Happy Bill of Rights Day!

Today, we are celebrating the anniversary of the Bill of Rights!   Ratified on December 15, 1791, it lays out some of the key freedoms we enjoy.   As President Obama’s 2015 Bill of Rights Day Proclamation states, “Written to guarantee our fledgling Nation would never succumb to the tyranny it fought against, these first 10 Amendments to our Constitution help safeguard the bedrock principles of equality, liberty, and justice.”

Check out the rest of today’s Presidential Proclamation, all about the Bill of Rights.

Check out the Bill of Rights Institute to learn more about the Bill of Rights and play some Bill of Rights games.

Did You Know ?: It Is a Federal Crime to Climb Mt. Rushmore

photo by John Carrel

photo by John Carrel

crime a day rushmoreThat’s right. As per our friends at the “A Crime a Day” Twitter feed, 36 C.F.R. 7.77 and 18 U.S.C. 1865 make it a federal crime to climb Mount Rushmore.  You don’t believe me (or us)?  Well, let’s take a look at the law.  36 C.F.R. 7.77 is pretty straight forward.  It states:

Rushmore CFR

18 U.S.C. § 1865(a) addresses the penalties.  It states that

A person that violates any regulation authorized by section 100751(a) of title 54 shall be imprisoned not more than 6 months, fined under this title, or both, and be adjudged to pay all cost of the proceedings.

Moreover, if you “willfully” destroy any structure, vegetation, or seemingly anything else,  you

“shall be imprisoned not less than 15 days nor more than one year, fined under this title but not less than $10 for each monument, statue, marker, guidepost, or other structure, tree, shrub, or plant that is destroyed, defaced, injured, cut, or removed, or both.” 18 U.S.C. § 1865(c) (2012).

Now, you might be wondering what 18 U.S.C. § 1865 means when it refers to “any regulation authorized by section 100751(a) of title 54.”  That statute is the enabling legislation giving the secretary the power to create regulations for the management of the national parks.

Football & the Law

footballIn response to a rejection of Tom Brady’s appeal to his four game suspension following “Deflate-gate”, the National Football League Player’s Association filed a petition in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota yesterday to vacate the suspension.  They argue that there was no evidence to uphold the suspension, that the decision by the  Commissioner violated principles of general fairness, and that collective bargaining policy already established penalize tampering with equipment with fines only.

Read the 54-page petition here.

2015 Silver Gavel Award Winners

The following are the list of 2015 winners of the ABA’s Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts.

NewspapersTill Death Do Us Part, by the Post and Courier

A Post and Courier Special Investigation, it looks at the extremely high rate at which women are killed in domestic violence situations in South Carolina.


Burning Down the HouseBooks:
Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison, by Neil Bernstein.

The book argues that state-run juvenile detention centers should be abolished completely, and “lays bare our nation’s brutal and counterproductive juvenile prisons.”



The Case Against 8

Looks at the historic case to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage.



RadioSerial: Season One






Go here to see the list of runners-up.

Images courtesy of the American Bar Association.

A New S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice

It’s the end of an era.  Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal will be handing over her gavel to Justice Pleicones at the end of this year after fifteen years as Chief Justice.  Pleicones was unanimously elected as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and begin his tenure early next year.  Both Chief Justice Toal and Associate Justice Pleicones are USC Law graduates of the Class of 1968.

Justice Pleicones served first as a public defender, then as a municipal judge, county attorney, and private practice attorney before being elected to the circuit court in the early 1990s.  His term as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court started in 2000.

Pleicones will only serve as Chief Justice until December 2016, as justices on the Supreme Court traditionally step down at the end of the year they turn 72.

Emergency Beacons, This American Life, & Rescue Law

8610959148_557d5bb382_zThe other day I was walking to work listening to the podcast This American Life.  The title of that show was “calling for help.”  If you’re not familiar, This American Life presents a weekly hour-long podcast usually containing two or three stories loosely related to an overarching theme.  This week, one was about an autistic girl and her best friend.  Another was about a man who asked a politician from Montana for relationship advice.  The longest and most interesting one was about a family who, while sailing across the Pacific Ocean, had to abandon their boat and activate an emergency beacon.

