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A squatter and her religion

Posted by on 6:38 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

By Jennifer Stevens


A squatter is defined as, “a person who unlawfully occupies an uninhabited building.” Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers were notified that a woman had been living in a $600,000 house in a South Charlotte neighborhood. The house was previously foreclosed and is now owned by a bank. Ninti El Bey has been arrested for breaking and entering, along with second- degree trespass, but continues to keep living in the foreclosed home. As to date, there is no future court date set for El Bey, but authorities say they are working diligently to get her out of the house for good.

The main defense of El Bey is that she belongs to a branch of religion under the Moorish Science Temple of America, which protects her from having to leave the house. A Durham native founded this religion in 1939. This religion believes that African Americans are descended from the Moors or North West Africa and are therefore, Islamic by faith. The purpose of this religion was to give African Americans an identity and promote involvement in their society. The movement of this religion varies through time, but has now taken a turn for the worse in the twenty-first century. People that claim to follow Moorish Science are now known to file false legal documents, including: fake liens, deeds, and property claims. Although this popular trend has now reached the Moorish Science religion, the Moorish Science Temple has claimed they have no affiliation with these false documents and state that people who file these false documents are not following the true way of the religion.

The first attack El Bey made was on a realtor who was to show the house to potential buyers of the house. When he entered the house, he found numerous people living in the house. El Bey then filed a temporary restraining order on the realtor. Once El Bey was first arrested, she was back living in the house the next day. El Bey is using the tactics of her “special” religion to support her. Neighbors cannot believe the amount of work it is taking in order to get her removed from the house, especially because the house is not her house.

As to date, neighbors saw work crews brining wooden sheets and boards into the home to keep the squatters out. Meanwhile, squatters at the house are still fighting against authorities and are continuing to work to secure the property. It is unclear whether the authorities will be able to overcome El Bey’s religious protest and permanently secure the house.



[1] Google Definitions




Supreme Court to Hear Texas Abortion Law Case

Posted by on 6:56 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

By William G. Hodge

For the first time since 2007, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear its first major abortion case that would affect millions of women as it pertains to the constitutional provisions governing abortion rights.

The case in question concerns a challenge to Texas law that would force the nation’s second-most-populous state to close a majority of its forty-two clinics because of the strict requirements imposed on abortion providers. The law would require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers and mandates that a doctor have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the facility where he or she performs.

The Texas lawmakers reason that the measures would ensure that Texas women are not subjected to substandard conditions at abortion facilities. Meanwhile, the abortion providers contest that the regulations are expensive, unnecessary, and intended to put many of the providers out of business. Furthermore, abortion advocates say that the regulation would create an undue burden on the constitutional right to abortion because, the regulation would close all of the facilities west of San Antonio and cluster the facilities in four metropolitan areas: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.

This case’s decision, which should be expected in June of 2016, could turn out to be the third installment in a legal trilogy on the scope of the constitutional right to abortion after Roe v. Wade in 1973 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.

The lower courts are divided over whether they should accept lawmakers’ assertions about the health benefits of abortion restrictions at face value or investigate to determine whether the assertions are backed by evidence.

In June, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, largely upheld the contested provisions of the Texas law, using the more deferential approach. A panel of the court ruled that the law, with minor exceptions, did not place an undue burden on the right to abortion.

This case’s decision is important because of its legal implications on a constitutional right but also political as the presidential campaign enters its final stretch, thrusting the divisive issue of abortion to the forefront of public debate.




Protecting the Unprotected: States Pass Laws to Control Wildlife Trade

Posted by on 6:47 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

By: Stacey Amanda Cargile


The state of Washington just passed a new wildlife trafficking law that makes the purchase, sale, or distribution of parts or products made from ten endangered animals a Class C felony.[1] Protecting rhinos, tigers, lions, elephants, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, sharks, rays, and pangolins, this new law packs a hefty punch, with violators facing up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.[2] Passed with “overwhelming support,” Washington’s new law is a sign of a possible shift in the public’s perspective of wildlife trade issues.[3] While in the past many people were likely unaware of the extent of wildlife trafficking or its associated problems, events such as the killing of Cecil the lion on July 1, 2015, have brought the issue to public light.


