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US Supreme Court

To Tase or not to Tase, Still Uncertain

Police officers often use tasers to, in the words of an officer, “subdue an aggressive suspect” or to “protect the officer’s safety.” However, there are many situations where members of the general public find the use of the stun gun unjustified, and a result of the officer’s “power-trip” or laziness. As more and more officers are equipped with tasers, there are rising numbers of “excessive force” claims occurring against police officers. Recently, the Ninth Circuit (which embraces Arizona) held in Brooks v. Seattle and Mattos v. Agarano that the use of tasers to subdue suspects was excessive. In Brooks, the suspect was tased because she refused to get out of her car after being arrested for refusing to sing her speeding ticket. In Mattos, the suspect was tased because she stood between her husband and an officer who was trying to arrest him for domestic violence. However, it is still unclear when and where the tasing of suspects will be appropriate. To see if your tasing might be a violation of your 4th Amendment rights, contact us.

Arrest: You Have the Right to Remain Silent, but Not to Keep your Clothes On

The US Supreme Court recently heard arguments in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington, which presents the issue of whether the government can strip search any person admitted to jail, or whether there must be some reason to believe the strip search is necessary to revel hidden items.
Many times, people are brought to jail to be booked for minor offenses, or to sleep off alcohol, then released later on because they are not deemed dangerous enough to be held. How would you feel if as part of that process you were required to get naked in front of a police officer and have your body cavities inspected, to prove no hidden contraband?
In this case, a man was arrested and brought to jail on an outstanding warrant for a violation of a civil contempt order (in another cruel twist of fate, it turns out that he actually had paid his fine). At the jail, he was forced to do a strip search and visual body cavity search. The officers had no reason to believe that he was hiding any sort of weapons or contraband in his body. The Court will determine if these “squat and cough” suspicionless searches are a violation of our 4th Amendment. I sure hope the Court finds in favor of this poor man because I don’t want to be taken to the station and next thing I know I am forced to perform my own rendition of Demi Moore in Striptease.

Effective Assistance in Post-Conviction Appeal

Today David Michael Cantor a Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney talks about a brief filed by the American Bar Association with the Supreme Court regarding ineffective council. This could dramatically effect how Post Conviction Relief is handled and help to reduce the time an innocent person spends in the justice system. In Arizona it is known as a Rule 32 Post Conviction Relief Petition.

Here is the story from the American Bar Association:
“A defendant’s fair trial right isn’t protected if he receives ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial stage and again at his first appellate opportunity to raise the claim, the ABA contends in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ABA filed the brief (PDF) in a Supreme Court appeal by Luis Mariano Martinez, who was convicted of sexual contact with a minor in Arizona. The brief cites the ABA Criminal Justice Standards, according to a press release.

“Many states, including Arizona, designate post-conviction proceedings as the preferred or mandatory forum for litigating an ineffective of assistance of trial claim … for the first time,” the ABA brief says. “The ABA respectfully asserts that counsel representing a defendant at that proceeding should provide the same quality of representation—that is, effective assistance of counsel—as is constitutionally required of counsel at trial.”

Martinez claims his trial lawyer failed to object to inaccurate testimony by a prosecution expert about the reasons for victim recantations. He claims his appellate lawyer filed a notice of post-conviction relief saying she could find no colorable claims, and she didn’t tell him about the filing or his need to file a pro se petition within 45 days.

SCOTUSblog has called the cert grant in Martinez v. Ryan “a big deal in habeas law.””

Supreme Court Justice Thomas Omits $600k of Wife’s Income

Things are never dull around here and today’s post is quite the whopper. As reported last month it looks like Clarence Thomas, US Supreme Court Justice for over 20 years, has failed to report his wife’s six figure income for over 5 years. Added up the total of omitted taxable income comes to almost $700k for Virginia Thomas’ income from lobbying for the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation. David M Cantor, a Phoenix Arizona DUI Attorney, gives his point of view and discusses the LA Time’s article in todays video.

As David mentions the experts that were interviewed for this story have varying takes on what this means and what should happen next. On the one hand Stephen Gillers, a professor at NYU School of Law, explains that by law Federal judges must disclose the source of their spouses income. The idea here is to have transparency for high level judges to see how they might be influenced. Mr. Gillers points out that this “could not have been an oversight.

The other expert Steven Lubet, an expert on judicial ethics at Northwestern University School of Law, feels that this will likely not result in any type of penalty based on past cases. At worst Thomas might be looking at a Civil penalty.

Since this story ran Justice Thomas has updates his tax forms to accurately report his wife’s source of invome. David M Cantor feels that this should be looked into a little more carefully due to the special nature of the US Supreme Court. The reason for this is because generally when their is an impropriety with a Judge a presiding Judge is brought in to determine the degree of impropriety and handle the situation. This is a bit different when we are dealing with a US Supreme Court Justice as the only Judge who can decide if their conduct is inappropriate is that same judge.

So the only person who can decide if Clarence Thomas is in an inappropriate position to rule on a case is Clarence Thomas. Now we have a situation where Justice Thomas has been caught hiding the nature of his wife’s income source from a conservative think tank who lobbies for cases that come to the Supreme Court. Is this the best way to handle such an issue? What do you think?

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