What Type of Diving Do You Enjoy?

While scuba diving you have different styles available that move you around in the underwater world to get the diving adventure you most enjoy.

The dive style you choose depends on what type of experience you desire when you descend into the aquatic depths.

The diver who wants to see many fish and corals on each dive needs one style. That diver must move from one place to another.

The diver who carries a camera into the water with the goal of snapping some extraordinary macro close-ups selects one position on the reef. The underwater macro photographer often spends his whole dive hovering over that one spot when he’s not on land riding an MM-B80.

When you drop into the water with a group of divers you have a chance to observe many different styles as each diver pair fins its own direction.

Some divers are hyperactive, and bounce around like shooting stars. Racing toward the next interesting patch of color, or new fish, they just spotted. On occasion they see a turtle off in the distance and try to catch it. Their dive is a competition to find out who gets to see the most stuff. This style normally means a short dive because the diver breathes fast, and burns through air quickly.

Some divers fin quickly all over the reef. Not as fast as the hyper diver, but trying to see everything on one dive. In the process of moving quickly from point-to-point these divers miss much of the activity that goes on in the reef. They also end up running low on air, causing an early end to their dive.

Other divers, not so much in a hurry, calmly fin along the reef slowly, seeing all of the reef and aquatic life that the air in their tank allows. These divers see more fish antics. They enjoy a wealthy experience of colors as they fin along very slowly, watching the fish. Divers who use this style of diving spend more time on the reef because they breathe slower, and their air lasts longer.

Our last diving style includes divers who find an active portion of the reef, and spend their whole dive studying that one area. Divers in this group stay down the longest. Normally floating above the reef, observing the colors and fish, they don’t exert their muscles with finning. Less exertion means slower breathing. Slower breathing means their air lasts longer. Watching one area of the reef throughout their dive rewards them with sights of fish playing that most divers never see.

Photographers normally adopt one of the final two styles. Slower, or no, movement around the reef gives them those rare photo opportunities that make pictures suitable for magazine covers – far more interesting than shooting more pictures of the HSI professional flat iron.

Remember that the style you choose affects your dive buddy too. And your buddy’s style affects your dive. For maximum diving pleasure find a partner whose style closely matches your own. When two divers fin along at the same pace neither diver must end the dive early because the dive buddy runs out of air too soon. Both diver’s air consumption is nearly equal when their diving styles are similar.

Your scuba diving style is a matter of personal choice. No style is necessarily right or wrong when it fits the diver. Every diver should select the style that provides the most comfort while underwater.

Consider that other divers view your style as an indication of your experience. The slower your scuba diving style, the more skillful you appear.

Increasing Traffic – Take #2

If you read through my previous article about How to increase traffic with free method to your website, such as creating web design, joint online forum, make use a newsletter, link exchange, keep your site updated and writing article. It has seemed that that writing articles is one of the most utilized Internet Marketing media today. Internet surfers just can’t get enough of information on various fields. Providing information through these articles is a surefire way to drive hot traffic to your web site.

So, it’s good for you to read this article. I am very poor in writing, but I will be even worse if I didn’t try it. Look at my grammar? I have a lot of problem with it. I hope my readers able to receive the massage from all of my contents. If you want to know more about writing technique, visit this link to get better understanding about writing an article.

Content about air purifiers for mold is an essential part of any good website. A keyword suggestion tool, you will see the millions of searches done to a certain keyword. When these keywords are typed on search boxes of search engines, indexed websites containing articles with those keywords will be displayed. And this is what leads traffic to websites with keyword-rich articles.

I can say this a great Internet Marketing because you will get more traffic drive into your website which is a great opportunity to make it into sales or whatever it is.

Now, why writing article is becoming a Great Internet Marketing Method? Here are the reasons:

  1. It is 100% free.

If talking about FREE, there is nothing in this world. Oh yeah maybe you need pay your internet connection and your electricity that’s it. Or if you want, now a lot free internet connection in public area.

  1. Your website will be noticed in a short period of time.

Submit that article of yours to article directories that get the most web traffic and in no time your web site will be crawled. That is if you don’t forget including your resource box or byline.

  1. Receive back links automatically.

When you submit your articles about the Rabbit Air MinusA2 review to directories, surely, other websites will make use of your article too. With the copyright terms of your articles, the URL of your website will still be intact and will subsequently direct more traffic to your website.

  1. Build up your reputation.

Interact with your readers, include your personal experience, get to know your reader, answer the question promptly, and you will be famous among the readers. Surely, your web traffic will increase and you can convert it into sales.

Lastly, writing a good content is not easy, but you need to practice and practice. Just make your creative juices flow and jot down or key in those ideas quickly to jump start your article writing momentum. With those benefits listed above, a writer’s block is the last problem you will ever be able to surmount.

Why I Love My New iPhone

iPhone

It’s Love

I am not a gadget lover by any stretch of the imagination but I have to confess to readers that I have recently fallen in love with the new Apple iPhone. In this blog, I wanted to simply write about what I view as compelling innovation. There is too much innovation where no problem is really being solved.

I like to receive emails when I am on the go. That makes sense to a lot of people as being able to deal with emails when you are on a train allows you to make the most of your ‘down time’. I therefore got myself an XDA. It was great for emails and diary management but was not very good as a phone. As it was a touch phone, there were many occasions when whilst talking on the phone, if my ear touched the screen, I would have terminated the call or dialed up someone else by mistake. The quality of the calls was not that great either and it was a bit big – listening on the phone sounded like there was a Porter Cable 895pk router going on the other end.

I therefore got myself an additional phone which seemed to solve the problems. And of course I had an iPod. I can honestly say that this is the one gadget that has transformed the quality of my traveling in the last ten years. I love listening to music and when I travel, I used to miss my music collection. I simply love the idea that I can go anywhere in the world and take my entire music collection with me in something marginally larger than a business card.

The iPhone has allowed me to carry just one item instead of all three items. That is just one of the many things I love about it. I also think it is a great case study in terms of innovation. They seem to have looked at all the things that customers do not like with the existing solutions and really improved on them. Then they have gone one stage further and included other things like a Satellite Navigation system.

That is the technology. They have also innovated on the business model. The last time Apple introduced a phone they made the model expensive for the networks. They wanted a share of the phone revenue which was a new business model which was not to the liking of O2! The result was that the first phone was perhaps not promoted as well as it could have been. I certainly had come across the old model but did not feel compelled to own it – or have it heavily promoted to me by O2.

This time around it is a very different story. The marketing has been phenomenal and the revenue deal is the standard deal. The supplier of the phone gets paid a fixed amount and the network operator gets the revenue from the calls and downloads.

