Ferguson and The Grand Jury Sieve

Who says the cops in St. Louis don’t learn how to play the media?  Sure, they may have arrested reporters and gotten nailed on video dismantling equipment after they gassed them, but that was then. This is now:

Some of the physical evidence — including blood spatter analysis, shell casings and ballistics tests — also supports Wilson’s account of the shooting, The Post’s sources said, which casts Brown as an aggressor who threatened the officer’s life. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are prohibited from publicly discussing the case.

See that last sentence?  These bits, together with Wilson’s accounts, come from grand jury leaks.  The grand jury operates in secrecy, so that means they get to selectively spill what serves their interests and maintain anonymity so they are immune from responsibility for violating grand jury secrecy. Except, Continue reading

The Puddle: Why Are Lawyers So Expensive?

At The Puddle, Sam Glover takes up the annual cause of explaining to the groundlings why lawyers have to charge such high fees.  Personally, I’m just happy to see an occasional new post at The Puddle, because its vapid rehashes of worthless old posts left a huge void for those lawyers whose depth of understanding was maxed out by kitten pictures. Where were they going to learn about the law?

It’s not that the issue of legal fees, and its corollary problem of access to justice, isn’t a perennial fav of blogs, always good for clickbait, that purport to teach lawyers how to practice (and what’s the best scanner to buy), but this time Sam goes in a somewhat unusual direction, making his post discussion-worthy.

I don’t know if the public really appreciates what a lawyer agrees to do for her clients when we sign a retainer. In fact, I think some lawyers need to be reminded. It’s true that many clients just want to get out of jail or a contract or for their insurance company to pay up. But in order to do that, lawyers have [to] commit to much more.

Are we really just like Mother Theresa in a pinstripe suit? Continue reading

When Any Alpaca Will Do

No doubt a psychologist can explain how prescribing a guinea pig for emotional support serves a real purpose, a medically necessary purpose, even if it defies empirical proof.  And similarly, there are those who will speak in glowing terms of how a dog at their side during testimony soothes their anxiety.  Others may feel the same way about a few tumblers of scotch, but Glenlivet isn’t cute and furry.

Walter Olson at Overlawyered exposes the silly side of over-emotionalism in the embrace of comfort animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Author Patricia Marx decided to brazen her way through New York restaurants, museums, high-end fashion shops, and other institutions with five “un-cuddly, non-nurturing animals” such as a turtle, snake, and turkey, and some therapist paperwork that was easy enough to procure.

While it served to produce an hysterically funny, as in ridiculous, tale, it also served to highlight how easily we succumb to the insanity of vagaries in the law. Continue reading

To Silence Mumia

Regardless of whether you think Mumia Abu-Jamal to be a cop killer or political prisoner of a racist legal system, his voice continued to ring out, first from death row and later from his life-cell after his sentence was reduced to slow-death, on social and political issues.  It’s a voice that has something to say, and a voice that others want to hear.

So the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania decided that Mumia must be silenced. From the AP:

Ignoring the chants of protesters on the block where a police officer was killed and the cause célèbre of Mumia Abu-Jamal was born, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law Tuesday a measure he said would curb the “obscene celebrity” cultivated by convicts at the expense of victims.

When there is no rational basis in law for government action, it’s wrapped in the rhetoric of emotion with a pretty pink bow, using phrases artfully designed to evoke enough sorrow and misery to cloud our judgment and blind our eyes. Whether this reflects advocates and politicians getting shiftier, the public getting lazier and stupider, or both isn’t clear. What is clear is that it works. Continue reading

Deputy Matt: Forget Ferguson And Love Me

Via Tim Cushing at Techdirt, a pseudonymous cop who calls himself Deputy Matt explains at the Daily Caller how the evil forces of the media have turned the heads of not just the “normal criminal element” but good people, law-abiding people, from their adoration of the police.

I live and work more than 1900 miles west of Ferguson, but the effects of that case are still being felt here. Not a week goes by without someone I encounter mentioning it.

“Ferguson” has become the latest defense for committing crime, often invoked by people we arrest and their loved ones. Sadly, this feeling has not only infected the normal criminal element that I expect that behavior from, but even seems to be effecting middle class families as well.

Based on the required opening anecdote, offered to prove by one data point that the entire nation has gone nuts, Deputy Matt may misconstrue “the latest defense for committing crime” when what he means is contempt for cops.  Or maybe they’re the same thing. Continue reading

4 Out of 5 Marketers Agree

When I speak about blawging, it’s usually in the context of an ethics lecture.  Ethics and social media is a fairly hot topic, and when the alternatives are guys who make a living off of convincing lawyers that there is no such thing as ethics in social media, it makes me look good.

The one time Kevin O’Keefe made the foolish mistake of inviting me to join him on a panel about blogging at the New York City Bar.  Aside from the fact that I’m not good for business, I’m also not good about people who only want to know a shortcut to the nuts and bolts of fabulous wealth and fame on in the interwebz.  As one woman there demanded, she paid for the CLE (yes, it was a CLE) and damn well expected us to tell what she wanted to know. Ah, lawyers.

So when I was asked to speak to a diverse group of people this weekend about SJ, I saw it as an interesting experiment.  I would speak to the good, bad and ugly of blawging, of which all existed in vast quantities, but it would not be a marketing pitch, as I had nothing to sell.  It wasn’t about my own great glory, since I was well aware nobody cared, nor about some magic bullet that didn’t exist.  It would be real.  At least, that was my plan. Continue reading

Did The Federalist Society Join The Censors?

