Archive for June, 2008

In the last year, we have seen some alarming examples of how Canada has rolled back on free speech, particularly in cases of alleged discrimination (here and here). However, the Supreme Court of Canada has handed down a unanimous decision that offers great hope that free speech is not dead in the North. The Court ruled 9-0 in favor of controversial Vancouver radio broadcaster Rafe Mair in his libel case.
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The French marines stationed at the Laperrine military barracks wanted to give the public a realistic example of a hostage rescue operation. One soldier, however, used life rounds and shot 16 people including children. The incident is under investigation, but officials have stated that it may have been an accident.
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Chiman Rai, 68, was sentenced in Atlanta, Georgia to life in prison for the murder of his daughter-i-law. The Indian born businessman was accused of killing Sparkle Michelle Rai because she was black and he viewed the marriage as bringing shame upon his family.
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In Sweden, a family has found itself reported to Parliament for its violations of anti-discrimination laws. The offense? It’s eight-year-old boy failed to invite two children to his birthday party. It is still unclear whether the “goodie bags” will raise any additional legal questions, but party counsel has been hired for the occasion.

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A 17-year-old boy was decapitated by a roller coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia. It is only the latest mishap on such rides and the matter is being investigated to determine why the teen (with a friend) scaled two six-foot fences to gain access to the off-limits areas.

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Yonkers officer Wayne Simoes has been charged with violating the civil right of Irma Marquez when he body slammed her on a tile floor causing serious injuries.

The video is below.

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New York undercover police officers filmed themselves framing four men in a drug case. The films shows that brothers Jose Colon and Maximo Colon had no contact with the officers despite their sworn statements that the men sold them drugs. The Colon brothers were ruined over the six months, it took to clear their names and are now suing.

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The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God cannot be held liable for injuries to a 17-year-old girl from an exorcism performed on her by the church members. Laura Schubert was cut and bruised and suffered lasting psychological trauma but the Texas Supreme Court said that it is all part of free exercise of religion.

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The cherished institution of marriage in the United States is about to be saved. Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), fresh from his bathroom arrest, and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), fresh from his call-girl scandal, have co-sponsored S. J. RES. 43, dubbed the Marriage Protection Amendment, to bar same-sex marriage. They have joined their colleagues to amend the United States Constitution to state that marriage “shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.” Now, that is a wide constitutional stance.

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The Ninth Circuit has rendered an interesting first amendment decision on the right to cover one’s car with unpopular or obnoxious statements. Matthew Fogel painted his van with such ditties as “ALLAH PRAISE THE PATRIOT ACT . . . F***ING JIHAD ON THE FIRST AMENDMENT! Most notably, he taunted police with “PULL ME OVER! PLEASE, I DARE YA[.]” The police agreed and did precisely that. He was arrested- then forced by police to paint over the words as a condition for his release. He was charged as a bomb threat by Grass Valley, California police.

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Late last night, I filed our challenge to the ironically names “The Fairness for Experienced Pilots Act,” legislation that wipes out the seniority, benefits, and status of pilots who turned 60 before December 13, 2008 — the date of the Act’s enactment. This new Age 60 rule violates a host of constitutional and statutory laws, as the brief below explains.

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In England, Dr. Rehab Al-Jumaily faced a common problem of a parent with a child: bullies. However, rather than the usual calls to parents or teachers, Al-Jumaily decided a more chemical approach: she helped her son bulk up with growth hormones.
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In Seffner, Florida, there are questions being raised about a bar’s drinking contest that caused or contributed to the death of one of the contestants. Eric Morris, 26, died after consuming an estimated 25 shots in 30 minutes.
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Frederick McKaney, 40, of Ypsilanti, Michigan has been charged with an attack with a frozen chicken and attacking his mother with a fork. In addition to assault and battery, he is charged with resisting an officer.
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We have seen fraud, harassment, and even suicide allegations tied to MySpace in the last year. Now, we have an attempter murder allegation against 18-year-old Stephanie Torres for stabbing her boyfriend’s 12-year-old niece, Stephanie Usche. She was reportedly mad at the girl erasing a comment on her MySpace page.
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The pilots on an Air India flight from Jaipur to Mumbai feel allegedly fell asleep in the cockpit and overshot Mumbai. The pilots were halfway to Goa when they were finally roused by air traffic personnel.

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With the final victory of the NRA in securing recognition of an individual right of gun ownership, it will now be time to retire that classic American icon: the “You Will Have to Peel My Cold Dead Fingers From My Gun” Bumper Sticker. This allows still unresolved legal questions to claim the right to use the classic formula of cold dead fingers and hot legal issues. Below are my top ten list but I would be interested to hear your own proposals.
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Justice Scalia wrote a powerful opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, No. 07-290, but the first paragraph quotes the D.C. statute as requiring gun to be dissembled. As many have noted, it is disassembled — dissemble means to put on a false appearance.

