Monthly Archives: April 2016

Oklahoma High Court Rules Oral Sex Performed on Intoxicated, Unconscious Person Isn’t a Crime

Oklahoma’s highest criminal appeals court has held the state’s forcible sodomy law doesn’t make it a crime to have oral sex with a victim who is so intoxicated as to be unconscious.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on March 24 in a short, unpublished decision that is being denounced by a Tulsa prosecutor, report Oklahoma Watch and the Guardian. How Appealing noted the coverage and linked to the opinion (PDF).

The court noted that the state’s rape law has language providing that a rape can occur when the victim is intoxicated or unconscious, but the forcible sodomy law does not have that provision.

Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Fu told the Guardian that the ruling left him “completely gobsmacked.” In an interview with Oklahoma Watch, he called the decision “insane,” “dangerous” and “offensive.” He is planning to ask state legislators to address the decision by changing the oral sodomy law.

The Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in the case of a 17-year-old boy accused of having oral sex with a 16-year-old girl after they drank and smoked marijuana at a local park, according to court transcripts cited by Oklahoma Watch. The girl had to be carried to the defendant’s car and was unconscious when the defendant took her to her grandmother’s house.

The girl’s blood alcohol level was found to be .341 after she was taken to the hospital. The defendant’s DNA was found on the girl in a sexual assault exam. The defendant told police the oral sex was consensual while the girl told police she didn’t remember anything that happened after being in the park.

Nebraska Just Abolished Civil Forfeiture, Now Requires A Criminal Conviction To Take Property

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a bill on Tuesday that eliminates civil forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize and keep property without filing charges or securing criminal convictions. The bill, LB 1106, passed the unicameral legislature last week by a vote of 38 to 8.

Civil forfeiture has ensnared a wide swath of victims in Nebraska. A Peruvian pastor once had $14,000 seized during a traffic stop. Only after the local chapter of the ACLU intervened was he able to recover his cash. Last year, a federal appellate court upheld forfeiting more than $63,000 in savings from a decorated Air Force veteran, even though he was never charged with a crime.

The newly signed law provides sweeping reforms. First and foremost, Nebraska now requires a criminal conviction to forfeit property. The accused must be convicted of an offense involving illegal drugs, child pornography or illegal gambling to lose their cash, vehicles, firearms or real estate. Nebraska joins just nine other states that require a criminal conviction as a prerequisite for most or all forfeiture cases. Following North Carolina and New Mexico, Nebraska is now the third state largely without civil forfeiture. In addition to the criminal conviction requirement, LB 1106 also enacts new reporting requirements for seizures and forfeitures.

But the legislation, introduced by Sen. Tommy Garrett, does not rectify the state’s incentive to forfeit property. Back in 1984, Nebraska voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that allocates fifty percent of drug forfeiture funds to law enforcement, with the other half directed to schools. Since 2011, agencies have received over $3 million in forfeiture proceeds under state law. According to a recent report by the ACLU of Nebraska, “significant amounts of money have been seized through the state system from people who have never been charged with a crime.” Nebraska’s motivation to police for profit remains unaltered by LB 1106—only another constitutional amendment can change that.

Yet LB 1106 does take aim at an even more egregious form of police profiteering. By participating in a federal forfeiture program known as “equitable sharing,” state and local agencies can move to forfeit property under federal law and receive up to 80 percent of the proceeds.

Tempted by the higher payout, police and prosecutors routinely turned to equitable sharing to federalize forfeiture cases. Between 2000 and 2013, Nebraska law enforcement collected more than $48 million in federal forfeiture funds, a report by the Institute for Justice found. A separate investigation by The Washington Post identified 889 cash seizures “from people who were not charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued” that were conducted in Nebraska since 9/11.

To curtail equitable sharing, LB 1106 bans state and local agencies from transferring seized cash and property under $25,000. The new law does allow transfers to occur if the property was “physically seized by a federal agent” and if the person who had their property seized is “the subject of a federal prosecution.” The only other state that currently restricts equitable sharing is New Mexico, though its anti-circumvention limit is set at $50,000.

