John Balazs is an attorney in Sacramento, California, specializing in criminal defense, including appeals, habeas corpus, pardons, expungements, and civil forfeiture actions. After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1989, he clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. John was an Assistant Federal Defender in Fresno and Sacramento from 1992-2001. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in clinical trial advocacy at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. Please email EDCA items of interest to Balazslaw@gmail.com. Follow me on twitter @balazslaw.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. The law can change rapidly and information in this blog can become outdated. Do your own research or consult with an attorney.
Our sister districts in California have filed separate federal criminal cases charging the illegal selling of guitar picks made from endangered turtles and the illegal importing of bear bile for use as an aphrodisiac.
A Santa Rosa woman has been charged with illegally selling guitarpicks made from the shells of endangered turtles.
Qing Song, 54, was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on one felony charge and two misdemeanors for allegedly possessing and selling parts of endangered wildlife, Hawksbill sea turtles. The creatures can be legally imported only for noncommercial purposes, prosecutors said.
From 2005 to 2007, the indictment said, Song brought turtle parts into the United States from China in the form of guitarpicks, or of shells that could be used to make picks. Such picks are "highly desired by skilled musicians, despite their illegality," the indictment said, because they are believed to produce a better tone than plastic picks.
A South Korean woman staying in Los Angeles was charged by federal authorities Friday with illegally importing more than two pounds of bear bile, used for medicinal purposes and as an aphrodisiac in some Asian communities.
A man's claim that he was brutalized by sheriff's deputies in Sacramento County's Main Jail was rejected Friday by a federal court jury.
The verdict against Don Anthony Antoine vindicates four deputies and a sergeant accused of using or condoning excessive force while shackling him to a floor grate.
The jury of six men and four women, after deliberating a day, specifically found none of the five was guilty of employing or condoning excessive force in violation of Antoine's Fourth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.
Governor Schwarzenegger announced yesterday the appointments of current Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Melikian to an El Dorado County Superior Court judgeship and former civil AUSA Geoff Goodman to one on the Sacramento Superior Court.
Although I didn't know Geoff well, I had the pleasure of working with Ken in both the Fresno and Sacramento U.S. Attorney's offices. Ken will be missed by all as one of the nicest attorneys in the office. --John
Bios from the Governor's press releases below:
Melikian, 56, of El Dorado Hills, has served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California since 1991. Prior to that, he worked as a deputy district attorney for the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office from 1988 to 1991 and held the same position with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office from 1978 to 1988. Melikian earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Southern California School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College. He fills the vacancy created by the conversion of a court commissioner position on September 23, 2008. Melikian is a Republican.
Goodman, 57, of Sacramento, has served as a partner for Nossaman since 2008 and for Murphy Austin Adams Shoenfeld from 1999 to 2008. In 1998, he was partner at Diepenbrock Wulff Plant & Hannigan and, from 1992 to 1998, he was an assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California. Goodman was a deputy attorney general, then a senior assistant attorney general for the California Attorney General’s Office from 1984 to 1991, staff counsel for the Committee on Criminal Justice for the California State Assembly from 1981 to 1984, and a deputy district attorney for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office from 1977 to 1981. He earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California. Goodman fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Patricia Esgro. Goodman is a Democrat.
While Adam Liptak laments the fact that the Supreme Court's landmark Second Amendment ruling, District of Columbia v. Heller, has yet to stir the waters, NYT, "Few Ripples From Supreme Court Ruling On Guns, 3/16/09, a Spring 2009 Harvard Law and Policy law review article discussed and available at Doug Berman's Sentencing Blog, available here, provides food for thought for how Heller and emerging Second Amendment case law can be used to fashion novel and potentially meritorious Second Amendment arguments:
In 2004, domestic diva Martha Stewart was convicted of obstruction of justice, making false statements, and two counts of conspiracy in connection with dubious stock transactions. Although sentenced to only five months in jail plus a period of supervised release, she risked a much harsher punishment. Because she was convicted of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison, federal law bans her from having any gun. Her ban is for life, unless the Attorney General lifts the disability — a because Congress regularly bars the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives from spending any money to review petitions to lift firearms disabilities.
