Appellate Law, Criminal Defense, Criminal Appeals & Criminal Appellate Review and Post Conviction Relief in Florida Courts, Federal District Courts and the 11th Circuit for Criminal Attorneys, Criminal Lawyers & Appellate Lawyers
The Palm Beach Post has reported that US Representatives Barney Frank and Ron Paul have introduced a bill that would end some Federal penalties for marijuana. Although many on the left will praise the Representatives for introducing the bill, any party (no pun intended) will likely be short lived. While a recent report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy indicates that there may be growing support for a bill like that introduced by Representatives Frank and Paul, the likelihood of the bill passing seems to be very low. Not only is the House controlled by Republicans, but the Democrats lack a majority in the Senate. It seems pretty unlikely that enough Republican Senators would cross the aisle and vote in favor of such a bill.
Instead of focusing their efforts on decriminalization, perhaps Federal legislators should consider providing increased funding for State drug court programs. In 2006, the Department of Justice issued a report wherein the Department discussed the feasibility of a Federal drug court program. In the last footnote on the last page of the Report, the Department noted that 72% of State courts reported that a lack of funding was their major obstacle. Increasing funding to State drug court programs would provide both social and economic returns to both Federal and State governments. With their focus on rehabilitation instead of incarceration, drug courts have helped to reduce the caseloads in other criminal divisions, have helped to reduce the prison population, and have helped to address the problems of repeat offenders. Drug courts may also help save money down the road. If drug court participants get the treatment they need in drug court, they may be less likely to commit more drug related offenses in the future. And if those same drug court participants commit fewer drug related offenses, fewer arrests and prosecutions will be needed, thereby saving many State and Federal agencies time and money.
Everyone knows the economy is suffering now, and has been for quite some time. What many people, other than attorneys, may not know is that the Courts are facing similar economic issues. The State of Florida has reduced court funding to dangerous levels. Even though the US Congress faces numerous budgetary issues, it may be smart to revisit the issue of drug court funding.
To learn more about Florida’s drug courts, go here.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the State and Federal courts generally operate independent of each other. However, there are occasions where the courts operate in a more related fashion.
For example, in the civil context, where a plaintiff may choose to commence litigation in State court, the defendant may choose to remove the action to Federal court, so long as the conditions for Federal jurisdiction are met, including diversity of the parties and amount in controversy, or federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. sec. 1331, 1332, 1441, 1446. Or, where a plaintiff may choose to commence litigation in Federal court, the defendant may choose to remand, or return, the case back to State court. See 28 U.S.C. sec. 1441.
Before removing a civil matter to Federal court, or remanding the matter back to State court, counsel and the parties may wish to consider several factors, including (1) the costs of litigation in each forum; (2) the complexity of the claims; (3) whether federal claims are involved; and, (4) the need for a timely resolution of the case.
In the criminal context, individuals who are arrested by State agencies, including local police departments and sheriff’s offices, are generally prosecuted in a Florida state court. However, if a violation of a Federal criminal statute is intertwined with the State criminal offense, the State offense may be prosecuted in Federal court. Defendants who have been prosecuted in State court may seek to have the Federal courts review the constitutionality of their State convictions pursuant to the writ of habeas corpus. See 28 U.S.C. sec. 2254. In Florida, rulings rendered by the United States District Court may be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and to the United States Supreme Court.