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.

The Law of Squirrels and Vampires

Of all the entities you’d expect to gelittle justicet airtime in a courtroom, squirrels and vampires are probably low on your list.  And yet.

Squirrels frequently show up in court (contextually, if not literally) in cases involving utility companies.  A power company was held not negligent in failing to foresee injuries sustained by a man who chased a squirrel up a utility pole (Keller v. Ohio Public Service Co. , 73 Ohio App. 530, 57 N.E.2d 176 (Ohio App. 1943), and another power company was found not negligent for injuries alleged by a cordless phone user when a squirrel got into a transformer and caused a power outage (Pardue v. AT&T Telephone Co., 799 So.2d 710 (La. App. 2001).

    From the Undead angle, not only is there a Vampire Nation (which appears to contain no actual vampires), but it’s been taken to court for a variety of white-collar crimes (U.S. v. Vampire Nation, 451 F.3d 189 (3rd Cir. 2006)). A Michigan carjacker explained his car theft spree as an attempt to “escape from flesh-eating bats and vampires” (People v. Morgan, No. 284986, 2009 WL 1397132, (Mich. App., May 19, 2009)).  A Massachusetts defendant testified to believing that he had been a vampire for years (Com. v. Riva, 469 N.E.2d 1307 (Mass. App. Div. 1984)). An Arizona defendant testified to stealing an ambulance and running it into a building in order to break a vampire curse (State v. Ward, 2015 WL 1516506, (Ariz. App., April 2, 2015)).  And that’s not nearly all, folks.  Numerous defendants have attempted to justify their misdeeds by invoking the Undead.  For an entertaining research romp, go to your favorite research service and run this search query:  vampire! /s crime



      Help Pick the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction Winner!

      The Finalists for the 2015 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction were recently announced by the ABA Journal and the University of Alabama School of Law.  Each year, the prize is awarded to a book in the legal fiction genre published during the previous year that best exemplifies the role that lawyers play in society to effect change.  The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges, with the voting public serving as the fifth judge.

      Go here to vote, and read about the three nominees below!

      This year’s nominees:

      secretofmagicThe Secret of Magic:
      “Opening the mail for her mentor and employer, Thurgood Marshall, at the NAACP office in New York, Regina Robichard is captivated by a letter from famous southern author M. P. Calhoun, asking for an investigation of the murder of a young black man, Joe Howard Wilson. Robichard is a fan of Calhoun, having read her book about a magical forest and an unsolved murder. As a stand-in for Marshall, Robichard travels to Revere, Mississippi, to find out the truth behind the murder of Wilson, who was among scores of black men returning from the war, unwilling to put up with the humiliations of racism. What she discovers are parallels between life in Revere and Calhoun’s book. How much of the book is real, and how does it connect to the murder? Inspired by her grandfather, who fought in WWII and was a huge admirer of Thurgood Marshall, and her own admiration of Marshall colleague Constance Baker Motley, Johnson (The Air between Us, 2008) offers a completely engaging southern gothic with unforgettable characters in this fictionalized account of a pivotal NAACP case from the 1940s”–description from Booklist

      My Sister’s Grave:mysistersgrave
      “Dugoni’s latest novel . . . combines the best of a police procedural with a legal thriller, and the end result is outstanding. Seattle police officer Tracy Crosswhite lost her sister Sarah over 20 years ago, and she has never forgiven herself. With no corpse discovered, there was still enough evidence to convict the man thought responsible for Sarah’s disappearance. Now a body has been found and Tracy learns the remains are of her sister. Tracy has had her doubts about the guilt of the man behind bars, and she’s absolutely sure there is a murderer still loose. Can she get a new trial to free an innocent man and also find out the truth? “–description from Library Journal

      220px-TerminalCityTerminal City:
      “Assistant DA Alex Cooper and Detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace are called to investigate when the naked body of a young woman is found in the tower suite of the prestigious Waldorf Astoria. Within days, a second body turns up bearing the same bloody symbol—train tracks carved into the skin. The focus shifts to Grand Central Terminal, where the president is scheduled to arrive for a UN meeting later in the week and where they suspect the killer is hiding out. Coop and her sidekicks struggle to get a grip on the layout of the vast terminal, from its aqua-colored celestial ceiling to the levels far beneath the ground, which are home to some 600 people, some of whom have carved apartments out of the concrete walls.”–description from Booklist


      A Short History of Memorial Day

      Throughout the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday in May.  While many see the holiday as convenient day off work or the first day of summer, its real purpose is to serve as a day or remembrance for those who have died in combat.