Cecil the lion became a household name when he was illegally shot and killed by an American visitor to Zimbabwe who paid $50,000 for the hunt.[4] The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has recommended that the African lion be protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.[5] If this listing is approved, the lion will be protected through restrictions on trade and taking—defined as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.”[6] This protection would prevent trophy hunters from legally importing the spoils of overseas hunts of lions such as Cecil.


Washington’s new law, however, helps provide these protections for endangered animals without relying on action by the FWS. Cecil was hunted for a personal trophy, but many animal parts and products are imported for further trade for everything from souvenirs, trinkets, medicinal ingredients, fashion, and food products.[7] By prohibiting the sale or trade of these products within the state’s borders, regardless of the legality of the importation, these laws can virtually eliminate the market and give importers no place to sell their animal product wares. While the wildlife black market still presents an enormous problem—valued at $10billion USD in 2009 and ranking as the third largest black market behind guns and drugs—eliminating the legal market for these products will go a long way towards protecting these species.[8]


Washington is not the only state to have passed this type of legislation. California, New Jersey, and New York have similar, though less stringent, laws, and an Oregon law is in the works.[9] North Carolina, however, has nothing of the kind. North Carolina General Statute §113-294 addresses the sale and trade of wildlife, specifically outlining fines and penalties for several species, including beaver, deer, elk, bear, and wild turkey.[10] As a Class 2 misdemeanor, the unlawful sale or trade of these species is punishable by a fine of not less than $250.[11] The sale or trade of endangered species, a Class 1 misdemeanor, is addressed in N.C.G.S. §113-337.[12] Although Article 25 of the North Carolina General Statutes is entitled “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Wildlife Species of Special Concern,” the prohibition on sale or trade only applies to those species included on a protected wild animal list.[13] While lions such as Cecil would seem to be a “species of special concern,” NCGS §113-331(8) restricts this designation to those species native or once-native to North Carolina. This leaves species such as African lions—those not yet listed as threatened or endangered but —to fall through the gap and remain essentially unprotected.





[2] Id.

[3] Id.



[6], 16 U.S.C.S. §1532




[10] N.C.G.S. §113-294

[11] N.C.G.S. §113-294(a)

[12] N.C.G.S. §113-337(b)

[13] N.C.G.S §113-337(a)

A Stockholder’s (Non-Existent) Right to Receive Dividends

Posted by on 7:16 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

By Ryan Vince

A dividend is a special type of distribution made by a corporation to its shareholders—the owners. These payments (dividends) are typically taken out of the corporation’s current or retained earnings and given to shareholders in proportion to the number of shares that each shareholder owns. However, contrary to common belief, a shareholder will probably never see a return on his or her investment through a receipt of corporate dividends.

A corporation’s board of directors normally has the sole authority to decide whether to issue dividends to the shareholders. Unless the articles of incorporation or a certain statute says otherwise, payment of dividends will not be required. Regardless of the wisdom or fairness in the decision to pay dividends, the board will usually be protected by the business judgment rule. The business judgment rule is the presumption that the board of directors acted under sound business judgment and in good faith. In the absence of fraud, bad faith, or other misconduct, courts will decline to interfere with a decision made by the board of directors.

Courts have recognized that the board of directors owes fiduciary duties of good faith and fair dealing toward minority shareholders. When it comes to the initial payment of dividends, the board of director’s only duty is to make a good-faith decision that reflects legitimate business purposes rather than the private interests of the directors. In other words, a board of directors can always choose not to pay dividends to the owners of the corporation as long as the board does not act in bad faith or abuse its discretion. This provides the board with a wide range of discretionary power in regards to issuing dividends. Generally, the board of directors must act in the best interests of the corporation, but in most instances, this precludes the shareholders’ ability to receive or compel the payment of dividends.

