Category Archives: Uncategorized

Blood From A Corporation (Update)

Nobody likes the fact that corporate crime ends up with the payment of a big fine and a deferred prosecution agreement.  It’s so unsatisfying, there being no perp walk, no face to hate and ridicule, no physical embodiment of corporate evil to name and shame.

That the problem might have more to do with the poor fit of criminal laws to corporate conduct doesn’t soothe the townspeople holding torches and pitchforks. They want blood, dammit, and don’t they deserve it?

In the government’s latest round of collecting donations from bank customers against their will, $5.6 billion this time which will of necessity be passed through to the townfolk as “new and improved” banking products and hidden fees to better serve you, the government proves that it’s not afraid of going after big banks. Continue reading

The NYSBA Takes A Swan Dive Into The Ethics Rabbit Hole (Update)

The New York State Bar Association, unlike bar associations in some other states, is a club lawyers can join or not, depending on the need for another impressive certificate to hang on the ego wall to prove to potential clients that you’re worthy of getting paid. It’s a voluntary organization, consisting of some folks who want to improve the law, and some folks who adore being on committees.

One such committee is Ethics, where a bunch of lawyers with dubious qualifications offer advisory opinions on what we’re ethically allowed to do.  Despite the fact that so many around the blawgosphere mistaken believe that these ethics opinions reflect the “rules” for the practice of law, they are merely “advisory,” meaning that they carry no greater force of law than if I set up the SHG Ethics Committee requiring lawyers to wear shoes instead of those ridiculous black sneakers that some lawyers think they can get away with.

That said, the NYSBA’s advisory opinions are given some persuasive authority by the Departmental Disciplinary Committees, which have actual authority over lawyers, all of which makes the inane sophistry ridiculed by Appellate Squawk* worthy of note.

Scene: Courtroom.

A.D.A. Tightskirt:  We’re offering a plea to 20 years on condition that the defendant waive his right to appeal anything whatsoever in any case past, present or future including ineffective assistance of counsel. Continue reading

Cop or Kids, Pick One

The former Chief of Police of Mt. Airy, Georgia, together with his wife, will get 25 weekends in jail.  Upon hearing that, some might cheer. After all, it’s not often a cop gets jail, and 25 weekends is nothing to sneeze at, right?  But maybe not this time.

Richard Scott Burton, the former police chief of the tiny northeast Georgia town of Mt. Airy, was staring down 31 felonies — two counts of aggravated child molestation, one of child molestation and 28 of first-degree cruelty to children.

His wife, Cheryl, was looking at the same, minus the molestation. The possibility of decades in prison loomed over the couple, accused of abusing and neglecting their four adopted children for years.

Within the “pantheon” of crimes, molesting children has long been considered the one that is most disgusting, most intolerable.  And in this instance, unbearable, as it smacks of “buying” kids, via adoption, to be abused.  If ever there was a crime worthy of utter revulsion, Burton committed it.  Continue reading

Thinking Is Hard

The other day, Ken White at Popehat created a laundry list of tropes about free speech.  While some may nitpick it around the edges, it’s remarkably good as it debunks the mindless cesspool of feelings about speech that has overtaken actual thought.  Charles C.W. Cooke connects this to a survey at YouGov.

YouGov’s latest research shows that many Americans support making it a criminal offense to make public statements which would stir up hatred against particular groups of people. Americans narrowly support (41%) rather than oppose (37%) criminalizing hate speech, but this conceals a partisan divide. Most Democrats (51%) support criminalizing hate speech, with only 26% opposed. Independents (41% to 35%) and Republicans (47% to 37%) tend to oppose making it illegal to stir up hatred against particular groups.

Support for banning hate speech is also particularly strong among racial minorities. 62% of black Americans, and 50% of Hispanics support criminalizing comments which would stir up hatred. White Americans oppose a ban on hate speech 43% to 36%.

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To Avoid Outrage

A 20-year old black man, Terrance Kellom, was shot and killed by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, Mitchell Quinn.  You probably didn’t hear about this.  After all, there is a lot of news, and you can’t hear it all. But what if Kellom was shot in the back, much like Walter Scott?  Why do you know all about Walter Scott’s killing, but nothing about Terrence Kellom?

Terrance Kellom, a young black man who was killed during an arrest in Detroit last month, was shot in the back, the attorney for Kellom’s family claimed Friday — a claim that appears to contradict a federal officer’s earlier allegation that the shooting was justified because Kellom had charged at him with a hammer.

Mitchell Quinn, a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, shot Kellom the afternoon of April 27 during a raid at Kellom’s home in Detroit, according to Quinn’s lawyer and others. Several officers on a multi-agency fugitive apprehension task force were serving an arrest warrant for Kellom, 20, who had previously been charged in several crimes and was wanted as a suspect in an armed robbery of a pizza delivery person.

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How To Get Rid of 1.2 Million Warrants

It doesn’t matter if the underlying offense was serious or trivial. Don’t show up in court when you’re required to do so? Bench warrant.  Don’t pay a fine on time? Bench warrant. A warrant here, a warrant there, and next thing you know, you’ve got 1.2 million bench warrants on your hands. That’s a lot of warrant.

“Warrants never go away. There’s no expiration date,” Bratton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It would be great to get rid of a lot of that backlog. It’s not to our benefit from a policing standpoint to have all those warrants floating around out there.”

While some warrants are for people who committed crimes, say robbery, others are for offenses like drinking in public.  Among the problems is that when a warrant falls, a person is taken into custody, held and, after about 24 hours, taken before a judge. Often, the offense itself would be disposed of without jail, maybe some community service, maybe even dismissed, but the warrant means they spend a night (at least) in jail, plus are exposed to the additional. and more serious, charge of bail jumping.

