There is an interesting controversy in Arkansas where Circuit Judge Mike Maggio was revealed as an anonymous commenter known as “geauxjudge.” After being outed from online sites, Maggio apologized and withdrew from a race for the appellate court. The controversy however raises the question of whether such comments should be a subject for ethical discipline and whether judges should have the right to comment anonymously on such sites.
Archive for the ‘Free Speech’ Category
There was a delicious irony to the coverage of a speech by Zhang Chunxian, the party chief of Xinjiang, to journalists. In the authoritarian, one-party state, Chinese leaders speak matter-of-factly about censoring reporters and blocking free speech. In this case, Zhang spoke about the vulnerability of the system of censorship maintained by him and other party bosses. His remarks were then censored by his own censors. Just another day in the worker’s paradise.
Censor boards in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have sunk Darren Aronofsky’s new Biblical epic, Noah. The Paramount movie is now banned because it allegedly contradicts Islam by portraying a prophet and no one in these countries can see an alternative account of religion other than Islam.
Below is my column today in USA Today on the ruling out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit over a ban at a California high school of students wearing tee-shirts with American flags during the Mexican heritage celebration Cinco de Mayo. The opinion is Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified Sch. Dist., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 3790.
There is an interesting ruling out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit over a ban at a California high school of students wearing tee-shirts with American flags during the Mexican heritage celebration Cinco de Mayo. The court ruled in favor of the school out of concern for potential racial violence. We previously discussed this controversy. I strongly disagree with the holding and the logic. The opinion is Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified Sch. Dist., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 3790 .
We have been following the continuing abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public, these abuses continue. The latest case comes from Baltimore, Maryland. Maryland has been previously cited in abuses by police in this area as we discussed. In this case, the officer summed up too many such cases by telling the witness simply “you have not rights.” That simplifies things wonderfully for police and citizens alike.
The crackdown on free speech continues among our Arab allies. This week, Dubai arrested four people for posting insults about companions of Prophet Mohammed on Instagram. Since the companions of Prophet Mohammed are revered by Sunni Muslims, the insults are particularly sensitive in the country with tensions between a majority of Shiites and a Sunni monarchy.
A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled today that Google must remove a low-budget YouTube film that prompted riots and killings in the Muslim world as insulting to Mohammad. The highly offensive film portrays Mohammad as a sexual deviate who invented a religion to serve his own desires. Google has been under pressure from President Obama and others to take down the film. While President Obama publicly insisted that the United States stood by the first amendment, his Administration repeatedly tried to privately force Google to yield to the demands. It correctly refused. However, the same result was achieved today by Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress in the film who was received considerable criticism and hate mail for appearing in the film. She insisted that she was tricked into the role and claimed a copyright violation. The decision in Garcia v. Google, Inc. was written by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (right).
Posted in Free Speech, International, Media, Politics, Society, tagged European Pariament, Eurozone, Free Speech, Internet, Internet Service Providers, Net Neutrality, Networking on 1, February 23, 2014 | 7 Comments »
Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Net Neutrality is in general the practice of prohibiting Internet Service Providers, Telecommunications Providers, and Networking Services from giving favorable access or download speeds to entities they wish to give advantage via preferential treatment relating to agreements or other considerations. End users would under Net Neutrality be afforded with equal access to material unconstrained by their service providers.
The vote is scheduled for February 24th of this year.
Submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor
This past week, thousands of emails from within Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker’s inner circle were released as part of an appeal by his former Deputy Chief of Staff, Kelly Rindfleisch. Ms. Rindfleisch is appealing her conviction on illegal campaign activities during the 2010 Lt. Governor’s race.
“Kelly Rindfleisch was convicted of illegal campaign activity for working on the 2010 lieutenant governor’s campaign of then-Rep. Brett Davis while serving as Walker’s deputy chief of staff during his time as Milwaukee county executive. In Wisconsin, it is illegal for public employees to work on campaigns while on the clock and being paid to administer state services.
Prosecutors found that Rindfleisch traded more than 3,000 emails with Walker campaign staffers, most of which were sent on county time from a secret email system in Walker’s office. Davis, who was Walker’s favored candidate, lost the race but was later appointed by the governor as head of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program.