When a person invests in a corporation by purchasing stock, that person becomes a “part-owner.” This investor has a general expectancy to receive a return on his or her investments, and as a new owner, may want his or her fair share of corporate profits. Unfortunately, the board of directors decides on whether to issue dividends, and most times, will not do so. The board of directors’ desire for company growth is often contrary to the shareholder’s interest in receiving corporate profits, and the business judgment rule provides almost infinite protection to the board’s dividend policy. Because of the extreme difficulty in proving a fraudulent dividend policy, self-interest in the decision by the board, or some other breached duty, a shareholder’s legal action to compel payment of dividends is virtually designed to fail.

The desired benefit of bringing a direct suit against a corporation for its dividend policy will rarely outweigh the costs of bringing the action. Thus, in most cases, the shareholder will bring a derivative suit for the purpose of enforcing a corporate right. Because of the supposed “harm” to the corporation, the corporation will bring the action and bear the costs of litigation, making this type of action more suitable to the complaining shareholder. However, a derivative suit has several strict procedural limitations, one being the act of making a demand on the board. In some jurisdictions, a demand may be excused when the demand would have been “futile,” or useless, because directors were actually self-interested or there is evidence clearly showing misconduct by the board. Nevertheless, a high degree of self-interest is required to excuse demand, and in most cases, the board of directors will request that the derivative suit be dismissed based on the findings of a special litigation committee. The members of this committee are typically disinterested, and if so, the court will give deference to the committee’s decision not to bring the derivative suit because doing so would not be in the best interests of the corporation.

As a result, a shareholder with a legitimate complaint may be denied the opportunity to compel dividends. Not only is an attempt to compel the declaration of dividends very burdensome, gaining access to the courts may be just as difficult. The strict procedural requirements of a derivative suit, the business judgment rule, and the special litigation committees, have all been effective in precluding the consideration of shareholders’ actions for payment of dividends. It is important that the board of directors be given free-reign when making managerial decisions. Conversely, the power of the owners to enforce the corporation’s and their own rights should become more flexible. The business judgment rule provides a nearly impenetrable wall of protection to the decisions of the board, but the strict procedures of a derivative suit seek to thwart any shareholder’s chances in receiving a share of the corporation’s profits.




  4. Textbook: Business Structures (4th Edition) by David G. Epstein, Richard D. Freer, Michael J. Roberts, and George B. Shepherd


Posted by on 7:08 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

By: Audrey Henderson


On October 1, 2015, a new set of laws came into effect in North Carolina ranging from abortion to same-sex marriages to medical marijuana. Needless to say, the 2015 North Carolina legislative session was a successful year for conservatives. However, one of these laws in particular affected the sale of spirituous liquor at distilleries. [1].

“ABC” stands for Alcohol Beverage Control. The ABC Board was established in North Carolina in 1937 after the repeal of Prohibition, and after realizing that a total ban on alcohol was ineffective. The state gave local jurisdictions the opportunity to vote on whether alcohol should be sold in their area, as well as what types should be sold. Some counties voted to create the ABC controlled system, while others were created at the city level. Mecklenburg county, for instance, voted to have the ABC controlled system. It was further decided that hard liquor was only to be sold in ABC stores, not wine and beer. [2]. According to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, there are seventeen states and jurisdictions in Alaska, Maryland, Minnesota, and South Dakota that have some type of a controlled alcohol system. [3].

North Carolina’s laws regarding liquor are as follows: you are not allowed to buy alcohol on Sundays; you cannot purchase alcohol from restaurants or bars on Sundays until noon; and you can only purchase hard liquor from ABC stores. For a long time now, North Carolina has tightly controlled the sale of hard liquor through state-run ABC stores. However, the new North Carolina law allows for the sale of spirituous liquor outside of those stores. This has not been allowed since the time of Prohibition.

The change in the law allows North Carolina distilleries to sell exactly one bottle of its product, per calendar year, to customers. In order to regulate this, distilleries are now required to maintain records of the purchase date and driver’s license of each customer. See HB-909: ABC Omnibus Legislation.

