Author Archives: SHG

Short Take: The Bachelorette and The Safety Net

Ex-Voxer Ezra Klein takes on an extremely complicated and highly controversial issue at the New York Times addressing the tipping point between enabling sloth and the dignity of poverty labor. It’s a fascinating issue, and if it interests you, you should go there and let Ezra know what you think, because that’s not the focus of this post and I don’t want to hear it.

Rather, Ezra opens with the obligatory anecdote to set up his readers’ emotional reaction to what follows, and that’s the point here. Continue reading

5th Circuit Holds Torching By Taser Reasonable

The call was for a troubled person in a troubling situation. Gabriel Eduardo Olivas was suicidal, having doused himself with gasoline, so his son called 911. Two Arlington, Texas, police officers, Jeremias Guadarrama and Ebony Jefferson, responded to the call and found Olivas smelling of gasoline.

The police claim that Olivas threatened not only to torch himself, but to burn down the house, an allegation his family denied in their §1983 complaint, which should have been taken as true for the purpose of a motion to grant the cops qualified immunity. The court nonetheless factored it into its decision. Continue reading

Short Take: Nabbing Mencken For Speeding

Remember when red light cameras and speed radar first arose as a great idea, essentially free money for municipalities with no due process for the “convicted,” who might not have been the violators if there even was a violation, which couldn’t be clear because who knew if the machines were working right, properly calibrated, or just taking random pics and sending out tickets because there was money to be made?

Criminal law reformers hated them, challenged them, and they were ultimately held unlawful and in disrepute, banned and rejected as a foolish and dangerous idea. But that was then and this is now, and suddenly it’s not merely back as part of the neo-reformed simplistic solution to intransigent problems, but what was once roundly acknowledged as dumb and simplistic is now “such a smart idea.” Continue reading

Vaccination: Shot or Chaser

It was bound to happen, but who would have thought the first waitress fired would work in a corner tavern in newly-hipsterized Red Hook, Brooklyn, that scuzzy place on the wrong side of the BQE?

It looks more like the kind of place where Uncle Joe is behind the bar and momma runs the grill, but apparently it’s got enough of a staff to have “formal” rules about things, and getting vaccinated for COVID was one of them. Continue reading

The Color of Gideon

When people argue about putting more public defenders and civil rights lawyers, black or women, on the bench, I wonder whether they have any clue how courts work. Do people believe that the defendant is brought into court, looks up at the person in the black robe on the bench and gets to say, “Nope, you don’t look like me. Next!”? If you’re a man who gets a woman judge, tough luck. A black defendant with a white judge? Bummer. An ex-prosecutor judge? Sucks to be you. You don’t get to pick your judge.

There are judges we prefer and judges we don’t, and they don’t necessarily align with the simplistic assumption that color, gender or prior position means a judge will be more favorable. It’s the luck of the draw. Unless the prosecution has gamed the system to get a case moved to their judge of choice, a name is pulled from the wheel and that’s the judge you get. There are plenty of judges you believe would be better, more understanding, more accommodating, more similar in appearance, to you? So what? You get who you get. Nobody asks a defendant to approve.* Continue reading

Restoring Amy

Her lawyer, Robert Barnes, may have been a surprising, controversial and dubious choice under the circumstances, but to be fair, his handling of Amy Cooper’s case was smart.

The prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, said Ms. Cooper had participated in five therapy sessions that focused in part on how racial identities shape people’s lives. Her therapist had reported that the sessions were “a moving experience” and that Ms. Cooper “learned a lot,” Ms. Illuzzi-Orbon said.

Continue reading

Tuesday Talk*: Are Cellphones The Answer?

Cellphones were always deemed contraband in jails and prisons. Initially, there were two obvious and one less-than-obvious reason for this. Cellphones allowed prisoners to communicate freely with the outside world, enabling them to engage in all manner of nefarious conduct. Requiring prisoners to talk on prison phones, the ones with the huge signs overhear that state “ALL CALLS ARE RECORDED,” still manages to provide prosecutors with confessions galore, because reasons.

And then there’s the profit sharing incentive from the economic rape of a captive audience by businesses like Securus, which simultaneously take the burden off of prisons from managing telephone logistics while charging prisoners’ families obscene rates because they can. Continue reading

The Applicant’s Confession

I can still remember typing out my college application essay on the Smith Corona typewriter I inherited from my older sister. When it was done, I asked my parents to read it. They demurred, telling me to ask my sister instead. After all, she went to college so she must know about such things. And that, pretty much, was that. If there was a cottage industry of college admissions counselors to get one into college, nobody told me about it.

By the time my kids went to college, everything had changed. There was a proliferation of courses and counselors to game the system. There were courses to teach students how to take the PSATs, SATs, ACTs, and any other T one could imagine. There were advisors who were experienced in college admissions and told students what to write about, what to write, how to write it and then tweaked the twenty drafts at an hourly rate. Continue reading

Medical Hero and Regulatory Villain

What’s a doc to do?

The Texas doctor had six hours. Now that a vial of Covid-19 vaccine had been opened on this late December night, he had to find 10 eligible people for its remaining doses before the precious medicine expired. In six hours.

Scrambling, the doctor made house calls and directed people to his home outside Houston. Some were acquaintances; others, strangers. A bed-bound nonagenarian. A woman in her 80s with dementia. A mother with a child who uses a ventilator.

After midnight, and with just minutes before the vaccine became unusable, the doctor, Hasan Gokal, gave the last dose to his wife, who has a pulmonary disease that leaves her short of breath.

Continue reading

“You Correct Them”

To its credit, the New York Times published Ben Smith’s dive into the firing of Donald McNeil, its “singular” journalistic importance and journalistic self-importance, and many of the fun details surrounding the Times’ new revenue stream of ridiculously expensive résumé road trips for entitled 17-year-old prep school darlings who will be deeply sensitive about the plight of the oppressed throughout their four years of Ivy undergrad and however many years of grad school are suffered before getting a gig at daddy’s investment bank.

The story is replete with interesting views about the New York Times’ confused identity and purpose, which is part navel gazing and part desperate plea for relevance. Continue reading