Friday, November 21, 2008

Kyrgyzstan's New Law Affects Mormon Church

The Kyrgyz Republic — a former Soviet republic that has recently hindered efforts by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for official recognition — is about to severely further erode religious freedom, a U.S. watchdog agency says.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom warned Wednesday that the country's parliament passed a law that would make it more difficult for churches to register before they can operate legally, ban children from participating in religious organizations and ban distribution of religious materials in public places.

"If the president signs the law as passed by the parliament, religious freedom will be eroded in Kyrgyzstan, which used to enjoy the reputation of being (the) most democratic of the post-Soviet Central Asian republics," said Felice D. Gaer, head of the commission established by Congress to watch religious freedom globally.

She called for the United States to work through diplomatic channels to urge Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev not to sign the legislation, which she said would provide "legal cover for egregious discrimination on the basis of religion."

A State Department report released earlier this year said the LDS Church was already having troubles there even before the new law.

That report said, "Several religious groups had difficulties registering. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), which initially applied for registration in 2004, was still not registered at the end of the reporting period," a requirement before it may operate legally in the country.

The new law would make it much more difficult to register. Instead of requiring just 10 members in the country before a church could register, it would now require 200, the commission said.

Members of the European Parliament, in a visit to Kyrgyz last month, raised concerns about the new bill. Also, Alexander Shumilin, chairman of the Kyrgyz Council of Church of Evangelical Christians, told a press conference last month the new law could force many churches there into operating illegally and in hiding.

"We respect Kyrgyz laws, but our main mission is spreading of the gospel and we are so committed to it," he said.

The Kyrgyz Republic, which is slightly smaller than South Dakota, has a population of about 5.4 million. It is 75 percent Muslim, 20 percent Russian Orthodox, with other religions accounting for 5 percent of the population. It is bounded by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. by Deseret News

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mormon Missionary Testifies Against Shooter

Morgan W. Young, of Bountiful, was on one knee, writing down the name and number of a man he and his missionary companion had met while proselytizing.

Fellow Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionary Joshua Heidbrink, of Greeley, Colo., was by Young's side as the two prepared to end their day on the streets of Deep Creek on the day after New Year's 2006.

They saw a man up the street backing away from a house, his arm extended. There was a gunshot, then the hooded man with a gun ran toward them.

"It was very quick," Heidbrink testified Wednesday in Chesapeake Circuit Court.

Heidbrink said he recalled two flashes. The first sent him to the ground.

"Then I saw another flash, and then I heard a bang from a pistol,'' he said.

The second shot sent 21-year-old Young face-first to the rain-soaked pavement. He had been shot in the head and would soon be dead.

Heidbrink tried to wake his companion, but there was no response. He went for help at the nearby Charity House.

"I opened up my raincoat and suit coat and saw the blood running down my chest,'' Heidbrink testified. He had been shot in the shoulder.

Heidbrink was a prosecution witness in the trial of James Boughton Jr. The 21-year-old is charged with first-degree murder, malicious wounding, attempted malicious wounding and three counts of use of a firearm.

Police had shown Heidbrink a photo lineup of six people after the shooting.

"I could not identify anybody," he testified.

Commonwealth's Attorney Nancy Parr and Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney D.J. Hansen used the testimony of another witness, 19-year-old Mario Felton, in an attempt to tie Boughton to the shootings.

Felton and Boughton had gone to the Elkhart Street duplex of Gregory "Life" Banks Jr. They laid in wait for Banks outside his home, Felton said.

Felton and Banks were feuding over $80 in drug money.

"Why were you going to go over there?" Hansen said.

"To beat him up," Felton said.

Boughton had a gun that night and wore a black hoodie, Felton said. Boughton waited at one end of the house; Felton waited behind the other end of the duplex.

Felton testified that he ran away when he heard a car coming. As he ran, he noticed two white men, with a black man on the street nearby, he said.

He continued to run and heard a single shot, he said. Then there were two more. Then, he testified, Boughton ran up behind him yelling a racial slur and said, "I got them. I got them."

Felton admitted to hiding the 9 mm handgun Boughton was carrying. He also gave police a statement when they approached him about his actions that night.

"I told them that I shot the gun three times," he testified.

He said that was a lie to cover for Boughton, a friend he often referred to as "Sleep.''

"I was trying to protect Sleep. Then I started thinking, for what?" he testified.

