Results tagged “Criminal Law”

January 22, 2014

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By Professors Jeffery Atik and Karl Manheim

Stealing a trade secret (reprehensible though this may be) has generally not attracted federal criminal liability. Yet in the recent prosecution of David Nosal, the Justice Department applied a computer hacking statute to convict a departing employee for a rather run-of-the-mill trade secret theft: the unauthorized taking of customer lists. Many if not most trade secrets -- like the customer lists involved in Nosal -- are stored on computers. As such, aggressive use of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act could convert many trade secret misappropriations -- traditionally civil offenses and a state law matter - into federal crimes. And this policy shift -- criminalizing and federalizing -- results from the determinations of prosecutors and judges, and not from Congress.

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David Nosal worked for the executive search firm Korn/Ferry International until 2004 when he left to form a rival firm. Upon departure, he signed a standard non-compete agreement, but also recruited 3 fellow Korn/Ferry employees to join his new firm. Before those employees left, they downloaded proprietary customer information from the Korn/Ferry network and provided the confidential data to Nosal.

The Justice Department charged Nosal with 22 counts under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. §1030, which prohibits, inter alia, unauthorized access to computer systems for fraudulent purposes. The fraudulent purpose in this case was theft of trade secrets.

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December 9, 2013

Professors Laurie Levenson and Brentford Ferreira were quoted in the Daily Journal about a bill they drafted that would give defense attorneys similar surreptitious recording priveleges to prosecutors and law enforcement. Levenson and Ferriera, who recently joined Loyola as an adjunct professor and supervising attorney of Loyola's Project for the Innocent, hope to have the bill introduced into the California state Legislature.

Excerpt:

Brentford Ferreira, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor, and professor and project head Laurie Levenson recently penned language for a bill that would provide defense attorneys and their investigators with the ability to secretly record conversations with witnesses in criminal cases. The idea is that surreptitiously recording witnesses could help defense attorneys recognize and prove that a witness has given conflicting testimony. That could pave the way for defendants to prove their innocence or help wrongfully incarcerated defendants clear their names.

"Faulty eyewitness identifications result in the convictions of innocent people," the authors note in the would-be bill's statement of purpose. "Witnesses often recant their previous identifications."

Ferreira and a group of Loyola law students hope to convince a lawmaker to introduce the draft bill in next year's legislative session.

...

"If law enforcement's taping is focusing on ongoing criminal activity, then it might make some sense as to why they have additional investigative powers," she [Levenson] said. "However, if all they are doing is secretly taking witness statements, then it is unclear why they should have a tool that the defense does not have. Both sides should want to get the true testimony of the witness."

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November 18, 2013

kmacfarlane.jpgBy Katherine A. Macfarlane '06, Guest Alumni Blogger
Teaching Fellow and Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, LSU Law Center

On October 31, 2013, the Second Circuit took the unusual step of removing Southern District of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin from two high-profile stop-and-frisk cases: Ligon v. City of New York and Floyd v. City of New York. Ligon is a Section 1983 class action challenging the NYPD's trespass arrest policy, or "Operation Clean Halls," a program through which NYPD officers patrol private apartment buildings across New York City. Judge Scheindlin oversaw Ligon since its filing in March 2012. Floyd, also a Section 1983 class action, challenged the NYPD's street-level stop-and-frisk practices, arguing that they amounted to racial profiling. Floyd was filed in January 2008, and immediately assigned to Judge Scheindlin.

