The Legal System Versus Cal Harris

The Legal System Versus Cal Harris

As citizens of the United States, we rely on the legal system to protect us from those who inflict harm. It’s this reliance that keeps us feeling safe, and puts us at ease when we walk outside. We never expect a murderer to live next door, or if we do, we believe the police will find out and put them behind bars. However, what happens when the legal system fails? When there is a lack of evidence against a suspected killer, even when the public has faith that that person is a murderer? The answer isn’t always easy to conclude, and in the legal system, faith is no substitute for hard facts.

Cal Harris had been spending his life with his wife and four children in Tioga County, Pennsylvania when tragedy struck. Having had a number of car dealerships in his possession, a net worth in the millions, and a well-provided family, Harris seemingly had a stable life. However, around the turn of the new millennium, there had been a split in Harris’s household, and he and his wife had been planning to divorce. Those close to the Harris family had reportedly said the split was proceeding without any qualms, and was set to end on Cal Harris’s terms. But on September 11, 2001, the unexpected happened. Harris’s soon to be ex-wife disappeared from the family home without a trace.

Though it was Harris who first reported her missing, detectives pinned him as the primary suspect. The detectives wanted to know, did Cal Harris murder his wife? An investigation led authorities to searching his home in Tioga County. News sources at the time indicated the detectives found small splatters of blood in Harris’s home. Despite their efforts, the investigators were never able to turn up Michele Harris’s body or a murder weapon. Nevertheless, the investigation continued, and in 2005 authorities placed Harris under arrest on the charge of second-degree murder in the disappearance of Michele Harris. The evidence which led to the conviction were the blood splatters, and one witness’s testimony that Harris had threatened his wife prior to her disappearance.

Two years after the murder charge, a judge and jury passed down a guilty verdict on Harris, and he went to jail. Harris maintained his innocence, and began fighting the charge against him. Because there was no hard evidence — no murder weapon, no body — Harris and his lawyers felt they still had an advantage of getting him off the hook.

photo of legal tools

Less than six months after his conviction, Harris went back to court. This time a new witness came forward and claimed he had saw Michele Harris carrying out a quarrel with an unknown man outside of the family’s home prior to her disappearance. The testimony swayed the judge, who overturned Harris’s conviction. However, during a trial two years later, a judge and jury again convicted Harris on the murder charge, and he went back to jail.

That conviction was again overturned when the lawyer’s representing Harris found one of the jurors had a bias against Harris. During his release, Harris hired a group of lawyers to hopefully track down his missing wife, or at least find out what had happened to her. That attempt, however, turned up nothing. It wasn’t until 2016 that a judge and jury at last acquitted Harris of the charge against him.

After 15 years, Harris was finally free from the legal system’s attempt to convict him of murder. To this day, people still ask what had happened to Michele Harris? She remains missing, with no trace of her whereabouts. There is a split amongst those who know about the case; some believe Cal Harris murdered his wife, and some believe there is not enough evidence to say whether or not he is guilty.

Congress and The President

Congress and The President

Two Times Congress and the President Tried to Trade Jobs Until the Supreme Court Stopped Them

Everyone knows that our federal government is divided into three branches with distinct functions. Congress is the legislative branch. It makes laws. The president is head of the executive branch. He enforces the laws. And the Supreme Court is at the top of the judicial branch, which interprets the laws and applies them to particular cases. But sometimes, one branch tries to take over some functions that rightfully belong to another. Here are two times Congress and the president tried to trade jobs until the Supreme Court stopped them.

1. The Legislative Veto

What it was: When the House of Representatives and Senate pass a bill, the president can either sign it, in which case it becomes law, or veto it. If the president vetoes a bill, Congress can try to override the veto by passing it again with a 2/3 majority in both houses. The legislative veto was like a reverse version of this. It allowed Congress—or one house of Congress, or even just a committee of one house of Congress—to “veto” some executive action. Starting in the early 20th century, Congress built a legislative veto into numerous statutes. One of those was section 244(c)(2) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. Under that statute, a majority vote in the House of Representatives or Senate could overturn the decision of the Attorney General to allow a deportable immigrant to remain in the United States.

How the Supreme Court stopped it: In 1983, the Supreme Court decided the case of INS v. Chadha. In that case, Chadha overstayed his student visa. When notified that he was going to be deported, he applied for a suspension of deportation. An immigration judge granted the suspension. But, exercising its power under section 244(c)(2), the House of Representatives voted to deport Chadha. Chadha appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that section 244(c)(2) was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court agreed. It found that the only way for Congress to invalidate the immigration judge’s determination was to change the law that authorized the judge to grant a suspension request. Given that, the attempt by the House of Representatives to overrule the immigration judge was itself an act of legislation that had to be passed by both houses of Congress and presented to the president. Since section 244(c)(2) purported to authorize the House of Representatives to change the law on its own, it was unconstitutional.