Rindfleisch was sentenced in 2012 to six months in jail, but her sentence has been stayed as she appeals. She unsuccessfully requested to keep her emails secret while attempting to have her conviction overturned.” Readersupportednews
Ms. Rindfleisch and five other Walker employees were convicted on various illegal campaign activity charges and the emails that were released this week laid bare the mentality of the Walker associates and their actions to work on political campaigns while being paid as state workers. It is a bit amazing that Governor Walker has remained untouched by the prosecutors even though many of these emails that detail not only illegal campaign activities, but some alarming racist and sexist comments, were also sent to him. (more…)
Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Statistical analysis has shown that in the past ten years a great threat has been lurking under every dandelion, apple blossom, and tulip growing in the United States, one that is seemingly innocent but is proven to be even more deadly than we could have imagined. And it is with us nearly everywhere during half the year. Your children playing in your back yard, they are especially at risk to this menacing brood. This threat is not to be taken lightly, as it is even greater than terrorism, which you all know is the worst threat our politicians tell us there is.
My fellow Americans we need to look at the degree our government has gone to protect us from terrorism. The NSA monitors seemingly every e-Mail, telephone call, video uplink, and cellphone record it can to address this threat along with billions and billions of dollars for nebulous programs, fought long wars, all to protect us from terrorism. But if this effort is warranted to protect us from terrorism, it is only reasonable that an even greater effort should be waged to protect us from a worse threat: Bees.
Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
With many reports becoming all to familiar with state sponsored censorship of internet traffic users in these nations are engaged in a cat and mouse game with a government that is showing increasing levels of sophistication and legislative muscle. The tactics often used include filtering objectionable material, firewalling targeted IP addresses, tracing data back to individuals and sanctioning those individuals, and creating a system of fear generally in which the public is dissuaded into engaging in free speech.
The common element in these electronic censorship measures is that the government controls access via the physical structure of the network. They are able to do this through land based infrastructure. But what if these physical vulnerabilities to free speech and press were removed and instead replaced with broadcast satellite systems that are immune from filtering and geo-locating individuals?
Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor
I’m sure many of you have read or heard about Comcast’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable. If these two companies merge, Comcast would then become the cable service provider for one third of the households in the United States. It would also give Comcast “a virtual monopoly in 19 of the 20 largest media markets.” In a press release dated February 13, 2014, Michael Copps, the special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative and former FCC Commissioner, said, “This is so over the top that it ought to be dead on arrival at the FCC. The proposed deal runs roughshod over competition and consumer choice and is an affront to the public interest.” Copps added that the $45 billion deal “would turn the already oversized Comcast empire into a colossus. The combined firms would have the muscle to push competitors out of the marketplace, leaving consumers exposed to continuing price hikes and declining levels of service.”
Copps appeared on Democracy Now! recently. He told Amy Goodman the following:
…This is the whole shooting match. It’s broadband. It’s broadcast. It’s content. It’s distribution. It’s the medium and the message. It’s telecom, and it’s media, too. And it just would confer a degree of control over our news and information infrastructure that no company should be allowed to have. And all of this is happening in a market where consumer prices are going up and up and up, and competition is going down, down, down.
Believe or not, it has been 25 years since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a death fatwa for Salman Rushdie — promising paradise and reward to anyone who killed the author simply because he wrote a book with what was viewed as blasphemous to Islam. For civil libertarians, it was a defining moment where Islam was pitted against the most basic and cherished values of free speech. The world was shocked by the decision even from the radical Iranian government. However, we have not heard much of the fatwa in years. Just to prove that the Islamic clerics remain as fanatical and anti-speech as they were in 1989, senior cleric Ahmad Khatami renewed the call to kill Rushdie and declared that the “historical fatwa” is “as fresh as ever.” What is clear is that, while the world views the fatwa as an example of religious extremism and insanity, the Islamic cleric remain proud of the death order as a pure expression of Islamic law and values.
