The recent news about Cyprus banks confiscating depositor’s funds sent chills throughout the financial world here and abroad. I couldn’t believe that the plan in Cyprus hinged on the idea that the bank could just steal customer’s funds to balance the bank’s books. I muttered to myself when I read the story that something as crazy as that couldn’t possible happen here in the United States. Unfortunately, I learned that the plan to pull a Cyprus type grab here was already in the works. (more…)
Archive for March, 2013
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Author’s Note: Grace Under Pressure is an on-going series of posts honoring everyday people who courageously make positive differences in their own lives and consequently in the lives of others. It is my own personal affirmation that unexpected heroes reside among us and that they serve as quiet but unshakable proof that virtue really is its own reward – and ours, too.
Every year, Henrico’s (VA) Deep Run High School holds a dance marathon to help local charities. The event is wildly successful raising over $1 million since its inception in 2007. The kids start their dancing on Friday night and 27 shaking hours later the exhausted participants rightly toast their accomplishment with some donated punch and soft drinks. This year they toasted more than a marathon.
Sophomore Michael Schiavo was the top fund-raiser this year bringing in an impressive $7,161 in donations. But according to Michael, he got a lot more than he gave. Michael suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. DMD is a genetic based dystrophy that attacks 1 in 3600 boys. It usually manifests itself in infancy and causes a wasting away of muscle tissue that is replaced with fat and fibrotic tissue leading to fibrosis. The average life expectancy for patients afflicted with DMD is around 25.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
To some of us the transition from slave to citizenship by those Africans brought in chains to these shores for economic exploitation and horrific abuse ended with the “Emancipation Proclamation”. To others its’ end might have been marked by “Brown v. Board of Education”, or by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Those of somewhat more insightful bent may have said that the true emancipation occurred when Barack Obama was elected President in 2008. In my view, as much of an impact as all those milestones (and more such as Jackie Robinson i.e.) made to American consciousness, Black people in the United States clearly still lack the benefits and rewards of citizenship. I would go further and say that in the United States, at this time; most Black people still suffer the degradation and challenges brought about by both institutional and emotional racism. This is not to say that in our country other groups, such as Latino’s and Native Americans are free of oppressive prejudice, but to assert that given their history in this country Black people are slotted into the bottom of the economic and social ladder and are still struggling to obtain even those most minimal of rights that most Americans see as their birthright. (more…)
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the other same-sex marriage case, Hollingsworth v. Perrry, a case involving California’s voter approved ban on gay marriage, also known as Prop 8. UCLA professor of constitutional law Adam Winkler reminds us that oral arguments is the time when justices “hostile to a lawyer’s argument often reveal their disagreement through penetrating—sometimes devastating—questions.” Sometimes penetrating, sometimes devastating, and sometimes the court is not pleased.
The spiny freshwater turtle population is less than 1000 according to Canadian reports, but they found a windfall of dozens of the turtles recently. The problem is that they were dead and on a Chinese menu. Yet, the Chinese owner will face only a relatively small fine for this violation. In killing and sell these turtles for soup (and contributing to the possible loss of a species) the owner will face less of a penalty than a car theft or bad check.
John Cassidy has a remarkable story out in the New Yorker this week about a sweetheart deal cut by the Justice Department with one of the wealthiest men in the world, Steven A. Cohen (who may be pictured here at a standard picnic, or not). Cohen’s company would pay $626 million but not have to admit any wrongdoing and Cohen would face no personal sanction. The billionaire appears to be celebrating this month with a buying spree with a Picasso painting and a huge new mansion. What is amazing is that various Cohen subordinates have pleaded guilty and Cohen has been tied directly to an insider trading allegation. Yet, he appears to “too big to jail” as a continuation of the Obama Administration’s bifurcated legal system for the super rich and the rest of us.
Saudi Arabia has long shocked the world with its medieval Sharia justice system, but nothing prepared most of us for the recent execution in Jazan, Saudi Arabia. Faced with Mohammed Rashad Khairi Hussein, a Yemeni man accused of murder and sodomy, the Sharia court ordered him first beheaded and then crucified. This is not the first such sentence under Sharia law. A man in 2009 was ordered beheaded and then crucified for being a gang leader.
