LAW4900 Senior Legal Seminar, FA2014

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  • #18605


    Katherine Lozano
    Extra Credit Blog
    Senior Legal Seminar

    Blueford v. Arkansas:

    In this case Alex Blueford was charged with capitol murder for the death of one year old Matthew Mc.Fadden, Jr. The trial court instructed the jury that Blueford was charged with capitol murder as well as three other lesser offenses which included, first-degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. The jurors were instructed by the court to consider capitol murder first and if any doubt then they would work their way down to the lesser offenses until an official verdict was to be decided. The jury voted unanimously against capitol murder and first-degree murder but they got stuck on manslaughter. After a second deliberation, on the first trial the jury formed a deadlock. The trial court discharged the jury and declared a mistrial to retry Blueford on all four charges again. When the state sought to retry Blueford, he moved to dismiss the capital and first-degree murder charges on double jeopardy grounds. The trial court denied the motion. The United States Supreme Court did not recognize that a trial ending in deadlock jury was not the equivalent of an acquittal for purposes of establishing former jeopardy. The foreperson’s reading announcement of the jury’s verdict in open court did not constitute an acquittal for the capitol murder and first degree murder. It was undisputed by the court that no formal acquittal record was entered in this case. Ultimately, under the courts decision, it was based that on the first trial resulting in a deadlock jury in which produced no verdict at all so no double jeopardy clause protection issue existed on the retrial and the trial court. I agree with the courts decision that ultimately the foreperson’s announcement, although oral, was not a formal verdict to prove proper acquittal for Blueford, no double jeopardy clause was attached and so he was legally entitle to be recharged on all criminal charges.


    This case talks about Susette Kelo a homeowner, suing the City of New London based on the fact that the city of New London pass its power of eminent domain to the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) to use the land located in Fort Trumbull where Susette Kelo owned her home. Kelo sued New London in state court. Kelo and the other property owners argued that the city violated their Fifth Amendment’s takings clause, they argued that taking private property to sell to private developers was not of public use. NLDC, a private body, planned to take the land for private development on the basis of economic development with the contractual help of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, to build a plant next to Fort Trumbull and the City determined that someone else could make better use of the land than the Fort Trumbull residents. The city said developing the land would create jobs,
    increase tax revenues, rejuvenate and revitalize the city. The U.S. Supreme Court held that economic development was a public use under the Fifth Amendment taking clause to the U.S. Constitution. The court held that it met the two burdens for eminent domain- (1) that the takings of the particular properties at issue were “reasonably necessary” to achieve the City’s intended public use and (2) that the takings were for “reasonably foreseeable needs.” I don’t agree with the courts decision on this particular case because at the end this project was never formed and became a failure and all that land is just sitting there, with the use of tax payers money wasted on something that won’t be use until further notice. A lot of people lost the comfort of calling their neighborhood a home; even if compensated there shouldn’t be a reason why the government should be taking your land. There should not be eminent domain abuse.

    United States v. Windsor:

    Plaintiff Edith Windsor and her late spouse Thea Spyer were married in Canada in 2007, and were considered married by their home state of New York. When Spyer died in 2009, due to DOMA’s discriminatory policies, Windsor was not able to claim the estate tax marital deduction that is available when the surviving spouse is of the opposite sex. Windsor filed the lawsuit against the federal government on Nov. 9, 2010 for refusing to recognize their same sex marriage. The lawsuit focused on having section 3 of DOMA declared unconstitutional and to obtain a refund of the federal estate tax that Windsor was forced to pay following her spouse’s death. The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines marriage, in the manner of the law to be a union between a man and a woman only. On this case it, which challenges the constitutionality of DOMA, it was decided under Courts rule that the law is unconstitutional. The Courts explanation for this was since the some states allowed same-sex marriage, in order to provide protection and dignity to the marriage, with federal law denying and not recognizing same sex couples who are married it became a true form of discrimination to the legally state- authorization of same sex marriage. This decision means that same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same under federal law as married opposite-sex couples. I agree with the courts decision on favoring Windsor and making DOMA’s section 3 unconstitutional. Any marriage whether is between a man and woman, man and man or woman to woman should be left alone if legally married under the state that approves of it. Marriage under the courts definition is held to provide protection and dignity of the couple, any couple. So is only fair and reasonable for the federal government to accept same sex marriage.

    Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action:

    In November 2006 election, a majority of Michigan voters supported a proposition (Proposal 2) to amend the state constitution to prohibit “all sex- and race-based preferences in public education, public employment, and public contracting”. The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and other interest groups filed a lawsuit alleging that Proposal 2 violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Coalition sued the governor and the regents and boards of trustees of three state universities in district court by arguing that the proposition as it related to public education violated the Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit and ruled that there is no authority in the Federal Constitution or in this Court’s precedents for the Judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit to the voters the determination whether racial preferences may be considered in governmental decisions respect to school admissions. The plurality of the judges stated that if they attempted to define the interest of the people based on race, all this was going to be risky and therefore it would portrayed the government as classifying the people of the state based on race and this would create more harm than good for the state. The Court did not rule on the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education; but it rather decided that it is permissible for the people, through a referendum, to resolve the issue. It is obvious that proposal 2 unfairly and unconstitutionally rigs the admissions system against minority students and it focuses on racial discrimination for determining the admissions criteria used at state universities. Minority students and others who support a diverse student body should not have to overturn a constitutional amendment simply to have their voices heard in the admissions process when everyone else can go directly to the university.


    Derick Shiwnath

    Blueford v Arkansas- Blueford is a man who had assaulted a one year old child, who later died of his injuries. Blueford was charged with capital murder. Upon trial, the jurors were instructed that the charge of capital murder included three lesser offenses which were first degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. The prosecutor also told jurors that if they could not reach a vote on one charge, then they would have to consider the next lesser charge. The jurors voted unanimously against capital murder and first degree murder, but could not reach a decision on manslaughter and negligent homicide. The jury was then sent back for deliberations but still could not come up with a decision. The trial court declared a mistrial and discharged the jury. The State of Arkansas decided to retry Blueford on all four charges. Blueford moved to dismiss the charge of capital murder and first degree murder since the jury had concluded that he was not guilty of these charges, and that they violated the Double Jeopardy Clause in the Fifth Amendment. However, the trial court denied the motion; as well as the appellate level and the court of last resort. The Supreme Court of the United States reviewed the case and ruled that the Double Jeopardy Clause does not protect Blueford in this instance of a mistrial. Based on their logic, the foreman of the jury did not officially dismiss the charges against Blueford because they were not a formal acquittal. I agree with that notion since the jury did deliberate twice and they still could not reach a decision on whether to charge Blueford with manslaughter or negligent homicide. I also agree with the fact that the jury’s votes were not final, since it was inconclusive based on the different deliberations that they had. The Supreme Court clearly states that given the fact that the jury could not agree on a vote, that it lacked the finality that would be required to acquit Blueford on the capital murder and first degree murder charges.

    Kelo v. City of New London- In this case, the City of New London had contracted the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) to assist in the development plan of the Fort Trumbull area, which was in economic decline. This plan would include building a new state park as well as creating new businesses and jobs, which would result in the momentum of economic development. It is perfectly legal for the government to take private land, and use it for public use, as long as they were justly compensated, according to eminent domain. A pharmaceutical company named Pfizer also stated that they would build a research facility to help draw new businesses to the area. Petitioner Kelo, who owns a home in the area of development claims that the taking of the land violates the Fifth Amendment, which did not constitute as public use. The Supreme Court however ruled that there is nothing to stop one citizen to take another citizen’s land based on the fact that the other citizen would make better use of that land. I disagree with the court’s opinion on the Kelo decision. The intentions of the City of London were to condemn the land of private citizens so it could rejuvenate the economically distressed area. If there were good intentions with the development plan, I’m sure there would be no issue here, but Kelo and a few other members to the action believe that the plan would not productive enough to justify the public use standard. I also think that the government is not really taking this land, but giving it to private businesses. There was also no inclination to whether this developmental plan would actually improve the economic distressed area. As far as we know, the land had some residents and businesses who were quite content in the land that lived on.

    Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action- In this case, the State of Michigan passed a constitutional ban on racial considerations when students are applying to public education, employment, and contracting. This law was called Proposal 2. Essentially, this ban would stop the discrimination or preferential treatment of one race of people as opposed to another, therefore wiping out the concept of affirmative action. The Proposal was passed by a majority of the voters of Michigan. Right after this amendment was passed, multiple groups who support affirmative action decided to sue the government based on the fact that they believed that the new amendment violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteen Amendment. When this action was taken to federal court, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit ruled that Proposal 2 was unconstitutional. However, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Proposal 2 does not violate the Fourteen Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, thereby reversing the decision made by the Court of Appeals. I agree with this decision. The States have their own sovereignty to pass the laws that they deem necessary to promote the welfare of the public, unless it violates the United States Constitution. Affirmative action is just a concept proposed to promote equality during the civil rights movement, where in fact it was a great service to promote persons of color to higher levels of education and so on. However, I believe that not having this concept is not a violation of equal rights. For instance, if you apply to a college yet you are rejected would you assume because it was of your skin color? It could be or could not be, there is not a certain way to tell since no one will blatantly tell you. It would be an issue if administrations told you simply that they don’t want “colored persons” or if you have the perfect requirements yet are still not accepted even if another person of a different race had lower qualifications but they were admitted.

    United States v. Windsor- In this case, two women, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer who resided in New York were legally married in Ontario, Canada. After they were married they returned home to New York. Spyer had died two years after the marriage, leaving her entire estate to her wife, Windsor. Windsor wanted to claim the tax exemption for surviving spouses, but she was not able to, based on the law of Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA. DOMA is a federal statute which changed the definition of a marriage and a spouse. Under DOMA, Windsor would not be able to get her tax exemption based on the fact that DOMA does not recognize same sex couples. Windsor claims that DOMA violates the Equal Protection mentioned into the Fifth Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that DOMA is in fact unconstitutional of equal liberty under the Fifth Amendment. The Supreme Court brings up an excellent point in maintaining that marriage has long been treated under the authority of the States. I agree with the holding regarding this case. In my opinion, I believe that not only should the federal government stay out of marriage, but the entire government itself should not be concerned about who can or cannot get married, marriage is the private union of two persons. I understand that some issues need a marital status, such as taxes, estates, and issues that are involved family courts, but it should only be recognized as a status. DOMA defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. However, times have changed, and every person in the country has their own definition of marriage. This case also brings up the issue between federal and state powers. Even though the marriage had taken place in Canada, New York recognized the marriage as begin legal. However, under DOMA, a federal statute, this would make the marriage invalid. The federal government does not have exclusive power to marriage, it was not in their interest to define marriage in which the whole nation had to follow.



    Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S 469 (2005)
    In case a City of New London approved a development plan that would create jobs, increase tax and other revenue and boost the fragile economy of the city. According to the project the City used its eminent domain powers and seized the properties of the private homeowners who refused to sell. Moreover, those properties were transferred to the private developing company. The home owners sued New London in the state court arguing that city violated the Fifth Amendment “Taking Clause” according to which the government could not take private property for public use without just compensation. Moreover, they argued that under the “public use” the government could not take private property and transfer it to a private entity. The U.S. Supreme Court had to decide whether taking private property and transferring it to a private entity had justified “public use” of the taking clause under the Fifth Amendment. In 5-4 decision, the Court held that the City of New London did not violate the Fifth Amendment taking clause by giving seized property to a private developer. The Court had expanded the “literal” meaning of “public use” and interpreted it under a much broader concept of “public purpose”. I personally do not support Court’s decision because it had given states the right to take private property and transfer it to private developers who don’t even have to guarantee that the project will be successful. The developers just have to show that the project will benefit the state and the community in some way or another. Barkley Center is a good example of Kelo’s aftermath. If the person is obligated under the state’s pressure to surrender his or her property for “public purpose”, there should be much striker requirements from the developers.


