The Exploitabilty of the Slackoisie

You’re one of the lucky few. Fresh out of law school and employed. Not just employed, but employed and getting a decent salary. You’re happy. Your parents are thrilled, hoping you will someday move out of the basement.  The world is your oyster. Then two weeks in, not having been given that corner office you felt certain you deserved, your magical world comes tumbling down around you.

And you must ask yourself the hard question: Are you exploited?

At Above the Law, Shannon Achimalbe* explains what that means.

But for some of you, things will not turn out the way you expected. You’re not given the raises and bonuses you were promised. You go to meaningless court hearings. Your boss angered a judge so he sent you to court to endure the judge’s wrath. Your assignments seem like glorified document review looking for obscure keywords in 15-sentence paragraphs. In sum, you feel overworked and underappreciated. Continue reading

Or Else

Since the legal system has proven its remarkable ability to run like a well-oiled machine, at least when it comes to assuring that the accused be convicted, why not fix whatever problems remain by constructing yet another Rube Goldberg machine?  That’s what Tina Rosenberg proposes in a New York Times op-ed.

Cash-register justice incarcerates or keeps on probation many people who are not dangerous, just poor. And taxpayers are being abused by legislators who keep heaping fees on offenders. The lawmakers are not considering the enormous cost of jailing those who can’t pay, the cost of collecting their debts, or the cost to society of turning a civil violator into an incarcerated criminal.

By “cash-register justice,” Rosenberg means fines, plus penalties, plus interest, plus whatever additional amounts get tossed in because government wants moolah and law-breakers have no champions to call bullshit and advocate against the piling on of more and more dollars, all of which add up to insurmountable sums that crush poor people and make it impossible for them to get out from under the costs levied by the system.  And if you don’t see it in your neighborhood, you can take a look at how it worked in Ferguson, Missouri.

Rosenberg proposed the adoption of the European model, where fines are proportionate to income. Continue reading

First They Came For The College Students

But your children aren’t in college yet, so you did nothing.  It may be trite to fall back on Martin Niemöller, but the fact remains that it’s hard to muster much concern for problems that don’t touch your little world. And now, the train is coming full throttle for your little darlings.

From the ally-prince of sad anecdotes, Tyler Kingkade:

When her daughter stopped attending class at Garfield High School in Seattle, she was suffering nightmares about being attacked. This hadn’t happened before she took an overnight November 2012 high school field trip, when she says a classmate raped and sodomized her.

Warkov complained to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that the school district botched the handling and fallout of her daughter’s case, and federal officials are currently investigating what happened to uncover possible Title IX violations.

Continue reading

Into The Valley of Life Rode the 6000 Prisoners

Backing them up for about the past year, the United States Bureau of Prisons is about to cut them loose. The number given is 6,000, all prisoners whose time was prolonged in the name of crack exceptionalism, which only made sense to people who accepted the premise that longer is better, no matter what.

One day, the United States Sentencing Commission came down off its high and realized their numbers were crazy and even their friends and admirers no longer wanted to pay for its incarceration addiction.  So, they agreed to let them go, but kick the actual can down the road until they could find some plausible deniability.  The day is finally coming. The exodus will be televised. October 30th to November 1st.

Dara Lind at Vox offers a ‘splainer on the release, though its more of an ‘scuser than anything else.

Yes, 6,000 is more prisoners than the federal government has ever released early at once before. Typically, the federal government releases 55,000 prisoners a year — so the prisoner release at the end of this month is doing in a few days what the government typically does in about five weeks. (Unsurprisingly, federal releases are only a fraction of all prisoner releases: 10,000 people are let out of prison in the US every week, but most of those are state prisoners.) Continue reading

Skin Beating (Or What I Learned From Buddy Rich)

By the time my cartoons were interrupted by some old guy saying President Kennedy was shot in Dallas on the black and white TV, my fascination with percussion was already well-established. I was pounding on upside-down coffee cans with pencils, pissed that death interfered with my fun.

So when I learned that my high school hero, Buddy Rich, would be playing at a club on Route 35, there was no way in hell I was going to miss seeing him in person. Other people had pictures of cars or older women on their bedroom walls. I had a picture of Buddy Rich.  Don’t judge me.

buddy rich Continue reading

Cows and Cop Haters

Red Wing, Minnesota is a pretty quiet place.  The Republican Eagle had a story of cows walking down Main Street. Holsteins, to be specific.


Red Wing police respond to a report of Holstein cows wandering Main Street on Wednesday night. (Photo by Jeff Chandler of Red Wing)

But they take disorder seriously in Red Wing, and really appreciate the work of their law enforcement officers in keeping cows in line.  So the City Council decided that it was time to make their love matter with a hard-hitting resolution to back up their cow-herders boys in blue. Continue reading

Legal Tech: Winners Don’t Whine

It’s not that lawyers are anti-technology, it’s that they are anti-bullshit.

Keith Lee

There are tons of people who show up for tons of legal tech conferences with tons of superlatives about their baby.  You will never meet a thinner-skinned crowd. They hang out with each other, praising the living crap out of their respective start-ups in the vain hope that if they lie to each other, magic will happen.