Dale Peterson, the Alabama Republican running for Agricultural Commissioner, has railed against “thugs and criminals.” Yet, Peterson is facing a second shoplifting charge in just five months. The latest charge however is over a handful of nuts that he ate at a Sam’s Club. Indeed, it is hard to see why either of these charges were brought rather than requiring a simple payment at the counter.
In Chickasha, Oklahoma, Anthony Black, 21, was arrested for a particularly risky act of shoplifting. Employees at Ross Seed Company were concerned because they thought a man was handicapped and was having trouble walking. They then thought he might be drunk. They then realized it was probably the chainsaw stuck down his pants.
John Goodman, 48, recently lost his freedom for 16 years and now it appears that he has lost his beloved adopted daughter. Goodman is the wealthy founder of the International Polo Club Beach in Wellington, was convicted of killing Scott Patrick Wilson, 23, while driving drunk. Facing a civil lawsuit from his family, Goodman has legally adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Laruso Hutchins, as his daughter to protect some of his money. Now it appears his daughter is back being his girlfriend after an appellate court ruled that her adoption was a sham and fraud. It was the continuation of Goodman’s effort to establish himself as one of the worst human beings on the planet.
There is an interesting case out of Disneyland this month where a paraplegic man was stuck on the famous (infamous?) Its A Small World ride after a breakdown and sued for emotional distress. It is the scene of countless parodies of people going mad in the ride. What is interesting is that Jose Martinez, 52, was only left for 30 minutes and it was at the end of the ride as they were leaving the goodbye tunnel. While the music continues to play, it was only for 30 minutes as they fixed a mechanical problem. Nevertheless, Disney was hit with damages to the tune of $8000.
We have long followed the horrific record of China on the environment. The Chinese regime has continued to push for high production rates as the number of “cancer villages” and lethal pollution rises across the country. This record has made China the worse environmental violator in the world. Now, greed has combined with power to make for what could be one of the greatest single environmental losses with China expanding its destructive record to Latin America. Ecuador has announced a plan to auction off more than three million hectares of pristine Amazonian rainforest to Chinese oil companies. The loss of such pristine areas (and unique species within it) will cause incalculable damage to feed China’s insatiable demand for energy.
In recent weeks, Muslims in Bangladesh have marched on the capital demanding death for atheists who have simply openly blogged about their their beliefs. Islamic groups have denounced the blogs as an insult to Mohammad and Islam and demanded arrests. In the meantime, they have attacked atheists and engaged in violent attacks in the name of Islam. They have killed eight people as part of their moral crusade. Rather than arresting the culprits, the government has moved against the bloggers.
Today, the Supreme Court will take up the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), the law signed by Bill Clinton that denied benefits and equal treatment to same-sex couples. This follows yesterday’s interesting, and at times heated, debate over Proposition 8 in the Hollingsworth case. I will be on MSNBC today discussing the case with NPR’s Here and Now at 12 and then Martin Bashir at 4 p.m.
While much of the attention this week is on the two same-sex marriage cases, an important ruling was handed down on Tuesday that constituted an increasingly rare victory for the Fourth Amendment under search and seizure law. In Florida v. Jardines, the Court ruled 5-4 that police need a warrant to use a drug-sniffing dog on the exterior of a home. It was a surprise ruling for some of us — a surprise magnified by the author, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
California is in extreme economic stress, but you would not know it from the continuing retirement packages given to local officials. Despite past scandals involving grotesque pensions in California and other states, Alameda County supervisors continue to award themselves breathtaking benefits as in the case of retired County Administrator Susan Muranishi who will receive $423,664 a year for the rest of her life.
While we have been recently discussing the environmental meltdown in China, including unimaginable river pollution, it is important to keep in mind our own environmental problems. A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency captures how bad the situation is for our surface water. Fifty-five percent of U.S. river and stream lengths were found to be in poor condition for aquatic life due to fertilizers and other runoff.
