After Nearly 17 Years in Prison, a Man Waits for Exoneration

On a rain-drenched night in the summer of 1997, Sherwin Gibbons was shot dead, murdered as he sipped a beer in the vestibule of a building in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. It was, law enforcement officials said at the time, a case of mistaken retribution: Someone had stolen a gold chain at a dice game; someone had to pay, and someone did — even if Mr. Gibbons was not the intended target. A suspect, Roger Logan, was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the murder. Almost 17 years later, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office took on the task of discovering what really happened in the vestibule, at 373 Chauncey Street, on that July 24…Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a Harvard Law professor who directs the criminal justice institute there, is a consultant to the district attorney on the design and operations of the unit; a panel of three independent lawyers reviews the unit’s recommendations before Mr. Thompson makes the final decisions.

‘Uncertain Justice’ And The Roberts Court (audio)

We are a nation of law. Change the law, change the country. The ultimate arbiter is the Supreme Court. Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the country is changing. On campaign finance. Money politics. Corporate power. Unions. Guns. Health care. Gay marriage. Race. In 5-4 decision after decision, the Roberts court is changing the country. Critics call it a politicized high court, not above polarization but part of it. My guest today, constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, says it’s more subtle than that. More interesting. This hour On Point: the Roberts court, and where it is taking the country.

Britain becomes haven for US companies keen to cut tax bills

Nothing about the narrow cream-coloured lobby at 160 Aldersgate Street in the City of London financial district gives a hint of its role at the centre of the offshore oil industry. That’s because the building is occupied by a law firm. Yet, on paper at least, it is also home to Rowan Companies, one of the largest operators of drilling rigs in the world…”The UK has made a very clear policy decision to engage in tax competition for multinationals. It’s fair to say it’s rivalling Ireland,” said Stephen Shay Professor of Law at Harvard University who has testified to Congressional investigations into corporate tax reform.

Confidential info threatened, but technology can help

An op-ed by Jonathan Zittrain. More than a decade ago, researchers at Boston College interviewed people from both sides of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, promising each contributor to the Belfast Project that his or her interview recording wouldn’t be released until the contributor died. In the meantime, the tapes would be deposited at the college’s rare books library under lock and key. On the basis of those promises, some people spoke for the first time about painful actions that remain murky in the public eye, including unsolved murders that they’d helped commit or cover up. When the British government learned of the Belfast Project about 10 years later, it invoked a mutual legal assistance treaty to demand immediate access to some of the tapes…Are we stuck with either having to destroy our secrets or leave them exposed to near-instant disclosure? It might be possible to split the difference: to develop an ecosystem of contingent cryptography for libraries, companies, governments, and citizens.

Justice Alito’s vote will be key in 3 cases challenging Obama’s power

A week after President Obama’s 2012 reelection, the conservative Federalist Society gathered 1,500 lawyers in black tie to hear one of their own, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., vow to hold the line against an ever-expanding federal government that “towers over people.”…Harvard Law professor Charles Fried, who served as U.S. solicitor general under President Reagan, gives Alito mixed grades, saying he has been careful and thoughtful, but also too driven by ideology…”The quality of his work is excellent. He is not a wiseguy. He’s doesn’t demean those who disagree with him. And you don’t get pompous sloganeering from him,” Fried said. “But I’m sorry that on the agenda items, he’s been quite predictable. There’s a real sense of an agenda with this court, and he’s been part of that.”

The Official Right to Procrastinate

An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. There are all sorts of things people want the federal government to do — for example, reduce poverty, make highways safer, protect against workplace risks, safeguard privacy online, regulate their least favorite companies or, for that matter, engage in deregulation. Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, federal officials often answer: “Not now.” In turn, public-interest groups, individuals and businesses have asked federal courts to require public officials to act. And for decades, courts came back with unclear and confusing responses — until 2007, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had acted unlawfully in refusing to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. That decision led to last week’s proposals for new limits on emissions from existing power plants. And it raised the real possibility that courts would start to oversee federal agencies’ authority to set priorities — and constrain the president’s authority as well.

Was the POW swap for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl legal?

Republicans have reacted harshly to the Obama administration’s decision to swap five top former Taliban commanders for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was the sole American prisoner of war in Afghanistan. When it comes to the legality of the decision to do so, they have a point…The fact that the law doesn’t address “a time-sensitive prisoner-exchange negotiation of this sort,” Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith argues, doesn’t mean Obama was within the law when he approved the transfer. “I don’t think it accurate or useful to say that the statute doesn’t address the Bergdahl situation, since it imposes a requirement without exception,” Goldsmith writes.

Now Who Wants to Change the Constitution?

An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. We are in the midst of a shift in political thinking about constitutional amendments. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, is among many progressive thinkers now promoting constitutional change — in her case, to allow Congress to restrict corporate spending on political campaigns. Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in a new book, calls for no fewer than six constitutional amendments, involving not only campaign finance but also gun control, capital punishment, political gerrymandering, sovereign immunity and federalism. Yet, for decades, constitutional change was something championed more by conservatives than by liberals. What’s going on?

Supreme Court Smacks Down Patent Lawyers

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Scratch a patent-law expert and you’ll find a Supreme Court critic. Most patent lawyers I know disdain the Supreme Court, or at least think it should butt out of their disputes and let the Federal Circuit, made up of experienced patent-law judges, do its own thing. Today in a pair of unanimous decisions reversing the Federal Circuit, the Supreme Court made it clear the contempt is mutual. It not only slapped down the specialist court, but also implied strongly that the lower court has run amok, making patent law based on its own policy preferences and not what the patent laws actually say.