Category Archives: Uncategorized

1. @Avvo . . . 4. Profit!!!

For reasons that oftentimes eludes me, I get pitched by new legal tech start-ups, seeking to gain my approval of their business and, gasp, write something nice about them.  Enthusiastic young people, sometimes lawyers, explain to me in glowing terms the fabulous benefits their concept offers, usually in terms of transparency, availability or time-savings. Sometimes, it’s just shiny.

Rarely does it go as well as they hope.  There tends to be a few reasons that keep getting in their way. First, they have no clue how lawyers work and what lawyers need. Many of these start-ups claim to solve problems that don’t exist.

Others address practice needs that are contrary to how lawyers practice. The pitch in theory kinda makes sense, except that’s not how it happens. They argue that lawyers should do it their way, but it’s flawed.  You see, if there isn’t any real substantive benefit to change, then there is no reason for it to happen. Worse yet, the change would cost money and produce no hard benefit, other than to the company selling the change. Continue reading

The Government, By Any Other Name (Update)

In federal court, criminal cases are captioned as “United States of America against” whom (or what) ever.  The etiquette is to call the prosecution “the Government,” though I tend to spell it in written submissions with a lower case “g” while they use an upper case “G.” It’s my little way of tweaking them.

In New York State courts, on the other hand, criminal cases are styled as “The People of the State of New York against” somebody, and the prosecution calls itself “The People.” This offers the opportunity to use that against them, calling them the prosecution instead, and reminding the jury that they, not the prosecution, are “The People” and not to let the prosecution fool them. If done well, it can drive the point home.

Most other states have some similar variation on this theme, putting themselves in a throne of rhetorical righteousness while dumping the defendant in the hole of scorn. But apparently, Tennessee, the state got a bit twisted when the rhetoric game wasn’t going their way. From David French at the National Review:

Over in Williamson County, Tennessee…it’s apparently now a slur to call the government by its name.

Continue reading

Objectified in Austin

My tax dollars pay to maintain the streets in this city and I deserve to run down them without being sexually objectified or reduced to my biology. 

Anna Aldridge

The video of an actress walking the “ethnic” streets of New York being catcalled, or “harassed” provided you adopt the word unburdened by definition, gave rise to yet another “right,” that of women to not have to endure the sound of undesired male utterances.  Most would categorize them as annoying, though some women contend that they cause them to fear . . . something. Like police, women seem to be afraid of everything lately.

But Anna Aldridge, an Austin woman, decided to go to the mattresses over catcalling.

“It’s usually just like ‘Woo hoo!’ or ‘Hey, baby!’ It’s disgusting. It’s horrible. I’ve had guys roll down the window and make these little kissy faces at me,” she said.

Continue reading

Bill Otis, Or Why You Can’t Have Nice Things

I’ve said some unpleasant things about Bill Otis here from time to time, so it’s only fair that I note his profile by Mark Obbie at Slate, where he’s lauded as “the last man standing who thinks criminal justice reform is a terrible idea.”  Or, as I’ve mentioned in the past, a guy who thinks life for jaywalking sends an inadequate message.

Otis is portrayed in the post as someone with a “pugilistic” style, who is unafraid to take on anyone who challenges his simplistic view that if you lock all the criminals up forever, problem solved.  That’s not quite my experience with Bill, which is that he’s the typical schoolyard bully, picking only on people he knows he can push around.  When faced with someone who pushes back, he runs away. Typical coward.

But Bill Otis has two things I don’t have. The first is a profile in Slate. The second is Chuck Grassley’s ear. Continue reading

A Little Reform On A Big Soapbox

Everybody has a story to tell, and most think their story is well worth your time.  There’s nothing unusual about that, except when they find out that other people yawn, make excuses to leave, run away to avoid having to hear your story. Only then do you realize that the story all about you isn’t nearly as fascinating to others as you think it should be.

But when the story is told for the sake of advocacy, and given a monstrously huge soapbox, it better be a damn good one.  An op-ed in the New York Times by Doug Deason, a Texas investor who did well enough to hang out with governors, is such a story.  It’s not a particularly good one; in fact, it’s a major yawner.

But Deason’s purposes are pure, not just to waste other people’s time with his pedestrian tale of woe, but to use his story to prove a point, that our “justice” system sucks and people need to be given a second chance.  Good intentions? Absolutely.  An op-ed we can all get behind because we, like Deason, believe the same thing?  Well, not exactly.

His story begins as a 17-year-old having a party at the neighbors’ house.  Except the neighbors weren’t home. Continue reading

But The Warrant Seemed So Legit

The story of Baby Bou Bou, the toddler nearly killed when a flashbang grenade was tossed into his crib as he lay sleeping, as a SWAT team stormed a home upon a no-knock night-time warrant granted by a neutral magistrate, a guardian of the Constitution, has become legend.

The failings of this raid, from the tinest bit of investigation to ascertain whether there was a baby to be maimed during their dynamic entrance to its very necessity, are outlined at length by Radley Balko in a post amusingly called “Lessons from the drug raid that burned a Georgia toddler.”

I say “amusingly” because we all know there will be no lessons learned.  Except, maybe, avoid drawing the short straw and having to be the cop signing off on the warrant application.

Last week, federal prosecutors announced that former Georgia deputy Nikki Autry would be indicted on charges of making false statements to a judge in order to obtain a warrant to raid a home in Habersham County.