There is an interesting story out of Galveston, Texas where officials say that a vial of hemorrhagic fever has gone missing from a research facility at the University of Texas Medical Branch. What is striking is that the school has simply said that the vial was probably lost in a cleaning process. I represented Dr. Thomas Butler who was charged with numerous national security counts for the loss of vials of plague. I was brought into the case by the National Academy of Science members who were alarmed by the abuse of this esteemed scientist by the Bush Administration. With the encouragement of federal officials, Butler was vilified in the media as “Dr. Plague” in an absurd federal prosecution despite the fact that he revealed the missing vials and also thought that they were likely cleaned. Yet, the Justice Department not only pursued him viciously but enlisted Texas Tech University to make unrelated contracts claims against him to try to force a plea bargain. Butler is one of the leading experts on plague and is revered by many for his selfless work in some of the poorest areas of the world. He went to jail (on the contract claims) while the Justice Department is just shrugging off the loss of this vial on the same theory.
For months, conservatives and conspiracy theorists have been flogging a story of a huge arms buildup within the Department of Homeland Security. I was a bit taken aback by the purchase of roughly 2 billion rounds by the DHS as well as a report of the purchase of 2700 light-armored vehicles. However, it seemed like the coverage was over-wrought and that such bulk purchases could be viewed as efficient contracting to get the lowest possible price. Yet, now the DHS has reportedly ordered 360,000 addition rounds of hollow tip bullets (sometimes called Dum-Dum bullets) in addition to huge prior orders. I do not understand why such an arsenal has to be created within this one agency, particularly the use of these bullets designed to maximize damage to the human body.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Anthony G. “Tony” Spencer of Caroline County seems to view “paralegal” to mean “extralegal.” The Virginia State Bar disciplines Spencer this week with a public reprimand after sending a paralegal undercover to spy on an attorney to discredit a statement he made in court.
Russians are very upset with the EU bailout of Cyprus which involved tapping larger bank accounts to pony up the money needed to secure the loan. Russians use banks on the island and could lose billions. I happen to agree that the plan is grossly unfair and penalizes those who have saved their money in a responsible fashion. Yet, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev seems to be channeling not just Lenin but Joe Biden in a recent bizarre public statement that in Cyprus “the stealing of what has already been stolen continues.” The comment left many scratching their heads on precisely what the Russian leader was saying about wealthy Russians.
Below is today’s column in USA Today. It is a follow up to my speech at the National Press Club on the 4oth anniversary of Watergate. The event included a number of Watergate figures from Daniel Ellsberg to Liz Holtzman to Alexander Butterfield and others. It was an extraordinary event organized by Common Cause.
In a highly questionable ruling, New York Supreme Court Judge Robert Mueller (left) enjoined the showing of Lifeline’s film, “Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story,” which tells the true story of University of Rochester student Christopher Porco (right) who murdered his father with an axe and tried to murder his mother. It is a case of prior restraint and is rare in the United States. Proco had sued that the movie uses his name “for the purposes of trade.” However, Porco is a convicted murderer in a high-profile case from Nov. 2004. It is not clear how Mueller believes that such cases depictions are not covered by free speech but thankfully Mueller was reversed by the appellate court.
We have previously discussed the lower criminal sentences handed down in England in comparison to the United States. Some such cases truly shock the conscience as in the case of Jordan Sheard (left). Sheard had long bullied Steven Simpson (right) for being gay as well as for his speech impairment and epilepsy. Sheard got Simpson to strip to his underwear and wrote gay slurs over his body which was covered with tanning oil. He then lit him on fire at his birthday party.
British businessman Jim McCormick is accused of a dangerous and despicable con. He is charged with making slight modification to cheap golf ball detectors and then selling them as bomb detectors at a “handsome but unwarranted profit.” McCornick allegedly would charge various governments up to £27,000 for the devices that were entirely useless. The ball finders can be purchased for just $20 in the states.
I woke this morning to find this Spring scene in my backyard. While I do not mind snow, it is a bitter pill for my kids who get a snow day while on Spring break when there is no school. At five this morning, I ran out to bring in the Spring plantings that we bought two days ago. I acted on the best of advice: Punxsutawney Phil assured me of an early Spring and once again the world’s most famous living rodent was wrong. The late Winter has already resulted in calls for beheadings and criminal charges for Phil.
