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Weekly Blog

First Amendment Protects “Vile” Professor

The current president of the University of Florida Student Body is facing a potential impeachment crisis because of his agreement to pay Donald Trump Jr. $50,000 for a speech he gave on October 10, 2019 at the university campus. Michael Murphy negotiated with a Trump staffer who was working on the 2020 campaign, to have the president’s son and Kimberly Guilfoyle (his son’s girlfriend and adviser to the president) speak at the university in Gainesville last month. ...

UF Student Body President Faces Impeachment

The current president of the University of Florida Student Body is facing a potential impeachment crisis because of his agreement to pay Donald Trump Jr. $50,000 for a speech he gave on October 10, 2019 at the university campus. Michael Murphy negotiated with a Trump staffer who was working on the 2020 campaign, to have the president’s son and Kimberly Guilfoyle (his son’s girlfriend and adviser to the president) speak at the university in Gainesville last month. ...

A Shot In the Arm for Voter’s Rights?

Many know that November 2018 served as a monumental month for individuals with criminal records in the state of Florida.  Last November, voters approved Amendment 4 by an overwhelming majority.  This measure is a constitutional amendment that restores voting rights to most convicted felons throughout the state once they have completed their sentences. Not surprisingly, thousands of felons registered after the amendment took effect on January 8, 2019. ...

Are Younger Kids Going to Jail a Circumstance of Gun Violence?

In recent weeks, news outlets have reported on more and more arrests of kids. While juvenile crime is not a new concept, the types of crimes and ages these children are at the time of their incarceration have caused some in the legal profession to pause. With the uptick in gun violence in America’s schools, in our desperation to do something, are we overreacting? ...

Forces Come Together for Downtown Campus Safety

On Friday, September 27, 2019, members of the UCF Police Department, Orlando Police Department, State Attorney’s Office, Valencia College Security, and the UCF Office of Student Conduct came together to discuss safety issues for the faculty and staff of both educational institutions at UCF Downtown. Hosted by the Center for Law and Policy, the goal was to facilitate lines of communication between the different entities to maximize response times and expedite processes, all with the goal of ensuring that the campus was one of the safest areas in the heart of downtown. ...

Immigration Reform Shifts Focus to Children

While most in the U.S. were glued to their televisions this past week over the news of Hurricane Dorian, the Trump administration fired another salvo in the immigration debate. ...

A Protected Class Or Not

While most of us have studied protected classes in law school or during our undergraduate degree, we can all agree that the question of whether a transgender individual should be provided constitutional protections lacks any substantial precedent one way or the other. However, this week the Trump Administration began the process of seeking court permission to discriminate against transgender individuals in employment. On Friday, Trump’s Department of Justice provided a brief to the United States Supreme Court in the case of R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. ...

A Loophole in Federal Law

Over the last week after two mass shooting incidents in the United States and numerous close calls, many have sought the Federal Government to take a more active role in the investigation and prosecution of domestic terrorism in our country. But while the FBI has stepped in for both California and El Paso law enforcement, most likely if charges are every brought, they will be done so under state law and through state courts. In large part, this is due to a loophole in the Federal Criminal Code that lacks an enumerated crime for domestic terrorism. ...

A Step in the Right Direction?

After a weekend where twenty-nine people were murdered within thirteen hours of each other by mass shootings, a ruling by a Leon County Judge on July 27, 2019, seems quite timely if not a bit foretelling. The ruling invalidated a state law that penalized local government officials of municipalities who chose to pass legislation that required stricter gun regulations compared to the state as a whole. The law imposed fines of up to $5000.00 as well as removal for office for mayors and commissioner who sought tougher regulations. ...

Camp Law and Order

Last week the Center for Law and Policy hosted a week long summer camp entitled “Camp Law and Order.” The program was sponsored by the Orange County Bar Association Foundation and hosted by FAMU Law School. It found eleven high school students from Jones and Evans High School enjoy an immersive experience in the justice system. Students were selected by career counselors at their school to participate in week-long activities culminating in a mock trial put on by the students. ...

