Archive for June, 2011

Michigan has implemented some sweeping changes to the role of jurors and judges in trials, including allowing jury to ask questions of witnesses. I have some reservations about the changes below, but I am most concerned over the ability of judges to summarize the evidence. This could invite considerable bias and influence into trials.
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John Lennon fans may be a bit surprised to see an interview in the new documentary, Beatles Stories, with Lennon’s long time friend Fred Seaman. Seaman says that Lennon had moved away from his early radicalism and became a fan of . . . wait for it . . . Ronald Reagan.
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I just saw this on Reddit and I have just one question: what do you give to a Klingon couple for their wedding?

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In Jacksonville, Florida, a decorated Army combat photographer has been arrested and is facing 10 years in jail for checking a wrong box on a passport application. Elisha Dawkins’ crime was merely checking a box “no” for the question, “Have you ever applied before?”
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Don’t Tickle The Terrier

This is Mackie, a Boston Terrier who reacts rather oddly to tickling. That is all.
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It appears that the insatiable demands of cell phone batteries have claimed another victim. Recently, we saw a Florida lawyer arrested for charging his cellphone in a neighbor’s motor home. Now, in Maine, Shaun Fawster, 23, a homeless man has been arrested because a Bangor police officer spotted him using an outside outlet to charge his phones.

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Democratic members have raised a novel argument under the Fourteenth Amendment that the refusal to raise the debt ceiling is unconstitutional. For full disclosure, I was asked about this argument weeks ago by members who believe that forcing the country to default would be not just catastrophic but unconstitutional. I will be discussing this topic today on CNN and tonight on Countdown.
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A French woman has brought charges against the controversial and secretive Catholic society Opus Dei, alleging that she was brainwashed into working as a domestic servant with virtually no pay. This would have been the story line if Silas had simply sued Bishop Aringarosa in The Da Vinci Code.
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As I Was Saying . . .

In Maine, Dr. William Phillips was giving a lecture on heart attacks at the Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston when he had to respond to a man in the audience having . . . you guessed it . . . a heart attack.

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We previously thought that we saw a unique breast milk assault case, but we were wrong. The Delaware County sheriff’s office this weekend arrested Stephanie Robinette, 30, at a wedding banquet hall and charged her with attacking deputies with her breast milk. Robinette is an elementary school teacher at Summit Academy, a school that specializes in dealing with children with autism, ADHD and other disorders.
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The second happiest place on Earth is cutting rationed food to as low as 150 grams (5.3 ounces) a day. That is roughly 375 calories a day for North Koreans in the worker’s paradise.

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For years, we have followed the painful display of Barack Obama trying to deal with same-sex marriage by finding the best political position for himself. Principle has never been part of the equation, of course. The decision whether to stop discrimination against homosexuals is clearly based on what would be the most useful to the President. The result has been rather ugly with Jay Carney prompting laughs with the recent position that the President has been clear that his position is unclear. Now the President has adopted another position tailored for the election.

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A Houston driver appears to have an instant solution to satisfying HOV requirements — after hitting a stranded motorist, the driver allegedly continued to drive with the dead victim in the passenger seat next to him.

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One of my colleagues sent me this incredible story. This is judge Douglas Gummo, 42, who was arrested after allegedly appearing naked in a bed sheet at a female judge’s hotel room door and demanding to be let in. The Huntingdon County District Magistrate has been charged with public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and harassment.

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Hani Khan, a former stockroom worker for Abercrombie & Fitch Co., has sued the clothing retailer for allegedly firing her for refusing to remove her Muslim headscarf or hijab while on the job.

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The late Senator Ted Stevens was once mocked for the “bridge to nowhere” — a massive construction project that would have connected the town of Ketchikan, Alaska with Gravina Island — with 50 residents. Now, during an economic crisis and painful cutbacks, Rep. John L. Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is pushing through a $1.2 billion rail line that is expected to serve just 2,150 commuters a day.

The SunRail project has been widely denounced as a giveaway to Mica’s campaign donor, CSX, which will receive hundreds of millions for its rail line and upgrades. When confronted over the CSX windfall, Mica responded “Everybody has different vested interests. But you look at what is being proposed on paper, and it just make sense.” The problem is that a wide array of Republicans and Democrats have looked at the project (as well as federal officials) and found it to be wasteful.

Yet, even at this time of tremendous budget cutbacks and suffering, our Congress is still incapable of blocking such pet projects. If you recall, the solution to Stevens’ absurd bridge showed how out of touch our leaders have become. In proclaiming the end of the bridge to nowhere and congratulating themselves on actually stopping a single wasteful project, Democratic and Republican leaders promised to let Alaska keep the money. Problem solved.

Source: NY Times

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Egyptian telecom businessman Naguib Sawiris is being sued in various lawsuits for “religious contempt” because of a simple cartoon showing Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie Mouse with a veil. Sawiris is a Christian secularist and was making a joke. However, an Islamic group called the Salafis has led a campaign against him for insulting Islam and demands for prosecution.

