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legal

KN, p. 265 “Election Integrity 2020”

Almost every time the USA has had a Presidential election in the last few cycles, there have been concerns about voter fraud mentioned before, during, and after the elections. From both sides of the aisle. It’s important to note that after appropriate investigations by duly selected or elected officials, it has been determined that any discrepancies in the vote are rarely actual fraud, but rather caused by human error or mechanical malfunction. Despite the court cases that drag on after the elections, widespread voter fraud rarely happens. Frustrating to the opposition, but investigations show otherwise. Read this article to explain past occurrences.

 

In 2020, the voices of doom and gloom seem more strident. Is the Pandemic causing us to panic where no panic is warranted? We are, after all, in the middle of one of the most challenging periods in our recent history and want to make sure our wishes are known at the polls. Whether by paper ballot marked on the day of the election, or a mail-in ballot sent before the deadline, or early voting by machine/paper, or absentee ballots received after the actual Election Day, the American people must be able to exercise our inalienable right to vote.

 

Mail-in ballots have been attacked as problematic. In actual fact, some States have used mail-in ballots in previous elections without difficulty. Signatures are checked against those on file, bar codes on the envelopes are assigned to one person, checked, recorded, and votes are counted and verified.

 

The following nine States (and the District of Columbia) have already mailed ballots to all the registered voters:

California
Colorado
District of Columbia
Hawaii
Nevada
New Jersey
Oregon
Utah
Vermont
Washington

 

34 of the rest of the States will allow the registered voters to do mail-in voting because of Covid19, or no stated reason at all. Some States require people to request the mail-in ballot; some people automatically receive the application in the mail.

 

These seven States require some reason besides Covid19 in order to qualify for mail-in ballots:

Indiana
Louisiana
Mississippi
New York
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas

 

If you don’t like the method your State employs to conduct elections, vote for changes in your election laws, or for a change in the people that make those decisions. Proposed changes to the election procedures are often contained in the Public Questions sections of the ballot.

 

According to opponents of the mail-in process, one of the biggest issues is the mail itself. We have endured attacks on the efficacy of our postal system to deliver absentee ballots in the time needed, but millions of ballots have already been delivered via the Post Office throughout the country without problem. Any errors can be corrected via the stated methods on the individual State election site. Most States are providing drop-in boxes for the ballots in strategic spots for those people choosing not to vote in person. For some reason, Texas has decided to limit the drop-off sites to one per county. I hope that changes, as it creates a hardship for many voters that don’t need yet another challenge in 2020.

 

There have been questions raised about ballot rejection, so remember to sign your ballot and fill in the boxes correctly. There are tracking systems in place to make sure that the ballot is received.

 

Does voter fraud ever happen? Rarely, but yes, and the incidents are investigated. In a famous case in the North Carolina Ninth Congressional District 2018 election, a professional campaign worker and his hired group allegedly illegally collected registered voters’ absentee ballots and tampered with them in various ways. There was enough of a disparity in the vote distribution that questions were raised and the vote was determined not to be valid. The election was overturned and a new vote held months later. A related case is still in the courts.

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article242174111.html

 

What about interference from foreign governments or other ‘bad actors?’ On October 6th, there was a joint video delivered to social media by the heads of four United States security agencies: the FBI, the NSA (National Security Administration), CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency), and NCSC (National Counterintelligence and Security Center). During the video they sought to reassure the public that they are basically pulling out all the stops to make sure that our national election is safe and secure from all attacks, domestic and foreign.

The video can be seen at fbi.org.
https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/election-crimes-and-security


In the meantime, CISA director, Christopher Krebs, advises us as voters to:

Prepare (Choose our voting venue or method and follow Covid protocols)
Participate (VOTE, and perhaps even volunteer to help with the process)
Patience (be ready to wait a few days for the elections to be verified, since some entities have extended deadlines for receipt of mail-in ballots. In other words, if the winner of the Presidential race can’t be declared on Election Night, we should be patient. It may take an extra few days this year to get all the votes counted.)

 

Bottom line? Exercise your right to vote.

Every vote counts, at every single level of government.

 

 

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KN, p. 243 “Where Did They Move the Graves?”

 

“May he/she rest in peace.” a statement made by attendees at most funerals in one form or another. We all want our loved ones to rest in eternity, free of any earthly concerns. We assume that for those being interred in a graveyard or other burial site, that the body will remain in that spot, marked in some way (by a headstone or plaque) to allow visitation by the heirs in years to come.