Andrew Sacks, Boughton's attorney, is expected to cross-examine Felton today when the trial resumes. by the Virginia Pilot

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Trial Underway in Virginia for Mormon Missionary Killer

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - The trial of a Virginia man accused of killing one Mormon missionary and wounding another in 2006 is under way in Chesapeake. The jury heard opening statements on Monday in the case of James Boughton, who is charged with first-degree murder, malicious wounding, attempted malicious wounding and three firearms violations. Missionaries Morgan W. Young, of Bountiful, and Joshua Heidbrink were shot while knocking on doors in Chesapeake in January 2006. Young died of his injuries. Heidbrink, of Greeley, Colo., recovered from the shooting. Attorneys for Boughton told the jury that another man was responsible for the shootings and that Boughton has an alibi. Prosecutors say a dispute over money led Boughton to the neighborhood and a run-in with the missionaries.

Phoenix to begin its 16-story Criminal Court Tower

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors sacrificed $86 million in capital-improvement projects Monday, instead unanimously deciding to spend the money on a courtroom complex in downtown Phoenix.

The 16-story Criminal Court Tower could cost $340 million and likely will be the county's most expensive project, filling a block bounded by First and Second avenues and Jackson and Madison streets.

Most criminal cases are tried in the downtown Phoenix Superior Court Complex, but with 40,000 felony cases filed yearly and the number projected to grow, the tower is meant to handle ever-increasing caseloads.

In shelving other projects, the board hammered home that it is committed to the tower, despite slumping revenues, a gaping hole in its budget, and bleak briefings from economists who predict the economic situation will get worse.

"There will never be a better time to build that building than right now," said Republican Supervisor Max Wilson.

To help cover court-tower costs, the board shelved a $67 million plan to expand a regional court in Mesa, a $13 million project to build a sheriff's office 911 center and crime lab, and a $6.3 million plan to knock down First Avenue Jail.

For years, county officials have squirreled away money for the judicial complex, which will add 32 courtrooms. Now's the time to spend it, they say, when prices for labor and building materials are down.

"We consider it a business decision," County Manager David Smith said. "It's one that's made apart of the ups and downs of the current economy. We've been saving money for at least eight years, and it's the right way to do economic stimulus, with the 500 jobs (that will be added during) the next three years during construction. We're doing it with cash, we're injecting that savings account back into the economy, (and) that will circulate several times, all to local employees and contractors and so on."

Kenny Harris, an assistant county manager, said, "We're going to save money . . . because of the recession. As long as the economy struggles, it's the best time for government projects to step up.

"In order to keep their businesses open, (subcontractors) are willing to do the work and reduce their profit margins and their fees to do the work. It's better to stay in business and take less money than close your doors."

The county hopes to open the court-tower doors in early 2012.

Eighteen months ago, the board gave the go-ahead to design and build the tower, and authorized spending $342.4 million. Officials have spent about $11 million, and on Monday, reduced the project's funding to $339 million. The county will break ground on the project next month, starting with storm-sewer relocation and garage demolition.

The court tower is designed at 16 floors, including two underground floors. At 682,000 square feet, it would house 32 criminal courtrooms; 22 courtrooms would be built immediately; and 10 more would be finished later.

Plans also include a jury-assembly room for the entire criminal-court complex, state-of-the-art technology, and separate waiting rooms for victims and witnesses. The tower would include judges' chambers and restorative-justice services, in which people try to repair the harm caused by crime by working in the community. by

Friday, November 14, 2008

Is the Sixth Circuit Overulling Miranda?

Yesterday, Judge Gilbert Merritt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit wrote quite a fiery dissent in Davie v. Mitchell, suggesting that the Court was effectively overruling Miranda v. Arizona.

The majority in this case is reading the AEDPA statute unlawfully to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in violation of the Suspension Clause of the United States Constitution, Article I, § 9 (“The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”). Here, as I shall explain below, the majority is using the AEDPA statute as a license to overrule Miranda v. Arizona and its lineal progeny developed by the Warren-Brennan Court four decades ago to outlaw coerced confessions that abridge the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The capital defendant invoked both his right to silence and counsel to no avail before he was then enticed to confess.
He concluded his opinion in similar tones:
I . . . dissent from the effort by my colleagues to bury Miranda under a mountain of AEDPA rhetoric. Until the Supreme Court overrules Miranda, we should follow it, no matter how much we prefer to side with the police against the liberties created by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
What could have Judge Merritt so upset? The decision by Judge John Rogers, joined by Judge Guy Cole, to deny the habeas petition of Roderick Davie, who was sentenced to death for the murder of two people and the attempted murder of a third. Specifically, Judge Merritt believes Davie's confession was obtained in violation of his Constitutional rights to remain silent and have the assistance of counsel.