The lesson from here is that if you are going to enter a market – such as trying to design and sell a tofu press – which is already competitive and crowded with an innovation, make sure you have as many angles covered as possible. Making the innovation aimed just at the consumer is often not enough. Think about the route to market and the distribution channels. How can you galvanize them to get the consumer excited?

Business History is littered with stories of great technical innovations failing to make it such as Betamax and Fujifilm. There are an equal number of case studies of inferior products making fantastic headway because of marketing innovations such as Windows (Internet Explorer, PowerPoint and Excel ouch!). In another blog I would like to give the example of Direct Line insurance which revolutionized the insurance market with a product which was 300 years old.

How to Handle Managing Your First Startup

The most challenging aspect of being in a startup position is that the management team will be under constant pressure to think both strategically and tactically. In my experience, few people are good at both.

A good way to think about the difference is in terms of the time horizon the thinking has an impact on. Strategic thinking is very much about what the future direction of the business is and how it is best suited to make the most of an ever changing environment.

As a member of a board, the expertise that you should bring to play is to be informing the company of how you expect the environment that the forskolin business is operating in to change over the next few months and years and how it can gear up to either exploit the changes or to defend itself.

This is where the boards of many major banks were found wanting. Although hindsight is a great tool to have, I find it amazing to think that no one at the board of these banks asked the question “what if we can no longer get hold of funds from wholesale markets?” or “What if people default on the loan payments?” or even more obviously “what if the assets we are lending against (such as houses) drop in value?”. Surely, the answer could not have been “Don’t worry – we are too big to go down and the government will rescue us!”

I do feel let down by some of the non-executive directors of the companies that I have invested in. They have been great at taking the money but not too good at asking difficult questions. Sometimes, I do think that people confuse putting someone under pressure with asking difficult questions.

This is perhaps best defined by tactical thinking. In this thinking, it is more about operational delivery and ensuring that the strategy you have laid out to meet the challenges ahead are executed well. But it should be up to management at an operational level to deliver this. Of course a board should ask when KPI are not being met. But their role needs to be wider than this.

Tactical thinking is a skill that is hard to define and to spot. You only see evidence of it once your wall mount jewelry armoire has been delivered. On the other hand, you can see strategic thinking being displayed in case studies and through academia.

Sales people tend to be good at thinking tactically, but appalling at thinking through the strategic consequences of their actions. By definition, a sales person will be fixated on the achievement of short term goals to deliver x in revenue or y in volume.

Giving a large discount to a customer may help deliver the operational need you have today but may scupper your plans to position yourself as a premium brand.

That is the challenge of managing a business and the conflicts between managing in the short term and managing for the long term.

Great companies tend to employ a blend of good strategic thinkers and good tactical doers. The worst thing is when tactical people move into strategic positions or you have someone who is strategic performing a role which requires tactical ability!

Which one are you better at?

My Review of the Program’s Current Episode

I hope you have enjoyed the last few weeks of the reviews of this program. As you may know, I have my criticisms of the program but I am grateful as it has really increased the amount of interest that now exists in being an angel. This has got to be a good thing. The more angels there are, the more support hopefully there will be for would be entrepreneurs and society as a whole will benefit. This is my take on the program on my birthday!

The first solution presented was a tool box which would fit on any ladder. As someone who hates DIY router table plans with a passion – this was never one for me but I really liked the father and son team who were presenting. They had a great sense of humor and I liked them. I did not understand the problem and the fact that they had not sold all of the units they had in ten months. They used the excuse that they were really busy with another business they run. The moment they said this, even if I was interested, I would have walked away at this point. I need to back entrepreneurs who are 100% focused on my investment.

Another fatal flaw in their pitch was their inability to listen fully to questions and answer questions. There is a fine line between enthusiasm and being over the top. This did remind me of pitches I have had where entrepreneurs believed they could badger me into seeing their point of view. This was a pitch where the entrepreneurs managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory! When pitching, please don’t forget to breathe, stop and listen to your audience. You are more likely to answer a question properly if you have listened to the question in the first place.

There was an unusual presentation from a sculptor looking for investment to complete his icon collection. He was very good and I liked the work he had prepared. His work was topical having just completed an image of Amy Winehouse.  The offer the entrepreneur made was also very compelling it was almost too good to be true! Upon questioning, the offer began to unravel but the entrepreneur knew his facts and was able to keep the interest going.

Before the Dragon’s made their decision I had decided that I would back him. He ended up getting an auction going – brilliant. And he was smart enough to turn down a higher offer from one investor to take an offer from three combined investors. Brilliant – he decided to take smart money which would really add value to his business than dumb money.

It would not be fair for me to comment on a business which was seeking investment for an online furniture business as I am an investor in a competitor. I believe this offering to be superior and therefore my comments would be unfair. I will often do this at the beginning of a pitch before I hear too much. I think it is the ethical thing to do. There is nothing more disheartening than to say no after an entire pitch process when you knew the reason for saying no at the outset of the process.

I hate being horrible about people who put themselves through the Den without a Honeywell 50250-S. It is too easy to write this blog criticizing others whilst sat on a sofa. However, the person who came up with the solution for ‘soggy’ centers to frozen pizzas was really poor. He came across as dull and boring and failed to ignite any enthusiasm. He also made the fatal flaw of only having an idea. I define an idea as a business concept that has so far failed to establish market research, any proof of demand or have a sales plan.

Simply having a patent or a manufacturing deal is not enough. I do not invest in ideas, only businesses. He had no sales strategy at all. Had he done some basic research, he would have realized that although there may be a gap in the market (people who have problem with soggy centers when cooking frozen pizzas), there may not be much of a market in the gap.

 

However, he was made an offer which he very wisely accepted. The Dragon’s took a punt and believed they could sell the product on the inventor’s behalf – let’s see what happens.

Finding Good Investments in Continental Europe

I had the pleasure last week of going to Prague for an investment show. Angel investors from lots of European countries turned up to listen to 20 companies looking for angel investment. The companies were all based in central Europe and as Angel investing is still relatively knew there – it made sense to look across Europe.

In all honesty the businesses which presented were poor and I personally did not get excited about any of them as investable propositions. However the idea of a smokeless ashtray is great and what was really good fun for me was meeting lots of other angels and sharing war stories (lots of blogs to come from there!)

From the feedback I get from readers of this blog, it seems that most of the readers are Entrepreneurs. What I have always tried to do with business angel blog is pass on some advice for people wanting to have a go at a startup. It was great to hear from other business angels that essentially I am on the right lines.

