Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U is for United States

More clarification of when the police need a search warrant. 

United States v. United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
Also known as the Keith case
[June 19, 1972, decided 8-0]

Government officials used electronic surveillance [wiretapping] to record conversations of people it suspected of conspiring to destroy government property and bombing a CIA building.  This activity was done without a search warrant.

The Supreme Court ruled that government officials must obtain a warrant before beginning electronic surveillance, even if domestic security issues are involved. The "inherent vagueness of the domestic security concept", and the potential for abusing it to shut down political dissent, make the Fourth Amendment's protections especially important when the government engages in spying on its own citizens.

United States v. Jones
[January 23, 2012, decided 9-0]

Police investigators asked for and received a warrant to attach a GPS tracking device to the underside of Antoine Jones' car, but then exceeded the warrant's scope in both geography and length of time.   Antoine Jones was arrested in October 2005, for drug possession after police used the GPS device to follow him for a month.

The Supreme Court ruled that attaching a GPS device to a vehicle and then using the device to monitor the vehicle’s movements constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment.  The police here had a warrant, but they exceeded the scope of the warrant in time and place.  The search was invalid and evidence obtained was excluded.

Did you guess right?
Here's Wednesday's hint - V is for Voting.  Can you guess the case and what it's about?  Leave a comment!

DAY 115 - This day in legal and military history

April 25

WORLD Penguin Day 

NATIONAL East Meets West Day

NATIONAL Hug a Plumber Day


NATIONAL Telephone Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1719 Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe is published in London

1792 The guillotine is first used to execute highwayman Nicolas J. Pelletier

1859 Work begins on the Suez Canal in Egypt

1901 New York became the first state to require license plates on cars

1938 A seeing eye dog is used for the first time

1945 Delegates from some 50 countries met in San Francisco to organize the United Nations

1954 The first practical solar cell is publicly demonstrated by Bell Telephone Laboratories

1956 Elvis Presley‘s “Heartbreak Hotel” goes to number one on the charts

1971 The country of Bangladesh is established

1982 Israel completes Sinai withdrawal, in accordance with Camp David accords

1983 The Pioneer 10 spacecraft crossed Pluto’s orbit on its voyage through the Milky Way

Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for Texas

Texas v Johnson
[June 21, 1989, decision 5-4]

In 1984 during the Republican National Convention in Texas, Gregory Lee Johnson burned an American flag in front of Dallas City Hall, in protest of Reagan administration policies.  No one was hurt, but some witnesses to the flag burning said they were extremely offended. One witness, Daniel E. Walker, received international attention when he collected the burned remains of the flag and buried them according to military protocol in his backyard.  Johnson was convicted under the Texas law prohibiting flag desecration.

The Supreme Court reversed Johnson's conviction, stating “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” 

The Court's decision invalidated laws in force in 48 of the 50 states [Alaska and Wyoming did not have such laws]. The issue remains controversial, with polls suggesting that a majority of Americans still supported a ban on flag-burning.  Congress passed a statute, the 1989 Flag Protection Act, making it a federal crime to desecrate the flag. In 1990, the Supreme Court in case United States v. Eichman struck down that law by the same five person majority of justices as in Texas v. Johnson, in an opinion also written by Justice William Brennan.  Since then, Congress has considered a Flag Desecration Amendment to the Constitution several times. The amendment usually passes the House of Representatives, but has always been defeated in the Senate.  The most recent attempt occurred in 2006.

Did you guess right?
Here's Tuesday's hint - U is for United States.  Can you guess the case and what it's about?  Leave a comment!

DAY 114 - This day in legal and military history

April 24

NATIONAL Pigs in a Blanket Day

NATIONAL Poem in Your Pocket Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1066 Halley's Comet appears.  Visible from Earth every 75-76 years, its next appearance will be in 2061. 

1800 The Library of Congress is established in Washington, DC with a $5,000 budget allocation

1833 A patent is granted for the first soda fountain

1898 Spain declares war on the United States, rejecting an ultimatum to withdraw from Cuba

1981 The IBM Personal Computer is introduced.  It used software from a corporation called Microsoft.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

DAY 113 - This day in legal and military history

April 23

WORLD Laboratory Day

NATIONAL Zucchini Bread Day

NATIONAL Take a Chance Day

NATIONAL Impossible Astronaut Day

NATIONAL Lover's Day

NATIONAL Cherry Cheesecake Day 


NATIONAL Talk Like Shakespeare Day

Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1896 Motion pictures premiere in New York City

1954 Hank Aaron hit the first of his 755 home runs

1982 The Unabomber mailed a pipe bomb from Provo, Utah, to Penn State University.

1985 Coca-Cola announced that it was changing its formula and introduced New Coke

Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for Suicide

The right to die.  Also called physician-assisted suicide, death with dignity, and end-of-life choice.  Now accomplished by advance directives, “do not resuscitate” orders, and “no extraordinary measures” orders. 