 

To many grieving loved ones, to disturb that resting place would be a desecration, no matter what the cause for doing so. But, however offended we may be at the idea of anyone digging up Grammie or Auntie Millie, States and municipalities have the right of Eminent Domain and that stretches to include moving graves if needed for the public good.

 

One comment made by some less sensitive, but motivated to complete the projects: “the dead are dead, so they won’t care.”

 

A common response made by the people affected: “the souls will haunt the diggers until finally able to rest.”

 

I read recently that sections of a central North Carolina church cemetery stand in the way of the highway department’s wish/need to remove a potential traffic bottleneck. I stood next to the road during ‘rush hour’ one day and there was never bumper to bumper congestion. Four years ago, somebody predicted that traffic would double by 2039, and as a result, this project was conceived. Hmmm. The plan is to widen the road from two to four lanes. Unfortunately, part of the church is about 30 feet from the road and the cemetery is not only smack dab next to the road, but is on both sides of the road. In 1831, when the church was erected on a peaceful country lane, nobody expected a major highway to be constructed a 1/4 mile away, let alone that the country lane would need to be widened to accommodate motor vehicles.

 

By NC State Law, relatives of the deceased in the ground must be notified of any intent to move the bodies. On occasion this happens because of cemetery re-design (unforeseen flooding, earthquakes, mudslides). In the case of natural disasters, relatives would most likely be okay with digging up coffins and having them moved to safer places. In rare instances, a body can be exhumed by court order when there is a suspicious death under investigation. And, permission isn’t needed from the immediate family in most jurisdictions when criminal mischief is the reason for the exhumation.

 

In NC, the plan is to relocate 206 of the 2000+ bodies to an area behind the church. Why some, not all? The State doesn’t need all the land. What if the church officials can’t reach everyone? The next of kin has had two years to reply, but what if the last known address doesn’t work anymore? What if all the heirs have died as well? The church will leave a marker near where the body had been (in some cases for 100 years) letting interested parties know where they can now find the grave and headstone. Yes, the headstones are to be moved as well.

 

I can tell you that people are upset, while some accept the reality. They’ve had almost two years since notification to adjust to the news and react. Stakes are in the ground reminding the congregation and heirs that the State is serious. Lawyers have been involved, negotiations to make adjustments to the plan have been underway, petitions to stop the project altogether have been filed. Blue flags indicate the dividing line between moving and staying put, although if the church followed the line exactly, in one case a family would be split up and the family headstone would be sliced in half. So, sane heads prevail and decisions are made to do the least harm.

Who takes care of the cost of moving the headstone and any damage that may occur? In this case, a contractor is being paid to move the headstones, but only pays for damage or repair if it’s specifically in the contract for hire. The NC church has become a go-between of sorts and has a few guidelines in place to ensure the quality and appropriateness of the stones.

 

Where does the law stand on this?

It varies from State to State, but in general, all living heirs of the dead must be found and notified of the plans to move the graves at the State’s expense (within the State’s definition). If one of them objects, the move cannot happen legally. But trust me, noncompliance can be expensive.

 

True story: decades ago, a proposed major highway spur was due to be completed in New Jersey. It had been on the books for so long that the locals assumed it would never be finished. When the time actually arrived, the homeowners were given a choice to move or stay and be cut off from city services because of the road design. The State finished the project and the locals that stayed lost any possibility of compensation, etc. and did indeed lose access to services, including for a short time having to drive two miles out of the way to exit the housing area. In other words, sometimes permission must be given, but that doesn’t mean the State will make it easy not to comply. If permission isn’t needed for road construction, the contractors will come in and bulldoze anything in the way. Legally.

 

Is this the first time a graveyard or personal or supposedly protected public property has been impacted by the needs of the many? Not by a longshot.

 

Golf courses have been built on top of graves, although sometimes accidentally. Read “Cemetery at the Golf Course,” here: http://bit.ly/1tUQ4rX

 

Eminent Domain covers the destruction and/or reduction of the federal park system.

 

Eminent Domain comes into play when ancient burial grounds stand in the way of energy development.

 

Is it legal to be buried on your own property?

What would keep me from bringing Auntie Millie home to my 5 acre piece of property?