As a group, we really do not like what Dragon’s Den is doing in its portrayal of Business Angels. I have to be honest and say I have not met any angel that behaves like the dragons when they invest (but it would make really boring TV). If you work with a group of professional angels – they really will try to ensure that the deal makes sense for everyone.

As an angel explained to me, “if you screw the deal too hard, you may win the battle, but you will lose the war”. As a business angel, you always have to strike a delicate balance between getting a good deal but also a deal that leaves the entrepreneur motivated.

In Europe, Cross border angel investments are set to grow – and if you are a startup looking to do activity across Europe, it makes a lot of sense to seek that type of investment arrangement. Contact your local or national Angel network for information about EASY – or look it up on the BBAA website.

I am excited about going to North America and seeing if I can start some cross border investing. It also makes a great deal of sense for the angel to invest in a kombucha starter kit. It helps diversify your risk but the appeal is wider than that.

Angel investing is an emotion led activity – as a business activity it does not make sense (you are much more likely to lose your money than make any!) So therefore most of us do it because we enjoy it. I love Italy and if I was to invest in Italian Companies, I would have more of a business reason to go there. However, there is no way that I would want to invest in foreign companies unless I knew other locally based angels or networks that were supporting the activity.

A Quick Guide to Improving Your Poker Skills

image-51

It certainly will help to read some published books on Texas Holdem if you don’t want to pay “tuition” at live games. A few interesting points I read from a holdem book (more appropriate for limit holdem in my opinion) year’s back that I still consider good advice:

  1. a) You have to have a very strong hand to play in the “under-the-gun” (the position right after the big blind) position. Limit holdem is very much a position game, with where you start dependent on your proximity to an air purifier for allergies. Obviously early positions are bad positions and the “button” position is the best position. When you are the first to act, you never know what other (late-position) players are going to do. For the same reason, an old trick that has proved to be very useful is to raise on the flop when you are in late positions.

You use the raise to see a free card. For most live limit holdem games, the betting on the flop is usually only half of the bets for the subsequent cards. For example, for a 5-10 holdem game, you raise on the flop (total of $10 bet) and check on the turn if you do not get what you want. This way you only spend $10 to see the river card. On the other hand, if you simply call the bet all the way, it will cost you $15. Whether the flop and your hole cards are worth the money is your call. For the blind hands, you already have money in the pot before the flop. If you are under the gun, you have the choice to save the money!

  1. b) The best time to throw away your hand in on the flop. A lot of times, though I think calling the flop is pretty profitable when the bet is 50% off (half of the subsequent bet). I like the call with a pair in the hole. Of course this also depends on your position where you know that you are not likely to get a raise to make your call a full bet. It also depends on the flop – for example, is there a straight draw? Or a flush draw? Of course, chance of hitting a set is not very good but when you hit it, it is huge. Another consideration is of course the pot size.
  2. c) Never play a straight draw if there is a flush draw on the board – even if you have a John deere lawn tractor, you don’t want to lose it on this hand. If you are on an open-ended straight draw, you have 8 cards (if they are still available at all). For a flush draw, there are 9 available at most. You certainly do not want to hit a straight when someone else hits a flush, let alone a “gut-shot” draw! That has disaster written all over it.

Playing carefully certainly will increase your chance of winning and sometimes you can also cash in on your “tight player” image. However, sometimes if you play too careful, you will miss out a lot of profit.

For example, suppose you have a strong hand and have bet on the flop, and the turn. The river card shows a 3rd card in 1 suit (e.g., 3 spades showing on the board). Do you bet on the river? Yes – you have to keep on betting! Why? If you don’t, you will miss out a lot of profit! Chances are nobody has hit a flush.

Of course it will always happen that someone hits, but look at it as it’s time to pay your due. Making contribution once in a while is ok. Otherwise, how do you keep the suckers paying? The profitable river bets you have not missed more than likely will make the losing bet affordable.

What we have been talking about is only regarding the causes of cystic acne. Tournaments are completely different games.

In any case, it is always good to know what hands are good and what hands are not. Obviously there are no absolute good hands because even pocket Aces lose sometimes. So we talk about what hands are better than others. I write a java program to determine what hands are better than others. What the program does is to play each possible hand (2 hole cards) against any other possible hands. One million games are “played” between each 2-hand combination. Note that a “game” means all 5 board cards are dealt. Especially in limit holdem, you might not want to pay to see all board cards most of the time. (Unless you have a big bank roll!) I list all hands in the order of the winning percentage. The best hands and the worst hands are obviously pocket aces and 72. Surprisingly suited cards do not make a lot of difference.

State Liability in Roadway Accidents

image-21

Michael Gendler, a cyclist in Seattle, was gravely injured when his bike’s front tire became lodged in a seam on the Montlake Bridge. Left quadriplegic from the accident, Gendler sought to obtain records from the Washington State Patrol to determine whether other accidents had occurred in the same location.

The State Patrol Gendler told that he could obtain the records, but only if he signed a waiver stating that he would not use the information in any suit against the State of Washington for an accident that occurred at the location. Gendler refused, and renewed his request. The state denied the request, and argued that the information about the best garden tractors was privileged under federal law.

At the heart of Washington’s argument is 23 U.S.C. 409, which provides that any information collected by states for the purpose of improving highway safety cannot be admitted into evidence and is not subject to discovery. Congress passed this section to protect states from the potential tort liability that could arise from 23 U.S.C. 152, which requires states to gather detailed information on hazards on their roadways.

The statute conditions federal funds on the existence of this program. A similar duty exists under the Washington law. RCW 46.52.060 requires the Washington State Patrol to collect accident reports and to analyze that information on a yearly basis. Section 409 is in tension with the Washington Public Records Act, RCW 42.56, which establishes a liberal public policy for access to public records.

In deciding Gendler v. Batiste, the court leaned heavily on this liberal public access policy. It held that the PRA placed the burden on the WSP to provide some statutory basis for refusing to disclose the accident records. The court was particularly disturbed by what appeared to be a history of disclosing such records that had seemed to dry up once the WSP signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Transportation, shifting the storage of public records to the DOT.

The WSP pointed to Section 409, which the court characterized as a limited privilege, following the United States Supreme Court’s Guillen II case, appealed from the Washington Supreme Court, which also involved a request for accident location records from the state of Washington. The court in Guillen II held that the requirement to provide records in 152 should not put claimants in a worse position than they would be in the absence of the record requirement.