North Carolina has been lagging, for many years, behind other states who allow the sale of hard liquor at distilleries. While this new change may be small to some, it is in fact a significant benefit to distilleries. The North Carolina Distillery Association believes the passage of the law “will grow sales for [the] young industry, expand North Carolina agriculture, create new job opportunities, and encourage tourism across the state.” [4]. Additionally, some owners believe that getting people acquainted with a bottle of hard liquor through distillery tours will result in more profits for them, but also more sales from ABC stores.

On the other hand, critics of the new legislation believe this is a gateway to the privatization of hard liquor. Reverend Mark Creech of the Christian Action League says, “once you start allowing the sale of liquor outside our ABC stores by anybody, you will be hard-pressed to deny that right to others.” [5]. Needless to say, it looks as though North Carolina is taking a small step forward in privatizing the sale of alcohol, thus joining the majority of other states with such systems.








Dirty Tricks Duke Energy’s Attempt to Sweep All Coal Ash Litigation into a Single Settlement Agreement

Posted by on 6:41 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

By: Stacey Amanda Cargile


In February of 2014, the Dan River in northern North Carolina was inundated by an estimated 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash.[1] For two weeks, the coal ash flowed seventy miles downstream before settling to the riverbed.[2] Arsenic levels soared to four times the levels allowed by state water quality standards.[3] The city of Danville, which relies on the Dan River as a water source, is located only twenty miles downstream of the spill site.[4]

The source of this toxic pollution was a faulty impoundment lagoon at Duke Energy’s Dan River Power Station.[5] Coal ash is created when coal is burned to generate electricity. At its fourteen power facilities in North Carolina, Duke Energy[6] stores millions of tons of coal ash in unlined pits or lagoons and behind earthen dams.[7] These lagoons often leak, allowing the toxic chemicals to seep into groundwater, rivers, lakes, and drinking water reservoirs.[8] Sometimes the lagoon suffers a complete failure, as in Kingston, Tennessee, where in December of 2008, an earthen dam broke, dumping 1.1 billion gallons of coal as into the Emory and Clinch Rivers.[9] Despite containing twenty-five heavy metals, other toxic chemicals, and being stored in a manner known to be faulty and dangerous, coal ash is currently less regulated than household garbage.[10]

Several conservation nonprofit organizations[11] banded together to initiate and intervene in lawsuits meant to hold Duke Energy accountable, require that it clean up contamination caused by faulty lagoons, and change storage practices to prevent future spillages.[12]  While four of these cases were pending in North Carolina Superior Court (allegedly due to stalling by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) and a failure to prosecute[13]), in March of 2015, the DEQ fined Duke Energy Progress $25.1 million for violations at its Sutton facility near Wilmington, NC.[14] Duke Energy Progress appealed this fine to the Office of Administrative Hearings.[15] Neither Duke Energy Carolinas, nor any of the interested conservation nonprofit organizations, were parties to the penalty case.[16] The only parties were Duke Energy Progress and the DEQ.[17] Ultimately, the penalty case ended in a settlement on September 29, 2015, with the settlement approved by the Administrative Law Judge the very same day the order was filed.[18]

Under this settlement agreement, the $25.1 million was reduced to $7 million.[19] More troubling to the conservation organization parties who had cases pending in Superior Court, however, certain language in the agreement grabbed far more power than was appropriate. Although not parties to the penalty case, the organizations filed a petition for judicial review on October 13, 2015, alleging that the agreement far exceeded its scope and authority and is thus void.[20]

First, in addition to the dramatic decrease of the fine, the settlement agreement expressly states that the agreement fully resolves “all issues related to groundwater contamination with coal ash facilities . . . including all groundwater violations alleged in the state enforcement actions currently pending in Superior Court in Wake and Mecklenburg County.”[21] By doing so, Duke Energy Progress and the DEQ attempted to sweep a judicial matter under an executive rug. The pending cases were stalled in Superior Court, while the penalty case was an administrative matter being resolved through hearings before an Administrative Law Judge. This attempt to do away with a judicial matter in an administrative court is a clear overstepping of authority and a separation of powers issue. At the same time, the settlement agreement was made entirely independent of multiple parties to the Superior Court cases. The conservation organizations and Duke Energy Carolinas were not parties to the penalty case, yet the resulting settlement agreement purports to resolve the issues for those entities without having provided notice or opportunity to even participate. A basic understanding of high school civics should be sufficient to trigger cause for concern.