Not the same as euthanasia, in which the doctor administers the lethal drugs.  In the right to die context, the doctor prescribes the drugs, the patient [or legal representative] administers them to himself.  Also not the same as mercy killing, in which a third party, typically a relative, performs the killing.

Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health

[June 25, 1990, decided 5-4]

This was the first “right to die” case heard by the Supreme Court.

On January 11, 1983, Nancy Cruzan lost control of her car. She was thrown from the vehicle and landed face-down in a water-filled ditch.  Paramedics found her with no vital signs, but they resuscitated her.  After three weeks in a coma, she was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS).  She was given a feeding tube for her long-term care.

In 1988, Cruzan's parents asked her doctors to remove her feeding tube.  The hospital refused to do so without a court order, since removal of the tube would cause Cruzan's death.

The Court agreed that competent people had the right to refuse medical treatment, but it noted that incompetent people were not able to exercise this right for themselves. Because there was no guarantee that family members would always act in the best interests of incompetent patients, and because the decision to end treatment was irreversible, the Court said there had to be clear and convincing evidence that the patient would have wanted treatment to end.

After the Supreme Court's decision, the Cruzans gathered additional evidence that Nancy would have wanted her life support terminated.  The additional evidence met the “clear and convincing” standard and the feeding tube was removed.  She died on December 26, 1990.

The Cruzan case set several important precedents:  (1) the right to die is not a right guaranteed by the Constitution; (2)  established specific rules for what was required in order for a third party to refuse treatment on behalf of an incompetent person; (3) absent a living will or clear and convincing evidence of what the incompetent person would have wanted, the state's interests in preserving life outweigh the individual's rights to refuse treatment; and (4) the states determine their own right to die standards, no uniform national standard.

This case created a great deal of interest in living wills and advance directives.  In the first month after the Supreme Court ruling in Cruzan, the Society for the Right to Die received 300,000 requests for advance directive forms.

In re Theresa Marie [Schindler] Schiavo


For this case, the US Supreme Court denied certiorari [four times], which means the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, and allowed the lower court ruling to stand.

Terri had a heart attack in February 1990.  She was resuscitated, but suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen.  Two and a half months later, doctors determined she was in a “persistent vegetative state.”

After several years of therapy and other attempts to bring her back to awareness, in 1998 her husband Michael Schiavo petitioned the Florida court to have her feeding tube removed, stating Terri had told him she would not want to be kept alive with machines if there was no chance of revival.  Terri's parents opposed the petition, stating Terri was conscious.

In all, this case involved 14 appeals and numerous motions, petitions, and hearings in the Florida courts; five suits in federal district court; extensive political intervention at the levels of the Florida state legislature, then-governor Jeb Bush, the US Congress, and President George W. Bush; and four denials of certiorari from the Supreme Court of the United States.  The case also attracted activism from the pro-life movement, the right-to-die movement, and disability rights groups.  Since Schiavo's death, both her husband and her family have written books about the case, and both have been involved in activism over its larger issues.

Gonzales v Oregon
[January 17, 2006, decided 6-3]

In 1994, Oregon enacted the Death with Dignity Act, which permits physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a competent adult, agreed by two doctors to be within six months of dying from an incurable condition.  This was the first state law authorizing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of controlled substances to terminally ill patients.

In 2001, US Attorney General John Ashcroft declared that physician-assisted suicide violated the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA), and stated that any physician prescribing drugs under the Death with Dignity Act would have his medical license revoked.

The Supreme Court ruled that Congress intended the CSA to prevent doctors from engaging in illicit drug dealing, not to define general standards of state medical practice. Additionally, the CSA did not authorize the Attorney General to declare a medical practice authorized under state law to be illegitimate.  The Court ruled that the US Attorney General cannot enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act against physicians who prescribed drugs, in compliance with Oregon state law, to terminally ill patients seeking to end their lives.

Did you guess right?
Here's Monday's hint - T is for Texas.  Can you guess the case and what it's about?  Leave a comment!

DAY 112 - This day in legal and military history

April 22

NATIONAL Girl Scout Leader Day

NATIONAL Jelly Bean Day


Today in legal and military [and occasional oddities] history

1889 The Oklahoma land rush officially starts at noon as thousands of Americans race for new, unclaimed land

1945 Adolf Hitler, learning from one of his generals that no German defense was offered to the Russian assault at Eberswalde, admits to all in his underground bunker that the war is lost and that suicide is his only recourse

1952 An atomic test conducted at Yucca Flat, Nevada, became the first nuclear explosion shown on live network television

1955 Congress orders all US coins to bear the motto “In God We Trust”

1976 Barbara Walters becomes the first female nightly news anchor on network television

1993 The US Holocaust Memorial Museum was dedicated in Washington, DC, to honor the victims of Nazi extermination

2000 Armed immigration agents took Elian Gonzalez from the Miami home of his relatives to reunite him with his father

2004 Pat Tillman former safety for the Arizona Cardinals, was killed in an ambush in Afghanistan. He had walked away from millions of dollars to join the Army Rangers and serve his country.