    Javier Santiago


    This case is about a homeowner, Kelo, suing the City of New London because the city was wanting to sell the homeowners property to a private buyer. The homeowners of Fort Trumbull area said this violated their Fifth Amendment right’s. They argued that this did not constitute public use. The city contracted New London Development Corporation (NLDC) to assist in the planning on this development. The city and NLDC insisted that they would build a park, museum, and businesses that would help a city in a serious economic crisis. Phizer, a pharmaceutical company, was going to build a research center. This would provide jobs for the City of New London. The Supreme Court broadened the Eminent Domain Clause, by saying that as long as another person will make better use of the land than it is ok to use eminent domain. I don’t agree with this decision. First point, the companies didn’t have the funding to even produce these “parks”, “research center” and etc. Peoples homes were taken away for no reason at all. This opens the doors for other people to lose their personal property to the “highest bidder”…

    United States v. Windsor

    This case is about two women that are legally married to each other that resided in New York. Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer were married in Ontario, Canada, in 2007. New York State deemed their marriage a legal one. Two years after they married, Spyer died. Spyer left her entire estate to her spouse, Windsor. Windor tried to file marital exemption from the federal estate tax, which excludes from taxation. Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) denied this because they don’t recognize same sex marriages. The Internal Revenue Service denied the refund because, under DOMA, Windsor isn’t a surviving spouse. Windsor paid the taxes but she also filed a refund suit with the Southern District of New York. Windsor alleged that DOMA violated the guarantee of equal protection, in the Fifth Amendment. The district court agreed and said DOMA was unconstitutional. The case was appealed and the lower case was affirmed. This case was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals and it affirmed the lower courts decision. I agree with the court’s decision. I don’t feel that the government should be able to tell a person who they can or can not marry. If two people want to be together as life partners and they live that way, they should receive the benefits as such.



    Schuette v. Coal. to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights & Fight for Equal. By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), 134 S. Ct. 1623, 1660, 188 L. Ed. 2d 613 (2014).

    I think Olga did a wonderful job presenting this case in class despite its complexity. The Court in this case had to decide whether an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Michigan, approved and enacted by its voters, was invalid under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In 2006 after a statewide debate on the issue of racial preference in Michigan, the voters adopted an amendment to the State Constitution prohibiting state and other governmental entities in Michigan from granting race-based preferences during admissions for state universities. While deciding this case, the majority emphasized that this case was not about “constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education.” According to the majority opinion, this case was about the ability of the voters in the States to decide whether to prohibit racial preferences in governmental decisions. The Court decided that voters should be able to decide to discontinue the system based on racial preference if they found this system to be unwise applying the political-process doctrine.
    This decision is a landmark decision because it sets up a precedent allowing states to stop implementing affirmative action if the majority of the state voters choose to abolish it. Justice Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion, which I find more appealing than the politically charged opinion of the majority. After all, racial minorities are known to be less likely to participate in political events. And even if they do, the voices are more likely than not will not be heard. According to Justice Sotomayor, “while our Constitution does not guarantee minority groups victory in the political process, it does guarantee them meaningful and equal access to that process..” Affirmative Action does open a door for the minority students to opportunities that they would otherwise be denied.
    The presentation of this case coincided with my reading of My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, where the author shares her challenging experience of being an Affirmative Action beneficiary both at Princeton as an undergraduate students, and later at Yale Law School. She talks about having the pressure to work twice as hard to prove wrong all those who envied and doubted the right of minority students to join the elite educational institutions. Among other things, she writes that if one thing has not changed in the perception of the affirmative action since the times that she was a student, it is “to doubt the worth of minority students’ achievement when they succeed is really only to present another face of the prejudice that would deny them a chance even to try.” Of course, Sonia Sotomayor is an aspiring example of what talents might be brought to life by some extra help from the government. And it makes me feel very regretful that the door once opened by the race-based preference at state university admissions is getting slowly closed by the decision in Schuette v Coal.