Second, Administrative Law Judge’s determination that the settlement agreement is “fair and comprehensive” was based on a record devoid of substantial evidence.[22] While administrative agencies are generally afforded a level of deference as experts in the field, this deference must be supported by actual evidence and data. Here, however, with such a sparse record, the conservation organizations argue that the resulting agreement is arbitrary and capricious, as well as the result of just the sort of closed-door, secretive deal that administrative processes are intended to avoid. Especially in environmental law matters, where scientific information and very specific pollutant measurements can make or break a case, a record is essential to educate the court and parties and to support and justify the result. Without any sort of record on which the decision rests, the Administrative Law Judge’s approval of the settlement agreement has no foundation and cannot stand.

Allowing the judicial approval of this settlement agreement to stand without careful review will undermine protections and procedures intended to prevent the very sort of collaboration between polluters and government seem here.




[2] Id.


[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] “Duke Energy” is used collectively to refer to two separate Duke Energy entities: Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Carolinas.





[11] Cape Fear River Watch, MountainTrue, Roanoke River Basin Association, Sound Rivers, The Waterkeeper Alliance, and Winyah Rivers Foundation


[13] Id. at 2.

[14] Id. at 12.

[15] Id. at 15.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id. at 14.

[19] Id.

[20] Id. at 15.

[21] Id. at 17.

[22] Id. at 19.

Charlotte’s Public Safety Zones

Posted by on 8:31 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

By Jennifer Stevens


The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) is currently working on a policy known as “public safety zones.”[1] These safety zones would be city areas where people with past arrests would be prohibited from entering.[2] The city explained that the ordinance would work like this: If CMPD found an area with a lot of crime, the police chief would have the power to declare that area a safety zone.[3] The police chief would not have to get any approval before declaring the area a safety zone.[4] Further, if a person is arrested within this safety zone, that person would be barred from returning to that area.[5] The city plans to implicate an appeal policy, where a person may be allowed to return if the person is caring for children or working in that area.[6] If a person is found guilty or convicted, he or she would be prohibited from entering that area for up to a year. [7]


Unrealistic Ordinance with Unrealistic Goals


The city intends to enforce this ordinance to address criminal behavior and reduce crime, while also bringing back reputations from neighborhoods that have been destroyed due to criminal nuisance activity.[8]

                  It is hard to imagine that the city truly believes that these safety zones will truly reduce crime. First, how does CMPD plan to implement a process to track whether certain individuals are in the targeted area? Many people will ignore the ordinance and return to the area without thinking twice. Another problem with this ordinance is that the crime is not being prevented, but being moved to other parts of the city. It is common sense: if you push criminals out of one area, they must go to another area to live. It would seem as though CMPD is simply putting a bandage over a bigger problem instead of tackling crime specifically.

Constitutional Rights


Apart from the mere common sense argument against the ordinance, it is important to look at the constitutional rights that are being infringed. The CMPD attorney has already addressed the fact that this ordinance has “significant constitutional hurdles.”[9] A person has a constitutional right to freedom or movement and association. Persons have been granted the freedom to travel and this ordinance would specifically ban free persons from their right to travel freely. Is this ordinance really so beneficial to the city that individuals should give up constitutional rights? Absolutely not.


Open the Flood Gates: Police Power


Lastly, this ordinance opens up one slippery slope for CMPD. As mentioned above, the police chief needs no approval to declare an area a safety zone.[10] To implement this ordinance, police would have the ability to search people in order to find out whether or not they have been previously arrested. If one does not comply, it is likely that the police can arrest the person for not complying with the ordinance. This leads to open search and seizures to persons inside the safety zone. So, what can the police NOT do in a safety area? This factor remains unknown.


Charlotte Deserves Better

            In my opinion, this ordinance will be forcing Charlotte to take a step back, instead of making positive forward strides. Charlotte is a city full of arts, progression, community, and equality. This ordinance does not bring the community together; it does the exact opposite – create inequality and separation. Yes, of course, crime needs to be regulated, but this is clearly not the way. The Queen City is better than this and the people of the city need to understand and examine all the consequences that can come out of such ordinance.





