Below is my column in the Sunday Los Angeles Times on the basis for a pardon for Edward Snowden. It is clear that President Obama (and ranking congressional members) are opposed to such clemency. Snowden embarrassed a great number of powerful people in Washington, including the President. However, there is historical precedent for such a pardon and compelling arguments that such a course may be the right course for the country.
Archive for the ‘Constitutional Law’ Category
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
We have all heard the political arguments for and against an Estate Tax, or as some have called it, a Death Tax. Over the years while I attended several Continuing Legal Education seminars and Trust School presentations, I have often learned about the estate and gift tax avoidance strategy called a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust, or GRAT. Since these estate reduction strategies are best used with very large estates, I have rarely had the opportunity to recommend it to any of my clients or trust customers. Recently, I read an article that provided some documentation just how prominent and popular the GRATS are with the super wealthy.
Just what is a GRAT and why should any of us be concerned with its use? In my opinion, it is important to understand that when the über wealthy complain about any tweaking of the estate tax, most of them pay little or no estate or gift taxes due to the use of techniques like the GRAT. Just how does a GRAT work?
Simply put, the donor transfers money or stock into a trust and if the assets increase in value, any increase in the stocks beyond the principal and the minimum interest rate that must be paid back to the donor, goes directly to the beneficiaries tax-free. When you are talking assets worth millions and in some cases, billions, huge sums of money can escape the estate and gift tax process entirely. (more…)
Below is my column in the Washington Post (Sunday) on our recent victory in the Sister Wives case. The column looks at the most significant aspect of the case — the rejection of morality codes that once controlled across the country in prohibiting everything from homosexuality to adultery to fornication. These morality laws were upheld in the decision in Reynolds in 1876 in a polygamy case out of Utah. The Brown decision returned us to the same question involving the same issue in the same state. Some 136 years later however the answer from this federal court was very different. We are a different country today and, despite what one hears from politicians like Rick Santorum, I believe that we are a better country today.
There does seem to be confusion about the ruling with some saying that polygamy is still not legal after the opinion. That is simply wrong. Polygamy is not the same a bigamy. One is the crime defined under cohabitation statutes of living as a plural family or with a person married to another person. The other is the crime of having two or more marriage licenses. The latter has nothing to do with the structure of your family and has almost exclusively involved people who hold themselves out (falsely) as monogamous. We always argued that the state could prosecute people who obtained more than one marriage license. Bigamy has not been an offense committed by polygamists who traditionally have one official marriage license and multiple spiritual licenses. Indeed, the law targeted polygamy with the cohabitation provision precisely because there is a difference between the two. The state fought for years to preserve this law because it reached beyond simple bigamy. Before this opinion, it was a crime for polygamists to live, as do the Browns, in a plural family. After the opinion, it is legal. This is precisely what occurred in Lawrence v. Texas where homosexual unions were a crime but then became legal when the Texas law was struck down. This decision legalizes tens of thousands of polygamous families who will no longer been viewed as criminal enterprises. They will be allowed to be open plural families. They are now legal relationships. Legality of polygamy is entirely different from recognition of plural marriages just as the legality of homosexual relations is different from the recognition of same-sex marriage.
There is also a lack of knowledge about the existence of such laws outside of Utah. This law does exist outside of Utah. Indeed, the very same language is found in the Canadian cohabitation law. I was called as a legal expert in the recent challenge to that law. However, the Canadian Supreme Court in British Columbia upheld the law. Putting these distinctions aside, the thrust of this article is how this decision is part of a larger trend toward the repeal or the striking down of morality codes, including the rejection of a cohabitation law in Virginia this year.
Below is my column in USA Today on the NSA proposed reforms. I do believe that there are many worthy suggestions among the 46 recommendations, particularly the amending of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. However, what is missing is any true reform in ending this massive surveillance program since the White House panel started with the presumption that it was lawful. What remains are interesting but largely collateral changes. This includes a worthy proposal of adding an advocate to the FISA secret court. However, the panel does not (as with the program itself) seriously consider the need or the questionable legality of the secret court. Indeed, by tinkering around the edges of the program, the task force would effectively legitimize the program for the future. It will become the new normal in the President’s vision of a surveillance-friendly model of privacy.
