that alcohol in the blood dissipates over time.

Maracich — lawyer’s legal right to obtain personal information from driver’s license records, when the attorneys plan to use it in lawsuits and federal law supposedly insulates such information from disclosure.

Delia — state power to recover funds spent on providing medical care to the poor or disabled under the federal Medicaid law, when the patient has received funds from another source.
In news closer to home, Judge Zloch sentenced a man who was on the lam for 20 years to 21.5 years (20 of which are on the original case).  From the Sun-Sentinel:

 Most convicted criminals go to prison, then get a chance to prove they can be rehabilitated: Martin James Malone says he did it the other way around.
Malone was a fugitive from justice for 22 years after fleeing from South Florida just before the criminal case against him went to a jury in Miami in 1990.

He sat through much of his trial but by the time the verdict was delivered, he had fled to Ecuador with his pregnant wife. In his absence, the jury found him guilty of conspiring to import cocaine but acquitted him of a second charge that he actually imported the drug.

During the next 22 years, he said he created several successful businesses and employed some 80 people in the beautiful coastal town of Montanita where he lived. He built houses, renovated old properties, donated computers to local schools and was even taught how to be a "medicine man" by the indigenous people. Dozens of people wrote to the judge and the newspaper to praise his good works.

Malone, 51, was starting to slow down – less working, more surfing – when Ecuadorean police surrounded his vehicle in February of this year and extradited him to the U.S. on the old warrant.

"My past is an island I've sailed away from long ago. Nevertheless it's still with me ... we cannot outrun our past no matter how hard we try," Malone wrote to a Sun Sentinel reporter earlier this year.

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