Category Archives: Uncategorized

No Better Options

To his credit, Jonathan Turley built up the scenario well, creating a mental image of a travesty where the First Rule of Policing cost a woman hostage her life.

Misty Holt-Singh, 41, had just run into the Stockton, California bank and left her 12-her-old daughter in the car for a quick transaction. In an instant, her life would change as Gilbert Renteria Jr., Jaime Ramos, and Alex Martinez came into to rob the bank. They took Singh hostage and fled in a car. However, the police were quickly on their tail and trapped the car. She may have had a glimmer of hope. After all, there were some 33 police officers surrounding the car. That is when the Stockton police opened up on the car and fired over 600 bullets — killing Holt-Singh, 41, and two of the bank robbers.

Outrageous. The callousness of the officers’ self-serving firing of “over 600 bullets” so that 10 of them, ten bullets, found their way into the body of Misty Holt-Singh and took her life, defies description.

The bank robbers had taken Holt-Singh clearly as a human shield and led the police on a high-speed car chase in a car stolen from a bank employee. Witnesses say that Holt-Singh was crying and saying that her daughter was in the car and that she did not want her daughter to be traumatized by seeing her with the robbers. The three robbers could care less, of course.

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But There’s a Box; It Must Be Checked

Among the phenomenon that is perpetually amusing is that when handed a form, people will fill it out.  It doesn’t matter what it asks for, the relevance to the purpose of the form to the question. If there’s a blank line, people write on it. If there’s a box people check it.  Because if they don’t, the sky will fall and society will come crashing down around their head.

At the New York Times Room for Debate, the question was posed whether checking the “sex” box is necessary:

New York City is considering a proposal that would make it easier for people to change their sex on their birth certificates. Other countries have grappled with this, and several federal agencies and states have adopted similar policies.

But why should government recognize individuals’ sex? Is there a legal need to distinguish among females, males and others?

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How Angry Guys Explain Acquitted-Conduct Sentencing (and why they’re wrong)

After the Supreme Court’s denial of cert in Jones, there appeared to be a sudden shocked recognition that people get sentenced for the crime for which they were just acquitted. This was by both lawyers and non-lawyers, who neither knew nor cared up to that point.  Readers here already knew exactly what this was about, but then, they’re usually ahead of the curve.

In a rush to catch up, there was a flurry of posts explaining what this meant. Few explained the logistics that justify this bizarre twist of law, some leaving one to ponder why they bothered at all.  But as is often the case, the boys at Crime & Consequences, Kent Scheidegger and Bill Otis, saw the opportunity and seized it.  Given the intuitive backlash to a piece of sentencing so important to their heart, this was an argument that needed to be made.  First, Otis’ shot:

For now I would note only two things.  First, the defense bar had its crack at this issue in Booker. Two remedies were on the table in that case:  Requiring a jury’s judgment beyond a reasonable doubt as to facts to be used at sentencing; or allowing judges to continue to find such facts by a preponderance, but no longer be required to follow the up-to-then mandatory sentencing guidelines. The defense got the latter option and has benefited considerably by it.  It can’t have its sentencing cake and eat it too, which is what was actually going on in the Jones cert petition.

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Being Offensive and Getting Offended: The Edith Jones Saga

A staunchly conservative federal appellate judge is invited to speak by the University of Pennsylvania’s Federalist Society about the death penalty.  It’s a potentially explosive mix, and unsurprisingly, it blew up.  Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones was grieved for saying, in effect, that blacks and Hispanics commit more crime, and more heinous crimes, than whites.  She said that no case has been made that systematic racism exists.