2. The Line-Item Veto

What it was: In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Line Item Veto Act into law. Under this law, the president had the power to unilaterally amend bills presented to him by canceling certain kinds of tax or spending provisions. In 1997, President Clinton used his line item veto to cancel a provision enacted by Congress that would have waived up to $2.6 billion in payments from the state of New York to the federal government. New York City, which would have had to reimburse the state in the event the state was required to pay the $2.6 billion, sued.

How the Supreme Court stopped it: The Supreme Court decided New York City’s lawsuit in 1998 in Clinton v. City of New York. There, the Court recognized that what the president was doing when he canceled a part of a statute was amending the law. Amending the law requires passage by both houses of Congress and the president’s signature. Because the Line Item Veto Act allowed the president to unilaterally repeal part of a statute without Congress’ involvement, the Court held that it was unconstitutional.

These cases illustrate the importance of the separation of powers in our government. They also highlight how important the independence of the judicial branch is. In both cases, two of the branches of the federal government had agreed to an arrangement that violated the bicameralism and presentment requirements of the U.S. Constitution. Only when the third branch, the judiciary, stepped in was that error corrected. If it weren’t for the checks and balances built into our government of separated powers, Congress and the president could have continued changing the laws in invalid ways.

Person of Interest

Person of Interest

For someone hearing this term for the first time, you would think it is an honor for people especially a court proceeding to have an interest in you. Well, a person of interest has a completely different meaning! A person of interest refers to someone who law enforcers may be too keen on when carrying out their investigations.

Origin of the term
The phrase “person of interest” was coined by the police to describe Richard A. Jewell who was suspected to have had involvement in the Atlanta Olympics bombing.

How does a person become interesting?
1. If s/he has information that aids in the investigation.
2. If s/he is suspected to be involved in the crime and further investigation is called for.
3. Where an individual is working with the law enforcers to collect evidence of a crime committed.

What is the difference between a person of interest and a suspect?
A person of interest is not defined although it is interchangeably used with the suspect. However, the term suspect is too precise. A person of interest can be innocent and just cooperate with the investigations. A suspect is already awaiting trial, and there is evidence incriminating them, but for a person of interest, it is mainly an intuition by either the police or the prosecutor. The term has not been formally defined in any legal manuscript and is mostly used by police and prosecutors.

Targeted surveillance
It refers to the type of surveillance observed on a particular person of interest. This can include tapping an individual’s phone and laptop to monitor activities.

This kind of surveillance can be extrusive or intrusive depending on the trustworthiness of the person in question. Intrusive surveillance involves close and detailed tracking of a person’s activities such as placing bugs in their car.
Extrusive surveillance is whereby a person is observed from a distance, for example through cameras.

Any consequences?
A person is innocent until proven guilty. It does not matter if all the evidence points to them, they remain innocent unless they acknowledge being guilty of the offenses they are charged with. The media have often described a person of interest as guilty until proven innocent.

The media puts up a trial on the person with the public as the jury. Even if someone is proven innocent, the public already as its verdict. A person’s reputation is destroyed.

It is therefore advisable to seek legal assistance when one is identified as a person of interest before things get too serious…

The Appeals Process: Everything that You Should Know

The Appeals Process: Everything that You Should Know

At times, decisions made by federal or state trial courts may be reviewed by appeal courts especially when the parties involved are dissatisfied with the decisions. The role of an appeal court is to review everything that happened during the proceedings of the lower court in order to establish whether there were any errors. More often than less, decisions made by an appeals court are legally binding.

Trials Vis a Vis Appeals

Trial and appeals processes have a few similarities. Nonetheless, they differ totally. In trial cases, parties involved present their cases, call witnesses to present their testimonies, and also present evidence including surveys, blueprints, and photographs. The jury uses such evidence and testimonies to establish whether the case holds water or not. During a trial case, the judge controls all courtroom activities besides making all legal decisions that pertain to the case.

Appeal cases typically entail reviewing the application of the law by trial courts. No jury is involved. In addition, lawyers do not present any form of evidence or witnesses. The court only accepts facts that were brought to light during the trial. However, this is not the case if a fact is against the validity of the evidence presented before the appellate judge.

