Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Murder “Epidemic” Spreads

As the opioid “epidemic” continues to be the driver of drug hysteria, and the drug dealers who sell to people who overdose are prosecuted not as dealers, but as murderers, the concept of murder continues to expand. First, it went from dealer to sharer. Now, an introduction to a connection is all it takes.

But Jamie Nelson, 34, was not the dealer who provided the fentanyl and heroin that killed Tracy Skornika in June. According to police, Skornika gave Nelson $50 to help her to find a heroin connection. Nelson took her to a dealer she apparently knew. Skornika overdosed and was found on her bathroom floor. She was pronounced dead three hours later at a hospital.

There’s nothing is this story that even suggests that Nelson wanted her friend dead. The Orlando Sentinel report on the case notes that Nelson cried when she found out Skornika had died.

That Nelson felt terrible, even cried, isn’t a defense to a murder. But then, that doesn’t answer the question of how her doing as a friend asked, introducing Skornika to her dealer, turns out to be a murder either. Continue reading

Kopf: The Unexploded Landmine Buried Deep In The Codes of Conduct Committee’s Otherwise Excellent Opinion On Posner

There are two Codes of Conduct applicable to those who work in the federal judiciary. One is for employees and the other for judges. The Judicial Conference (the administrative governing body of the federal courts) has authorized its Committee on Codes of Conduct (the Committee[i]) to render advisory opinions about the judges’ Code, but only when requested by a judge to whom the Code applies.[ii]

I have enormous respect for the Committee, the members of the Committee, and the truly excellent work of the Committee. The Committee is comprised of 15 members appointed by the authority of the Chief Justice.[iii] The primary responsibility of the Committee is to issue confidential advisory opinions to judges regarding compliance with the judges’ Code. It toils in anonymity (most of the time), turning out thoughtful and confidential opinions very rapidly on a whole host of questions regarding the Code and related matters (like the issuance of certificates of divestiture[iv]).

There are two things one must understand about the Committee’s work. First, the Committee does not serve as the “ethics police.” Complaints against judges are handled through an entirely different and unrelated mechanism. See, for example, here. Second, the opinions of the Committee are advisory. While the judges’ Code is binding, the opinions of the Committee are advisory. Thus, every opinion of the Committee (of which I am aware) begins with this language: Continue reading

Bless Your Dear “American Heart”

In the good old days, a person could write a book and, if it wasn’t good for some reason, people didn’t buy it and it faded into meaningless obscurity. Good times. The problem for Laura Moriarty, who wrote a young adult book named “American Heart,” is that it was liked enough to be deemed worthy of a Kirkus Review, a pretty big deal.

When Laura Moriarty decided she wanted to write a dystopian novel about a future America in which Muslims are forcefully corralled into detention centers, she was aware that she should tread carefully. Her protagonist is a white teenager, but one of her main characters, Sadaf, is a Muslim American immigrant from Iran, so Moriarty began by diving into Iranian books and films. Moriarty explained via email that she asked two Iranian immigrant friends to read an early draft and see if Sadaf seemed authentic to them, and whether the language and accent fit  with their memories and experiences.

A friend of Pakistani and American descent who is a practicing Muslim gave additional feedback. Moriarty asked a senior colleague at the University of Kansas, Giselle Anatol, who writes about Young Adult fiction and has been critical of racist narratives in literature, to read the book with a particular eye toward avoiding another narrative about a “white savior.” And after American Heart was purchased by Harper, the publisher provided several formal “sensitivity reads,” in which a member of a minority group is charged with spotting potentially problematic depictions in a manuscript.

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Tuesday Talk*: The Land of the Free?

Do Millennials fear freedom? Well, not you, of course, but those other Millennials.

Young Americans seem to be losing faith in freedom. Why?

According to the World Values Survey, only about 30 percent of Americans born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, compared with 72 percent of Americans born before World War II. In 1995, 16 percent of Americans in their late teens and early adulthood thought democracy was a bad idea; in 2011, the number increased to 24 percent.

Democracy hasn’t exactly been kind to Millennials. It gave them perpetual war on foreign soil. It produced the Great Recession. They came of age in a world that persisted in telling them that they were special, and if they only played by the rules, they would enjoy great success, only to learn that the end of the road was dead or dying. And then Darth Cheeto was elected, despite everything they had been told about social justice.  Continue reading

Buying Bombast: The Preet Syndrome

For many of us who didn’t wake up to the criminal justice system on November 9, 2016, the elevation of former Southern District of New York United States Attorney Preet Bharara to progressive hero was like a bad joke. Preet? Seriously? As far as the newly-woke progressive left was concerned, his refusal to resign when Trump told him to made him an icon.

