Author Archives: SHG

Breathless Over Pantless

Bad things happen in jails. Terrible things. This just wasn’t one of them. When Sandra Bland was found dead in her cell, that was worthy of outrage. That the female defendant who appeared before Louisville Judge Amber Wolf was not wearing pants is at most insignificant, and at worst, no issue at all.

The video of Judge Wolf reacting to a woman in court without pants has gone somewhat viral, which is surprising given that the video is 12 minutes of painful tedium. Keith Lee twitted it at me early, and I watched it, thinking only that Keith owed me 12 minutes of my life back. At the time, it appeared that the woman, who remains unnamed as she should, was in a state of undress that evoked outrage by the judge. Was she naked underneath her long t-shirt? Was she in her panties? It’s never said, but that she wasn’t in pants was clear and, to the judge, wholly unacceptable.

“Excuse me? This is outrageous. Is this for real?” Judge Wolf said upon hearing this from the defense attorney.Footage of the proceeding was captured by the courtroom camera. Wolf continued, “Am I in the Twilight Zone? What is happening?”

“This is completely inhumane and unacceptable,” Wolf told the woman. “I’m sorry you had to go through this.”

Continue reading

The Transgender Strawman Is Stayed

The Supreme Court granted a stay of the Fourth Circuit’s decision in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, holding that under Title IX, Gavin Grimm, a transgender man, was entitled to use the bathroom of his choice.  The circuit had earlier refused to stay its decision.

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This puts the case in a holding pattern, maintaining the status quo ante, pending the petition for cert, and the Supreme Court’s decision on whether to grant it, which is a significant setback for the effort.  Had the Fourth Circuit’s decision gone forward, it would have become a fait accompli, serving dual purposes. Continue reading

Jay Nixon, For The Defense

At Fault Lines, Orleans Chief Public Defender, Derwyn Bunton, was crossed, following his painful decision to start refusing cases that his office could no longer competently handle.

We are committed to operating within the “triangle of defense:” on one side of the triangle are constitutional mandates, on another side are ethical requirements and on the other side are professional standards. Our cases have to fit in that triangle, and to the extent our cases don’t fit in the triangle, our representation is compromised, ineffective or non-existent.

The fact was that the volume was overwhelming, the burdens on public defenders intolerable and the reality that his staff, no matter how great their effort and dedicated to their clients, the constitution and ethics, was unable to function within the “triangle of defense.”  Derwyn had no option but to say no.

But that raises a question. Is the situation in Orleans Parish that much worse than other places that there, but only there, the ram had hit the wall?  Were other public defenders doing fine, or at least meeting minimal requirements? Was Derwyn wrong, perhaps too demanding, or are others wrong, not demanding enough?

On August 2, 2016, Michael Barrett, the director of the Missouri State Public Defender sent a letter to Governor Jay NixonContinue reading

Arrested For A Camera In The Courthouse Hallway

At first blush, the naivete is borderline painful. How is it possible that Daryl Khan didn’t see this coming?

I am writing this from inside a jail cell. I was put here for doing an unremarkable, routine bit of journalism, covering a sentencing in a murder. I won’t go so far as to say I was arrested since I was never read any rights. I am in the cell just the same.

I must have covered hundreds of similar hearings in my career. But this is the first time I ever ended up in the same cellblock as the subjects I was covering.

Sigh. Let’s start at the top. Being read Miranda rights has nothing to do with being arrested, but with the ability to use statements as evidence. When you start out with something so clueless, it makes one wonder how you could have “covered hundreds of similar hearings” and learned nothing.

But then, you didn’t end up in a cellblock because you did “an unremarkable, routine bit of journalism.” To say that reflects a cluelessness that makes one wonder how you can call yourself a journalist. Continue reading

True Threats And Jessica Valenti

I’ve never been a fan of Jessica Valenti. Not because she’s an outspoken feminist, but because she’s the feminist version of Shaun King. A forceful, passionate voice that’s a few quarts low on knowledge and credibility.  She spews ignorant hatred at males and gets ignorant hatred in return. Of course, she’s allowed. Her detractors are exhausting.