Here is how Judge Rogers describes the circumstances surrounding the confession.

At approximately 8:30 a.m., Davie was arrested, read his Miranda rights, and transported to the police station. At approximately 9:05 a.m. at the police station, Detective Hill read Davie his Miranda rights with Lieutenant Carl Blevins present. Davie initialed the rights form but refused to sign the waiver. At that point, the officers made no attempt to interrogate Davie. At approximately 9:59 a.m., Captain Downs and Blevins entered the interrogation room and again advised Davie of his Miranda rights. Davie initially made some comments, he ultimately declined to speak further with the officers, and the interview ceased. At approximately 12:15 p.m., authorities again questioned Davie. Davie provided some information to police, including the fact that he had his gun with him that morning, but he did not confess to the crime. At 12:35 p.m., Davie indicated that he had nothing more to say and the interview ceased. At approximately 2:00 p.m., Davie indicated that he wanted to speak with Detective Vingle. After Vingle advised him of his Miranda rights, Davie confessed. See 686 N.E.2d 245, 256 (Ohio 1997). At no time during the relevant events did Davie ask for a lawyer.
Based upon these facts (discussed in far greater detail in Judge Cole's concurrence), and the degree of deference federal courts are required to show state courts under AEDPA, Judges Rogers and Cole concluded Davie's confession was voluntary, particularly because he initiated the discussion with the police that led to the confession. Indeed, "even under a nondeferential analysis," Judge Rogers wrote, "the police did not violate Davie's constitutional rights under Miranda v. Arizona. Judge Merritt obviously disagreed, in part because Davie never signed a waiver of his rights.

This case strikes me as something of a close call, and is largely dependent upon how one characterizes the repeated interactions between Davie and the police. If one thinks these interactions were relatively benign and non-coercive, the majority is correct. If, on the other hand, the repeated interactions with the police were more menacing — Judge Merritt characterizes each interaction as a "confrontation" — then Davie's confession may have been obtained in violation of Miranda. Given the deferential standard of review under AEDPA, however, this means the majority is probably correct as a matter of law. And although I live in the Sixth Circuit, I am not about to lose sleep about this alleged erosion of Miranda. by Jonathan Alder

Possible Anthrax Sent to Two Mormon Temples

            Envelopes containing a suspicious white powder were mailed to two LDS temples and a Catholic fraternity, prompting a hazardous materials response and a federal investigation into who is behind it. The white powder scares were reported Thursday at Salt Lake City's Temple Square, the LDS Church's temple in Los Angeles and at a printing plant belonging to the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Conn.

          "Our mailroom employees discovered an envelope that had been mailed to us from California shortly before noon," Pat Korten, vice president of communications for the Knights of Columbus, told the Deseret News late Thursday. "When they opened it some white powder escaped."

          The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Knights of Columbus are both major backers of the controversial Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California. However, the FBI cautioned late Thursday there is no evidence to link the threats to Prop. 8 opponents.

          "We've got to follow the evidence and at this point we have not received anything that would lead us to believe the opponents of Prop. 8 are behind any kind of terroristic activity," FBI Special Agent Juan Becerra said from the agency's Salt Lake City office. "It would be irresponsible to say that at this point."
LDS Church security officials called Salt Lake police and firefighters about 4 p.m. Thursday when an employee in the recorder's office inside the Salt Lake Temple annex opened a manila envelope.

          "When the employee opened it up and looked inside it, there was actually another white envelope inside that had a white powdery substance in it," Salt Lake Fire spokesman Scott Freitag said.
The employee who opened it immediately set the envelope down and called church security officials, who came over wearing a respirator and plastic gloves. They sealed the envelope inside a plastic bag, Freitag said. Three employees in the room at the time were quarantined. Security denied access to the room and shut off the air vents. "They are not complaining of any injury or illness," Freitag said, adding that they did not have to undergo a decontamination process.

          Hazardous materials teams sanitized the substance to ensure it was not a biological agent like anthrax.
On the Main Street plaza, missionaries and other church employees were allowed to come and go. A lone LDS security official stood behind the temple gates. He opened the gate for firefighters, then closed and locked it behind them. A pair of FBI agents left Temple Square with the envelope in a black plastic bag. The envelope was taken to a lab to be tested. "We are working to find out what it is and hopefully it's harmless," Becerra told the Deseret News.