I previously blogged on an oral argument before Judge Richard Posner where I felt he had shown a surprising antagonism toward privacy and a civil liberties lawyer. Given my respect for Posner as a brilliant academic, I was surprised to read of his open dismissal of arguments that later prevailed in the court. Now, Posner is again the news with a heated exchange with a lawyer, Matthew Kairis, who he said was talking over his questions and refusing to direct questions with direct answers. The case is Univ. of Notre Dame v. Kathleen Sebelius. The oral argument tape below presents an interesting example of how lawyers respond to aggressive questioning from the bench in such arguments.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor
Is there anything more fundamental to a democracy or democratic republic then the ability of its citizens to vote for their representatives at every level of government? The privilege or as many state, the right to vote is essential for citizens to control who is running the local and state and national governments and controlling what direction they want their community and country to go in.
As I write this article, there are groups and indeed, national political parties attempting to restrict the right to vote and restrict the early voting opportunities and attempting to restrict the ability of registered citizens to vote at all. In the past few national elections, we all witnessed the horror stories of people waiting for hours in line to vote on election day. Instead of increasing early voting days and installing additional voting machines in crowded precincts, just the opposite seems to be happening. (more…)
Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor
The following video was created by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Mark Fiore:
By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
Somewhere out there Mildred Loving must be smiling and wondering how things could change so much since 1967. You might recall Ms. Loving as the African-American and Virginia resident who had the audacity to marry a white man and then procreate in the Virginia of the 1960s. Charged with violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, an anti-miscegenation law which criminalized marriages between members of different races, the case was heard in Hanover Courthouse, where liberty’s most eloquent spokesman, Patrick Henry, once argued the famous Parson’s Case. Circuit Court Judge Leon Bazile, whose portrait still hangs in the hallway of the new courthouse, sentenced the couple to one year in prison suspended upon the condition they would leave their home state. In doing so, he announced to the world that Virginia would not step so quickly away from its historical racism:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.
International Humanist And Ethical Union Publishes Comprehensive Global Report On Athiest and Non-Religious Rights
Posted in Constitutional Law, Criminal law, Free Speech, International, Justice, Politics, Religion, Society, tagged Athiesm, Discrimination, Germany, Humanists, Iceland, Ireland, Laws of Nations, Liberty, Niger, non-religious, Religious Freedom, World Reports on 1, February 15, 2014 | 10 Comments »
Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
While many, primarily Islamic, countries have received much press regarding flagrant abuses of religious and non-religious persons or views, seven of which have death penalty offenses for crimes such as apostasy, the true impact for most of the worlds citizens are not as stark but can be often a suffer a form of punishment, repression and imprisonment of some kind for their beliefs.
The international Humanist and Ethical Union published a broad and comprehensive study of world governments listing laws, social constraints, and customs of government for nearly each nation. The study provides a deep insight into how even subtle restrictions on atheists and subscribers to differing religions or non-religions can have a chilling effect on the expressions of their citizens and it is often this subtlety that can become a form of suppression of dissent in surprising areas.
Islamic leaders celebrated Valentine’s Day again this year by denouncing the holiday as anti-Islamic and calling for a “Modesty Day” instead that celebrates such items as burkas and veils. Students clashed today in Peshawar as dozens of liberal students sought to celebrate the holiday and defy orders from religious leaders to boycott the holiday. The result was an exchange of rocks and bricks between the pro-Valentine and anti-Valentine protesters. At least one student was shot and wounded. In Indonesia, warnings were issued that celebration of the holiday was an offense of Islam. In Malasysia religious monitors have been patrolling the streets looking for unIslamic practices. Valentine’s Day has been declared haram, or forbidden.
It appears that Alabama legislators want to trigger yet another legal challenge to the ban on prayer in public schools. A new piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford would require teachers to read a prayer every day. However, this bill has an interesting twist: it would have the teachers pick a prayer given in Congress. The point is obvious that if such prayers are permissible in one government setting, it must be permissible in this public setting. That assumption is misplaced and the timing for the bill may be as ill-conceived as its constitutional interpretation. There is a pending case dealing with legislative prayer before the Court and this controversy will only remind justices that the legislative prayer cases may collide with school prayer cases unless it draws a clear line in the constitutional sand. This however is an improvement for Hurst who has moved on to prayer from his prior interest in castration.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor
On February 7th, 2014, the sad reports were compiled from the deadly day before. On Thursday, February 6th, at least 24 people were shot and 14 of them were killed. Two of the dead were small children. The shootings and killings were from cities and towns all across the country. A 17 month old girl was accidentally shot by her 3 year old brother in North Carolina.