Although Nebraska’s reform is not as sweeping as New Mexico’s, it will still go far in protecting property from unjust takings. Data analysis by the Institute for Justice found that in 2013, out of all properties seized under equitable sharing in Nebraska, 78 percent were under $25,000. In fact, half of all seized assets were valued at under $6,035.

LB 1106 comes at an opportune time. Facing budget cuts, the Justice Department temporarily suspended equitable sharing last December, but unfortunately decided to revive the program in late March.

“Civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on due process and private property rights in America today,” IJ’s Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath said in a statement. “Today’s decision to abolish civil forfeiture will ensure that only convicted criminals—and not innocent Nebraskans—lose their property to forfeiture.”

Prince’s Secret Charity: Solar Panels and Education in Oakland

In the days since the death of music legend Prince, stories of his secret, wide-ranging philanthropy efforts are finally being told.

Two of Prince’s major charitable endeavors were centered in the Bay Area: bringing solar panels to Oakland and helping young people of color learn how to code.

In an interview with CNN, political activist Van Jones revealed that, while he was the face of environmental group Green For All, Prince was the driving force and checkbook.

“There are people who have solar panels right now on their houses in Oakland, California that don’t know Prince paid for them,” Jones said.

But that wasn’t all. Prince also helped found #YesWeCode, an initiative to help young people from “low opportunity backgrounds” learn the necessary skills for jobs in the tech sector.

“He insisted we create ‘Yes We Code,'” Jones told USA Today, “so that kids in hoodies could be mistaken for kids in Silicon Valley.”

In fact, Jones says that concerts in Oakland (and other cities) were a “cover” so he could visit and check in on charitable organizations and local community groups.

“He did not want it be known publicly, and he did not want us to say it. But I’m gonna say it because the world needs to know that it wasn’t just the music,” Jones said. “The music was just one way he tried to help the world, but he was helping every day of his life.”

Video: Judge Sits in Jail Cell Overnight with PTSD Veteran He Sentenced

A North Carolina judge who sentenced a veteran to 24 hours in jail for a probation violation was worried how the time alone would affect the defendant’s post-traumatic stress disorder. So the judge served the time with him.

For most of the night, Judge Lou Olivera and defendant Joseph Serna talked about their military service, report the Fayetteville Observer, WRAL, ABC11 and the Washington Post. “He stepped in there for me,” Serna told the Observer.

Olivera is a Gulf War veteran who presides over veterans court in Cumberland County. Serna is a Special Forces Green Beret sergeant who served in Afghanistan.

Serna had been charged with driving while intoxicated. He was sentenced to the 24-hour jail stint after admitting to Olivera that he didn’t tell the truth about his latest urinalysis test.

Olivera saw Serna trembling when he turned himself in to serve the sentence, and that’s when Olivera decided to serve the time with him.

“I thought about a story that I once read,” Olivera told the Observer. “It talked about a soldier with PTSD in a hole. … A family member, a therapist and a friend all throw down a rope to help the veteran suffering. Finally, a fellow veteran climbs into the hole with him. The soldier suffering with PTSD asks, ‘Why are you down here?’ The fellow veteran replied, ‘I am here to climb out with you.’”

In this video, Olivera describes the Cumberland County veterans court program, and why it’s so important to the community.

Former Speaker of House Hastert Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison

By Nick Gass and Natasha Korecki

04/27/2016 01:14 PM EDT

CHICAGO – U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin has sentenced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert to 15 months in prison, calling him a “serial child molester,” and ignoring the defense’s request for no prison time.

“Some conduct is unforgivable no matter how old it is,” Durkin told Hastert in a lengthy statement at the sentencing hearing this morning.

Durkin called it “deplorable” that Hastert lied to the FBI during an initial investigation. He also said it was “unconscionable” that Hastert initially accused Individual A of extortion, leading the FBI to begin investigating the victim.

“You set him up,” Durkin told Hastert.

Durkin upbraided Hastert for trying to say the conduct against victim A was “ambiguous.”

“There is nothing ambiguous about this,” he said. “This is sexual abuse.”