The task force does call for serious changes in clearance rules however to avoid future disclosures of the abuses revealed by Edward Snowden. What is lacking is one measure that would go far in showing good faith by this President after years of rolling back on privacy: a pardon for Edward Snowden. Such pardons are not given because the subject is innocent or that a president agrees with his actions. They are granted in the totality of circumstances that mitigate the crime, including the disclosure of abuses that were long ignored, if not supported, by both the White House and Congress. A pardon can be legitimately conditioned on certain measures such as the return of undisclosed documents (which is a massive amount of files) and the signing of a non-disclosure agreement to allow prosecution for future disclosures. That would prevent further damage with disclosures, as suggested by at least on ranking intelligence official. I do not take violations of classification laws lightly and I understand the anger of many officials. However, the current standoff is not just undermining the credibility of the Administration but also doing little to limit further damage. I do not believe that Snowden is using the document to force such a pardon which remains unlikely. However, it is time to consider it. Despite the President’s understandable opposition to his method for raising the abuses, the Snowden disclosures have caused a comprehensive and international reexamination of surveillance rules, including new international measures to protect privacy. Perhaps it may be time to stop hunting the man and focus exclusively on the abuses that he disclosed. The column below is unfortunately limited in space, but it tries to raise some of these issues.
There is a controversial ruling out of Texas where, in the view of a dissent judge, the Texas Court of Appeals just decided that “search warrants may now be based on predictions of the commission of future crimes.” If that sounds like an episode of Minority Report, the truth is far scarier. There are no “precogs” just police getting subsequent warrants based a confidential source on the threat of a future crime.
Houston bankruptcy and family law attorney Michael Busby Jr. has filed a rather curious lawsuit on his own behalf (and those of more than 100 people) for alleged fraud by a fortune teller. Busby claims that he gave fortune teller Melena Thorn $2,700 in a box for “cleansing” that she never returned to be part of a husband-wife reunification ritual. (The money was to be placed under the “marital bed” to bring about happier relations). Busby claims also to have paid Thorn $30 for a tarot card reading and $500 for the ritual. Many would be rather embarrassed to participate in such supernatural services, but Busby is taking Thorn to court under a claim of fraud.
There is a truly bizarre case out of Ohio where Norman Gurley, 30, was arrested for having a hidden compartment in his car. However, there were no drugs or guns or anything illegal in the compartment. Indeed, there was nothing illegal in the car or on Gurley. However, just have a hidden compartment in your car can now be charged as a crime in Ohio. It is part of the expanding criminalization of America where virtually any act can be charged as a crime by police.
Zachary Golob-Drake, a 5th grader at the Patel Partnership School in Tampa Florida was elated recently when he won first place with a speech and an invitation to compete in the 4-H Tropicana Public Speech Contest. However, his assistant principal then told him that he would be stripped of his honor because she did not like the topic of the speech, the history of people using religion to justify murder. It is the latest example of how free speech principles are routinely denied to students in public school. Here is a boy who takes on a difficult and highly advanced subject, but is told that he must either give up the first amendment or his first place prize.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon has handed down a blockbuster decision this afternoon finding that the massive National Security Agency surveillance program is unconstitutional – a view shared by many constitutional scholars including myself. The decision is not only a courageous defense of privacy but a reaffirmation of the integrity and independence of the courts. While President Obama often insists that his authority for such surveillance is clear, the Justice Department has fought mightily (and until now successfully) to block all major challenges of the program from securing judicial review. The decision is also an embarrassment to the “reform” boards set up by the White House, including one that just released its findings on the NSA program (including the assurance that the NSA program is perfectly legal).
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was irate this Sunday in declaring that the CIA lied to him and to Congress about a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, being held in Iran. However, unlike demands for the jailing of whistleblowers like Edward Snowden for revealing government abuses, McCain notably did not even suggest prosecuting CIA officials who allegedly consistently and repeatedly lied to Congress. No, he suggests that the latest example of false statements to Congress might require a reexamination of congressional oversight. Now that must be chilling for people who could be charged with federal crimes ranging from perjury to obstruction to false statements to federal officers.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty-(Guest Blogger)
The main stream media was full of stories in the last week concerning a judge’s decision in Michigan to allow the Bankruptcy of Detroit to go forward. What the media seems to have omitted from the discussion, is just how pensions in Detroit and across the country have come under attack.