There was no record made of her speech and Q&A afterward so the content was reflected in the affidavits of those present.  Upon this record, a special committee considering the complaint of Judge Jones’ violating the code of conduct pieced together the words from the recollections of those present as well as judge Jones. It concluded:

It appears likely that Judge Jones did suggest that, statistically, African-Americans and/or Hispanics are “disproportionately” involved in certain crimes and “disproportionately” present in federal prisons. Needless to say, this topic can be extremely sensitive, and we do not doubt the affiants’ and witnesses’ repeated statements that they found the remarks offensive. Judge Jones herself recounted that she “was uncomfortable about alluding to such facts.” Jones Recollections 20-21. We recognize that, without an explanation or qualification, saying that certain groups are “more involved in” or “commit more of” certain crimes can sound like saying those groups are “prone to commit” such crimes.

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The Void

There were supposed to be posts this morning. I awoke and had posts to write.  My fingers were willing, but my host was not.

As I’m about to leave for breakfast, SJ is back up and working. It had been dead all morning because my host, A2Hosting, couldn’t manage to do its job.*  I assume it’s more of the mean bullies who have been plaguing it over the past week with their brute force attacks.

I understand this stuff happens. I also understand that they’re in the business of hosting, of taking money from guys like me to perform a function. They failed.

So now that my window of opportunity for today slammed shut, the posts that should be here are not. Instead, this tepid apologia for having nothing worth your time exists in its place to fill the void.  Sorry.

*This is not a request or opportunity for you to tell me about your favorite internet hosting business. I’m begging you, don’t.  Seriously.

Ferguson: Revenge of Officer Keith Novara

He didn’t like what she said. Whether it was her twits, her video or just the fact that Leigh Maibes protested isn’t clear. But St. Louis police officer Keith Novara decided that it was his official duty to make sure her employer knew of his displeasure.

From St. Louis Today:

A woman who criticized police on Twitter says an officer called her boss in an attempt to get her fired, so she filed a formal complaint “to return the favor.”

The officer doesn’t deny placing a call to the woman’s boss. His union says he was within his rights.

When Maibes called Novara back after she learned of his call to her boss, she recorded the conversation in which he attempted to justify himself.

Novara is heard saying, “I let them know, yes.” Continue reading

How To Manage Your Practice (And Not To Be A Major Screw Up)

This is a promo for my buddy, Andrea Cannavina, best known around the Twitters as @LegalTypist, who’s putting on a 4 hour show she calls Put Efficiency Into Practice : How To Organize Any Law Office.

Having had some very enjoyable lunches and discussions with Andrea, she gets it.  Technology is a tool, and like all tools, if chosen wisely and executed properly, it can be put to good and effective use. Or not, if you can’t figure out which is the business end of the hammer.

This is an exclusive and intense 4 hour workshop with legal Virtual Assistant and national speaker Andrea Cannavina who will teach you how to organize the processes, people and technology of your office so the administration and routine business functions are performed as efficiently as possible.

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Abuse of Legal Concepts In The First Degree

No, that’s not the law. No, you don’t get to use legal sounding words to create the appearance you have a clue what you’re talking about and make people stupider. No, it’s not okay even if you don’t mean to write legal gibberish because you’re not a lawyer. Yes, that means you, Ezra Klein.

You can go ahead and reset the “Days Since Vox Had A Lost Credibility Incident” calendar back to zero. Today’s lost credibility incident is brought to you by Vox editor-in-chief Ezra Klein.

In his response to criticism for his bad laws are good for the cause post, or what I now call the Big Hole, Klein, a non-lawyer but so very smart that he can perform brain surgery anyway, makes what can only be kindly described as a few “gaffes.”  After Sean Davis and Popehat surgically explain the error of his ways, he inserts a “correction.”

Corrections: There were two sloppy copy mistakes in this piece. First, an initial version of the piece used “substantive due process” rather than, as intended, “procedural due process”. Also, in the section explaining why civil and college courts don’t use the tougher, “beyond a reasonable doubt” evidentiary standard used in criminal cases, I accidentally wrote that “preponderance of evidence is a higher standard” when I meant lower. That’s been corrected, and the rest of the section remains accurate on that point.

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Taking Advantage of Children

Adults can’t not talk. It’s so ubiquitous that criminal defense lawyers joke about people’s inability to not try to talk their way out of an arrest.  Cops call it the “first best lie,” the story that a suspect tells when he thinks he can lie his way out of trouble, and the one that will hang him at trial.