Is the public safer now that Martha Stewart is completely and permanently disarmed? More to the point, how could such a ban be constitutional, now that the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, not only has confirmed that the Second Amendment secures a personal right to keep and bear arms, but also has emphasized its historical tie to the right of self-defense?
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Research and analysis need to replace dicta and assertions on this topic. Especially after Heller, there is much room for further thinking and discussion. Yet wherever the constitutional line may be, it is difficult to see the justification for the complete lifetime ban for all felons that federal law has imposed only since 1968. And among the various lines that the Second Amendment might draw, it is at least curious how Martha Stewart could merit anyone’s concern.
I'm intending to post sample post-Heller, Second Amendment argument pleadings here in the next several weeks. --John
After admitting misconduct in having witnesses tape conversations of Miami defense attorneys in a hotly-contested prosecution, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the S.D. Florida has agreed to pay the defendant's attorney fees resulting from the government's misconduct. Download Shaygan - Govt Response Misconduct. And, not only did the government agree to Hyde Act sanctions, but the Government's response announces that lead prosecutor Sean Cronin transferred out of the criminal division and Karen Gilbert resigned as Chief of the Narcotics Section. Congrats to former Judge Karlton clerk Marc Seitles and SDFL blog author David Markus, after the jury returned not guilty verdicts on all 141 counts for their client, even if the government still mispelled Marc's first name in its response. --John
The LA Times Online Blog today reports that Judge Karlton issued an opinion overturning a key part of Prop 8, which had limited the circumstances in which the state had to provide attorneys for parole violators:
A key part of a victims-rights measure that voters approved in November has been overturned by a federal judge, who ruled the state must provide attorneys for parole violators when it is considering whether to send them back to prison.
Senior Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of the U.S. District Court in Sacramento ruled against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state in issuing an injunction against that part of Proposition 9.
The initiative dictates that the state provide legal counsel to parole violators only under certain circumstances, including when the cases are unusually complex or when the parolee has issues of mental competency. Proponents of Proposition 9 said the measure provides for state legal counsel in about 15% of parole revocation hearings. They say that would save the state $40 million annually in prison expenses.
The judge said legal counsel must be provided in all hearings.
According to the Recorder, 3/24/09, Attorney General Eric Holder recently rejected a life sentence disposition in a pending federal capital trial case in San Francisco.
Any thoughts that an Obama presidency would herald a moratorium of the federal death penalty can be safely laid to rest.
Attorney General Eric Holder recently rejected a defense offer of life without the possibility of release in the prosecution of alleged San Francisco gangbanger Dennis Cyrus, according to sources familiar with the case. The decision came after Holder accepted a 41-year plea deal in a separate capital gang trial that had opened down the hall the same week.
If so, given AG Holder's comments about ending medical marijuana prosecutions, why did the DEA still raiding a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco today? See CBS 5 SF, 3/25/09:
Federal drug agents raided a medical marijuana facility in San Francisco Wednesday night.
The raid occurred at Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic at 1597 Howard Street. DEA spokeswoman Casey McEnry told CBS 5 the documents regarding the raid are sealed, so the DEA was not able to give many details.
"The documents relating to today's enforcement operation remain under court seal. Based on our investigation we believe there are not only violations of federal law, but state law as well. As of now we are prohibited from releasing further details of the case. Items of evidentiary value were seized and no arrests have been made. The investigation is currently ongoing," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams in a written statement.
Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic had a provisional permit, according to Chris Hermes, spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access, a national advocacy group for medical marijuana issues.
Hermes said at least two people were taken into custody at the facility.
"We're shocked that after the Attorney General has made repeated statements that raids on California medical cannibis dispensaries would be suspended that we are seeing a continuation of that policy," said Hermes.
"We call on the Attorney General to explain these actions by the DEA," he added.