Archive for April, 2009

225px-davidsouterAssociate Justice David Souter, 69, has announced that he will retire from the Court after 18 years. The announcement comes as a complete surprise because, at 69, Souter is one of the younger members of the Court and was not expected to retire before John Paul Stevens or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He is twenty years younger than Stevens, who appears intent on remaining on the Court at least for the rest of this term.
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225px-condoleezza_rice_cropped225px-richard_nixonThere is an interesting exchange that has surfaced between a Stanford student and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford. The student confronted Rice about whether waterboarding is torture. She responded with a Nixonesque argument that, if the president ordered it, it cannot be a war crime. It sounds a lot like Nixon’s 1977 statement: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” I discussed the Rice comment on this segment of Hardball.

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levy_markkilpatrick-stockton-logoThere is some more bad news for the D.C. bar this afternoon. Legal Times is reporting that Mark Levy, a well-known lawyer who headed the Supreme Court and Appellate Practice section of Kilpatrick Stockton has killed himself in his office — reportedly by a gunshot of a .38 calibre handgun to the head. The firm had told Levy that he was about to be laid off with a number of other lawyers due to the economy.

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Saudi Arabia flag150px-muslim_woman_in_yemenIts official. Saudi Arabia has its newest eight-year-old divorcee, but not due to any problem in Saudi Arabia with a man over 50 marrying an eight-year-old child. The girl’s lawyer reached an out-of-court settlement with the man who finally agreed to the divorce. A Saudi court twice rejected the mother’s effort to get a divorce for her daughter after the father effectively sold her to the older man as a bride for cash.
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225px-joe_biden_official_photo_portrait_2-cropped1Vice President Joe Biden’s office has had to issue a type of retraction after Biden advised people to avoid airplanes, subways and confined spaces due to the Swine Flu. Of course, you cannot just retract a vice presidential statement, so Biden’s office simply denied what Biden said and offered a new statement that he did not make.
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225px-antonin_scalia_scotus_photo_portraitjoel-reidenbergAssociate Justice Antonin Scalia publicly lashed out at Fordham Law Professor Professor Joel Reidenberg who having his students compile a 15-page dossier on his private life. For civil libertarians, Scalia’s objections to a lack of privacy is analogous to Rep. Jane Harman’s outrage over being intercepted as part of the NSA warrantless program that she helped approve.

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sistersTwo elderly sisters — Elizabeth Marie Grube, 70, and Elaine Volkert, 65 — have been arrested for selling heroin in a type of AARP-certified drug enterprise. Pennsylvania Police seized 400 bags of heroin from Grube home and 988 bags from Volkert’s home. Police also seized quantities of Oxycontin and marijuana in the raids.

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220px-barack_obamatorture -abu ghraibCivil libertarians were a bit disappointed again in President Barack Obama’s press conference on Wednesday. While he reaffirmed that he views waterboarding to be torture (a well-established legal fact), he repeatedly referred to what the Bush Administration did as a “technique” of interrogation and a “mistake.” I discussed the Obama press conference and the torture issues on this segment of Rachel Maddow. I will be discussing these issues again on tonight’s Hardball.

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140px-us_cdc_logosvgAndrew Speaker, the lawyer to cause an international health panic by getting on an international flight with tuberculosis, has filed suit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for invasion of privacy. In his complaint, he blames the CDC on the breakup of his marriage, claiming that the couple went through with the wedding but then broke up after the wedding and never turned in their marriage license. He insists that he never had the worse form of TB, though critics insisted that he did not know that until after he was quarantined.

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180px-bybee1Ninth Circuit Judge Jay S. Bybee responded yesterday to critics about his infamous role in writing some of the torture memos. Notably absent is his earlier denial of being the author of the memos that he signed, according to close friends. He now stands by the torture memos and Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) says that Bybee should be given a medal for rationalizing torture. I discussed the Obama press conference and the torture issues on this segment of Rachel Maddow.
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180px-pig_usda01c0116The Obama Administration is finally getting ahead of this health care crisis: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have told reporters to stop calling this virus the “Swine” Flu — suggesting the ever-so-hip “H1N1′ virus. While it was the pork businesses that led to the change in nomenclature, Israel is moving to drop the reference due to religious objections to pork. It appears that even catching a swine-based flu is religiously problematic. The Obama Administration appears to have rejected “the virus formerly known as Swine Flu.”
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250px-sow_with_pigletImam Amadia Rachid has declared in Salerno, Italy that the swine flu virus is proof that the Koran is correct in its view of pigs. He noted that “We believe that what is happening shows the truth of our faith.” I still think a good solid Divinity School paper would be more user friendly on establishing the superiority of one’s faith.