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Ok, Nagin’s Crazy

I have to admit that I have never been a fan of former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin who appeared to be the very symbol of dysfunctional incompetence during the Katrina catastrophe. He was universally criticized for doing relatively little during the crisis from his hotel room overlooking the disaster. His reelection left many less sympathetic with the city and, as a former New Orleans resident myself, I was appalled by Nagin’s utter failure to act (let alone lead) during the disaster. Nagin has now written a book that seems intent on showing that he is not really incompetent . . . just completely delusional.
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In a major victory for the first amendment, the Supreme Court ruled that a California law regulating the sale of violent video games is unconstitutional. It was a strong 7-2 vote with only Justice Clarence Thomas and and Stepen Breyer dissenting — an odd couple to be sure from both ends of the ideological spectrum. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion.

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It appears that same-sex marriage is being groomed for a major issue in this election. With Jay Carney insisting that President Obama remains clear that his views are unclear, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann stepped forward this weekend to put the issue front and center in their campaigns. Gingrich this weekend announced that he will lead the fight against same-sex marriage to stop the nation from “drifting toward a terrible muddle.” He said that he would be looking for ways to “defend that view as legitimately and effectively as possible.”
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Attorney Brian Kammer has called for the suspension of further lethal injections in Georgia after he said the execution of his client, Roy Blankenship, was botched with the use of an untested animal tranquilizer.
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We have been following the intra-court war on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the recent narrow victory of conservative Justice David Prosser in his reelection. The prior controversy involved Prosser calling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “total bitch.” Now, fellow justice Ann Walsh Bradley has accused Prosser of putting her in a chokehold during a dispute. Prosser denies the allegation.

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North Carolina prosecutor Eric Bellas, 45, has been placed on administrative leave and removed from the high-profile murder case of Zahra Baker following his arrest this month. What is strange is the charge: drunken bicycling. I do not wish to make light of drunken bicycling, but is it really such a crime that warrants removal from a murder case?
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When an eleven-year-old boy was hit by her car, driver Brittany Gonzales, 21, reportedly did not just drive on like she didn’t care. According to witnesses, Gonzales stopped and got out of her car. Unfortunately, she simply retrieved her hubcap and proceeded to drive away — leaving the boy in the road.
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Yesterday, we took the kids with some friends for one of our favorite hikes along the river on the “Billy Goat Trail.” This is the sign we encountered at the start of the hike. Does this mean some bilingual citizens are counted twice by the National Park Service since they drown in two languages?
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While TSA has finally given into complaints about its staff groping children, it appears undeterred with geriatrics. A family was horrified last week when TSA subjected Lena Reppert, 95, to a 45 minute search and forced her to remove her adult diaper. Reppert is in the late-stages of leukemia and was traveling to her native Michigan to say goodbye.
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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

I’ve lived in the Boston area all my life. I, therefore, have read a lot of news stories about the Bulger brothers—Billy, a once powerful politician, and Whitey, the fugitive mobster who had been “evading” capture by the FBI since 1995. Both my husband and I were astonished when we heard the news that Whitey Bulger had finally been arrested by the FBI in Santa Monica, California, a few days ago. We have doubted for a long time that the FBI seriously wanted to find Whitey. After all, agents at the Bureau had once looked the other way when the mob boss committed serious crimes–including murder–while he was serving as an informant for them.

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-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Do illegal immigrants have a Second Amendment right to own guns? In the case of United States v. Portillo-Munoz, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that illegal immigrants are not part of the “people” protected by the Second Amendment and have no constitutional right to bear arms.

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The Kind Of Boy You Can’t Forget

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger


In addition to writing numerous hits, Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich were The Raindrops, here in glorious STEREO! With studio talk and count-off.

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You Made Your Bed …

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

A little over a month ago, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (left) signed HB 87, an Arizona-like immigration law. The law was designed to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia, and now state officials are shocked feigning shock that it worked.

The resulting labor shortage has meant that millions of dollars of unharvested blueberries, onions, and other crops will be left rotting in the fields. Since many farmers live harvest-to-harvest, the loss of one crop could mean the loss of their farm.

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-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

We have previously discussed the case of Geert Wilders, here, who was accused of inciting hatred with his anti-Islamic diatribes. In an unusual move, the prosecution team had asked for an acquittal. Wilders has advocated outlawing the Koran in the Netherlands, like Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He also referred to Mohammed as “the devil.”

Wilder’s right of free expression has been upheld, the same right of free expression he wants to deny to Muslims.

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Hanky Panky

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger


Written by Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich, we present Tommy James and the Shondells in glorious STEREO!

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Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

The bedrock of modern Western jurisprudence is the supposition that we are free to choose our actions from a range of choices. Some of these choices are socially acceptable and we deem them “legal.” Other choices made in specified contexts are socially unacceptable, and we deem these “illegal.” For those extremely unacceptable actions denominated as “crimes” we reserve progressive punishments to deter their occurrence. Gratuitous violence is one of the most important of these condemned actions, and we have striven for centuries to overcome this endemic feature of our nature. The basic assumption being that we can deter conduct that is the product of free will by imposing undesirable consequences on the actor. How have we done? I suppose the obvious answer is that despite a multitude of approaches ranging from severe punishment to compassionate rehabilitation, we haven’t yet mastered a way to banish senseless violence from our midst. Perhaps it is time to question that basic assumption that violence  is purely volitional conduct.