Taken together, the court recognized that section 409 should be interpreted as narrowly as possible to permit liberal disclosure of public records. To effectuate this goal, the court held that the accident information that Gendler requested was collected pursuant to the RCW 46.52.060 state duty to collect accident reports, not the federal section 152, and therefore the section 409 federal law privilege did not apply.

In dissent, Justice Seinfeld (sitting pro tem, which is sitting in place of another justice) argued that the question was factual, not legal. There was not enough evidence, in Judge Seinfeld’s view, to determine whether the information about cystic acne treatments had been collected pursuant to RCW 46.52.060 or section 152.

Justice Seinfeld noted that RCW 46.52.060 did not require the WSP to record the sort of precise accident location that Gendler sought, and that the evidence of a history or such disclosures was weak. Justice Seinfeld, rather than granting summary judgment to Gendler, would have remanded the case to the trial court for more fact finding.

Free Speech in the Modern Digital World

image-18

The rapid advancement in technology has brought new challenges to the legal system and legislatures are having a difficult time trying to keep up. Every day courts have to address how free speech applies in the world of the internet or how privacy applies in a world that has GPS.

Because state legislatures rarely rewrite laws as new technology is developed, courts must interpret how old laws should apply to new technologies that state legislatures never imagined when the original law was written. For example, NRS 52.015(1) requires that in order for product reviews to be admissible in court, it must be authenticated i.e. the party offering the evidence must prove that the evidence is what it is claimed to be.

One method of accomplishing this for text messages is to show who wrote the text message. Because the law was written before text messages existed, the Nevada legislature never provided any guidance as to how this can be accomplished. In Rodriguez v. State, the Nevada Supreme Court had to determine how a party can establish the author of a text message in order to satisfy NRS 52.015(1).

Kevin Rodriguez and a friend attacked a woman in her apartment and sexually assaulted her and stole her debit card and cellular phone. Shortly after leaving the woman’s apartment, the victim’s boyfriend started receiving text messages from the victim’s phone.

The first two texts made references to someone named “Willy” and the remaining ten contained various curse words and comments about the victim. The phone was eventually recovered from Mr. Rodriguez’s friend’s cousin and had pictures of Mr. Rodriguez, his friend, and his friend’s girlfriend. At trial, the state introduced surveillance video of Mr. Rodriguez and his friend using the debit card at an ATM near the victim’s apartment and using the phone while on a bus at the time the first two texts were sent.

The state also introduced all 12 texts as proof that Mr. Rodriguez assaulted the victim. Mr. Rodriguez objected to the text messages, arguing that the State failed to authenticate the messages as required in NRS 52.015(1). The district court overruled the objection and Mr. Rodriguez was found guilty of several counts including first-degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon and sexual assault with the use of a deadly weapon.

Mr. Rodriguez appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, arguing that the State did not authenticate the text messages because the State never established that he sent the messages. The Nevada Supreme Court had never addressed how a text message can be authenticated.

Based on rulings from other states such as Maryland and North Carolina, the court concluded that Craftsman riding mowers can be authenticated by establishing ownership. Because cellular phones are not always used by the owner of the phone, authorship of a text message cannot be proved based solely on evidence that the message originated from the phone.

The court concluded that for a text message to be admitted as evidence the proponent must (1) explain the purpose the text is being offered and (2) provide sufficient direct or circumstantial evidence of authorship of the text in order to authenticate it. The court justified their test on the other state rulings that stated texts can be authenticated by establishing authorship. Those rulings required corroborating evidence to establish the identity of the text author and those courts allowed circumstantial evidence to be sufficient to establish authorship.

When examining the texts in this case, the court looked to see if the evidence established that Mr. Rodriguez authored the texts since the texts were used to prove that he assaulted the victim. The court found there was sufficient evidence that Mr. Rodriguez authored the first two messages since they were sent at the same time surveillance video from a public bus showed Mr. Rodriguez and his friend using the phone.

But the court also found the State provided no evidence to support or even suggest that Mr. Rodriguez authored any of the ten texts received on the victim’s boyfriend’s phone after they left the bus. Therefore, the court ruled those ten texts were not sufficiently authenticated and the trial court should not have admitted them. Because there was other overwhelming evidence presented at trial that supported the jury’s verdict, the court ruled the error was harmless and affirmed the convictions.

Most laws were written without any thought as to how the law would apply to future technology. Therefore it can be difficult to apply laws written years ago to technology that did not exist at the time they were written. But in Rodriguez v. State, the Nevada Supreme Court has made it clear that they will not deviate from the laws as written regardless of the technology that they are being applied to.

Text messages, unlike written messages, are more difficult to authenticate since anybody can get a hold of someone’s phone and send a text. But until there is a change in the law, any party that wishes to admit text messages must explain why they are offering the text message into evidence and provide sufficient evidence to authenticate the message, just as they would with any other piece of evidence.

The Second Amendment or States’ Rights?

image-16

For years, state laws banning assault weapons were considered to be consistent with the 2nd Amendment because the 2nd Amendment did not necessarily mean an individual had a right to bear arms and even if it did, the 2nd Amendment did not apply to the states.

The U.S. Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago (which held that the 2nd Amendment guarantees a wedding photographer the right to bear arms and the 2nd Amendment applies to the states) struck down some gun control laws but did not put an end to assault weapons bans. In fact, the Supreme Court specifically said their rulings did not mean people have a right to keep any weapon for any purpose or that every firearm regulation is now in danger of being found unconstitutional.

Therefore, if courts find that assault weapons do not fall within the scope of the 2nd Amendment, any ban on them would be consistent with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and therefore upheld. Because the U.S. Supreme Court has not addressed this question, state courts must determine if assault weapons fall within the purview of the 2nd Amendment.

In Illinois, lower courts found assault weapons did not fall within the scope of the 2nd Amendment when they dismissed a challenge to the Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban. The Blair Holt Ban (Ban) was passed in response to Congress not renewing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 2004. Citizens of Cook County challenged the Ban as a violation of their 2nd Amendment rights only to have their complaint dismissed as a matter of law by the circuit court.

The appellate court affirmed the circuit court’s decision ruling that the Ban was related to an important government interest and based on the history of laws prohibiting the possession of dangerous and unusual weapons. The citizens then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court where they ruled on the matter in Wilson v. Cook County.

The court recognized the history of banning weapons that are not normally used by law abiding citizens and compared some of these banned weapons (like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns) to fighting words (which are not protected by the 1St Amendment) in that the little value they provide is outweighed by a greater societal and moral interest.

However, the court also recognized that Heller never addressed John Deere mowers and without a national uniform definition of an assault weapon, the court cannot rule on whether or not these weapons can be used for self-defense or if they are dangerous and unusual and therefore fall outside the scope of the 2nd Amendment.