DOJ’s Big Decision

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced that it would not bring federal charges against a New York Police Department Officer who choked Eric Gardner to death five years ago in what many are calling a prime example of police brutality in America. The timing of the decision was acknowledged by everyone as it came one day before the five-year anniversary of the event but hours after President Trump had told four female senators of color to “go back where you come from.” The government’s decision results in Officer Daniel Pantaleo never facing criminal charges for Garner’s death in a court of law. Pantaleo is still on duty with NYPD at this time though at a "desk job." ...

Should Bullying Be a Criminal Offense?

We have all heard of the civil tort of intentional infliction of emotions distress. Indeed, jurisdictions all over the world have assigned financial liability upon those individuals who engage in activity that some label as bullying. Yet few places have gone as far as to place criminal sanctions on individuals who bully or harass others. However, that may soon change in Paris, France where a court finished hearing arguments today against a telecom company whose executives’ actions of bullying employees was so bad that in some cases it led to people committing suicide rather than face another day at work. ...

Is There a Change in the Winds?

For the first time in the 21st Century, a criminal justice reform bill has become law in Florida. Proponents call House Bill 7125 a “baby step” for criminal justice reform, but it is the first reform the state has seen in quite some time. The criminal justice reform bill reduces some occupational licensing barriers for people with felony convictions, limits the number of offenses that can result in driver’s license suspension, raises the felony theft threshold from $300 to $750, and eliminates mandatory direct file cases (required juvenile cases that go to adult court). The bill will have a fiscal impact on state and local governments. Subject to the Governor’s veto powers, and unless otherwise specified, the effective date of this bill is October 1, 2019. ...

Controversial Needle Exchange Program Begins on July 1…..Sort Of

Last week Governor DeSantis signed into law a new, controversial program allowing drug users the ability to exchange used needles for clean ones. The idea comes from a pilot program that had been running in Miami-Dade County since 2016. One may be surprised that such a measure passed through the Republican led legislature in Florida. However, because of South Florida’s success, lawmakers had no choice but to act. ...

Possession May Be 9/10 Of The Law But The Other 1/10 Is Knowledge

On Friday the Supreme Court of the United States surprised many with a ruling that sided with an immigrant from the Unite Arab Emirates finding that his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm was unconstitutional when prosecutors were not required to prove knowledge of the illegality of his action. Hamid Rehaif, who had his student visa terminated, was shooting firearms at a gun range after he was dismissed from college because of bad grades. While the prosecution could prove that Rehaif had been told that his immigration status under his student visa could be effected by the school’s decision, no one could prove that he knew that this also meant he was no longer in the country legally and thus could not possess a firearm under any circumstance. ...

Autonomous Vehicles Gain Traction in the Sunshine State

On Thursday, Governor Ron DeSantis signed new legislation clearing the way for self-driving vehicles to soon become a part of our daily commute on the roads of Florida. Beginning July 1, 2019, proponents of autonomous vehicles such as car companies and tech wizards will be allowed to experiment with the driverless vehicles within the state. The law does require the automobiles to be in compliance with both safety and insurance regulations found in the bill. ...

Criminal Charges for Poor Job Performance

Of the many stories of heroism that come out of the Parkland shooting case, one that most certainly does not is the tale of now-former Deputy Sheriff Scott Peterson. Deputy Peterson was a school resource officer stationed at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School when the shooter began his rampage back on February 14, 2018. While it was Peterson’s duty to try and stop the shooter, allegations arose that he instead headed to a position of safety. ...

Schools Out For Summer but We’re Still Working

If you are like me than you probably have school aged children who are looking forward to this week more than Christmas, more than birthdays, well pretty much more than anything. This week marks the end of school for thousands of Orange County Public school students who after Wednesday will begin a ten-week festival known as Summer Break. But if you are also like me just because your kids are on summer break does not mean your work grinds to a halt as well. While we all would love to call it a day and spend the next three months parked in front of the television playing video games and watching superhero movies, we cannot. Well, here at the Center for Law and Policy we are not taking the summer off either. ...

Precedent for Overriding Precedent

This week the State of Alabama passed the most restrictive Abortion Law in the United States. The law is officially known as the Alabama Human Life Protection Act and provides only two circumstances when an abortion would be legal. The first is if the fetus has a “lethal anomaly” resulting in the baby’s death at the time of or soon after birth. The second circumstance permitting an abortion is if the pregnancy would pose a “serious health risk” to the mother. In both scenarios, the law possesses language that one could interpret meaning that two doctors would have to concur regarding the fetus’ or mother’s health. Any doctor who performed an abortion in violation of the law would face a felony as the act would be considered a homicide for purposes of sentencing. Although the Governor did sign the bill, it will take six months to go into effect giving time for appeals. ...

