Monday, December 30, 2013

What Has the Court Done This Year?

Part of my interest in this blog is being able to explain what justices do. I like to say that our job in a nutshell is to listen, read, think, argue, and write.

As usual, this year we issued over 200 written opinions.  You might wonder what those cases were about. Some cases dealt with court procedure, interesting mainly to lawyers and judges. Other opinions interpreted laws as they were applied to particular situations.

We had disciplinary cases where we decided how those who violated rules that govern the legal profession should be punished. And most important, we wrote on capital cases. Because Ohio has the death penalty, life and death hangs in the balance.

A few cases can be singled out this year. First Amendment cases based on freedom of speech often have media as a party.  But this year, we reviewed rules relating to a union’s informational picketing and the rights of a middle-school teacher to use religious materials in science class.  Not the typical issues.

Of course we had election issues and other cases with political overtones. We found one sheriff to be unqualified to serve his county, and we upheld the Ohio Controlling Board’s appropriation of money for expanded Medicaid after the governor had vetoed part of the state’s budget legislation. 

In 2013, we looked at what happens when someone is released from prison because of a mistake in procedure and answered when that person may be eligible for money from the state for wrongful imprisonment. We discussed when and how convictions should be sealed from public view, and if they should be expunged (wiped out completely) upon a governor’s pardon.

Because the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that certain witnesses can’t testify without violating a defendant’s confrontation rights, a majority of our court decided that in certain situations teachers cannot testify about what children had told them about suspected child abuse.

Because of a new law, we decided unanimously that a doctor’s statement of apology and sympathy could not be used against him at trial. We handled two cases that explained the law and procedure relating to mortgage lenders and foreclosures, and we wrestled with the law on DNA testing requirements after someone is convicted. 

And in a criminal case where the state had to prove the alcohol content in a sale to a minor, we said the court could not use “judicial notice” by telling the jury that Bud Light was beer and that it was a fact it was an alcoholic beverage.  When the court of appeals reversed the conviction, the defendant could not be retried because the prosecution had not presented enough evidence to convict the first time.

These, and all our decisions, are a matter of public record. The Supreme Court’s website will help you see and hear online the cases that are argued. You can also read the opinions or summaries when they are published.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Continuing Legal Education – The 2014 Version

It’s true when they say that professionals are never done learning.  And when those professionals are attorneys and judges, the learning is mandatory and tied to keeping a law license.

New continuing legal education (CLE) changes will soon apply to Ohio’s judges and attorneys.  The Ohio Supreme Court updated the CLE rules last year to take effect on January 1, 2014.

For attorneys:
Attorneys must continue to complete 24 CLE hours every two years. But now they may double the credit hours they earn online, earn a portion of those hours with approved pro bono activities, and even eat during educational presentations.  

Self-study hours are increasing from 6 to 12 hours each biennial period and attorneys will be able to receive 1 CLE credit for every 6 hours of pro bono service for a maximum of 6 credit hours.

Other changes include:

·         A lower range of recommended fines (upper limit reduced from $500 to $300) for noncompliant attorneys for hour deficiencies.   

·         More flexibility to choose courses within a “professional conduct” category to allow attendance at programs that will more closely meet individual professional and practice needs.          

For judges:
Judges still must complete 40 hours of CLE every two years. The category of “judicial conduct” has also been unbundled so that 3 hours of mandatory instruction through courses offered by the Ohio Judicial College will be more helpful. Judge will be able to choose from among programs in judicial ethics, professionalism, and access to justice and fairness in the courts, along with instruction on alcoholism, substance abuse, and mental health issues.

View the complete text of the upcoming CLE changes.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My aim in Life (Short Essay)

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” 
Albert Einstein

It is well-said by Albert Einstein. To have a good life, it is essential to set a goal and start working on it from the beginning. Whatever we aim for, our lives should be designed around it. Some people aim to become doctor and some want to be engineer. Every goal is achievable if we work hard.

I want to be a teacher when I grow up. My goal is clear and my vision is vivid. I want to educate people. Science is my favorite subject. It always opens my mind to new dimensions. I want to be a science teacher who practically teaches students, along with theory. 

Teachers help not only few people but they have power to educate whole generation. I want to transfer my ideas to one generation. I know one man has power, but we can change whole nation if others also join in. I want to teach good ethics along with my subject to improve our lives and others. I am sure that I will achieve my goal because I am determined.