Lexblog CEO, Kevin O’Keefe, who keeps track of such things because that’s how he makes his living, recently estimated that there are still only 2-5% of lawyers who are really active online. I would add that most are young, inclined to be active because they’re digital natives. The rest dabble a bit at best.
At the same time, there is no denying that people in need of legal services search online. It’s a foolish and terrible way to find a lawyer, but people often do foolish and terrible things as long as it’s easy. Finding a lawyer online is easy; type “criminal lawyer” into a search engine and see what pops up.
The results provide three things: Continue reading
One of the voices in the blawgosphere that frequently comes in useful as a test of sanity is Georgetown Law School adjunct prawf Bill Otis, formerly Chief of the Appellate Division, US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, and a host of other cool government posts. Whenever one’s views align with Bill’s, it’s a clear sign that you need to stop binge drinking.
At Crime & Consequences, sponsored by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, Bill takes on the annoying and persistent harangue that sending a person to prison is such a big deal.
Going to Prison Will Ruin Your Life Continue reading
Ever mindful of the holiday season, the United States Department of Justice has created the perfect gift for good little boys and girls! A book filled with cool puzzles, games and pictures to color. And while having fun, fun, fun, they can learn a little about cool federal courts too!
On page 6, for example, the book offers this (click on image for a larger version):
Over at Techdirt, Mike Masnick has been closely following the “no fly list” trial of Stanford Ph.D student Rahinah Ibrahim against the government before Judge William Haskell Alsup in the Northern District of California. The plaintiff experienced a bit more turbulence at the hands of our government than she was willing to take.
In that case, a Stanford University Ph.D. student named Rahinah Ibrahim was prevented from boarding a flight at San Francisco International Airport in 2005, and was handcuffed and detained by the police. Ultimately, she was allowed to fly to Malaysia, her home country, but she has been unable to return to the United States because the State Department revoked her student visa.
To say that the government stonewalled the prosecution is to insult stone walls. Continue reading
While reading a post about a day in the life of a juvenile defender, I realized with a shock that I was committing heresy.
This is the first time the teen has been in trouble and he has unpaid restitution fees.
“It can be really hard for these poorer families to pay,” explains Pinkney.
Pinkney glances over his list of charges and intake report. Apparently, the teen was at a demonstration in downtown Oakland, when he and a group of other kids broke off from the group and started vandalizing cars.
It’s not that I didn’t appreciate what was being said, Continue reading
While I’m hardly the technological Luddite many think I am, there is no question that I’m far away from the cutting edge. By my calculations, that still puts me in the top 10% of lawyers, and maybe the top 1% of judges. This is a problem.
In a comment to a post at Popehat, there was a link to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald that took my breath away about a 14-year-old boy who, having had $700 in virtual currency on Runescape stolen from him, set about to RAT (Remote Administration Tool), a virus that allows a hacker to seize control of another’s computer. Among the things he could do:
Within a few clicks, the teenager had access to a stranger’s entire computer, without their knowledge. “I was the happiest kid in the whole entire world,” he says. Continue reading
Soon after I began SJ, someone told me that I had a snarky tone. That would have meant more to me if I understood what snarky meant, as the word was foreign to me at the time. It was explained as snide and cynical, less definition than attitude.
I didn’t see my writing as snarky at all. And the last thing I saw was cynicism, but then, self-assessment is notoriously unreliable, and there was no reason for mine to be any better than anyone else’s. So after giving it some thought, I sought the perspective of others who would tell me the truth.
What I learned was curious: Continue reading
In a CNN op-ed, Northern District of Iowa Judge Mark W. Bennett (the other Bennett, as he’s called around here) and former AUSA, now lawprof, Mark Osler describe how the experiment failed:
Nearly 30 years ago, Congress embarked on a remarkable and ultimately tragic transformation of criminal law. Through the establishment of mandatory sentences and sentencing guidelines, discretion in sentencing was shifted from judges to prosecutors.
After the changes, prosecutors largely controlled sentencing because things like mandatory sentences and guideline ranges were determined by decisions they made.
Judge Bennett notes how the change ignored Continue reading
This will come as no surprise to anyone over the age of 50, but may well be hard to believe for young people: I’m 29. Yup, 29 years of age.
Well, not 29 if you add up the candles on my cake, or if you ask me what I think of the latest meme or my favorite line from the Princess Bride, mostly because I won’t have a clue, but as far as how I picture myself in my mind, I am definitely 29.
WTF? Abby Rodman explains. She found herself in an elevator with a bunch of drunk 25-year-olds. Continue reading
It came by email yesterday. And then it came again, this time personalized just in case it was ignored the first time. Human Rights Watch produced a 126 page report about plea bargaining, because it hasn’t been discussed to death enough. I tried to ignore the press release, but I knew that it wasn’t going to work. I’ve come to despise press releases.
There was no way not to get sucked into this discussion again because people who were clueless, who had never defended a person accused of a crime in federal court and never negotiated a plea (or went to trial in a criminal case) would be all over this like flies on, well, stuff flies just can’t not be on top of.
So I started to read the report. And it didn’t take long before it devolved Continue reading
It’s bad enough that two cops fired weapons in Times Square and managed not to have a single bullet strike its target. It’s bad enough that two innocent bystanders were shot. It’s bad enough that they had no justification for the shooting. But what is intolerable is that someone must pay for these grievous wrongs.
