Category Archives: Uncategorized

Heavy Cy

Who cares? For all the focus on campaign donations given New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., for his campaign against no one, nobody outside the crim law community knew or cared who would get the job for life. Unlike Brooklyn, or Houston, there was no pressing demand for reform in Manhattan.

DANY was the premier local prosecutor’s office in the nation, and when Robert Morgenthau decided it was time for him to pass the torch, he handed it to Cy. Morgy was an old-school patrician prosecutor. Cy was his ordained successor. The job is now Cy’s until he decides it’s time to go.

Cy doesn’t need the money personally. Cy doesn’t need the money to run a campaign against anyone. Not since his initial election has anyone mounted a serious campaign against him. It’s not as if he has to run a campaign ad to get some name recognition. As long he doesn’t do something monumentally stupid that puts his name in front of people such that they start to think, “hey, who is this guy who owns the DA’s office,” he will be there forever.

But that happened, if inadvertently. Two lawyers gave Cy’s campaign significant donations, which nobody would have cared about except that their clients are now hated. I could remind you that correlation does not prove causation, but we both know that nobody cares about logical fallacies. As Nancy Grace loved to say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Continue reading

Short Take: To Kill “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Caddo Parish, LouisianaAccomack County, Virginia. Now Biloxi, Mississippi. What do these three places have in common? They’ve banned Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, To Kill A Mockingbird, from the public school curriculum.

“To Kill A Mockingbird,” considered one of the best novels of the 20th century, is also one of the most controversial. According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, the Harper Lee novel is one of the most challenged and banned classical books. Many of these objections come from parents, school administrators or advocacy groups who contend that its racially and sexually-charged themes are inappropriate for young readers.

On the one hand, it uses words that, while commonplace in music, are deemed unacceptable on paper. On the other hand, it challenges the “believe the victim” narrative, as it reflects an innocent black man convicted upon the lie of a white woman. These may have been important, provocative themes when the book was written, but we were a tougher society then, capable of thinking instead of merely crying whenever an idea challenged our sacred cows.

For criminal defense lawyers, the banning of To Kill A Mockingbird holds a special place in hell. This was the book that pushed many to go to law school, to defend the accused, to want to be like Atticus Finch. This was our book. And they’ve stolen it, twisted it, tainted it. Continue reading

The Trumpkins Hecklers’ Revenge

It should come as no surprise that the compulsion to disrupt a speaker with whom one disagrees isn’t just a progressive problem, but an entitlement for college kids. And so a group favoring Trump proved itself no different than its opposition.

Whittier College…hosted California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, in a question-and-answer session organized by Ian Calderon, the Majority Leader of the California State Assembly.

They tried to, anyway.

The event ended early after pro-Trump hecklers, upset about Becerra’s lawsuit against the Trump administration over DACA, continuously shouted slogans and insults at Becerra and Calderon. A group affiliated with the hecklers later boasted that the speakers were “SHOUTED DOWN BY FED-UP CALIFORNIANS” and that the “meeting became so raucous that it ended about a half hour early.”

On the bright side, no one was physically harmed in the process, but to the extent there was any claim of holding higher moral ground by the support of free speech, the willingness to allow people with whom they disagreed to speak, this exercise of the heckler’s veto sucked the air out of the room. Continue reading

Sheriff Prator: Baby, You Can Wash My Car

If you’re Sheriff Steve Prator, your concerns about the release of prisoners differ a bit from other folks.

In the midst of the Louisiana’s incarceration reform, one local sheriff is unhappy that the “good prisoners” who wash officers’ cars will get their freedom early due to a new state law.

“In addition to the bad ones, they are releasing some good ones that we use everyday to wash cars, change the oil in our cars, to cook in the kitchen, to do all that, where we save money,” Sheriff Steve Prator of Caddo Parish said in a press conference this week.

What are they, slaves? Sit down. I have something to tell you and it’s going to make you sad. Continue reading

Surrender To The Credible Threats

Hate the speakers as much as you want, but at least they come to campus to be shouted down, if not physically attacked. Then again, it’s hate speech, so you say, and speech is violence, so you say, and you’re entitled to use violence to stop violence. So you say.

But scholarship?

Third World Quarterly ( TWQ ) is the leading journal of scholarship and policy in the field of international studies. For almost four decades it has set the agenda on development discourses of the global debate.