But now, Jessica Valenti says she’s leaving social media because she received a rape and death threat directed at her five-year-old child.

A prominent feminist writer and columnist said she is being forced to abandon social media after receiving rape and death threats against her 5-year-old daughter.

On Twitter, popular writer Jessica Valenti wrote: “This morning I woke up to a rape and death threat directed at my 5 year old daughter. That this is part of my work life is unacceptable.”

The “threat” she claims to have received remains a mystery. She has not, as far as I’m aware, disclosed the threat. Given her history, it’s difficult to take her word for it. But that only applies to people disinclined to believe the victim just because. In the feminist and social justice worlds, not only do they believe with every ounce of their being, but they are outraged that anyone could doubt the victim. Proof plays no role in the religious life of zealots. Continue reading

FIRE and Rain

If history teaches anything, phrases like “hate speech” and “marginalized communities” will be chalked up to a Koch Brothers conservative conspiracy in 20 years. Hemlines will have risen and fallen many times, and bell bottoms may have even come back in style. And progressive minds will be resolute in their defense of free speech, as if preventing the neo-Nazis from marching on Skokie was even an acceptable possibility.

The New York Times, in a surprisingly pleasant turn of events, tells of the efforts of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, started by Harvey Silverglate in 1999 in response to restrictive speech codes gaining popularity on campus.

FIRE was started in 1999 by Harvey A. Silverglate, a criminal and civil rights lawyer in Boston, and Alan Charles Kors, now a retired University of Pennsylvania history professor. They met as Princeton undergraduates, and in 1998 wrote “The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses.” The book is an exhaustive recounting of administrators’ abuses of freedom of speech and due process, and a warning that the academy was being undermined by speech codes — restrictions that colleges and universities began to put in place in the 1980s, in part to protect the growing minority student population from racial intolerance.

In the 60s, campuses erupted in protest against restrictions on freedom. By the 90s, when people grew weary of too much liberty, the pendulum swung the other way. The same arguments were used, wielded as artfully as one could expect of students for whom reason was little more than an excuse to get whatever served their purpose at the moment, but now to silence. Continue reading

Nine Years After

How long? At the moment, it’s almost nine years, the journey having begun in 2007.  Carlos Vega still sits on the Rock awaiting his future.

Mr. Vega was arrested in the Bronx on Sept. 30, 2007, accused of killing a man in a bodega. Now 33, he has been in jail for nearly nine years. Three trials have failed to yield a verdict. The first trial, more than four years after the murder, ended in a mistrial after the wife of a key witness became ill. The second ended in a hung jury, and the third also ended in a mistrial after a confrontation with a guard left Mr. Vega hospitalized.

In all, Mr. Vega’s case has come before the court 126 times as it has been shuffled among three defense lawyers, five prosecutors and 12 judges. Another hearing is scheduled for Monday.

That’s the “what,” even if in abbreviated version. But it’s not the “why.” If you don’t read the story carefully, you might think you know why, but you don’t.  Not really. That there were three mistrials along the way, each for a decidedly different reason, doesn’t answer much of anything.

The numbers seem wrong, 126 court appears, all those lawyers and judges. But aside from giving off an unpleasant scent, they explain nothing. Are they the cause of nine years delay or the consequences? Has Carlos Vega been the victim of the system or is he beating the system at its own game? Being in pre-conviction status for nine years sounds terrible, but it beats being convicted and serving a 25-year sentence for murder before being denied parole for the next 27 years. Continue reading

A Woman In The White House, Day 2

The first president was a man, John Hanson.  Few people count him, however, and so his name has faded into obscurity.  Hundreds of years later, a woman was the candidate for vice president of a major party, Geraldine Ferraro. She lost, but not because she was a woman. She had the misfortune to run with Walter Mondale, who was crushed by Ronald Reagan.