         Firefighters said they did not see anything of a threatening nature with the envelope. Because the annex is a separate building, the temple itself was not evacuated. However, church security did not allow anyone to come or go while hazmat teams were there. A portion of North Temple was also closed to traffic. "At first, we thought it was maybe picketing again," said Poulsen Udall, who was inside the temple at the time. He was referring to mass protests outside Temple Square last week against the LDS Church's backing of Prop. 8. Similar demonstrations were held outside LDS temples in California and New York. "It's a sad thing that all of this is going on," said Udall's wife, Pauline.

           At the LDS Church's temple in Westwood, Calif., the grounds were closed Thursday afternoon after an employee there opened an envelope similar to the one at church headquarters in Salt Lake City. "They received an envelope with a suspicious white powdery substance," Los Angeles police officer Karen Smith told the Deseret News. "It's been cleared and there was no hazardous material." In New Haven, Conn., workers at a printing plant for the Knights of Columbus opened the envelope containing white powder. Hazardous materials teams responded, Korten said, and took it to a lab to be tested. "We do not yet know what was in that envelope," he said. The Knights of Columbus did not know if it had been targeted over Prop. 8. "We've got a great deal of pretty vulgar communication from people who are not happy with our role to help pass Prop. 8," Korten said. "Whether this has any connection or not, we don't know." The LDS Church declined to speculate on whether Prop. 8 had a role in the hazardous materials scares. "We're working with local law enforcement and the FBI," church spokesman Scott Trotter said.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Supreme Court Justices Hear Arguments in Religious Monument Case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed likely to give its blessing to a Utah town that rejected a small religious sect's request to install a monument on public park land, even though the town accepted a Ten Commandments display in the same park 32 years earlier.

Most justices during oral argument Wednesday seemed to oppose the idea that by accepting one, Pleasant Grove City had to accept the other because of the First Amendment's bar against content-based speech discrimination by the government.

"You have a Statue of Liberty; do we have to have a statue of despotism?" Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. asked. "Or do we have to put any president who wants to be on Mount Rushmore?"

In the same vein, Justice Antonin Scalia wondered aloud if a city that allows any kind of memorial on public land would have to also permit "a monument to chocolate chip cookies" if a resident proposed it.

But during oral arguments in the case Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, several justices also expressed discontent with the Court's own First Amendment doctrines that make the Utah case so difficult to resolve. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the Summum memorial had to be accepted, because the park was a public forum where such discrimination is not allowed under the Court's First Amendment rulings.

Under Court precedent it also appears that the only way a municipality could say yes to the Ten Commandments display and no to the Summum group's "Seven Aphorisms" monument is to define the Ten Commandments memorial as a form of speech by the city government, rather than private religious speech. The Court has ruled that when the government speaks it can pick and choose its messages, adopting some and rejecting others.

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, arguing for Pleasant Grove City, told the justices that monuments in the city's park "have been selected by the government, are owned by the government, controlled by the government, and are displayed on government property. When the government is speaking, it is free from the traditional free speech constraints of the First Amendment."

Even that rule was questioned. Deputy Solicitor General Daryl Joseffer, arguing in support of the Utah city, said that because of the government speech doctrine, "the Vietnam Veterans Memorial did not open us up to a Viet Cong memorial." In the same way that a library or a museum curator can select some works and not others, so can the government pick which events or beliefs to commemorate.

But Justices Samuel Alito Jr. and John Paul Stevens asked whether that level of government discretion also means that in the case of the Vietnam Veterans memorial, the government could choose to exclude the names of veterans who espoused views the government did not like, or who were homosexuals. With apparent reluctance, Joseffer said those names could be excluded under First Amendment principles, though he said there could be equal protection or due process issues.

Sekulow's insistence on the "government speech" position also prompted some justices to warn him that if in fact the government was speaking when it favored the Ten Commandments over the Summum display, it could be in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which has been interpreted to bar government endorsement of one religion over another.

"It seems to me you're walking into a trap under the establishment clause," Roberts told Sekulow. "If it's government speech, it may not present a free-speech problem, but what is the government doing speaking, supporting the Ten Commandments?"

Sekulow noted that no establishment clause claim had been raised in Summum's initial challenge to the city's action. But several briefs filed in the case asserted that such a claim was precluded by 10th Circuit precedent.

