Prosecutors drop charges against mom who placed recorder in daughter’s backpack to catch bullies

Criminal Justice


Prosecutors in Norfolk, Virginia, have dropped charges against a mother who says she put a digital recorder in her daughter’s backpack to catch bullies after school officials failed to act.

School officials had confiscated the recorder from the fourth grader and contacted prosecutors for a legal review. The mother, Sarah Sims, was charged with use of a device to intercept communications and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, report WAVY-TV, CNN and the Associated Press.

Prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss the charges on Wednesday. The intercepted communications charge was a felony that carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

“I can breathe,” Sims told WAVY-TV after charges were dropped. “It’s been hell to be honest with you. It has been tumultuous and exhausting to say the least.”

According to CNN, Virginia is a “one-party consent state” that allows the recording of conversations when the person recording is involved in the conversation, or when one of the parties to the conversation has given prior consent.

Amanda Howie, a spokeswoman for the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, told CNN there was enough evidence to support the charges, but the office “is exercising prosecutorial discretion to not pursue the prosecution of this case.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia had recommended that action in a tweet, Forbes reports.

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Public defender in California resigns after suit challenged his qualifications

Public Defenders

The public defender in Humboldt County, California, has resigned after a lawsuit challenged his qualifications for office.

David Marcus resigned Nov. 22 after nine months on the job, report the Times Standard and the North Coast News Journal. The lawyer who filed the suit, Patrik Griego, will drop the case, the North Coast Journal News Blog reports.

Griego’s suit had contended Marcus didn’t meet the statutory requirement that public defenders must have been “a practicing attorney in all the courts of the state for at least the year preceding the date of his election or appointment.”

Marcus was the chief public defender in another California county from 2005 to 2011, but he lived in Florida and worked as the CEO of a dental company for five years before his appointment in Humboldt County.

The county claimed Marcus met the qualifications requirement because he maintained an active law license in California and was doing some contract legal work for a California law firm.

According to the North Coast Journal, there was “a mass exodus of experienced attorneys” from the public defender’s office in recent months.

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ABA voices opposition to elimination of school loan interest deduction in Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Legislation & Lobbying

student loan repayments


In response to a tax bill proposal to eliminate student loan interest deductions, the American Bar Association has asked that they be kept in place.

“Of particular interest to the American Bar Association is the powerful financial disincentive for law students to enter the important function of public service in our society. The deduction of interest on law school loans helps recent graduates to accept lower-paying, public-service jobs that they might not otherwise be able to afford,” reads a Nov. 28 letter (PDF) signed by Thomas M. Susman, director of the ABA’s governmental affairs office. The letter was sent to Kevin Brady and Richard E. Neal, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means; and Orrin G. Hatch and Ron Wyden, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance.

“The cost of higher education in the United States has steadily increased each year while the relative availability of financial assistance in the form of grants and scholarships has decreased,” the letter reads. “Consequently, many students cannot afford higher education without borrowing substantial amounts of money, often hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Republican U.S. Senate and House members say that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will reduce taxes for middle-income Americans by lowering tax rates and increasing the standard deduction, CBS News’ Money Watch reports. The bill proposes to eliminate an annual tax deduction of up to $2,500 for individuals with annual income of no more than $65,000, or couples with joint income of no more than $130,000, according to the article. Money Watch reports that approximately 13.4 million Americans claimed this deduction.

College presidents have been surprised by the proposal and fear that if the bill becomes law, losing student loan interest deductions would make higher education more unattainable for low- and middle-income families, Politico reports.

Jason Delisle, a resident fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, a Wash­ington, D.C.-based market-oriented think tank, told Politico that few Americans care about what the tax bill would mean for colleges and graduate students.

“Very few [Americans] are privileged enough to get a graduate degree from an elite institution. I think they’re like, ‘Complain all you want.’ It’s just not going to resonate with Main Street America.” According to his website bio, Delisle himself has a master of public policy degree from George Washington University.

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Judge orders inmates with history of masturbation or other sexual misconduct to wear cuffs in court

Criminal Justice

Detainees in Cook County, Illinois, who have a history of masturbation, indecent exposure or other sexual misconduct will have to wear handcuffs during courthouse visits, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly of Chicago issued preliminary injunctions on Tuesday, report the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

He issued the injunction to lawsuits by assistant public defenders and correctional officers who allege their exposure to masturbating inmates constitutes a hostile work environment. The injunction in the public defender litigation is here.

Kennelly also said the detainees with a reported masturbation history will have to wear special jumpsuits in jail and in court that are “designed to thwart indecent exposure and masturbation.” And he ordered the Cook County Sheriff’s office to assign a staff member to courthouse lockup areas when detainees are present.

The handcuffs and jumpsuits had been tried previously, according to the lawsuit by assistant public defenders. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart had required the handcuffing of detainees in courthouse lockups, but the practice was discontinued after Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli objected. Dart had also required the detainees to wear the special jumpsuits, but the practice was discontinued after detainees burned them using microwave ovens, the suit alleged.

Dart had previously assigned deputies to the courtroom lockups, but he ended that practice because of budget reasons. He started assigning civilian employees before the public defender lawsuit. Kennelly’s order requires assignment of a “deputized sworn staff member or exempt staff member” to the lockups when detainees are present.

Dart and Campanelli agreed to Kennelly’s injunction. The order remains in effect while the lawsuits are pending.

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Did you or your spouse work during labor and delivery of your child?

Question of the Week

lawyer in labor

“How many of you worked while you (or spouse) were at hospital during labor/delivery of your child?”

That question was posed by Keith Lee the other day on Twitter and brought to mind the birth of my first child. I went into labor while at the office and decided it would be better to wrap up pre-maternity leave loose ends doing final edits with an editor instead of hanging around at the hospital. For me, that was an easy call: The hospital was across the street from my office.

Others had bigger stakes in play than a story deadline to meet. We’ve reported about a woman going into labor during the bar exam, finishing up the test, then going on to have her baby… and pass the bar.

Responses to Keith included those from spouses who weren’t able to take much if any leave or were working at the hospital throughout labor and delivery.

Now we want to hear your stories. Did you or your spouse work during labor and delivery of your child? If you had a do-over, would you do something differently?

Answer in the comments.

Read the answers to our previous question (and see our gallery of pets at work): Does your workplace allow pets? Do you ever take your pet to work with you?

Featured answer:

Posted by Rachel W: “Yes and yes. We bring our dogs to work every day unless we have a deposition or something similar scheduled in our conference room. For practical reasons, having Cody, my dog, saves me time in that I don’t have to take a lunch break to walk him and I am able to stay at work when necessary without worrying about whether he needs to be let out, etc. Plus, the dogs just make our office a happier place. Many of our regular visitors look forward to seeing them and ask about them when they visit the office. Our pets are an important part of our office family!”

Do you have an idea for a question of the week? If so, contact us.

Pets at Work

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