Proskauer’s 35-year pro bono representation of a death row inmate, J.B. Parker, came to a successful conclusion last week when the 19th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole following the State of Florida’s decision to stop pursuing the death penalty.
One of the most important issues facing this country today is gun violence and how to prevent it. Lawyers can play a vital role in advising legislators who want to enact meaningful gun regulations, and by using their skills to try to prevent the adoption of laws designed to block meaningful gun regulations. Last month, a Proskauer team achieved a victory with nationwide implications by persuading a Florida state trial court to strike down a Florida gun law as unconstitutional.
The Florida law preempted “the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition,” meaning municipalities and counties could not pass gun regulations. Unfortunately, such a preemption provision is not unusual, but in 2011, the Florida legislature took it a step further by adding substantial penalties for violating the preemption. Under the law, if a municipality enacts a gun law later found preempted, it is subject to a private damages lawsuit with liability up to $100,000, plus uncapped attorneys’ fees, and the legislators who voted for the preempted law are subject to a $5,000 fine and removal from office by the governor.
What I thought would be a simple bill signing ceremony for legislation intended to protect children from sex trafficking turned out to be something more. On August 15th in lower Manhattan, rock music blared in the community center gymnasium as hundreds of people found their seats amid TV cameras stationed in front of a make-shift stage with a large banner embracing the fight for women and girls. As the New York Times reported, “[t]he event was ostensibly a bill-signing ceremony,” but it had all the trappings of a political rally.
The legislation that Governor Cuomo signed is significant. Prior to this law, a New York State prosecutor had to prove force, fraud or coercion to establish sex trafficking – regardless of whether the victim was a child. It made no sense that even though a child cannot legally engage in sexual activity, the State still had to meet that evidentiary burden. The legislation conforms New York law to that of 46 other states and federal law which recognize that all children involved in prostitution are victims of trafficking. According to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.: “By eliminating the need to prove force, fraud, or coercion for children under 18-years-old, we will be able to bring stronger cases, and spare young survivors from the trauma of having to testify mere feet from their traffickers.”