In UK violent rape will carry tougher penalties.

In England and Wales policymakers propose a fifteen year minimum jail time for conviction of violent rape crimes. The Guardian U.K.  reports that the Sentencing Council responsible for research, revision, and establishment of punitive sentencing has made its first recommendation. The occurrence of sex crimes has swelled in the last decade and the sentencing committee spent two years reviewing penalties concerning sexual offenses. The outcome of years of work appears to address the most heinous cases of rape-instances where severe violence is employed. The committee should be applauded for taking up the issue of sex crimes, which is an unusual but much needed course of action.

Lawmakers in the United States should should follow the lead of our common law allies. Crimes against the most vulnerable members of the population should be prosecuted aggressively and carry heavy penalties. If rape is not a federal crime, it should be. Louisiana should lead progress and enact criminal statutes that balance the victim’s rights, as opposed to having knee-jerk reactions that place fault on the victim. Admittedly, there is much more work to do ahead in the U.K., but at least putting the issue on the table that violent rape is absolutely intolerable is step in the right direction.

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When worlds collide.

An interesting legal ethics case out of New Jersey has caused a former municipal judge to resign. According to the ABA Online Journal Vincent Sicari, in addition to his municipal judgeship, was working as a stand up comedian on the side. The State Supreme court unanimously ruled that Mr. Sicari could not continue to preside over municipal court so long as he was also performing stand up comedy routines. Given the ultimatum, Mr. Sicari chose to resign from his position as a judge.

In its reasoning, the Supreme Court of New Jersey considers some of the content from Mr. Sicari’s comedy routine. It is the court’s opinion that in the course of his show Mr. Sicari demeaned certain persons, ethnic groups, or people based on their national origin, in addition to revealing some of his political leanings. Based on the reasonable possibility some of those same same persons or ethnic groups he demeans may appear before his court, Mr. Sicari was forced to choose between comedy or his judgeship.

Admittedly, the action of the New Jersey Supreme Court does not strike me as unconscionable. While I adamantly oppose restraints or suppression of freedom of speech, at the same time the impartiality of the tribunal is sacrosanct. As an attorney it is uncomfortable to see limits placed on speech, even if it is offensive.  However, judges are public officials and may be subject to a heightened degree of scrutiny or criticism. The issues are complex, but on the information given here I think the court played it safe and made the right decision. Mr. Sicari, on the other hand, is now free to say whatever he wants.

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Virginia jury awards over $3 million to injured hospital patient.

A jury in Newport News Virginia awarded $3.5 million to a woman who was injured while under the care of a hospital. The 87-year-old woman had a hip surgery but fell while still recovering in the care of Riverside Hospital. The case is an interesting juxtaposition between a negligence case and a medical malpractice case. Here, the plaintiff alleged her injuries were due to negligence on the part of the hospital staff and personnel, rather than the fault of a doctor in performance of medical care. The plaintiff was successful in persuading the jury the hospital could or should have been able to prevent the injury had it exercised reasonable care.

On the plaintiff side there is cause for guarded enthusiasm. The hurdle of trying the case successfully is over, but the post trial procedure now begins. Given the amount of the award it would be surprising if the defendant doesn’t request a new trial, reduction of the judgment, or a judgment not withstanding the verdict which could take weeks or months depending on the volume of cases on the court’s docket. In Louisiana, the time delay for filing an appeal begins after post trial relief has been adequately disposed of.