Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 21, 2013

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Legal news this week takes us to Missouri where the governor may attempt to preemptively nullify federal gun control legislation, to Florida where the Zimmerman jury has been selected, and to Ohio where the man convicted by a paralyzed victim’s testimony is sentenced.  

Missouri Faces Bold Choice in State Fight Against Federal Gun Control

As Congress and the President work towards potential gun control legislation, the governor of Missouri is faced with the choice of signing into law a statute that nullifies federal authority to enforce gun restriction.  The law is a bold preemptive step that directs state police to ignore federal gun laws and even press criminal charges against federal agents who attempt to enforce gun legislation.

Nullification of Federal authority is not new, nor is it limited to gun control.  States across the country have, to some degree of success, skirted the edges of the federal government’s ban on Marijuana by legalizing medical use for years.  Last year, Colorado and Washington pressed the Marijuana issue one significant step forward by legalizing recreational use, and throughout it all the Federal response has been minimal.

The Constitution specifically states that federal law trumps state law, and courts have consistently upheld federal laws when state law conflicts, but states continue to live on the edges of federal authority – most recently by laws challenging Obamacare and, now, potential gun control legislation.  So far states have been allowed this behavior because the federal government avoids direct challenges, however, given the recent emphasis on gun control, it seems like Missouri is on the verge of taking this game of federalism chicken one step too far.

Murder Defendant Asks NSA for Surveillance Records

In a strange use of data collected by the National Security Agency, a murder defendant is demanding the government turn over data collected by NSA surveillance so he can prove his innocence.  For years the NSA has demanded that companies turn over phone records, and murder defendant Terrance Brown is, through his attorneys, demanding the NSA turn over those phone records to show he could not be connected to the murder.

Predictably, the government has made a motion to deny request to the records by claiming they are classified and protected under the Classified Information Protection Act (CIPA).  Up until recently, Americans were unaware of the scope of the NSA’s data collection, making this case the first of what promises to be many when defendants demand access to phone records to prove innocence.  No ruling has come in the Brown request yet, but the situation provides an interesting look into some of the unintended consequences of massive government surveillance efforts.

Quick Hits in Legal News

  • Following up on last week’s update about the George Zimmerman jury in his upcoming murder trial, it was announced that after two weeks of work, six women will sit as the jury.  Two men and two women were selected as alternates.  None of the jurors are black, leading to speculation that an already racially charged case could stir more discontent if the verdict is not-guilty.
  • Ex-Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling is attempting to reduce his 24-year prison sentence by as many as 10-years in a deal that could allow for the distribution of $41 million in restitution to victims of Enron’s criminal activity.