Browsed by
Category: Personal Posts

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.

Why Should I Do Pro Bono Work

Why Should I Do Pro Bono Work

Pro bono work is volunteer legal work that attorneys perform for free. In an industry where time is money, lawyers often ask – why should I bother?

1. You have a responsibility.
Generally, there is a sense that attorneys have a responsibility to use their special skills to give back to the community through pro bono work. All bar associations in the United States strongly encourage lawyers to perform pro bono work. Some states even require it, particularly for law students seeking admission to the bar.

2. Your help is needed.
There are many people and organizations that would not have access to legal advice and advocacy if weren’t for pro bono work. Many people simply cannot afford legal services. Others are incapable of advocating for themselves – such as children, severely disabled individuals, the elderly, or victims of abuse. If you don’t help them, you must wonder who will.

3. You will feel good about it.
Performing pro bono work will give make you feel great. You will feel proud to know that you were able to use your skills and experience to assist someone who really needed it. You will walk away with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

4. You can pursue your passion.
You can choose to perform pro bono work that will benefit a cause that aligns with your passions. If you are passionate about animals, you can take a pro bono to benefit abused animal or perform legal services for an organization that benefits animals. If you are passionate about criminal rights, you can take a pro bono case to prove a wrongful conviction or perform legal services for an organization that fights police brutality.

5. You can get more experience.
By performing pro bono work, you can gain more experience in an area that you otherwise would not have the opportunity to work in. For example, if you are a corporate transaction attorney, chances are that you will not gain experience in civil rights unless you perform some pro bono work. Thus, pro bono work can broader your career horizons and skill set in ways that your traditional practice cannot.

Breastfeeding in Public: Should it Be Allowed

Breastfeeding in Public: Should it Be Allowed

This has become a huge debate within the past year. I remember when I was a kid, I would see women breastfeed in public all the time. I have always had a high level of morality, but I never saw this as a bad thing. I don’t understand why it has become such a controversy lately. Regardless, I do feel like breast feeding should be allowed in public.

I have noticed a lot of men complain about this topic. As a woman, I will never understand how men can have such strong feelings about things their bodies will never go through. It is very hard to understand something that you have never experienced. I do not have any children yet, but when I do, I plan on breastfeeding. I am not completely educated on how it works, but I do know that it is something that is not as simple as putting a formula in a bottle. I am not saying that to belittle or put down women who use formula for their babies. The fact that you carried a life and are taking excellent care of that life is all I care about.

I said that to say, women who breast feed are trying to do something that they feel will benefit their kid in the long run. It is not an easy task. They try to pump and do what they can, but sometimes, they just have to do what is convenient for them. I wish people would consider that when they are judging them. If some moms are able to breastfeed in the comfort of their home 24/7, then that is good for them – but that is not the case for every mom. You do not know what every parent’s situation is.

A lot of people also complain about women who do not cover up their breasts as they breastfeed. Because I worry about the impact of children seeing that, I can understand that argument. That being said, breastfeeding is not meant to be a sexual act. It is a mother trying to feed her child. Maybe she did not have a cover-up at the moment, or maybe she just doesn’t care because all she is focused on is feeding her child. Regardless, she should not be kicked out for that. As another article that I read said, the baby pretty much covers everything. Furthermore, if it bothers a store that much, the employees should leave a visible sign that expresses that women who breastfeed must cover-up. Completely banning them from breastfeeding however, should not be allowed.

What are your thoughts on breastfeeding in public? Leave a comment down below!

MLB Closer Charged with Domestic Violence

MLB Closer Charged with Domestic Violence

Earlier this fall, Met’s closer Jeurys Familia found himself embroiled in scandal when he was charged with domestic violence. This was exasperated by the fact that he had been recently featured in an anti-domestic abuse campaign advertisement. In the video, Familia says that he is not a fan of domestic violence and is featured alongside other athletes that are both male and female. Since the scandal broke, the advertisement has been pulled from the campaign.

The Mets responded by saying that they were investigating the incident. Major League Baseball has recently implemented strict domestic violence suspension policies that require fines and a loss in salary. In May, the Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was suspended fifty-two games, forced to give $100,000 to charity and repay $7 million of his salary that he had already received this season. This was despite the fact that Reyes had only been indicted for domestic violence and not actually convicted.

Not many details have yet been released about Familia’s case, but it seems to be less severe than the charges against Reyes. Reyes allegedly caused injuries to his wife’s neck, thigh and wrist by slamming her against a glass door. The complaint in Familia’s case does not identify the victim, but it is presumably either his wife or his infant child. It also says the visible injuries observed by the police were a scratch on the victim’s chest and a bruise on the victim’s cheek. While Familia has a wife and young child, it does not identify how either would have received the injuries.

It is expected that more details will be released in the months following his arrest, both from the MLB as well as the court proceedings. Since the MLB does not need to wait until conviction, it is possible that Familia will face a penalty from the MLB on the basis of charges alone. This is controversial because supporters may argue that Familia is innocent until proven guilty. While this is true in a court of law, Major League Baseball is no such thing. In order to play, athletes will be required to agree to the policies of the Major League so that they cannot seek legal recourse.

While much media attention is usually given to domestic violence in the NFL, some studies suggest that it is more rampant among baseball players in the Major League. Instead of comparing sports, it is important to consider the qualities that make athletes more susceptible to domestic violence charges in order to prevent them.