The boat had encountered a number of obstacles during their attempt to cross the Pacific.  The mast was badly damaged.  The bilge pump, which pumps water out of the boat, was malfunctioning.  To top it all off, their one-year-old daughter had come down with a mysterious illness.  After talking the situation over, the family decided to activate their emergency beacon (EPIRB).  Soon after, a pair of emergency rescue divers were dropped from a plane and stayed with the family for several days to administer emergency care until a Navy Frigate arrived for the rescue.

There was quite a bit of news coverage.  Many people went to the internet to discuss the parenting, public cost, sailing mistakes, etc.  However, one thing rarely discussed was the actual people doing the rescuing.  WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?  Can anyone buy an EPIRB and expect rescuing?  Who comes to the rescue and who sends them?  So, as any good millennial law librarian would do, I did the research.

First, an EPIRB , short for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, is a sort of honing device carried by boats.  During an emergency requiring rescue, the operator activates the EPIRB, which sends a distress signal, via satellite, to a Mission Control Center (MCC).  The Mission Control Center then relays any available information to a Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) which coordinates the rescue itself.  The US maintains two Airforce RCCs and eleven US Coast Guard RCCs.

The MCCs are part of a larger international organization called COSPAS-SARSAT (SARSAT).  SARSAT was created through  The International Cospas-Sarsat Programme Agreement (ICSPA) .   Thirty-nine countries currently participate in SARSAT, each providing at least one Mission Control Center and assisting in maintenance of the SARSAT satellites.

The Domestic US arm of SARSAT is run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  These are the same people who bring you the National Weather Service, the National Ocean Service, and the National Geodetic Service.  The FCC also promulgates regulations pertaining to the EPIRB Transmitters at 47 C.F.R. §§ 80.1051 et seq. (2014).

It’s kind of amazing that something so simple as an emergency beacon is part of such a complex system.  I never would have imagined when I started researching that the foundations of the EPIRB would rely not just US laws and regulations, but international agreements as well.

This Week In Legal News

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the same-sex marriage cases.news icon for blog

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a challenge to Oklahoma’s lethal-injection protocol.

Also on Wednesday, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed legislation to resume executions.  The state has not carried out executions since 2006.

On Thursday, a terminally-ill South African man won the legal right to physician-assisted suicide, a procedure that is illegal in South Africa.

This Week In Legal News

news icon for blogOn Tuesday, an advocacy group filed a civil rights suit on behalf of deaf and hard-of-hearing inmates in the Michigan prison system on the grounds that their communications needs were not being accommodated by the state and the prison system.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister of Thailand announced an end to the martial law that began after last year’s military coup.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court held that lifetime GPS monitoring of a North Carolina sex offender constituted a search the triggers Fourth Amendment rights.  It is now up to the defendant to prove on remand that the search is unreasonable.

Indiana legislators have proposed an amendment to their religious freedom bill to counter perceptions that the bill allows discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Arkansas has amended its religious freedom bill to mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This Week in Legal News

news icon for blogA county circuit judge in Wisconsin has ruled that the two teenaged defendants in the “Slender Man” stabbing will be tried as adults.

On Wednesday, the Georgia legislature passed a bill approving the limited use of medical marijuana.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of the UK held that The Guardian newspaper has the right under the UK Freedom of Information Act to publish a year’s worth of correspondence (known as the “Black Spider” memos) between Prince Charles and various government officials.

A former Louisiana prosecutor has written a letter to the editor of a Shreveport newspaper in which he apologizes for his part in the wrongful conviction of a man who spent 30 years on death row.


This Week In Legal News

On Tuesday, both the Oregon House and the Iowa Senate passed bills that would prohibit health care professionals from providing therapy aimed at changing a patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  California is the first state in the nation to ban this type of therapy, by way of legislation enacted in 2012.

Also on Tuesday, the Indiana Senate voted unanimously to allow terminally ill patients to get access to experimental drugs and treatments that are not yet approved for sale on the open market.

On Wednesday, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that an exotic dancer wounded while performing was an employee, not an independent contractor, and therefore entitled to workers’ compensation.