Brett Zorse, 50, (shown here in a photo from Facebook) reportedly had a curious defense when he was accused of fondling a female passenger next to him on a JetBlue flight with his 12-year-old son. The alleged victim told police that when she confronted him he told her crudely that at least he did not penetrate her. Not exactly the best criminal defense the New Yorker could stake out on a charge of assault. He told police that he thought he had “bonded” with the 32-year-old woman. However, the federal assault provision seems dangerously vague on the element of this crime.
By Mike Appleton, Guest Blogger
Lawyers who do commercial litigation are familiar with the concept known as “piercing the corporate veil.” A principal purpose for doing business in corporate form is to avoid personal liability for business debts. But the veil of protection afforded by the corporate entity can be lost under certain circumstances, exposing a controlling shareholder to personal liability. Although the application of the concept varies a bit from state to state, the general rule is that “courts will look through the screen of a corporate entity to the individuals who compose it in cases in which the corporation was a mere device or sham to accomplish some ulterior purpose, or is a mere instrumentality or agent of another corporation or individual owning all or most of its stock, or where the purpose is to evade some statute or to accomplish some fraud or illegal purpose.” Biscayne Realty & Insurance Co. v. Ostend Realty Co., 109 Fla. 1, 148 So. 460, 564 (1933).
In short, no majority shareholder would concede that his company is his alter ego. Right? Well, maybe not. Recently some shareholders have been arguing, and successfully, that their companies are indeed mere instrumentalities.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
Much has been written about New York City’s stop and frisk policies, but until now, the evidence of who the police were stopping and why was not a matter of public record. A recent class action suit has opened the door to learning the true numbers involved as well as the accurate demographics of just who is getting stopped by the NYPD. “New York police officers testifying before a federal court this week said that racist quotas imposed by ranking officers are behind the police department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program, confirming years of accusations made by civil rights and community advocates that the department’s tactics disproportionately target minorities. (more…)
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Stung by the historic defeat in last year’s presidential election, the GOP has embarked upon a relaunch of its ideology. RNC chair Reince Priebus has approved a strategy paper (click to read) composed by Republican bigwigs Henry Barbour (Haley’s nephew) and Ari Fleischer that makes a remarkable discovery:
The Republican Party must be the champion of those who seek to climb the economic ladder of life. Low-income Americans are hard-working people who want to become hard-working middle-income Americans. Middle-income Americans want to become upper-middle-income, and so on. We need to help everyone make it in America.
In one of the truly moronic acts from a government official, the Department of Education posted a mangled quote of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong on its website as the saying of the day for children. It is clear that whoever approved it had no idea who Mao was or the atrocities that he committed, particularly during the Cultural Revolution when intellectuals were massacred. The quote was taken down after various sites pointed out the irony. It was replaced by a quote from Lincoln.
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official daily newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, published an Op-ed by Hassan Ouda Abu Zaher. The Op-ed states: “to the lie about Al-Qaeda and the Sept. 11 events, which asserted that Muslim terrorists committed it, and that it was not an internal American action by the Freemasons.” While there are many conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11 attacks, there are usually relegated to fringe websites. Unsurprisingly, no evidence is presented to support such a fanciful claim.
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
We previously discussed how the number of dead pigs in Chinese rivers leading to Shanghai has increased from a few hundred to just under 1000. The number is now 16,000 and counting. Yet, Chinese officials insist they have no idea who dumped over 16,000 pigs into the water but that the rivers, used for drinking water, is completely safe.
We have been following (here and here and here and here and here) the worsening situation in England concerning free speech. As noted in a recent column, free speech appears to be dying in the West with the increasing criminalization of speech under discrimination, hate, and blasphemy laws. Now, a French Jewish student group is adding its name to the movement to curtail free speech rights. The Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) is demanding 38.5 million euros after Twitter has declined to turn over the identity of people responsible for comments deemed anti-Semitic by the group. The students appear to have no concept or at least concern for the loss of anonymity in free speech. Like others, they are focused only on their insular grievance with no appreciation for the harm caused by such court orders.
