Cup of Justice co-host and attorney Eric Bland discusses Alex Murdaugh’s and Cory Fleming’s desires to appeal their federal sentences, as well as the death of OJ Simpson. 


Hey there Premium Members, EB here. Talking about our weekly update. We’ve had a couple of things. One, we know that Alex Murdaugh despite agreeing and writing that he wouldn’t appeal the sentence by Judge Gergel he did just that, he appealed it to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and I think he’s going to challenge Judge Gergel’s decision to upwardly enhance his sentence to 40 years instead of the 20 to 23 years, which was going to run concurrently at the same time with the state court sentence. Also, we had this week, Cory Fleming. That’s a name we haven’t spoken in a while. He also appealed the decision to determine the restitution that he would have to pay and there’ll have to be a new court hearing on that because there was not an agreement that could be reached between the state and Cory Fleming on how much restitution he has to give not only to the state, the federal government, not only to the Satterfields, but there may be other cases that are happening behind the scenes. So that’s going to have to be remanded for another hearing. And so, somewhere down the road in the next couple of months, we’ll have a new hearing to determine the amount of restitution for Cory Fleming. Also, today, there was a decision made by the New York Court of Appeals to reverse Harvey Weinstein.

The reason I find that that reversal was interesting is because in that case, they let in other uncharged acts of alleging sexual harassment or sexual touching are raping of Harvey Weinstein’s victims, to prove the conviction for the rapes that were charged. So that has applicability to the Alex Murdaugh case and the other cases and what that means is, in the Alex Murdaugh  case, they let in all these other financial crimes that he was charged with, or financial misdeeds to prove the murder. And in the New York case of Harvey Weinstein, the appellate court said that was wrong to bring in all those uncharged cases, or other allegations of rape or sexual touching, to prove a pattern that made him guilty for the victims that were actually having their cases tried. So he is going to get a new trial on that case. He also has a 18 year conviction in California and I’m curious to see whether the appeal from that conviction, whether the California Appellate Court agrees with the New York Court of Appeals, that those other acts shouldn’t have been let in. And I think that, you know, that’s always been the concern on the murder convictions for Alex Murdaugh, that once it goes up on appeal, they’re going to have to make a decision, did Judge Newman make a mistake for letting in all those financial crimes to prove that he had a reason to murder his wife and child? I think this goes to his actual motive to have killed Maggie and Paul, that these financial crimes were going to be revealed and were on the cusp of being revealed by a number of different sources. And so that’s his motive.

Obviously, OJ Simpson passed away from prostate cancer, I think at 75. And, you know, that’s really been the first mega trial, the first celebrity trial or trial where it garnered the attention of the world. Similar to Alex Murdaugh, and that’s why I’m, you know, talking about it. That happened in 94. I remember when the Bronco Chase was going on Rene and I stayed up all night and we just watched the chase and it was really surreal without callings driving Bronco and Peter Jennings, you know, narrating it. So OJ Simpson was the first famous trial I think that the public saw because obviously there were cameras in the courtroom. Thankfully, we had cameras in Alex’s murder trial courtroom. But in there’s too many other cases throughout this country where we’re not having cameras in the courtroom, for instance, you know, we have a first time that an ex President of the United States is on a criminal trial and all we’re getting is a recap done by journalists and reporters who are in there that may slant it one way or the other. And I think it would be best for us to have cameras in the courtroom, that we pay for them for the courts and judges and the whole court system so the public should have a right to see it. So that is basically what is going on legally. We keep pursuing the Colucci matter and getting ready for the trial that is coming up in a couple of weeks. So we’re really excited about that. I’m sure there’s a lot of pretrial motions going on in that case. So we’ll know, you know, within the next week whether definitively we’ll be going to trial. So those are a couple thing that have taken place that I find interesting.

And with that said, we’re going to now move over to the Law Library. And we’re going to discuss two terms. The first one is common law marriage. And the second one is going to be personal jurisdiction, We’ve heard that term. South Carolina does not recognize common law marriage anymore. But some states do. So I will talk about it. Marriage is a contract between two people who want to get married and have a union, which the state in which they reside will endorse. Marriage is a state act, it is not a federal act. It’s not controlled by federal statute. It’s controlled by the state statutes where you live, or where you want to get married. And it is a contract between two people that you have to go down to your local city, administration office or town or county to register to get married, it is a civil contract. And once you are approved to do that, you can be marrie d by a justice of the peace, a notary notary public, or somebody who is an ordained minister or man or woman of the cloth. Well, sometimes people live together for many, many, many, many years. And they refer to themselves as husband and wife. They have a joint bank account, they may, one spouse may take the name of the other spouse their surname, and they hold themselves out. And that is the key term in common law marriage is holding yourself out to the public, as being man and wife or man and man or woman and man, woman and woman in a marriage relationship, and you hold yourself out to the world, and that the world knows that you consider yourselves to be married.