“I want people to know about him.”

In writing these blogs every week, I try very hard not to have politics in any fashion permeate through my posts. The Center for Law and Policy’s mission is to connect through empowering individuals with a passion for the law. Whether that be conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, it does not matter. The change is what matters. It is neither my goal nor my prerogative to use the Center to espouse my political views. So while this week’s post centers on a very political issue, the end goal is a call to action. Whatever action that takes is up to the reader. My action may be different from yours, but action is action. And hopefully action, at its root, is a reflection of caring about something. ...

Amending the Process

Florida like many states has a process to amend it constitution. While that process has changed over the years, a trend seems to be clear. Legislators want to make it harder and harder for Floridians to amend the laws that govern them. Initially, only a simple majority was required to pass an amendment. This rose to sixty percent (60%) in 2006. And now if the Republican backed house and senate have their way, that percentage will increase to two-thirds (2/3) or approximately sixty-seven percent (67%) for an amendment to be approved. ...

The Right to Counsel for the Worst of Us.

The right to counsel in criminal trials is one of the most fundamental principles we hold dear in our criminal justice system. It harkens back to our founding fathers and the fear of government intrusion into citizens’ lives. The right belongs to the best of us and the worst of us. It ensures that when the government tries to deprive someone of their fundamental right to liberty there are safeguards and protections in place. Yet a misconception regarding the right is that it applies to everyone. It does not. It applies to the indigent, the poorthose who could not afford legal counsel and need the government to step in and protect the individual. But what qualifies as indigent or poor sometime varies from courtroom to courtroom and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. ...

Impact through contact but… vice a versa.

At the core of the Center for Law and Policy is the idea that UCF Legal Studies can impact its community through contact with the people who make up that same community. Whether that is high school students, teachers, lawyers, or the elderly, we strongly believe that through a better understanding of the law, positive changes can start to occur in our communities. But on April 30, 2019, for one night, UCF Legal Studies reverses that motto and focuses on how the community can impact UCF. More specifically, how the legal community can impact UCF’s legal studies students. ...

Blowing off steam or falling into a trap?

"When politicians attack courts as 'dangerous,' 'political' and guilty of 'egregious overreach,' you can hear the Klan's lawyers, assailing officers of the court across the Southwhen the powerful accuse courts of 'opening up our country to potential terrorists' you can hear the Southern Manifesto's authors smearing the judiciary for simply upholding the rights of black folkand when the Executive Branch calls our courts and their work 'stupid,' 'horrible,' 'ridiculous,' 'incompetent,' 'a laughingstock,' and a 'complete and total disgrace,' you can hear the slurs and threats of executives like George Wallace echoing into the present. I know what I heard when a federal judge was called 'very biased and unfair' because he is 'of Mexican heritage’...when that judge's ethnicity was said to prevent his issuing 'fair rulings.' When that judge was called a 'hater' simply because he is Latino. I heard the words of James Eastland, a race-baiting politician, empowered by the falsehood of white supremacy, questioning the judicial temperament of a man solely because of the color of his skin. I heard those words, and I did not know if it was 1967 or 2017. But the slander and falsehoods thrown at courts today are not those of a critic seeking to improve the judiciary's search for truth. They are words of an attacker, seeking to distort and twist that search toward falsehood.1" ...

Boeing 737 Max Airliner: An Isolated Incident or a Harbinger of things to Come

Many have a fear of flying. But with the recent crashes surrounding Boeing's 737 Max Airliner, even the most veteran flyer is questioning the safety of the plane. Yet as more information becomes available regarding the doomed Ethiopian flight, issues regarding automation seem to be front and center in the debate. One has to question whether we will learn from the loss of life in this situation or as time progresses and we switch to computers doing more complex tasks for us, will a calculated loss of life due to computer error become an acceptable by-product of our life becoming "easier." ...

Why care?

