Category Archives: Uncategorized

Pronouns By Committee

The Illinois Supreme Court has created a Committee on Equality, with six subcommittees, for the purpose of “bringing equality and facilitating trust in the court system.” While it’s unclear why there is a need for such a committee at all, given that Equal Protection is a constitutional mandate, and that the word “equality” has fallen out of fashion in favor of “equity,” which allows for the currently preferred outcomes without regard to principle, the goal can’t be faulted. After all, who would be against “bringing equality and facilitating trust in the court system”? Continue reading

The First Rule of Debate Club

We’ve held debates here, most notably between two of our former Fault Lines debating rivals, Chris Seaton and Mario Machado. And the rules are pretty much there are no rules. They agree upon a proposition and then one takes the affirmative and the other gets stuck with the negative, whether they are personally for or against the resolution. Why? Because debating is about debating, about coming up with the most persuasive argument possible to make your case.

What happens here, apparently, stays here, or at least isn’t happening on the national high school debate tournaments. Sure, they have rules because schools love rules, but they also have judges who adore debate except when an argument is made that conflicts with their beliefs or failings. And they make no secret of their “paradigm.” Continue reading

The Unnoticed Murders

From the post-pandemic spike in murder in 2020-21, murders are down last year and this year. Did you know that, or did you feel that murders are out of control? The old adage, “if it bleeds, it leads,” doesn’t care what impression it gives the public as to the frequency of murder, but what the public cares enough to watch to turn the dial to their network. And murders capture eyeballs, even if the reporting creates the impression that crime is far worse than it is.

But that same old adage needs tweaking, because these days, bleeding isn’t good enough for leading. Not all murders get the same treatment in the media. Continue reading

Memorial Day 2023

I wrote a short post about Memorial Day in 2007 that remains relevant today.

Despite my apparent cynicism, Memorial Day has always meant something to me.  Having grown up in the house of a WWII combat veteran, Purple Heart and Bronze Star, I was reared on the stories of pain, sacrifice and honor in the name of our country.  A bit jingoistic, perhaps, but when honor comes at the price of a human life, it is something worthy of our remembrance. Continue reading

Beyond The Gown

Somebody got the idea to put “Hi Mom” in tape on the top of their mortar board, and everybody thought it was sweet, funny and acceptable. Before that, nobody questioned that students at graduation wore the traditional cap and gown, without any adornments for individuality or to express a message, whether that message was ethnic, political or personal. But that mortar board put graduates on the slippery slope and for Naomi Peña Villasano, the slide ended with a serape bearing the Mexican and American flags.

In the lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, lawyers for the student, Naomi Peña Villasano, said she was told by the school principal’s secretary that she could not wear the sash because “allowing that regalia would ‘open too many doors.’”

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A “Reliable” Source

For years, decades really, I’ve explained and argued why most “new big things” in legal tech are either not going to work or fill a need that doesn’t exist. Legal tech guys really hated me for calling bullshit on their baby. Some who paid me to “consult” thought their money would buy my endorsement of their mutt. They learned. I was regularly accused of being a tech hater, but as Keith Lee succinctly explained, “It’s not that lawyers are anti-technology, it’s that they are anti-bullshit.

AI is all the rage at the moment. Remember blockchain? Remember NFTs? Remember self-driving cars? Remember Google Glasses? The newest billion dollar baby is ChatGPT. How’s that working out for lawyers? Continue reading

Seaton: The Parent-Teacher Conference

Taylor Jefferson, a second grade teacher at Bear Bryant Elementary, sat at his desk grading end-of-year papers for his students’ final report cards of the term. As he finished the stack, his desk phone’s intercom crackled.

“Jefferson to the principal’s office. Mr. Jefferson, please come to the principal’s office.”

As Taylor made his way to the front of the school he tried to suss out what this could be. It was three days until school broke for the summer, so there was no way it could be something concerning an issue with a student. Most of the kids running around the school were focused on their impending vacation time so they were pretty well behaved. Continue reading

Supreme Court Holds Retaining Tax Sale Excess Is A Taking

Some issues just seem so obvious as to defy imagination that it would even be in issue, requiring any court, no less the Supreme Court, to rule. Yet it did in Tyler v. Hennepin County.

Geraldine Tyler owned a condominium in Hennepin County, Minnesota, that accumulated about $15,000 in unpaid real estate taxes along with interest and penalties. The County seized the condo and sold it for $40,000, keeping the $25,000 excess over Tyler’s tax debt for itself. Minn. Stat. §§281.18, 282.07, 282.08. Tyler filed suit, alleging that the County had unconstitutionally retained the excess value of her home above her tax debt in violation of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment. The District Court dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed.

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The Flip Side of Fired For Pronouns

It’s one thing to argue against the compelled speech of being forced to put your pronouns on display. But it’s another to fire employees who choose to do so. While Houghton University may have the legal authority to do so, it was the wrong thing to do.

When Raegan Zelaya and Shua Wilmot decided to include their pronouns at the end of their work emails, they thought they were doing a good thing: following what they viewed as an emerging professional standard, and also sending a message of inclusivity at the Christian university where they worked.

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The Forsyth County Conundrum

One of the most damning arguments against school districts removing books from their libraries is that they include classic books by brilliant authors to which no rational person could object or find any “explanation” other than racial or sexual discrimination. But what if the book in question was removed from a school library because it had legitimate questionable sexual content?

Sure, some, like the publisher of Teen Vogue, would argue that no such thing exists, but some parents, teachers and school board members might have a legitimate basis to argue that such content was not appropriate or a school library. That was the scenario in Forsyth County, Georgia, where eight books were taken off the shelves. Continue reading