Criminal law

US Law

Courthouse Dogs: Witness Comforts, Defendant’s Rights

December 12, 2018 Isadora Toledo 0

Summary: Although the 2013 case People v. Tohom explicitly determined that courthouse dogs are constitutional, the debate over whether or not the court was justified in prioritizing witness’ rights continues. From their beginnings with New York City attorneys in the 1980s, courthouse dogs have become a contentious and sensitive issue. Initially used to comfort abused children during interviews with prosecutors and therapists, courthouse dogs are now being proposed as a nationwide method of accommodating child witnesses inside the courtroom, not just outside of it. Although the 2013 case People v. Tohom explicitly determined that courthouse dogs are constitutional, the debate over whether or not the court was justified in prioritizing witness rights continues. Those who oppose the decision argue that courthouse dogs are especially problematic for defendants. By prejudicing the jury, courthouse dogs jeopardize a defendant’s right to a fair trial. When judges allow courthouse dogs to be present, for […]

US Law

California Bail Reform Leaves Both Sides Unhappy

October 21, 2018 Isabella Caracta 0

Summary: California’s new bail reform bill, Senate Bill 10, goes into effect October 2019, but activist groups pull support for SB10. It is a little-known fact that the American constitution fails to guarantee its citizens the right to bail; however, the Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail charges. The Bail Reform Act of 1966 affords people charged with non-capital offenses a statutory right to be released, pending trial, based on personal recognizance or personal bond. This act provided people with a statutory right where a constitutional right is lacking. Contrarily, bail systems vary from state to state and can be highly discriminatory against certain racial and socioeconomic groups (particularly African American and Latino minorities). Judges are afforded great discretion as to when a defendant is detained, whether or not bail will be set, and the price of bail. Because inherent prejudices can arise from the current bail systems, there has been […]

US Law

Who is Actually Served and Protected? An Overview of Nuisance Property Ordinances

October 15, 2018 Isadora Toledo 0

Summary: Despite being designed to limit public harm that occurs on properties, nuisance property ordinances perpetuate systemic housing barriers faced by domestic violence victims. Today more than ever, the duty of police to “serve and protect” has come under public scrutiny. The law, however, should not be exempt from the same criticism – especially as it applies to housing. Often overlooked, laws concerning housing and property can be just as potent in criminalizing marginalized groups. This is especially true of nuisance ordinances, the latest development in a series of laws aimed at “hold[ing] property owners liable for criminal activity on the premises.” Also called disorderly house ordinances or crime-free ordinances, nuisance ordinances were originally intended to dissuade tenants from unnecessarily using police resources. Police members also consider nuisance ordinances a way to “maintain the quality of life in a community” and “provide incentives for preventing criminal activity.” From a landlord […]

US Law

“To Seek Justice, Not Merely to Convict”: Prosecutorial Power and the Case for Restorative Justice

March 26, 2018 Jackson Skeen 0

  How Do Prosecutors Impact Incarceration? There are three significant ways in which prosecutorial power feeds mass incarceration: abuse of discretion, misconduct, and political influence. Prosecutors’ aggressive use of discretion, while legal, has sent more and more people to prison even as crime rates and arrests have dropped off. Prosecutors have increasingly filed felony charges in an effort to be perceived as “tough on crime” and in the name of public safety — but at what cost? The exponential growth of the U.S. prison population has placed a substantial economic burden on taxpayers and, more importantly, it has torn apart the social fabric of communities ravaged by mass incarceration. Moreover, social scientists have determined the incarceration rate is now so high that the excessively punitive approach of prosecutors is likely harming, rather than benefitting, public safety.[1] Prosecutorial misconduct, while less prevalent, is particularly problematic because it epitomizes the imbalance of […]