The sentencing followed a further twist in the already dramatic case of Hastert, when a victim known only as “Individual D” in court filings, identified himself in court as Scott Cross, the brother of longtime Illinois GOP House Minority Leader Tom Cross.

“Coach Hastert sexually abused me,” he said, describing Hastert telling him he’d give him a massage then touching his genitals, back when Cross was a high school wrestler who looked up to Hastert.

The testimony took place this morning at Hastert’s sentencing hearing, at which a judge called Hastert a “serial child molester.”

During his own testimony, Hastert admitted to sexual abuse, but only after the judge directly asked him to clarify what he meant by “mistreating” athletes.

Hastert also admitted that he did in fact sexually abuse the late Stephen Reinbolt.

When the judge pressed Hastert on whether he had abused Reinbolt, an extended silent pause fell over the courtroom.

“Yes,” Hastert finally said.

At that, Reinbolt’s sister, Jolene Burdge, and a family member with her, clasped each others’ hands and together sobbed.

Earlier this month, prosecutors said Hastert abused at least five students when he served as wrestling coach at Yorkville High School more than three decades ago. Keeping that secret served as the underlying motivation in breaking banking laws, prosecutors have argued.

Tom Cross has long considered Hastert a political mentor. He served as the GOP leader in the Illinois House from 2003-2013. In 2014, he lost his statewide bid in the Illinois Treasurer race.

In a recent phone interview, Scott Cross, a former wrestler under Hastert, told POLITICO he personally knew there were more accusers.

“I can tell you, there are nine victims, not five,” Scott Cross said. “I know, I’ve confirmed there are nine.”

When asked his thoughts on Hastert, Cross said, “He has his bed to lie in. His time will come, the Maker’s got his number.”

Cross said he knew Individual A and about the civil case filed against Hastert earlier this week.

“I knew one minute after it was filed,” he said.

In an interview last year with NBC5 reporter and former Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin, Tom Cross expressed shock at the charges: “I am speechless,” Tom Cross said to Marin. “He was the first person I called after hearing the news.”

Hastert, 74, the longest-serving Republican House speaker in U.S. history, is seeking probation.

His attorneys argue that he is frail, was near death late last year, needs constant assistance and now uses a wheelchair. Letters in support of Hastert have painted him as a man of faith and a dedicated public servant. Tom DeLay called him a man of “great integrity.”

But Hastert kept a dark secret for decades. Prosecutors say he so badly wanted to hide his past sexual misconduct, he agreed to pay a former student $3.5 million in hush money. Hastert pleaded guilty last fall to withdrawing $952,000 from the bank in increments crafted to avoid notice, in violation of banking laws. Prosecutors say when FBI investigators approached Hastert, he said he was being falsely extorted and even agreed to record a phone conversation with the individual.

Durkin has isolated that detail, noting it was brand new conduct.

Durkin can sentence Hastert to up to five years in prison and has recently weighed a flurry of letters calling on a tough sentence and others in support of Hastert.

Prosecutors have asked Durkin to sentence Hastert on the “structuring” charge in accordance with guidelines calling for confinement of between zero and six months, but they did not explicitly urge that Hastert be put behind bars.

On Tuesday, new letters were posted into the court record that asked Durkin to factor in past abuse and give Hastert a lengthy sentence to deter other leaders who deal with youth, and recognizing that the statute of limitations on sex crimes are “arbitrary” and have since been reformed.

“This letter is sent to ask that your sentence of Dennis Hastert be severe and include a long jail sentence,” wrote Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP. “We request that you also demand that he establish a victim assistance fund, to assist all his victims, those who have already as well as those who may in the future, speak up and come forward.”

“Mr. Hastert is deeply sorry and apologizes for his misconduct that occurred decades ago and the resulting harm he caused to others,” Hastert attorney Tom Green wrote on behalf of the defense team. “Neither we as his lawyers, nor Mr. Hastert, have the present insight to understand and reconcile the unfortunate and harmful incidents he caused decades ago with the enduring achievements, leadership, and generosity that earned him extraordinary affection and respect throughout this country during his many years of public service. … What we do know is that he will stand before the Court having deteriorated both physically and emotionally, undoubtedly in part due to public shaming and humiliation of an unprecedented degree.”