The Floyd trial began in March and lasted nine weeks. Thirteen days before the Floyd trial began, the Floyd plaintiffs withdrew all claims for damages, and as a result, Floyd was tried to Judge Scheindlin, not to a jury. Floyd was decided in an August 12, 2013 order spanning 193 pages. Therein, the judge granted a sweeping injunction against the NYPD that ordered changes to NYPD policies and activities, appointed a monitor to oversee stop-and-frisk practices, required a "community-based joint remedial process to be conducted by a court-appointed facilitator," and ordered that one precinct in each of New York City's boroughs place body-worn cameras on their police officers. On the same date, Judge Scheindlin entered a similar decision in Ligon, ordering changes to the NYPD's trespass arrest policies, oversight by the same monitor appointed in Floyd, and revision of NYPD training materials and programs. In its October 31 order, in addition to removing Judge Scheindlin from Floyd and Ligon, the Second Circuit stayed the orders in Floyd and Ligon pending appeal.

But why was Judge Scheindlin removed? In its October 31 order, the Second Circuit found that Judge Scheindlin violated the Code of Conduct for United States Judges due to the appearance of partiality created by her "improper application" of the Southern District's "related cases rule," as well as "by a series of media interviews and public statements purporting to respond publicly to criticism of the District Court."

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October 1, 2013


ginabarton.jpgBy Gina Barton, Guest Journalist Blogger
Reporter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

What is the definition of an intentional failure?

Debate over the answer to that question divides the legal community in Milwaukee after the death of Derek Williams, who died after gasping for breath and begging for help in the back of a Milwaukee police car.

Officials at the Milwaukee Police Department, Milwaukee County District Attorney's office and at the city's civilian Fire and Police Commission all watched a squad video that captured Williams' eight-minute struggle to breathe and concluded officers did nothing wrong.

After an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which included a 10-month battle for a copy of the video, the medical examiner's office changed its ruling on the manner of death from natural to homicide. As a result of the revised findings, the district attorney re-opened the case, appointing a special prosecutor and calling for an inquest.

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September 24, 2013

Scott-web.jpgBy Adjunct Professor Paula Mitchell

This post originally appeared in the Courts and Procedure section on Verdict by Justia.

When the Supreme Court decided Ryan v. Gonzales earlier this year, it created an interesting dilemma for federal courts in death-penalty states.  The Court held that federal courts are not required to stay habeas corpus proceedings for death row inmates who are mentally incompetent and unable to assist counsel in their post-conviction proceedings.  "Where there is no reasonable hope of competence, a stay is inappropriate and merely frustrates the State's attempts to defend its presumptively valid judgment."  Whether to grant a stay was left to the discretion of the district court.

Typically, a defendant who has been sentenced to death spends decades on death row challenging his conviction and sentence in direct appeals and habeas corpus proceedings, in both state and federal courts.  During that time, it is not uncommon for a condemned inmate to experience a decline in his or her mental competency due to any number of factors, including the mental deterioration that comes with years of living in harsh conditions or in solitary confinement.  Before Gonzales, when capital habeas proceedings were pending before a federal district court, and the inmate (or, "petitioner") was unable to assist his counsel in those proceedings, the district court would frequently "stay" the proceedings to provide the inmate with an opportunity to seek mental health care intended to return him or her to competency so that the petitioner could assist his or her counsel.

After Gonzales, however, federal courts are directed to deny requests for stays in state capital cases where there is "no reasonable hope of competence."  This leads to an absurd result.  Petitioner's counsel will now have to continue pursuing costly habeas corpus litigation of the merits of their mentally incompetent clients' constitutional claims.  If the petitioner's claims are successful and his conviction or sentence or both are reversed, the state will be unable to retry the case in most cases, due to the inmate's lack of competency.  In most states, those petitioners will remain on death row, even though their convictions or sentences were found to be constitutionally infirm and they are entitled to a new trial. And if the state prevails and the federal court upholds the conviction and sentence, those seriously mentally ill inmates will remain on death row, even though the state will in many, if not most, cases never carry out those death sentences because the inmates will not, in all likelihood, ever regain competency and become eligible for execution.  (See Ford v. Wainwright, where the U.S. Supreme Court held that "the Eighth Amendment prohibits a State from carrying out a sentence of death upon a prisoner who is insane.  Whether its aim be to protect the condemned from fear and pain without comfort of understanding, or to protect the dignity of society itself from the barbarity of exacting mindless vengeance, the restriction finds enforcement in the Eighth Amendment.").