"This case is an example of the tyranny of labels," said Justice Anthony Kennedy, a potential swing vote in the case. He was objecting to another set of First Amendment principles involved in the case -- whether public park land, usually viewed as the classic public forum where all speakers are allowed, can be categorized as a nonpublic forum when it comes to placement of permanent monuments in limited public spaces.

Pamela Harris, of counsel at O'Melveny & Myers, insisted on behalf of the Summum sect that in a public forum "the government may not favor one message over another."

But when justices asked how cities, practically speaking, could be selective in which memorials it would allow, Harris said there was a simple option. She said governments could formally "adopt any existing monuments as government speech" and announce that, henceforth, "these parks are available only to government displays."

Justices wrestled with Harris' proposal, with Justice Antonin Scalia stating, "Ms. Harris, we need a clear rule here." Scalia suggested it would be impractical for cities to investigate and adopt all the memorials on public lands.

"It may be a very nice world," said Scalia, "but it happens not to be the world under which our Constitution has subjected this country." by

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jury Selection Continues in Mormon Missionary Shooting

Jury selection resumed today in the trial of 21-year-old James Boughton, a Deep Creek man accused in the killing of one Mormon missionary and the wounding of another in January 2006.
Chesapeake Circuit Court Judge Randy Smith also denied a defense motion to delay the case.
On Monday, Smith dismissed more than 60 potential jurors for Veterans Day and asked that they return this morning for what is expected to be another full day to determine their qualification to serve. Commonwealth’s Attorney Nancy Parr and Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney D.J. Hansen could begin the state’s case Thursday morning with opening statements, followed by witnesses.
Boughton, a Camelot resident, is charged with first-degree murder, malicious wounding, attempted malicious wounding and three counts of use of a firearm. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
On Monday, Boughton pleaded not guilty to killing 21-year-old Morgan W. Young of Bountiful, Utah, and not guilty to wounding Joshua Heidbrink of Greeley, Colo. The two missionaries were walking on Elkhart Street in Deep Creek, proselytizing door-to-door, when they were shot on the night of Jan. 2, 2006.
Boughton also pleaded not guilty to the attempted malicious wounding of Gregory L. Banks Jr., a man who lived in the neighborhood.
Young and Heidbrink, who was 19 at the time, may have unwittingly walked into and witnessed an unfolding crime between other men, according to earlier court testimony. A gunman in the crime, after firing at Banks, approached the two missionaries and shot them both, then fled.
Boughton’s attorney, Andrew Sacks, asked the court on Monday for a trial delay, arguing that he had been “caught totally off guard’’ by evidence the prosecution just turned over to him the day of the trial.
Sacks argued that the prosecution had evidence since February involving a potential witness who has a criminal record but failed to disclose it.
“I’ll have to say I’m not ready to go forward in light of this,’’ Sacks argued Monday.
Judge Smith denied the motion this morning. by The Virginia Pilot

Monday, November 10, 2008

University of Phoenix Discriminated Against Non-Mormons

A Federal District Court judge ordered University of Phoenix to pay nearly $1.9 million for practicing religious discrimination against non-Mormon employees who worked as enrollment counselors. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a class action suit that the online university and its parent Apollo Group provided the best leads to its Mormon recruiters, promoted less qualified Mormon workers over non-Mormon peers, and disciplined non-Mormons for conduct they condoned with Mormon employees.

Besides securing the nearly $2 million monetary compensation for 52 individuals, the consent decree requires that University of Phoenix immediately halt all discriminatory actions, train all managers and employees on the issue of religious discrimination and hire a diversity officer to monitor compliance.

"We are pleased that University of Phoenix is going to stop condoning such favoritism toward Mormon employees and the resultant discrimination against non-Mormon employees," said Mary Jo O'Neill, Phoenix regional attorney for the federal employment watchdog organization. "It is the EEOC's belief that, for many years, the University of Phoenix condoned an environment in which Mormon managers felt free to engage in favoritism toward their Mormon employees, and did so by providing the Mormon employees things such as strong leads on potential students. Given that evaluations are based largely on recruitment numbers, this disproportionate assignment of leads affected a whole host of matters for employees, including compensation, access to tuition waivers, and ability to be promoted."

The University of Phoenix confirmed the consent decree including the payout, training initiatives and oversight but said it does not admit wrongdoing. They issued the following statement: "University of Phoenix is pleased to have resolved this matter. We are dedicated to providing a work environment in which our employees are treated fairly and with respect, and are recognized and rewarded based on their accomplishments. University of Phoenix is committed to providing equal opportunity in all aspects of employment and does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind."