Trials and appeals also differ when it comes to the judges involved. Only one judge presides over trial cases whereas an appeal case is heard and determined by several judges. The number of judges who will hear and determine an appeal case varies according to state. Appeals are sometimes determined by panels, which typically comprise three judges. Supreme courts at federal and state level have between five and nine judges who are sometimes known as justices.

What are Appellate Briefs?

Written appellate briefs are the main method of persuasion used during appeal cases. These briefs are usually filed by each party’s legal counsel. The losing party uses appellate briefs to convince the appellate judges that the trial court applied the law incorrectly. On the other hand, the winning party’s brief convinces the court that the trial court’s application of the law was correct and fair.

Both parties are required to support their stands while referring to applicable case statutes and laws. This clearly shows that appeals take a more scholarly approach than trials. If an error in the application of the law at the trial stage is established, the initial ruling will be reversed. If no error in the application of the law is established, the trial court ruling will be upheld.

The United States and International Law

The United States and International Law

The United States is the preeminent power on the international stage, possessing the world’s most powerful military and it’s most vibrant and diverse economy. Time and time again, American judicial precedent has been used by other nations and international organizations in the formulation of their own laws, and the U.S. has often played a heavy role in the crafting of international law.
Nonetheless, the U.S. is seldom – if ever – a signatory of agreements that bind it to so called “international laws”. How has this come to be, and what are the consequences of this for the American people?

Following the second world war, the U.S. was the dominant voice in international affairs, and took every advantage it could that came with such a position in formulating the post-war international order. As the United Nations came to be formed, and international treaties and laws began to proliferate, the U.S. more often than not took a leading role.

History nonetheless shows time and time again that the U.S. will not permit its interest to be sacrificed for the sake of international norms and laws. The most recent examples of this phenomenon are glaring; the U.S. recently pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, a non-binding treaty intending to reduce global carbon emissions. Before that, the U.S. famously invaded Iraq in 2003, though it lacked permission from the United Nations Security Council to do so.

image of US and international laws

The explanation for this phenomenon is entirely political; as the world’s dominant superpower, the U.S. cannot and will not allow itself to be cowed by international rules that don’t serve its interest. As a nation that is domestically governed by a strict set of institutions which relies heavily on law, this is a curious, if not altogether understandable position.

While the U.S. often refuses to sign treaties or enter partnerships which may later tie its hands, it is nonetheless a global force for good in terms of enforcing law and order. For instance, while the U.S. is not a member of the International Criminal Court, if often complies, at least partially with its judgments and recommendations. American treaties and court decisions more often than not seek to align themselves with morally defend-able positions, and act as important role models the world over.
What are your thoughts on international law, and American adherence to it? Should the United States become a member of the International Criminal Court? Does it already do enough – or even too much – in the name of international law? Leave a comment down below!

Children’s Personal Injury Lawsuits

Children’s Personal Injury Lawsuits

Seeing your child get injured can be one of the most traumatic experiences for a parent. It’s natural in such cases to want to get justice for an injury caused by someone else’s behavior. But when you do so, remember that personal injury lawsuits for children are different from the same kinds of lawsuits for adults. Below are three ways that the law treats children differently when it comes to personal injury cases.

1. The Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations set time limits on when a person can file a lawsuit. But children normally can’t file a lawsuit at all, because they’re considered to be under a legal disability. Because of this, the law generally extends any applicable statutes of limitations until the children reach adulthood. For example, if a six-year-old is hit by a car in state with a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury, the statute of limitations would normally expire by the time the child turns eight. But because children can’t sue, the statute of limitations for that six-year-old actually won’t expire until he or she is 20—two years after becoming an adult.

2. Settlements

For the same reason that children can’t sue on their own, they also can’t make contracts on their own. In fact, if a child were a party to a contract, the child could simply cancel the contract at any time. A child’s inability to contract extends to settlement agreements. So, the law provides a special requirement for settling children’s legal claims. Once the claim is settled, the adults involved must ask a court to approve the settlement agreement. They will also have to provide evidence that the settlement is in the best interests of the child at a hearing. That hearing is sometimes known as a “friendly hearing,” because both sides agree on what the outcome should be. Once the court approves the settlement, it is legally binding on the child.

3. Money

Whatever compensation the child receives, whether at the end of a trial or through settlement, must be handled in a particular way. Once more, the child’s minority means that he or she will be treated differently than an adult would be. Whereas an adult can take the money received from a lawsuit and do whatever he or she wants, compensation to a child must be placed into a special account. That account might be one maintained by the court until the child turns 18, or it might be a special education account that will help pay for the child’s college. Different states have different rules for this, but the bottom line is that the court will ensure the child’s funds are protected.

