Category Archives: Uncategorized

Book Review: The Articulate Witness (Update)

What first caught my eye when I was asked to review The Articulate Witness, An Illustrated Guide to Testifying Confidently Under Oath, was that it would take under a half hour to read. It struck me as appropriate not only for its intended purpose, to help ordinary people to testify competently, but that it didn’t demand a major commitment on my part to read it.  Seriously, most books sent me aspire to mediocrity, and slogging through them is more than I can take.

The need for a good book on witness prep is obvious to lawyers. People whose testimony is desperately needed believe they will do just fine. Most won’t. Most are awful. Cops are well trained in the art of testifying, in deflecting hard questions, wiggling out of lies and mistakes, covering their holes.  The rest of us are not

Does The Articulate Witness fill that gap? No.  But then, how could it?  It’s a quickie book, plenty of illustrations, that in real time takes about ten minutes to skim. Its authors are Marsha Hunter and Brian K. Johnson, legal communications specialists, whatever that means, who apparently teach lawyers how to be persuasive.  Their Amazon bio is unreadable fluff, and so I stopped after the second line. Continue reading

A Kinder, Gentler NFL

Plaxico Burress played for the Giants because he was a great wide receiver. He was not a paragon of virtue.  Not only could he catch an oddly-shaped ball, but he could take a hard hit. That’s what football players do.

The National Football League has suffered some terrible press this past year, not just in the fact that some of its marquee players did bad stuff, but that Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared tone-deaf in his dealing with it.  Pot was serious. Knocking out your girlfriend in an elevator, not so much.

In response to the public uproar, Goodell modified the league’s “Personal Conduct Policy.“ At Volokh Conspiracy, David Post did an epic facepalm:

As I had feared, the NFL’s alternate legal system is a bit of a frightful mess. It applies

(a) to pretty much everyone touching the hem of the NFL’s garment…

(b) to pretty much all conduct 24/7, whether job-related or not…

and (c) whether or not such activity is lawful or unlawful….

Oh, and everyone subject to the policy (a category that includes secretaries in team offices, drivers of team buses, trainers, team statisticians, employees in the NFL Human Resources Department, . . .) has to “to promptly report any matter that comes to their attention (through, for example, victim or witness reports, law enforcement, media reports) that may constitute a violation of this Policy . . . [and] [f]ailure to report an incident will be grounds for disciplinary action.”

Continue reading

But For Video: “You A Dumb Bitch” Edition

It’s not clear that 36-year old daughter of a Maryland Capital police officer, Kianga Mwamba has her Ph.D. in particle physics from Johns Hopkins. Then again, it’s not clear that she doesn’t. But she does know that she has the right to video police in the performance of their public duties.  And she did.

Some Baltimore cops, Stepanie Uruchima, Kelly Larson, Erick Jackson, and Marlon Koushall, apparently didn’t think Mwamba knew as much as she did, so they tased her for it, deleted the video and arrested her. Because reasons. Continue reading

The Marshall Project Takes A Swan Dive Into The Bidet (Update x2)

It’s not easy being the Messiah du jour, especially when there are so many emotions at play, but one would have thought  that Oberlin educated Neil Barsky could control his urges long enough to gain some cred, if not protect his non-profit status, before losing control. Nope. It was less than a month ago when it debuted by attacking criminal defense lawyers as the bane of the system, but it has now gone for naked advocacy with Dana Goldstein’s post on dueling data on campus rape.

On Monday Emily Yoffe published a long piece in Slate arguing that the Obama administration and college officials have become overwrought in their concern about campus sexual assaults. Yoffe heaped particular scorn on one of the common talking points in the campus rape debate: the claim that one-fifth of all female students have been victimized.

Of the many things Emily Yoffe did, heaping scorn was not among them.  If anything, Yoffe’s post was as neutral and unladen by colored adjectives as anything ever written on the subject.  Goldstein’s use of words that carry a negative connotation is not accidental. Continue reading

The Post ATL Was Too Afraid To Run

It sucks getting sued for defamation. It sucks even worse when the judge denies your motion to dismiss. So it’s hard to blame Above The Law for being a bit skittish about the fact that it was not only sued by lawyer Meanith Huon for making him the target of its lawyerly snark, but will now have to go through litigation like ordinary humans before winning.

Hey, guys, those who live by the snark, die by the snark.  So my fellow curmudgeon and long-time ATL columnist, Mark Herrmann, did what any self-respecting guy who wallows in the gutter by writing for ATL would do: He wrote a post about it, which ATL refused to publish.

So I will.

ATL Announces:  We’ve Been Sued!