Trial begins for suspect in 2006 Mormon shootings

Nearly three years ago, two Mormon missionaries were shot while walking the streets of Deep Creek to proselytize door to door.
One was killed that Monday night on Jan. 2, 2006.
After many delays, the suspect's trial will begin today. James Boughton Jr., a 21-year-old Camelot man, is accused of shooting the two missionaries and attempt ing to shoot a third person.
He is charged with first-degree murder, malicious wounding, attempted malicious wounding and three counts of use of a firearm. The trial is expected to last about nine days.
Commonwealth's Attorney Nancy Parr and Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney D.J. Hansen are expected to prosecute the case.
Morgan W. Young of Bountiful, Utah, and Joshua Heidbrink of Greeley, Colo., were walking on Elkhart Street when they were shot.
Young, 21, was killed. Heidbrink, 19 at the time, was shot but recovered from a shoulder wound.
According to testimony during a preliminary hearing, the two missionaries may have unwittingly walked into and witnessed an unfolding conflict in the neighborhood between other men.
A shot was fired in the conflict, and a man holding a gun fled down the street toward the missionaries. Heidbrink and Young, with their hands raised, tried to assure the hooded gunman. "We didn't see anything, " Heidbrink has testified.
The gunman shot them both, then fled.
Young was nearing the end of his two-year mission for the Mormon church. Heidbrink was just getting started.
Boughton had graduated the year before from Deep Creek High. He has been held without bail in the Chesapeake Correctional Center since his arrest, days after the shooting.
Boughton, represented by Andrew Sacks, was 19 at the time and will turn 22 this month.
The trial has been continued several times. A judge denied an earlier attempt to have the case moved out of Chesapeake because of the pretrial publicity.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Preston England Temple Loses Tax Exempt Status

Only members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in good standing with the Church can enter into its temples. As such the Preston, England Temple has lost its tax exempt statuts. In the UK a church must demonstrate that its buildings are available to public worship in order to avoid paying property taxes. In Gallagher v. the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints the court held that because the Preston temple is not available for public worship it should not be exempt from paying property taxes. This is does not affect the Church's properties that are not temples within the UK or properties that are located outside of the United Kingdom.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Law Schools (Other than Harvard) are Struggling to Raise Needed Funds

Deans and fundraising administrators at law schools nationwide say donors of large gifts are holding off on committing to contributions, given the current economic climate, while annual giving from their alumni could level off or decline for the first time in years.In the past month, a few donors to some of the nation's law schools have backed out of pledged gifts, but several more who previously were considering giving large amounts are now taking a "wait and see" approach.

Meanwhile, law schools, many of which have experienced record amounts of fundraising in recent years, are coming up with ways to combat an anticipated slowdown in annual giving.Some are encouraging donors to take advantage of recent rules allowing them to give up to $100,000 tax free from their individual retirement accounts (IRAs) to a charitable institution. Others are being more specific in the alumni they approach for gifts; some are using "bundlers" to amass larger contributions. Bundlers, in this case, are individuals who collect a significant gift from a group of people on behalf of the school. A few have delayed capital campaigns, while others have come up with nonmonetary ways in which alumni can contribute. Regardless of the economy's impact on their fundraising, all law schools have had to address the current crisis, either in conversations with regular donors or in letters to alumni."Looking at the overall industry data, what I would expect would be a slowdown in the growth rate of fundraising," said David Van Zandt, dean of Northwestern University School of Law. "We know people are going to be trimming their budgets."

Law school deans and fundraising administrators said that, although few donors who had committed to large gifts have backed out of their agreements in the past month or so, many of those who had been considering a contribution are asking for more time to assess their financial resources.Todd Baily, assistant dean for development and alumni relations at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, said the school has received signed gift agreements from significant donors in the past few weeks, although he acknowledged the economy has affected some potential commitments. "I can only isolate one case where one person has said, 'I can't do what I had committed to,' " he said. But, he said, "we had more than one, a few, and we probably expect more to come, of people who said, 'I like your project, I want to do something, I just have to wait until I know what my situation can be before I can make a specific commitment.' "Baily said the school is working with donors to extend their payment schedules or has given them time to be more comfortable about making significant commitments.

The school is in the midst of a campaign in which administrators hope to break ground next year on a new academic building on campus. In order to move forward on the project, the school must raise $70 million; so far, $35 million has been collected. The school's total receipts from donations, including both annual contributions and large gifts, have increased from nearly $10 million in fiscal year 2005 to more than $18 million in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, he said. This year, the school has raised more than $4.5 million, but it is planning for flat or minimal growth in annual giving, he said.Van Zandt of Northwestern said the school's administrators are less likely to ask for large increases in donations this year even though only one donor has asked for an extension of six months before committing to a large gift.