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pcecompressed_horizontal Teachers at Plain City Elementary School in Utah are under fire after two mothers — Debbie Veldhuizen and Jamie Doak — discovered that their sons were abused in their severe disabilities unit but never told by the school due to privacy concerns. Then, when a teacher’s aide told them, the school fired the aide. They have filed a lawsuit against the school and officials.

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150px-cornwall_waveThe torts bar lost a hero this week. Washington personal injury lawyer Charles Schulze, 73, of Schulze & Pederson died in his rescue of two drowning boys off Pompano Beach, Florida.

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250px-torture_scene_implicates_uae_royal_sheikhSheik Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, the brother of the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Prince Mohammed, has been caught torturing a man that he accused of cheating him in a grain deal. Issa is shown shooting at the man who is bound in the sand and, with the help of a police officer, beating the man and forcing him to eat sand. The torture occurred at the royal ranch and was over a $5000 disagreement — for one of the world’s wealthiest individuals.

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images1The West appears undeterred in its rush to embrace prosecutions for criticizing religion. This week Ireland is considering creating its own blasphemy law to allow for criminal prosecution — the same week as Finland began prosecuting a politician for blasphemy.
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120px-air-force-one-cph-2005A memo has surfaced showing that the Administration expected some New Yorkers would panic at the low-level fly-over of a 747 and F16 in New York. However, they still barred the public release of the “classified” information. It also turns out that the photo op cost the taxpayers $328,835, though no one seems particularly upset about the costs of such a frivolous project at a time when people are being crushed by a recession. President Obama has said that he is furious and has demanded an investigation.

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160px-arlen_specter_official_senate_photo_portraitFaced with dim prospects for reelection in Pennsylvania, Sen. Arlen Specter has announced that he will switch parties. The question is how democrats in Pennsylvania will feel about Specter who supported Bush on critical issues. After eight years under George W. Bush, Specter has come to the conclusion that he is really a Democrat and does not share the same GOP values as his former party.

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130px-wite-out_123Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission is considering disbarment of attorney Loren E. Friedman, a 2003 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, who is accused of whiting out his C grades to increase his GPA. Friedman worked at Sidley Austin for a summer and the hearing board recommended a three-year suspension.
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oxoexThere is an interesting lawsuit by Phillies reliever J.C. Romero who was suspended after testing positive for a banned substance. Romero is suing the manufacturer of 6-OXO Extreme supplement because it did not specify that it included androstenedione, which is prohibited by the Major League Baseball. He is suing Proviant Technologies and Ergopharm.

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240px-tsa_-_logoThe “No Fly” list of the Transportation Security Administration has long been ridiculed for showing little sense or scrutiny in putting people on the list. Despite years of criticism, the TSA shows little concern about the use of the list for arbitrary or capricious actions. That seems to be the case in a story this week of how the TSA allegedly refused to allow a French flight to pass through (not land but pass through) U.S. airspace on the way to Nicaragua because one of its passengers was Hernando Calvo Ospina, who is an author and journalist critical of the past policies of the U.S. in Latin America. He is not the first journalist to find himself on the list.

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225px-george-w-bushThere is an interesting copy of George W. Bush’s speech to the nation where he gave the position of the United States on the prosecution of war crimes — before Americans were accused of war crimes. Back then, Bush gave a standard that showed that he and his Administration knew that there is no “good faith defense” in committing war crimes. He insisted “War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, “I was just following orders.”
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120px-air-force-one-cph-2005In one of the most uniquely stupid acts committed recently by our government, Louis Caldera, Obama’s Director of the White House Military Office, approved an operation where a 747 flew low over New York and the Statue of Liberty with a fighter jet in pursuit. New Yorkers panicked, fleeing buildings and running in the streets — only to be told it was a White House photo op stunt. What they succeeded in getting was pictures of New Yorkers fleeing and screaming what they believed was another attack.
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220px-john_mccain_official_portrait_with_alternative_backgroundOn Face the Nation this morning, Sen. John McCain became the latest figure to publicly state that the Bush Administration violated the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture. It is not clear how many international and domestic figures will have to publicly acknowledge these crimes before Attorney General Eric Holder will appoint a special prosecutor. I discussed the torture issue last night on this segment of MSNBC Countdown.
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150px-muslim_woman_in_yemenIt appears that women in Saudi Arabia will soon be denied the right to work out in athletic clubs. Saudi officials have decided that there is only authority for men’s clubs to be operated and regulated in the Kingdom. Due to the strict separation of men and women, various clubs have started to tailor to women and those clubs now appear close to a shutdown.