And the reason that’s important is when people would break up, one spouse would say, look, we’re married, we have to go through the court system and divide our property and divide our debts and our obligations and define our marital wealth or the wealth that we have accumulated during our relationship where we have resided together. And of course, one spouse is going to say no, we’re not married. We didn’t go down to the City Hall. We didn’t sign a marriage license and go through the marital ceremony. So one spouse is going to say no, we’re never got married. I’m not dividing our property. This is mine. You take what’s yours and, you know, get out well, the other spouse will say no, hold on a minute. We held ourselves out. I used your last name. We added a joint bank account, our incomes went into our lives together, contributing to food education, we may have children together. So some states do recognize common law marriage, South Carolina outlawed common law marriage about 10 years ago by the Supreme Court. So now if you reside with somebody, even if you do refer to yourselves as husband and wife, you will not be considered common law married in South Carolina. So check the state where you reside. If you’re in a relationship where you’ve been residing long term with another partner, and you consider yourselves married and call yourself man and man, husband and husband, wife and wife, husband and wife, check to make sure that if the relationship terminates or one person dies, because you can have a situation, if you’re married, and you die without a will, that spouse gets 100% of your assets. Or if you have children together 50%, and then 50%, go to the children. So it’s very important. If you think you’re in a common law marriage relationship to make sure that your state recognizes it in the event of separation or death of one spouse. 

The second term is called personal jurisdiction. And that is a term that is applied in civil lawsuits. And for instance, you can be sued for something, whether it’s a contract or tort, and all of a sudden, a process server shows up and serves you with a lawsuit where you’re sued by a party in South Dakota. And you say to yourself, well, I’ve never been to South Dakota. Well, the laws of personal jurisdiction say can you be held into that South Dakota court for the following reasons? Did you contract with somebody in that state? The answer’s no. Did you commit a tort in that state? The answer’s no. Do you conduct business in that state? No. Do you send out internet postings or different things that predominantly go to that state? The answer’s no. And so if you’re sued in South Dakota under those circumstances, you would hire a lawyer who would contest the lawsuit being against you in South Dakota, and say, it should be dismissed because the court doesn’t have personal jurisdiction over me there because I reside in South Carolina. And if that person wants to sue you from South Dakota, they would have to sue you here in South Carolina, either in a state court or federal court; now in future shows we’ll talk about jurisdiction, we’ll talk about how you sue people in federal court, based on what’s known as diversity to citizenship where you have citizens of different states, and there must be a minimum sum of money, more than $75,000 at stake, to get into federal court. But citizens in the same state can’t sue somebody in federal court unless there is a federal statute or constitutional statute.

But talking about personal jurisdiction, what it means is the Supreme Court determined is it fair to make me go to South Dakota to defend myself if I have not availed myself of the benefits of South Dakota, and it’s called fundamental fairness. And so the courts look to see what are our minimum contacts that we would have with that state that we don’t live in. So let’s say I own property in Georgia, and I practice sometimes in Georgia through other attorneys, and I practice law there, and I go to Georgia to see people and I end up renting an apartment. Now I’m starting to have those minimum contacts with Georgia even though I’m a South Carolina citizen, and I have a South Carolina driver’s license, and a South Carolina voting card, and my main domicile is in South Carolina. If I start to avail myself of the benefits of the state of Georgia, and I commit a tort down there, I defame somebody or I get in a fistfight in a restaurant, and I get sued there, I may have trouble getting that suit dismissed and having it brought to South Carolina because I’m availing myself of different things in Georgia. 

So a lot of times when you have a credit card dispute, you may look at your new customer account form and you’ll see down there it’ll say for all disputes Minnesota law will apply and if you want to sue over your credit card, you have to go to Minnesota to sue. It’s called exclusive venue, all suits are going to be in Minnesota. Well you’ve had no contact with Minnesota, I mean, but that is that’s a venue, that is the venue for all disputes. And believe it or not, courts will uphold those types of venue clauses. And you should look in all of your contracts that you get, you know, if you sign a nondisclosure agreement, where you’re, you know, gonna reveal some confidential information to a company that may start doing business with your company, make sure you check that venue clause because it could say, all disputes have to be heard in Oregon. So buried in every contract that you sign, is a choice of law provision, and a venue provision. Now, obviously, we want to sue in South Carolina, I do because I live here and I understand the courts and all. But many times when you buy gutters, or you buy, you know, a jet ski or something, and you have a dispute, and you say okay, look, we’re going to bring this in South Carolina, I’m going to sue you. And then all of a sudden, the person on the other end of the phone says well, you better read your contract; it says all suits have to be brought in this other state. So these are very complicated terms, personal jurisdiction, venue and choice of law. But before you sign a contract, read it carefully. Don’t just read for the price. Don’t just read for how long somebody’s got the time period to perform, go to the end of that contract and those miscellaneous provisions, because that’s the stuff where you can really get burned on. 

And with that, EB out. 

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