Austin Whaley may be barred from saying one word but he is luckier than Tyree Carter who is barred from all libraries anywhere in the world. In Racine, Wisconsin, Carter has been accused of engaging in lewd behavior in a library. He has been ordered to stay out of “all the libraries on the face of the earth.”
All professors have a pet peeve that can produce stern warning or even requests to leave a classroom. However, Professor Danny Lloyd may have the most unique. In his anatomy and physiology class at a community college, he will flunk anyone who asks about Stanley Kubricks “The Shining.” It turns out that Lloyd played the creepy kid, Danny Torrence, in the movie.
For the white-topped, Dauber-clutching Bingo set, Austin Whaley, 18, was a notorious outlaw and brigand. During a game of Bingo in Covington, Kentucky, Whaley was arrested for the prank of calling out Bingo . . . and he was not even playing. Yes, thrill crimes had come to Covington and this roaming gang of youths left a room in shock and disgust. Fortunately, Park Hills Police Sgt. Richard Webster was present and arrested the Bingo Bandit. Kenton District Judge Douglas Grothaus then handed down a sentence that left the boy speechless, well partially speechless.
It appears that, while Saudi Arabia will kill citizens for blasphemy, they do not appear to have much respect for Islamic history or preservation. Photos snuck out of Mecca show wholesale destruction of ancient sections of holy sites as part of an expansion project. What is astonishing is the lack of any effort of preservation due to . . . you guessed it, Wahabi clerics who declared that the sections are better destroyed in the name of Islamic principles. It is ironic that, as a non-Muslim, I am outraged by the loss of such historical areas. Photos of the destruction were published here by The Independent.
In Hollywood, Sahar Thabit, 35, appears vying to replace Joan Crawford as the reigning “Mother Dearest” in Hollywood. Thabit is a devout Muslim who is charged with burning her seventeen-year-old daughter for corresponding with a boy when she was already promised to a cousin for marriage. The honor burning was discovered by the girl’s school.
The New Jersey delegation clearly likes to travel . . . on someone else’s tab. Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) is reportedly under grand jury investigation for those trips to the Dominican Republic. WIth or without prostitutes, as we discussed earlier, the trips are highly problematic. Now, there is an ethics investigation of Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) who once vowed to “drain the swamp” of corruption in the House. It appears that Andrews needed to get out of the swamp for expensive trips that were allegedly paid for by campaign funds.
For years, I have been struck by the trend in schools for recognizing everyone or no one in awards ceremonies. Last year, I watched an award ceremony where everyone not given any award for academic excellence was given an award at our public school. The same logic appears to be motivating Principal David Fabrizio of Ipswich Middle School in Massachusetts. Fabrizio has ended a long standing tradition of “Honors Night” because the failure to be part of it could be “devastating” to the students not receiving honors. He noted that some children do not have parents who are supportive at night and do not make honors due to poor home conditions.
This weekend, Caleb Gordley, 16, was shot and killed in a home that he mistook for his own after sneaking out for a party. The homeowner confronted Gordley on the stairs inside the home and said that the teenager ignored a warning shot. The shooting occurred after the failure of a “Castle Doctrine” law in Virginia’s General Assembly – a law that we have discussed previously on this blog that gives homeowners protections in the use of lethal force with anyone illegally entering their domicile. Ironically, the bill was shot down by gun groups that felt that the common law offered more protection.
Shawn Moore is a certified firearms instructor for the National Rifle Association and a New Jersey hunter education instructor. He was proud of his son for recently passing his hunter’s permit course and posted this picture of his boy in camouflage holding his .22 rifle. A Facebook “friend” saw the picture and reported him to the New Jersey police and Dept. of Children and Families for child endangerment. Moore says that his home was raided, searched, and he was threatened with the loss of custody in response to the complaint.
Lindsey Lohan appears to be practicing method acting for the role of the Butcher in Henry VI who proclaimed “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Lohan was captured by TMZ muttering to her lawyer to shut up and badgering him while he tried to defend the serial celebrity defendant. She punctuated her court commentary with “Oh my god, I’m going to kill you.”