Weekly Legal News 4/20/14

South Korean authorities have arrested Captain Lee Jun-Seok, who was one of the first to flee from the ferry as it sank on Wednesday. “I can’t lift my face before the passengers and family members of those missing,” Lee told reporters. “I’m kind of flummoxed that a master of a passenger ship anywhere in the world would not understand his obligation extends until that last person is safely off the ship,” says Craig Allen, director of the Arctic Law & Policy Institute at the University of Washington. In the U.S., case law indicates that a ship’s master must be the last person to leave and make all reasonable efforts to save everyone and everything on it. International standards for sea captains vary. Often, as in the case of Schettino, charges are brought based not on dereliction of maritime duty but for offenses that might pertain on land as well, such as negligence and manslaughter.


Russian President Vladimir Putin told “NSA leaker” Edward Snowden on Thursday that his nation does not have a “mass system” that collects data about Russian citizens’ phone calls and other electronic communications. The exchange between the young American who has leaked information about U.S. surveillance efforts and the Russian leader came during Putin’s annual appearance on Russian TV in which he takes questions from the public. Snowden, who has been given temporary asylum in Russia, connected via video link and asked Putin: “Does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?” Putin began his response by telling Snowden that “you are a former agent, a spy. I used to work for an intelligence service [the KGB]. We are going to talk one professional language.”Then the Russian president, who in recent weeks has claimed he did not send troops into Crimea only to now admit that he did and insists there are no Russian military personnel in eastern Ukraine even though reporters have heard at least one man there introduce himself as a Russian officer, made the case that:”You have to get court permission to stalk a particular person. We don’t have a mass system of such interception, and according to our law it cannot exist.”


The United Nations appeared to move a step closer on Thursday to holding North Korea’s government accountable for what an investigative panel has called a history of crimes against humanity and egregious human rights abuses, as the Security Council convened a special session to hear the panel’s views on what should be done. It was the first time that the Security Council had taken up the question of human rights in North Korea, the world’s most isolated country, which is already under heavy international sanctions because of its nuclear weapons and missile activities. The commission’s findings, after a yearlong inquiry in which thousands of North Korean refugees and others were interviewed outside the country, led the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last month to recommend some form of criminal accountability for North Korean leaders. North Korea’s representatives at the United Nations did not respond to an invitation to attend the session. North Korea has previously denounced Judge Kirby’s panel and the Human Rights Council, asserting that accounts of its prison conditions are the fabrications of enemies, most notably South Korea and the United States.


Virginia is moving to join the vast majority of states that quickly restore the voting rights of most felons after they have finished their sentences. On Friday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, building on his predecessor’s policy, sharply expanded the numbers of nonviolent former convicts who will be re-enfranchised when they have paid their debt to society. He also shortened the wait for former convicts who committed violent crimes to three years from five. Compared to the status quo in Virginia of just a few years ago, this represents enormous progress. Before former governor Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican, took office in 2010, ex-convicts who wanted to regain their civil rights had to petition the governor and, in many cases, wait years.Given that the prison population in Virginia is heavily and disproportionately African American, it was also deeply racist. More than half the state’s inmates and ex-cons are black, and the effect was — and continues to be — to rob about a fifth of the state’s black population of their voting rights. The proportion of black males so deprived is even higher. Now Mr. McAuliffe, a Democrat, has gone further. By ordering that those previously convicted for selling drugs be classified as nonviolent, he expanded the pool of those eligible to regain their voting rights immediately by at least 1,350 ex-offenders annually. That is a logical and important move. Much more can be done. Prisoners finishing their sentences now will regain their rights, but what of those who served their time in the past? At least 100,000 of them committed nonviolent crimes and should be immediately eligible to vote. But the state has devoted no extra money or resources to tracking them down.

  •  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/gov-mcauliffe-expands-voting-rights-for-ex-convicts/2014/04/19/9ccfe76c-c733-11e3-9f37-7ce307c56815_story.html