There were national leaders elsewhere who were women, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher. And there was the first credible candidate for president, Elizabeth Dole, who ran in 2000, and lost to George W. Bush.  He was followed in office by Barack Obama, the first black president.

In 2016, the question is posed whether the United States is ready for a woman president. We’ve been ready for years, decades perhaps. But it’s an immature question, despite many who feel deeply moved by Hillary Clinton’s nomination as the Democratic candidate for president. For some, her nomination “breaks through” the glass ceiling that some believe prevented a woman from being taken seriously as being capable of holding the office.  And indeed, symbolism has a beloved place in American culture. Continue reading

Two Words Say It All: Body Bags

The words first came out during a rally in support of police following the murders of cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge.  Granted, whipping up the groundlings is a time for simplistic slogans, not thoughtful nuance.

“Target our citizens, target our police, and you’re going home in a body bag,” Mangano said, to thunderous applause at Eisenhower Park, where hundreds of firefighters representing every Nassau fire department and some from Suffolk County rallied in support of police.

Ed Mangano is the Nassau County Executive, having won election as a sacrificial lamb candidate against the incumbent, Tom Suozzi, in 2009. It was one of those shocking upset, not the least to his own party, who would have run someone who wasn’t a blithering idiot had they realized they could win. But Suozzi took his re-election for granted, and boom, Mangano took the election.  And now, in his second term after beating Suozzi in earnest, he’s no longer considered a bad joke.

But his “body bags” comment wasn’t just hyperbole for a crowd inclined to applaud such lines.  Continue reading

The New Tolerance At University of Houston

Added to the list of words devoid of meaning at institutions of higher learning is the word “tolerance.” A student at the University of Houston, Rohini Sethi, found that out the hard way.

She was diverse and inclusive, allegedly liberal values. However, judging by the reaction of the social justice warriors on the U of H campus, Sethi’s innocent post is being reacted to as if she burned a cross in front of the student center.

Rohini Sethi, a young woman of color whose conformity to the values of the mob allowed her to hold the position of  student body vice president, expressed an opinion on Facebook following the murder of five Dallas cops.

Shortly after the July 7 shooting in Dallas that killed five officers, Rohini Sethi went on Facebook and opined “Forget #BlackLivesMatter; more like AllLivesMatter.” The statement was later deleted, but only after numerous UH students denounced it as incredibly offensive or even hateful.

More like intolerable, as her fellow student explained. Continue reading

Perv Cops, In A Class Of Their Own

An anecdote of how a high school teacher engaged in a sexual relationship with his student is the stuff of outrage. There ought to be a law, and indeed, in Ohio there is. Not just for teachers, but for a list of others as well, including clergy, mental health providers, prison guards and cops.

(5) The offender is the other person’s natural or adoptive parent, or a stepparent, or guardian, custodian, or person in loco parentis of the other person.

(6) The other person is in custody of law or a patient in a hospital or other institution, and the offender has supervisory or disciplinary authority over the other person.

(7) The offender is a teacher, administrator, coach, or other person in authority employed by or serving in a school for which the state board of education prescribes minimum standards pursuant to division (D) of section 3301.07 of the Revised Code, the other person is enrolled in or attends that school, and the offender is not enrolled in and does not attend that school.

(8) The other person is a minor, the offender is a teacher, administrator, coach, or other person in authority employed by or serving in an institution of higher education, and the other person is enrolled in or attends that institution. Continue reading

Columbia Was Just Serving Up What Its Customers Want

Catching someone with the smoking gun in her hand is rare. But it occasionally happens, as was the case when University of Southern California Title IX Director Gretchen Dahlinger Means thought she had dropped out of a conference call.  Via KC Johnson:

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At University of Alaska, Fairbanks, the curiously titled Director of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Mae Marsh, put it in an email. Continue reading