So it planned to publish Bruce Gilley’s peer-reviewed essay on colonialism. And now it won’t.

Bruce Gilley’s eyebrow-raising essay in favor of colonialismhas been scrubbed from the scholarly record, but not for any of the reasons cited by its critics. (Among them: that it was historically inaccurate, that it ignored the vast literature on colonialism and colonial-era atrocities, that it was rejected by three peer reviewers, and that Gilley himself requested it be pulled.)

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Short Take: The Other Harveys

Schadenfreude is ugly and petty, and delicious. But in the case of Harvey Weinstein, it appears to have taken everyone’s eyes off the prize.

There is a storybook villain, Mr. Weinstein, whose repulsive face turns out to be the spitting image of his putrescent soul. There are victims, so many of them, typically up-and-comers in an industry where he had the power to make or wreck their careers, or bully or buy their silence, or, if some allegations are to be believed, rape them.

But mostly there are enablers, both those who facilitated his predations and those who found it expedient to look the other way.

Bret Stephens goes on to name some corporate types, A-Listers, “and then there was the rest of Hollywood.” Continue reading

Experiencing The Movies, At What Price?

There was a time when the internet offered a breathtaking opportunity to watch, listen and learn from lectures on a broad array of academic subjects with just a click. But then, the internet doesn’t work the same for everyone, as some people have abilities that others don’t, which means some have disabilities. That’s an unfortunate reality of humanity, and one which we, as humane and caring individuals, should do as much as reasonably possible to ameliorate.

Instead, the government passed a law, and now, those videos are gone.

This has spawned two distinct cottage industries, one to create accommodations for people with disabilities and one to seek out and sue public accommodations that fall short.

The lawsuits came one after the other, against Fordham University, Manhattan College, Long Island University and other area colleges and universities. Continue reading

Kopf: Remembering John Thompson, Thinking About Brady and Giglio

Our mean-ass host, in a recent tweet, wrote: “John Thompson will suck your trust from the system but give it back in humanity. He was the real deal.”

Pictured below is that man. He recently died of a heart attack after serving 14 years on death row but, happily, Thompson was a free man when he passed.

Thompson’s demise prompts me to write this post regarding the obligation of prosecutors to turn over to the defense exculpatory information. His death also serves to remind judges like me that we need to avoid serving as potted plants. Continue reading

Seaton: When Public Defenders Call Bullshit

If you are a State Supreme Court Justice issuing a press release on which areas of indigent representation reform the state’s highest court intends to back, it’s easy to shrug off calls of “bullshit” from the private bar. When the Public Defenders, the first line of defense for the poor in the state call bullshit, you might want to rethink your stance.

“The devil’s in the details,” Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference Executive Patrick Frogge said in an interview last week. “I’m glad the Supreme Court is taking some actions. The recommendations they’ve made in their press release share a common theme of steering more cases to public defenders. I’m not sure the recommendations carry with them a commiserate increase in the number of public defenders.” (Emphasis added.)

Frogge is correct in his analysis. The Tennessee Supremes want the public defenders’ offices to take on more cases. They don’t want to actually fund those offices or adequately staff them. They want the public defenders to take every case possible.

Mark Stephens, the head of Knox County’s public defender office, cut Chief Justice Bivins’ press release, and the work of the task force, straight to the bone. Continue reading

Short Take: The Happy Warriors of The Academy

It was nice to be invited by Jonathan Haidt’s Heterodox Academy and FIRE to join the audience to hear four academics talk about diverse viewpoints on campus. The panel consisted of April Kelly-Woessner, a political-science professor at Elizabethtown College, Samuel Abrams, a political-science professor at Sarah Lawrence College, Mark Lilla, a political-science professor at Columbia and Nadine Strossen, former president of the ACLU who now teaches at New York Law School.

It was all very . . . nice. If you knew nothing about what is happening on campus with students, faculty and administration silencing speech that fails to comport with progressive orthodoxy, you would leave far better informed than you came. It was . . . nice. As in, if we wish really hard for rainbows and unicorns to make things better, it could happen. Nice. Even the College Fix’s write-up of the presentation is nice.

“One person’s hate speech is somebody else’s cherished speech,” and what one person finds hurtful may galvanize another to engage with more speech, said Strossen, who testified at a July congressional hearing on campus free speech.

She told an audience member that a good way to get people to support free speech is to present them with an example of their own opinions getting censored.

Continue reading