 

There are no laws that prohibit home burial, but you must check local zoning laws before establishing a home cemetery or burying on private land. It is also legally required to use a Funeral Director, even if you are burying on private land. Embalming is only required if a person died of a contagious disease.

 

Whether in the name of greed or progress, the Eminent Domain stories just write themselves. And plenty have been, both in books and in the movies.

 

*Notes: There is nothing fictional about this post.
              Photos taken by me, Patti Phillips.

 

 

 

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KN, p. 167 “What does a U.S. Marshal do?”

 

USMarshalBadge

 

The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) has been around for over 225 years, created by the first Congress to protect/serve the federal courts and make sure the orders of the President, Congress, and Judges were carried out across the United States. It is the country’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

 

I never thought of US Marshals as census takers, but up until 1870 they did that in addition to arresting fugitives and serving subpoenas. Over the years they have also been asked by Congress and the President to capture fugitive slaves, swap spies with the Soviet Union, chase the bad guys, control riots – the basic idea being to help the government run more smoothly when nobody else has been quite qualified to do the job across State lines.

 

An interesting aspect of their history is that at first, US Marshals answered to the Secretary of State. In 1861, they fell under the Attorney General’s office and then in 1961, became an entity of their own with a Chief Marshal in charge. It has always been the enforcement arm of the federal courts and operates within the Department of Justice.

 

The 94 US Marshals are appointed by the President and handle the enforcement duties for the 94 federal court districts and the 12 circuits of the US Court of Appeals. They employ over 5,200 deputy Marshals, criminal investigators, administrative employees, and detention enforcement officers. They are in charge of:

 

  • Judicial Security
  • Fugitive Operations
  • Asset Forfeiture
  • Prisoner Transportation
  • Witness Security

 

USMarshalFlag

 

Judicial Security

 

Since the federal courts preside over cases that involve terrorists groups, organized crime, and other presumed seriously dangerous defendants as well as high profile extortion/fraud cases, the judges, lawyers, and even litigants involved are sometimes the target of violence.

 

It’s the job of the US Marshal Service to prevent the violence and also to protect the public, witnesses, jurors, prisoners, and innocent bystanders.

 

In addition, the USMS:

 

  • Coordinates security for judicial conferences.
  • Protects Supreme Court justices and the deputy Attorney General outside of Washington.
  • Provides support to the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service with protective details for foreign officials while the U.N. is in session.
  • Manages the security services that provide court security officers who screen visitors at building entrances.
  • Provides information to federal, state, local, and international law enforcement partners about judicial security, including threat assessment and training.

 

 

Fugitive Operations

 

In 2015, the USMS arrested over 99,000 fugitives.

They cleared over 119,000 warrants.

 

 

Asset Forfeiture

 

The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program seeks to disrupt criminal actions by taking away the means of doing business, while returning property to its rightful owners.

 

The U.S. Marshals Service helps identify and evaluate the proceeds of crime. They manage and sometimes auction off items as varied as real estate, businesses, cars, jewelry, art, antiques, boats, and planes.

 

Proceeds from the sales go to operate the program, reimburse victims, and fund various law enforcement operations.

 

Some of the other agencies that participate in the Asset Forfeiture Program are: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; FBI; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Food and Drug Administration; Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General.

 

 

Prisoner Transportation

 

In 2015, over 261,000 prisoners were transported by air and on land by the USMS.

 

The U.S. Marshals’ Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System handles over 700 cases a day between judicial districts and correctional institutions in the U.S., for the purpose of getting witnesses to trial or prisoners to jail.

 

JPATS has its own fleet of aircraft to move prisoners over long distances and is the only government-operated, regularly-scheduled passenger airline in the USA. Both military and civilian law enforcement agencies can use the planes for their prisoner transport – if space is available and only if the USMS is reimbursed.

 

 

Witness Security

 

The U.S. Marshals Service operates the federal Witness Security Program, sometimes called the Witness Protection Program, or WitSec.

 

Its primary role is to protect government witnesses and their immediate family members (sometimes innocent bystanders and sometimes criminals themselves) whose lives are in danger because of their cooperation in investigations and trials.

 

 

For more information about the US Marshal Service, visit www.usmarshals.gov

 

USMarshalSeal

Future posts will discuss:

 

  • Qualifications and training needed to become a US Marshal
  • WitSec

 

 

*Photo credit: Wikipedia

 

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