      A number of cities and towns claim to have coined the term “memorial day.”  No one has been able to pin down or substantiate most of these claims.  However, we do know that memorial day as we know it started soon after the civil war.  In May of 1968 General John Logan declared the upcoming May 30th would be a “decoration day.”  In his General Order No. 11, he proclaimed 

      The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

      We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

      By 1890 all northern states officially recognized Memorial Day.  However, it wasn’t until after World War I that the southern states, who previously observed a similar holiday on a different date, began to celebrate Memorial Day as well.  At this point the holiday expanded to include all those who died in any combat as well as the Civil War. May 10 is still celebrated here in South Carolina as a separate Confederate Memorial Day.


      Summer in the (Soda) City


      A college campus during summer break is a thing to see.  Droves of students head home (or wherever students go when they are not studying) leaving the campus feeling a whole lot roomier.  Even the water in the Thomas Cooper reflecting pool has mysteriously taken off.
      IMG_20150512_082038400_HDRBUT, we don’t need to have college kids to have fun!  Plenty of activities exist to fill your entire summer, and thankfully, the Free Times has assembled most of them in its Summer Guide 2015.  Some of the highlights are

      So, don’t let the oppressive heat, flocks of mosquitos, and general ghosttownliness of the USC campus get you down!  Pick up your copy of the free times, or visit their website and join your summer Columbian compatriots for an exciting, albeit sweaty, good time.

      This Week In Legal News

      On Tuesday, the FDA released a set of proposed guidelines that would lift the lifetime ban on blood donations from gay donorsnews icon for blog.

      On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban most abortion procedures after 20 weeks.

      Also on Wednesday, the Missouri General Assembly passed a “right to work” bill that would prevent workers from being required to join a union or pay union dues.

      A Dutch appeals court on Wednesday cleared a man convicted of assisting in the suicide of his terminally-ill mother.


      Maymester Hours


      The law library will be open from 8:00am-7:00pm Monday through Friday during the month of May.  The library will be closed on Saturday and Sunday during May.

      As usual, the Reference Desk will be staffed from 8:30am-5:00pm.

      South Carolina – Where Barbeque is Law

      barbecueOr at least it used to be. Here in Columbia, South Carolina, we take our barbeque very seriously.  Some of the state’s best barbeque resides here in the midlands.  The locals stand by their mustard based sauce, undeterred by the preferences of other southerners, including one outspoken Georgian expatriate .   In 1985, the South Carolina Assembly even passed a “Truth in Barbeque” law requiring some very distinct signage. The law hoped to address the fraudulent trend of selling oven-cooked pork as real barbeque, which is traditionally cooked over wood.   In particular, the law required the following:

      SECTION 1. The Department of Agriculture shall design and print distinctive decals which may be displayed wherever barbeque is sold. Each decal must state one of the following:

      (1) “Barbeque – Whole hog – Cooked with wood”.

      (2) “Barbeque – Whole hog – Cooked from a heat source other than wood”.

      (3) “Barbeque – Part of, but not whole hog – Cooked from any source of heat”.

      (4) “Barbeque – Part of, but not whole hog – Cooked with wood”.

      Any person who uses a decal which falsely states the type barbeque sold by him is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction must be fined not more than two hundred dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days.

      Not only does South Carolina have its own distinct kind of barbeque, it once took the process so seriously that it was willing, nay excited, to jail and fine those daring enough cook it improperly or dishonestly.  Sadly, the law was unceremoniously repealed in 1992, leaving us once again exposed to oven-cooked pork.  While the law no longer exists, the passion for South Carolina barbeque is as strong as ever and thriving in its mustard-based glory throughout the area.