Sarasota Tackles City’s Growing Homeless Population

    In Sarasota, Florida, homeless people are becoming more of a mainstay than not. There are far too many, and many of them are homeless because they lost jobs that were good due to the recession.

    Sarasota can see the homeless and poor without help, and right next to them is the very wealthy that have nothing to want for. In the city, there is one shelter for all the homeless people, but they are not allowed to sleep outside or in their cars without having to face some sort of harassment, or criminal complaint.

    The only shelter in the area can only fit so many homeless per night, so when it is full, the other plighted individuals must find somewhere else to go. Since the weather is nice all year round in that part of the country, they could let them have a camp of some sort, or open more shelters so that they do not have to sleep on sidewalks, benches, and in some cases on streets. These people, are not all alcoholics, or drug attics. No, by far, not, and there are children that are affected.

    There is an anti-panhandling law in this city. Those that are homeless, with nowhere to go and no food, cannot ask others for help, or they might reap repercussions from the law. This can hurt the homeless even more, because they can’t get work or housing, and then, they have no where to go. It is almost as if the city just turns its back, and wants them all to die.

    The city also closes the parks at dark so that the homeless can’t sleep there, and they have taken out benches, and other such items that might enable a homeless person to sleep there. They have also had outreach teams try to get the homeless to go to the shelter, but there is no guarantee that they will get to stay. It is the hope that they will open up an emergency shelter that can at least help in some way. The Salvation Army will find somewhere for them to stay, but the city is finding that many of them will not accept the help.

    The homeless problem will get worse, if it persists. Sarasota needs to talk to other hard hit areas around the country that have a lot of homeless. They need to make more shelters, camps or some place for them to sleep, eat and get back to work and life.


    US Court Rules Internet as a Utility, not Luxury

    In a 2016 Federal court ruling, the courts decided that high-speed internet service is a utility. This was a victory for start-up tech firms, microbusinesses and everyday consumers. They all use and depend on the internet on a daily basis. While some Americans cannot afford high-speed internet, many Americans find it difficult to function without it. Therefore, the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) decided high-speed internet is a necessity and the courts agreed. This ruling affirms that high-speed internet is as important as telephones and electrical power in the lives of Americans. It is not a luxury.
    The decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was made in a case about net neutrality. Net neutrality is a rule that ensures internet service providers deliver the same internet service to all its consumers. This keeps companies who can afford to pay for faster speed and broader service from having an unfair advantage over their competitors who cannot afford it. Without net neutrality broadband providers could allow some content on the web to be delivered at slower speeds. Consumers could be charged extra for better service and have to pay more to be able to receive some content. Only two judges were in agreement. The dissenting Judge, Stephen Williams referred to the rules an “unreasoned patchwork”. He felt that competition in the broadband industry would be jeopardized by the ruling of the F.C.C. Google and Netflix are in favor of the neutrality rules.
    When the rule was put in place Ajit Pai was a commissioner with the F.C.C. He was appointed by President Obama in May 2012. Ajit Pai, a Republican commissioner, was outspokenly against the regulation of broadband as a utility from the very beginning. Ajit Pai encouraged cable and telecommunications firms to continue the legal challenges against the rule. Cable, telecommunications and wireless internet providers sued to overturn the regulations put in place by the F.C.C, claiming that the F.C.C. exceeded its authority. This resulted in the 2016 ruling, upholding the decision by the F.C.C. The legal battle is anticipated to continue.
    In January 2017, President Trump named Ajit Pai the new Chairman of the F.C.C. Since Mr. Pai took office, the F.C.C. closed an investigation involving T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon. The investigation was concerning their zero-rating practices. Some view this as the dismantling of net neutrality by the F.C.C.


    #PrayforOrlando Exploring Current Gun Laws in the US


    The shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was a terrible tragedy that took the lives of 49 innocent people, while another 53 victims were wounded. This brutal act was committed by a lone gunman named Omar Marteen. The incident has caused the exploration of current gun laws in the US. Because of the nightclub shooting and other tragedies in Orlando that occurred around the same time, some people asked how much more the City of Orlando could take. A number of individuals were moved to pray by #PrayForOrlando. There is much debate about whether or not better gun control laws would prevent this type of tragedy.