The Miranda Court may have thought the warning would be the death of interrogations. They could not have been more wrong.  But what about kids?

Even when police interrogators left the room, cameras kept recording the teenage suspects. Some paced. Several curled up and slept. One sobbed loudly, hitting his head against the wall, berating himself. Two boys, left alone together, discussed their offense, joking.

What none did, however, was exercise his constitutional rights. It was not clear whether the youths even understood them.

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The Third Kind of Crime

In broad terms, there are three types of crimes.  The first is what most of us think of when we talk about crime, conduct that is so dangerous or morally culpable that it demands criminal punishment.  The second is the pseudo-crime, hidden behind the veneer of a civil sanction to circumvent constitutional scrutiny, and allowed to exist only by dint of awkward judicial gymnastics with the occasional wink.  But the bars on the cell are just as strong as they are for the murderer.

The third type is what might be called “accidental.”  Not the criminalization of accidents, but the routine imposition of a criminal sanction to enforce behavior that someone decides needs regulating.  The theory behind them is that some conduct is good or bad, and it’s up to government to enact a law to make us do or not do that conduct.  It ranges from regulations as to what type of trucks can be used to carry containers away from a ship to how high your grass should allowed to grow before your neighbors are rightfully annoyed.

The notion is that crafting rules for behaviors, no matter how banal, won’t work unless there is a penalty on the back end for noncompliance.  We should all feel that sense of community spirit as to keep our lawn looking nice, so as not to make our neighbors frown.  Yet sometimes, well, the grass grows too tall.  It spoils the neighborhood. It detracts from the sense of suburban perfection, like a dandelion or chickweed.  How awful.  Someone must do something about it.

And in Lenoir City, Tennessee, someone did: Continue reading

From Harvard, With Love (Update)

In the course of a few days, the nightmarish usurpation of American college campuses by the toxic combination of a radical political agenda and some phony stats has come under severe scrutiny and is finally called out for the dangerous sham it is. Ironically, it began with a defense.

At Vox, Ezra Klein spilled the beans.

SB 697, California’s “Yes Means Yes” law, is a terrible bill. But it’s a necessary one.

It tries to change, through brute legislative force, the most private and intimate of adult acts. It is sweeping in its redefinition of acceptable consent; two college seniors who’ve been in a loving relationship since they met during the first week of their freshman years, and who, with the ease of the committed, slip naturally from cuddling to sex, could fail its test.

This comes as no surprise to even the casual SJ reader.  But Klein didn’t come to bury the law, but to praise it.

The Yes Means Yes law is a necessarily extreme solution to an extreme problem. Its overreach is precisely its value.

In the name of the cause, we must sacrifice our children.  As KC Johnson explains, America doesn’t do “overreach.” Continue reading

Rachel Rodgers: Anything For A Quick Buck?

It’s not as if the idea wasn’t ugly when first announced, though it smelled of the typical taint of skirting ethical rules.  Then again, for Rachel Rodgers, ethics existed to oppress young, innovative, lawyers such as her.  Rules didn’t apply to Rodgers.

But that was back when Rodgers hooked up with a marketeer, Ash Ambirge, who had a marketing biz named House of Moxie and ran a website called The Middle Finger Project.  Much as Rodgers feigned being cool, Ambirge took it to a level well beyond anything Rodgers could have imagined.  Ambirge had edge, where Rodgers was the innovative twinkie lawyer.

Ambirge first retained Rodgers as her lawyer, paying a monthly retainer of $750 for a year under “Small Business Package #2,” but they were soon to be partners in an e-book, Small Business Bodyguard, which gave/didn’t give legal advice.  According to Ambirge, the book consisted of “rudimentary legal checklists” which she jazzed up with her ‘tude. So what? If dopey online entrepreneurs were foolish enough to get their legal advice from a book of basic lists, with the fees for that advice split between lawyer and non-lawyer, they get what they deserve. Continue reading