[1] Steve Harrison, CMPD to Move Forward with Exclusion Zones Plan, Charlotte Observer, Oct. 12, 2015, (last visited Oct. 24, 2015).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Harrison, supra note 1.

[7] Id.

[8] Chrissie Beth, CMPD’s Proposed ‘Public Safety Zones’ will do more Harm than Good, Charlotte Agenda, Oct. 23, 2015, (last visited Oct. 25, 2015).

[9] Harrison, supra note 1.

[10] Id.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Posted by on 10:28 am in Uncategorized | 0 comments

By Ryan Vince

What exactly is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? Unless you were directly involved with the agreement’s negotiations, your answer would be incorrect and most definitely incomplete. Passed just two weeks ago, the TPP was signed into legislation in a very secretive manner. Many specifics in the TPP remain to be unknown, however, the ones that have recently been released has lead readers to vast skepticism. This “trade” agreement, supposedly an avenue of future economic success, may lead to future legal problems that every American should be aware and mindful about.

After five years of quiet negotiating between the United States and eleven other countries, the TPP has finally emerged into fruition. This agreement grants extensive powers to foreign corporations in the Pacific region of the world, and arguably provides more protection to corporate interests than the interests of consumers who benefit from increased competition and free trade. The TPP fails to establish any rules that seek to prevent foreign currency manipulation, it allows foreign companies to contest American laws, and it decreases the protections afforded to Internet users and technology innovators.

The main opposition to the TPP is the fact that foreign corporations now have to ability to sue the United States government when valid American law allegedly undermines “expectations” of future profits. In a provision called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS, these corporations can skip U.S. courts and present its case before an international panel or arbitrators. To make matters worse, the American taxpayers fund any payout made to a successful foreign challenger. The secrecy of the TTP negotiations could lead one to reasonably assume that the drafters did not want to spread the specifics of this newly instigated deal. Imagine the provisions that remain hidden when the TPP permits foreign companies and investors to challenge any American law, regulation, or court ruling—federal, state, or local.

These arbitration tribunals present a multitude of problems for lawmakers, as well as the American people. American legislation and regulation is necessary for the success of the American people. New laws are constantly being executed in the U.S., which ideally should provide greater protection to our population at home, while our ability to chase new openings of domestic or global success continues to expand. When the TPP conceals a majority of its terms from the entire American population, a concern for these take it or leave it provisions needs to be expressed.

In addition, critics believe that this new deal will significantly hurt the “freedom” of Internet and may damage intellectual property rights of everyone in the United States. The intellectual property chapter of the TPP details many requirements that are more restrictive that the modern international standard, which requires countries to conform their own laws to meet the TPP. Further, journalists can be faced with harsh criminal penalties for the innocent misuse of trade secrets, such as accessing information through an alleged confidential computer system. However, because the TPP is complete and much of it remains to be uncovered, it is only a matter of time before we discover the effects.

Overall, what we can expect from the TPP is that the American government will be challenged more frequently when it comes to commercial legislation. Even when certain laws were created to benefit the American people, they may be struck down because of potential to produce adverse affects to foreign businesses. The TPP is a brand new agreement among countries around the world, and our population needs to aware of what the TPP is expected to bring us.

References (accessed the above article from here)

Police officer convicted of felony after arresting New York Times photographer

Posted by on 11:06 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

By William G. Hodge

On Thursday, October 16th, a New York police officer was convicted of a single count of falsifying a report to justify the arrest of a New York Times photographer. In 2012, Michael Ackermann arrested the freelance photographer Robert Storlarik on charges of obstruction and resisting arrest. Storlarik had been working on a story about police stop-and-frisk tactics and was taking photos of Ackermann when the incident occurred. Ackermann claimed that Storlarik had repeatedly used the camera’s flash in Ackermann’s face during the incident. However, it was later shown that Storlarik did not have a flash attachment on his camera.