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September 10, 2013

gilliam.jpgBy James Gilliam, Guest Alumni Blogger

Given the poverty crisis plaguing California, I was excited to have the opportunity recently to attend a Community Legislative Briefing hosted by The California Partnership -- of which the ACLU of Southern California is a proud member -- a diverse coalition of health, human service, labor, low income, immigrant rights and civil rights community-based organizations that have come together to fight poverty in our state.

The ACLU of Southern California believes that economic justice and civil liberties are inextricably intertwined. Indeed, basic economic rights are an essential prerequisite for the full and fair functioning of democracy in the United States and for the development and flourishing of civil liberties. So, we were excited to host this diverse group of community members, lawmakers, and advocates to discuss various policy proposals that, if enacted, will all come together to rebuild and restore our Golden State.

Budgets are about choices and priorities. Will California choose to reinvest in safety-net programs after $15 billion in health and human services programs were slashed in the last four years alone? Will California choose to expand its already bloated prison system instead of prioritizing cost-effective and evidence-based alternatives to incarceration that strengthen public safety while reducing over-incarceration? Will California choose to close the widening income inequality gap by passing and implementing common-sense policy changes?

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August 14, 2013

gilliam.jpgBy James Gilliam, Guest Alumni Blogger

Eric Holder's recent announcement at the American Bar Association's Annual Meeting that he is taking steps as Attorney General to tackle the bloated federal mass incarceration crisis comes at a crucial, and welcome, time. Indeed, preventing the use of the most severe federal drug penalties for people convicted of low-level drug offenses represents an important first step toward a fairer criminal justice system and will begin to curb the overcrowding issue that most every prison in the United States faces.

Now is the time for California -- a state the United States Supreme Court already ordered to reduce its prison population -- to follow Holder's lead. As in the rest of the nation, far too many people are locked up in California for far too long -- people we don't need to keep behind bars to ensure public safety. Rather than base our criminal justice system on knee-jerk, one-size-fits-all reactions like incarcerating people for offenses that could be better dealt with through substance abuse treatment, it is time for California to shift toward solutions that will create safety for California families and communities, while enabling those who have paid their debts to become productive citizens. There's no question that attempting to re-integrate into society is much easier to do without the lifelong barriers that follow a felony conviction, including obstacles to housing, employment, and even public support.

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April 24, 2013

By Associate Visiting Clinical Professor Lara Bazelon

In the Supreme Court case of Metrish v. Lancaster, the state appeals the finding of the Sixth Circuit's grant of habeas relief to Burt Lancaster (no relation to the actor), who was twice tried and found guilty for the murder of his girlfriend. In the first trial, Lancaster raised both insanity and diminished capacity defenses. The jury rejected both, but because of an unrelated constitutional error, the conviction was set aside.

At the second trial, Lancaster again sought to raise the insanity defense. In the interim, however, the Michigan Supreme Court abolished the defense. That decision was applied to Lancaster retroactively. Lancaster was once again convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

After exhausting his state court appeals, Lancaster filed a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. Lancaster lost in the district court, but prevailed before a divided panel of Sixth Circuit judges, which granted the writ after finding that Lancaster's due process rights were violated.

To find in Lancaster's favor, the panel had to clear two exceptionally high hurdles erected by the United States Supreme Court's retroactivity and habeas jurisprudence. On the retroactivity front, the court of appeals had to find that the Michigan courts' abolition of the diminished capacity defense was "unexpected and indefensible." On the habeas front, the bar was even higher: the Sixth Circuit had to find that the Michigan courts' decision to apply retroactively to Lancaster its "unexpected and indefensible" decision was "so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement" among reasonable jurists.

You may be wondering exactly what kind of habeas petitioner could possibly prevail under either standard, much less both. I'm not sure I know the answer, but I'm pretty sure it isn't Lancaster.