Continue reading

The Statistics That Weren’t, And It Won’t Matter At All

David Lisak had been a bulwark of the rape culture movement.  It was his research, cited more often than anyone else’s, that provided the foundation for the existence of a rape epidemic, that false rape accusations were below 10%, that serial rapists were responsible for 90% of college rapes.  This guy was the mother lode, and everybody took for granted that he was, if not necessarily correct, legitimate.

It turns out that Lisak’s study was just as much crap as anybody else’s.

What’s remarkable about these surveys is that they don’t actually have anything to do with campus sexual assault (aside from the location where they were conducted).

Researchers set up tables at different areas of campus and handed out questionnaire packets to men who passed by them; participants who returned the questionnaires received a few dollars. The surveys made no attempt to prevent non-students from participating. The researchers had no reason to do so, since their questions weren’t aimed at on-campus attacks and did not specifically ask about violence committed by or against students. And the average respondent was 26.5 years old—several years older than the typical college student—reflecting the fact that UMass-Boston is a commuter school with a significant number of older, non-traditional students.

Continue reading

Fault Lines: It’s Beginning to Crawl!

For those of you who have spurned my small request for a little love by reading Fault Lines, we’ve been slowly adding things to make it better, broader, more worth your while.

Two new writers, Murray Newman and Jeff Gamso, have joined. Both bring their perspectives to criminal law and justice, Murray pulling on his prosecutorial experience and Jeff on his years of fighting to save the lives of the ugliest defendants from execution.

In addition, the Mimesis big guy, Lee Pacchia, has started a morning link wrap, picking up the loose ends of stories that you need to know about, even if they don’t end up in a stand-alone post.  Plus, Lee has a bunch of other buns in his oven to continue to grow Fault Lines into a walking, maybe even running, toddler. Continue reading

A Subconstitutional System

One of the pitfalls of experience is that you’ve seen things before.  Painful memories of the birth and growth of civil in rem forfeiture in the 1980s, when it had a cool slogan (“take the profit out of crime”) and was only used to whack drug dealers and the occasional mobster. It gave rise to a body of law, both statutory and case, that created a bizarre hybrid system to deprive people of property based on the wildest conjecture and surmise.

Imagine someone was to arrive from Pluto and suggest we create a tier of law that allowed the government to seize and keep the property of people who have been convicted of no crime, on the basis of probable cause because it’s presumed that anyone using currency is a criminal, and shift the burden onto the property owner to prove he’s not, with the expense and burden of a legal proceeding, not to take it but to get it back.

It seems ridiculous that such a system, a process that falls far below what our beloved platitudes about justice suggest would ever be permitted, could exist. Yet it does, to the deafening applause of the public, because we hate those drug dealers and mobsters, and they don’t deserve a fair system. Screw ’em. Continue reading

Because A New Law Will Change Everything

It may be the single stupidest idea ever proposed with the best of intentions, but it reflects a mindset that has killed more people than any other.  And it’s always done with the best of intentions.  At Huff Post, H.A. Goodman argues that we need new federal legislation “protecting black citizens from aggressive law enforcement tactics.”

His starting point isn’t to survey what laws currently exist. He seems unaware of the Fifth And Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, or 42 U.S.C. §1983.  In fact, he never mentions any law at all.  That would require a little research, perhaps even a little thought, but it would deflect from his litany of the bad things.

With the dash-cam video of Sandra Bland being forcibly removed out of her car, simply because she refused to put out a cigarette, some context is needed in regards to similar tragedies spanning from Rodney King and Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner and John Crawford. While police brutality affects people of all races and backgrounds in the U.S., it’s important to note that black citizens face a unique experience within America’s criminal justice system, just as they’ve faced a unique state of affairs for centuries in the United States.

He repeats the word “unique” throughout his post, though at no point does he make an effort to explain this peculiar word choice.  Perhaps it’s the “say it enough and maybe someone will believe you” school of rhetoric.  What he means to say, based upon his disjointed cherry picking of a dozen out of millions of examples, is that blacks suffer disproportionately. Continue reading

About That Disease That Needed Curin’

Yeah, well, unfortunately the $222,172 we were going to give to cure [name your fav deblilitating disease] was diverted to another, more important, cause, according the National Institutes of Health:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending over $200,000 to study how men drinking alcohol look at women.

In an effort to limit “male-initiated sexual aggression toward female acquaintances,” researchers at the University of Iowa will analyze the actual eye movements of young men when they are drunk and sober.

This is cutting edge research, as previous efforts at research were cut short when the entire research budget was spent on buying beer. I mean, it’s Iowa, for crying out loud. Aside from meth, what else is there to do? Continue reading

Boyz To Men (Update)

“We’re focusing on campus sexual assault, but we haven’t looked at the younger group.”

— Jacquelyn W. White, professor emerita of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The United States Senate has pulled a fast one under our noses. Claire McKaskill (D-Mo) proposed a new law, curiously titled the Teach Safe Relationships Act of 2015, which would reallocate educational funds toward teaching K-12 students “safe relationship behavior” because they can’t teach it all in freshman orientation.

Earlier this month, the Teach Safe Relationships Act was rolled into the Senate’s larger overhaul of a No Child Left Behind Act rewrite called the Every Child Achieves Act. That legislation, a bipartisan effort to update the major education law that expired in 2007, passed the Senate overwhelmingly.

In years past, the “disputed” question was whether public school students should be taught about sex at all. With this new variation, federal money will push schools to teach males how to alter their male-ish behaviors to avoid the “epidemic” of rape. Continue reading