In the fiscal year that ended on Aug. 31, Northwestern raised nearly $11 million, up by 40% in overall giving from the previous year. This fiscal year, he anticipates a "slight slowdown in the growth of what we do. I don't expect another 40% up, but I don't expect a decline," he said. If the economy worsens into a severe recession, however, a decline could be possible, he said.The University of California, Irvine School of Law, which plans to open in fall 2009, is in the process of raising $100 million in the next few years, said Charles Cannon, assistant dean of development and external affairs at the law school. So far, the school has raised a quarter of that amount.The effect of the economy on the school's fundraising remains unclear, he said. The school is facing a tight deadline, aiming to raise about $6 million in full tuition scholarships for its first class of 60 students. One potential solution, he said, has been to mimic a strategy used in political fundraising and use "bundlers."

Other law schools are instituting measures to deal with the economic downturn. The University of Mississippi School of Law, which originally aimed to complete a fundraising campaign in December, is extending that deadline, said Jamie White, development officer at the law school.He said "there have been a handful of donors who have asked us to wait."Most of those donors, he said, were planning to give for the first time or had not made a prior commitment. But, in its final months, the school remains more than $5 million shy of its fundraising goal of $35 million for construction of a new law building, he said.To boost donations, the University of Mississippi School of Law is focusing on specific alumni who might be less affected by the downturn, such as executives or chief counsel at oil and gas businesses, he said. He also said the school is keeping track of which plaintiffs' attorneys, who are alumni, recently obtained large verdicts."If we have one alumnus who wins a verdict and will receive a large contingency fee," he said, "we ask them to keep us in mind."

Another strategy is to encourage prospective donors to take advantage of a recent change to the U.S. Pension Protection Act of 2006, which allows people 70.5 years and older to donate up to $100,000 to a charitable institution, tax free, from their IRAs through 2009. The provisions, which expired in 2007, were extended by another two years under the $700 billion bailout bill signed earlier this month by President George W. Bush.That same idea has been floating around at Vanderbilt University Law School, which is in the midst of a fundraising campaign that ends in 2010. "In lieu of cash gifts, planned giving can be a great area for us to focus on," said Alyssa Wilcox, assistant dean of development at Vanderbilt.No check requiredWilcox said that the school's alumni advisory board met on Oct. 24 to address how to remain proactive in reaching out to donors given the economic crisis.One idea, she said, has been the launch of a new program that encourages alumni to interview prospective students going through the admissions process as a way to contribute without writing a check.She said Vanderbilt hired an administrator in the admissions office to run the program, which launched a few months ago and has attracted the interest of several hundred alumni so far. She said Vanderbilt is one of the few schools to institute such a program.

Most importantly, schools have been quick to address the economic concerns of their alumni.In a special letter sent earlier this month to previous contributors to the school, Vanderbilt Law Dean Edward Rubin emphasized how appreciative the law school is in receiving their previous gift while acknowledging the credit crisis, mortgage meltdown and increased cost of groceries, she said. "At this time, we really value their contributions and so we're hoping by letting them know this, we can hang onto these people this year," Wilcox said. Michael Schill, dean of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, said economic concerns are going to be a big part of the school's standard fundraising letter to alumni, which is being sent out later this month or in November. Schill said alumni who are annual givers, many of whom are practicing attorneys who give donations of hundreds, or thousands, of dollars, could see their incomes drop this year, which affects gifts to the law school.On the other hand, he said, one donor gave $1.5 million to the UCLA School of Law on a recent day on which the stock market plummeted.In general, he said, "you have to be careful, and you have to be sensitive, to a person's situation."

