New Law – Can’t Convert Rail Road Trails to Bike Trails

March 11, 2014

The Supreme Court Monday ruled 8-1 in favor of a private landowner in Wyoming who was fighting to keep bike paths from being built near his house. The decision, according to USA Today, threatens thousands of miles of public bicycle trails.The case wasn’t about bike paths per se — it was about whether or not the federal government retains its control over land that had been granted to railroad companies once it’s been abandoned. But the decision undermines a federal “rails to trails” program, threatening the more than 1,400 bike and nature trails it’s created since its inception in 1983.

Here’s more on the case from NPR:

The plaintiffs in the Wyoming case, Marvin Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, are descendants of the owner of a sawmill that produced railroad ties. The family was granted dozens of acres of land in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest; they are resisting attempts to use part of that land for a trail.

“We traded for the land with a right of way on it for railroad uses,” Brandt said in December. “They want to bring a train through here, that’s fine. We never expected and we never agreed to a bicycle trail.”

…The family was granted the land in 1976, in exchange for turning a larger acreage over to the government. The court’s discussion of the case touched on decades of law, from the 1875 Railroad Right of Way Act to the 1942 Great Northern Railway case, which centered on oil and mineral rights.

When the Forest Service moved to convert a swath of former railroad track on the Brandts’ land that is 200 feet wide and a half-mile long into bike trails, the family sued. After losing in two lower courts, they emerged from the Supreme Court with a victory today.

With 21 miles of gravel pathway passing through the forest, the Medicine Bow Rail Trail “has become one of the most popular rail-trails in America,” according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

via Supreme Court ruling delivers a major blow to bike paths – Salon.com.

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Criminal Law – Supreme Court Rules That Pre-Miranda Silence Can Be Used In Court

June 18, 2013

In order to invoke your right to remain silent, you must speak. Silence in and of itself is, evidently, not evidence of your intention to invoke protections provided by the Constitution’s 5th Amendment Rights and/or the Miranda Rights. I can understand the prosecutor’s claim that because he was not under arrest and was answering some questions and remained silent on some others, his silent could be use as evidence of his guilt. But, I think that is splitting hairs. The spirit of the law is to prevent a person who is not well versed on the laws to not say something, without the presence of his attorney, that might be self-incriminating.

The Supreme Court says prosecutors can use a person’s silence against them if it comes before he’s told of his right to remain silent.

The 5-4 ruling comes in the case of Genovevo Salinas, who was convicted of a 1992 murder. During police questioning, and before he was arrested or read his Miranda rights, Salinas answered some questions but did not answer when asked if a shotgun he had access to would match up with the murder weapon.

Prosecutors in Texas used his silence on that question in convicting him of murder, saying it helped demonstrate his guilt. Salinas appealed, saying his Fifth Amendment rights to stay silent should have kept lawyers from using his silence against him in court. Texas courts disagreed, saying pre-Miranda silence is not protected by the Constitution.

The high court upheld that decision.

via Supreme Court Rules That Pre-Miranda Silence Can Be Used In Court.

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