Video: NTL member Ed Herman shares cereal expertise

cerealYou’ve been eating cereal wrong your whole life, says National Trial Lawyers member Ed Herman of Brown & Crouppen in St. Louis. To set things straight, Herman shares his cereal expertise with the world in a viral YouTube video that’s winning him fans, with more than 200,000 views on YouTube and more than 600,000 on Facebook, according to Riverfront Times. The video is titled “Ed V. Cereal,” and it may cause you to rethink how you eat your daily bowl of breakfast cereal. What does he believe is the perfect cereal? Watch this video to find out!

Video: Is the US bail system fair?

cash moneyA movement to eliminate cash bail is gathering steam in the criminal justice system. Is forcing people with low or no income to pay to get out of jail a fair and effective practice? California recently abolished cash bail for defendants, as noted by The Washington Post, although critics say the new law creates new problems. PBS station KQED takes a look at whether reform is needed in the bail system in this video.

Podcast: Great Trials with NTL members Tommy and Adam Malone

The Great Trials podcast features in-depth conversations with leading trial attorneys from across the country who discuss the courtroom strategies that helped them win landmark cases. Every episode includes one or two lawyers talking about a significant case they successfully tried in front of a judge and jury. The podcast is co-hosted by Steve Lowry and Yvonne Godfrey, two award-winning trial lawyers. Episode one features National Trial Lawyers members Tommy and Adam Malone. 

The Hamilton Project releases new report that concludes the cash bail system cost the U.S. economy over $15 billion in 2018

cash moneyThe Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution has released a new report titled, “The Economics of Bail and Pretrial Detention,” which explores the economic burden that the U.S. bail and pretrial detention system places not only on low-income defendants—but society as a whole. 

The study concludes that in 2018, the direct cost of bail to the U.S. economy was $15.26 billion (illustrated below in Table 1). The more than $15 billion in costs does not include additional indirect fees and long-run damages including: decreased future employment opportunities, increased financial burdens placed on family members, and future crimes committed, among other factors.  Additional findings from the report include:

  • Despite California’s recent elimination of cash bail, the analysis finds that in recent decades, the usage of bail and the duration of pretrial detention in the U.S. has increased significantly—regardless of the type of offense. For example: between 1992 and 2009, median bail increased by 33 percent for drug offenses, 48 percent for public order offenses, and 67 percent for violent offenses. 
  • Nearly 25 percent of all state and local inmates are in jail without having been convicted of a crime. The majority of these people are deemed eligible for release by a judge—but are unable to raise the funds to leave jail.
  • Pretrial detention periods are growing substantially, subsequently increasing costs to those who cannot afford bail. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the median duration of pretrial detention increased for every charged offense, ranging from an increase of 34 percent for burglary to 104 percent for rape. 
  • The share of released defendants who relied on commercial bail bonds more than doubled—rising from 24 to 49 percent, from 1990-2009. Commercial bonds account for all of the increase in total defendants who are able to secure financial release.

To learn more about the findings in the analysis, view the full report online.

ACLU and The Leadership Conference Praise Senate Passage of FIRST STEP Act

JailThe Senate has passed a revised version of the FIRST STEP Act by a margin of 87-12. It is expected to pass quickly in the House of Representatives in the coming days.

Jesselyn McCurdy, deputy director of the Washington Legislative Office at the American Civil Liberties Union, had the following reaction:

“The FIRST STEP Act is by no means perfect. But we are in the midst of a mass incarceration crisis, and the time to act is now.”

“We applaud the bipartisan group of senators who were willing to listen to advocates and include important sentencing reforms that will grant thousands of currently incarcerated people a second chance.”

“People’s lives are at stake. We’re delighted to see common sense prevail and the FIRST STEP Act move closer to the finish line.”

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, had the following response:

“The Senate’s bipartisan vote to pass the FIRST STEP Act is an important, but modest step forward for justice and human dignity. But it is not the end of our fight. This bipartisan bill offers some important improvements to the current federal system, but it falls short of providing the meaningful change that is required, as we explained in a letter to the Senate. More work will be needed as we push for transformational change that will end mass incarceration in America.”

“We applaud our coalition members for their tireless work to ensure that the final bill included the vital sentencing provisions that improved the bill, Senators Durbin, Booker, Harris, Lee, and Grassley for their leadership, and the many formerly incarcerated allies and advocates who remind us that this work has real-world impact.”

More information about the ACLU’s position on the FIRST STEP Act can be found here:
https://www.aclu.org/blog/smart-justice/mass-incarceration/how-first-step-act-moves-criminal-justice-reform-forward

Podcast: President Trump’s deepening legal troubles

President Trump’s legal issues continue to mount, including whether he violated campaign finance laws when he allegedly directed his attorney, Micheal Cohen, to pay hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels. In this podcast from NPR, Steve Inskeep talks to Trump supporter Chris Buskirk, who runs the conservative publication American Greatness, about the president possibly being linked to campaign finance violations.

