Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Presley v. Georgia: A Ruling on Public Trials

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that jury voire dire proceedings should be open to defendants and the public. The high court also said that a trial judge has a duty to seek alternatives that will preserve openness even when, for example, it appears that there are so many prospective jurors in a courtroom, that there is no room for observers to sit. "Trial courts are obligated to take every reasonable measure to accommodate public attendance at criminal trials," the court majority wrote. "The public has the right to be present whether or not any party has asserted the right." Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, diessented, asserting that the case should have been decided only after full briefing and oral argument.

The case is: Presley v. Georgia, U.S. S. Ct, 1/19/10, 09-5720

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Case Update: United States v. Yip (calculation of loss for tax fraud)

Following a conviction for federal tax fraud, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court properly included defendant's unpaid state taxes in the tax loss computation on which his term of imprisonment and his restitution order were based. Moreover, the defendant was not entitled to an imputed deduction for his unpaid state taxes. The 9th Circuit concluded that the district court properly applied the sentencing enhancement because defendant's actions obstructed an IRS audit.

The case is: United States v. Yip, 08-10235.

Monday, January 11, 2010

People v. Moret: Condition of Probation Prohibiting Use of Medical Marijuana Affirmed

In this case, a trial court's condition of probation prohibiting the use of marijuana (pursuant to a medical marijuana card) was held to be valid if it is reasonably related to future criminality and defendant has been found to consent to it. Appellant pled no contest to carrying a concealed firearm (Pen. Code, sec. 12025, subd. (a)(2)), and was granted three years probation with a condition prohibiting him from the use of marijuana and requiring him to give up his medical marijuana card. When interviewed by the probation officer preparing the presentence report, the 19-year-old defendant explained that he found the gun in some bushes and had recently obtained the medical card to enable him to use marijuana for treatment of migraine headaches. At sentencing, when appellant objected to the marijuana restrictions, the court indicated that he did not find appellant credible and offered him the choice of accepting the condition or going to jail. The appellate court upheld the condition, noting that the trial court’s rationale in ordering the condition was reasonable.
Case #: A123591
Opinion Date: 12/28/2009 , DAR #: 17963

Monday, January 4, 2010

Roman Polanski Case - Appeals Court Rejects Bid for Dismissal

Case Name: Polanski v. Superior Court, Opinion Date: 12/21/2009 , DAR #: 17703

A California Appeals court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in applying the fugitive disentitlement doctrine and dismissing without prejudice Mr. Polanski's motion to dismiss his case. Director Roman Polanski entered a plea to statutory rape, went to prison for a 90-day diagnostic study, but then fled the country before sentencing because he believed the judge was going to send him to prison as a result of public criticism. Around the same time, defense counsel filed a motion to disqualify the judge. The judge denied bias, but agreed to transfer the case.

In 1997, the parties met with a different judge who agreed to sentence Polanski to no further jail time; but because the judge insisted the proceedings be televised, Polanski did not return for sentencing. In 2008, Polanski filed a motion to dismiss in the interests of justice, due to judicial misconduct. One year later, his attorney filed a motion to disqualify the entire Los Angeles County Superior Court. The trial court ruled Polanski must be present at any proceedings regarding his case (pursuant to Penal Code § 977), and he could not request affirmative relief from the court since he was a fugitive. Without deciding the merits, the court dismissed the motion without prejudice. Meanwhile, Polanski was arrested in Switzerland and let it be known he would fight extradition. There, he was ultimately released on house arrest.

However, by denying the motion without prejudice, the trial court gave Polanski the possibility of further review, and yet it still protected the court's dignity and recognized problems with enforceability. The court also noted it was disturbed by the allegations of misconduct discussed in detail in the opinion, many of which appeared to be substantiated and potentially very serious, and so it urged the parties to investigate those claims of misconduct.