    Days prior to the shooting, Mateen purchased the Sig Sauer .223 semi-automatic rifle and Glock 17 from a Florida gun store. The purchases were legally made on separate occasions. Assault weapons are often criticized for the ability they give shooters to shoot faster and produce higher death tolls. A federal ban against assault weapons expired in 2004. Sales for these weapons increase whenever there is a new legislative push to restrict them from being sold. According to Derek Byrd, a Sarasota, Florida based lawyer, there is no law that would have prevented the Orlando shooter.


    The Orlando shooting sparked new gun control language debates prompting Senator Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats to speak out. Hillary Clinton has historically been outspoken against the National Rifle Association (NRA). Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy blamed Congress for the mass shootings, because of its failure to enact stricter gun control measures.

    Sanders said, “We should not be selling automatic weapons which are designed to kill people. We have got to do everything that we can on top of that to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them, criminals, people who are mentally ill. So that struggles continues.” Former US Senate candidate, Patrick Murphy, joined Christine Leinonen, who is the mother of one of the victims, in giving a speech before the Democratic National Convention about “common sense” gun measures.


    Justice Department Challenges N.C. Transgender Law

    In 2016, the North Carolina Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, commonly referred to as House Bill 2, was challenged in court by the U.S. Justice Department.

    Among other things, House Bill 2 eliminated anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and stated that in government buildings, individuals could only use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.
    After the Justice Department notified North Carolina’s governor and leaders of the University of North Carolina (UNC) system that the law violated the U.S. Civil Rights Act, suit was filed on May 9, 2016.

    According to the Justice Department website, www.justice.gov, the complaint alleged that the defendants, as a result of the bathroom and changing facility provisions of House Bill 2, discriminated against transgender public employees and applicants in violation of Title VII. Title VII makes sex discrimination in employment unlawful. The Justice Department claimed that access to restrooms was a basic condition of employment and that denying transgender access to restrooms and changing facilities constituted unlawful sex discrimination.

    The complaint also alleged that, under House Bill 2, the defendants were violating the non-discrimination provision of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity and Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. The Justice Department asserted that these laws applied to recipients of federal funding.

    The complaint sought a federal court order prohibiting the defendants from enforcing the ban under House Bill 2.
    That same day, North Carolina’s governor and secretary of public safety sued the Justice Department in a different federal court.

    According to the New York Times, that decision was narrow in scope, The judge’s decision applied only to the parties who brought the challenge and found that they had shown that they were likely to succeed in proving that the House Bill 2 access restriction violated Title IX.
    “In sum, the court has no reason to believe that an injunction returning to the state of affairs as it existed before March 2016 would pose a privacy or safety risk for North Carolinians, transgender or otherwise,” the opinion stated. “It is in the public interest to enforce federal anti-discrimination laws in a fashion that also maintains longstanding state laws designed to promote privacy and safety.”



    Will the US Public Defense System Be Up for Major Reforms?

    The U.S. Public Defense System is an integral part of the United States criminal justice system. This aspect of the government is based off the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    It provides the right for criminals to receive counsel in a federal criminal prosecution case. This is important because not everyone has the means to hire a lawyer in their defense. This Amendment also stops people from being wrongly or unduly incarcerated.

    While the U.S. justice system does not work 100% of the time it is far from being ineffective. However, many people within the U.S. (and the criminal justice system in particular) wants major reform to take place. Some people want the U.S. Public Defense System to do a better job with representing defendants in court.

    Currently, the U.S. justice system utilizes public defenders, community defender organizations and panel attorneys to provide assistance for defendants. Miranda Rights notices points out how people can receive assistance from the courts if they cannot afford one.

    This is very important in terms of ensuring that a person’s Sixth Amendment Rights are not being violated. This kind of violation could allow a truly “guilty” person to go free. So, courts and the U.S. Justice System must ensure that they are on track with providing defense attorneys for people who need this service.

    The U.S. Public Defense System is not going to be changed from how it is set up. In other words, any reforms to the system on a federal level will not deviate too much from established procedures. Remember, the U.S. Justice System is streamlined and efficient.

    It has been designed to work this way. Even if it seems as if it is bogged down with bureaucracy. The point is that the system works. Once again, the main thing that the system does not want to do is to violate a person’s rights. Whatever reforms that do take place must not strip away these basic tenants of American citizenship.

