Feature

The Case for Tenants’ Right to Counsel

(Source)   In 1963, the Supreme Court established that the right to counsel in criminal cases is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution in Gideon v. Wainwright, meaning criminal defendants will be appointed a lawyer if they cannot afford one. On the other hand, there is no constitutionally protected right to counsel in civil cases generally. Supreme Court jurisprudence has created a presumption against the civil right to counsel in matters where “physical liberty is not at risk.” However, some states have laws that provide for appointment of counsel in certain civil cases, such as eviction, guardianship, or domestic violence. There are significant barriers to the access to justice for civil litigants, and one primary issue is that legal representation can be difficult to afford. In New York, lawyers on average charge an hourly rate of $358. Pro se litigants consistently have much lower success rates in court than their represented counterparts. For federal civil litigation, about 27% of all cases have at least one pro se plaintiff or defendant. Additionally, 90% of landlords are represented in eviction cases, while only 10% of tenants have legal representation. Since low-income tenants in particular often appear in court without representation, [read more]

Accountability in Policing: Is Punishment Serving the Public Interest?

(Source)   On Thursday, March 7th, the Uvalde, Texas city council finally reported the findings of an independent investigation into the conduct of police who responded to the notorious elementary school shooting from 2022. The independent investigator recommended every officer – to the shock and outrage of victims’ families – be exonerated. With a penchant for passivity familiar to coverage of police wrongdoing, investigator Jesse Prado identified multiple failures but nobody to attribute them to. Parents of slain children, voices thick with emotion, called for accountability – paralleling the calls of those surviving victims of direct police violence. We are in a moment of great reckoning with police. Though there is disagreement on what policy to adopt regarding the institution – abolition or reform – there is wide agreement identifying the problem with it: police are virtually unaccountable. Malcontent at this fact has spurred protests, social media campaigns, and legislation aimed at punishing officer misconduct more frequently and severely. Despite these pressures, the most dire of misconduct – police killing – has only continued to rise. Thus the question is raised: does punishment serve the same ends as accountability? Is it effective in preventing further violence at the acts or [read more]

Protecting Creditor Security Interests in Digital Currencies post-2022 UCC Amendments

(Source)   Digital currencies have become more commonplace over recent years. Some businesses are considering building infrastructure to allow their consumer base to pay with cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency differs from Centralized Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in their decentralized exchanges instead of centralized exchanges. With CBDCs, the federal bank is liable as opposed to private banks that offer digital currencies. CBDCs have not yet been adopted in the United States, but the rising interest and use of cryptocurrency may result in their widespread adoption in the near future. Creditors in commercial transactions should thus equip themselves with perfection methods for digital currencies in the context of the revised 2022 Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), as perfection gives priority to the secured party who perfected the security interest first in the case of conflicting security interests. Digital currencies generally comes in two forms: (1) digital assets maintained and developed on decentralized blockchain technology as a medium of exchange and (2) stablecoin that is backed by the value of an underlying asset such as money. In either instance, the UCC does not classify digital currencies as “electronic money” under §§ 1-201(16A) & (24). “Money” under UCC § 1-201(24) is a medium of exchange currently authorized or adopted by [read more]

Fictional Juries

(Image Source) (Quote Source)   Briefly in the American colonies, there was relief from the legal profession. Contemporaneous records capture the excitement; “They have no lawyers… ‘Tis a happy country”. Laymen effectively resolved community disputes, having long resented the special privileges, principles, and esoteric language of English lawyers. However, as the complexity of colonial society increased, lawyers were, in the end, a necessary evil.  The lay public was again captured into juries to conceal the defects of the judicial system.   Juries as Finder of Fact and Law In ancient Athens, juries functioned as a democratic countermeasure to the wealthy and powerful elites. Too numerous to bribe and too poor to be partial to the upper class, hundreds of jurors were drawn from the lower classes for a single trial. A lack of selection or exclusion mechanisms prevented the elite from constructing a more favorable jury. Laws were vague and largely inconsistent, leaving the jury to both determine the facts and apply the law. Trials were confined to one day of litigants arguing their narratives with nearly any evidence permitted; wailing mothers and infants, family reputations, and military service, all influenced the verdict. Athenian juries were an incorruptible democratic force, [read more]

The Horrors of Body Donation

(Source)   What rights do you have to your body when you die? None. But your family gets some. They get the right to preserve and dispose. They can choose whether to bury, cremate, or even cryo-preserve you. And they can choose whether to donate your body to science. Usually, your family will follow your wishes. So what happens when you want to donate? If you want to donate, you have two options: donate with a specific institution, like a research facility or a medical school, or donate to a body broker. If you want to donate to a specific institution you have to determine which institution and ensure that they have a current need. There are also many requirements that have to be fulfilled, and some institutions may refuse a body if the donor had not consented before death, so a lot of research may be required for prospective donors and next-of-kin. The real benefit to this option is that you can choose a specific research goal or geographic area that you want to help. The second option, a body broker, is much easier. With a body broker you do not have to worry about contacting multiple different institutions [read more]

