Twit or Tweet (Update: The Twit Lives!)

When Twitter first “happened,” I was unimpressed. So much so that, in my curmudgeonly way, I announced that I would not use twitter.

And now there’s Twitter.  It’s a horrible name, but it probably plays better with younger folks (the type of people who rarely use the word “folks”).  I heard of Twitter, but didn’t have the slightest clue what it was.  Kevin O’Keefe has cleared this up for me.  I feel so on top of technology today.

I was so above it all. And I was wrong, as soon became obvious.

When first I was told of twitter, I scoffed.  Obviously, it was for people whose thoughts fit within 140 characters.  I meant that in a pejorative way.  You wouldn’t find me on twitter.  That was a few thousand twits ago.

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Only Facebook Knows

Three hundred and eighty-one people had their Facebook accounts subjected to search, and as of now, nobody knows why.  The targets of the search remain unaware, as they were never notified that a warrant was issued long ago.  And there are a whole lot of targets, whose online life now sits in a box in the New York County District Attorneys’ office, including whatever pictures they once thought were private and only for the viewing of the select few.

The prosecution claims it doesn’t have to, because the judge who signed the warrant, Melissa Jackson (the granddaughter of Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Jackson), also sealed it so that no disclosure would be required.  Without anyone knowing about it, no target can challenge it, whether to suppress the contents or, if there is no justification for the prosecutors to pass around their jpegs during office parties, destroy their booty.

But Facebook, to its enormous credit, didn’t do the great belly flop and let it slide. From Jim McKinley at the New York Times:

The search warrants were signed last year by Justice Melissa Jackson on the strength of a 96-page affidavit that has never been made public. Continue reading

“If Your Mother Cooked Meth”

In simpler times, schools taught “reading and writing and ‘rithmetic.” They still do, to some extent, but that’s only a part of it.  Via the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan:

During a school assembly Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson asked a group of Wagner students to imagine facing 20 years in federal prison on drug charges.

“The federal courts have mandatory minimum sentences,” he said. “There’s a certain amount of prison time, and no one judge can give you any less. The only way to cut your sentence in half is to give information on others.”

Johnson is the United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota.  Perhaps he lacked enough drug conspiracies to keep him busy, leaving him plenty of time to visit the students at Wagner to explain the merit of cooperation. Not the getting along kind of cooperation. The giving up your mother to the cops kind. Continue reading

The Day Physics Died (Update)

A female student accused him of engaging in “sexual harassment.” Over the internet. She was participating in a MOOC, massive open online course, and he said something that offended her.  What he said is unknown, as it hasn’t been revealed and likely never will. Maybe it was pretty horrible, or maybe it violated that politically correct sensibility that just hurts so very much. Without details, this part may not be known.

But Walter Lewin is 78, retired from active teaching and, for a physics prof, a rock star.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology said it had determined that a retired faculty member, Walter Lewin, a physicist with a distinguished teaching career, “engaged in online sexual harassment.” As a result, the university said, it has revoked his status as professor emeritus and removed his lecture videos and other course material from OpenCourseWare and edEx, the online learning platform started by Harvard and M.I.T. In a statement Monday, the university said it received a complaint in October from an online learner who provided information about Dr. Lewin’s interactions with her and other women online. After an investigation, the statement said, M.I.T. “determined that Lewin’s behavior toward the complainant violated the institute’s policy on sexual harassment.” Dr. Lewin, 78, retired from M.I.T. in July 2009, last taught a course on campus in spring 2008 and last taught an online course in fall 2013.

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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.”

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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!

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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