These three ways in which the law treats children differently from adults in personal injury lawsuits are all designed to help protect children when they need it most. Of course, if your child is ever injured by someone else, you should consult a local, knowledgeable attorney to learn how these differences apply in your case.

What Are Bail Bonds Agents

What Are Bail Bonds Agents

handcuffed and in need of a bondsman

A bail bonds agent or bail bondsman is a person or company who pledges their money as bail for a defendant under the condition that the defendant will show up to court. A percentage of the bail is paid to the agent. In most cases, some kind of collateral is put in place. For instance, if the defendant does not show up to court, the bail bonds agent may seize their property as compensation. These people are super handy if you end up in jail and need help.

Although it’s a tough job, being a bail bondsman has several advantages. First, it pays well. Bond dealers can earn up to $50,000 to $80,000 per year. This is quite a tidy sum for their troubles. If you are self-employed, you get to set your own commission so you can earn even more than this.

Second, You can own your own business. Once you are licensed, you can be hired by a company or start your own business. Starting your own business is best once you have acquired some experience. Having your own business allows you to have flexible working hours and gain more profit.

Third, It is never boring. It simply never gets boring in this line of work. With constant interactions with court officials and sometimes having to track down clients who have run off, it is always interesting.

Well, if this seems appealing at all to you, continue to read to learn how you can become a bail bonds agent. The process of becoming a bail bondsman varies slightly from state to state, but the general process is as outlined below.

The first thing you need to do to become a licensed bail bondsman is to ensure your eligibility. There is a set of conditions that you must fulfill if you want to join this line of work. You must be 18 years and above, have a high school diploma or GED, have sufficient financial resources to meet all surety obligations and have the sponsorship of a surety company. Additionally, you must be willing to attend and complete a pre- licensing course and pass the state licensing exam. In most states, this exam contains 50 to 60 multiple-choice questions to be completed in an hour’s time. The exam usually costs around $40 to $100 and is administered by a variety of independent test providers.

woman in jail waiting for bond

Second, you will want to apply for a state license. In order to receive a state license, you will be required to submit an application that is only found in the state’s department of insurance website. Submit your state licensing exam score and provide a licensing fee in the form of a check, money order or credit card. You will also be required to provide documentation of surety company sponsorship and submit a bond for a state mandated amount. Your license will take 1 to 3 years to be in force.

Third, you can join or start a bail company. Most newcomers join an established company first to gain experience before starting their own. This way, they can learn the tricks of the trade before going out on their own. If you are looking from great information on how to get started from a reputable bail bonds company, click here. Whichever you choose is ultimately up to you. Good luck and let me know if you want some more information on this subject.

Forms of Discovery Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Forms of Discovery Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

In civil lawsuits, long before a jury hears a single word about a case—indeed, long before any of the eventual jurors to hear a case knows they’ll need to report for jury duty—the lawyers and parties in the case are exchanging information. They do this through a formal process known as discovery. One party will request information from the other, the other will answer, and vice versa. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), there are four common forms of discovery requests and responses that are used in virtually every case: oral depositions, requests for admission, interrogatories, and requests for production. This post discusses each in turn.

Oral Depositions

Depositions are governed by FRCP 30-32. An oral deposition is like pretrial testimony. A party to the case or a witness that may be called at trial is placed under oath and questioned by the parties’ lawyers. The depositions will at least be transcribed by a court reporter, and may also be recorded on audio or filmed. During the deposition, a lawyer may object to any question, but since the judge isn’t present to give a ruling, the person giving the deposition will normally answer the question despite the objection. An attorney is not allowed to instruct his client not to answer a question except for limited purposes, such as preserving a privilege.

Requests for Admission

Requests for admission are authorized by FRCP 36. A request for admission is a request by one party that another party either admit or deny that something is true. If the party admits that the requested information is true, then the court will treat that as conclusively evidence that it is true. Importantly, if a party fails to respond to a request for admissions within 30 days, then the court will treat it as if the party admitted everything that was requested.

civil procedure tag cloud


Like the name suggests, interrogatories are written questions from one party to another. They are governed by FRCP 33. In general, a party can only serve 25 interrogatories on another party. When the other party receives the interrogatories, the party has 30 days to answer. The answers must be made under oath, and every interrogatory must either be answered or objected to.

