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items tagged with Courts

Ted Rall: In What Order?
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Lifestyle

Category: Ted Rall

2015-06-30 14:56:15



How Jury Trials Could Have Softened the Blow of the Financial Crisis
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Guest Commentaries

2015-05-13 14:10:33

For most of our history, lawyers have thought of themselves as the unofficial fourth “arm” of the government. This view is more understandable from lawyers’ past role as “trial advocates” than from the present relationship between the bench and bar, which reduces the significance lawyers have in the administration of justice.

Under the law in effect in most colonies at the time our Constitution was written, lawyers were advocates who had the right to argue the merits of their clients’ cases directly to a jury. Juries, not judges, had the right to decide most cases as they saw fit both with regard to the facts and the law. As the Supreme Court noted in 1943’s Galloway V. United States: “In 1789, juries occupied the principal place in the administration of justice. They were frequently in both criminal and civil cases the arbiters not only of fact but of law.”

The king’s denial of the right to a trial by jury was one of the reasons justifying separation from England in the Declaration of Independence.

Many believed the right to a jury trial was not adequately guaranteed in Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution. Anti-federalists urged rejection of the Constitution unless it was amended to include a Bill of Rights, which secured the right to trial by jury in both criminal and civil cases. Patrick Henry, a lawyer and well-known patriot at that time, argued: “Trial by jury is the best appendage of freedom. ... No appeal can now be made as to fact in common-law suits. The unanimous verdict of impartial men cannot be reversed.” This result was not because the jury would always be right, but because the result came from impartial members of the community.


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Ted Rall: On the Plus Side
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Lifestyle

Category: Ted Rall

2015-03-28 21:05:45



Help Restore the Power of the Grand Jury
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Editorials

2015-02-18 15:58:48

On Tuesday, February 24, at 9 a.m., (previously incorrectly published as 8 a.m.) the annual selection of the Scott County Grand Jury will take place on the second floor of the Scott County Courthouse. This proceeding is open to the public, and the people should avail themselves of the opportunity to participate in one of the most constitutionally protected authorities still available to hold governments accountable.

The power of the grand jury is enormous. Most of us barely know of its existence, let alone embrace its vital relevance. The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution (1787) provided for grand juries as a means of checks and balances, ensuring that the people, not government, held the ultimate responsibility for providing justice: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury ... .”

The 1846 Iowa Constitution (Article 2, Section 11) reads: “No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offence, unless on presentment, or indictment by a grand jury, except in cases cognizable by justices of the peace, or arising in the army or navy, or in the militia when in actual service in time of war or public danger” (RCReader.com/y/jury1).

The 1857 Constitution of the State of Iowa (Bill of Rights, Article I, Section 11), asserts that “All offenses less than felony in which the punishment does not exceed a fine of one hundred dollars, or imprisonment for thirty days, shall be tried summarily before a Justice of the Peace, or other officer authorized by law, on information under oath, without indictment, or the intervention of a grand jury, saving to the defendant the right to appeal, and no person shall be held to answer for any higher criminal offense, unless on presentment or indictment by a grand jury, except in cases arising in the army, or navy, or in the militia, when in actual service, in time of war or public danger.”

Annually, 12 randomly selected members of the community form the Scott County Grand Jury, seven of whom are active, while five are alternates in case one of the seven cannot perform his or her duties. The grand jury has four primary responsibilities: (1) to provide indictments on criminal activities, whether brought by the county attorney or upon its own investigations; (2) to inspect the condition of all places of confinement in the county; (3) to investigate the circumstances involving prisoners who have not been indicted within the legal period of time (45 days upon incarceration); and (4) to investigate and indict misconduct by public employees, including elected and appointed officials.


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Medical Marijuana in Iowa Is Long Overdue
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Editorials

2014-07-09 14:30:31

On Monday, July 7, before the jury was brought in for his trial, Benton Mackenzie collapsed in the courtroom and was taken to Trinity Medical Center in Bettendorf. On Tuesday, however, the Long Grove, Iowa, resident accused of manufacturing marijuana had reportedly been released from the hospital and testified in his own defense.

For those new to this matter before the Seventh Judicial Court District in Scott County – presided over by Judge Henry Latham (appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in March 2013) – Benton and his wife Loretta were arrested a year ago and charged with growing marijuana, while their son Cody was arrested and charged with possession of less than a gram of marijuana because ... well, just because.

Benton stated, in media reports last year, that he was growing marijuana for the singular purpose of extracting the cannabidiol oil contained in the marijuana plant to treat his angiosarcoma cancer, purportedly in a terminal phase. According to Benton, nothing else but the cannabidiol oil relieves the extreme suffering he is experiencing from horrific lesions that manifest on his posterior. Unfortunately, cannabidiol is extremely expensive. It can be purchased on Amazon.com, among many places, for medicinal purposes because it does not contain THC, and therefore it is not illegal in the U.S. For most people, however, the cost is prohibitive, especially as an ongoing treatment.

So painful and prolific are his symptoms that he was released from the Scott County jail days after his initial incarceration, allegedly because the county did not want the responsibility for or expense of his health care, nor was the facility equipped to handle his extreme case.

The office of County Attorney Mike Walton, however, has aggressively expended tax dollars in prosecuting this invalid, his family, and his friends, but only if Benton is not allowed the common-law defense of growing marijuana for medical purposes. The prosecution submitted a motion in limine that was approved by Judge Latham to disallow any mention of his production or use of marijuana for medical purposes.


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