Somewhere on the 7th Floor of 1 Hogan Place, a prosecutor got a brilliant idea. “I know,” he said. “Let’s blame the guy the cops were shooting at!” After all, if he hadn’t been acting crazy in traffic, none of this would have happened. “Am I right? Am I right?”
The theory isn’t new. Ike Turner tried it when explaining why he was forced to beat Tina. Continue reading
Among the many great fictions of the legal system is that juries follow instructions. In fairness, it can work to either side’s advantage, based on the circumstances. An inadvertent instruction can serve as the basis for reversal, even though no one on the jury could possibly have had a clue what the judge was talking about. The very notion that a jury can follow all that legal mumbo jumbo has always been absurd, but lacking an alternative way to tell the jury what the law is, we persist in the fiction.
But every once in a while, a jury returns with a verdict that shows just how ridiculous the whole concept can be, and that happened in Stamford, Connecticut manslaughter trial of Robert Bell: Continue reading
For no good reason, I neglected to write about a fascinating 4th Circuit opinion yesterday in United States v. Robinson. which wouldn’t have mattered much had Orin Kerr not written about it first.
The facts in Robinson are relatively ordinary.
On April 14, 2011, the Durham Police Department received a call reporting an altercation in MacDougald Terrace. The caller stated that three African-American males in white t-shirts were chasing an individual who was holding a firearm. Officer Doug Welch drove to the area in his patrol car. Continue reading
If you’re not @CBSAndrew, you should not be reading this. Didn’t you see the “personal and confidential” thing in the title? Yeah, you won’t listen to me. Dang. Never mind.
I’m not only appreciative of Andrew Cohen’s articles at The Atlantic, but a huge fan. Cohen is one of the handful of journalists who addresses the ugliness, the nastiness, the wrongfulness, of the criminal justice system with depth and thoughtfulness. While I may not always agree with him, I appreciate him. I hope that makes sense.
But I have a nit to pick. Continue reading
When a judge rails against the evils of crime, the reaction ranges from applause to re-election. When a judge rails against the evils of prosecutorial misconduct, there is a very different reaction. Via the Post and Courier:
Beatty, elected to the Supreme Court in 2007, told the audience of prosecutors they had “been getting away with too much for too long” and the high court will no longer turn a blind eye to unethical conduct such as witness tampering, selective and retaliatory prosecutions, perjury and suppression of evidence.
He added that “you better follow the rules or we are coming after you and will make an example,” according a summary of his comments. Continue reading
There is a beauty in old structures. Houses, public buildings, even courtrooms. Especially old courtrooms, perhaps. Whether simple and utilitarian or ornate and majestic, they reflect our history. And yet, as with history itself, they sometimes reflect mistaken ideals.
Judge Richard Kopf, at Hercules and the Umpire, was off to preside over a trial in Sioux City, Iowa, in a courtroom he described as “stunning.”
This week and next, I have the privilege of using the stunning old but restored federal courtroom in Sioux City, Iowa to try a jury case. It is pictured below: Continue reading
Among the magic words that police will use, and judges will approve, to justify a person’s seizure at will, perhaps the worst offender is “too.” Too much of anything places a person outside whatever the officer feels is “normal,” thus raising suspicions.
Of course, it may be that the person stopped merely fails to conform to whatever expectations the officer has. Or has other things going on in his life that the officer is unaware of. Or that it’s just an excuse to seize and pursue further investigation, since it’s just an itty, bitty word and only requires three letters to type it into a report. Most cops are up to the task. Continue reading
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, to his enduring credit, cares about the reality that New York has far more poor than lawyers for the Legal Aid Society could ever hope to represent. While his tenure as Chief Judge will be short lived, he plans to leave behind the machinery to make a dent in the gaping hole called “access to justice.” From the New York Times:
Lawyers who work for big corporations in New York but are not licensed to practice law in the state will be allowed to do pro bono work under a new rule meant to ease an acute shortage of legal representation for the poor, the state’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, announced on Monday.
The rule change, which takes effect on Wednesday, is the latest in a series of measures that Judge Lippman has championed in recent years to reduce what he calls “the justice gap.” New York is the fourth state to let out-of-state lawyers working as counsel for corporations offer their services to the poor, without restrictions. Continue reading
And the desire to invent the next cool thing moves forward. So what if it’s not really new? So what if it’s hardly cool? So what if it has the ability to cause all sorts of mischief? We love apps, and seriously, isn’t that what the digital world is all about?
Via the Tampa ABC affiliate:
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — In a high-tech effort to battle crime, the Tampa Police Department recently launched a free smartphone app.
With a few clicks, city residents can submit anonymous tips to police and learn about unsolved crimes and “most wanted” criminals on their iPhones or Androids. Continue reading
When I received the email from Dan Hull at What About Clients/Paris? it wasn’t hard to imagine the look of exasperation on his face. There are few people in the blawgosphere who have had their content ripped off more consistently than Dan, and unlike the rest of us whose posts ended up on some scammer’s website, Dan’s was different. The thief always seemed to be a lawyer. Lawyers just wanted what Dan wrote.
This time it was a young Dallas/Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer named Carl David Ceder, who had lifted wholesale one of Hull’s best known and most appreciated posts, his 12 Rules of Client Service. This was first posted in 2006 and may be the post for which Hull is best known. Continue reading