Supreme Court Says Dog Sniff on Porch of Private Residence is a Search that Requires a Warrant

March 27, 2013 by Paul Kish

In a earlier posts, I wrote about the Supreme Court's "dog sniff" cases, the former in which the Defendant was stopped while driving his truck and a drug dog eventually alerted to the presence of dogs, the latter case where (based on a "tip") the police walked a drug detector dog on the Defendant's porch, the pooch alerted, and based on that they got a warrant to search the house. As I predicted, the Supreme Court affirmed the search of the truck, and yesterday, they sided with the homeowner in the sniff that took place on the porch of the home. Yesterday's case is Florida v. Jardines, and by a 5-4 margin the Court held that the sniff on the porch was illegal as being a search not done pursuant to a warrant.

The opinion resulted in a somewhat unusual alignment of justices. Justice Scalia, perhaps the Court's most conservative member, wrote the majority decision. He was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, a frequent ally, and three of the court’s more liberal members, Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan.

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"You Have the Right to Counsel, But We Are Going to Take Away Any Money You Have to Hire the Type of Lawyers Who Specialize in Federal Cases": Contrasting Gideon v. Wainwright With Federal Pretrial Forfeiture Laws

March 21, 2013 by Paul Kish

As I noted in this post, on Tuesday the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Kaley v. United States, a case calling on the Justices to answer the question of whether the Sixth and Fifth Amendments afford a Defendant the right to a pretrial hearing to challenge the seizure of her assets under the federal forfeiture laws when that seizure basically prevents her from hiring and paying for counsel of her choice. It is more than a little ironic that they decided to review the case on the same day we were all celebrating the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark case ruling by the Supreme Court that everybody facing felony charges has the right to an attorney, even if he or she cannot afford to pay the lawyer. While we have made strides in the past five decades, in many ways we are worse off when a person faces the wrath of the federal government bent on a criminal prosecution.

On the one hand, we still have a long way to go when we provide counsel to people who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer. Many wonderful lawyers are public defenders who struggle to provide the best defense they can while handling massive and crushing caseloads. While Defendants have the "right" to an attorney, far too often the system is set up so that the public defender simply cannot spend much time with any one client, more or less rendering meaningless the Constitutional "right to counsel" enshrined in the Gideon case.

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Federal Criminal Defense Difficult when Government Freezes Client's Assets: Supreme Court Finally Agrees to Hear Case About Whether Prosecutors can Obtain Pretrial Restraint of Assets Without a Hearing

March 19, 2013 by Paul Kish

Defending federal crimes is always difficult, whether the client is a "white collar" defendant charged with fraud or whether prosecutors charge other crimes, like drug violations. However, the defense is made more difficult in federal court by virtue of the prosecutor's ability to sometimes freeze and then forfeit all of the Defendant's assets. Making it more difficult still, the laws sometimes permit prosecutors to freeze the Defendant's assets even without a hearing in front of a judge! After many years of uncertainty, the Supreme Court the other day agreed to hear a case as to whether the pretrial restraint (or freezing) of a Defendant's assets is permissible if done without a hearing. The case is Kaley v. United States, and the certiorari petition is here.

Ms. Kaley was in the business of selling medical equipment. She and her husband apparently made a good living selling equipment that certain manufacturers no longer wanted. The federal authorities claimed these practices were fraudulent, and indicted the couple. Prosecutors also filed an ex parte request to restrain and freeze much of the couple's assets, claiming that the money they had in the bank and which they'd used to buy their house was obtained as proceeds of the fraudulent conduct charged in the indictment. A Federal Magistrate Judge agreed, and issued an order freezing their assets so they could not be used by the couple to defend themselves. The case has had a complex history, with two trips already to the Court of Appeals here in Atlanta before the defense team finally got the Supreme Court to agree to hear the case.

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Divided Atlanta Federal Appeals Court Upholds Florida Mail Fraud and Bribery Conviction: the Latest Saga in the "Honest Services" Debate

March 15, 2013 by Paul Kish

Here in Atlanta, the local federal Court of Appeals just affirmed a conviction in a mail fraud and bribery white collar case out of Jacksonville, Florida. The case is but the latest saga in the long-running debate over the contours of "honest services fraud", the species of fraud so often used by federal prosecutors when they go after what they perceive to be "local corruption." In a 2-1 decision, the majority held that the Defendant's convictions should be affirmed, even though one of the two judges in the majority had real problems upholding the lower court's rulings. Judge Hill issued a blistering dissent, perhaps foreshadowing a more full review by the entire court. The case is US. v. Nelson, and can be found here.