One bright spot: Some public universities, such as UCLA, which receives a portion of its budget from state resources, have an advantage in asking for dollars from private donors, he said. "We'll sustain substantial budget cuts at UCLA," he said, due to California's fiscal problems. "The argument for donors and alumni to contribute to this school is even stronger." by

Harvard Law Does "Set the Standard" When it Comes to Fundraising

Five years and $476.5 million later, Harvard Law School has wrapped up its "Setting the Standard" fundraising campaign. The drive is the most lucrative fundraiser of any law school to date, according to Harvard, and leaders celebrated its success at a gala on Thursday. "I am deeply grateful to the more than 23,000 alumni and friends who joined in this effort," Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan said in a prepared statement. "They know how special a place Harvard Law School is and how transformational it can be, and they have enabled us to do more for our students, our profession, and our world than ever before." Kagan also said the fundraising campaign has allowed the school to augment financial assistance for students, expand the faculty and facilities, modernize and internationalize its curriculum and encourage public service.
The campaign was launched in 2003 with a goal of $400 million in donations, which it ultimately surpassed by $76.5 million. The fundraising got off to a very promising start, as former dean Robert Clark had already secured $170.1 million in commitments before it officially began. Harvard Law School faculty spent three years developing a plan for the campaign, which was intended to boost financial aid, grow the faculty and design and construct a major new building complex, among other things. The donations from the campaign are being used to support research centers that focus on environmental law, health law policy, human rights law, cyber law and corporate governance.
Exchange programs with foreign universities are also being funded with the donations, as is the school's program to waive third-year tuition for students who work in public service for five years after graduation. In addition to the $476.5 million generated by the targeted campaign, the school has raised more than $60 million during the past five years for the Harvard Law School Fund. That fund is unrestricted and can be used for student financial or other law school projects. Harvard Law School's last major fundraising drive raised $183 million between 1991 and 1995. by

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mormon Killer Given Two Life Sentences

A Framingham man was sentenced to two life terms in prison yesterday for brutally killing his wife and her 11-year-old son in a rampage fueled by his jealousy about her devotion to the Mormon faith.
Jeremias Bins, a 32-year-old Brazilian immigrant, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder after a Middlesex Superior Court jury deliberated for seven hours. The trial began on Oct. 17. He was sentenced soon after the verdict was rendered.
Bins walked into Framingham Police Department headquarters early May 21, 2006, just hours after he had used a 2-pound hammer to bludgeon his wife, Carla Souza, and her son from a previous marriage, Caigue Souza. Bins carried their 5-month-old son, unharmed, and told police, "I'm sorry."
Police found his wife and her son in their Gordon Street apartment with severe head trauma. She died hours later at Massachusetts General Hospital. Caigue Souza died soon after he was taken to MetroWest Medical Center.
Carla Souza, 37, had called 911 at about 11 p.m. May 20, 2006, asking: "Can you come to my house, please? I'm having a problem with my husband." By the time police arrived, Bins had fled.
Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. called the case a "stark reminder of the complex, often tragic dynamic of domestic violence that plagues so many of our families."
"In a twisted attempt to exert power and control over his family, Jeremias Bins resorted to a level of extreme brutality and violence that is incomprehensible," Leone said in a statement. "We thank the jury for rendering this just verdict and speaking for Carla, Caique, and their family."
Defense lawyer Earl Howard could not be reached for comment yesterday.
A family member testified during the trial that Bins, who was baptized as a Lutheran, never accepted Souza's devotion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that he believed women should stay at home and tend to their family.
The couple met when Mormon missionaries invited Bins, a construction worker, to their church in Weston. During the service, he sat behind Souza, a house cleaner who also grew up in Brazil and had divorced from a previous marriage. The couple married a year later, and soon after Souza became pregnant.
Bins felt that church members were meddling in his family life, said Souza's brother, Elvio Maya. He said Bins called Souza's church and told the missionaries never to come to his house again.
The call led to an argument. Caigue Souza apparently tried to intervene on his mother's behalf, and Bins grabbed the hammer from his tool box. -Boston Globe

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Congradulations to the University of Dayton School of Law

Congradulations to the University of Dayton School of Law and it's July Bar test takers. UDSL first time test takers scored a 92% Bar passage rate. All, UDSL test takers passed at 87% which was high enough to tie for first place in the state. Go Flyers!

Free Law School!

Free law school! No this isn't another Obama campaign promise. Unlike his campaign promises this is actually going to happen. Students who enroll at the University of California’s new law school in Irvine next fall will get their legal education for free.
The law school is giving full tuition scholarships worth about $100,000 to its first 2009 class of about 60 students, the National Law Journal reports.
Charles Cannon, assistant dean of development and external affairs at the law school, told the publication UC Irvine hopes to attract high-quality students with the offer. The free tuition is expected to cost the school about $6 million, he said.
The school is seeking donations to cover the scholarships and has so far raised about a third of the money.
The story also reports that the law school had originally called itself the Donald Bren School of Law in honor of a $20 million donor, but the school is dropping the name. It will be called the University of California, Irvine, a name that is parallel to other UC schools.