High Court’s Recent Decision on Public Matching Funds Renders New York City’s Campaign Finance System Ripe for Constitutional Attack

By Larry Levy & Andrew Rafalaf*

            In a 5-4 decision last week, the Supreme Court found unconstitutional, once again, campaign finance laws that award public matching funds to candidates based upon the spending of personally financed opponents.  Under the challenged law in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett,[1]  (“Arizona”), candidates opting to participate in Arizona’s public financing program received significantly increased public funding when an opponent, or any independent expenditure group supporting that opponent or attacking the candidate, reached a set spending threshold.  The Court determined that the statute violated the First Amendment because this “trigger” mechanism threatened to, without sufficient justification, limit the spending of opponents or independent groups seeking to avoid triggering the additional matching funds.[2] Continue reading “High Court’s Recent Decision on Public Matching Funds Renders New York City’s Campaign Finance System Ripe for Constitutional Attack”

Electronic Discovery of Social Networking Sites

Joseph Cucco, Albany Government Law Review

Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace, have become immensely popular ways to share information.  Hundreds of millions of people use the sites on a regular basis, uploading photos and other information to their user profiles.[1]  Social networking sites have opened up new ways of staying in touch with friends and family, or letting the world know about one’s likes and dislikes.[2]  They have also raised new legal issues regarding how much of this information is discoverable and what limits should be placed on data acquired from social networking sites.[3]

On social networking sites, members can choose which biographical data to include, decide which of their contacts can see it, and communicate with other users via blog postings, status updates, photo albums, site messaging and chat features.[4]  The sites store this information on their own servers.  The fact that the information is stored remotely rather than on the user’s home computer has led to questions about whether information stored on a third-party server such as Facebook is subject to federal discovery rules.[5]

Lawmakers and courts have scrambled to keep pace with the new technology. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were amended in 2006 to impose a duty to disclose “electronically stored information” which a party “may use to support its claims or defenses.”[6]  Rule 34 was amended to include in the definition of “electronically stored information” that is subject to requests for production, “data or data compilations—stored in any medium from which information can be obtained”.[7]  This means that information which users may have thought would stay private is vulnerable to exposure through the discovery process if the user becomes involved in litigation.[8]  As a result, social networking sites have become a fertile resource for litigators gathering information on parties, expert and lay witnesses, potential jurors, and even opposing counsel.[9] Continue reading “Electronic Discovery of Social Networking Sites”

Two Albany Men and a Motion for Brady: A look at exculpatory evidence and a right to a fair trial

By Anna Mumford, Albany Government Law Review

 

Introduction

The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that, “[n]o State. . . shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”[1]  As a cornerstone principle of the criminal justice system, this constitutional right requires the government to disclose all favorable evidence within their control to a criminal defendant.[2]  However, all too often in this country, prosecutors have suppressed key evidence that could potentially exonerate a defendant.[3]  Even right here, in the great Capital City, there have been instances where the accused have been deprived of the right to due process and a fair trial.[4]

In October 2009, two local Albany men were indicted by the Grand Jury for murder, facing life in prison without the possibility of parole.[5]  Their case was scheduled to begin on November 1, 2010.[6]  However, during a pre-trial hearing, only four days before opening statements, it was discovered that the Albany County prosecutors had just turned over a key witness’s statement favorable to the defense.[7]  The statement, made by an eye witness, claimed that the shooter was not of the same race as either of the co-defendants.[8]  Prosecutors, sitting on this statement for the past three years, claimed to have turned over the statement in a “good faith,” timely manner.[9]

Continue reading “Two Albany Men and a Motion for Brady: A look at exculpatory evidence and a right to a fair trial”

Paterson’s Proposed Soda Tax: Not the Cure for Obesity

Danielle Erickson, Government Law Review Member

          We live in an age where 60.5% of American adults are currently overweight, 23.9% are obese, and 3% are extremely obese.[1] Beyond that, one in every six school-age children is not just overweight, but obese![2]  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contend that the prevalence for obesity in school-age children has tripled since the 1970s.[3]  This is especially troubling when taking into account that early obesity leads to earlier onsets of obesity associated health problems such as: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, pregnancy complications, arthritis, certain cancers, and depression.[4]  It has been estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 deaths a year can be attributed to poor eating habits and obesity.[5]  This number is just shy of smoking related deaths and far surpasses the number of deaths caused by alcohol, car accidents, guns, or sexual disease.[6]  All in all obesity costs Americans an average of 117 billion dollars in obesity related medical problems as well as lost wages from illness and premature death.[7]

          In December 2008, New York Governor David Paterson proposed an 18% tax on soda and other sugary drinks containing less than seventy percent juice as part of what is now loving referred to as an “obesity tax”. [8]  Patterson declared childhood obesity a public health epidemic and compared it to smoking; citing statistics as staggering as one in four New Yorker’s under the age of eighteen is obese with the rate being closer to one in three in high poverty areas. [9]   The soda tax was aimed at reducing the consumption of soft drinks, which have been found to be one of the key factors in childhood obesity.[10]   Governor Paterson cites Harvard research which indicates that, “for each additional 12-ounce soft drink consumed per day increases the risk of a child becoming obese by 60 percent”, with the correlation for adults being equivalent.[11]  The Governor estimated that the tax would raise 404 million dollars, which would be used to fund public health programs but perhaps more importantly would reduce soda consumption by 5%.[12]

           However, by February 2009 Governor Paterson realized that his proposal for an 18% tax on soda would not pass in the legislature.[13]  As a result Paterson proposed a revised soda tax in January 2010, in which he seeks to gain approval for a penny per ounce tax on sugary drinks.[14]  The added tax would be less apparent to consumers as it would be figured into the retail price of the soda instead of added on at checkout, still it is estimated that it could reduce soda consumption by 10 to 15%, but would raise an estimated one billion dollars in revenue solely allocated to the heath care and education budget.[15]

Continue reading “Paterson’s Proposed Soda Tax: Not the Cure for Obesity”