“Now that a federal judge, Steven Rhodes, has ruled that the bankruptcy can proceed, a central issue will be whether the city can jettison up to $3.5 billion in accrued pension benefits owed city workers (which Orr claims are unfunded). With accrued state and municipal pension benefits protected by the Michigan constitution, Judge Rhodes’ ruling sets a chilling precedent for future municipal bankruptcies.” Truth-out (more…)
Posted in Congress, Constitutional Law, Courts, Environment, Free Speech, International, Justice, Media, Military, Politics, Religion, Society, Supreme Court, Uncategorized on 1, December 14, 2013 | 625 Comments »
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
I believe that it is impossible to deal with any problem until one understands the underlying nature of that problem. The analogy of a Physician treating the symptoms of a patient, but ignoring the cause of those symptoms, comes to mind. We have the medicine to deal with the specific manifestation of an illness like a headache and a fever, but in ameliorating the discomfort of the symptoms, we may miss the underlying pathology. This happened to me last March when shortly after being prescribed a change in the anti-rejection medicines that keep me alive after my heart transplant, I began to get so sick that I needed hospitalization in intensive care. I won’t bore you with the grimy details of this sudden downturn in health, but I must note that my most important bodily functions began to shut down. What is curious about this incident is that my wife, who is internet savvy, immediately began to suggest to my Doctors that I was having a bad reaction to the medicinal change. At first they ignored her as they had Department Heads in Cardiology, Immunology, Infectious Diseases, Neurology, Proctology, Urology and even Dermatology come in to examine me and pore over my medical charts. Finally, in response to my wife’s unfailing advocacy, they returned me to my prior anti-rejection medication. To my Physician’s surprise and possible chagrin the symptoms almost immediately began to abate and within in days I was home from the hospital and on the mend. (more…)
It is with a great pleasure this evening to announce that decision of United States District Court judge Clarke Waddoups striking down key portions of the Utah polygamy law as unconstitutional. The Brown family and counsel have spent years in both the criminal phase of this case and then our challenge to the law itself in federal court. Despite the public statements of professors and experts that we could not prevail in this case, the court has shown that it is the rule of law that governs in this country. As I have previously written, plural families present the same privacy and due process concerns faced by gay and lesbian community over criminalization. With this decision, families like the Browns can now be both plural and legal in the state of Utah. The Court struck down the provision as violating both the free exercise clause of the first amendment as well as the due process clause. The court specifically struck down language criminalizing cohabitation — the provision that is used to prosecute polygamists. The opinion is over 90 pages and constitutes a major constitutional ruling in protection of individual rights.
I have long been a fan of the opinions of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. While we disagree on many cases, Kozinksi often defies predictions and more ideological colleagues in ruling against the government. Chief judge of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and considered a leading libertarian, Kozinski often rules in favor of individual rights — making him a refreshing voice on the federal courts which tend not only to be highly conservative on police powers but also populated by a disproportionate number of former prosecutors. Kozinski’s dissenting opinion this week in the case of Kenneth Olsen continues that legacy and further puts the bias of the federal court in favor of prosecutors into sharp relief. Kozinski opposed the denial of an en banc rehearing with four of this colleagues in the case of Kenneth Olsen, whose trial was marked by prosecutorial abuse. Kozinski began his decision with the chilling but true observation that “There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it.” They didn’t. The court voted overwhelmingly to deny a rehearing in United States v. Olsen,
704 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 2013), a case where the Justice Department failed to fully disclose exculpatory evidence. For those who have been objecting to the expansion and abuse of police powers, it is important to remember that these abuses only continue because federal judges turn a blind eye to them.
Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
The initiative process in Washington State is designed to allow individual citizens to participate in the law making process and collectively to work together to bring this cause to fruition. But is this century old tradition, rather uncommon in the various governments of the world, suffering from the effects of corporate interest and losing its original purpose?
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
This past week the main stream media made a big deal about the unemployment rate declining to the five-year low of 7%. While it was good news that over 200,000 jobs were added to the economy and that the unemployment rate decreased, the economy and main street are still lagging behind Wall Street. The Federal Reserve has been attempting monetary easing strategies in an effort to stimulate the economy. It may have worked for Wall Street, but the rest of us are still catching up.
“The Federal Reserve is the only central bank with a dual mandate. It is charged not only with maintaining low, stable inflation but with promoting maximum sustainable employment. Yet unemployment remains stubbornly high, despite four years of radical tinkering with interest rates and quantitative easing (creating money on the Fed’s books). After pushing interest rates as low as they can go, the Fed has admitted that it has run out of tools.” Ellen Brown (more…)
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
Many blogs have been written here that deal with the phony “War on Drugs” and the negative effects it has on society, particularly those lacking resources, or being people of color. This piece is not about the “War on Drugs”, but this ridiculous “war” has actually driven the abuses of our criminal justice system that is my topic today. Because the “War on Drugs” provides context for this subject I’ve included links at the bottom that supply the context behind my opinions here. Human Rights Watch produced a report this week about how most defendants in Federal drug cases are forced to plead guilty under the threat of the imposition of a mandatory sentence. I read an article in Huffington Post referencing this study and it immediately brought to mind two aspects of law enforcement and prosecution today that raise my ire.
