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 ​​​​​​​​​​​The Latest Legal News & Industry Information

Justice Dept. Drops Subpoena
Seeking USA Today Readers

     The Justice Department withdrew its subpoena this month that ordered media organization USA Today to turn over records that identify readers of a story about a Feb. 2 shootout in Florida that killed two FBI agents and injured three others.
     The FBI was trying to track down a child sexual exploitation offender for reasons it did not explain. The agency withdrew the subpoena after finding the suspect through other means.
     "Being forced to tell the government who reads what on our websites is a clear violation of the First Amendment," USA Today publisher Maribel Perez Wadsworth said in a statement. "The FBI's subpoena asks for private information about readers of our journalism."
     She also called the subpoena surprising considering President Joe Biden’s recent statements condemning law enforcement investigations directed at the media.
     Gunfire erupted at the Sunrise, Fla. apartment while FBI agents served a subpoena on a man suspected of possessing child pornography. They found him through his IP address.
     The man inside fired through the door at the agents before taking his own life. 
     Gannet, the parent company of McLean, Va.-based USA Today, was represented by Charles D. Tobin from the law firm Ballard Spahr in its effort to resist the subpoena. Tobin wrote a letter to the FBI May 22 saying the IP addresses the FBI sought “fall squarely under the protections of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the United States Attorney General’s regulations for subpoenas to the news media.”
     The subpoena demanded IP addresses and other records "for computers and other electronic devices" that accessed the story during 35 minutes beginning at 8:03 p.m. on the day of the shooting.
     In a related move, the Justice Department announced Friday it no longer would secretly search reporters’ records while it investigated leaks of classified information.
     "Going forward, consistent with the President's direction, this Department of Justice – in a change to its longstanding practice – will not seek compulsory legal process in leak investigations to obtain source information from members of the news media doing their jobs," a Justice Department statement said.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

D.C. Mayor Announces Grants
To Discourage Gun Violence

     Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) last week announced the District of Columbia’s response to a rising tide of gun violence with a $750,000 grant program to promote public safety.
     The Building Blocks D.C. program is directing the money at neighborhoods where the violence has been worst. April 14 was the start date for applications.
     Persons who develop activities to promote public safety will be eligible for grants as high as $5,000. Organizations could get as much as $50,000 for restorative justice efforts, neighborhood restoration and community engagement.
     Homicides in Washington reached a 16-year high in 2020. High levels of violence continue this year in the Washington area and nationwide.
     Like for much of the United States, psychologists believe a contributing factor is frustration and depression brought upon by the COVID-19 quarantine.
     “We are in crisis mode,” said D.C. Councilmember Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8), who helped win approval for the grants. “Nobody is coming to save us but us.”
    Similar plans for discouraging gun violence can be found in Bowser’s proposed $17.5 billion budget for fiscal 2022. It includes $59 million for violence prevention programs, such as longer hours at recreation centers used by the student aged population. It also would offer housing to victims of gun crimes.
     “We are building the infrastructure across the whole of government to deal with residents who would have to live in neighborhoods scared of gun violence,” Bowser said at a press conference.
     Separately, the Biden administration is preparing model legislation for states that would allow police, family members or anyone else close to potentially violent persons to obtain court orders to block their access to their own or other people’s guns.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Maryland Restricts Police Use
Of Consumer Genealogy Websites

     A new law scheduled to take effect Oct. 1 will make Maryland one of the first states to limit police use of popular websites and databases that track genealogy through DNA testing.
     Police in Maryland, the District of Columbia and elsewhere have used sites like 23andMe and AncestryDNA to make arrests in heinous cold crimes that sometimes are decades old. Sometimes the only evidence consisted of trace amounts of DNA evidence that had not been linked to anyone previously.
    Recently, the tests have been facing complaints about privacy. A single test could lead to as many as 300 people with similar DNA profiles, according to research published in the journal Science.
     The people could be located through state databases, which is banned under the new law.
     Maryland police still can use geneaology websites but only if all other investigatory methods fail and a judge supervises the procedure for compliance with due process.
     The Maryland General Assembly passed the law earlier this year. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) allowed the bill to pass into law without his signature.
     Maryland is joining the District of Columbia as only the second jurisdiction to ban family name searches on state databases. 
     The trend of police departments using the consumer websites started with the arrest of the serial murderer known as the Golden State Killer in 2018. Police had given up on finding him after a spree of murders, rapes and burglaries between 1973 and 1986. Genealogy tests led them to a then 72-year-old man who confessed to more than a dozen murders.
     In public hearings, police in Maryland testified against restrictions in the new law. They said the public had no reasonable expectation of privacy when they upload their DNA profiles into the kind of searchable databases used by genealogy websites.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Senate Confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson
To U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit

     The Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit this week in what could be a move for her toward the Supreme Court.
     Jackson, 50, was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by President Barack Obama in 2013. She won easy confirmation in the Senate.
     The nomination by President Joe Biden fulfills part of his pledge to appoint more women and minorities to the federal bench. He also said he wanted to be the first president to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, which puts Jackson on his short list.
     Jackson was born in Washington, D.C. but raised in Florida. She attended Harvard Law School, where she was editor of the law review.
     Prior to becoming a federal judge in 2013, Jackson worked in private legal practice and as a federal public defender. She served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 2010 until 2014, where she participated in guideline revisions that reduced sentences for some crack cocaine offenses.
      Among her most notable rulings:
      - On November 23, 2018, Jackson held that 40 lawsuits based on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 should be brought in Malaysia.
     - On September 4, 2019, in Center for Biological Diversity v. McAleenan, Jackson held that Congress had stripped federal courts of authority to hear environmental challenges to the Trump administration’s construction of a wall along the Mexican border.
      - On September 29, 2019, Jackson issued an injunction in Make The Road New York v. McAleenan that blocked expanded fast-track deportations of immigrants before their cases were heard in immigration court.
     - On November 25, 2019, Jackson issued a ruling to compel former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify to Congress during an impeachment hearing. Her ruling said senior presidential aides "who have been subpoenaed for testimony by an authorized committee of Congress must appear for testimony in response to that subpoena" even if the President orders them not to do it.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.

Mexican Drug Kingpin’s Wife
Pleads Guilty in D.C. Court

     The wife of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 15 after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. to drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
     Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, pleaded guilty last week after assisting her husband to run the murderous Sinaloa Cartel.
     She was arrested Feb. 15 at Dulles International Airport as she entered the United States for a trip unrelated to drug activities.
     Her husband is serving a life plus 30 years prison term on charges that include murder, money laundering, drug trafficking, racketeering and organized crime. He was sentenced two years ago to serve his prison term at a supermax facility in Florence, Colorado after escaping twice from Mexican prisons.
     In 2016, Guzman’s net worth from his international crime syndicate was estimated between $2 billion and $4 billion.
     His wife is accused of helping Guzman in his last escape from a Mexican prison in 2015. She also acted as a go-between and courier for some of his drug deals.
     Coronel, a dual Mexican and American citizen, is a former beauty queen known for her flair with fashion. During her guilty plea last week, she wore a green jail uniform and spoke through an interpreter.
     She was charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine for importation into the United States; conspiracy to launder monetary instruments; and violating the Kingpin Act by engaging in illegal transactions on behalf of her husband.
     She could face life imprisonment.
     For more information, contact The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net) at email: tramstack@gmail.com or phone: 202-479-7240.