The dissenting judge on the Sixth Circuit panel laid bare the shaky foundations of her colleagues' opinion. Simply put, the majority could not overcome a standard of review so highly deferential that it allowed federal judges to grant relief to state court petitioners only in cases of "extreme malfunctions in the states' criminal justice systems."

My take: This dissent, coupled with SCOTUS' decision to grant cert, signals swift reversal.

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April 9, 2013

Natapoff Summary Judgments.jpgProfessor Alexandra Natapoff was honored with the 2013 Law and Society Association Article Prize for her law review article "Misdemeanors," which was published by the Southern California Law Review.

Abstract:

Misdemeanor convictions are typically dismissed as low-level events that do not deserve the attention or due process accorded to felonies. And yet with ten million petty cases filed every year, the vast majority of U.S. convictions are misdemeanors. In comparison to felony adjudication, misdemeanor processing is largely informal and deregulated, characterized by high-volume arrests, weak prosecutorial screening, an impoverished defense bar, and high plea rates. Together, these engines generate convictions in bulk, often without meaningful scrutiny of whether those convictions are supported by evidence. Indeed, innocent misdemeanants routinely plead guilty to get out of jail because they cannot afford bail. The consequences of these convictions are significant: in addition to the stigma of a criminal record, misdemeanants are often heavily fined, incarcerated, and/or lose jobs, housing, and educational opportunities. In other words, petty convictions are growing more frequent and burdensome even as we devote fewer institutional resources to ensuring their validity.

The misdemeanor phenomenon has profound systemic implications. It invites skepticism about whether thousands of individual misdemeanants are actually guilty. It reveals an important structural feature of the criminal system: that due process and rule-of-law wane at the bottom of the penal pyramid where offenses are pettiest and defendants are poorest. And it is a key ingredient in the racialization of crime, because misdemeanor processing is the mechanism by which poor defendants of color are swept up into the criminal system, i.e., "criminalized," with little or no regard for their actual guilt. In sum, the misdemeanor process is an institutional gateway that explains many of the criminal system's dynamics and dysfunctions.

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March 4, 2013

Lapp_SJ.jpgBy Associate Professor Kevin Lapp

On Feb. 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Maryland v. King, a case that Justice Alito called "the most important criminal procedure case this Court had had in decades." The case involves the constitutionality of warrantless, involuntarily DNA collection from individuals who have been arrested for a felony, but not yet charged or convicted. It is uncontested that DNA collection constitutes a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. This case asks whether compelling such searches in the absence of a warrant, and the absence of a criminal conviction, is reasonable.

Maryland, together with 27 other states and the federal government, has statutorily mandated law enforcement to collect a DNA sample from certain individuals upon arrest. The DNA extraction happens not because the state has any articulated suspicion whatsoever that the search will produce evidence of criminality. Were that so, the state could get a warrant to compel a DNA sample. Instead, the law requires arrestees to submit to DNA collection (typically by a buccal swab) based merely on the fact of the arrest. It is done so that law enforcement can analyze the DNA sample and compare it to the thousands of DNA profiles already in state and federal databases, in the hopes that the arrestee's DNA will match as-yet unidentified DNA evidence related to unsolved crimes.

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February 20, 2013

Thumbnail image for Levenson2.jpg By Professor Laurie Levenson and Courtnee Draper '14

This op-ed originally appeared in the Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 edition of the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal.

As Thomas Jefferson proclaimed, "The most sacred of the duties of a government is to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens." To accomplish this goal, it is imperative that we have a diversified bench. Recent national studies show that minority groups lag far behind in their confidence in our judicial system. While 62 percent of white voters view the courts as fair and impartial, only 55 percent of non-whites feel the same. In fact, 85 percent of some minority groups believe there are two systems of justice: one for the rich and powerful, and one for everyone else.

