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Across the Nation: Court upholds law aimed at domestic violence on tribal lands

Court upholds law aimed at domestic violence on tribal lands

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law and its stiff prison terms aimed at people who have been convicted of repeated acts of domestic violence on Indian lands.

The justices said in a unanimous decision that the law can be used against defendants, even if they did not have lawyers in earlier domestic violence convictions in tribal courts.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees an attorney for criminal defendants in state and federal courts. Under the Indian Civil Rights Act, defendants have the right to hire their own attorneys in tribal court but are not guaranteed that one will be retained by the court for them.

The high court ruled in the case of Michael Bryant Jr., who received a 46-month federal prison term after pleading guilty to assaulting two women. Bryant’s record included at least five domestic assault convictions in tribal courts on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. For most of these assaults, Bryant received jail time of a year or less, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her opinion for the court.

But the U.S. appeals court in San Francisco threw out Bryant’s federal prison sentence because his earlier domestic violence convictions were handled without a lawyer.

The justices reversed that ruling Monday. “But, we have long held, the Bill of Rights, including the Sixth Amendment, does not govern tribal-court proceedings,” Ginsburg said.

The Indian Civil Rights Act restricts the right to a lawyer to sentences that exceed a year, Ginsburg said. And Bryant never received a sentence that long in tribal court, she said.


Florida lawyers who set up rival counsel for DWI bust seek mercy

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Two Florida lawyers accused of orchestrating the arrest of a rival attorney are asking the state’s Supreme Court not to disbar them permanently.

Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut of Tampa are requesting disbarment with an opportunity for reinstatement in five years. Pinellas County Judge W. Douglas Baird recommended permanent disbarment. Stephen Diaco has already been permanently disbarred.

Diaco, Adams and Filthaut are accused of violating Florida Bar rules by setting up opposing attorney Phil Campbell with the help of a paralegal and a Tampa police officer.

Campbell was arrested for DUI in the middle of a 2013 trial. Campbell was representing radio shock jock Todd “MJ” Schnitt, who was suing another DJ, Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, for slander. Clem was being represented by the Adams and Diaco law firm.


Lawyer who forged judge’s signature gets 16 months

LONG ISLAND, NY — A Long Island attorney has been sentenced after pleading guilty to forging a bankruptcy judge’s signature, officials said.

Jeffrey Stark, 53, of Massapequa, was sentenced to 16 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In 2012, a couple retained Stark to file bankruptcy proceedings on their behalf in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, officials said.

But Stark never filed a bankruptcy petition and instead provided the couple with a fake discharge order that featured the forged signature of a judge, according to officials.

“Attorneys, as trusted officers of the court, are rightfully held to a high standard of conduct, and Mr. Stark violated the trust of his clients and the court by his criminal conduct here,” U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said, in a statement.

The New York State Appellate Division suspended Stark from the practicing law on Nov. 20, 2013.

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