In light of the “crime” originally charged, it all can seem pretty crazy: Continue reading

Founder of Texas Innocence Project, Jeff Blackburn, Quits In Protest

Jeff Blackburn, chief counsel and one of the founders of the Innocence Project of Texas, has had enough. He’s resigned from the organization,* and explains why**:

When we founded this project 10 years ago we were part of a movement. That movement was a loose coalition of groups devoted to freeing the innocent and changing the criminal justice system from state to state.

We did our part. We got people exonerated. We got good legislation passed. We made history with the Tim Cole case. We stayed small, democratic, and focused on reforming the Texas system. We created some great relationships with law enforcement officials and forensic scientists. We built a  resilient, authentic, and independent outfit.

While we were doing that, the New York-based Innocence Project went from being a small nonprofit to an organization with a multi-million dollar budget. As its size grew, so did its appetite for money and its need to control the reform movement. What was once a movement has now become a business.

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But For Video: South Of The Border Edition

Jessica Cooke was on her way from Norfolk to beautiful Ogdensburg, New York, at the tippy-top of New York State where the predominant industry is prisons, when she came to a border checkpoint.  A CBP agent decided to have her pull over for a secondary screening, meaning a dog sniff, claiming she was “nervous.”  Contrary to popular belief, there is no Nervous-O-Meter 2700 to register and provide confirmatory proof when someone is so incredibly nervous as to evoke criminality, so we’re left with only the agent’s word.

Cooke got a little tired of waiting around for the brave pooch, and confronted the CBP agents, recording it on her cellphone.

At Reason, Jacob Sullum runs through the plethora of constitutional rights that should apply given that this is a person who is traveling from one place in America to another, as she is fully entitled to do.
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The Temporal Price

Imagine that you’re engaged in a serious debate of some significance to a strongly held belief, and after you make a particularly worthwhile point, the other guy says, “I’ll get back to you in 15 months on that.”  It would be ridiculous to think that the debate would hang, waiting for his reply.

Okay, that analogy doesn’t cut it for you? How about taking a child from a parent because of allegations that the parent was neglectful, and it took 15 months before it was decided that, oops, the parent was fine and there was no neglect. Here’s your kid back. What does that 15 month period mean to the parent? More importantly, what does that 15 month period mean to a child, the period representing a substantial portion of his life during which he was denied his parent’s love and guidance?

Meet the law. Some decisions never seem to get made, while others are snap decisions despite the lack of evidence or deep thought. Some claim to maintain the status quo ante, while others claim to avoid irreparable harm.  And then the case falls into the black hole of delay. The clock ticks. Days, then weeks, then months, pass. And nothing. Nobody can give the people involved, the people whose lives are touched, that time back.  And the legal system couldn’t care less.

In his dissent from the 9th Circuit’s refusal to sua sponte rehear the denial of an emergency stay of the order directing the removal of the film (and then modified to remove a scene from the film) Innocence of the Muslims, Judge Stephen Reinhardt packs quite a wallop, decrying the prior restraint, the infringement of fundamental First Amendment rights, and the significance of delaying the court’s dealing with this fiasco until it came before the court under the “regular procedure.” Continue reading

American Law Institute’s “Stunning Expansion of Criminalization”

The American Law Institute, once a prestigious body of scholars and thinkers who strived to craft laws that better served societal needs, has been taken over in a bloodless coup by ideologues bent on recreating the law to suit their ideology. It’s not like I didn’t tell you this was coming.

As you are aware, the American Law Institute (ALI) has undertaken a review of the sexual assault provisions of the Model Penal Code. The undersigned members of ALI are concerned about the direction the project has taken. Although the drafts have generated little attention outside of the project itself and although the project has been criticized for late distribution of drafts (see e.g., ALI Reporter, Summer 2014 at 23), we hope that you will consider our concerns both before and during the upcoming Annual Meeting session on Tuesday, May 19 at 9:00 a.m. when Discussion Draft No. 2 dated April 28, 2015 will be considered.

It goes before the annual meeting tomorrow, and it’s everything a feminist college sophomore coed could dream of.  The predominant position on the ALI task force is progressive academics who want to turn the criminal law into a reflection of that which has overtaken colleges across the nation.  A minority group has been left to join in a letter to ALI to protest the capture. Continue reading

Breaking: Cops Lie

Richard Emery was once a firebrand civil rights lawyer, fighting the man.  That is, until he became the man.  Because of his background litigating against police misconduct, he was given a seat on the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, the toothless tiger created as a palliative body designed to give the impression of oversight of police.

With each subsequent scandal, and its related commission, it was tweaked a bit to acknowledge its worthlessness and finally make it work, until the next scandal, next commission. In 2014, Emery became its chair. Within a few months, Emery was fully co-opted into the system.

The CCRB issued a 110-page annual report, its first with Emery as its chair, revealing this shocking epiphany.

In New York, the number of false statements noted by the agency, while small, has grown in an age of easy and widespread video and audio recording by civilians. In 2014, the agency found 26 instances where they believed an officer gave a false statement to investigators, a total equal to the previous four years combined. Continue reading

Atomic Wedgie Gone Wrong

There aren’t many young men who are unfamiliar with the atomic wedgie, whether because they gave them or received them, or both.  It’s a staple of childish pranks, of school yard bullies, or fraternity initiations.  And it can kill.

Atomic wedgie is the slang name for the most extreme version of the common underwear-yanking prank bullies pull in high schools across America. There are both how-to and how-to-survive videos online related to atomic wedgies that have been watched thousands of times.

Yeah, you remember it. Don’t lie. Don’t deny it.  Ripping the elastic waistband as it was pulled up your back was the least of your concerns.  You know exactly what I’m talking about. Continue reading