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Armed, but not “Dangerous,” Reasonable Suspicion in a State Where Anyone Can Carry a Gun, United States v. Robinson, No. 14-4902 (filed February 23, 2016).

February 24th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

This is a fascinating case, and one that will reverberate throughout our Circuit.  The take away is quite simple—in a state where it is legal to carry a gun in public, or carry a concealed weapon with a permit, and where permits are relatively easy to obtain, being armed does not mean “being dangerous” for purposes of a Terry frisk.

In this case, an anonymous call

The Absolute NECESSITY of Filing State Court Pleadings on Time or, How One Federal Habeas Petitioner Got Screwed Before He Even Filed. Daniel L. Crowe v. Warden of Perry Correctional, 2016 WL446638 (filed 2/5/16).

February 19th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

This case vividly illustrates the draconian and, frankly, unfair, consequences of time limitations set out in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) that governs federal habeas cases.  Petitioner here, Daniel Crowe of Oconee County, SC was convicted of murder in 1998 and sentenced to life in prison.  His appellate lawyer raised one issue on appeal, and his appeal was ultimately denied.  The appeal essentially became

Federal Habeas Corpus Grant of Relief! Grueninger v. Director, VOD, No. 14-7072 (4th Circuit), filed 2/9/16.

February 9th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Incredible work by the outstanding firm Skadden Arps with an exceedingly difficult set of facts.  Petitioner was arrested for sexually abusing his child.  During his first interview, he asserted his right to speak to a lawyer.  Three days later, that same investigator returned to the detention center to serve him with additional warrants.  He again interviewed petitioner without his lawyer present.  During this second interview, the petition

Appealing a sentence when there is a plea agreement in place, United States v. David Williams III, No. 14-4680 (filed January 28, 2016)

February 7th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

This case was consolidated with Mr. William’s co-defendant, Ms. Kristin Williams, and the issue here really only pertains to her sentence.   Ms. William’s appellate counsel filed Anders briefs in their cases (which, by its nature informs the court that counsel does not believe the raised issue has merit), and questioned whether Ms. Williams’s sentence was reasonable. The court takes this opportunity to remind the bench and bar t

Medical Malpractice in Prisons, Two Circuit Court Decisions

January 21st, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

There are a couple of recent decisions in the Fourth Circuit on this issue that illustrate essential aspects of pursuing medical malpractice suits in the prison context.  First, the requirement for expert certification, and the actual legal showing needed to prove a case. First, Sowers v. United States, 2015 WL 5693076 (E.D. Va. 2015):  This case essentially reaffirms the importance of strictly reading and construing a statute.   

SCOTUS Case, Jail Suicide; Taylor v. Barkes, 575 U.S.__ (2015).

January 12th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

This is an interesting per curiam opinion by the United States Supreme Court addressing qualified immunity in the jail suicide context.  As those who follow the Supreme Court know, this Court has not been very plaintiff-friendly for QI issues.  This case is no exception, but I think it’s an important case to consider for framing the issue going forward.  Jail suicides, after all, are not-so-uncommon, and frankly prisons and jails should have

Bowers v. McFadden (Great Post-Martinez Order!), 2015WL9294981

December 29th, 2015
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

 For appellate wonks like me, some non-Christmas-y days can feel like Christmas!  Even when it’s raining outside, and almost 80 degrees.  But now is not the time to complain!  On December 21, 2015 District Court Judge Richard Gergel signed an order granting habeas relief for an inmate whose counsel, back in 2004, did not object to a prior conviction being used to enhance his sentence to life without parole (that conviction was from

Incredible Win! US v. Blue, No. 13-4069, No. 15-4153 (4th Cir. 2015)

December 11th, 2015
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

You don’t see wins like this too often—reversals based insufficiency of the evidence!  Great work on the part of the Maryland Federal Public Defender’s Office. Briefly, the facts: On June 29, 2011, a snitch was arrested for heroin and a firearms charge.  To help himself out, he agreed to set up others.  He identified “Townsend” as a heroin middleman.  Snitch and two officers then set up a controlled buy with

Buffey v. Ballard, No. 14-0642, West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

November 13th, 2015
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

The West Virginia Supreme Court issued a very important opinion this last week, Buffey v. Ballard (filed November 10, 2015).  And while there is much to celebrate because an innocent person has now been exonerated, it is alarming to see the extent to which state actors, and even judges, acted to prevent what was clearly a wrongful conviction from being overturned.  A brief review of the case:

  • Nov. 30, 2001—Brutal sexual ass

New SCOTUS case on Qualified Immunity. Summary: Not good.

November 10th, 2015
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

This case belongs in the Tough Cases Make Bad Law pile.  The decedent was passing through a fast food restaurant when a member of the Trulia Police Department (yes, that Trulia, TX Police Department) approached him and told him he was under arrest on an outstanding warrant.  Not inclined to allow himself to be placed under arrest, he sped off and engaged in a high rate speed chase.  A number of other officers got involved, mostly putting down

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