Congratulations to Bill Sheppard and Sam Jacobson for their receipt of the Robert J. Beckham Equal Justice Award, given each year by Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA). This award is given in recognition of their efforts to "provide justice for the poor and marginalized", and specifically recognizes their "pro bono service, philanthropy and unwavering dedication to fairness and honesty."
Congratulations to Mr. Sheppard for being named Jacksonville's 2018 Lawyer of the Year in Criminal Defense: White Collar by Best Lawyers In America. This will be the fourth time Mr. Sheppard has been selected as Lawyer of the Year in his areas of practice, in recognition of his work in the areas of criminal defense, first amendment and employment law. In addition being named Lawyer of the Year, he was recognized this year in the areas of Appellate Practice, Criminal Defense, General Practice, Employment Law-Individuals and First Amendment Law. The firm has also been recognized as a Tier 1 law firm and individual members have been recognized in their areas of practice. While the firm appreciates such accolades, we are mindful that our greatest reward is assisting people in their time of legal need and vigorously defending their cases.
The trial and conviction of Jacob Dougan is well-known to criminal defense attorneys throughout Jacksonville. A decision rendered by the Florida Supreme Court last week marked a new chapter in his long and tragic story. The Court upheld the lower court's decision granting the death-row inmate a new trial, 31 years after his original conviction.
In March of this year Florida Legislators made a change in the death penalty laws, requiring only a 10-2 vote by jurors to impose the death penalty. In an article published by the Daily Record, Bill Sheppard is quoted as being "dumbfounded" by the change. Sheppard has defended many clients in death penalty cases over the course of his career as a prominent criminal defense attorney, including Gary Alvord.
Florida law contains dozens of crimes that punish defendants from pursuing or soliciting sex with minors. Many of these crimes share similar elements. This means that prosecutors can often charge defendants with multiple crimes for the same incident, dramatically increasing their potential sentence. The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits criminal defendants from facing multiple charges for the same crime.
The legal doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials who apply force reasonably or apply force in situations where the law is unclear. The purpose of qualified immunity is to prevent government officials from being discouraged carrying out their duties or protecting themselves from violent individuals. In practice, however, qualified immunity often causes judges to throw meritorious lawsuits out of court.
Many people accept violence between prisoners as an every-day facet of life for incarcerated individuals. Some even argue that such violence should be tolerated as part of the punishment for committing a crime. While these issues often remain unaddressed by policy-makers and prison officials, the Eighth Amendment provides recourse for certain individuals who have been the victim of violence at the hands of another inmate. An Eighth Amendment claim for failing to protect an inmate from violence is difficult to bring. However, a recent decision, Lane v. Philbin shows that these causes of action remain viable in the Eleventh Circuit. The Lane case reversed a lower court which had granted a prisoner's motion to dismiss.
In an opinion written by Justice Canady rendered last week, the Florida Supreme Court held that making a file accessible to others in a file-sharing program constitutes "transmission" under Florida's child pornography laws. The crime in question is codified in Section 847.0137, which makes it a third degree felony for any person "who knew or reasonably should have known that he or she was transmitting child pornography" to another person.
We have received several inquiries about the status of the lawsuit we brought with prominent local civil rights attorney Sam Jacobson, Scott v. Hogan, over the disenfranchisement of almost 440,000 registered non-republican voters in the local state attorney race. As of the this posting, the lawsuit remains pending in the Florida Supreme Court, which has not yet decided whether it will exercise its discretionary jurisdiction to hear the case. For those unfamiliar with the lawsuit, our firm, along with Bledsoe, Jacobson, Schmidt, Wright, & Sussman P.A., filed a lawsuit to enforce the Universal Primary Amendment in the local State Attorney race. This amendment is a provision of the Florida Constitution that requires primary elections to be open to all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, where the winner of the primary will not face opposition in the general election.
The AAJ Civil Rights Section presents the Leonard Weinglass in Defense of Civil Liberties Award, annually, to honor an attorney or a civil rights advocate who has made a noteworthy contribution to the defense of our civil rights and civil liberties bringing, trying, or resolving a suit, or by otherwise protecting or advancing civil liberties, in a way that has had a significant impact.