Green later released an additional statement: “Mr. Hastert acknowledges that as a young man he committed transgressions for which he is profoundly sorry. He earnestly apologizes to his former students, family, friends, previous constituents and all others affected by the harm his actions have caused.”

Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.

Cleveland agrees to pay Tamir Rice family $6m over police shooting

Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, speaks during a news conference at the Olivet Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio in December.
Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice, speaks during a news conference at the Olivet Baptist church in Cleveland in December. Photograph: Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters

The city of Cleveland, Ohio, has agreed to pay $6m to the family of Tamir Rice to settle a lawsuit over the 12-year-old’s fatal shooting by a police officer.

The payment will avert a federal civil rights case brought against city authorities by Tamir’s relatives over the death of “a young boy with his entire life ahead of him, full of potential and promise”, their attorneys said on Monday.

“Although historic in financial terms, no amount of money can adequately compensate for the loss of a life,” said a statement issued by the firm of Jonathan Abady, Earl Ward and Zoe Salzman, their lead counsel. “Nothing will bring Tamir back. His unnecessary and premature death leaves a gaping hole for those who knew and loved him that can never be filled.”

The details of the settlement were contained in a filing by judge Solomon Oliver to federal court in Cleveland on Monday morning. The city will pay Tamir’s family $3m this year and $3m next year. Tamir’s estate will receive $5.5m, while his mother, Samaria Rice, and his sister, Tajai Rice, will receive $250,000 each directly.

“There is no admission of wrongdoing,” the court filing states.

Tamir was shot dead by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann, who opened fire less than two seconds after arriving at a park where the 12-year-old was playing with a toy gun in November 2014. A 911 caller had reported that he appeared to be wielding a weapon and noted it was “probably fake”, but this caveat was not relayed to the officers by dispatchers.

In December, a grand jury declined to indict officer Loehmann and his partner, Frank Garmback, on criminal charges, following a lengthy investigation process that was sharply criticised by the Rice family and campaigners.

Tamir’s death followed the high-profile police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City, sparking a new civil rights movement that calls for drastic reforms of US policing.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who oversaw the process, argued that Tamir’s death was caused by a “perfect storm of human error, mistakes, and miscommunications by all involved that day”, but there was no evidence of criminal misconduct by police.

McGinty, who recommended to the grand jurors that no charges be brought, was defeated by a primary election challenger earlier this year and is likely to be out of a job by the end of the year.

On Monday, McGinty declined to comment on the payout.

The settlement from Cleveland is the latest in a series reached in recent months with relatives of African Americans killed during encounters with police officers. New York authorities settled with Garner’s family for $5.9m in July last year.

A settlement of $6.5m was agreed between the city of North Charleston, South Carolina, and the family of Walter Scott, who was shot dead while running away following a traffic stop there in April last year. And a payment of $6.4m will be given by Baltimore, Maryland, to the family of Freddie Gray, who died from a broken neck sustained in the back of a police van, also in April last year.

The attorneys for Tamir’s family said on Monday morning that while “there is no such thing as closure or justice” in such a case, they hoped the settlement would “stimulate a movement for genuine change in our society and our nation’s policing”.

“Regrettably, Tamir’s death is not an isolated event,” they said. “The problem of police violence, especially in communities of color, is a crisis plaguing our nation.”

City council member Jeff Johnson said he was not surprised by the size of the settlement, but he wondered how cash-strapped Cleveland would pay the bill.

“I don’t recall seeing [the settlement] in our latest budget,” Johnson said. “It will come out of our general fund and it will impact city services.”

He added: “I am not surprised that the city had to pay that large amount because of the failings of its employees,” noting that Loehmann had been deemed unfit for duty at a previous police department and the dispatchers’ failure to relay to officers that Tamir’s toy gun was probably fake.

He added that the settlement would not change the minds of many residents, especially African Americans, about the city’s culpability.

“We’re wrong, we’re definitely at fault and we needed to pay a price for that,” Johnson said.

Cleveland’s mayor Frank Jackson said the city’s financial woes will not hinder its ability to pay $6m to the family of a 12-year-old whom police killed two years ago.