A 13-year-old was accidentally shot and killed while playing with a shotgun in the state of Washington. In Seattle, Washington, a man was shot and killed by a fellow tenant. A man in his 30′s was shot several times and critically wounded in Owasso, Oklahoma. A 18 year man was shot and killed at his uncle’s home in South Carolina. These and others were all wounded or killed by gunfire on February 6th, 2014. Just one sad day out of many. (more…)
Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor
The following video was made by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Mark Fiore:
We have been following the prosecution of French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, 46, for hateful speech in France, particularly his alleged anti-Semitism. While I do not consider Dieudonne funny in the slightest and rather offensive, the prosecution reaffirms the growing divide between the United States and its closest allies over free speech. Now, England has magnified those concerns by barring Dieudonne from entering the country. This sounds strikingly like the equally controversial move against Michael Savage.
Saudi Arabia has long been criticized as a feeder nation for terrorists, including some of those who attacked this country on September 11th. Well, the country is finally cracking down with its own counterterrorism law but it turns out that the law may have more to do with political dissidents than religious fanatics. Civil libertarians are denouncing the law that would allow the arrest of any reformer or government critic as a terrorist.
The confirmation hearing for Debo Adegbile to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has many of the standard elements and witnesses on Adegbile’s career as a lawyer and an advocate. One witness however is not like the other: Maureen Faulkner, the widow of a Philadelphia police officer gunned down in 1981. Now, Adegbile is not accused of gunning down Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner or even being an accomplice before or after the act. No, the witness is being called to suggest that Abegbile should not be confirmed because he represented the man convicted of the murder. Faulkner is being joined by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and the Fraternal Order of Police in saying that such representation is relevant in determining if he should be confirmed. It is move that strikes at the heart of the notion of the right to counsel and due process. Many law students become prosecutors because they fear that representing criminal defendants or controversial clients will bar or hinder their professional advancement while the presidents and members of Congress continue to favor prosecutors for judicial appointments (making the federal bench a sometime hostile place for criminal defense counsel).
There is an interesting dispute in San Francisco after state safety officials fined a pornography company $78,000 for maintaining a dangerous workplace. The citation includes allowing performers to have sex on camera without using condoms. That led to objections that the officials were singling out this controversial but legal industry and they may have a point. Wearing condoms is not legally required, even though it is clearly a best practice for “performers” and non-performers alike. However, the actual complaint against Cybernet Entertainment, the parent company of Internet porn producer Kink.com, was not brought by conservative or religious groups but the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles-headquartered advocacy group.
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)–Weekend Contributor
In the years since the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War began, there have been some sizeable protests and demonstrations, but not quite to the level seen during the Vietnam War. We have seen several significant protests during various economic and political summits and conventions in the United States and around the world, but they have been met with severe police crackdowns. The Occupy Movement is one example of a long-term protest that on more than one occasion suffered through severe police restrictions and in some cases, brutal police tactics.
In response to the 9/11 attacks, the United States passed so-called anti-terror legislation that many claim have usurped and restricted personal liberties. However, several states also jumped on that bandwagon and passed their own anti-terror legislation. The State of Illinois is one of the states that passed its own anti-terror legislation and the use of that legislation prior to the NATO Summit meetings held in Chicago on May 20 and 21st, in 2012 is currently being litigated right now in Chicago in a criminal case brought against 3 protestors known as the NATO 3 under the Illinois anti-terror statute. (more…)
By Charlton Stanley, Weekend Contributor
Last Sunday, former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden was interviewed for the German television network ARD. The interview was big news in Germany and much of the world in both print and broadcast media. However, the interview appears to have been blocked intentionally by US government authorities. In fact, the media in the US appears to have gone to ‘radio silence’ about it. It has been posted on YouTube several times, but is taken down almost immediately. The video site Vimeo has it embedded, but as I write this, Vimeo is under a DDoS attack. LiveLeak also has it, and that video is embedded in this report by Jay Syrmopoulos for Ben Swann’s news page.