DiversityChart.jpgOverall, judges of color account for just 12 percent of all state court judges chosen since 2000. In California, we have a long way to go until our bench reflects the population that it serves. For example, Asians comprise 15 percent of the state's population; however, they represent only 5 percent of all judges. A more concerted effort has been made to appoint African-Americans to the California bench. African-Americans constitute 6 percent of the state population, and they too represent only 5 percent of the current judges.

The greatest focus has been on the appointment of Latino judges. Since January 2011, 15 new Latino judges have been appointed to the bench, increasing the representation of Latino judges to 8.2 percent. Yet in a state where 37.6 percent of the population is Latino, there is still a long way to go before the bench is diverse enough that Latinos are anything other than "token" appointees.

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December 20, 2012

By Clinical Professor Samantha Buckingham

buckingham SJ.jpgSenator Durbin (D-Ill.) held the first-ever U.S. Senate hearing on the ending the "school-to-prison pipeline." Senator Durbin is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights. The Senator defined the pipeline as a "gateway" out of school and into the criminal justice system that functions to rob children of their "fundamental right to education." In essence, many children with cases in juvenile delinquency court are there because of issues that arose in public school; instead of sending children to the principal's office for misbehavior, students are now removed from the educational environment entirely. Statistics reveal that students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBT youth bear the brunt of school disciplinary measures that funnel them into the delinquency system. According to the most recent date from the Office for Civil Rights, more than three million students were suspended from school at least once during the 2009-2010 school year. Seventy percent of the students arrested for an event arising at school were Black and Hispanic. Unfortunately, Black males who have diagnosed disabilities are the group most often suspended.

In my experience both as a public defender and as a juvenile advocate through my work as the co-director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic at Loyola's Center for Juvenile Law and Policy, I have represented many children who have been arrested at school. My testimony to Congress described how the school to prison pipeline impacted three of the clients I represented through my work in the juvenile justice clinic. Law students were involved in each one of these cases, researching and writing motions, meeting with the clients, investigating incidents at the schools, and arguing before the court. The stories I chose to share with the committee demonstrate a few important concerns (though not every concern) about the school-to-prison pipeline: 1) children are punished twice, 2) timing is important to intervention on behalf of children with special education needs, and 3) increased police presence and increased funneling of children to delinquency courts for incidents occurring at public school can have a negative, stigmatizing effect.

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December 13, 2012

JournalistsGuide.jpgReporting on the legal system without a law degree can be challenging. A team of Loyola Law School professors aimed to fix that by writing The Journalist's Guide to American Law. The book, published by Routledge and released on Monday, Dec. 10, serves as an essential reference for journalists whose coverage area includes the law. The authors are Professors John Nockleby, Laurie Levenson, Karl Manheim, Jay Dougherty, Dean Victor Gold, Allan Ides and Daniel Martin.

From the publisher:

How do you report on the latest sensational criminal trial or newest controversial legislation without a basic understanding of how the American legal system works? This easy-to-use guidebook offers an overview of American law that should be found on the desk of any journalism student or professional journalist. It provides an overview of major legal principles and issues in simple terms for journalists who cover any aspect of the legal system. The Guide can be used in two ways: first, as a sit-down read that gives an overview of American law; and second, as a reference that can be used every day under deadline pressure for a specific purpose. Every feature of the book is designed to serve both functions. Thus, the book's organization captures both the birds-eye view of a subject; and, alternatively, permits a quick review of a given section when the professional needs to understand a distinct concept. The areas covered range from professional concerns such as the First Amendment, cameras in the courtroom, Sunshine laws, and access to government documents to general legal matters such as the institutions of law and lawmaking function of the judiciary; core constitutional principles such as separation of powers and judicial review; and how courts function. The book is ideal for use in general newswriting and reporting courses, particularly those with a focus on legal or court reporting, and may also be used as a supplementary text in Media Law courses.