It won’t.  Worse still, the last thing these budding legal tech entrepreneurs need is to waste their time giving each other tummy rubs, as that’s why it won’t.

Carolyn Elefant, no meanie (like me) when it comes to the potential of technology in the law, calls ’em out. Continue reading

Ten Favs From The Bill of Rights

Within seconds of the Umpqua Community College killings, the same calls rang out for gun control under the mantra, “this must stop.” Jess Gabel Cino asked whether we can finally stop the debating, a rhetorical question if ever there was one.  Across the nation, people manned their usual battle stations for the same fight that follows every tragedy involving guns, but particularly mass school shootings.

As a New Yorker, I have the typical city slicker’s distaste for guns. I don’t have one. I don’t want one. I am not a fan of guns. No need to explain why I’m wrong. It’s my choice, and, unlike so many people on so many issues, I do not fancy myself the arbiter of right and wrong for everyone else. Indeed, the arguments over guns have been enunciated ad nauseam. The battle lines are as clearly drawn as they could possibly be.

But when I expressed a sentiment that, whether those of us who have no desire to hold cold steel in our hands like it or not, the Supreme Court has held the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental individual right in D.C. v. Heller, the backlash surprised me.  I was immediately “unfollowed” on the twitters by a big bunch of people who deeply favor some constitutional rights and deeply hate others. Continue reading

First Monday, And Free Speech Heresy

Today is the First Monday in October, when law profs and lawyers obsess over what nine old guys and gals have to say about the law, even though little of it ever filters down to the trial courtrooms where real people’s lives are laid to waste.  And in honor of the day, First Amendment scholar Ronald K.L. Collins has given up his soapbox at Concurring Opinions to another prawf, Joel Gora of Brooklyn Law School.

Notably, there aren’t a lot of law professors willing to stand up for the very unpopular view these days that free speech is a sufficiently worthy concept that it should not be reinvented whenever hurt feelings are at risk.  I’ve been told by more than a few professors that they would really like to speak out about some of their colleagues, and their flagrant distortion of the law in support of their advocacy, but fear that the climate in the Academy would result in their being ostracized.

I’m not sympathetic to their concerns, as remaining silent in the face of faux scholars spewing phony analysis is how people become stupider.  On the other had, when a prawf shows the fortitude to show intellectual honesty, even when it’s contrary to their political leanings, it should be noted and appreciated. This is particularly important at a time when law schools and gaggles of prawfs happily don hot pants to sell their wares to an unsuspecting public.

Gora has the guts to call bullshit. That makes his words worthy of note, as he is an unabashed supporter of the First Amendment. Continue reading

Stockton’s Mayor At The Border

Did they ask for a quick look-see? Not from the description given by the mayor of Stockton, California, Anthony Silva, who was returning from a mayor conference in China to the “land of the free.”

Upon his return home on Monday, Silva was briefly detained by Department of Homeland Security agents and had his belongings searched, he said.

“A few minutes later, DHS agents confiscated all my electronic devices including my personal cell phone. Unfortunately, they were not willing or able to produce a search warrant or any court documents suggesting they had a legal right to take my property. In addition, they were persistent about requiring my passwords for all devices,” Silva said.

Warrant? At the border? Apparently, no one told Silva that border searches aren’t subject to the Fourth Amendment.  Then again, they similarly aren’t subject to seizure of a person, to refuse to allow someone to leave, absent their consent to seizure of computers and cell phone, or disclosure of passwords. Continue reading

Pro Bono For Butthurt (Empathy Update)

As the wagons are circled around a small cabal that will emote without anyone in earshot to say an unpleasant word at New York Law School, another announcement was made in conjunction with the First Annual Tyler Clementi Internet Safety Conference:

The product of a collaboration between NYLS and the Tyler Clementi Foundation, the Institute is a full service education and direct outreach initiative that, among other things, includes the only pro bono law school clinic representing victims of cyberharassment for free! (Emphasis in original.)

This comes from lawprof Ari Waldman at NYLS, who invited questions. So I asked. Continue reading

The New and Improved Snitch Requirement

The devil is in the details is a truism, and certainly true of the Senate’s sentencing reform law.  That it’s bipartisan, a word rarely used in the past two decades, conveys a special meaning to advocates: this is the best you’re gonna get, as your champions of reform have surrendered to Chuck Grassley.  Take it or leave it.

And indeed, advocates of sentencing reform, such as FAMM, know when they’ve been beaten, and so they’re lining up behind this bill. We’re not privy to their kitchen table talks, but it’s impossible to imagine they don’t realize that this is a mutt. Still, a mutt is better than a dog that’s dead on arrival. Those are the compromises advocates tend to make.

But of the terms of the bill, the actual words that come into play in real courtrooms, with real defendants, in real life, are what the janitors of the law are left to clean up. And they are, indeed, a mess.

The New York Times, unsurprisingly, has given its blessing to this mutt bill, and in the process, has demonstrated yet again that it has no clue what’s in there. Continue reading