    To make any major reforms to the Constitution would require a reorganization to the U.S. Constitution. That will not happen. If a person tries to do this, they will do so in vein. There are too many governmental checks for any person, group or organization to violate a person’s Constitutional Rights.

    So, the type of changes that will more than likely take place to the U.S. Public Defense System will be in terms of how attorney’s serve their pro bono clients. They can be required to provide more time on cases or to provide better representation in the courtroom. However, the Public Defense System will not be altered in terms of how people will receive representation in court. You can find out more information about this process at the Bureau of Justice Statitics Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Guardian.


    UN Panel to Say Assange Has Been Held Arbitrarily

    In 2010, the world was rocked over and over again as confidential diplomatic cables from the US government were leaked to the press and the world at large. Behind it all was a man named Julian Assange and the organization that he started for this express purpose, Wikileaks (an organization that publishes information from whistleblowers who wish to stay anonymous). Since then, Wikileaks has continued its mission even as Assange has been hounded by governments from both Europe and the United States of America. This comes from two sexual assault allegations and at least allegation of rape that occurred in Sweden that has had Assange on the run and hiding out. wikileaks, julian assange, law

    For the past few years, Assange has been locked away and hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom due to the lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries. He has been holed up and unable to leave due to the fact that he would immediately be arrested by the police that have been watching the embassy waiting for that very occurrence to happen. The UK police have been staking out the embassy since Assange took refuge there and have cost taxpayers millions of pounds since it started.

    Now a UN panel is expected to rule that Assange has been arbitrarily held captive in the embassy and recommend that he be freed. While the panel isn’t legally binding, it will certainly put pressure on the Swedish government, the UK government, and the EU as a whole when it comes to this manner. Assange first complained to the UN about his arbitrary detention in the embassy in 2014 due to the fact that he couldn’t leave since he would be arrested. The UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is going to announce its verdict on Friday but all signs point to them siding with Assange. That being said, Assange has also announced that he will be leaving the embassy regardless of the verdict and will accept arrest if that is what is going to happen due to the fact that he feels that there are no more courses for appeal.

    If you’d like to read more, the link is here.


    Trump Says Cruz Broke Law to Win in Iowa

    Since he first burst on to the political scene in the republican race for the presidential nomination, Donald Trump has been confusing pundits and throwing polls askew as he has gained more and more support above his actual politician rivals. Even with an increasingly inflammatory rhetoric that has shocked and disturbed many of the more terrified citizens of these United States of America, Trump has managed to stay ahead of establishment candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush while also outpacing renegade outsider Ted Cruz in both the polls and in vocal support. That is, he had been outpacing Cruz until recently.

    Taken from http://gawker.com/donald-trump-says-ted-cruz-broke-the-law-to-win-iowa-1756820310

    Taken from http://gawker.com/donald-trump-says-ted-cruz-broke-the-law-to-win-iowa-1756820310

    When the Iowa caucuses rolled around, everyone thought that the polls would hold true and that Trump would win with Cruz coming in second. However when the numbers came through, Donald Trump had come in second and Ted Cruz had taken first place, much to the surprise of all involved. While many other candidates would have accepted these results in stride and started to focus on the next primary, Trump decided to do what he does and complain about how he was robbed. Not only that, but he floated that Cruz very well may have broken the law in the process of stealing Trump’s caucus.

    So what laws did Cruz break when “stealing” Trump’s win away from him? There is no answer and the original tweet saying so was quickly deleted and edited, removing the word “illegally”. While there is a chance that Cruz did break a law, it wouldn’t be up to Trump to bring him to justice. There’s no denying that Cruz may have engaged in some shady behavior in regards to helping sink Ben Carson’s already dismal chances at victory (staffers and supporters somewhat spread rumors that Carson had dropped out). That being said, there is no evidence as of now that Cruz broke any laws and a presidential candidate getting caught engaged in libel would be a bad move. With Trump liking to call himself a winner who never loses, this lose clearly stung and he’s lashing out once again.

    If you’d like to read more, the link is here.


    Florida Needs to Fix it’s Death Penalty Law

    The death penalty has caused controversy since it was first made a legal possibility and this controversy has only increased every year as more and more people come out against it. While the death penalty is legal under federal law, various states have made it illegal over time. It is currently legal in 32 states with prisoners in 35 states currently on death row (the death penalty is illegal in Connecticut, Maryland, and New Mexico but isn’t retroactive so prisoners who were on death row will still be executed). Now it seems as though the Supreme Court is being called in to look at certain state’s death penalty laws.

    Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the way Florida handed down its death penalty rulings is unconstitutional and needed to be changed. This is a big deal for a number of reasons, one of which is that Florida currently has one of the country’s most crowded death row systems and seems to hand out the death penalty with more ease than other states in which it’s legal. With the Florida lawmaking session ending in six weeks and prosecutions for cases that have capital punishment as a possible sentence currently stalled, lawmakers in Florida are rushing to create new legislation that will answer the concerns of the court while simultaneously keeping constituents happy.

    Up until now, Florida’s death penalty only required a simple majority of a 12-person jury to recommend a death sentence to a judge who would then decide on the punishment — most other states require unanimous jury recommendations. With the 2nd largest number of inmates on death row (behind only California) but the highest execution rate in the country, Florida’s court system is now in turmoil as it tries to figure out a fix. The Supreme Court ruled that the current law gave too much power to judges and not enough to juries, flying in the face of the Sixth Amendment and becoming unconstitutional in the process. While there is no set fix to the ruling yet, it will be interesting to see whether the laws change on a grand scale or simply on a smaller scale targeted to this specific ruling.

    If you’d like to read more, the link is here.


    Han Shot First and the Law is Ok With It

    There’s no denying that stand-your-ground laws cause controversy and concern in our country. However, regardless of whether or not you agree with them, the use of force to defend yourself when you feel as though your life is threatened is respected throughout all states in the union, regardless of whether or not the state has a stand-your-ground law. People in our country are allowed to defend themselves to the death (either theirs or that of their opponent) if they feel as though there is a legitimate threat to their wellbeing.

    If we were to take this law and apply it to all planets in the universe (both fictional and non-fictional), we would inevitably come to the classic Star Wars question of who shot first, Han or Greedo? It turns out that Han did shoot first (this was learned a while ago) and it was only in later versions of the movie that it was edited so the Greedo shot first, therefore preserving Han’s legacy as a hero. However, if we apply the law of the United States of America to Tatooine, it wouldn’t have mattered if Han shot first. Under US law, he felt as though his life was in danger and therefore his shooting of Greedo before Greedo shot wouldn’t sentence him to a murder charge.

    When George Lucas changed the original scene in the re-release of the movie, he earned the ire and anger of Star Wars fans across the world. Now it seems as though those edits wouldn’t have mattered. Thanks to an article by University of Alabama School of Law professor John Gross, fans can rest easy in the fact that their anger was righteous and Han’s shooting first wouldn’t have changed the essence of his character. Lucas said that he changed the scene because he didn’t want Solo to be seen as a cold-blooded killer. As Gross’ article clearly states, Han’s shooting first wouldn’t have made him a murderer because his actions were totally justified.

    If you’d like to read more, the link is here.


    Florida Dog Bite Law is Overturned After Review

    Recently, I wrote a post about a law that is being challenged in my hometown of Sarasota, Florida. The law I spoke about has been a source of controversy since it was enacted and says that any dog who bites a person hard enough to require stitches or reconstructive surgery, regardless of the reason behind the bite, has to be euthanized due to it being a danger to people. As you can expect, there are a number of reasons that this law has faced the amount of criticism that it has — the law is very cut and dry and unless there are concerted efforts at appeals, the law ignores any context behind the dog bite (even if the dog was biting an intruder during a home invasion).

    The law was finally brought under legal review when a dog named Padi bit a child’s ear after allegedly being instigated. What is agreed is that the dog moved to a corner to escape the child only to have the child follow it, leading to the eventual bite. Padi’s owner, Dr. Paul Gartenberg, brought the case to court where a judge ended up reviewing the law as a whole. Judge Andrew Owens ended up throwing both the case against Padi out of court, as well as declaring the law “arbitrary and unduly oppressive.”

    This overturning of the law and it being struck down is with no doubt a huge weight off of the shoulders of all dog owners in the state of Florida. Dogs are animals and even the best trained dog will lash out either in fear or panic when it is backed into a corner with no chance of escape. Just like you wouldn’t punish a human as fully for hurting someone in self-defence, the same should goes for dogs because they’re just animals. Hopefully this law will lead to less needless deaths for pets that are honestly more than just pets, they’re family members.

    If you’d like to read more, the link is here.