For those who keep a keen eye on the shifting rules and sexual mores on campus, few voices have proven more effective, clear and forthright than Cathy Young’s.  Among the unpopular and politically incorrect issues she tackles is the whole “rape culture” thing, from the pervasive phony statistics to the effort to disengage it from a criminal issue to a gender civil rights issue.  Young has been a leading voice throughout.

All of which makes this a head-scratcher.

Thanks to the efforts of the academic left, this view [of silencing critics of politically correct orthodoxy] is increasingly prevalent on college campuses. However, some right-of-center organizations now seem terrified of challenging rape-culture orthodoxy.

In March, 2013, Young spoke at St. Louis Law School, where she was met with some antipathy by the faculty advisor, who insisted that he also be on the ticket as her opposition.  She got a call from Federalist Society president Eugene Meyer a few days later to discuss the “negative reaction” to her presentation. Continue reading

No Better Options

To his credit, Jonathan Turley built up the scenario well, creating a mental image of a travesty where the First Rule of Policing cost a woman hostage her life.

Misty Holt-Singh, 41, had just run into the Stockton, California bank and left her 12-her-old daughter in the car for a quick transaction. In an instant, her life would change as Gilbert Renteria Jr., Jaime Ramos, and Alex Martinez came into to rob the bank. They took Singh hostage and fled in a car. However, the police were quickly on their tail and trapped the car. She may have had a glimmer of hope. After all, there were some 33 police officers surrounding the car. That is when the Stockton police opened up on the car and fired over 600 bullets — killing Holt-Singh, 41, and two of the bank robbers.

Outrageous. The callousness of the officers’ self-serving firing of “over 600 bullets” so that 10 of them, ten bullets, found their way into the body of Misty Holt-Singh and took her life, defies description.

The bank robbers had taken Holt-Singh clearly as a human shield and led the police on a high-speed car chase in a car stolen from a bank employee. Witnesses say that Holt-Singh was crying and saying that her daughter was in the car and that she did not want her daughter to be traumatized by seeing her with the robbers. The three robbers could care less, of course.

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But There’s a Box; It Must Be Checked

Among the phenomenon that is perpetually amusing is that when handed a form, people will fill it out.  It doesn’t matter what it asks for, the relevance to the purpose of the form to the question. If there’s a blank line, people write on it. If there’s a box people check it.  Because if they don’t, the sky will fall and society will come crashing down around their head.

At the New York Times Room for Debate, the question was posed whether checking the “sex” box is necessary:

New York City is considering a proposal that would make it easier for people to change their sex on their birth certificates. Other countries have grappled with this, and several federal agencies and states have adopted similar policies.

But why should government recognize individuals’ sex? Is there a legal need to distinguish among females, males and others?

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How Angry Guys Explain Acquitted-Conduct Sentencing (and why they’re wrong)

After the Supreme Court’s denial of cert in Jones, there appeared to be a sudden shocked recognition that people get sentenced for the crime for which they were just acquitted. This was by both lawyers and non-lawyers, who neither knew nor cared up to that point.  Readers here already knew exactly what this was about, but then, they’re usually ahead of the curve.

In a rush to catch up, there was a flurry of posts explaining what this meant. Few explained the logistics that justify this bizarre twist of law, some leaving one to ponder why they bothered at all.  But as is often the case, the boys at Crime & Consequences, Kent Scheidegger and Bill Otis, saw the opportunity and seized it.  Given the intuitive backlash to a piece of sentencing so important to their heart, this was an argument that needed to be made.  First, Otis’ shot:

For now I would note only two things.  First, the defense bar had its crack at this issue in Booker. Two remedies were on the table in that case:  Requiring a jury’s judgment beyond a reasonable doubt as to facts to be used at sentencing; or allowing judges to continue to find such facts by a preponderance, but no longer be required to follow the up-to-then mandatory sentencing guidelines. The defense got the latter option and has benefited considerably by it.  It can’t have its sentencing cake and eat it too, which is what was actually going on in the Jones cert petition.

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Being Offensive and Getting Offended: The Edith Jones Saga

A staunchly conservative federal appellate judge is invited to speak by the University of Pennsylvania’s Federalist Society about the death penalty.  It’s a potentially explosive mix, and unsurprisingly, it blew up.  Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones was grieved for saying, in effect, that blacks and Hispanics commit more crime, and more heinous crimes, than whites.  She said that no case has been made that systematic racism exists.

There was no record made of her speech and Q&A afterward so the content was reflected in the affidavits of those present.  Upon this record, a special committee considering the complaint of Judge Jones’ violating the code of conduct pieced together the words from the recollections of those present as well as judge Jones. It concluded:

It appears likely that Judge Jones did suggest that, statistically, African-Americans and/or Hispanics are “disproportionately” involved in certain crimes and “disproportionately” present in federal prisons. Needless to say, this topic can be extremely sensitive, and we do not doubt the affiants’ and witnesses’ repeated statements that they found the remarks offensive. Judge Jones herself recounted that she “was uncomfortable about alluding to such facts.” Jones Recollections 20-21. We recognize that, without an explanation or qualification, saying that certain groups are “more involved in” or “commit more of” certain crimes can sound like saying those groups are “prone to commit” such crimes.

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