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
The right to divorce isn’t as upbeat a topic as the right to marry…
While discussion of gay marriage tends to focus on equality and the right of every person, no matter what their sexual preference, to be part of a loving relationship, the fact is that marriage isn’t merely an “institution,” but a legal status. And when loving relationships turn less loving than they once were, the ending of that legal status can only be accomplished by another legal status, divorce. Continue reading
When the video first appeared, it was more fuel for the fire of bad cops. Bad, bad, bad, because we know bad cops happen and, well, they aren’t always our favorite people. So we’re disinclined to consider the possibility that maybe the bad cop isn’t so bad. Mix in Dunkin’ Donuts and, well, it’s too perfect.
See what a bad cop Daniel Chu is? An official-ly person said so, and we want it to be so, and so we believe. Dan Halloran, a Republican and Libertarian, Continue reading
The ABA Journal, striving for relevance, announced its seventh Blawg 100 Beauty Pageant. The good news is that SJ is no longer in the mix. Whether that means the brain trust has finally tired of my musings or SJ has been put out to pasture following its inclusion last year in the inaugural Blawg 100 Hall of Fame isn’t clear. Either way, it’s gone.
The bad news is that some of the contestants still don’t get the message, and pretend this somehow makes them important in the scheme of the blawgosphere. Now, they matter. People will be impressed with them, their words will matter. Continue reading
It’s like an implausible sitcom story that somehow worked, and all the other networks rushed to put on bad copycat shows of their own. Take pre-school teachers, mix in some innocent little children and tie it together with sexual abuse and the ritual murders of babies and animals. Bingo: primetime.
Except it wasn’t a bad TV show, and it cost too many people too many years of their life until the show was canceled. The latest was Fran Keller, who was released after spending 21 years of her life in prison because of this ridiculous yet beloved scenario of ritualistic abuse. And this came right on the heels of the release of the San Antonio 4. This was the progeny of the McMartin Preschool Case, the fantastical scenario that gave rise to a hysteria that swept the nation, or at least parts of it.
It pitted children against horrible people who sexually abused them and murdered babies. Continue reading
When a police officer shoots someone, there is invariably an investigation that follows. Forget that the outcome of the investigation tends to be a foregone conclusion, and consider that they still go through the motions. Of course, the police strongly prefer when the officer’s story aligns with the facts, and this becomes even more important when the facts are shown via video.
There are, therefore, two primary routes to be taken following a police shooting: First, question the officer about what happened and why he decided to shoot to kill rather than protect and serve. If he tells the truth, then his story will be confirmed by subsequent evidence, ranging from witnesses to the event to the omnipresent video. Continue reading