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For years, many of us have been noting that the United States continues to violate international law and the sovereignty of foreign nations in some of our military assaults on terror targets. We have often asked how we would respond to countries like Mexico sending military personnel into our territory. Well, it happened this week when three military trucks loaded with Mexican soldiers crossed the border at Bridge Number Two into the U.S.

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We have been following the case of self-help guru James Ray, who was criminally charged in the deaths of three people in his Arizona sweat lodge. He has now been found guilty of negligent homicide, though he was acquitted on the manslaughter charge. Once again, I believe the verdict shows the wisdom of the jury system. The jurors reached a fair result given these facts.
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Ok, I assumed that this story was a hoax until I found the mugshot. In a criminal charge that seems written by the Saturday Night Live, Willard Yoder, 26, was arrested in Connersville, Indiana for sending lewd messages to a 12-year-old girl and then going to her house. Unfortunately, that is no so remarkable. However, Yoder is Amish and showed up in a horse and buggy in Rush County. No, there was no extremely slow chase, just a “plain” arrest.
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Tom Melsheimer, counsel for Mark Cuban, has mastered the principle of “brevity is the soul of wit” — and apparently the grounds for dismissal. In a truly brief brief, Melsheimer answered claims by Ross Perot Jr.’s that Cuban has been “reckless and careless” in running the Dallas Mavericks, with a picture of fans celebrating the NBA Championship.
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This is one of the saddest stories I have read this year. An Illinois family is grieving after Taylor Mae Stinchcomb, 15, tried to save the family dog from being put down and stole their minivan. The resulting accident killed both Taylor and the dog, Romulus.
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Recently, in Kuwait, we saw a blogger sued by management at a Benihana for a bad review. Now, A Taiwan court has gone one better: it sentenced a blogger to jail for criticizing a restaurant food as “too salty.”
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Martha Stewart’s line of glass top patio table are attractive, tasteful, and apparently explosive. In Colorado, Nancy Passarella and her family were celebrating Father’s Day when they say that the table suddenly exploded — sending glass flying everywhere.
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Meet Chicago’s Best Bartender

Courtesy of Andrea Bauer (Chicago Reader)

This impressive male specimen has just been declared the “Best Bartender” in Chicago. He is Jason Turley and he is my nephew and Godson. The only thing that problematic is the name of his signature drink: the Creepy Uncle.
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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton took the debate over Libya to a new low yesterday. (For full disclosure, I am lead counsel representing members challenging the constitutionality of the Libyan War). Clinton is largely responsible for entering the United States in another undeclared war. She is now dismissing all of the constitutional and fiscal concerns of members and publicly asking members “Whose side are you on?”
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It turns out that those Jackass guys are not just acting. “Jackass” star Ryan Dunn had an alcohol level (0.196%) twice the legal limit when he took his 2007 Porsche 911 GT3 up to 140 mph before crashing and killing himself and his passenger.
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We have been following the case of fashion designer John Galliano who went on trial Wednesday for making anti-Semitic comments in Paris. It is part of the growing trend in the West of the criminalization of speech. It is not clear what came off more pathetic yesterday, the drug-wasted Galliano or the French court.
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A couple days ago, we saw how an US Airways pilots evacuated a plane and arrested a young man for wearing saggy pants that showed his underwear. Yet, US Airways allowed this man to fly in women’s underwear. I am confused.
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President Barack Obama will reportedly announce tonight that he is going to reduce our current 100,000 troop level in Afghanistan by 30,000 — by November 2012. That date may seem familiar. It is the next election day.
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While the United States presses ahead with our commitment to the latest war (at a projected cost of over $1 billion), Italy has been the latest NATO ally to break with NATO in calling for a suspension of hostilities in Libya. Of course, the Administration still insists that there are no hostilities to suspend. (For full disclosure, I am lead counsel representing the members challenging the Libyan war and its underlying policies).

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New York Woman Burned By Bikini

A colleague at the law school sent this case to me of a woman suing over third-degree burns suffered allegedly due to an underwire in her bikini. Robin Corrente, 50, is suing Coco Reef manufacturer Swimwear Anywhere in Manhattan Supreme Court.
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There is a new report of police arresting a citizen because she videotaped them (below) — this time from her own front yard. According to his report, a woman named Emily Good was arrested after videotaping an arrest of a man at a traffic stop in Rochester, New York.

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Professor David Flory, 68, of Fairleigh Dickinson University has an odd hobby for an academic. Flory was arrested this week in New Mexico and reportedly admitted to running a prostitution website as a hobby and said that he did not make any money off the site. Police say that Flory told them that he created a site on “GoDaddy” “for prostitutes and johns so they wouldn’t have to worry about being busted by law enforcement.”
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