“It’s an obligation we have; whenever you have an obligation, you must pay that,” Jackson said at a press conference on Monday.

Jackson also said the payout wouldn’t impact a disciplinary investigation against Loehmann and Garmback. The mayor also wouldn’t say how the negotiators arrived at the payout, which must be approved by a probate court.

Echoing the comments of the Rice family’s attorney, mayor Jackson said, however, the money would not compensate for the tragedy of Tamir Rice’s death.

“A 12-year-old died. Regardless of fault or facts or anything, that shouldn’t have happened.”

Later on Monday the city’s main police union risked reinflaming the situation by suggesting that Tamir’s family put part of their payout towards stopping children from causing trouble with guns.

“We can only hope the Rice family and their attorneys will use a portion of this settlement to help educate the youth of Cleveland in the dangers associated with the mishandling of both real and facsimile firearms,” Stephen Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, said in a statement.

Budget projections show Cleveland ending the 2016 fiscal year with a small surplus of $722,000. In February, the city’s mayor, Frank Jackson, proposed an income tax increase to keep the city from slipping into the red in 2017. He blamed declining property taxes and the state’s cuts to its cities. Among the city’s expenses are $11m associated with an agreement between Cleveland and the federal Department of Justice over police use of force.

“It’s sad, in a sense,” said Johnson. “No only was Tamir Rice unnecessarily killed by a city worker, but the taxpayers of the city have to pay for that failure of judgment by the dispatcher and the two officers.”

Department of Justice: Title IX Requires Violating First Amendment

April 25, 2016

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2016—The Department of Justice now interprets Title IX to require colleges and universities to violate the First Amendment.

In an April 22 findings letter concluding its investigation into the University of New Mexico’s policies and practices regarding sex discrimination, the Department of Justice (DOJ) found the university improperly defined sexual harassment. DOJ flatly declared that “[u]nwelcome conduct of a sexual nature”—including “verbal conduct”—is sexual harassment “regardless of whether it causes a hostile environment or is quid pro quo.”

To comply with Title IX, DOJ states that a college or university “carries the responsibility to investigate” all speech of a sexual nature that someone subjectively finds unwelcome, even if that speech is protected by the First Amendment or an institution’s promises of free speech.

“The Department of Justice has put universities in an impossible position: violate the Constitution or risk losing federal funding,” said Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) President & CEO Greg Lukianoff. “The federal government’s push for a national speech code is at odds with decades of legal precedent. University presidents must find the courage to stand up to this federal overreach.”

The shockingly broad conception of sexual harassment mandated by DOJ all but guarantees that colleges and universities nationwide will subject students and faculty to months-long investigations—or worse—for protected speech. In recent years, unjust “sexual harassment” investigations into protected student and faculty speech have generated national headlines and widespread concern. Examples include:

  • Northwestern University Professor Laura Kipnis was investigated for months for writing a newspaper article questioning “sexual paranoia” on campus and how Title IX investigations are conducted.
  • Syracuse University law student Len Audaer was investigated for harassment for comedic articles he posted on a satirical law school blog patterned after The Onion.
  • A female student at the University of Oregon was investigated and charged with harassment and four other charges for jokingly yelling “I hit it first” out a window at a couple.
  • The Sun Star, a student newspaper at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, was investigated for nearly a year for an April Fools’ Day issue of the newspaper and for reporting on hateful messages posted to an anonymous “UAF Confessions” Facebook page.
  • And just two weeks ago, a police officer at the University of Delaware ordered students to censor a “free speech ball”—put up as part of a demonstration in favor of free speech—because it had the word “penis” and an accompanying drawing on it, claiming that it could violate the university’s sexual misconduct policy.

DOJ’s rationale would not just legitimize all of the above investigations—it would require campuses to either conduct such investigations routinely or face potential federal sanctions.

This latest findings letter doubles down on the unconstitutional and controversial “blueprint” definition of sexual harassment jointly issued by DOJ and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in a May 2013 findings letter to the University of Montana. FIRE and other civil liberties advocates at the time warned that the controversial language threatens the free speech and academic freedom rights of students and faculty members.