Mr. Nelson was the chairman of the board of Jaxport, the entity that basically oversaw the port authority in Jacksonville. The board members worked part-time, were not paid, and were prohibited from voting on any matter in which they had a financial interest.

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Appeal of Federal Insider Trading Convictions: Defendants Say They are Not Guilty and the Sentences Were Too Long

March 12, 2013 by Paul Kish

I came across this story about two Defendants in New York who were appealing to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals their convictions for "insider trading", which as we all know is a rarely prosecuted federal crime arising out of a securities investigation that usually starts with the SEC. These Defendants also argued on appeal that their sentences were too long. Both issues, the insider trading question and sentencing arguments, are matters we have come across frequently, and we will be following the case closely.

The basic idea of an "insider trading" case is that someone learns about "material non-public information", such as the fact that one company might be in the process of buying another company. When companies prepare to engage in such moves, they need to hire bankers, lawyers, accountants, printers and lots of folks who work on the deal. It is illegal for anyone who learns such "material non-public" information to give a "tip" to anyone, and for the recipient of the tip (the "tippee") to make trades (such as buying the stock of the company that is about to be purchased.)

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Sentencing for Federal Health Care Fraud Offenses: Court of Appeals Nixes Probation Even Though Doctor paid Full Restitution and Performed Almost 400 Hours Community Service

March 11, 2013 by Paul Kish

A decision from an Atlanta case that was issued last Friday once again demonstrates that sentencing hearings in federal criminal cases are amazingly complex, and can lead to surprises. In the case from last week, US v. Kuhlman, the Sentencing Guidelines called for a range of 57-71 months in custody. Prosecutors asked for 36 months. The Defendant paid almost $3 million in full restitution. The Judge continue the case for 6 more months, during which time the Defendant performed almost 400 hours of community service. At the next sentencing hearing, the Judge decided it made no sense to put the Defendant in prison, so he imposed a "time served" sentence. The prosecutors appealed, and the Court of Appeals agreed with them, reversing the probationary sentence and remanding for another sentencing hearing.

The Defendant was a local Atlanta area chiropractor who owned and operated a series of clinics. Beginning in January 2005, he began a five-year scheme, falsely billing health insurance companies for services he knew were not rendered to his patients. The Defendant was charged in a criminal information with one count of health care fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1347 and 2. He pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement. At the plea hearing, the chiropractor admitted that he did not steal out of need—he was not in financial trouble and he did not have creditors breathing down his neck asking for money. Instead, he conceded that he simply pushed the envelope of billing practices.

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Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions: U.S. Supreme Court rules Padilla Not Retroactive

March 5, 2013 by Paul Kish

In Atlanta, and across the country, representing clients in immigration removal proceedings with criminal convictions can be tricky. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Chaidaz v. U.S., _____ U.S. _____ (2013), is bound to make things even trickier. Far too often, we come across the non-citizen client who has already accepted a plea in criminal court without receiving competent advice from his attorney regarding the devastating consequences of deportation.

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized this deficiency in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. ____ (2010), when it ruled that 6th Amendment protections require criminal defense attorneys to inform non-citizen clients when there is a risk of deportation as a result of a guilty plea. After Padilla, non-citizens who were placed in removal proceedings for their criminal conviction were able to raise specific 6th Amendment challenges through petitions for habeas corpus and other similar post conviction mechanisms.

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Hiring a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer: What Every Potential Client Should Know (and Ask)

March 4, 2013 by Carl Lietz

Paul Kish and I started our federal criminal defense firm here in Atlanta over seven years ago. Before that, we were both lawyers with the Federal Defender Office here in Atlanta. Paul was a lawyer in that office for more than twenty years and I was a lawyer in that office for five years. We became friends in that office and after a while, we decided to strike out on our own.

Since starting our firm, we have been very fortunate. We have been able to do what we enjoy most: represent individuals who are facing or dealing with criminal charges in federal court. Although most of the work that we do is here in federal district court in Atlanta, we have handled federal matters in a host of other areas, including Savannah, Macon, Columbus, North Florida, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and a number of other jurisdictions. For the most part, we handle serious white collar criminal matters. Truth be told, however, we enjoy doing anything and everything in federal court.

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