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Case Update

The Supreme Court's in winter recess, but that didn't stop the decision-making process; shown here is Justice Sonia Sotoyamor's appearance two weeks ago on "Sesame Street," in which she was called upon to adjudicate the case of Baby Bear v. Goldilocks.  (No, I'm not making this up.)  Sotomayor rejected Baby Bear's claim to damages for Goldilock's breaking his chair, suggesting as a resolution that the two try to repair the chair.  Scalia filed a biting dissent, contending that Sotomayor's decision spurned the concept of property rights, which the Framers had found so central to any concept of "ordered liberty."  (Yes, I am making that part up.)  The smart money has the Court denying certiorari to Red Riding Hood's claim against the Big Bad Wolf for damages caused by the apparent disappearance of her grandmother, an incident which formed the basis for a recent episode of "Law and Order:  Special Victims Unit."  (That too.)

The Court's recess ends with a conference on February 17, with oral arguments resuming the following week.  Not much on the agenda by way of criminal cases; other than a habeas case involving the statute of limitations for such actions, the only other one on the docket this month is a case involving the "Stolen Valor Act," a recent law passed to prevent people from falsely claiming they'd won military medals, with the issue being whether the law violates the First Amendment.

The Ohio Supreme Court gets the jump on its Federal counterparts, resuming oral arguments this week, with all eyes focused on Rumpke Sanitary Landfill, Inc. v. Colerain Township, which seeks to resolve the issue of whether a private sanitary landfill is a public utility.  Kidding aside, there is one civil case of significant interest next week, Burlingame v. Coombs, which addresses sovereign immunity, specifically, whether the failure of a firetruck driver to comply with the city's official policy on responding to emergencies can be considered in deciding whether he engaged in "willful or wanton" misconduct so as to make the municipality liable.  The only criminal case presents a question of whether a judge can immediately grant a motion to seal the records of a case where the defendant has completed treatment in lieu of conviction, or if he has to wait the three years normally required for expungement of a conviction.

In the courts of appeals...

The old debate about whether a conviction was void for failing to properly impose post-release controls or meet the final-entry requirements of State v. Baker also raised another question:  was the 180-day time period for filing a petition for post-conviction relief calculated from the date of the "void" conviction or the date of the remedied one?  The 6th District concludes that this issue was resolved in State v. Lester (discussed here); in State v. Boles, the court holds that it starts from the date of the first entry.  (Note:  this is cleaned up a bit for clarity:  the 180-day time period actually runs from the filing of the transcript if an appeal is taken, or, if the case isn't appealed, from the date of the expiration of time for filing the appeal)... Picky, picky:  one of the mandated requirements of a plea colloquy is that the judge tell a defendant that the state has to prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.  In State v. Singleton, the 8th District rejects the contention that a trial court's advisement that "the state must prove every element of your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt" isn't sufficient... In Columbus v. Body, the 10th District finds that a police officer's statement to the defendant, "come over here," was not sufficient to render the incident a stop instead of a consensual encounter; the court notes key factors here which would have resulted in a contrary decision -- the presence of other officers, display of a weapon, physical touching, or tone of voice indicating that compliance with the request would be compelled -- were all absent here...

In State v. Grier, the 1st District tosses a second-degree burglary conviction, finding the evidence insufficient to show that someone was "likely to be present," since the occupants of the residence were on vacation at the time of the break-in... The 9th District sends a case back in State v. Payne, holding that the trial court hadn't made sufficient findings of fact to support its granting of a motion to suppress; the law that applied depended on who to believe -- the cops or the defendant -- and the trial court's failure to make any credibility determinations prevented the appellate court from correctly applying the law... In State v. Cann, the 3rd District affirms a maximum sentence for a plea to gross sexual imposition, essentially holding that the fact that the defendant got a significant reduction in the charges -- he was originally charged with rape -- can be considered in determining the sentence...

Get a move on.  In State v. Brown, the 6th District reverses defendant's conviction and 11-month prison sentence for receiving stolen property, finding that the fact the defendant was a passenger in a truck carrying stolen goods was not sufficient to demonstrate constructive possession.  The opinion also concluded with this instruction to the trial court, which I don't remember having ever seen before:  "We order the trial court to take all steps necessary to secure the immediate release of appellant from incarceration due to the conviction."


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