“Requiring colleges to investigate and record ‘unwelcome’ speech about sex or gender in an effort to end sexual harassment or assault on campus is no more constitutional than would be a government effort to investigate and record all ‘unpatriotic’ speech in order to root out treason,” said Robert Shibley, FIRE’s executive director. “Students, faculty and administrators must not give in to this kind of campus totalitarianism—and FIRE is here to fight alongside them.”

In January, FIRE sponsored a lawsuit filed against Louisiana State University (LSU) that challenges the unconstitutional definition of sexual harassment being promulgated by the Departments of Education and Justice in this and in previous letters. Teresa Buchanan, a tenured associate professor of early childhood education in LSU’s acclaimed teacher certification program, was fired for “sexual harassment” under an LSU policy that tracks the federal government’s broad definition. Buchanan’s lawsuit challenges the policy’s constitutionality and its application to her.

FIRE is a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and freedom of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.

Nico Perrino, Director of Communications, FIRE: 215-717-3473;media@thefire.org

Schools: University of New MexicoCases: Departments of Education and Justice: National “Blueprint” for Unconstitutional Speech Codes

Alleged Hastert Sex Assault Victim Files $1.8 Million Lawsuit

By Josh Gerstein

04/25/2016 03:24 PM EDT

A former student of House Speaker Dennis Hastert filed a lawsuit today demanding that the ex-speaker pay more than $1.8 million to fulfill an agreement he allegedly made to pay $3.5 million to compensate for sexual abuse committed against the man three decades ago.

The lawsuit refers to the man suing Hastert simply as “James Doe,” but the events outlined in the suit make clear he is the “Individual A” referred to in a federal indictment of Hastert last year for illegally structuring bank withdrawals and lying to the FBI. Hastert pleaded guilty to the structuring charge and is set to be sentenced on that charge Wednesday.

In the new lawsuit, the alleged victim says Hastert sexually abused him at a motel on a wrestling trip he organized as a coach, leading to a lifetime of problems. “For many years to follow, Plaintiff suffered severe panic attacks which lead [sic] to periods of unemployment, career changes, bouts of depression, hospitalization, and long-term psychiatric treatment,” the suit says.

Federal officials say Hastert paid out $1.7 million before he was confronted by the FBI in 2014 over the unusual cash withdrawals. A court filing earlier this month related to Hastert’s sentencing revealed that the alleged victim was still pressing for the remainder of the alleged settlement.

The suit was filed Monday in county court in Yorkville, Ill., the same town where Hastert taught and coached from 1965 to 1981. The complaint describes Doe as an Illinois resident and calls Hastert a “trusted friend of Doe’s family.”

A lawyer for Hastert did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the newly filed suit.

Dallas City Council Throws Out Longtime Business Owner

Hinga Mbogo is the Kenyan-born owner of Hinga’s Automotive, a very popular neighborhood mechanic shop in Dallas, Texas. He came to the US with his wife in 1974 to chase the American dream. He owns the business and the land on which it sits.

Photo by Mark Meranta

 
Photo by Mark Meranta

Along with his wife, Hinga employs 4 people (some of whom have been with him since nearly the beginning).

 

In an effort to gentrify the area, in 2005, the Dallas City Council voted to change the zoning along Ross Avenue to prohibit automotive repair shops. Even though his shop’s been there since 1986, the city decided that his type of shop was not going to be part of it’s “vision” of a “gateway” to what Dallas calls its arts district.It wants to replace his shop with coffee shops, restaurants, and apartment buildings.

 
Photo by Mark Meranta

Many states prohibit, either by statute or through judicial rulings, a city from changes the zoning of a piece of property and forcing the owner to move or go out of business. Texas does permit this oppressive and harsh practice to occur, however. The City Council used a procedure called amortization, which forces a business owner to come into conformance with the new zoning rules within a certain amount of time or close down. Since 2005, Hinga has had to fight to keep his American dream alive.

 
Photo by Mark Meranta

Even if Hinga wanted to sell the property — which he doesn’t — potential purchasers know that the city has him over a barrel, and are making low ball offers.