Requests for Production

FRCP 34 provides the rules for requests for production. A request for production is a written request by one party that another party produce any evidence or potential evidence requested. Requests for production tend to be very broad, because the party making the request wants to be sure that it is aware of everything that the opposing party has in its possession.

The purpose of the civil discovery system under the FRCP is to give all parties to a dispute access to all information of which the other party is aware. In modern practice, the surprise witness or unexpected evidence is rare, precisely because the FRCP allows such broad pretrial discovery. The four forms of discovery discussed in this post are part of that process, and enable each party to a case to develop the best possible case to later present to a jury at trial.

Do Social Media Users Abuse the First Amendment?

Do Social Media Users Abuse the First Amendment?

Death threats, bullying, and constant harassment can be seen in the comments of posts, pictures, and statuses of social media users all around the world. Their excuse for these cruel comments? It is their first amendment right of course! Internet users feel that they are allowed to express themselves and say what is on their minds due to the protection of the first amendment.

I agree with that last sentence to an extent. I feel that there are some amazing discussions that go on in YouTube comment sections, online articles, and even Instagram posts about important issues going on in our world. If we did not have the power to freely express ourselves, a lot of the powerful thoughts and points of views that I have read would have never been made available to myself and to other users.

That being said, I feel that things are getting out of control. These internet “trolls” are not just expressing themselves anymore, they are literally spreading hate and violence. I promise you that I see at least one death threat every time I am genuinely reading through comment sections of different social media platforms. I see sexual harassment comments, obscene comments, violence promotion, excessive bullying, and just angry people who want the rest of the world to feel their pain.

picture of the first amendment in the bill of rights

I do not understand how this is okay, first amendment or not. There are restrictions to the first amendment. Why are those restrictions not being enforced? I understand that there are millions of people using these sites, and it is probably not possible to catch every single person. But, however, I do believe that something can be done. You are telling me that we are spending money on and possibly have the ability to start cloning animals, and we cannot find a way to monitor and prosecute these sick people on the internet?

I know that a lot of the comments are in fun or are meant to be really dark humor. However, I have seen too many disturbing comments that are detrimental to internet users who just want to post a picture without being ridiculed or threatened. I have said it once, and I will say it again. Social media users are abusing the internet, and the first amendment needs to be amended to include social media. Words are powerful, and so is social media. The first amendment needs to be just as powerful to gain some control in this country and start making citizens treat one another with respect.

What do you think? Am I out of line here? Do you agree with me? Please share, comment and let me know your thoughts. I will continue to post some awesome articles that are both informative and opinionated. Thanks for stopping by!

What Makes a Contract Binding

What Makes a Contract Binding

What Makes a Contract Binding?

A contract is binding if there is an agreement between parties and consideration for the agreement. I will talk more about these two elements below. Though a proper agreement and consideration exists, there may still be routes for one party to get out of a contract that they previously signed.


An agreement is more than it may seem. In order to be legally binding, an agreement to contract must show mutual assent on behalf of both parties. Usually, this is satisfied through an offer to contract and an acceptance of that offer. An acceptance of an offer is accepting every term of the offer. If someone bargains with the other party to change terms after an offer has been extended, then there is no legally binding contract. Additionally, if someone rejects the offer, then no contract is created.


In addition to an agreement, there must be consideration in order to form a legally binding contract. Consideration is a bargained exchange between the two parties. This can take the form of a performance or return promise, forbearance or creation, modification or destruction of a legal right.

picture of a contract being ripped up

For example, a performance or return promise is agreeing to pay a certain amount for services. Forbearance would be agreeing to abstain from acting on a legal right in consideration of the contract. An example of forbearance is agreeing to abstain from drinking alcohol in order to inherit money. The creation, modification or destruction of a legal right can take the form of forbidding someone from voting in return of money.

Defenses to Contract Formation

Even if there is an adequate agreement and consideration, there are still potential options for someone attempting to get out of an otherwise valid contract. Some examples of defenses to contract formation are:

  • Lack of Capacity for Parties to Contract
  • Contract Created Under Duress
  • A Misrepresentation of an Essential Element of a Contract
  • A Mistake on Behalf of a Party Contracting
  • A Mistake in the Contract
  • Public Policy Arguments Against the Content of the Contract

While not all of these defenses are available to everyone wishing to get out of a contract, many times contracts are actually unenforceable. This happens because parties contract without actual knowledge of contract law. They believe that a handshake or personally written contract will hold up in court, but unfortunately, they frequently do not. While no one should ever enter a contract lightly, it is important for parties to know and understand their rights once they already have. Here is a great article from that talks about all of this!