Mr. Snowden spoke candidly in a thirty-minute English language interview with the reporter from ARD.
By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
University of North Carolina clinical instructor and academic advisor Mary Willingham got a reprieve of sorts last week. UNC Chancellor Carol Folt admitted for the first time to the school’s board of trustees that the university had “failed students for years” by offering bogus classes, forging professors’ names and changing grades to keep athletes eligible. Jettisoning the party line that 2012′s scandal in the African and Afro-American Studies Department which resulted in an indictment against a UNC professor for fraud was merely an isolated instance, Folt said ”We also accept the fact that there was a failure in academic oversight for years that permitted this to continue.This, too, was wrong. And it has undermined our integrity and our reputation.”
Ukrainian riot police appear to be having trouble deciding who to beat up. BBC is reporting that police stopped a bus heading to Kiev and assumed that they were more protesters. So, they did what has become standard operating procedure for Ukrainian police: they proceeded to savagely beat the occupants. It turns out that they were government supporters being bused to support the government in its effort to break away from the West and sign a trade deal that will place the country under the domination of Russia. What is amazing is that, after being beaten by the government, they reportedly proceeded to the rally in favor of the government and all the good things it brings to the people of the Ukraine. Now those are the types of supporters that would have made Stalin proud. In the meantime, the police succeeded in capturing a real protester and reportedly tortured him and left him to die in the cold. He has survived to tell the tale.
We previously discussed the case of Max Mosley, the ex-Formula One boss, who became infamous on the Internet after the posting of a video showing him in a sadomasochistic orgy. The story broke in the now defunct News of the World tabloid and reported the scene as a five-hour orgy with five prostitutes dressed as Nazi guards — a particularly embarrassing performance given the fact that Mosley’s father, Oswald, was the pre-war leader of Britain’s fascist “blackshirts” and even invited Adolf Hitler to his wedding. Mosley, 73, prevailed in a court action in showing that the party did not have a Nazi theme and that his privacy was violated. Now he is continuing what can only be described as a scorched Earth campaign against everyone who has carried the photos and announced a new lawsuit against Google. In a move that raises concerns over the censorship of the Internet, German court ordered the Internet giant to block photos of him at his sadomasochistic orgy.
We have an interesting defamation case out of California where Courtney Love was found not guilty of an allegedly defamatory tweet directed against her former attorney Rhonda Holmes. The increase in social media and Twitter has led to new challenges under defamation law that we have been following. Such “twibel” cases are still evolving in terms of the standards and potential liability. In this case, Love had sent a tweet reading “I was f***ing devestated [sic] when Rhonda J. Holmes esq. of san diego was bought off.”
Washington Legislature Bans State Agencies From Releasing Personal Info To Federal Government And Threatens Individuals In Order To Protect Their Fourth Amendment Rights
Posted in Congress, Constitutional Law, Criminal law, Free Speech, Justice, Society, Torts, tagged 10th Amendment, civil rights, Criminal Law, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment Protection Act, Liberty, Washington State on 1, January 26, 2014 | 16 Comments »
Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Contributor
The Washington State House of Representatives have crafted House Bill 2272 titled “The Fourth Amendment protection act” with the purported purpose of protecting state citizens from unwarranted collection of data that is provided to various agencies of the United States government without a search warrant. The act includes provisions that allow for a citizen to be arrested for complying with the U.S. government and sanctions local agencies and employees with even harsher penalties. One has to wonder which is a greater threat to individual liberty, the actions of the federal agencies targeted or this potential state law.
The United States Secret Service has interviewed a Republican candidate for the Florida House of Representatives after he made a comment on Twitter about the need for President Obama to be tried and hanged for his crimes. It was a uniquely stupid tweet but the controversy again raises the question of the federal law making threatening language against the President a crime. For years, elementary students, journalists, and even cartoonists have found themselves being confronted by Secret Service over comments or pictures deemed threatening. The effort is chilling for the first amendment and inimical to political speech.