    Prof. Espinoza

    Volha, I also agree that Olga did a fantastic job of presenting a complex decision in understandable terms. The presentation generated wonderful discussion and input from students such as yourself; it is imperative that we all understand the impact of the decisions such as Schuette and Windsor upon our everyday lives.


    Prof. Espinoza

    Javier, I too agree that the decision in Kelo, in essence has opened the door to take private property and give it to the “highest bidder”. I also agree with Olga’s observation that there should be a requirement that private developers should prove that the project is economically viable and not a pipe dream as Paul pointed out in his presentation of Kelo- now the land is vacant and people have lost their home and end up displaced.


    Prof. Espinoza

    I find it interesting how Derick and Katherine view the Schuette decision. As it was pointed out in the class discussion, the dissent and concurring opinion from the two minority Justices differed vastly. It may be true as the majority opinion pointed out, that not all minorities have the same opinion and views and cannot be grouped together.


    Paul Campbell

    Blueford v. Arkansas, 132 S.Ct. 2044 (2012)

    In the matter of Blueford v. Arkansas, defendant was babysitting his girlfriend’s child. Under his supervision, the child suffered from a head injury. The child died two days after being admitted into the hospital. The state charged Blueford with capital murder, first-degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. The jury was unanimously against the first and second charge. However, jury was deadlocked on manslaughter. Upon the second deliberation, the jury was still deadlocked on manslaughter. The court declared a mistrial.
    On the state second attempt to try Blueford, he filed a motion to dismiss capital murder and first-degree murder because the jury had previously acquitted him of these charges. Is Mr. Blueford precluded from the first and second charges under double jeopardy? No. A mistrial does not constitute a conviction. The jury was in the process of deliberation. They did not come to a final resolution. In my opinion, if mistrials were considered to be a final resolution, the jury would be compelled to make up their mind. As a result, a lot of innocent citizens would be convicted.

    Schuette v Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 134 S.Ct. 1623 (2014)

    The statistics have shown that citizens of colored is undereducated than citizens of white. This is not equal. The Seattle’s case was a very strong case that plaintiffs used their contention. The Seattle Plan was to “use busing and mandatory reassignments between elementary schools to reduce racial imbalance.” It is clear there is a racial imbalance in our education system.
    The Equal Protection Clause was violated in Schuette. The ruling in Seattle’s case elaborated how the Equal Protection Clause could be violated. The ruling stated that “Any state action with a racial focus that makes it more difficult for certain racial minorities than for other groups to achieve legislation that is in their interest is subject to strict scrutiny.” In the present case, Proposal 2 will make it harder for minority to get a better education.

    United States v. Windsor, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013)

    In the matter of United States v. Windsor, The federal government declared Windsor unqualified for marital exemption. The reason why she was unqualified is that the government does not recognized marriage between same-sex couples. After the death of her spouse, she was the sole executor of their estate. If she was qualified for marital exemption, she would not have to pay $363,000 tax. The Court ruled that the DOMA is unconstitutional. Same-sex couples are protected by the Equal Protection Clause under the Fifth Amendment.
    Same-sex couples have equal rights just like heterosexual couples under the federal government. Not only the federal government gave rights to same-sex couples, but also 14 states accepted these type of marriages. Immigrants of the same sex can get married and file for their spouse. If these couple live in any of the 14 states, they will be recognized for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, and Bankruptcy filing. This law has made a tremendous impact on our society for same-sex couples.