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November 5, 2012

Thumbnail image for Levenson2.jpg Professor Laurie Levenson was quoted in a Guernica Magazine story by Casey Michel titled, "California's Death Penalty Decision," published on November 5.

Levenson on what separates this proposition from previous attempts to repeal the death penalty:

"This round's not really about a morality issue--it's a cost issue," says Levenson. "The pitch this time [from the repeal camp] is that when we can't fund our schools, can't fund our highways, why are we funding this program that already has these exorbitant costs?"

To support Levenson's argument, Michel references Adjunct Professor Paula Mitchell's 2011 report on death penalty costs in California.

Michel writes:

"A report from 2011, authored by Judge Arthur Alarcon and Prof. Paula Mitchell, found that switching those on death row to life imprisonments without parole-as Prop 34 would accomplish-would save the state $170 million per year, tallied to $5 billion over the next two decades."

Levenson also spoke about proposition's chances of passing:

"I don't know what's going to happen, but this is the most traction I've seen the death penalty repeal get in decades," Levenson noted. "We can't shorten the process. We can't take shortcuts. There's too much at stake."

Read the full article here.

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October 26, 2012

Professor Laurie Levenson assessed the effectiveness of the death penalty in a recent story about Californai's Prop. 34, which would eliminate the death penalty in the state.

"There is no showing the death penalty does anything good. It's not a deterrent, all it does is suck in money and you would hope the public would say, 'we can we do better with that money,'" she siad.

She continued: "I think it is an emotional response. Emotionally, some people say I think killers have to die, and emotionally some people say I don't want to be killing in the name of the state. Often times that is what the debate comes down to."

Read the complete story.

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October 11, 2012

Law review articles by Associate Professors Doug NeJaime and Priscilla A. Ocen appear in the California Law Review issue published in October 2012.

CalLawReview.jpgNeJaime's "Marriage Inequality: Same-Sex Relationships, Religious Exemptions and the Production of Sexual Orientation Discrimination" (100 Cal. L. Rev. 1169) looks at the conflict between marriage equality and religious liberty. Ocen's "Punishing Pregnancy: Race, Incarceration, and the Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners" (100 Cal. L. Rev. 1239) provides a critical assessment of the practice of shackling female prisoners who are in labor, and the historical undertones of the practice.

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October 1, 2012

Atik SJ.jpgBy Professor Jeffery Atik

The IP provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional trade agreement involving the United States and 10 other Pacific Rim nations, are not merely 'TRIPS Plus;' they are also 'WIPO Plus.'

Two major multilateral copyright treaties came into force following the establishment of TRIPS: the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty and the 1996 WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. Together, these treaties expand protection to authors and performers in the digital environment. As WIPO products, these two treaties, known together as the WIPO Internet Treaties, reflect fairly broad international consensus, in contrast to the more contentious 'TRIPS Plus' norms promoted by the United States and Europe in various bilateral and regional settings. The now abandoned Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was an attempt to construct TRIPS Plus broadly, outside of the WTO.

The WIPO Internet Treaties establish new categories of unlawful activity, but they do not require the imposition of criminal penalties on infringers. For example, Article 11 of the WIPO Copyright Treaty requires signatories to "provide adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies" against persons who circumvent technological measures for the protection of copyrighted works. While the WIPO Copyright Treaty does not prevent a signatory from imposing criminal liability in these cases, neither does it mandate it.

