Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 3/17/14: The Stupid Motorist Law

Arizona has a law popularly referred to as the “Stupid Motorist Law“, which renders motorists liable for the cost of their rescue. A response to the flash floods common in the Southwestern U.S., the law states that should a motorist ignore … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/24/14: Jury Nullification

The practice of jury nullification–where juries render a verdict in opposition to the evidence and the law–is a legacy of the common law notion of the independence of juries. Most commonly it involves juries acquitting a defendant in the face … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/17/14: Capital Punishment in the U.S.

The earliest recorded instance of capital punishment in the U.S. was in 1608, carried out in the Jamestown colony against a defendant for spying for the Spanish government. Three states have never implemented capital punishment during their statehood: Michigan, Alaska and … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/10/14: Presidential Pardons

The President is given the pardon power for federal crimes under Art. II, section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment”. Pardon petitions are addressed to the President but usually referred further to the Office of the Pardon Attorney for a non-binding recommendation. A symbolic use of this power is the annual pardoning of a turkey as part of the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/3/14: Parole

Parole–the discretionary, provisional release of an inmate who agrees to abide by the terms of his or her early release–can be said to have its origins in antiquity, when soldiers defeated in battle pledged not to take up arms again in exchange for their release. Parole in the U.S. criminal justice system is a fairly recent invention, first introduced in 1876 in New York’s Elmira Reformatory.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/27/14: The Only Impeachment Trial of a Supreme Court Justice

Only one Justice of the Supreme Court has ever faced impeachment: Samuel Chase,  signer of the Declaration of Independence, was appointed by President George Washington and served from 1796 – 1811. In 1805, articles of impeachment were brought against him in … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/20/14: Habeas Corpus

Meaning “you may have the body”, habeas corpus is a writ (officially known as habeas corpus ad subjiciendum) that requires a person tbe brought before a court to determine if their detention is lawful. The petitioner does not require standing in … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/6/14: Scofflaw

The word scofflaw, while often thought to be of ancient origin, was actually created through a contest held in 1921. A wealthy banker in Quincy, MA sponsored a contest offering $200 to anyone who coined a word to describe people who violated … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 12/9/13: The CSI Effect

The so-called CSI Effect–named after the hit t.v. show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its progeny–refers to the theory that these shows have an impact on real juries in criminal cases. In them, highly-trained lab specialists with limitless budgets and the … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/25/13: Suing Satan!

In 1971 a plaintiff filed a pauper’s suit in U.S. District Court, on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated, against Satan and his servants. Plaintiff alleged that Satan had “threatened him, caused him misery, impeded his course in … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/18/13: To Be Alive Yet Legally Dead

Recently an Ohio man learned that it is possible to be alive and yet legally dead at the same time. Donald Eugene Miller Jr. vanished from his home in Ohio in 1986 and was declared legally dead in 1994. A … Continue reading