Friday, October 31, 2014

“It is not uncommon for me to pull up at a light and have someone yell something offensive or put up their hands...”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Prop. 47 can help fix prison mental health crisis"

This Sacramento Bee op-ed argues that the $50 to $100 million saved under California's Proposition 47 by recategorizing several low-level felonies as misdemeanors will be reinvested in mental health care and drug treatment, which will reduce the risk of recidivism, thereby lessening the burden on the state's already overflowing prisons and jails. 


October 29, 2014 in Current Affairs, Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"Criminalizing Survivors of Human Sex Trafficking"

This post at the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review blog argues that punishing victims of sex-trafficking for some crimes committed while they're being trafficked -- which they may have been forced to commit -- institutionalizes and prolongs their trauma. Because these crimes remain on their records, many sex-trafficking victims will have trouble finding employment, which in turn increases the likelihood that they'll be re-victimized.

October 28, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cops bring arsenal to collect civil judgement from 75-year-old's Robby Soave notes this incredibly disturbing story out of Washington state, in which the local sheriff's department decided to deploy 24 officers and an armored vehicle to collect an $80K judgement from an elderly junkyard owner for violating local zoning ordinances. As Soave notes, one incredulous captain defended the decision: "People may not always understand why, but an armored vehicle is almost a necessity now." 

I wonder if these lunatics have a support group. 

October 28, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Autopsy “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun…"

...claimed Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist, after the release of the official autopsy of Michael Brown, according to this St. Louis Dispatch report.

October 22, 2014 in Current Affairs, Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Birds of prey are above drones on the food chain*

Sending a message #likeaboss.


* Alternatively titled: Hawkeyes send not so subtle message to Hoosier football team. Game on.

October 11, 2014 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Eric Garner's wife replaces lawyer handling civil rights suit against NYPD following rape allegations

Renowned civil rights lawyer Sanford Rubenstin is no longer representing Esaw Garner, wife of chokehold victim Eric Garner, in her $75 million lawsuit against the NYPD and serveral NYPD officers. Earlier this week a National Action Network official accused Rubenstein of raping her after Rev. Al Sharpton's 60th birthday, effectively ending his involvement in the case. As the NY Daily News reported yesterday:

Rubenstein, who bowed out of the case Wednesday, had hoped his partner, Scott Rynecki, would pick it up.


Garner’s widow, apparently disgusted by allegations that Rubenstein violated an intoxicated woman, chose to cut the cord completely.

Rubenstein maintains his innocence, but Ms. Garner wisely left that mess and acquired Beldock Levine & Hoffman's Jonathan Moore to represent her going forward.

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Garner with a chokehold earlier this year. Garner was unarmed and video of the incident gives little reason to believe he posed any threat. Pantaleo reportedly has a history of complaints alleging civil rights violations. A grand jury currently is considering whether to bring criminal charges against him for Garner's death. 

October 10, 2014 in Current Affairs, Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"They was like, 'Put your hands on the door[.]' I was like, 'For what? This is my house.' I was like, 'Why are y'all in here?' "

...explains a black teenage in North Carolina who was pepper-sprayed by police responding to a call about a possible home invasion. As it turned out, the teen had entered his own home; he's a black teenager living with a white foster family who had just moved to a new neighborhood. This local article explains:

Fuquay-Varina police said when a neighbor saw DeShawn walk in; they called 911 to report a break-in. Soon, three officers were inside the house, all to DeShawn's surprise.


DeShawn said he became angry when officers pointed out the pictures of the Tyler's three younger children on the mantle, assuming he didn't belong there. An argument ensued and DeShawn said one of the officers pepper-sprayed him in the face.

By the time Stacy [Tyler] came home, EMS were treating DeShawn in the driveway. She cleared up the confusion with the officers, but not with the rest of her family.

(h/t The Root)

October 9, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

NYPD is investigating renowned civil rights attorney accused of raping a National Action Network official following Rev. Al Sharpton's 60th birthday party

Sanford Rubenstein had been representing the family of Eric Garner, who an NYPD officer had chocked to death earlier this summer. Now that Rubenstein's been accused of the third-degree rape of a high ranking official in Sharpton's group who had passed out in his hotel room after a party, which medical staff reported to the police when she arrived at the hospital the next day complaining of continuous bleeding, his attention likely will be diverted elsewhere. 

October 5, 2014 in Current Affairs, Excessive Force | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Report: Justice Department May Shutdown Zimmerman Civil Rights Investigation . . . quietly"

Professor Jonathan Turley:

When the Obama Administration sent in a team to investigate civil rights violations in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, some of us expressed doubt over the basis for such a charge as well as the timing of the federal move into the case. Indeed, I washighly skeptical of how the case was charged and prosecuted. Now the Washington Post is reporting that, after two years of investigation, Justice officials do not believe that they have sufficient evidence to bring federal charges.

