With Liberty and Spectrum For All

Dylan Merrill, KLJ Staff Editor

Radio stationImagine a world without garage door openers, baby monitors, and Bluetooth headsets. A little strange, right? What about life without wireless Internet? Even stranger. These groundbreaking technologies have become integral to our daily lives, in a way that few of us could have predicted.[i] This phenomenon begs the question: what other groundbreaking inventions will arise in the next decade? And how can our legal and regulatory framework help encourage these innovations? The answer largely depends on how the federal government regulates a scarce but precious resource–not oil, water, or food, but something called “wireless spectrum”. [...]

________________________________________

Not for Human Consumption: How Inept Legislative Policy Proliferates the Synthetic Drug Problem

Todd J. Weatherholt

synthetic-drugsThe “war on drugs” is facing a new opponent, one that is sophisticated and dynamic, but unfortunately whose dangers go widely undocumented. As if there were not enough problems with other classes of drugs for authorities, a new “underappreciated” category, synthetic drugs, has gained tremendous momentum within the last few years in the United States and around the world. These substances, although widely eradicated in neighborhood gas stations and head shops, remain easily obtainable over the internet. The industry, which targets drug-naïve teenagers and young adults through the combination of shiny packaging with familiar cartoon characters and vibrant names such as Ivory Wave, Spice, and Cloud Nine, generates an estimated $5 billion dollars annually. Unfortunately, the synthetic drug enigma facing our nation is not merely the result of these products’ accessibility, but likewise due to their easily manipulative characteristics, which help manufacturers circumvent existing laws. As authorities identify specific chemical components to outlaw, rudimentary chemists simply modify existing drug compositions slightly to escape the law.

This note focuses on the two-tier problem of controlling synthetic drugs, from the existing loophole in the federal drug policy, to the difficulty of prosecuting synthetic drug offenders. Synthetic drugs pose an increasingly severe threat in need of an updated 21st century drug policy, instead of a continued reliance on deficient existing laws based on regulating opium, heroin, and cocaine from plants. Part I of this Note discusses two common types of synthetic drugs and the current overall drug policy landscape in the United States. Part II focuses on the rise in popularity of these substances and their potentially disastrous effects on users. Part III, utilizing a recent federal court case and textual uncertainties of the statute, identifies the difficulties surrounding prosecuting manufacturers of synthetic drugs under the existing drug policy. Lastly, Part IV advocates for two promising bills and provides additional modifications that will further assist in improving the synthetic drug problem facing our nation. [...]

________________________________________

Employers Beware: OSHA is Once Again Flexing its Enforcement Muscles

Kierston Eastham, KLJ Staff Editor

OSHA-logoThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) is known across the country by employers and employees alike as it currently oversees safety and health standards for over 130 million employees. OSHA was established in 1970 under President Nixon in order to increase workplace safety and reduce employee deaths and injuries, and has reduced the number of workers killed on the job daily from about thirty-eight per day in 1970 to about twelve per day in 2010. These results require extensive enforcement efforts on behalf of the agency, which has been criticized in recent years for its laxity. [...]

________________________________________

Gene Therapy and Patents – Upcoming Issues and Concerns

Joseph Guthrie, KLJ Staff Editor

In the 1990’s, gene therapy was viewed as the next major step forward ID-100215691in medical treatment, with the potential to permanently cure a wide variety of genetic disorders.  Despite early successful trials, gene therapy suffered a major setback in 1999 following the death of Jesse Gelsinger, an otherwise healthy 18-year-old suffering from a manageable genetic disorder, during a clinical trial.  Considering the technology potentially unsafe, the FDA suspended many ongoing trials and researchers largely abandoned the field.

Fifteen years later, gene therapy is back in a huge way, having been used in human trials to successfully cure HIV, cancer, and various rare genetic disorders.  Since the beginning of 2013, investors have poured nearly $700 million into companies focused on developing gene therapy treatments. Like in the pharmaceutical industry, development and testing of these kinds of treatments involves huge amounts of money, and these companies will eventually seek patents to protect their discoveries.  What remains to be seen is whether these treatments can be patented, and if so, whether these patents will spur innovation or merely stifle it. [...]

_________________________

What is a “Burden” on Voters?  Reflections on Ohio’s Early Voting Litigation

Sixth Circuit Says 9/28/14

Professor Joshua A. Douglas

Robert G.Lawson & William H. Fortune Associate Professor of Law, University of Kentucky College of Law

Josh-Douglas-FULLWhat does it mean for an election regulation to “burden” voters?  Do the relevant burdens relate to how the election system operated previously, or are they more about the particular burdens of the actual law itself outside of the context of what occurred in the last election?  Put differently, is it the text of the law, or the context of the election scheme, that matters the most?  These questions underlie the Sixth Circuit’s recent decision in NAACP v. Husted invalidating Ohio’s new rules on early voting; they will also likely be the focus of the Supreme Court’s impending review.

The current controversy over early voting in Ohio continues a trend of involving the courts in dictating how to operate Ohio’s election system.  In 2012, the Obama campaign won an important case when the state tried to remove early voting on the last three days before the election for everyone besides military voters.  The Sixth Circuit ruled that allowing early voting for some voters but not others violated the Equal Protection Clause. [...]

_________________________

Sixth Circuit Denies Death Row Appeal; Points Inmate Towards Clemency

Sixth Circuit Says

Charles Krebs

Last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals made a plea to the Governor to consider clemency for a death row inmate after denying his arguments for relief through the courts.

The unique aspect of this decision is the plea to the Governor that the court makes at the end of the opinion. The court systematically, in its analysis, denied relief to Gregory Esparza but in closing the court stated that “[t]oday’s decision is not necessarily the end of the road for Esparza. Among other things, he has the right to file a clemency application with the governor to reduce his sentence from death to life in prison. In light of the many uninvited difficulties in his childhood, this application may be worth a serious look.” [...]

_________________________

How many judges are there on the Sixth Circuit bench?

Sixth Circuit Says

Charles Krebs

Today’s blog answers one deceivingly simple question: How many judges are there on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals?

The answer, equally simple and yet equally deceiving, is 23.

Why is that deceiving? Because technically there are only 16 spots on the court. The Sixth Circuit started with just two judgeships in 1891. Two increased to six over the next 50 years (by 1940). The number of judgeships held at six for 25 years but shot to 16 between 1966 and 1990. Sixteen is where it stands today. Fifteen of those 16 spots are currently filled. [...]

_________________________

Equal Protection of Grocery Stores in the Sale of Alcoholic Beverages

Thomas E. Rutledge and Stacy C. Kula

ID-10012320The United States alcoholic beverage industry is unique as it is the only industry for which two amendments to the Federal Constitution have been passed. The first of those amendments, the ill-fated Eighteenth, enacted nationwide Prohibition. After the complete failure of that “Noble Experiment,” the Twenty-First Amendment was enacted, ending Prohibition and vesting in the various states the power to regulate the manufacture, purchase and sale of alcoholic beverages. [...]

________________________

Getting Jurors to Awesome

Cortney E. Lollar

ID-100212729A 2011 American Bar Association report on the death penalty in Kentucky revealed that a shocking two-thirds of the 78 people sentenced to death in Kentucky since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 have had their sentences overturned on appeal. Kentucky’s reversal rate is more than twice the national average, with a 31% reversal rate in capital cases and almost four times the 17% national reversal rate in all other case types. With a sentence as irreversible as death, troubling does not begin to describe the depth of concern many experience when viewing such a startling statistic. [...]

Read more online articles here.