Monday, November 29, 2004

National Criminal Justice Reference Service

The National Criminal Justice Reference Service has a new website which some of our readers might find helpful. "NCJRS is a federally funded resource offering justice & substance abuse information to support research, policy, and program development worldwide." Linked sections include corrections, court systems, law enforcement, and "victims of crime."

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Plain English Jury Instructions

An article on last week (subscription required) talked about the State of California's ongoing bid to improve communication between court systems and jurors. California stands alone, at present, as the only state to completely revise instructions from scratch.
Attempts at clarifying and simplifying jury instructions have been slowly spreading across the country for the past 20 years. "Arizona, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin," the article says, "have revised civil instructions to varying degrees."

A press release from the Ohio Supreme Court on Feb. 24, 2004, relayed its jury task force's proposal of several major reforms, including that "jurors are entitled to brief statements of a case" either by the court or counsel prior to the beginning of voir dire and interim summaries, especially in lengthy trials; and that "jurors were entitled to understand the proceedings in the courtroom and that 'plain English' should be used at trial and in jury instructions." A link to the recommendations is provided in that press release.

Retirement Matters

RIA/Thomson Publishing's Pension & Benefits Week newsletter has mention of a couple newsworthy retirement items.

The IRS has issued a set of proposed regulations that would permit distributions from a pension plan under a phased retirement program, if that program meets certain specific requirements. Under this approach, a plan could allow employees who phase in their retirement by working fewer hours to receive a portion of their pension benefit while continuing to work.
( IRS Bulletin 2004-47 )

Secondly, a Congressional Research Service report "surveying the state of automatic enrollments in 401(k) plans" was released last month.
"Automatic enrollment," also referred to as "negative election," is a process designed to increase participation in 401(k) plans, especially among non-highly compensated employees, by automatically enrolling new employees in their company's 401(k) plan at a set percentage amount of their pay-- typically up to 3%.
The Congressional Research Service is a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress that serves as the public policy research arm of Congress.
The report is accessible at

Use of Database to Check Jurors Drawing Fire

A article this morning relates concerns that prosecutors use a federal criminal records database to run background checks on jurors in an effort to disqualify some based on race. A mistrial in the case of Ohio v. Timothy Jordan has been requested.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Ohio Legal Services Consumer Legal Portal

Ohio Legal Services has developed a consumer-oriented legal portal, a set of pages focused on substantive areas of law that have links to informative articles or Web sites in those areas. The site, called the Ohio Law Library has advocates-only components as well, but the public aspect covers many common topics of interest to consumers, including healthcare, consumer rights, domestic violence, and wills.

The links are by no means comprehensive, but each one is annotated and explains why it was included on the site. The selective method is a great idea, since it points consumers directly to the information they seek, rather than just passing them forward to a site that must then be navigated before reaching the necessary information.

Monday, November 08, 2004

ND Ohio Ct Rule Changes on Costs for Jurys in Criminal Cases

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio changed its local Criminal Rule 24.4 on November 1, 2004, to enable a court to assess costs to the defendant or counsel if a jury has been summoned or during trial, if the defendant pleads guilty. Civil Rule 54.1 of the local rules provides the same option in a civil trial.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Spam law

The Loudoun Circuit Court in Virginia's 20th. judicial circuit Wednesday handed down guilty verdicts in the nation's 1st. felony spam case. A Leesburg, Va. jury recommended that Jeremy Jaynes be sentenced to nine years in prison, and his sister, Jessica DeGroot, fined $7,500, following grand jury inductments charging them with sending e-mail with fraudulent and untraceable routing information, which had netted them some $24 million, according to Prosecutor Russell McGuire.

Virginia, an epicenter to Internet traffic in this country, is also home to one of the nation's "toughest anti-spam" law, according to legal experts. The federal "Can-Spam" law, which was seen as not applying in this particular case, bars disguising identities & collecting e-mail addresses from the Web, and commercial messages have to include opt-out options. "Can-Spam" also includes a provision which allows individual states pursue criminal charges against spammers.

Thirty-six states have passed "anti-spam" laws in answer to the growing problem not only to individuals, but business as well. Ohio's was approved in August 2002, with Indiana following suit in April 2003. The state of Virginia, as mentioned above, has one of the country's toughest anti-spam laws, approved five years ago in March 1999.

While Kentucky has not enacted any anti-spam legislation as of yet, Kentucky Supreme Court Rule 3.130(7.09)(3), as amended Jan. 2002, requires attorneys who advertise via written, recorded, or electronic means targeted at potential clients to include the words "this is an advertisement" prominently located in each communication. House Bills 314 (2001)
and 64 (2004), both died in session.

In 2003, twenty-one states enacted anti-spam legislation, with five more doing so this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Ohio AG: No Concealed Weapons When Court Seals Record

The Ohio Attorney General issued an opinion on October 25 regarding the issuance of a concealed weapons permit to someone convicted of an offense enumerated in O.R.C. s.2923.125 but where the court has sealed the record of the guilty plea or conviction. The AG's opinion states that a sheriff may not issue a concealed weapons person to that person.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Ohio 2004 Election Cases

The Northern District Court for Ohio has kept a running list, linking their Web site to the opinions and orders being issued in relation to the election-related cases filed against Secretary of State Blackwell on issues of polling challengers and exit polling. The Notable Cases page appears to have links to all publicly available documents (there's nothing on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit's site this morning.

A better collection can be found on Findlaw's Election 2004 case page. This has linked in many of the documents released in the last 24 hours that are not yet available publicly on any of the court sites.