WaPo: "George Zimmerman not expected to face civil rights charges in Trayvon Martin's death"

October 4, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Colorado school district tries to eliminate civil disobedience from history curriculum

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ICYMI: George Zimmerman allegedly threatened to kill another driver while stopped at a traffic light, then followed him for two days

Really. In a road rage incident.

Indeed, George appears to have anger issues, which have substantially sidetracked his brother's dream of his becoming the next Kim Kardashian.

September 30, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ferguson police officers seen wearing 'I am Darren Wilson' wristbands in show of solidarity with officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown

Survey finds Americans now believe criminal justice system discriminates against blacks, Latinos

At least according to one survey. BuzzFeed's Adam Serwer reports:

A slim majority of whites, 51%, now said they believe the criminal justice system is biased — a smaller percentage than blacks (84%) and Latinos (60%) who said it is, according to the survey.


Majorities identifying as Republicans, tea party members, and and the elderly said they see the criminal justice system as fair, according to the survey. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans and 58% of tea party members said they believe the criminal justice system does not discriminate on the basis of race.


Perceptions about the criminal justice system aside, however, Americans’ perceptions of race and discrimination more broadly break down along racial lines. About as many white Americans who said they think the criminal justice system is racially biased against minorities also believe that anti-white discrimination is as big a problem as discrimination against minorities.


Fifty-two percent of white Americans believe that “discrimination against white Americans has become as big a problem as discrimination against black Americans and other minorities, compared to 35% of Hispanics and 29% of black Americans,” according to the survey. Sixty-one percent of Republicans and 73% of tea party members said discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks — compared to only 32% of Democrats and 47% of Independents.

September 29, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

This portrait will hang in the California Capitol. Seriously. Yes, seriously.

"Those lawful, peaceful protesters did not deserve to be treated like enemy combatants.”

-- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D - Mo.) on the police response to protests in Ferguson during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing yesterday. 

The hearing was set to evaluate the propriety of a policy that sends billions of dollars in military equiptment to local law enforcement across the county.

September 10, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Clinton (finally?) comments on death of Michael Brown, Ferguson protests

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated yesterday that her "heart just broke" for the "unimaginable loss" suffered by Michael Brown's parents as a result of their son's death at the hands of a local police officer nearly three weeks ago. According to The Washington Post's Sean Sullivan, she also lamented the scene that followed on the streets of Ferguson: "Nobody wants to see our streets look like a war zone. Not in America. We are better than that."

I'm glad Clinton said something, but it's troubling that it took her so long to do so. The killing of Michael Brown and the subsequent unrest in Ferguson has raised substantial domestic policy questions, and the media and other prominent political figures have weighed in. Moreover, her comments were extremely blah - no deep personal introspection should have been necessary to arrive at her position. Her comments easily could have been made much earlier without offending any relevant constituencies. So, what gives?

August 29, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, July 14, 2014

R.I.P.: Nadine Gordimer, 1923 - 2014

My wife and I moved to Los Angeles a little more than a month ago. We drove from Cleveland, carrying what little we could in the rear of our car. The rest, including most of our books, we left at my father-in-law's home.

GordimerI'm going to reclaim our stuff in two weeks time. I'm particularly excited to dig into our box of books for our favorite - 'My Sons's Story' by Nadine Gordimer. It's truly a treasure. In his book review for the NYTimes, Robert Coles writes of this spectacular novel set in South Africa during Apartheid: 

A novelist's brilliant decision works wonders, ever so slowly yet decisively. A boy stumbles into his august father's secret life, is stunned by the casual, relaxed manner in which the father is living that life, is confused at the seeming expectation that he, too, an adolescent belonging to a once tight-knit family, will take in stride such circumstances. His perplexity and frustration give way to a sustained, withering scorn - a sardonic voice that keeps at the reader, reminds us that this is a novel meant to look closely and with nuanced force at moral complexity, moral ambiguity, but most pointedly at moral hypocrisy, which is in no short supply among many of us, no matter our nation, our race, our class and, not least, our educational attainment. One more leader, a larger-than-life figure, is found to have clay feet - by his son, who has occasions aplenty to witness the human consequences of such a disparity between a public and a private person.




The idol must not fall - consequently, a public deception persists, and with it a kind of public blindness. It is left to playwrights and novelists, our Shakespeares and Tolstoys and their descendants today (they who have no claim upon factuality or realpolitik) to render the many and often disparate truths of human experience, the inconsistencies and contradictions, the troubling paradoxes. The heart and soul of this brilliantly suggestive and knowing novel is its courageous exploration of such matters, of the conceits and deceits that inform the lives not only of ordinary people but those whom the rest of us invest with such majesty and awe.