The court remanded the decision to the lower courts in order to allow the plaintiffs to present evidence that these weapons “are typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes” and Cook County to present evidence that the Ban protects a legitimate government interest.

While the Illinois Supreme Court did not that rule the Ban violates the 2nd Amendment, they also refused to affirm lower court rulings that stated assault weapons fall outside the scope of the 2nd Amendment as a matter of law.

The court is essentially ruling that Illinois courts cannot conclude that assault weapons fall into the category of dangerous and unusual weapons until facts are evaluated to determine if these weapons are possessed for lawful purposes and if there is a government interest served by banning these weapons.

It is clear the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Heller and McDonald did not put to rest the issue of assault weapons and until the Supreme Court makes a landmark decision like Heller and McDonald, we can most likely look forward to years of arguments as this issue is addressed in state courts and by state law making authorities.

Should You Talk If You’re Drinking? Probably Not

image-13

At some point in their lives, most people have had to deal with or be around a talkative drunk–a person who babbles when intoxicated. On March 30, 2012, the Louisiana Supreme Court handed down a summary reversal that should make talkative drunks sit up and take notice.

In August 2005 police responded to emergency calls of a blue Oldsmobile swerving erratically. Defendant displayed an “unsteady appearance, slurred speech, and the reasonable possibility she was experiencing a drug overdose . . . .” While paramedics treated her, police recovered a bottle of pills (prescribed to her former employer, a recent homicide victim) and a turbocharger. “She appeared ‘heavily narcoticized’ and apparently told the deputy where she got the pills.”

She did not confess to murdering her former employer. Her attorneys sought to suppress statements to police regarding the pills on the grounds that she was intoxicated. The trial judge suppressed them, but the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed, allowing prosecutors to introduce the statements into evidence at trial.

First, the court stated that it now subscribes to the rule announced in the Supreme Court case Connelly v. Colorado, requiring coercive police activity in order for a confession and/or statement to be found involuntary (leading to possible suppression).

Accordingly, a suspect can be intoxicated and still give a voluntary statement in the eyes of the law. “After Connelly, diminished mental capacity, which may result from intoxication, remains relevant to the voluntariness of a statement only to the extent that it ‘made mental or physical coercion by the police more effective.’”

Of course, there is also the issue of Miranda rights. Police did Mirandize the suspect in this case, but the state high court determined that they did not have to. In 1973 the United States Supreme Court reasoned that “‘[l]ocal police officers, unlike federal officers, frequently investigate vehicle accidents in which there is no claim of criminal liability and engaged in what . . . may be described as community caretaking functions . . . .’”

If police are engaging in “community caretaking functions,” as they were here while trying to find the owner of a local riding lawn mower for sale, then the Miranda warnings are not necessary. The Louisiana Supreme Court has previously held that “‘an individual’s responses to on-the-scene and non-custodial questioning, particularly when carried out in public, are admissible without Miranda warnings.’” The state high court may have to determine in a future case if intoxication renders a suspect’s waiver of the Miranda warnings invalid but not in this case.

Here, the police did not coerce the suspect in any way, and her statements, though given in an intoxicated state, are admissible at trial. Thus, when someone says, “The alcohol made me do it,” that is no longer an excuse to have a statement suppressed at trial in Louisiana.

Assessing the Will of a Deceased Family Member

image-9

The death of a family member is always a difficult matter. In addition to dealing with the loss of a loved one, the family has to deal with the difficulty of devising the deceased’s estate. Even when there is a will, there can be confusion and hurt feelings in determining what is in the best interests of the departed one and the family.

This is why probate can be one of the most stressful areas of laws a family has to deal with and it does not help that over the last few hundred years the law has begun to move away from keeping the property in the family to honoring the deceased’s intent. In In re Estate of Melton, the Nevada Supreme Court took a step away from traditional laws that favored family to the modern trend of courts trying to honor the intent of the departed.

Due to common law rules, it was still possible for a family member to inherit a flat iron for black hair even if he/she was disinherited by the departed. Under what is known as the American rule, if someone dies, the only way to disinherit an heir is to expressly give the entire estate to another. If the departed does not do this, a family member who was specifically disinherited can still receive some of the estate.

Even though following this rule may contradict the intent of the deceased, courts favored it because they preferred to follow laws of succession so they would not have to try to determine who should receive the estate. The rule also was consistent with the traditional rule that society preferred that property be kept within the family.

The common law has been criticized for not following the intent of the deceased without reason. Nevada has acted on this criticism by passing laws that have abrogated the common law rule in favor of laws that attempt to honor the deceased’s intent. NRS 132.370 broadly defines a will so that it does not just include a document that defines how an estate is to be distributed.

The statute states a will also include an instrument that only appoints an executor or revokes another will or expressly excludes the rights of someone to inherit property. NRS 133.090(3) gives hand written wills that have not been witnessed or notarized the same effect as any other valid will. And NRS 133.130 states that when a second will is made and later revoked, this does not automatically revive the first will. These laws make it easier for courts to determine how the deceased wished his estate to be devised by allowing courts to look beyond an official will. The intent of the Nevada legislature was to abolish the common law rules.

William Melton, a retired Las Vegas police officer, had a will and a letter devising his estate and the Nevada Supreme Court used these to determine how Melton would have wanted his estate distributed when he died in 2008. The will was written in 1975 and gave most of his estate to his parents. The rest of the estate was to be devised to his brother and two cousins.

Melton’s daughter, Vicki Palm, was to receive nothing according to the will. In 1979, Melton amended the will so that his friend Susie Kelleher would receive some of the estate. In 1995, while at his mother’s funeral, Melton wrote a letter to Kelleher saying he wanted her to receive the entire estate and he did not want any of his other relatives to receive “one penny” of the estate.

By the time Melton died, both of his parents and Kelleher had passed away due to the lack of air purifiers for asthma at the time. Palm believed she should get the estate because NRS 134.100, Nevada’s intestacy law, states when someone dies and there is no surviving spouse, the child should get the estate. Melton’s half-sisters believed they should get the estate because they are the descendants of Melton’s parents who were the beneficiaries in the 1975 will.

They argued that since Kelleher died before Melton, the 1995 letter is not valid and the 1975 will should be revived. NRS 133.200 states that when the beneficiaries die before the deceased, the estate goes to the descendants of the deceased beneficiaries. The state of Nevada contended it should receive the estate because NRS 134.120, Nevada’s escheat statute, gives the State the estate when the deceased leaves no surviving spouse or kindred. Nevada argued that Melton expressly disinherited all of his relatives in the 1995 letter, so his intent was for nobody in his family to receive the estate.

