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USA v. Erik Lindsey Hughes (11th Cir. 2017) What is the SCOTUS holding when the Court splits?

March 7th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Against a federal plea agreement backdrop, this case is interesting because it addresses how to apply United States Supreme Court precedent when the Court's opinion is split. Hughes was indicted for several offenses and, after negotiations with the Government, he entered a plea agreement that gave him a prison sentence below the federal sentencing guidelines. Given his charges, the sentencing range was 188- 235 months. He received a sentence of 1

Salman v. United States, 580 U.S.__ (2016) Insider Trading, What Does the Tipper Have to Get for it to be Criminal?

March 3rd, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Short answer:  Nothing. Longer answer:  Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10(b)(5) prohibit undisclosed trading on inside corporate information by individuals who are under a duty of trust and confidence ("fiduciary duty") that prohibits them from secretly using that information for personal advantage. This is typically called "insider trading." If someone does this, they are subject to criminal and civil liability.

USA v. Votrobek (and Castellanos) (11th Cir. 2017), Double Jeopardy Claim When Conduct is Exactly the Same, and Entrapment by Estoppel

March 2nd, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

This is a consolidated appeal out of the Eleventh Circuit.  These two gentlemen were co-defendants and I guess someone thought it would be a good idea to consolidate their appeals as well (personally, I don't like the guilt spill-over effect consolidating criminal appeals can have). Anyway, Votrobek and Castellanos were convicted after a trial.  According to the Government, they learned how to operate a "pill mill" from another gentleman, Zacha

State v. Alphonso Thompson (App. No. 27706), SC Supreme Court win on Search Warrant Issue!

February 23rd, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

This is a very important case for all criminal defense practitioners handling drug cases.  Essentially, the Court holds here that it is willing to kick convictions of massive quantities of drugs if law enforcement cannot meet the (really, quite low) standards of showing probable cause in the search warrants it obtains from judges.  From the opinion, it appears that Thompson had been on law enforcement's radar for awhile, because the warrant ref

Stephen Kolbe v. Lawrence Hogan, Jr.: 4th Circuit (en banc) Rules Some Guns Not Covered by Second Amendment, Maryland’s Statute is Constitutional (No. 14-1945, filed 2/21/17).

February 21st, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Referring to the Newtown Massacre and others, the 4th Circuit upheld the constitutionality of Maryland state's Firearm Safety Act of 2013 which bans the AR-15 and other military-style rifles and shotgun and detachable large-capacity magazines.  The plaintiffs in these cases contested the constitutionality of the FSA and also raised two Second Amendment claims 1) aimed at the assault weapons ban, and 2) the prohibition against large-capacity maga

USA v. Mitchell Stein (11th Cir. 2017, filed 1/18/17), Lawyer Behaving Badly, But Not THAT Badly.

February 20th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

The Crime: Stein was convicted after a two-week trial during which he represented himself (never, ever a good idea which Stein knows because he is a lawyer).  He was convicted of securities, wire, and mail fraud.  The fraud was not particularly clever-- he sent three press releases to his securities lawyer regarding purported purchase agreements with non-existent customers. He also enlisted others (who testified against him at trial) to create

In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Jeffrey Chapman, South Carolina Requires Competent Counsel for Sexually Violent Predator Hearings (Op. No. 27705, filed 2/15/17).

February 15th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

A hugely important win for Mr. Chapman here, but with a dissent that argues the opinion invades the province of the legislature.  Excellent work by David Alexander of the Office of Indigent Defense. The State sought to keep Chapman civilly committed after the expiration of his prison sentence pursuant to South Carolina statute.  It appears from the opinion that he received less than zealous advocacy in the hearing. Chapman’s lawyer did not m

The Story of Terrance Edwards, an Innocent Young Man in Prison for Life: What Happens When You’re at the End of the Legal Road?

February 7th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

I've been a criminal defense lawyer for over 15 years. In that time, I've represented hundreds, if not thousands of people charged with serious criminal offenses. These days I practice mostly appellate law. One day, I met with a family who wanted help for their son. I knew of their son's case because a close friend and colleague represented him at trial. This kid had already had outstanding representation at trial and on appeal. He didn't have s

Ashish Sijapati v. Boente (4th Cir, filed 2/1/17), Visa Holders Should Take Care in Travelling Abroad

February 1st, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

This is another published immigration case out of the Fourth Circuit this week and highlights the dangers of non-citizens travelling abroad while seeking residency in the United States.  Here Sijapati was found to be removable under 8 USC 237(a)(2)(A)(i) because he was convicted on December 12, 2007 of a crime involving moral turpitude that occurred more than five years after he was first admitted to the United States which occurred on January 2

Ihar Sotnikau v. Lynch (4th Cir., filed 1/24/17), Involuntary Manslaughter NOT a Crime of Moral Turpitude re: Removal Proceedings. Also, Appreciate How the Rule of Law Protects Immigrants in Practice.

January 30th, 2017
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Sotnikau, a native of Belarus, was a lawful permanent resident of the US.  He was subjected to a removal proceeding because authorities decided that his conviction, for involuntary manslaughter, was a crime of "moral turpitude."  He sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture ("CAT").  After various hearings, he lost these claims, the lower courts finding that involuntary manslaughter, under Virgi

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