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September 24, 2012

Atik SJ.jpgBy Professor Jeffery Atik

True, we know little about the current form of the draft Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a regional trade agreement to involve the United States and ten other countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam) -- but we can be certain that TPP will include an Intellectual Property chapter with a battery of TRIPS Plus features. We can get a hint at the IP content of an eventual TPP -- or at least at the negotiation goals of the United States -- by examining the IP provisions of recent U.S. Free Trade Agreements such as those concluded with Peru, Panama and South Korea. Or we could look back at the recently concluded ACTA, now abandoned by the European Union, one of ACTA's principal sponsors. Or we can look at the text of a leaked draft that may or may not be accurate. So let's apply all three approaches to create an amalgam for conversational purposes -- and explore the criminalization mandates found in the leaked TPP draft.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Police ta...
TRIPS introduced criminalization obligations to the international IP system. With the passage of years, these provisions are regarded as inadequate by crucial U.S. IP constituencies (along with TRIPS' enforcement more generally). The United States has included expanded criminalization mandates as part of its TRIPS Plus program. Additional activities are subject to criminal liability under the terms of recent FTAs and ACTA and in the leaked TPP draft.

Article 15.1 of the leaked TPP draft echoes TRIPS Article 61: "Each Party shall provide for criminal procedures and penalties to be applied at least in cases of willful counterfeiting or copyright or related rights piracy on a commercial scale." Ignore for a moment the insertion of the phrase "or related rights." The TPP leaked draft tracks the first sentence of TRIPS Article 61 word-for-word, including the problematic "on a commercial scale" limitation. It also replicates the language found in the recent FTA entered into with South Korea. 

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September 20, 2012

Atik SJ.jpgBy Professor Jeffery Atik

China IP.jpg

Among the many changes to the international IP landscape wrought by the WTO's TRIPS Agreement was the unprecedented mandate to impose criminal liability for the most egregious acts of trademark and copyright infringement. Criminal sanctions add to civil and administrative remedies to create a climate of observation of IP rights throughout the WTO space. In anticipation of its joining the WTO -- and in response to pressure from the United States -- China amended its domestic criminal law to provide for the possibility of imprisonment or fines in certain instances of IP infringement as a complement to civil and administrative remedies. Nonetheless, there remains continuing concern held by IP holders about the effectiveness of China's IP enforcement. Much of the current 'TRIPS-plus' program (including the discarded ACTA and the emerging Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP]) is intended to indirectly influence China with regard to IP enforcement.

In 2007, the U.S. brought a three-prong challenge to China's IP system within the WTO dispute settlement system. The central part of the dispute involved a U.S. assertion that China failed to give full effect to the TRIPS criminalization mandate. Article 61 of TRIPS obligates WTO members to provide "for criminal procedures and penalties to be applied at least in cases of wilful trademark counterfeiting or copyright piracy on a commercial scale."

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August 9, 2012

Levenson2.jpgBy Professor Laurie Levenson

[This article was originally posted in the Los Angeles Daily Journal.]

The fundamental rules of venue are not that difficult. The government must prosecute an offense in a district where the crime was committed. See U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 3; U.S. Const., Amend. VI; Fed. R. Crim. P. 18. Generally, venue requirements for criminal cases are set by statute. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 3234 - 3244. If a crime takes place in multiple venues, the prosecutor usually has discretion as to where to charge the crime.

Despite these basic rules, interesting venue issues arise all the time. In the past year, there have been several cases addressing venue challenges in federal court. For example, in United States v. Gonzalez, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 13149 (9th Cir. 2012), the Ninth Circuit once again ruled on a challenge to venue in a conspiracy case. Circuit Judge Richard C. Tallman began his opinion by noting that "[d]etermining where an offense occurred can be quite tricky - particularly for continuing crimes, like conspiracy, where the conspirators' activities often have a ripple-like effect that may involve numerous districts." Id. at *1.

In Gonzalez, defendant was charged with conspiring to sell drugs. During the alleged conspiracy, Gonzalez never set foot in the district where the crime was charged. Rather, venue was based upon two telephone calls to Gonzalez's cell number that a confidential informant ("CI") made at the direction of the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"). Nothing in the stipulated facts indicated whether Gonzalez knew or suspected that the CI was calling from another district at the time of the calls. However, the Ninth Circuit panel held that it did not matter. Because the calls were used to negotiate the sale and delivery of drugs, venue was proper in the district from which the calls were made.

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