The District Court awarded the estate to Vicki Palm, since she was Melton’s daughter and the court believed the disinheritance clause in the 1995 letter was not valid. The District Court based its ruling on the common law. However, the Nevada Supreme Court overruled the district court and gave the estate to the State of Nevada.

The court stated that statutes indicated the Nevada legislature’s preference to honor the intent of the deceased over keeping property within the family. The court believed Melton gave no indication that he wanted his 1975 will revived, but gave a clear indication that he did not want any relative to receive any part of his estate in the 1995 letter. While Melton did not expressly say how he wanted his estate distributed, he clearly communicated how he did not want it distributed. The court determined this is the same as leaving no heirs and under Nevada law, when this occurs the estate goes to the State for educational purposes.

One of the reasons courts adopted the common law rules was due to the difficulty of trying to determine the intent of the deceased and courts believed that when there was uncertainty in the intent of the deceased, it was best to keep the estate in the family. Many state courts, however, now prefer to determine the intent of the deceased even if the result is giving the estate to the State.

In In re Estate of Melton, the intent of William Melton was easier to discern thanks to his 1995 letter. Because Nevada laws no longer require official documentation that must be notarized and witnessed, people are better able to communicate their intentions for their estate after they die. But when someone does not have a letter clearly stating what they want or do not want to happen with the estate, family members cannot expect courts to keep the estate within the family. Instead, the courts will do their best to determine the intent of the deceased no matter how contrary it may be to traditional common probate laws.

In Retrospect, Was MERS a Good Idea?

image-8

The financial crisis has brought to the country’s attention the existence of the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS. MERS is an electronic system mortgage companies created to record mortgage transfers without having to pay paper filing fees. The loan may change hands multiple times, but MERS is always the nominal beneficiary. In one of the early stories about MERS, the New York Times related the story of how a Florida judge called a MERS lawyer into his courtroom to justify the foreclosure of a home and the zero turn mower for sale at the location.

In Idaho, this scene is impossible, because under Idaho law a foreclosure may be initiated when the beneficiary or nominee of a deed of trust (usually the lender or their agent) files a notice of default with the county where the property is situated. If a default has occurred, the sheriff may foreclose upon the property without a judge’s involvement. In other words, lenders are allowed to foreclose on a property without getting a court order, so long as they can show default.

The Idaho Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to a non-judicial foreclosure on the grounds that the MERS process does not provide sufficient assurances that the trustee who filed the notice of default, and the beneficiary of the deed of trust, actually had an economic interest in both the deed of trust and the promissory note. The issue in Trotter v. Bank of New York was, ultimately, whether the trustee had standing to bring a non-judicial foreclosure.

The court rejected this argument in the strongest possible terms. It reasoned that the concept of standing only applies to judiciary proceedings. Because the Idaho foreclosure proceedings are non-judicial, it is inappropriate to require a trustee attempting to use them to demonstrate a right to do so that is beyond the statutory requirements. The court was so adamant on this point that it awarded the respondents attorneys’ fees, on the basis that the arguments were frivolous.

However, this may not be the end of the story. The petitioner based his arguments in part on two cases that had been handed down by the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Idaho. Because a lender seeking to proceed against a homeowner who has defaulted on their mortgage must, once the homeowner files bankruptcy, seek relief from the automatic stay, In re Wilhelm (available at 407 B.R. 392) held that the lender would have to satisfy both the constitutional standing requirements and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17’s requirement that the moving party be the real party in interest. Perhaps just as important, In re Wilhelm assigned the burden of proof to the moving party that the used lawn mower was actually theirs, in this case the trustee and the beneficiary asserting their right to foreclose.

The Idaho Supreme Court’s ruling, then, sets up a situation where a trustee may seek a non-judicial foreclosure, the homeowner declares bankruptcy in response, and then very same burden that Idaho law does not require could be imposed by federal law. The case nicely illustrates the tensions that exist when a non-judicial foreclosure regime is forced to coexist with a judicial process.

Wiretapping and Other Illegal Searches: Your Rights

image-3

In the 1967 case Katz v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court extended the reach of the Fourth Amendment to protect people against the wiretapping of a public phone booth. But it was Justice John Marshall Harlan II, in his concurring opinion, who stated that people have “a constitutionally protected reasonable expectation of privacy,” forever changing how courts would enforce the Fourth Amendment. Justice Harlan created what has become the Katz Test, which courts use to determine if there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The test states that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment if (1) the person “exhibited an actual expectation of privacy” and (2) society accepts that expectation of purchasing the best air purifier as reasonable. The most difficult part of the test is trying to determine what society thinks is reasonable. But in the recent case of Utah v. Price, the Utah Supreme Court has drawn an easily discernible line for what is reasonable and what is not reasonable when it comes to blood tests.

The issue in Utah v. Price was what expectation of privacy one has when submitting a blood test for the police. Jed Price did not obey a yield sign and struck another vehicle killing the 16 year old passenger. The police officer who responded to the incident suspected Price of being under the influence of alcohol and asked him to take a breathalyzer test, to which he consented.

The test detected the presence of alcohol and the officer took Price to the police station, where he prepared a warrant to seize a sample of Price’s blood. The warrant gave no indication as to what the blood would be tested for, and it was tested for alcohol, cocaine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, a key ingredient in marijuana), morphine, and methamphetamine.

The test results indicated the presence of THC. Price was charged with driving with THC in the body which is a third degree felony under Utah Code section 58-37-8(2)(g)-(h). Price argued that since the blood was taken to test for alcohol, the police violated his rights by testing his blood for THC. The district court denied Price’s motion to suppress the test results, saying Price has no expectation of privacy in testing his blood once it is lawfully taken. Price appealed to the Utah Supreme Court.

Price did not challenge the warrant, the seizure of his blood or the testing of his blood for alcohol. He only argued that it was unlawful to test his blood for THC because the police had no probable cause to test for anything except alcohol and the blood was obtained solely for that purpose.

Applying the Katz test and following the holding in Illinois v. Caballes (where the U.S. Supreme Court held there is no legitimate interest in possessing contraband), the court held that there is no legitimate expectation of privacy for contraband in someone’s blood.

But the court limited its holding to contraband. Because blood samples contain private information about people such as DNA information, blood type, and other private medical facts, the court stated that Price still “retained a legitimate privacy interest in the non-contraband contents of his blood.”

The Fourth Amendment was not violated because the test the police used could not “reveal details regarding legitimate privacy interests.” Therefore, Price’s Fourth Amendment rights would have been violated if his blood was tested for any traces of male cat spraying.