The first is the process of plea bargaining, which I believe makes a mockery of our Criminal Justice System. The second is the concept of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing (MMS) which in my opinion leads inevitably to miscarriages of what we would like to call justice. The idea of negotiation, bargaining if you will, is that each of the two sides has the ability to provide enough of value to be able to establish a mutually beneficial contract. Clearly though when it comes to a Prosecutor bargaining with a defendant there is, except in the case of the wealthy/powerful, an unequal negotiation. The Prosecution has the authority and resources of the State backing it up. Most defendants and indeed most people in prisons, have little resources. In the public’s (thus jury’s) mind, most defendants are really guilty until proven innocent, despite the “presumption of innocence” that is supposedly a hallmark of our legal system. Adding immeasurably to the Prosecution’s resources are “Mandatory Minimum” sentences (MMS). They were instituted by legislators who wanted to appear “tough on crime” and so represent drastic solutions to punishment needs, in order to appear as “tough” as possible. With the trump card of MMS prosecutors are in a position to threaten a defendant to “cop a plea” to avoid a more draconian prison sentence. The Human Rights Watch study shows how these two procedures have become a feature of American Criminal Justice that in my opinion makes a mockery of it. (more…)
If a recent story is to be believed, it appears that there are many things that you can demand to see in the “show me state” but a warrant is not one of them. A Kansas City man is accusing the police department of shocking conduct after he declined a demand that he allow police officers to search his house without a warrant. Eric Crinnian, a lawyer, said that an officer threatened that, if he insisted on his getting a warrant, he would come back in force, bust down his door, and shoot any dogs in the house. The response from a local criminal justice professor is also rather interesting.
Michigan is the latest state to have DNA clear a man imprisoned for years for a crime that he did not commit. What is most striking about the case of Jamie Peterson (right) is that lawyers had fight to re-test evidence that could prove his innocence. Prosecutors opposed the simple re-testing of evidence in the case that was not analyzed previously (as have prosecutors in other states). Finally, prosecutors relented and it was shown that it belonged to a man that police had cleared in first-degree murder in 1998. A second man was arrested this week but police insist that Peterson is not cleared. The case also shows the great cost to the rule of law that was presented by the Supreme Court ruling that there is no right to such testing in a post-conviction case. Chief Justice Roberts decision in the 5-4 case in District Attorney’s Office v. Osborne allows prosecutors and police to resist such simple testing to prove innocence in cases like Peterson’s. Indeed, the Court has produced an all-too-common double standard for citizens. It ruled in 2013 that police could routinely take DNA samples from suspects to use against them but the same individuals have no right to access to DNA testing to prove their innocence.
The Washington Post has a controversial take on yesterday’s hearing in its coverage by Dana Milbank. The hearing raised the serious question of a pattern of allegedly unconstitutional actions by President Obama in either barring enforcement of federal law or directly violating those laws. However, the Washington Post only reported on the fact that impeachment was raised in the hearing in the discussion of the constitutional means left to Congress to address presidential abuse. Republicans object that the Post piece misses 99 percent of the hearing detailing the rise of an imperial presidency under Obama and four hours of discussion of the dangerous shift of power in the tripartite system. Impeachment or presidential abuse. It seems that two hearings occurred simultaneously. Both sides appear to be claiming the other is blinded by bias. The Milbank and Republican accounts appear a modern version of the parable of the elephant and the six blind men.
This morning I will testifying in Congress before the House Judiciary Committee on “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.” The hearing will address areas where President Obama has ordered the delay or nonenforcement of federal laws. While I happen to agree with some of these policies, I have great reservations about this record and its implications for the separation of powers.
By Mike Appleton, Guest Blogger
“Despite suggestions by the President, various Senators, and numerous commentators that the Senate has a constitutional obligation to act on judicial nominations, the text of the Constitution contains no such obligation.“
-Adam J. White, “Toward The Framers’ Understanding of ‘Advice and Consent’: A Historical And Textual Inquiry,” 29 Harvard J. Law & Pub. Pol. 103, 147 (2005)
“… [T]he constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent in the judicial appointment process should be seen as a nondiscretionary duty constitutionally imposed upon the Senate and enforceable by the judiciary.”