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200px-douglas_feith-1In a true sign of the apocalypse, civil libertarians have something to agree on with Doug Feith (the former Bush Under Secretary of Defense for Policy) who is universally ridiculed for his role on some of the most disastrous policies of the Bush Administration. The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion editorial from Feith virtually daring the Obama Administration to investigate and prosecute any crimes related to the torture program. Obviously, Feith is widely viewed as a bit of a clown, but it is time for Holder to stop trying to find a way out and call the bluff of Cheney, Feith and others. He needs to appoint a special prosecutor to allow a neutral prosecutor to determine if crimes were committed.
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70px-coat_of_arms_of_berlinsvgThe citizens of Berlin rejected calls from the Pope, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and others to allow religious classes to be substituted for compulsory ethics classes. It is a victory for those of us who have decried the loss of civics education and the increasing integration of religious training in public education. The campaign was led by a group called Pro Reli — “Reli” is the street name for religious classes.
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jesse-fierstineCriminal cases have often involved a modern problem for killers: the ability of pacemakers to keep victims alive. In Manchester, Iowa, Jesse Fierstine, 32, seems to have realized this when he allegedly beat his sixty-three year old father with a flashlight and firewood — and then cut out Charles Fierstine’s pacemaker out of his chest with a pocketknife.
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280px-david_duke_belgium_2008Former Klan leader David Duke has been detained by police in Prague on suspicion of denying the Holocaust. Despite the universal loathing of Duke and other Holocaust deniers, the arrest hits a difficult issue for civil libertarians. Criminalizing a viewpoint is a fundamental denial of free speech and allows prosecution for unpopular thoughts or views.
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bildeWayne County Circuit Judge Annette Berry had a jury form that only a prosecutor would love: it had not option for a verdict of “not guilty.” The error has resulted in the Michigan Court of Appeals overturning the conviction of Michael Jess Wade, 50, a former security guard who was convicted of shooting and killing a suspected thief.
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humorous-167_smallIn light of the recent defenses made recently on behalf of Judge Jay Bybee, John Yoo, and Steven Bradbury, this picture appears to capture their sudden emergence into the public debate.
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200px-img_1078_jussi_halla-ahoRecently, I wrote a column on how the West has used hate crime laws to create a Western version of blasphemy prosecutions in the Middle East. Finland has now added to the list of countries charging people with blasphemy. Helsinki city councilman, Jussi Halla-aho was charged with blasphemy and incitement of an ethnic-group for publishing on his blog that Islam’s prophet was a pedophile. Mohammad is often accused of being a pedophile due to his marriage to 6-year-old Aisha, which was consummated when she was 9.
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Slain DentistThe trial of Mazoltuv Borukhova and Mikhail Mallayev end with criminal sentences of life without parole for the gunning down of Dr. Borukhova’s estranged husband, Daniel Malakov, 34, in front of their 4-year-old daughter in a playground. The trial was filled with references to religion and the Jewish faith.
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180px-bybee1225px-alberto_gonzales_-_official_doj_photographAccording to close friends, Judge Jay S. Bybee appears to have adopted the Alberto Gonzalez defense: he is now claiming that he did not write his infamous memo and only signed it. This is similar to the defense that Democrats allowed Gonzales to make on the first torture memo at his confirmation hearing for Attorney General, to wit, he did not read an important policy memo on the commission of a war crime, he just signed it. It is the empty suit defense: I really am not to blame when I sign orders or memos because I just sign things. Bybee has not spoken directly on this matter to the public, but there are now various friends saying that he would like to repudiate the memos and even denies writing the memos.
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bill_sm1A Jewish professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara has been accused of anti-Semitism for material that he shared with his students in a course on sociology and globalization. The material critical of Israel led to two students dropping the course and charges filed against Professor William I. Robinson.

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gzinkhanUniversity of Georgia Professor George Zinkhan is being sought by police in connection with the shooting deaths of three people at an off-campus murder scene. Zinkhan is a professor in the department of marketing and distribution at the Terry College of Business. His website entry lists him as the Coca-Cola Company Professor at the school. Zinkhan’s ex-wife is among the victims: Marie Bruce, 47; Tom Tanner, 40; and Ben Teague, 63. All were members of a theater group.