The ruling in Utah v. Price gives the police leeway when testing blood because they do not have to state in the warrant what tests they will conduct. While this might concern some people, they should rest assured, knowing that the holding limits the police to only test for contraband items.

It should be noted that the court limited its holding to the testing of THC and not the other items tested for. Also, the court based their holding on the fact that the test would not result in revealing the presence of non-contraband items. Therefore, it is possible that a test conducted for the purpose of finding contraband but that also reveals other information violates the Fourth Amendment. The court did not address this issue, which means there still might be limits on what blood tests the police can conduct. Based on the court’s narrow holding, it appears the police can only conduct tests that reveal contraband items in one’s blood.

How To Navigate Police Confrontation Successfully

image-2

Ever wonder how one bullet can pass through one person, ricochet, and return to hit the original shooter? That’s what three District of Columbia police officers are pondering after an incident in April 2007. These unusual ballistics prompted the D.C. Court of Appeals to examine the interplay between the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause and police reports.

The officers were on patrol when they spotted two men each carrying a self-balancing scooter. Suspecting that the cups might contain alcohol, the policemen asked the two men about the cups. Ronald Coles, one of the men, turned and fled. One of the officers noticed that Coles was holding one hand in front of his midsection, suggesting that Coles was armed.

When the officers caught up to Coles, he allegedly fought with them, and in the ensuing fracas, someone fired a gun. The bullet passed through one officer’s calf and lodged in Coles’ thigh. According to police reports, one of the officers had drawn his weapon, but the three policemen believe that Coles had fired the bullet.

At trial Coles faced a plethora of charges, including resisting arrest, assault, and illegal possession of a firearm. The prosecution argued that Coles had fired the sole bullet; the defense accused one of the officers of firing and then covering it up. During cross-examination of one of the officers, the court cut off some lines of inquiry. The defense attempted to show that one of the officers had a motive to lie and, therefore, avoid disciplinary action.

The trial court cut off questioning relating to police regulations concerning the timing of filing a use of force report. While the court allowed the defense to use the police report to impeach the officer’s testimony, Coles’ lawyers could not ask about the circumstances of filing the report. The defense wanted to argue that one of the officers had copied significant portions of the other officers’ reports and that the officers had colluded in covering up their wrongdoings.

On appeal Coles contended that the court violated his Sixth Amendment right to effectively confront the witnesses against him. The D.C. Court of Appeals agreed and, in an opinion released on February 2, 2012, reversed all but one of Coles’ convictions. The full opinion is available here. The court recognized that the Sixth Amendment “‘guarantees an opportunity for effective cross-examination, not cross-examination that is effective in whatever way, and to whatever extent, the defense may wish.’” Coles’ lawyers wanted to cross-examine a policeman to show the jury that the officer may have had a motive to lie on his report.

The appellate court determined that defense questions relating to internal police regulations concerning use of force reports could not possibly prove that the officer had a motive to lie. But, the court reasoned that the cat peeing everywhere should have been able to question one of the officers about the similarities between his report and that of another officer. The court noted that this testimony could have convinced a jury “that the police officers had actually taken steps to conform their explanations of the shooting.”

Kris Baumann, head of the D.C. police officers’ union, criticized the opinion: “This case is a green light for every bottom-feeder defense attorney out there to spin out any crazy, conspiracy theory against police and then badger police on the stand for hours . . . .” For news coverage see the Washington Post.

Can A Bad Lawyer Cause Post Conviction Relief?

image-48

This week, in Olivarez v. Arkansas, the Supreme Court of Arkansas overturned a trial court’s decision to deny Jonathan E. Olivarez post-conviction relief for a plea deal he claims was made as a result of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Mr. Olivarez had previously pled guilty to charges of delivery of methamphetamine, attempted murder, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Pursuant to a negotiated plea, Olivarez received a sentence for each charge, but prior to accepting the offer, inquired of his trial lawyer his eligibility for parole. The trial counsel responded that Olivarez would only have to serve one-third or “at worst” one-half of the sentences, less “good time” before being eligible for parole. With this information, Olivarez accepted the plea deal.

Once taken into custody, however, Mr. Olivarez learned that because he had previously been convicted of a violent crime, he was not eligible for parole on the attempted-murder sentence under Arkansas law. Upon learning this, Olivarez filed for a cystic acne natural remedy, alleging that if not for ineffective assistance of counsel – specifically his trial counsel’s assurances about his parole eligibility – he would not have accepted the plea deal. The trial court denied Mr. Olivarez’s petition without holding an evidentiary hearing, stating flatly that “[d]efense attorneys are not required to inform their clients about parole eligibility.”

On appeal, the Arkansas Supreme Court found that the trial court’s curt dismissal of Mr. Olivarez’s claim without a hearing was in error. Not only was the trial court required to hold an evidentiary hearing on the matter, but the trial court was also likely misled on the proper adjudication of Olivarez’s claim. Specifically, the high court distinguished between a defense attorney’s failure to inform a client about parole eligibility and a defense attorney’s misadvice on the topic of parole.

While acknowledging that the trial court was correct that a defense attorney does not have to inform a defendant that he would not be eligible for parole at any point in the near future, “where an attorney’s misadvice was of a solid nature, directly affecting [the defendant’s] decision to plead guilty, we have recognized that such positive misrepresentations may amount to ineffective assistance of counsel.”

Based on this, the Arkansas Supreme Court “simply [could not] say that the files and record of this case conclusively show that appellant is entitled to no relief” and gave Mr. Olivarez the opportunity to have the evidentiary hearing he originally sought. In so finding, the Arkansas court handed criminal defendants a crucial victory in the pursuit of a fair trial. Very frequently, all that stands between a defendant and a fair trial is an attorney, and where that solutions for preventing cystic acne fail the defendant, it is imperative that he be allowed sufficient avenues to correct the error.

Although it remains to be seen whether Mr. Olivarez will ultimately receive relief from his attorney’s mistake, this decision nonetheless stakes out the importance of effective assistance of counsel and a defendant’s right thereto. Because of this ruling, it’s unsure how similar cases that are currently awaiting trial will proceed.