-Lee Renzin, “Advice, Consent, and Senate Inaction-Is Judicial Resolution Possible?”, 73 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1739, 1751 (1998)
The Constitution requires no more than a bare majority of the Senate to approve a judicial nominee. How do we know this? First, there are only five situations in which the Constitution mandates super-majority approval: conviction of an impeachable offense (Article I, Section 3); expulsion of a member of Congress (Article I, Section 5); overriding a presidential veto (Article I, Section 7); approval of a treaty (Article II, Section 2); and the convening of a constitutional convention (Article V). Second, under a familiar rule of statutory construction known as “expressio unius est exclusio alterius,” the failure to include a super-majority vote requirement in the Appointments Clause means that no such requirement exists.
Nevertheless, the Senate has been able to transform its “advice and consent” function under the Appointments Clause into a sixth super-majority approval standard through its power under Article I, Section 5 to establish “the Rules of its Proceedings.” And the consequences have been more strongly felt during the current administration than at any other time in our history, (more…)
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
The five alleged 9/11 defendants currently being held at Guantanamo Bay where they have been detained since 2006, are currently preparing their defenses for trials that are scheduled for September 2014. All five defendants have been subjected to what the United States government called enhanced interrogation techniques at CIA black sites even before they got to Gitmo. (more…)
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
The “parsonage exemption” is found in 26 U.S. Code § 107 and states that a “minister of the gospel” does not have to include in his gross income, either the rental value of a home furnished to him or the rental allowance paid to him. Judge Barbara Crabb of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin has held that the “parsonage exemption” is unconstitutional. Crabb wrote in the decision that the tax exemption “provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.”
We have often discussed the lack of separation of temple and state in Israel as well as the control of religious figures on aspects of public life. A story this week vividly illustrates the problem. A rabbinical court has fined a woman hundreds of dollars for refusing to circumcise her baby son and thereby endangering her child. Many doctors are questioning the necessity and value of circumcision, which is generally left up to the parents. However, this is an issue with both religious and medical importance in Israel. The mother was fine $150 dollars every day that the boy was left uncircumcised.
With many of us rolling out of bed moaning from the food the consumed on Thanksgiving, I felt a wonderfully depressing fat story was appropriate to get us back into our guilt-ridden regimes. Maria Kang, fitness guru and mother of three, is not exactly the bedside nurse that you would want on such occasions. Kang has been banned from Facebook after she criticized an online article showing plus-size women in lingerie. While this is not a free speech issue involving the government, there is a question of whether Facebook should have taken it upon itself to punish someone for her view of obesity and what she views as an unhealthy lifestyle. More importantly, the controversy raises the issue of the expanding definition of “hate speech.”
We have previously discussed how Barack Obama has become the president that Richard Nixon always wanted to be. From his Administration’s comprehensive attack on privacy and civil liberties, investigation of journalists, to his claim of unilateral authority to kill citizens, Obama has created an Imperial Presidency that could haunt this nation for generations. He has succeeded with the silent acquiescence of many liberals and Democrats who have embraced personality over principle in continuing to support his Administration. Now, a new report documents how the National Security Agency under Obama has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites to be used as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of people consider radicals. The obvious comparison to Nixon is only dwarfed by the comparison to J. Edgar Hoover, but again the silence is deafening from the Democrats. In the meantime, the so-called “reforms” of the NSA as expected would preserve the massive data-gathering programs of the agency — as guaranteed by such “reformers” as Dianne Feinstein.
In what seems destined to be a blockbuster decision in the making, the Supreme Court has accepted a religious challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The decision could force a reexamination of the Court controversial 2010 ruling in Citizens United in considering whether companies have religious rights to match the speech rights embraced by the Court. The case involves objections from businesses and individuals like David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, who insist that the Act’s required support for contraceptive services violates religious rights. Two cases were accepted: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (13-354); and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius (13-356). I will be discussing the cases this morning on CNN.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit that, if true, would stand as one of the most grotesque and vicious cases of police abuse in recent memory. Marlene Tapia says that she was arrested and forced to strip naked for a contraband examination. The officers at the Metropolitan Detention Center (Bernalillo County New Mexico) claimed that she had a plastic baggie in her vagina and, according to the lawsuit, forced her to bend over and as punishment sprayed mace inside of her vagina.
