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A refrain by many people is that it is important to support the office of the presidency and our nationhood by getting behind every new United States president as s/he begins the heavy lifting of the job. That idea, though, is countered by the fact that the presidency is not a dictatorship, and that healthy dissent is essential in guiding our nation in the right direction, particularly now when the presidency and Congress are controlled by one party (Republicans) and where the Supreme Court will be dominated by Republican appointees once Trump gets the current Supreme Court vacancy filled.

I never wanted Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. He gave with one hand to civil liberties with some of his votes and opinions on Fourth, Fifth (due process in sentencing), and Sixth (Confrontation Clause) Amendment rights for criminal defendants, but took away much more on balance with his staunch defense of government's right to execute, often crabbed view of the First Amendment and other areas, and support of a free reign by the government to prevent and curb abortions.

Terry wrongfully tramples on civil liberties. Justice Scalia recognizes Terry’s flaws in permitting a frisk before an arrest. (Image from FBI’s website). In the Dickerson case discussed in today’s previous blog entry, Justice Scalia criticized the reasoning of Terry for allowing a Terry frisk in...

Judicial influences - Virginia criminal lawyer on the importance of knowing your judge. Judicial decisionmaking is influenced by factors beyond only the courtroom and judicial chambers. As a Virginia criminal lawyer, I know that judges come to their jobs with several decades of prior life experience and personal biases. Yes, judges take an oath only to follow the law in making decisions, but that oath does not require them to ignore their human experiences.

During each year's United States Supreme Court term, I try to attend a morning oral argument session, which typically is on a date that got continued or resolved for one of my own court dates. Today, I hit the jackpot by hearing two particularly important criminal oral arguments, one on the prosecution's duty to disclose Brady/exculpatory evidence to the criminal defense lawyer (Overton v. United States), and the next on the extent to which criminal asset forfeiture can result in making criminal co-conspirators jointly and severally liable through seizure of their legitimate assets for any

Even in states where judges ordinarily handle sentencing in criminal cases rather than having the jury recommend the sentence, currently all states but Alabama prohibit a death sentence unless the jury recommends such a sentence. Sadly, this effectively means that Alabama judges -- all elected every six years -- feel the pressures of the electoral process when it comes to capital cases and all other cases.