Did they have any idea how many kittens he kicked before? Did they even care? There are a lot of those beloved vulnerable and marginalized people of color who will spend the rest of their lives in prison because of Preet. And he’s your progressive hero?

Josie Duffy Rice calls out the “myth of the progressive prosecutor,” starting with Cy Vance.

Mr. Vance is considered one of America’s most progressive prosecutors and has the accolades to prove it. In 2015, he helped create the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Two years earlier, Attorney General Eric Holder gave him an award for having developed a partnership between local youths and law enforcement aimed at reducing violence.

Certainly Eric Holder was a progressive hero, given all he did to eliminate junk science from the courtroom, reduce wrongful convictions and not execute innocent people, with his trusty sidekick, Sally Yates, at his side. Continue reading

Bennett: The Art of Impeachment With A Prior Inconsistent Statement

After some 400 jury trials, I have seen many attempts to impeach witness testimony – sometimes successful, sometimes not. There are many techniques one can use to impeach a witness with an inconsistent prior response. Trial lawyers tend to have their own techniques.

Here is a summary of what I think are best and worst practices:

  • When impeaching, be nice, but firm, to the witness. Translation: Jurors do not like assh**e lawyers. You generally get more with honey than vinegar.
  • There is one exception to the above rule. If the jurors think the witness is despicable, disgusting, or a pathological liar, increase the aggressiveness of the cross. The witness has essentially given you “permission” to be tougher and rougher with them.
  • Do not attempt impeachment if the difference is insignificant or laughable.

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Short Take: Can Free Speech and Social Justice Co-Exist?

As part of the “Unsafe Spaces” tour being run by Spiked, a panel discussion will be held at New York Law School on November 2d, with former president of the ACLU, Nadine Strossen, as moderator. The title of the panel is provocative: Is the left eating itself?

The panel will consist of Northwestern prof Laura Kipnis, Evergreen College’s Bret Weinstein, Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill and “student social justice activist” academic, Angus Johnson*. Kipnis promoted the panel on the twitters:

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Sessions’ Inconsistent Consistency

Just when progressives, in Congress and elsewhere, were absolutely certain that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was the embodiment of everything they hated because he was bent on undoing their bureaucratic shift in law, he went and did something that confused them. He…he…well, let Matt Apuzzo explain.

The Justice Department has dispatched an experienced federal hate crimes lawyer to Iowa to help prosecute a man charged with murdering a transgender high school student last year, a highly unusual move that officials said was personally initiated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In taking the step, Mr. Sessions, a staunch conservative, is sending a signal that he has made a priority of fighting violence against transgender people individually, even as he has rolled back legal protections for them collectively.

Up to now, it was more likely assumed that Sessions would be the one inclined to jail transgender people for being transgender, a status that presumably was unacceptable to someone with a name that, if it was a statue, would demand to be torn down. Continue reading

Short Take: Twits of the Times

The New York Times has issued new social media guidelines to its reporters.

To the newsroom:

The New York Times has been a dominant force on social media for years. Our newsroom accounts have tens of millions of followers. Many of our journalists are influential voices on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms.

Tens of millions is a lot of followers. Whether that number pans out would require someone to do the math, but regardless, anyone who writes for such a big soapbox is likely to be taken seriously, whether they’re a journalist writing about politics or Roxane Gay.

We believe that to remain the world’s best news organization, we have to maintain a vibrant presence on social media.

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Bad Math At Good Colleges

They’re not asking. They’re demanding. And before you ask the obvious, “or what?”, their demands are being met, at least to some extent.

Students are protesting for official recognition of their identities, whether racial, ethnic, sexual, religious, first-generation, low-income or immigrant.

The new word for this is “intersectionalism.” A student can be black, female, gay, immigrant, pastafarian and the first in her family to go to college. All the boxes are checked.

Campuses that have prided themselves on increased diversity in admissions are now wrestling with students who want more control over the institutions they attend, including a say in hiring (even of visiting professors), housing (a theme house at the University of California, Santa Cruz, must be painted in Pan-African colors) and curriculum (among nearly 50 demands presented to the University of Chicago: the creation of courses on the Islamic golden age, sequences on Caribbean and Southeast Asian civilizations, and a required diversity/inclusion course).

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