On Saturday, March 30, 2019, the Center for Law and Policy in association with the Central Florida Paralegal Association put on a CLE regarding the law and the LGBTQ+ population. The event was well attended and included presenters who spoke on a variety of topics including the history of LGBTQ+ precedent, discrimination in the workforce, and issues with gender reassignment in written documents such as wills, trusts, and marital settlement agreements. While the speakers did a phenomenal job in entertaining the audience’s inquiries, one individual posed an interesting question. “Why care?” ...

A College Degree Behind Bars

On Thursday, March 21, 2019, the Center for Law and Policy participated in a conference as a member of the Florida Prison Education Project (FPEP) at Stetson University in Deland, Florida. At that conference, the new head of the Florida Department of Corrections, Mr. Mark Inch, addressed the attendees confirming the importance of secondary education in the rehabilitation of inmates in our prison system. Unfortunately, the Secretary admitted that the Florida Legislature’s focus for inmate education centered on GED programs which left no money (zero) for secondary education. ...

Can social media platforms be an accomplice to hate crimes?

Last week, the small town of Christchurch, New Zealand, became the scene of an act of terror when a gunman entered two mosques and opened fire killing at least 50 people and wounding many others. When the gunmen finally surrendered, it was determined that the motivation behind his actions was his anti-Muslim beliefs. The gunmen who New Zealand has made a conscious effort to remain nameless belonged to a Neo-Nazi group believing in white supremacy. But while the horrendous actions of this man are awful enough on their own, equaling disturbing is the fact that he chose to live stream the event over Facebook in real time as it was occurring. ...

The Manafort Sentencing: An act of judicial mercy or just more evidence of sentencing disparity?

On Thursday Evening President Trump’s former Campaign Head, Paul Manafort, finally faced his day of reckoning in federal court for his crimes of bank and tax fraud. But what was expected to be a very bad day for Manafort turned into a somewhat moral victory for his attorneys when he was sentenced to only 47 months in prison for his actions. Judge T.S. Elliot significantly departed from the guidelines which called for a sentence as high as 24 years in prison. Noting that the sentencing guidelines were “excessive” and “quite high” the judge commented that Manafort had previously lived an “otherwise blameless life.” While some have praised the judge’s ruling, others have cited it as yet another example of sentencing disparity between whites who are wealthy versus minorities who are indigent. ...

Florida Bar Polices US Congressman

“Hey @MichaelCohen212 — Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot” ...

Is the Timbs’ Case opening a Pandora’s Box?

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously to limit law enforcement’s ability to seize property in criminal cases especially when that property is used to enrich the agency’s own bank account under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The case is called Timbs v. Indiana1 (citation yet to be released). In it, the Court found that there are limitations on the forfeiture of seized property including cash, even though the property is associated with criminal activity. ...

Should We Add Firearm to the List of Recommended School Supplies?

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool. And while Florida has been fortunate in the year that followed to be spared from additional gun violence in our public schools, the legislature took one step closer to issuing another response to the crisis with Senate Bill 7030 making its way through an important committee step. The bill which could be voted on as soon as the state legislature returns from break aims to expand the class of individuals who can carry firearms on school grounds from “non-instructional staff” to teachers in the classroom. ...

If only you had voted…

They say it is important to vote. That every vote counts. That you can’t complain about government unless you exercise your right to choose it. But with conspiracies and scandals circling around the 2016 presidential election many have begun to question how much one vote really counts. Well for anyone who questions the difference that one vote can make, all one need do is take a look at the state of Virginia. ...

Welcome to the Center for Law and Policy’s Weekly Blog

We are an extension of the UCF Legal Studies Department which is housed in the College of Community Innovation and Education which will be moving to the UCF Downtown campus in the Fall of 2019. For those who do not know about the Center, it was created in 2012 as a tool to assist our awesome faculty in their research and scholarship as well as build relationships with the local community. The Center was originally helmed by Dr. Cynthia Schmidt for over six years. She has since moved on to the City of Orlando so the Center has a new Interim Director. That’s meMarc Consalo. I have been lucky enough to work at UCF since January 1, 2014. Along with Mr. Shawn Richichi, who is the Center’s Coordinator, we will be striving to continue Cindy’s great work while spreading into some new topics. ...