During the bench trial, Ackermann’s attorney contended that it was an honest mistake given the surrounding patrol car lights, officers’ flashlights, and cellphone cameras being used by observers. Ackermann has been suspended without pay, and his sentencing is scheduled in December.

Although this incident occurred in 2012, given the current strict scrutiny of police officer tactics today, one has to wonder from a legal perspective if the punishment is higher than it may have been two years ago. Falsifying a police report is a felony, but considering the surrounding circumstances in which the photographer was doing a report on questionable police tactics, it can be argued that the punishment did not fit the crime. There is no evidence of any unwarranted contact between the arresting officer and the photographer, and by all accounts, it may have been an honest mistake by Ackermann.

In my opinion, this is only the beginning of many convictions such as this one. Not only will these incidents be more publicized, but courts will be less inclined to give police officers the benefit of the doubt. It is up to defending attorneys to navigate this tough sea of scrutiny to help police officers keep their jobs and, subsequently, keep the peace.



The USA Freedom Act: Compromising National Security for the Protection of Individual Liberty Interests

Posted by on 11:03 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

By Beaujeaux Delapouyade

The USA Patriot Act Section 215 has spawned a nation-wide debate regarding Americans’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. The Act allowed the National Security Agency to collect bulk telephone data, including metadata from emails, texts, phone calls, and other types of electronic communications. Proponents of the Act argue that it is necessary to aid high-level security officers in the investigation of national terrorism following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Act allowed the government to apply for a court order for the mass collection of such data. A court order would only be granted if the government could show a reasonable suspicion that the device was associated with terrorist activity. Opponents of the Act argue that it allows the government to overstep its bounds and unlawfully intrude into Americans’ constitutional right to privacy.

On June 2, 2015, Congress enacted the USA Freedom Act into law through the bicameral and presentment process, pursuant to the United States Constitution Article I Section 7 Clause 2.[1] President Barack Obama signed the Freedom Act into law following the lapse of the Patriot Act provision. The Freedom Act reforms mass-surveillance techniques, placing new restraints on methods the government utilizes to collect data for counterterrorism purposes. The Freedom Act requires the government to seek a court order requesting data directly from the telephone companies. The government must show that the person or device is connected to a terrorist organization. Implementation of the Freedom Act will require companies to be more transparent regarding information it hands over the federal government. [2]

The Patriot Act should have been extended in its entirety because it does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment. In addition, while the Freedom Act may act as a compromise protecting both individual liberty and national security, the reform may hinder national security efforts in the wake of impending terror threats.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act does not violate American citizens’ privacy interests because the collection of metadata is not equivalent to the content of communications. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution—“[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures . . .”—protects individuals from unreasonable government intrusions into legitimate expectations of privacy.[3] In Smith v. Maryland, the Court held the defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in telephone numbers dialed because data does not reveal intimate details of a conversation, and disclosure of the numbers to the telephone company destroyed any existing privacy interest.[4] Likewise, a person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in metadata because a person voluntarily discloses the data to third parties, and the data does not reveal substantive details of conversations.

The collection of metadata may be a government seizure albeit one that is reasonable in the wake of impending threats to national security. The government’s interest in thwarting terrorism threats outweighs minimal privacy concerns in phone data. The application can only be used to collect information concerning non United States citizens, international terrorism, or clandestine intelligence activities. Restrictions on the NSA’s ability to acquire metadata will inhibit the detection of national security threats like the Russian hackers’ cyber intrusion into the White House computer system or a second major terror attack in light of the emergent ISIS regime. In addition, the requirement that phone companies be more transparent regarding the information provided to the federal government exposes clandestine operations to foreign intelligence threats frustrating the entre purpose of a clandestine operation: secrecy. Accordingly, the government’s interest in national security is not something our country should compromise.


[1] See U.S. Const. I § 7, cl. 2;


[3] U.S. Const. amend. IV.;; Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 359 (1967).

[4] 442 U.S. 735, 740 (1979); see also United States v. White, 401 U.S. 745, 749 (1971) (a person does not have a constitutionally protected privacy interest in communications voluntarily conveyed to a third party because the third party may then turn the information over to the police).