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mvc003s_1Gloucester Massachusetts police have a curious way of dealing with potentially criminal threats. Lt. Michael O’Hanley accidentally broadcasted a threat toward his estranged daughter-in-law over the department radio. However, it was the person who disclosed the threat to the media was that disciplined. An internal affairs investigation also revealed that police Chief John Beaudette knew about O’Hanley’s hreat days earlier than he stated. Beaudette has announced his resignation and retirement. O’Hanley has also retired. Both men were close friends on the force.
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46495098-24163008There is double indemnity and then there is double depravity. Baltimore Pastor Kevin Jerome Pushia, 32, is accused in a shocking criminal conspiracy. He allegedly befriended a blind and disabled man, Lemuel Wallace, as part of his work with developmentally disabled people at his church, The Arc of Baltimore. He then allegedly used church funds to hire a hit man to kill him and collect on life insurance money. Police say that he has confessed to the conspiracy.
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obama-and-gibbsIt is getting rather difficult to follow the line of logic at the White House on the torture investigation. For months, President Obama has been speaking about his intentions as to any investigation into the torture program. Then, this week, he suddenly declared that he should have no role in such decisions. Then the next day, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs declared that Obama did not want to see a special prosecutor. I discussed this statement last night on this segment of Hardball. In the meantime, it appears that new pictures of detainee will be released — though obviously not the videos of torture that were destroyed by CIA officials to prevent their being used against themselves.
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image101Pittsburgh schools have added another loony example of zero tolerance policies resulting in zero judgment. Five fourth-grade students at Fawn Elementary School have been suspended on weapons charges for making pencils into little sling shots to see who could shoot a paperclip the farthest. Principal Kathi Shirey (left) stands by the decision.
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210px-king_abdullah_-_world_economic_forum_on_the_middle_east_dead_sea_jordan_2007Jordan’s King Abdullah II joined the ever-lengthening list of people saying that the United States tortured detainees in an interview to air on NBC Meet the Press. He joins a long list of Bush officials, the International Red Cross, countless NGOs and experts who have come forward in the last few weeks. I discussed this evidence last night on this segment of Hardball.

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250px-95-98_ford_explorerThe Texas Supreme Court has overturned the verdict in a major torts case based on a nine-word note from a juror. During the second-day of jury deliberations in a rollover cases against Ford, a note was sent to the judge from forewoman Cynthia Cortez of the jury asking, “What is the maximum amount that can be awarded?” Cortez even put a smiley face on the note which sent Ford’s attorneys into a panic to settle the case. They quickly agreed to a settlement of $3 million. It was not until after the jury was dismissed that they learned that Cortez allegedly sent the note without the approval of the jury and that the jury was siding with Ford in its deliberations.
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250px-stavenn_bronx_zoo_00While New Yorkers continue to enjoy a rent control system, animals at the Bronx Zoo will be soon sent packing in the search of zoos due to the economic downturn. Hundreds of animals may soon be put out on the curb, including deer, bats, foxes, and antelopes.

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225px-condoleezza_rice_cropped225px-john_ashcroftA Senate Intelligence Report shows that Condoleeza Rice, then national security adviser, approved of the torture program as early as 2002. One week later, Attorney General John Ashcroft signed off the the legality of the torture by finding that the “proposed interrogation techniques were lawful.” It was also revealed that torture was used on Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the first person charged in the United States in the 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen.
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3468207014_ac3d1aed2a128px-apple-logoAs an IPhone and a longtime Apple user (I got the first Apple and never have used anything other than Apple and Mac computers since), I am positively disgusted by the decision of someone at Apple to feature an application where people can have fun shaking a baby to stop it from crying. After international outcry, the company has withdrawn the product.
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220px-nancy_pelosiHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to fend off criticism over her knowledge of the Bush Administration’s plan to torture detainees. Pelosi has adopted a highly lawyered exclamation that she was briefed on the plan but never told that they were implementing the plan. It is a distinction lost on civil libertarians. She was still briefed on a war crime and did not act to stop it.
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New Law School Rankings

usn_logo_bigU.S. News and World Report has released its 2010 law school rankings after they were first leaked by an industrious blog. There appears to be a change in methodology that affected the ranking in the top 25 (George Washington took a big hit in overall ranking while coming in second for its part-time program).
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225px-bill_nye_bscThere is an interesting account out of Waco, Texas where Bill Nye “The Science Guy” was booed for saying that the Moon does not generate it own light — in contradiction to the Bible. This will likely end any dream of Nye to open a new Bill Nye “The Religion Guy” line of products. The speech reportedly occurred in 2006 but the controversy was rekindled after critics cried foul at the removal of the story from the local newspaper’s online archive.

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culberson_derickDerick A. Culberson, 22, is accused to moving beyond the normal roses and dinners to win back a girlfriend. Culberson has been charged with making a false police report that he was robbed at gunpoint in order to get his girlfriend feel guilty for leaving him
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mc816Madonna Constantine, the former professor of the Teachers College of Columbia University who reported a noose found on her door, has filed a lawsuit against Columbia for $200 million after she was fired for plagiarism.
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