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The Second Amendment has always been like the lost continent of the Constitution. Well, today the Supreme Court discovered it — right between the first and third amendments — after 127 years. The Court ruled that the Second Amendment does indeed create an individual right to gun ownership. The opinion can be accessed here.

The Supreme Court also gave a victory to millionaires running for office who can finance their campaigns more freely — or buy guns more easily.

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After a stinging opinion by U.S. District Judge Denny Chin in February, NBC has thrown in the towel on its defense of “Dateline NBC: To Catch A Predator” in the suicide of a former prosecutor. Louis William Conradt Jr. shot himself after the program accused him of engaging in sexually explicit chats with an adult posing as a child. The program then allegedly pushed for his arrest when he failed to show up at a sting operation.
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Talk Show Torts

In light of this week’s settlement in the NBC Dateline case, this past column on talk show liability may be of some interest. From cop shows to talk shows, reality television can suddenly throw average citizens into highly stressful or embarrassing situations. In the recent Dateline case, such actions were alleged as the cause of the suicide of a prosecutor who was accused of sexually explicit communications with an adult posing as a child in a chat room.

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Michele DeKonty, who served as chief of staff at the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), has been fired after invoking the Fifth Amendment and refusing to answer congressional questions over granting favors to certain organizations in federal grants. It is yet another scandal in the Bush Administration that shows how deep the damage has been at the Justice Department. She is accused of cutting corners for faith-based organizations. This is not good news for Regents University, the religious based law school that has been a favorite hiring ground for the Bush Justice Department. DeKonty is a graduate of Regents University and has been compared to that other infamous Regent grad, Monica Goodling.

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In Trenton, New Jersey, Dr. Santusht Perera has been suspended from practice after removing the wrong lung from a patient and then lying to the patient to try to cover it up.

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Rep. James Fagan, a Democrat Massachusetts politician and defense attorney, is under attack for his opposition to the Jessica’s Law (imposing still penalties on child sex offenders. In the video below, Fagan declares that, if the law passed, he would “rip apart” child rape victims to the point to destroying them for life.

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Robert Burck has become an iconic figure in New York dressed in cowboy boots, white cowboy hat, and white underwear. So much of an icon, it appears, that the maker of M & M used a parody of his image in a commercial. U.S. District Judge Denny Chin has now ruled that he can sue for trademark infringement against Mars Inc. and Chute Gerdeman Inc. The culprit? that money-grubbing, opportunistic Blue M & M. He is seeking up to $100 million in punitive damages, plus attorney’s fees.

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An inspector general report has found that the Bush Justice Department barred applicants on the basis of their political views. It is further proof of the open politicalization of the Justice Department by the Bush Administration, including selections for the honors program — long treated as completely apolitical.
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Madonna Constantine, a psychology professor at Columbia, will be fired for plagiarism and misconduct. Constantine drew national attention for claiming that a noose had been hung outside her office.
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In a remarkable admission, former Manhattan prosecutor Daniel Bibb has stated that he intentionally threw a murder case because he did not believe the evidence. The case against David Lemus and Olmedo Hidalgo has become a major embarrassment for District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who is seeking reelection. Lemus was later acquitted and the charges dropped against Hidalgo in the Palladium case.

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I am not one who subscribes to the theory of a pre-election attack on Iran, but it is getting harder with GOP advisers and pundits openly opining of the likelihood or benefit from either an Iranian attack or even a terrorist attack. Pundit Bill Kristol told Fox viewers that, if the American people do not support McCain, Bush may feel that he has little choice but to attack Iran. In the meantime, a leading adviser to McCain has said that a terrorist attack would be a big benefit for the flagging campaign. Finally, John Bolten is penciling an attack on Iran from Israel for pre-inauguration but after the election.

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China officials reportedly taught the good people near Aksu city in Xinjiang a thing or two about team spirit. When the local mosque balked at posting signs praising the Olympics on its walls, the Chinese had the mosque destroyed. That’ll show ‘em.

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Outside Baghdad, an Iraqi official killed at least three soldiers, including at least one American soldier, after he pulled out an AK 47 at the City Council building. The Americans were present to celebrate the opening of of a park in al-Maaden.
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Tran Trong Duyet is hardly someone with a great deal of credibility: he is the former head of the notorious Hoa Lo prison — better known as the Hanoi Hilton. While Duyet has come out for McCain, he has accused him of lying about the torture that he endured. Now, all he needs is a 527 designation and we will be set for November with new Swift Junk ads out of Hanoi.

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George Carlin has died at 71. Carlin represents one of the few entertainers to have a significant impact on the law with his showdown over profanity in his monologues. His famous stand up routine on “”Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television” is linked below. The Supreme Court case on his “filthy words” is linked below as well.

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Many would find it a bit of a curious testament to the late Tim Russert that a junior employee who broke the story of his death was fired for updating Russert’s Wikipedia site. When Russert died on June 13th, the first public word appeared on Wikipedia and NBC officials were irate — since they were still trying to reach family and control the story for their own coverage.