    Riley v. California, 134 S.Ct. 2473 (2014)

    In this case, Riley (defendant )was stopped by a police officer for driving with expired registration tags. When the officer checked his license, he learned that it was also suspended. they decdied to tow his car since he had no license,they also conducted a search of the car. At this point they found concealed and loaded firearms underneath the car’s hood. Riley was then arrested. After the car had been searched, police officers then searched Riley. officers discovered items that were associated with “Bloods” street gang. The officer also found a smart phone that belonged to Riley.Two hours after the arrest, a detective who specialized in gangs also searched Riley’s phone. The detective found videos of the gang members fighting and photos of a car that they suspected to have been involved in a driver by shooting weeks earlier. Riley was charged with connection of the earlier shooting, firing at an occupied vehicle, assault with a semiautomatic firearm, and attempted murder. California court also alleges that Riley committed these crimes for the benefit of a gang, which carries a heavier sentence under California Penal Code §186.22(b)(4)(B)(2014).
    The Question presented that arised in this case was Can law enforcement officials search digital information on cell phone from an arrested person without a warrant?
    The court ruled, No, information on a cell phone is private and law enforcement officials must obtain a warrant in order to search its contents.
    In both Riley police officers could have seized the phone and secured it to prevent the destruction of evidence while seeking to obtain a warrant. In this case, California argues that information on a cell phone can be wiped by remote wiping and data encryption. Remote wiping consists of when a phone is connected to a wireless network and it receives a signal to destroy all of its content.
    The Supreme Court state that it is likely that a cell phone will contain data that can prove that a person is or may be guilty, but there would be no reason for a police officer to search that phone for any incriminating evidence.
    The United States Supreme Court has held that law enforcement officials may not search a person’s cell phone without a warrant; unless the phone is subject to physical threats against an officer. This decision is important to society because it helps secure our 4th amendment from officer to accessing our personal and private property to find any information to incriminate anybody.



    Blueford v. Arkanasas,
    In the case of Blueford v. Arkansas, the defendant was babysitting his girlfriend young son. The child was having difficulty breathing and a friend call emergency. The little boy died from a head injury at hospital. The state of Arkansas charged Blueford with capital murder, first degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. The jury deadlocked (unanimous) on the capital murder, first degree murder and manslaughter. The jury return a second time unanimous and the judge declared a mistrial.
    On the re-trial of the case, Blueoford filed a motion to dismiss the charges of capital murder and first degree on the grounds of double jeopardy. A mistrial does mean the case was resolved as a verdict was not officially given therefore q retrial is not double jeopardy. I agreed with the court. This was and interest case and the student who spoke on it the case did a good job.

    Schuette v Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 134 S.Ct. 1623 (2014)
    The Michigan voters support the amendment to the state constitution to prohibit ““all sex- and race-based preferences in public education, public employment, and public contracting.” This ruling set into motion the forming of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and the Coalition sue the governor and the regent and boards of trustee off three state universities in district court. The court upheld the voters’ decision on removing all the based preferences. This was a long case and the presenter did a good job of explaining the case. It was a sad day when the voters agreed to remove all base preference which was a help up to many people. Who work very hard to established

    United State v. Windsor, 133 S.Ct 2675 (2013)
    A same sex couple were married and one spouse passed away. The deceased left everything to the surviving spouse. The Federal government does not recognized same sex marriages. The surviving spouse was unable to collect any of the benefits due to the sex. The Federal government did not recognize the surviving spouse and Winsdor was unable to claim exemption tax ($363,053) to surviving spouse. Windsor brought suit for the State of New York to recognize the marriage. The Court ruled that DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was same sex couple are protected by the Equal Protection Clause under the Fifth Amendment. This ruling was very important to same sex couple as they are not exempt from the Federal protection. The presenter explain the case in great detail.

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