Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rural Areas Need More Lawyers

I live and work primarily in rural Nebraska.  And I hear about and see first hand that there is a shortage of lawyers able to handle the caseload that exists.  The American Bar Association recently wrote a fantastic article about this issue, and how different states are seeking to address it.  Really a lawyer shortage equates to a justice shortage, because of the long distances that people have to travel to find attorneys and the cost associated with doing so.  I applaud the work of the State Bars that are trying to find solutions, and hope that this will continue.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lawyers Need to Be GALs for Juveniles

I applaud G. Michael Fenner's position taken on lawyers v. non-lawyers acting as Guardians ad Litem for children in juvenile cases.  I believe that it is absolutely necessary for children to be represented by attorneys in these cases, as to take away this right to counsel for children would leave them the only parties unrepresented in these matters.  Parents have attorneys, the Department of Health and Human Services has attorneys, and the State has County Attorneys.

The right to counsel for children involved in juvenile proceedings should be a no-brainer.  And in fact, many states are moving toward a model with lawyer GALs, rather than away from it.  I would hate to see Nebraska moving in the wrong direction by taking away children's right to counsel in these matters.

Thank you to G. Michael Fenner for taking this position, and summarizing it so succinctly.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Prosecutors Reading Inmate/Lawyer E-mails

I just finished reading this article in the New York Times.  It was quite troubling.  It is a hallmark of our law that attorney-client communications are privileged, meaning that they are not subject to review by law enforcement, county attorneys, judges, or others.  I cannot fathom why there would be a distinction between written correspondence sent through the mail and written correspondence sent via the internet.

Certainly I understand (and regularly advise my incarcerated clients) that their communications, whether they be written, telephonic, or otherwise, with others (i.e. not their attorney) are subject to review by the jail, law enforcement, and prosecutors.  In fact, I have seen situations where those very communications lead to new charges for witness tampering, as well as being used as proof for the underlying offense.  And this, from society's prospective, makes sense to ensure that witnesses aren't being tampered with, criminal activities are not ongoing, public safety, etc.

But I do have a problem with inmates being lead to believe that their conversations with their attorneys are private/confidential/privileged, and then those conversations and statements being used against them.  This is just plain wrong, and I believe contrary to our system of law and justice.

Moreover, as the Court recently recognized in the Riley case, how we communicate with each other and interact with our world is changing.  When these types of systems are put in place to facilitate regular and easy contact between incarcerated clients and their attorneys (which I applaud), then they need to be protected just as more antiquated systems for contact (such as the mails).  Otherwise, these systems are entirely useless to attorneys as a means to communicate with incarcerated clients.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Monday, August 19, 2013

Holdrege Has It!

Holdrege, Nebraska created this video, and yours truly was tapped to be a part of it.  Please feel free to check it out if you're interested!

Friday, January 4, 2013

ICWA and SCOTUS


For only the second time, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear a case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).  This Reuters article describes the situation as a "human tragedy," which pretty much can describe any case on appeal involving ICWA, as the failure to abide by ICWA's mandates can essentially 'undo' an adoption.

Whatever the result, it will be wonderful for attorneys involved in these types of cases to have a little more guidance from the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

First Amendment, Pastors, and the IRS

I thought that this story (here and here) was fascinating.  Currently churches can lose their 501(c)(3) status if the pastor endorses candidates, as the church is no longer purely a religious organization.  These pastors believe that such a rule violates their First Amendment right to free speech.  I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens.  Any pastors in Nebraska participating?