Video: Toobin says Trump should be nervous after Flynn’s sentencing recommendation

Robert MuellerCNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says Robert Mueller’s recommendation that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn serve no prison time in exchange for his cooperation should send a signal to President Trump. And that signal is that it’s time to be nervous about the investigation. Mueller says Flynn provided “substantial” assistance to his investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. You can read the heavily-redacted sentencing recommendation document here. 

Toobin: Cohen’s guilty plea has legal perils for Trump

Michael CohenNow that President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, what kind of legal trouble does that mean for the president? Writing in The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin outlines how Cohen’s plea explains a lot about Trump’s fawning over Russian leader Vladimir Putin. As with so many things, Toobin says it comes down to money, particularly how Trump kept seeking permission to build a Trump Tower in Moscow well into 2016. Read more about Toobin’s analysis at The New Yorker.

CNN also has commentary from Toobin, in which he discusses the possibility that Trump may not even finish his first term.

The press and the president

CNN has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for revoking the press credentials of Jim Acosta, CNN’s chief White House correspondent. The Washington Post lays out CNN’s legal argument, and points out that the lawsuit is causing the White House to change its tune on why it revoked Acosta’s press pass. An article at Slate supports CNN’s claim, and states that they believe the news organization will win its lawsuit. Politico has posted its own take on the lawsuit, titled “Donald Trump and Jim Acosta: A love story.”

Here’s a copy of the altered video of the incident that was retweeted by Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders alongside unedited C-SPAN video. The video is provided by The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, the American Bar Association has posted an ABA Legal Fact Check on the lawsuit:

“With CNN challenging the suspension of the White House media pass for one of its reporters, the American Bar Association posted today a new ABA Legal Fact Check exploring the history and case law of the conflict between the White House and the media over credentials.

A half century ago, the Secret Service periodically denied media credentials for niche or alternative media. This led to federal lower court rulings in the 1970s that tested whether the White House had the authority to deny a “hard pass” for a reporter and on what grounds. While the cases never reached the U.S. Supreme Court, lower court judges cited both First and Fifth Amendment grounds in ruling for reporters and against the Secret Service. CNN’s lawyers cited similar First and Fifth Amendment grounds in arguing on behalf of its reporter.

ABA Legal Fact Check seeks to help the media and public find dependable answers and explanations to sometimes confusing legal questions and issues. For coverage of other timely issues in the news, these prior ABA Legal Fact Checks might be helpful:

  • Click here on the legal history of U.S. birthright citizenship.
  • Click here on what legally constitutes the crime of treason.
  • Click here on whether White House confidentiality agreements can be enforced.
  • Click here for an ABA Legal Fact Check on under what circumstances, if any, would a president be above the law.
  • Click here for an ABA Legal Fact Check on the authority of a president to issue pardons.

The URL for the site is www.abalegalfactcheck.com. Follow us on Twitter @ABAFactCheck.”

National Civil Rights Group Condemns Justice Department’s Election Monitoring Plan

votingThe Justice Department “Has Been and Remains Silent on Widespread Voter Suppression”  

WASHINGTON, D.C. –The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law issued the following statement in response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s latest announcement regarding plans for the deployment of federal personnel to polling sites on Election Day:

“In stark contrast to how federal personnel have been deployed in the past, Attorney General Jeff Sessions does not have his eyes set on voter suppression and last minute intimidation but is instead using this moment to further promote a false narrative about voter fraud,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “At every turn, this Justice Department has failed to take action to enforce the Voting Rights Act and protect the interests of minority voters.”

Clarke continued, “As the record makes clear, this Justice Department has been and continues to remain silent on voter suppression efforts unfolding in Georgia and elsewhere. In fact, the silence from this Justice Department in the face of the significant threats and obstacles that minority voters have faced has been deafening. In abandoning this work, they have left minority voters increasingly vulnerable. We will be watching the actions of the Justice Department’s personnel with great skepticism tomorrow, and given Sessions’ focus on fraud, will be vigilant for any federally-driven attempt to intimidate voters at the polls. We urge voters who require trusted help to also contact our non-partisan Election Protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE with any complaints regarding voting through Election Day.”

This statement follows a recent October 30, 2018 announcement by DOJ outlining its commitment to prosecuting ballot fraud. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law leads Election Protection, the nation’s largest and longest-running, non-partisan voter protection program anchored by the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline. The Lawyers’ Committee will be monitoring elections and providing support to voters through Election Day.