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The Supreme Court knows how to build suspense. While many expected the Court to release its long-awaiting decision on the Second Amendment in the Heller and Parker cases, the Court did not release the decision today. The array of opinions today has fueled speculation that Scalia will author the historic decision.

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California took a major step forward in reversing the steady rollback of student speech rights this year by passing a law protecting the rights of student free speech and prohibiting the firing or suspension of employees for exercising their free speech rights on newspapers and organizations. That is when the sponsor, State Sen. Leland Yee, received a letter from Happy Chastain, senior legislative director for state government relations in the UC president’s office — stating that the school would not comply with the law.

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Sara Haderle, 36, is not what one would call a model mother and Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan is not what one would call a task master judge. Haderle left her 2-year-old and 3-year-old children at home. The pregnant mother then drove drunk, wrecked her car, and then tried to flee the accident. For that litany of offenses, Cretan calculated 90 days as an appropriate punishment.
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The details of the case against Daniel Watson, 31, of Birmingham, Alabama, in Australia are beginning to emerge. Watson is accused of killed his new wife Christina Mae Watson, 26, on their honeymoon while diving on a shipwreck.

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In Chula Vista, California, the owner of a clinic near the Mexican border is accused of posing as a doctor and performing negligent abortions. Bertha Pinedo Bugarin, 48, allegedly caused serious injuries to women, as detailed in a 10 felony count indictment. After performing the procedures at Clinica Medica de la Mujer women allegedly discovered that they were still pregnant.
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In a critical step toward impeachment, the United States Judicial Conference voted unanimously to forward charges against U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous to the House of Representatives for impeachment. He is accused of perjury, accepting gifts from lawyers and violating other criminal and ethical standards. Unless he resigns, he would be the first federal judge impeached in 19 years.
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Former Atlantic City Council president Craig Callaway, his brothers David and Ronald, and a friend, Floyd Tally, and City Councilman John Schultz are all charged in a bizarre blackmail case against another Atlantic City pol, Councilman Eugene Robinson. They are charged with conspiring to film Robinson (who is a minister) in his encounter with a prostitute in a motel room. Craig Callaway is accused of having meetings near the Boardwalk with an FBI agent where he admitted to the conspiracy.
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A Memphis police officer is being accused of brutality after the airing of the video below of his beating a handcuffed transsexual prisoner. The Feb. 12th video shows Duanna Johnson handcuffed at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center after an arrest for prostitution when the attack began.
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For those who fear dentists, imagine one who will not allow you to leave. Dr. John Drew Laurusonis is accused with the false imprisonment of Frances Bales, 36, of Duluth after he suspected that she might not pay her bill. Charged with the good doctor is Leslie Ann York and Acquah Alexander from the Doctors Medical Center in Duluth.

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According to a Florida family, Dr. Wesley Meyers is something of a butterfingers. However, where other clumsy individuals drop fruit bowls, Meyers drops tools down the throats of his dental patients. After requiring a colonoscopy to remove the first tool (a screwdriver) dropped down his throat, Charles Gaal, 90, allegedly died after a second such accident when Meyers dropped another tool down his throat.

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John Freshwater has long been a controversial teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Parents and other teachers accused him of not teaching required science subjects while drilling in creationism into his students. Now, a lawsuit accused him of literally impressing his students with Christian values by branding them.

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The Supreme Court continued the downward spiral of our insanity rules this week. The majority held that a defendant can be held to be competent to stand trial but held incompetent to represent himself — a green light for judges to continue to find clearly crazed individuals sane while denying them the right to act in their own defense. Justices Scalia and Thomas wrote a stinging and well-founded dissent.

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School officials at Gloucester High School are dealing with a new type of Baby Boomers: 17 girls expecting babies in the 1,200-student school. Worse yet, pregnancies appear to have become a type of extracurricular try-out for girls who made “pregnancy pacts” to try to become unwed mothers. The school must now deal with students who seem more interested in passing their pregnancy tests than their science tests. There appears to be a link to the plot of the popular movie “Juno.” One of the most provocative legal questions will be whether statutory rape charges will be brought against some of the males over 18 — including a homeless man — allegedly used by the girls to fulfill the pact.

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A little noticed provision in new legislation would cost some citizens hundreds of thousands of dollars to renounce their citizenship. Congress has come up with another moronically named bill, Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act, that contains the provision. It is designed to stem the tide of Americans renouncing their citizenship due to the double taxation that they face when living abroad.

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Police in Kansas City, Mo., are looking for Jerome S. Sternlieb, 74. While he has adopted the identities of Michael Salerno, Kane, Lanelli, Roberts and Warren, he is known by police as “Casanova,” a man who woes elderly women and then takes their money and runs.

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The democratic leadership is preparing to move a final bill giving immunity to the telecommunication industry after months of waiting for public interest to wane. The new bill would give President Bush and the powerful lobby would it has long sought: immunity from violating federal law and the privacy of customers.

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