We have previously discussed the increasing discipline of both students and teachers for conduct outside of the schools. Now a case in Central Florida raises a significant free speech issue after a student was kicked out of his high school, Cocoa High School, for working in the porn industry. At first glance, this might appear reasonable but the problem is that Robert Marucci is 18 and therefore allowed to work in the industry. The industry itself is legal. Thus, the school has expelled a student for engaging in lawful conduct that many feel is morally repulsive.
I enjoyed the game with the kids last night between the San Francisco 49ers that sent the Seattle Seahawks. That amazing game however was marred by a bizarre rave from cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman immediately followed the win with a screaming and unhinged rant. The question is whether the Seahawks should be able to discipline Sherman for such a disgraceful performance — just after an equally disgraceful taunting of the 49ers. I would be the first to defend the free speech rights of Sherman to act like a street thug and even diss opposing players like San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree. However, the Seahawks drew well-deserved praise on this blog for moving against thugs in the stadium in the prior game with the 49ers. How about the thugs on the field? This is not an attack on free speech by the government. The question is whether a company can discipline an employee at work for behaving like a thug. UPDATE: Sherman has been fined by the NFL for his taunting shortly before his outburst on television.
There was an important decision last week in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in which a panel ruled that bloggers are entitled to the same protections as journalists. The decision is in sharp contrast to the view of Senator Dianne Feinstein and Obama Administration officials who have fought against such protections for bloggers in a new federal shield law. The opinion was handed down on January 17, 2014 in Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox.
Did Edward Snowden Receive Help From A Foreign Government or is The U.S. Government Alleging He Did To Discredit Him?
Posted in Congress, Criminal law, Free Speech, International, Justice, Media, Politics, Society, tagged CIA, congress, Dianne Feinstein, Edward Snowden, Espionage, FSB, NSA, Whistleblower on 1, January 19, 2014 | 31 Comments »
By Darren Smith, Weekend Blogger
Recently, several high ranking members of the U.S. Congress have made public statements voicing proffering NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden might have had assistance from a foreign power, namely Russia. The announcements have been contemporaneous with President Obama’s speech about the NSA and reforms he proposes. While it has not been proven decisively if Edward has or has not one has to wonder what the intentions of such announcements by Congress are and if these announcements are consistent with others who have been alleged to be acting at the behest of foreign powers and if this is more propaganda than standard counter-intelligence practices.
By Lawrence E. Rafferty, (rafflaw) Weekend Blogger
We have all heard of the so-called War on Drugs and the recently maligned War on Poverty, but I submit that the real war we should be worried about is the War on the Poor of this country. The War on Drugs has not done much to stop the use of illegal drugs and the recent legalization of the sale of marijuana in Colorado may be a small step in the direction of ending the War on Drugs which has only succeeded in jailing thousands on minor drug offenses. The African-American community has been especially hard hit by this failed attempt to end the use of illegal substances.
However, the War on the Poor is in full swing and seems to be succeeding. One only has to look at the Farm Bill which is set to cut the SNAP program by anywhere between the $4 Billion in the Senate version and the $40 Billion in the House version. At a time when this same Congress is refusing to extend unemployment compensation, they are attempting a monumental double whammy by cutting the ability of the needy to survive by cutting Food Stamps. (more…)
Posted in Academics, Animals, Bizarre, Congress, Constitutional Law, Courts, Criminal law, Environment, Free Speech, International, Justice, Lawyering, Media, Military, Politics, Religion, Science, Society, Supreme Court, Torts on 1, January 18, 2014 | 55 Comments »
We recently discussed a weight-loss advocate who was taken off Facebook for potential hate speech in criticizing a plus-sized clothing ad campaign. Now, Marilyn McKenna of Washington State says that a similar thing happened to her. McKenna posted an image to show how much weight she lost (over 100 pounds) only to have Facebook reportedly inform her that the picture was inappropriate for promoting “idealized physical appearances.”
The situation is getting worse for homosexuals in Nigeria by the day. The country has been taken over by a violent homophobia that led a few years ago to the enactment of a draconian law criminalizing homosexuality. Police recently have been arresting homosexuals and torturing them to name others for prosecution under the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which allows for ten years in jail. The law is not just about marriage. Called the “Jail the Gays” bill, it criminalizes homosexuality and threatens AIDS programs in the country. The question is that, as the recipient of a great deal of U.S. aid, why is it appropriate for us to indirectly support a nation that is abusing, and in some cases killing, gays and lesbians?
Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
In recent weeks and months, we have all heard and read the many articles and stories about the whistleblower Edward Snowden and his disclosure of enormous amounts of NSA “secrets”. His disclosures have exposed what the NSA was really doing, which is spying on practically every American’s metadata online and on the phone. His disclosures have also put on display what happens to a “whistleblower” in this day and age. He has been forced to flee his home country and is currently living in exile in Russia.
Just what were his crimes that made him fear for his safety and raised doubts as to whether he would ever be given a fair trial for his alleged disclosures of secret material and programs? He did what any good American should do and that is expose illegal or immoral governmental activities and allow the American public to decide whether its government is acting legally and fairly. Didn’t he?
You may think his disclosures were an unprecedented example of a citizen uncovering and disclosing government programs designed to, at best, skirt the line of legality by spying on Americans, but you would be wrong. (more…)
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
When I was a young lawyer twenty-five years ago or so, I remember a particularly enlightening client meeting. A 30ish woman had scheduled an appointment to discuss a sexual harassment case against a prominent lawyer in town. Being the new guy at the firm but with some considerable jury trial experience even then, I was asked to sit in while our senior partner met with the client. The client arrived and began a convincing narrative about a sexually charged work place replete with provocative innuendo, being subjected to daily dirty jokes, some pass-by groping in the hallway and even arriving at the office in the morning with an open Penthouse magazine on her desk. Despite complaints to the other partners with nothing of substance being done, she claimed, the client had taken all she could and resigned citing this treatment as the reason. Since the claimed harassment involved a superior and a text-book hostile work environment seemed evident, we were seriously considering taking the case despite what we knew would be a no-holds barred defense.
By Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
Shezanne Cassim of Woodbury, MN returned home from the United Arab Emirates after spending nine months in prison in Dubai for posting a documentary-style video, titled “Ultimate Combat System: The Deadly Satwa Gs,” which is set in the Satwa district of Dubai. It opens with text saying the video is fictional and is not intended to offend. The video pokes fun at Dubai youth who style themselves like “gangstas” and shows fictional “combat” training that includes throwing a sandal and using a mobile phone to call for help. Authorities evidently took great exception to this expression, arrested Cassim and later placed him into a maximum security prison. The arrest took place in April of 2013 and it was months before he and several co-defendants were informed of the charges. A state controlled newspaper stated he was accused of defaming the country’s image abroad. Cassim’s supporters stated he was eventually convicted of violating a 2012 Cybercrimes law prohibiting challenging of authorities.
By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
This is the third of a multi-part article on the Public Interest Defense and its application to the the Edward Snowden situation. The defense is not recognized in America but other nations have considered this legal mechanism to provide an appropriate way to deflect criminal charges from whistleblowers like Snowden. Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 can be found here.
We found in parts 1 & 2 that the absolute right to a public plebiscite on punishment for political crimes goes back centuries to at least the time of Publius Horatius. We also saw that rulers have used this right to manipulate outcomes to further their own interests in deflecting blame or attacking political opponents. In modern times, the jury has replaced the assembled citizenry but the motivation of rulers to limit or channel the ancient right to their own ends remains. Even in America where the defense doesn’t technically exist but where its cousin, whistleblower protections, do, the urge to rein in messengers of truth remains.
The Public Interest Defense Abroad
Imagine the most influential prosecutor in modern America uttering the following words about the public’s right to understand the secret inner workings of its government:
We have repeatedly discussed the corrosive effect on schools with large sports programs. This influence can be seen in lower academic standards to ethical violations to actual shielding of criminal conduct. Despite such scandals, the blind support for popular football and basketball programs continues with excessive salaries for coaches and the continued use of students for this profitable and popular non-curricular function. Professor Mary Willingham is feeling the full brunt of that distortive and often unhinged support for sport programs. She committed the sin of publishing a study showing lower standards for athletes in money-making teams for the university. The reaction was an array of threats against her life and a university that has disavowed her research after first denying knowing of research that it once supported. The university has now gone into radio silence — adding to the appearance of yet another institution unwilling to address such problems.