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.
Last week, in a panel decision, EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions, the Eleventh Circuit held that employers can discriminate against employees for wearing their hair in dreadlocks. The lawsuit was brought by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission on behalf of a prospective employee who refused to comply with a company's grooming policy prohibiting employees from having dreadlocks. The EEOC contended that the defendant's refusal to hire the plaintiff was a form of race discrimination, because the hairstyle was one closely associated with individuals of African descent.
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.
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.
Folio Weekly celebrated 29 years in publication by honoring 29 influential Floridians. Bill Sheppard was included in their list. In Folio Weekly's own words, "we've decided to honor influential locals who stomp around, kicking ass and taking names, saving lives through advancements in medicine, opening their hearts and homes to strangers, and generally crusading for the environment, social justice, truth and the American way, Northeast Florida-style."
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle has ordered that the state pay more than $500,000 in legal fees to the ACLU of Florida, William Sheppard, Betsy White, and Samuel Jacobson who represented the Brenner plaintiffs more than a year ago in a case where the same-sex ban on marriage in Florida was deemed unconstitutional.
This month, attorney Bill Sheppard and Bryan DeMaggio succeeded in winning the State v. Ratledge case, where they defended Florida man Randal Ratledge. Ratledge faced 120 years in prison after firing two gun shots into the air, harming no one. In the decision of this case, the Florida Supreme court ruled that judges have the authority to sentence criminal defendants in these types of cases to no more than 20 years in prison.
An attorney-client partnership is an important one. There are going to be ups and downs in your relationship. You want and need to be comfortable at the outset so you can be comfortable when your case comes to a conclusion. If you can't like and respect your attorney, the relationship will fall apart.
I am often asked why so many criminal defense attorneys oppose the death penalty. Beside the fact that the death penalty is grossly ineffective, with the cost of capital litigation far exceeding that of imprisonment for life, defense practitioners see up close and personal the individuals who ultimately receive a sentence of death. The poor, the disenfranchised, those unable to obtain adequate legal representation are the disproportionate "beneficiaries" of the death penalty lottery.