As the U.S. Supreme Court approaches the end of its summer term, some long-awaited cases remain undecided: most notable are those on the future of the Affordable Care Act and the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage.
Closer to home, a man was blocked from carrying a gun into the Saint Louis Zoo; debate still rages over a new NFL stadium in the city; and a judge ruled that a grand juror from the trial of Ferguson police offer Darren Wilson must go to a state court in order to talk publicly about his or her participation.
Thursday on “St. Louis on the Air,” our legal roundtable discussed these issues and more with host Don Marsh.
Cardinals hacking scandal
On June 16, The New York Times reported that the St. Louis Cardinals are under investigation by the FBI and Justice Department amid information that front office personnel hacked into the Houston Astros’ computer network, violating federal law.
“The federal law makes it illegal to hack into another person’s computer to get private information,” said William Freivogel, a professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University- Carbondale. “If people in the front office of the Cardinals did that, they could be violating federal law.”
If it is determined that the leaked information is true, other violated laws would include:
- The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which involves knowingly accessing a protected computer without authorization
- The Economic Espionage Act of 1996, the act of taking trade secrets
Possible penalties include up to five years in prison per offense, financial forfeits and commissioner appointed penalties.
New football stadium debate
The city of St. Louis is suing to uphold an ordinance that will require a public vote on financing a new football stadium in downtown. Recently, Mayor Slay expressed support for a new stadium; however, city officials must uphold the ordinance.
“[The city] is nominally on opposite sides from the convention authority, even though both the Slay administration and the convention authority want to have a stadium,” Freivogel said. “The issue is can the original bonding authority be used to build a stadium if it’s not adjacent to the current convention center?”
If court officials decide that the proposed location for a new stadium is adjacent to the current one, the city can proceed without a public vote, and in turn, use public funding to support the stadium.
Grand juror’s lawsuit against St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough
Earlier this year, a grand juror in the Michael Brown case filed a federal suit against St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough challenging the secrecy requirements of the case. The grand juror also alleges that McCullough represented some of the views of the grand jurors.
Judge Rodney Sippel granted McCullough’s motion to dismiss the suit and sent the case to the state level.
“This is called ‘abstention,’” Freivogel explained. “If the state court can resolve issues of what the state law means, it’s better to have the state court do that before the federal court gets involved in trying to interpret them.”
State law says that a grand juror who has taken an oath cannot disclose information about testimony before the grand jury or the names of witnesses, Freivogel said.
“I think this grand juror’s got a good shot,” said panelists Mark Smith, Associate Vice Chancellor of Students at Washington University in St. Louis. “This grand juror [feels] this will help the public discourse and public feelings of support for an emotional experience.”
“If the grand juror had, for example, made a First Amendment argument, then that would be a federal Constitutional issue,” Greg Magarian, professor at Washington University School of Law said. “The arguments that the plaintiff is making really are arguments about how far does this state law go, and in these circumstances, should it constrain what he wants to talk about?”
- William Freivogel, J.D., Professor, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
- Mark Smith, J.D., Associate Vice Chancellor of Students, Washington University in St. Louis
- Greg Magarian, J.D., Professor, Washington University School of Law
St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.