I am very happy to report that our blog has been inducted into the ABA Journal’s Hall of Fame for legal blogs around the world. We just received word this afternoon with the start of this year’s competition for the top News/Analysis blog. This is also our sixth year in being selected as one of the top 100 legal blogs in the world. Of course, this is the closest that an endomorphic law professor can get to any Hall of Fame. I am grateful to the ABA Journal staff not just for this distinction but for holding this competition each year to feature the wide variety of legal blogs. For all of us who were the last to be selected on sports teams growing up, this is our pudgy, wheezing victory lap. While people like Pete Rose may be a hundred times more athletic, we made it into the Hall of Fame (pending any last minute gambling scandals).
The selection for the Hall of Fame is latest distinction given this site which has strived to offer an alternative forum for those interested in passionate but civil discourse over the legal cases and issues of our day. Special thanks go to our talented and popular weekend team of guest bloggers: Mike Appleton, David Drumm, Mark Esposito, Gene Howington, Elaine Magliaro, Larry Rafferty, Darren Smith, Mike Spindell, and Charlton Stanley. I owe them a great debt for their insightful and gifted postings. The greatest thanks however goes to our readers and commenters who have placed this blog in the top ten most visited legal blogs in the world according to AVVO. We have strived to maintain a civility rule while discussing issues that may divide us. We do not want to be another echo chamber for one ideology or viewpoint. There are ample conservative and liberal sites that cater to that desire for reaffirmation. We value dialogue and different views. While we occasionally have some who stray into personal remarks, we have been remarkably successful in maintaining a high level of discourse. We even have some fun with the more bizarre legal and social stories.
We hope that all of our regulars will take the time to go and vote for the blog in the heavily competitive News/Analysis category. You only have to do a quick registration (used only to prevent vote stuffing) and then you can VOTE HERE.
There is a truly bizarre defamation lawsuit filed against the Tonight Show and Jay Leno by former American flight attendant Louann Giambattista who was the subject of rather crude jokes by Leno referencing allegations that she had snuck a pet rat on flights in her underwear. Giambattista denies the allegations and says that she was falsely portrayed as ”engaging in bestiality and sexual misconduct with a rat.”
Spain is on the verge of passing a draconian measure that threatens fundamental values of free speech. Faced with ongoing protests over economic conditions, the Spanish government is about to make insulting police officers and protesting without permission crimes punishable by fine greater than dealing drugs or prostitution. Not since Franco has the country turned so decidedly against civil liberties and free speech.
Not that long ago, police departments joined together to call upon the United States Supreme Court (with the support of the Obama Administration) to allow citizens to be tracked with GPS devices placed on their vehicles without a warrant or probable cause. The litigants argued that this was a minor intrusion into the rights of citizens and that there was no expectation of privacy in such movements. The Court wisely rejected the arguments in United States v. Jones. Now police in Boston are objecting to a plan to place such devices on their patrol cars as an unwarranted intrusion.
We have previously discussed actual evil twin defenses in past cases (here and here and here and here). However, a case out of Colorado Springs now has a detailed opinion specifically allowing the use of the defense in a major case. District Judge David Shakes ruled Friday that an Army artillery officer, 1st Lt. Aaron Lucas, could argue that his twin brother may be responsible for a series of sexual assaults.
Posted in Congress, Constitutional Law, Courts, Free Speech, Justice, Lawyering, Politics, Society, Supreme Court, tagged Department of Homeland Security, The Electronic Infomation Privacy Center; on 1, November 17, 2013 | 50 Comments »
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
The Electronic Privacy Information Center recently won the first round of a court action asking that the Department of Homeland Security be required to disclose its plans to pull the plug on regional or national mobile telephone and internet communication systems pursuant to its Standard Operating Procedure 303.
“In the classicly-rendered case, DHS has argued that shutting down entire communication networks might be necessary in order to prevent the detonation of radio-controlled bomb or explosive device.
However, siding with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which brought a suit demanding more transparency for the DHS program known as “Standard Operating Procedure 303″ (or SOP303), the federal judge at the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that because the release of the protocol could not reasonably be seen as harming law enforcement “investigative techniques or prosecutions” it’s cited reasons for keeping the details of the program secret did not hold up.” Common Dreams
The so-called SOP 303 could allow DHS to cut-off all internet and mobile phone communications at a regional level or a national level if it determined that there was a national security concern. We have already seen this government tactic used in Oakland in 2011 and that alleged over reach by the Bay Area Rapid Transit authorities may be the reason for EPIC’s lawsuit. (more…)
-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
George Nathaniel III, a pastor of a church in Minneapolis and school bus driver in Burnsville, Minnesota, was terminated from his school bus driving job. Nathaniel said: “To fire a bus driver for praying for the safety of the children” is not right. It is wrong to fire someone for praying for the safety of the children, but Nathaniel is misrepresenting the facts to portray himself as a victim of the War on Christianity.
