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July 2016 Archives

Gun Rights: Voisine v. United States

Voisine v. United States began in 2004 when Stephen Voisine pled guilty in 2004 to assaulting his girlfriend, violating Section 207 of the Maine Criminal Code. That section makes it a misdemeanor to "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause[ ] bodily injury or offensive physical contact to another person,"(emphasis added) including a family member or member of the household. Unfortunately for Voisine, he encountered the law again when he killed a bald eagle. Law enforcement officers discovered that Voisine owned a rifle while they were investigating the bald eagle killing, and after finding the violation of Section 207 of the Maine Criminal Code during a background check, they also charged him with violation 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9). A similar situation happened to William Armstrong, who was convicted under the same statute and was later found to own a firearm. Both of their lawsuits were combined and decided upon by the Supreme Court in this one case. Because both Armstrong and Voisine could have been "reckless" in their assault, they challenged whether they were barred under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9).

How Does Texas Treat Gestational Agreements?

Over the past four decades there has been a steady rise of the average age of first time mothers. In 1970 the average age of a first-time mother was 21.4; this number grew to 24.9 in 2000, which increased again to 25.2 in 2009, and again to 26.3 in 2014. The National Center of Health Statistic released these statistics in a January 2016 Data Brief showing this trend. With couples deciding to start families later in life, actually becoming pregnant can often be a common complication. This, coupled with the long standing shortage of adoptable children in this country has led many couples to enlist a gestational mother (previously known as a surrogate) in order to have a child with their own genetic material. This form of assisted reproduction involves at least three people that enter into what is called a gestational agreement (previously known as a surrogacy contract). The terms that the Family Code uses for the parties of these gestational agreements include: "gestational mother" as the woman who gives birth to the child; "donor" as the person(s) who contribute the genetic material for the child; and "intended parents" as the couple intended to raise the child. As with any form of contracting, this has led to disputes and these disputes have led to new law.

The Federal Court System

The structure of our judicial system results in the creation of many courts throughout the country, all with different jurisdictions. Some, like federal bankruptcy courts, only hear bankruptcy cases; others, like state family law courts, only hear issues dealing with the marriage or family; still others, like state district court, hear cases regarding state law and even federal law unless there is a specific statute that states otherwise. With all these difference courts deciding law every single day, it can be hard to determine which law governs which courts.