Continue reading

Housekeeping: Comments Again

Over the past couple of weeks, mostly since posts on the Ferguson grand jury debacle, there have been new readers at SJ posting comments who are unfamiliar with either the nature of this blawg or how comments are addressed here. Regular readers need not read further; you already know all of this.

SJ is a law blog.  By that, I mean that its contents are, except when I decide they’re not, law related and directed toward lawyers and judges.  This doesn’t mean that the subject matter shouldn’t be of interest to others, but that you’re largely voyeurs to a law-related blawg.  See that word, “blawg”?  That’s a bastardization of law and blog. It’s used for a reason, because this is not a political blog, or a cause blog, or a blog for people who believe in social justice, whatever that means.  It’s a law blog.

Part of the “attraction” for lawyers and judges here is that I do not allow the comments to devolve into shallow, mindless, rants about how all cops are evil, or all lawyers suck, or pretty much “all” anything.  We deal with specifics, with the nuance of law and individual cases and fact patterns.  I attempt to offer ideas that address matters at a level of depth that illuminate aspects of the criminal justice system.  Whether I achieve that is another matter, but it’s what I try to do when I write. Continue reading

Was This What You Meant By Rape?

It was a second marriage for both Donna Lou Young and Henry V. Rayhons, after their long-time spouses passed.  In their 70s, they were, by the account of Bryan Gruley at Bloomberg, a most loving couple.

For the next six-and-a-half years, Henry and Donna Rayhons were inseparable. She sat near him in the state House chamber while he worked as a Republican legislator. He helped with her beekeeping. She rode alongside him in a combine as he harvested corn and soybeans on his 700 acres in northern Iowa. They sang in the choir at Sunday Mass.

“We just loved being together,” Henry Rayhons says.

Henry Rayhons is awaiting trial for the rape of his wife. Continue reading

You Can’t Handle The Truth (Update)

Early this morning, Brian Tannebaum started twitting angrily, which in itself is nothing particularly noteworthy.  This time, however, it was about the banning from twitter of @1938loren, the twitter account of Loren Feldman.  I never followed Feldman, but apparently he was banned under twitter’s harassment policy. Banned.

Without any clue what Feldman may have said or done to be banned, it doesn’t change what this means.  For those who felt (note the word “felt,” rather than “thought”) that they were harassed by whatever it is that Feldman twitted, their actions in having him banned from the twitters means that those who wanted to read Feldman’s twits are denied. He has been silenced for all, not just those individuals who found his twits disturbing.*

This reflects the next extension of the purification of the interwebz, the delusion of Cyber Civil Rights feminism that not only demands the right never to hear or see thoughts that hurt their feelings, but demand that these thoughts be silenced, denied to everyone.  This is where it goes beyond their claim of right to never be subjected to unpleasant thoughts, to their claim of right to ban all ideas they find disagreeable to everyone.

At The Guardian, Jessica Valenti panders to the sensitivities of would-be censors by asserting that technology companies, the platforms like twitter, that transmit speech, could end online harassment tomorrow, if they wanted to. Continue reading

Favored Treatment: It’s Not Just For Killing (Update)

While the controversy swirls around whether a police officer committed homicide or, because it’s such a hard job, just made a testosterone-fueled miscalculation when he shot somebody, the question of systemic favoritism toward police gets caught up in the details.  After all, cops aren’t perfect, and they aren’t on a suicide mission, the First Rule of Policing notwithstanding.  They can be both reasonable and wrong.

But this does nothing to explain wife-beaters and drunks.  None of the pat excuses culled from the media relations talking points explain why a drunk cop in a car gets a pass.

The second time he was arrested — after he was found passed out in his car with the engine running in September 2012, a half-empty can of Coors Light lying on the floor — he was a state trooper, charged with keeping the roads safe from drunk drivers.

Simpkins, 41, admitted that he started drinking beer after a softball tournament, went to a bar and drank some more, then went to another tavern and kept drinking before heading to the Wendy’s in Stoughton, where he was found asleep at the wheel, according to the arrest report. Continue reading

The Dangerous Line of Respect

Aside from the truly hardcore stupid, one thing has grown out of the failure to indict the police who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, coming atop the  killing of Tamir Rice and Akai Gurley.  People who usually exercise their mind by watching the latest episode of Real Housewives of Somewhere are starting to question whether maybe, just maybe, we have a problem with cops.

When that happens, so too does the pushback, the inevitable forces that bolster the most simplistic ideas and basic fears and prejudices that keep society in line.  There are brilliant people of all political flavors, even those you personally disagree with.  And then there are good looking people who are dumb as bricks, but adore being famous and truly believe what they say.

One such dolt is Jeanine Pirro, to whom Fox News has given a soapbox to suck up the demographic they can squeeze away from Nancy Grace.

Continue reading