Photo by Justin Wilson
After receiving extensions, in 2015 Hinga ran out of time His final chance was to appeal the Dallas City Council for a Special Use Permit.

Photo by Christopher Hallowell

On April 13, 2016, Hinga, surrounded by his supporters and IJ staff, met in front Dallas’ City Hall for a press conference before the vote.

Photo by Christopher Hallowell
 
Photo by Christopher Hallowell
 
IJ Senior Attorney Bill Maurer and IJ Attorney Ari Bargil walking in with HInga. Photo: Christopher Hallowell

After finishing, they took the 80,000+ petitions into city hall and listened to testimony from supporters and dissenters.

 
Hinga addressing the council. Photo: Christopher Hallowell

It was a packed house.

 
Photo by Christopher Hallowell
 
Photo by Christopher Hallowell
 
Photo by Christopher Hallowell
 
Photo by Mark Meranta

As hard as Hinga fought, the City Council voted to deny his permit. Dallas City Councilman Rickey Callahan, a real estate developer, explained his vote, saying that Dallas needed to use this power and interfere with the rights of people like Hinga Mbogo in order to attract businesses like Starbucks and the Macaroni Grill.

Hinga wants to thank everyone who signed the petition, the Institute for Justice, Change.org and all of his local supporters.

Roberts and Sotomayor: Odd Couple Dissents in Iran Bank Case

Tony Mauro, The National Law Journal

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. made it crystal clear in January that he wanted to strike down a law that in his view dictated the outcome of a lawsuit brought against Iran by American victims of terrorism.

“When there is a case, Article III says that’s our job,” Roberts said during oral arguments in Bank Markazi v. Peterson. “[Congress’] job is to pass laws; our job is to decide a case.”

Roberts’ “don’t mess with the courts” argument would normally appeal to his colleagues on a court that zealously shields judicial power from intrusion by other branches.

Why, then, did Roberts end up in dissent when the 6-2 ruling in the Markazi case upheld the law in a decision handed down Wednesday? And why was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an infrequent ally of the chief justice, the only member of the court to join his dissent?

Since Sotomayor joined the court in 2009, she and Roberts have never been the only two dissenters in a case, until Wednesday. They have dissented together with other justices in only three cases.

Speculation about the unusual pairing swirled as parties reacted to the decision, which will free up close to $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets—held in a New York bank for Iran’s central bank, Bank Markazi—to compensate more than 1,000 victims and family members harmed in terrorism incidents traceable to Iran, including the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marines barracks in Lebanon.

“We will promptly ask the district court supervising the funds to carry out the Supreme Court’s decision and authorize distribution of the funds to the victims, some of whom have waited almost 33 years for justice,” said Matthew McGill of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, part of the legal team representing the victims. Partner Theodore Olson argued the case.

Jeffrey Lamken of MoloLamken, who represented the bank before the high court, could not be reached for comment.

Roberts’ inability to muster a majority or even a third dissent surprised some involved in the case.

“If you look at the alignment, it is not consistent with the usual liberal-conservative divide,” said University of Notre Dame Law School professor Jimmy Gurulé, a national security expert and former U.S. Justice Department official. “The reason may be that we are talking about international terrorism here. Iran is not a sympathetic party, and Bank Markazi is not a sympathetic party.” Gurulé filed a brief in the case supporting the law on behalf of national security law professors.

During oral argument on Jan. 13, Roberts minced no words in expressing his disdain for the law. He told Olson that in some countries a dictator “picks up the phone and he tells the court, ‘You decide this case this way.’ … I’m not sure I see what the difference is here.”

Sotomayor was relatively quiet during the argument, but may have tipped her hand when she addressed Deputy Solicitor General Ed Kneedler, who also defended the law. She asked, “Why is this different than the chief justice’s example?”

Notre Dame’s Gurulé said the court’s decision will “add momentum” to pending legislation that will, if passed, facilitate lawsuits against officials of Saudi Arabia by families of victims of the 9/11 attacks.

“To the extent that Saudi Arabia bears responsibility,” Gurulé said, “they should not be immunized.” President Barack Obama, whose aides have said is likely to veto the legislation, is on a trip to Saudi Arabia.