Short Take: A New Paradigm

Neal Sonnett is something of a legend in white collar criminal defense, so he can be forgiven his legacy involvement in the criminal justice section of the ABA long after so many criminal defense lawyers have walked away from this suicidal dinosaur.

But as the battle roared over Resolution 114, which was presented to the ABA House of Delegates with support and co-sponsorship of Criminal Justice Section, and in light of the scathing criticism of this effort to sneak affirmative consent under the noses of the Section, the HOD and the profession to the extent endorsement by the ABA mattered to anyone, Sonnett felt compelled to issue a statement, courtesy of the Center for Prosecutor Integrity.

Statement of Neal Sonnett, Member of the ABA Criminal Justice Section,

to the House of Delegates, August 12, 2019

We agreed to work with the Commission [on Domestic and Sexual Violence] on this Resolution, and that goes back to [Resolution] 115 at the mid-year meeting. And Mark Schickman and some others appeared at the Spring meeting in Nashville. It was late and things were getting rushed and they brought the recommendation to us. While there was dissent on our Council, the Council did vote to approve and vote to co-sponsor.

As we got closer to this meeting, we realized that we hadn’t paid enough attention to far-reaching implications of this new Resolution. After it was submitted, we realized that the intent of the drafters was to adopt a new paradigm. Let me repeat that: A new paradigm. This changes the law entirely with respect to sexual behavior.

The statement goes on, and I urge you to read it in its entirety. What is significant is that while this may not be a “new” paradigm to those of us who have watched it develop, first on college campuses to shift the understanding of proper sexual protocol from “no means no” to affirmative consent, and then filter into social media and the enlightened consciousness of the well-intended, if thinking-challenged.

While it didn’t have to be that the new “norm” of “yes means yes” had to filter from the campus kangaroo courts into real courtrooms, there was little doubt that it was the ultimate goal, that “believe the woman” and “trauma-informed” investigations would be pushed into the “real world.” There was little doubt that the definition of rape and sexual assault would be whatever the putative “victim” decided the conduct was, no matter when the decision was made.

Of this, there was never serious doubt, and it was reflected in the effort to get ALI to embrace it, and again when Mark Schickman and his Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence deliberately omitted the fact that ALI rejected it from the information given the House of Delegates.

There are some serious implications to that. I had one judge who heard about it remarked that if the contents of the report – what was left out of that report – had been submitted to a Court in a brief, it not only would have been stricken, but the attorneys might well have been sanctioned.

There are lies of commission and lies of omission. Both are lies. And if that’s what it takes to get the goal accomplished, this “new paradigm,” they are willing to lie. This may not have been on Sonnett’s radar before, but it is now, as well as every member of the CJS Council, who unanimously voted to withdraw their co-sponsorship and support.

9 thoughts on “Short Take: A New Paradigm

    1. Fubar

      There are lies of commission and lies of omission. Both are lies. And if that’s what it takes to get the goal accomplished, this “new paradigm,” they are willing to lie.

  1. Hunting Guy


    “I really worry that the activists are going to talk themselves into something really, really stupid. Here’s the problem: the theory that if you ignore stupid people they will go away has been proven false. If you ignore stupid people these days, they feel empowered to keep saying more and more stupid stuff until they finally get slapped down.

    Then they repeat the process with a slightly different theme.

    After about a thousand iterations of this it becomes weapons-grade stupid which is so toxic that nobody wants to even slap it for fear of getting it all over themselves. That’s when it becomes its’ own entity wreaking stupidity everywhere.

    So… we owe it to ourselves and future generations to slap the stupidity now while it is relatively mild. We simply cannot risk a stupidity singularity.”

  2. B. McLeod

    The degree of out and out, intentional dishonesty with which this proposal was pushed to the House of Delegates shows how far the “ends justify the means” rationalization has advanced with the “progressive” dogmatics. Yes, everyone needs to be mindful of this, as it will continue to occur.

  3. BP

    That the ABA even took this up reeks of severe incompetence and/or clear anti-male bias, especially after what happened at ALI. Are rabid feminists now that common in the legal system that they have to power to undermine centuries of legal progress? I’ve followed this closely and am stunned by the monsters who thought affirmative consent was the way to go during the ALI debates. Their logic was that it’s OK to send the innocent to prison to prevent any guilty from escaping. Such people should be no where near the legal system, and yet there they were, minimizing the horror they’d visit on the innocent. What an utter embarrassment for the ABA. The 165 lawyers who voted for this injustice should have their licences revoked. Anyone who thinks affirmative consent should be a part of criminal law should be barred from getting within 1000 feet of any courthouse. How do you manage to get a law licence by supporting something that reeks so clearly of feminist man hate? What institution of ‘higher learning’ creates such evil monsters? What legal institution seriously considers such proposals, especially in light of the work that already came from ALI? That this has even been taken up for serious consideration reeks of the legal system looking to generate more business for themselves through false accusations, making a whole lot of lawyers rich whilst destroying the lives of many innocents. No wonder so many people hate lawyers.

    1. SHG Post author

      First, take a deep breathe. Second, you went a little too far in the first half of your comment, then off the rails completely by the end. I get it. You’re not a lawyer. You’re angry. You have a simplistic cynical grasp of law and lawyers, and squandered what little cred you might otherwise have had because you just had to go from a terrible proposal to batshit crazy nonsense.

      But if you don’t want lawyers and judges on a law blog to think you’re a complete fruitcake, you would do well to get your impulses under control.

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