Category Archives: Uncategorized

Short Take: Optics, But Substance Too

It wasn’t too long ago that Lara Bazelon wrote a great post about the difficulties women trial lawyers face, which makes it all the more surprising to find her arguing against the use of a woman doing the questioning.

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s chairman, and his Republican colleagues have proposed ceding that important responsibility to an outside female lawyer or female aides.

I could have sworn that I saw a scold screaming about how it’s misogynistic to use the word “female.” “They’re women!”, she cried. Does that make Bazelon sexist? Well, the title of her op-ed doesn’t help, Man up, Grassley? I’m literally shaking.

Dr. Blasey and her lawyers have pushed back, demanding that Mr. Grassley and his colleagues question her themselves. They are right to do so. The Republicans’ attempt to outsource the questioning of Dr. Blasey is cynical, sexist and cowardly.

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Short Take: The Sincerity of the Eleventh Time

Judge Brett Kavanaugh took to the telly to “make his case” with his wife, Ashley, at his side. It was a move I characterized as “exceptionally poor,” there being nothing to gain by playing a judge on TV and much to lose in the infinite ways a word, a glance, a bad response, can be exploited by people antagonistic to you. Don’t give your enemies ammunition, and Kavanaugh and spouse not being practiced pols or TV celebrities were ill-equipped to pull off a Bill and Hillary show.

Still, he did it.

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If #MeToo Goes Gray

When it broke onto the scene, and all over Harvey Weinstein, I didn’t think it had legs to keep going. Eric Turkewitz told me I was wrong when I dismissed the momentum of the #MeToo movement. Turk was right.

In my naïveté, I thought people would be smart enough, mature enough, to recognize that every slight from their past could not be vindicated by mob-shaming. They would grasp that there would be serious cries, and cries so silly and trivial that no one could possibly not laugh.

They would realize that no matter where along the spectrum the tears fell, they could not reinvent history with some hysterical adjectives and lash out. What happened during the Sexual Revolution, that came to a crashing end when AIDS struck the world, obviously couldn’t be judged by today’s puritanical standards. Not even the most passionate kid today could fail to grasp the difference, the shift in norms and goals. No one could be that stupid. Continue reading

The Garland Payback

Somebody I didn’t know kept retwitting his earlier twit that by the end of the weekend, there would be more. There would be another woman who claimed to be the victim of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct. Ford may have come out of the woodwork late, whether 36 years or a few months according to whatever god you pray to, but belated accusations were about to be redefined.

As it turned out, there appeared to be two who exploded onto social media Sunday evening: Deborah Ramirez, as broken by a story by Ronan Farrow and Jane Meyer in the New Yorker and some mystery claim by Stormy lawyer Michael Avenatti that, despite being devoid of any factual allegations, he claims will be devastating. He’s available to be on television, if anyone’s interested.

Of course, Senator Feinstein is demanding the confirmation hearings, the deadline for which Senator Grassley kept extending over and over to show how fair he is, be put on hold and the FBI investigate, because what else would she do? And so this circus will go on in perpetuity. Continue reading

Schools Have Rules: Pig Party

What to do when a gay, bi-racial 17-year-old girl offers to portray in class a fictional corrupt cop in a play and refers to the character as “pig”? Throw a federal civil rights action.

Sometimes the best move is to let something go. Kids will be kids, as the saying go. Thing is, kids may also be litigants, especially if you think your school administration position grants you the power to violate students’ rights.

The mother of the 17-year-old girl filed the federal lawsuit this past February against the Hackettstown School District; teacher Kathleen Matlack; assistant principal Kevin O’Leary; and Jennifer Spukes, a Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying specialist at the high school.

The suit contends the girl was discriminated against and her constitutional rights violated as the district accused the girl of bullying and then issued a one day in-school suspension while she attended the school in the 2016-2017 school year.

That’s the tidied-up summary of the lawsuit, as composed by Lehigh Valley Live, which covered the case but couldn’t be bothered to post the judge’s ruling. So, here’s the missing paperwork [PDF] and we’ll get into the story behind this via the details contained in the federal judge’s order.

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The Confusion of Relative Burdens

While Debra Katz, lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford, continues to toy with Two-Buck Chuck despite another of his deadlines having come and gone, as the media bizarrely announced Katz’s acceptance of the deal by her counteroffer to keep negotiating, the contentions surrounding Ford’s ability to “prove” her claims came into sharper focus.

A woman named Leland Keyser — who is believed to have been identified by Dr. Blasey as one of the five people at the party — told the committee through a lawyer that she “does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.” Two men said to have been at the party, Mark Judge and Patrick Smyth, have also told the committee that they have no recollection of the events.

There will be no corroboration by anyone Ford named as being present at the party that she was assaulted or that there was a party. The woman she alleges was present denies knowing Kavanaugh at all.  Continue reading

Two-Buck Chuck

In fairness, Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, deserves applause. She’s got the guts to push, despite her only leverage being the thin thread of empty rhetoric about bullying a “sexual assault survivor” by giving her client, a grossly belated witness, the opportunity to testify she requested. Impressive.

Iowa senator and chair of the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, however, made himself into the butt of an old joke by extending, for the fifth time, the deadline for Ford to make her call.

Churchill: “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”
Socialite: “My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course… ”
Churchill: “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”
Socialite: “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!”
Churchill: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”

–Winston S. Churchill (or not)

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A Witness’ Conditions

The nature of discussion surrounding the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford has been on an odd trajectory, and with all due credit to her lawyers, her supporters and the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, they’ve managed to pull off a miracle. The problem, you see, is that Ford is a witness. She’s a witness who refused to come forward when the time was right to do something, if there was something to be done. And now, we’re discussing the reasonableness of her demands.

Since when do witnesses get to make demands?

Then, when Blasey and her lawyers balked at Republican terms — asking, entirely reasonably, that the F.B.I. first examine her story — Republicans acted as if she was being irrational and going back on her word.

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Balko’s Half An Epiphany

Most of us don’t spend much effort thinking about something we wrote a dozen years ago which, in the light of day, was wrong. But then, Radley Balko, to his enormous credit, isn’t most of us.

About 12 years ago, I wrote my first piece of investigative journalism. It was for Reason, about the case of Cory Maye. I’m proud of my work in that case, but one line in my story has increasingly irked me in the years since. It’s this one:

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