Tuesday Talk*: Voir Dire Behind The Mask

In the early days of the pandemic, the conflicts quickly emerged. People were arrested but not arraigned because there were no judges sitting on benches to do so. They were detained but not indicted because there were no grand juries to hear the case. They remained in jail awaiting trial but not tried, because the courts were shut down and there were no juries. Bit by bit, adjustments were made, from conducting trials over Zoom to masked and socially distanced jurors.

On the one hand, having a defendant sit in jail because the system shut down was a disaster, particularly when the length of time awaiting the system to ramp up sufficiently to at least address the poor guy’s incarceration could easily exceed any punishment that might follow. On the other hand, the adjustments made were, to be blunt, inadequate. Zoom trials? Masked  witnesses and jurors? Was this good enough to satisfy due process? After all, we might be in the midst of a pandemic, but did that mean constitutional protections for defendants were suspended while the wheels of the system continued to grind? Continue reading

No Safe Choices For Birthing Persons

When I saw the title of Elizabeth Bruenig’s op-ed, I skipped over it. My child-having and rearing days are long behind me, and while the love-hate relationship between Millennial parents and  their children over who gets to be the center of attention may fascinate them, it doesn’t do much for me. But that was a mistake on my part, because I read the headline through Boomer eyes, not realizing that there is nothing so banal, not even the decision to have children, that can’t be twisted into a culture war battle.

Millennial women in the United States are waiting longer than any generation in recorded history to have children, a trend that’s raised the rate of births among 30-somethings to a 50-year high. They didn’t start the trend, but they’ve taken it to new heights. “While slightly more than half (53 percent) of women in their early 40s in 1994 had become mothers by age 24,” one 2018 data analysis published by the Pew Research Center observed, “this share was 39 percent among those who were in this age group in 2014.” Yesterday’s geriatric is today’s “Juno.”

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The Health Care Aide Conundrum

Medical science can keep us alive well beyond our expiration date. That was what my father told me when he was in his 90s, a message I understood. He was alive, as long as breathing was all one wanted from life, but he struggled to walk, to remember names, to manage his personal hygiene. The problem was that he knew he was failing, his life pretty much sucked, but there he was, waking up every morning anyway. He wasn’t about to do anything to change the status quo, but when it came, he was ready and it was fine with him. He remembered what it was like to be able to enjoy life.

As the population ages, and it is indeed aging thanks to medical science’s ability to keep blood pumping if no other part of our anatomy, the need for care becomes increasingly problematic. First, caring for the elderly isn’t exactly a fun job, even if they can be cute at times. Their needs are constant. Senile dementia isn’t as adorable as they make it look in the movies. They can be downright unpleasant and demanding, often quite offensive without being entirely responsible for what they say and do. Who wants a job like that? Continue reading

Schools Have Rules: Must BLM Be Left At The Schoolhouse Gate?

Bentlee and Rodney Herbert, 8 and 5 years of age, went to school. So far, so good. They wore t-shirts. Fine as well. There was writing on their t-shirts. Nothing odd about that. Yet, the school’s principal, Denise Brunk, told Bentlee to turn his shirt inside out for the day, and not to wear it again.

On Monday, Ms. Herbert went to the school to ask the principal what dress-code policy her son had violated, Ms. Herbert said. Ms. Brunk referred her to the Ardmore City Schools superintendent, Kim Holland.

“He told me when the George Floyd case blew up that politics will not be allowed at school,” Ms. Herbert said on Friday, referring to Mr. Holland. “I told him, once again, a ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirt is not politics.”

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Not So Peaceful

One mother failed her child, for which a cop gets blamed. One mother loved her child, for which cops get blamed. If you squint hard enough, believe hard enough, deny hard enough and grasp tightly the vision of a future where unicorns, left to their own devices, will merrily prance on rainbows rather than pull out a gun in the Disneyfied Times Square and shoot three random tourists, including a 4-year-old, maybe you can believe this is all the product of externalities. Nothing one does is one’s fault. There is no choice. No agency. No responsbility. What use is government if it can’t protect you from yourself, you friends, your mother?

And what use is government if it can’t protect you from itself? Continue reading

Prosecutors And Bad Press

Anybody crying over an elected prosecutor getting bad press? One person is, and that’s the prosecutor. Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

@FOXBaltimore’s blatantly slanted,dishonest,misleading,racist, and extremely dangerous coverage must come to end. Last year, they ran 248 stories about me and and my office, while WJZ ran 46, WBAL ran 26 and WMAR ran 10 during that year.

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Seaton: The Mark Doctor and the Ringmaster

“Vince McMahon is going to jail for dealing steroids,” my friend Andy told me one day at school.

We were kids. Neither of us knew what steroids were. We knew drugs were bad, and the guy who everyone said ran the WWF was being accused of dealing them.

What no one knew was the acquittal of Vince McMahon in what would later be called “The Steroid Trial” helped shape the face of professional wrestling for decades to come. Although it’s easy to look back now and see this as a monumental fuck-up of a federal case, few people realize Vince had an old rival holed up in Stamford, Connecticut in case of a guilty verdict to smooth over the transfer of power within the top American wrestling promotion at the time. Continue reading

Grieving Prosecutors, Redux

They’re just lawyers who get a paycheck from the government. They’re still lawyers subject to the Code of Professional Responsibility. They’re lawyers, and as lawyers, are subject to the Code of Professional Responsibility. So why is it that the Departmental Disciplinary Committees and their lead counsel have essentially ignored any grievances over their conduct?

Years ago, my buddy and officemate at the time, Dan Arshack, as president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, when it still mattered, created a committee to grieve prosecutors and judges. It was created to overcome one of the biggest obstacles, that these were people we would have to deal with over and over. There is no faster way to make an enemy for life than filing a grievance against someone, and so defense lawyers were reluctant to do so in their own name. Plus, it usually came off as vengeful, sour grapes at times or just petty. Continue reading

No Home in Austin

Thoughts and prayers are heartwarming. Platitudes are great for rallying the troops to a cause. But you know what they don’t do? Fix anything. What does that take, money?

Along with the repeal of the camping ban, Mr. Adler and the all-Democrat city council appropriated more than $73 million for homeless-related services in 2020, a record for the city. It was so much money that the city had trouble spending it. By December Austin had doled out only 57%, or $42.3 million, which still amounted to tens of thousands of dollars per homeless person. Yet the problem kept getting worse.

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The Worst Word And The Damage Done

A law student at Rutgers did something law students do. The student quoted a passage from a 1993 New Jersey Supreme Court decision, State v. Bridges (1993), that included the N-word. That word, together with some of the other worst epithets, can be found in over 10,000 decisions. It can be found in the New York Times. It can be found pretty much everywhere. But does it need to be said?

Black students at Rutgers Law School are petitioning for a policy against the use of racial slurs after an incident in which a white student quoted a racial slur directly from a 1993 legal opinion during a professor’s virtual office hours, The New York Times reported.

The petition also calls for apologies from the student, who has not been identified, and the professor, Vera Bergelson, who told the Times she did not hear the word spoken and would have corrected the student if she had. Continue reading