Category Archives: Uncategorized

Seaton: Glen The Grocery Store Greeter

What you’re about to read is the written version of a weird dream I had a couple of nights ago while my wife held our TV hostage with a binge session of “Dharma & Greg.”—CLS

 [We open on the exterior of a big box grocery store. At the store’s entrance are Glen the Greeter and Travis from Atlas Security.]

[Glenn is a white middle-aged man wearing the traditional store attire: a blue smock with his name emblazoned on the lapel, khaki pants and a white polo shirt. Travis wears a black and gray Atlas Security uniform that looks very similar to a cop’s, complete with badge and gun. He’s also wearing black sunglasses, surgical gloves and a face mask.] Continue reading

The Job of Survival

If America had a pause button, we could push it. But it doesn’t and we can’t, so we’re constrained to figure out some other way to deal with exceptional circumstances. And whether the coronavirus pandemic constitutes circumstances so exceptional as a health crisis may be subject to some debate, what is undebatable is that the Senate passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill by 96-0 (which will almost certainly pass the House and be signed into law) and there were 3.3 million new applications for unemployment.

Remember when the gig economy was the newest, coolest thing ever? Remember when being an independent contractor gave people the freedom to pursue their dreams in whichever way they chose? These choices might present a problem now that unemployment is the new black. The stimulus package says they might be eligible for federal relief, but saying so and being so aren’t the same, a point many people just can’t wrap their heads around when reading headlines that make them feel better. Continue reading

Housekeeping: Video Killed The Commenting Star

At 7 pm on the dot, L. Phillips said it out loud.

Is it just me, or did both of today’s threads go straight to hell in a handcart?

It wasn’t just him. I watched it happen. I was as much a part of it as anyone else, although it struck me when we went from trucker music to Jerry Reed. Ordinarily, it happens with comments where someone goes off on a tangent, frequently an exceptionally stupid tangent, which then gives rise to a discussion about the exceptionally stupid tangent, which leaves SJ as the locus of an exceptionally stupid tangential discussion. That wasn’t what I had in mind when I wrote the post. Continue reading

Short Take: The Heroes And The Other Heroes

When I thanked the people we don’t see, my use of the word “we” might have been a bit too broad. While most of us may not have “seen” some of the people risking their health for the sake of others, the commanding officer of the 66th Precinct did.

As the sun slowly begins to crack just over the elevated subway station, a crack comes over the radio signaling the beginning of “Operation Cluster Fuck”. An operation spearheaded and ran by no other than Long Island native, Deputy Inspector James King. Like the brave soldiers on Omaha Beach, members of the 66 Pct and the NYPD Traffic Enforcement Division charged the block and risked it all to wake sleeping out of state truckers.

Truckers. Not killers. Not gangbangers. Not drug dealers. Truckers. Those men and women driving big rigs across country to bring food and toilet paper to the huddled masses yearning to be isolated. Continue reading

The Prisoners’ Dilemma

Long before the pandemic, when the word “corona” was mostly associated with a beverage with a lime, I made the point that sentences had grown outrageously long, beyond any rational justification. I blame Nelly Rockefeller for starting this mess, his idea being that if we make sentences irrationally long, rational people will stop committing drug crimes to avoid them.

This idea failed because Nelly miscalculated the causal connection between deciding to commit a crime and reason. The more significant factor was the likelihood of being arrested, not the length of sentence, and so the Rockefeller drug laws failed to produce the desired results. And unable to let go of the notion, sentences were made longer and longer, as if one more decade would do the trick because the first few weren’t Draconian enough. Continue reading

Seaton: Taking The SJ Show On The Road

Dear SJ Readers:

In these trying, uncertain times, we at Simple Justice want you to know we will be there for you. And since in many areas lawyers are considered “essential services,” after a few discussions with my mean-ass editor, I have great news to offer you. We’re hitting the road to help clients and fellow lawyers in need.

We’re retrofitting the old RV to become the Official SJ Mobile World Headquarters©. If you’ve got a criminal defense problem, just call us at our handy-dandy hotline, 1-888-GET-BENT. We’ll take your name, address, and phone number down and schedule you for a consultation when we get to your area or good and ready, whichever comes first. Continue reading

Professor Michael Curtis’ Fighting Words

Michael Curtis was the valedictorian of his class at University of the South in 1964. He received his J.D. with honors from the University of North Carolina in 1969. He spent the last 30 teaching constitutional law at Wake Forest Law School, spending some of his off-hours doing pro bono representation for the North Caroline Civil Liberties Union. The Judge Donald Smith Professor of Constitutional and Public Law has been around a while.

Wake Forest University Law School no longer deserves him.

Adjusting to the moment, he was teaching the First Amendment, which of necessity required the teaching of Brandenburg v. Ohio, the “fighting words” case. While it can’t be said with certainty, one would expect that he taught this case many times, every time he taught Con Law. The case is a big deal, and it would be shocking if he didn’t. In the decision, both in the body of the opinion and in footnote 1, is a word, a word that most of us find totally reprehensible, but a word that’s there on the page, that’s critical to the decision, that doesn’t disappear because we wish it would. But it’s just a word. Continue reading

Tuesday Talk*: The Chaos Theory of Stimulus

While last week’s Trump, who always took the pandemic very seriously unlike the Trump of the week before, morphed into this week’s Trump, for whom the cure is worse than the disease as he watched the Dow and his re-election prospects tank, the Senate has been in a fight to the death over its multi-trillion dollar stimulus package. Is it a “slush fund” to corporations, as Chuck Schumer’s talking point goes, or is it the opportunity for Dems to extort a progressive reinvention of business?

What’s most remarkable about this Senate naked mud-wrestling is that coverage has been replete with adjectives and active verbs, but almost entirely devoid of substantive details. Unsurprisingly, the New York Times seizes upon this to blame the Republicans. Continue reading

Kahler v. Kansas: Mitigation And Defense Are Not The Same

In the midst of a pandemic, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision written by Justice Elena Kagan, solved the age-old law school question of how best to frame the insanity defense. The M’Naghten rule? The irresistible impulse test? The Durham rule? Forget about it. Kansas don’t need no stinkin’ rule, and in Kahler v. Kansas, the Supreme Court says that’s just fine.

This case is about Kansas’s treatment of a criminal defendant’s insanity claim. In Kansas, a defendant can invoke mental illness to show that he lacked the requisite mens rea (intent) for a crime. He can also raise mental illness after conviction to justify either a reduced term of  imprisonment or commitment to a mental health facility. But Kansas, unlike many States, will not wholly exonerate a defendant on the ground that his illness prevented him from recognizing his criminal act as morally wrong. The issue here is whether the Constitution’s Due Process Clause forces Kansas to do so—otherwise said, whether that Clause compels the acquittal of any defendant who, because of mental illness, could not tell right from wrong when committing his crime. We hold that the Clause imposes no such requirement.

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Judge Pinky Carr: The Idiot In The Courtroom

There’s no social distance in a courtroom, even if it’s not nearly as much of an incubator as a jail or prison. But far more importantly, the continuation of routine criminal proceedings, mostly a waste of time under the best of circumstances, is beyond a pointless risk under current circumstances. Indeed, the administrative judge ordered hearings be limited to jail cases, because requiring bail cases to show up in court, which often includes getting there and back on mass transit, to be told when the next time they have to show up isn’t worth any risk of illness, no less death.

But Judge Pinky Carr will be there.

Continue reading