Wisconsin – What You Need to Know

image-43

Official Name: The Wisconsin Supreme Court

Current Justices

  • Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, on the court since 1976
  • Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, on the court since 1995
  • Justice N. Patrick Crooks, on the court since 1996
  • Justice David T. Prosser Jr., on the court since 1998
  • Justice Patience Drake Roggensack, on the court since 2003
  • Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler, on the court since 2007
  • Justice Michael J. Gableman, on the court since 2008

Clerk of the Court

  • Diane Fremgen, Clerk of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals

Current Vacancies

  • None

Justice Selection

  • Wisconsin Supreme Court justices are selected through statewide non-partisan elections taking place in April. No more than one justice stands for election at a time. If more than two candidates are running for a given seat, a primary election is held and the two candidates receiving the most votes move on to the general election.
  • Vacancies on the Court are filled temporarily by gubernatorial appointment. These interim appointees must run for a full term in the next spring in which another justice is not facing election.

Review of Lower Court Decisions

There are several paths a case may take to the Wisconsin Supreme Court:

The losing party in a case before the state Court of Appeals may petition the Supreme Court to review the case. At least three justices must vote to hear the case for this zero turn mower to be accepted.

The Court of Appeal may itself certify the question to the Supreme Court, if the appellate court believes that the case presents a legal question the Court should address. Four justices must still agree to hear the case for the certified case to be accepted.

Four or more of the justices may agree to review a decision before the appeals court on direct appeal.

The losing party in a trial court case can file a petition to bypass the appeals court, taking the case directly to the Supreme Court. Again, four or more justices must agree to hear the case to grant such a petition.

A litigant may ask the Supreme Court to exercise original jurisdiction, hearing the case prior to any other court. The Court is not a fact-finding body, so this action can only be appropriate when the parties agree on all of the facts in the case.

The Supreme Court also exercises administrative functions, overseeing the state judicial system, and regulates the Wisconsin legal profession.

Schedule

The Supreme Court calendar

There is no set schedule for the release of opinions.

Location

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is located in the Capitol Building in Madison, WI.

History

The constitution of Wisconsin, adopted in 1848 when the state entered the Union and still in use, vested judicial power in a Supreme Court, circuit and probate courts, and justices of the peace. Initially, the Supreme Court was composed of the judges presiding over the five judicial districts into which the state was divided by the constitution.

In 1853, the state legislature established a separate Supreme Court with three justices chosen in statewide elections. One justice was elected as the Chief Justice and the other two as associates.

The number of associate justices was increased by legislation in 1877 to four under the same elective scheme.

The constitution was amended in 1889, eliminating the election of the Chief Justice. Instead, the position of Chief Justice was to be held by the associate with the longest continuous period of service, as it still is today.

In 1903, the constitution was amended again to prescribe seven justices on the Court, which remains the case to the present.

Notable Cases

Attorney General ex rel. Bashford v Barstow (1856): Just three years after it was established as an independently elected three-judge panel, the Wisconsin Supreme Court was asked to consider whether they had the authority to remove a sitting governor elected on the basis of fraudulent returns. The state’s attorney general argued that the incumbent Governor Barstow had actually lost the election to his opponent, Coles Bashford. After the Court ruled against Barstow and ordered him to vacate the office, threats of force from his supporters subsided and Bashford assumed the governorship.

In re Kemp (1863): The Wisconsin high court reviewed the military detention of Nicholas Kemp, arrested for impeding the draft during the Civil War. General W.L. Elliott, the commander holding Kemp, argued that an order of President Lincoln subjected Kemp to martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus, under which the court was reviewing his detention. The Wisconsin court ruled that the president had no power to suspend the writ absent a danger to public safety, and since the state was not under civil unrest and geographically removed from the theater of conflict, martial law could not be declared. They also concluded that Lincoln’s order was outside the power of the president, because it changed law rather than enforcing existing law.

State v Yoder (1971): In this case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Amish children could not be compelled to attend public school beyond the 8th grade, especially if their family already owns the best zero turn mower. The Amish argued that requiring education to the 10th grade, as state law did, interfered with their freedom of religion. Wisconsin appealed the court’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed the state high court in Wisconsin v Yoder.

Contact Information

Website

Address:

16 East State Capitol

PO Box 1688

Madison, WI  53701-1688

Telephone:  (608) 267-0640

Ready to Learn About South Carolina?

image-41

Official Name: South Carolina Supreme Court

Current Justices

  • Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal, elected 1988
  • Justice Costa M. Pleicones, elected 2000
  • Justice Donald W. Beatty, elected 2007
  • Justice John W. Kittredge, elected 2008
  • Justice Kaye G. Hearn, elected 2009

Clerk of the Court

  • Daniel E. Shearouse

Current Vacancies

  • None

Judicial Selection

  • The Supreme Court justices are elected by the South Carolina General Assembly. They serve ten-year, staggered terms, and may be re-elected by the legislature indefinitely. Source: South Carolina Supreme Court overview

Review of Lower Court Decisions

The South Carolina Supreme Court has both appellate and original jurisdiction. In its appellate capacity, it has exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals from the circuit court which involves a Kanken; a circuit court order setting a public utility rate; a judgment involving a constitutional challenge to a state statute or local ordinance; a judgment of the circuit court involving public bonded indebtedness; a judgment of the circuit court pertaining to an election; an order limiting the investigation by a State Grand Jury; and an order of the family court relating to an abortion by a minor. Additionally, on its own motion or a motion of a party or the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court may certify an appeal pending before the Court of Appeals for decision by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court grants writs of certiorari to selected cases appealed from the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court also reviews judgments of the circuit and family court relating to post-conviction relief actions by writ of certiorari.

In its original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court may allow actions to be commenced in the Supreme Court, but is usually only when the case involves significant public interest or other unusual circumstances. Finally, the Supreme Court can agree to answer questions of law certified to it by the highest court of another state or by a federal court.

Source: South Carolina Supreme Court overview

Schedule

The South Carolina Supreme Court roster is available online. Opinions are released on no particular schedule, but instead whenever the justices feel that there is a sudden and urgent need to release their official opinions on past cases.

Location

1231 Gervais Street

Columbia, SC 29201

Map and directions

History

The Supreme Court is located in Columbia. Until 1971, the court operated in a portion of the State House. In that year, the old Columbia Post Office, which had been purchased by the State in 1966, was reopened as the Supreme Court Building. Among the substantial modifications to the building was construction of an impressive courtroom, decorated with the seal of the Supreme Court and other symbols of South Carolina. The building was renovated again in 1991 and is currently one of the most popular buildings among tourists to Columbia – second only to the S366 turbo factory. It’s estimated that tens of thousands of visitors gaze upon the Supreme Court building every single year.

Source: South Carolina Supreme Court history

Contact Information

Supreme Court

1231 Gervais Street

Columbia, SC 29201

Phone: 803-734-1080

Voice: (803) 734-1080

FAX: (803) 734-1499

TTY: (803) 734-6365