DEI Initiatives in Sports Organizations Post-Fair Admissions

(Source)   Diversity, equity, and inclusion (commonly referred to as DEI), are “three closely linked values held by many organizations that are working to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations.” Organizations, including sports organizations, use DEI initiatives to promote these values. An organization may implement strategies or policies to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace with equal opportunities. One example of a DEI initiative is the NHL’s Street program; this is a youth street hockey experience that engages families with recreational programming designed to drive a new era of street hockey. The program is meant to reach a greater and more diverse group of hockey participants, transcending limits related to infrastructure and climate.  However, the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard is a new landmark decision that will have widespread implications on affirmative action and DEI initiatives. While the case focuses on college admissions, the ramifications of this decision on DEI efforts in the workplace are still being examined across the country today. Many are worried about the negative impact the SFFA case will have on DEI programs; the court’s decision and subsequent rationale could provide organizations [read more]

Whose Duty is it Anyway?: Discussing the Changes to ABA Model Rule 1.16

(Source)   Introduction The American Bar Association (ABA) recently promulgated a change to Rule 1.16 of their Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The change charges lawyers with a duty to make certain clients retaining them are not doing so to help them commit continuing illegal activities. This is a change from previous versions of the rule that required no such action.   A short background on the ABA Model Rules So, what are the ABA’s model rules and what force do they have over lawyers? Lawyers, like doctors, are somewhat self-governing when it comes to rules applied to the profession. State disciplinary authorities, supervised by the state high court, promulgate rules that define the duties lawyers have to their clients, the court, and 3rd parties. These are not the only sources of rules for lawyers, as despite the best efforts of the profession, some laws regulate the practice of law as well. The ABA has produced these model rules as an example of what a good set of state rules ought to look like. States have the option of adopting the model rules, entirely or with edits, or making their own rules. Most states have adopted the model rules for [read more]

Voter Registration and Voter Turnout 

(Source)   In 2020, about two-thirds (66%) of the voting-eligible population turned out for the presidential election. While the 2020 presidential election saw the highest voter turnout rate since 1900, still one-third of the population did not vote. If that one-third of the population voted, the election results could have easily changed. Not to mention, this voter turnout was for the presidential election alone, meaning select state and local election voter turnout rates could have been much lower. Every day, the president, not to mention legislators and judges, makes dozens of decisions spanning a wide range of issues, including national security, health, education, business, lifestyle, and more, that personally affect individuals’ lives. These elections determine which leader receives these powers and responsibilities, and citizens can participate in electing the most representative leader by voting. When citizens do not exercise their right to vote, they increase the chance that other voters will elect an official that does not truly represent the public’s interest. There may be many reasons the voter turnout rate is very low each year, including voter disenfranchisement, voting inconvenience, or voter registration. This article will focus mainly on voter registration as an inhibitor to voter turnout. Voter registration [read more]

The Uncertain Future of Acquitted Conduct Sentencing

(Source)   Daytona McClinton was seventeen years old when he robbed a CVS pharmacy with five of his friends, while brandishing a firearm. After fleeing the scene, a fight ensued and one of the other robbers was shot and killed. For this crime, McClinton was charged as an adult, and convicted of robbery and brandishing a firearm, but acquitted of the murder of his friend. McClinton should have received a sentence of five to six years under the U. S. sentencing guidelines. But he was sentenced to nineteen years in prison. His sentence was more than tripled due to the alleged murder, a murder that McClinton was unanimously acquitted of by a jury of his peers. This was allowed through a practice called Acquitted Conduct Sentencing. Under § 1B1.3 of the US Sentencing Guidelines, a judge must consider relevant conduct in determining a sentence, which can include conduct and charges a defendant was acquitted of. This allows a judge to effectively disagree with a jury’s acquittal, conclude that a defendant actually committed a crime, and increase the defendant’s sentence exponentially. In 1997, the Supreme Court first addressed the issue of acquitted conduct sentencing. United States v. Watts held that a [read more]

Burning Issues: Exploring the EPA’s New Rule for Trash Incineration

(Source)   On Jan 11, 20024, the EPA proposed a new rule with a more stringent air pollution standard for large waste plants that burn municipal solid waste. The newly proposed standard by the EPA would apply to the 57 facilities across the nation that can burn more than 250 tons of waste per day. The new standards aims to reduce emissions of nine pollutants, including smog- and soot-forming sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by around 14,000 tons per year which will in turn improve air quality for communities living near these facilities.   Why Should We Care About The “Burning” Issue? Although landfills have long dominated the scene of U.S. waste disposal landscape, waste to energy incineration (WTE) is a growing trend.   WTE plants are a form of waste incineration thatuses household garbage as fuel for power generation, similar other power stations using coal, oil, or natural gas. Combustible waste generates heat, which is used to boil water and produce steam. This steam then drives a turbine to generate electricity (for specifics see diagram above). However, waste incineration is a key source of toxic agent emissions. According to EPA’s estimation, incinerators in the United States emitted nearly 50,000 tons [read more]