Posted in Congress, Constitutional Law, Courts, Criminal law, Environment, Free Speech, International, Justice, Media, Military, Politics, Religion, Science, Society, Supreme Court on 1, November 16, 2013 | 154 Comments »
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
In recent years many studies have come out that have made the case that a high proportion of CEO’s of major companies are sociopaths. At the end of this blog I’ll provide a number of links that discuss this, some from major conservative business magazines. We do know that from 1% to 3% of humans are sociopaths sharing all of these 10 characteristics:
#1) Sociopaths are charming. #2) Sociopaths are more spontaneous and intense than other people. #3) Sociopaths are incapable of feeling shame, guilt or remorse. #4) Sociopaths invent outrageous lies about their experiences. #5) Sociopaths seek to dominate others and “win” at all costs. #6) Sociopaths tend to be highly intelligent #7) Sociopaths are incapable of love #8) Sociopaths speak poetically. #9) Sociopaths never apologize. #10) Sociopaths are delusional and literally believe that what they say becomes truth.” http://www.naturalnews.com/036112_sociopaths_cults_influence.html
Now the problem with the definition of Sociopathy is that there can be a good deal of subjectivity in making the diagnosis, absent a clinician interviewing the subject. After all many people are charming, spontaneous, invent lies, try to dominate others and speak “poetically” and that doesn’t make them sociopaths. The subjectivity comes in trying to determine whether a given person is incapable of feeling guilt, shame, remorse and is delusional. A trained clinician may be able to do this via an intensive interview, but the nature of this disorder is such that even a trained clinician can be fooled by a sociopath. Rather than argue back and forth about the negative effects of CEO sociopaths on this society as the root of so much dysfunction, my readings this week suggest another theory that would provide a simpler explanation of why it seems that so many in this country have so little compassion and empathy for the less fortunate among us. We need not deem them sociopaths, but people who are simply removed from the misery that they inflict. The apocryphal story of Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” may well characterize those who control most of this country’s wealth. It may be why some are sincere philanthropists, yet show such disdain and lack a sense of responsibility for the suffering that they cause. Let’s explore this further. (more…)
President Obama is taking a great deal of heat for the cancellations of millions of policies after he repeatedly told citizens that if you like your policy you could keep it. He recently apologized for what seems a classic bait and switch. However, Obama has now announced a fix that raises a more serious question in my mind. Most of us have become used to a relatively high level of dishonesty from our leaders in Congress as well as the White House. This blog has documented whoppers, even perjury, that results in little more than a shrug in today’s political system. However, the “fix” involves the President unilaterally changing that scope and timing of a law. This has been a recurring concern with this President and the rise of the “Imperial Presidency” that he has established within ever-expanding executive powers. I will be discussing this issue today on CNN.
There is an investigation in Fredericksburg, Virginia after the posting of a YouTube clip show police tasering, Lantz Day, 36, for what appears to be 42 consecutive seconds. On the video below, you can hear what sounds like the taser and Day screaming for them to stop. There is no reason that I can see why the tasering continued after Day was down and surrounding by officers, which leads to the concern that officers were punishing him for attempting to run. He was unarmed and under suspicion of property damage.
There is growing tension in Israel between Orthodox Jews and the country’s gay community. As gays and lesbians have fought for the recognition of same-sex unions, Orthodox Jews have become equally vocal in fighting against such recognition. Into this volatile environment walked an Orthodox mayor who showed little evidence of intellect and even less judgment. Moshe Abutbul, the Haredi mayor of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, stated categorically in an interview that there are no gay people in his city and that such people should be left to health officials and the police. The comments by Abutbul, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, resulted in the filing of a criminal charge for incitement. While Abutbul appears a perfect moron, I do not believe that people should face criminal charges for expressing their views — even the absurd thoughts of a hateful religious bigot.
I know how you expect that sentence to end. We have covered endless stories of Christian schools abusing teachers or students due to their perceived lack of faith or morals. However on this occasion, the line ends something like this: “Student Class President Comes Out As Atheist And Christian College By Supporing Him.” That’s right, when Eric Fromm, 21, announced in an article that he is an atheist, he said the school and fellow students at Northwest Christian University went out of their way to assure him that he was valued and appreciated as part of their community. It is a good thing. A happy story. Such places do exist where religious people are both tolerant and pluralistic.
We have previously discussed the inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai, who has captivated the world in her struggle after being shot in the head by Muslim extremists for her advocacy of female education. It is a story that appears destined to be read around the world but not in Pakistan where various organizations have banned it from private schools. One educator objected that she referred to the Prophet Muhammad without using the abbreviation PBUH — “peace be upon him.” For that, she is viewed as a dangerous heretic not a heroine.
As a former public school educator, I have been following what has been going on with school reform in this country. I have written posts about some of the groups and individuals involved in the current reform movement (here), the push to privatize public schools (here), school vouchers (here and here), and charter schools (here and here). Despite all the research that I’ve done on the subject, I hadn’t been aware until recently that there are many publicly funded charter schools across this country that have religious affiliations.
In December 2011, Tiffany Gee Lewis (Deseret News) wrote that there had been a “veritable explosion of charter schools over the past two decades.” She noted that a number of the schools that were riding this charter trend were “founded or authorized” by religious and cultural organizations. As she said, the subject of religion in public schools “has always been a hot-button topic.” She added that “the rise of charter schools that tie themselves to a certain ethnic or religious group introduces a new shade of complication to public schooling.”
According to Jessica Meyers of The Dallas Morning News, “Church-charter partnerships are springing up across the country as private institutions lose funding and nontraditional education models grow in popularity. Their emergence prompts questions about the role religious groups should play in the development of publicly funded schools.” She added, “Critics fear the fuzzy division means taxpayers are footing the bill for religious instruction.”
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
I’m going to use what has become a cliché to open up this piece. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing that has failed over and over again.” Often clichés are expressions of reality that nevertheless express problems faced by generation generations and generations of human beings. In my opinion “The War on Drugs” is not only an abysmal failure, but has gone a long way towards destroying the social fabric of this country and corrupting the efforts of law enforcement, by manufacturing a “problem” that they are pressured to solve. The idea for writing this came to mind this week at my local drug store. My wife had sent me for a decongestant that contains pseudo-ephedrine to treat a persistent cold. These medications which were formerly as matter of course located in the Cold and flu section are by law now kept behind the prescription counter. To make my purchase I had to produce a driver’s license, whose number was duly entered into a computer and sign an affirmation form digitally. Now since I was a loyal viewer of “Breaking Bad” I understood why this was seen to be necessary by the government. Pseudo-Ephedrine is used in one common formula to “cook” Chrystal Methedrine, or “Speed”. The idea that I, a 69 year old greybeard, should be recorded as a potential cooker of “meth”, is so ludicrous that it caused me to think about the whole process of drug interdiction that is the result of the War on Drugs.
The reach of the War on Drugs goes far beyond the control of formerly non-controlled substances and has affected and limited the way Doctors prescribe for their patients. This prescription oversight ever expands the categories of controlled substances and puts every physician under undue government surveillance. To illustrate the silliness of this, from my own experience, let me relate that in 2010 I underwent 3 major, life-threatening operations within a 4 month period. After each operation which involved cutting my chest open (the middle one was a heart transplant) in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit I was being given unlimited dosages of morphine to deal with my pain. In each instance after an operation, after two days, I would refuse the morphine because it was affecting my thinking and the pain without it was tolerable. In each instance after practically having to forcefully deny the proffered morphine in the morning, my request for Xanax that evening to help me sleep was denied, even though my Surgeon had prescribed it. This required a late hour call to the Doctor on call to prescribe it. The nurse was only following procedure, but the scrupulousness of the procedure is the result of the War on Drugs. Physicians now treating people for various pain symptoms are now under very close scrutiny regarding the medications they prescribe. To me this is nonsensical, given that addicts always find ways to get their drugs no matter what strictures are put into place. What follows is my examination of the premises behind the War on Drugs, its affect on all of us and my solution to this “problem”. (more…)
There is a highly disturbing case out of New Mexico where David Eckert has filed a federal case against the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, police officers with the City of Deming and medical professionals at the Gila Regional Medical Center. Eckert was stopped on a minor traffic violation and accused by an officer of holding his buttocks. What followed was a nightmare where officers and doctors subjected Eckert to outrageous abuse as they searched for drugs or contraband in his body.