Nadine Gordimer died yesterday. She was 90 years old. She will be missed.

The New Republic has collected this series of interviews for your viewing pleasure.

July 14, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Speak! If you're into that sort of thing...

Today in Forbes, columnist Doug Bandow enters the Free Speech/'Duck Dynasty' kerfuffle by way of his request from Santa to "stop people from confusing the First Amendment with free expression." He starts off well, too. He correctly notes: 

Images-4The A&E network suspended Robertson, but that has nothing to do with the First Amendment, which protects against government suppression of speech. Instead, if I don’t like something you say and don’t want to work or even associate with you, that is just life. In a free society that should be my right—both of expression and association—as basic as your right to voice your opinion.


Of course, your family then can threaten to stop working with me, as Robertson’s family has warned A&E. And viewers and potential viewers can decide whether they want to watch or not, which seems to be what most of the country is talking about at the moment. But this battle has nothing to do with the Constitution and the essential framework for a free society. 

All's good and well. I'm in total agreement. Great.

But then Bandow goes further by asking people to refrain from speaking out against speech they find offensive. He writes:

A separate wish, but highlighted by the Duck Dynasty imbroglio, is that people would stop turning every little controversy into a matter of high moral outrage. Why should anyone get excited about what someone on a silly television show says off the set? In a large, complex society like our own, lots of people will believe things and behave in ways which irritate and even outrage us. Life will be better if we generally tolerate the opinions and actions of others.


But there’s no reason to turn the world upside down in response to those who believe ObamaCare will make medicine affordable, consider homosexuality to be a sin, think Republicans are terrible people, don’t like atheists or Catholics (or both), make stupid gender-, race-, or ethnic-based remarks, or are generally obnoxious and clueless. You don’t like what they said/did? Minimize your contact at work. Avoid them at the Christmas party. Don’t visit their barbershop. Refuse to respond to their provocations.


But don’t try to drive everyone you disagree with from the public square. We all benefit from a diverse, vibrant, and provocative public environment despite the irritations and offenses caused by some. A world turned ever more intolerant, nasty, and threatening by zealous PC police of all sorts will be a truly depressing place. Not to mention that we might end up as victims of the new public Star Chamber as well.

First, A&E is not "public square." Robertson's opponents want his microphone taken away, not the suppression of his ideas. That is, Robertson may continue to say exactly what he believes, but his opponents prefer that he do so from a street corner. The right to free speech is not the right to amplified speech.

Second, the First Amendment envisions precisely the type of confrontation from which Bandow wishes people to shirk. It contemplates the need for individuals to speak out against ideas and opinions with which they disagree, and to offer the solutions they believe will best serve society.

The First Amendment's protection of free and open discussion of ideas is further premised on the understanding that such freedom promotes the social good. That is, only in a free and open marketplace of ideas can citizens make the best judgments about the direction of society and its government. As First Amendment scholar Thomas Emerson wrote:

[Human judgment] can seldom rest at the point any single person carries it, but must always remain incomplete and subject to further extension, refinement, rejection or modification. Hence an individual who seeks knowledge and truth must hear all sides of a question, especially as presented by those who feel strongly and argue militantly for a different view. He must consider all alternatives, test his judgement by exposing it to opposition, make full use of different minds to sift the true from the false...


More importantly, the same reasons which make open discussion essential for an intelligent individual judgment make it imperative for rational social judgments. Through the acquisition of new knowledge, the toleration of new ideas, the testing of opinion in open competition, the discipline of rethinking its assumptions, a society will be better able to reach common decision that will meet the needs and aspirations of its members.

How is the marketplace served if people refrain from entering it?

It's not. And calls for people to refrain from entering that space are no less confused than those from people claiming Robertson's suspension oppresses his freedom to speak. 

The Founders imagined a couragous people, not a cowardly one.

December 23, 2013 in Current Affairs, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, November 1, 2013

'Captain Justice' appears in a Tennessee Court

CRL&P is happy to share this fascinating story about a local defense attorney whose passionate advocacy on behalf of his client gave us this:

When prosecutors in Williamson County tried to ban a defense attorney from referring to them as "the government" in court, defense attorney Drew Justice had a demand of his own:

From now on, call me "Captain Justice."

The prosecution apparently thought that reference to it as "the government" was pejorative and was an attempt to prejudice its case, so naturally it filed a motion to quell the term's use. But, Captain Justice was about to loosen his tie.

Justice fired off his own motion in response. It included conventional references to case law, the First Amendment — technical stuff that one would expect in a court filing.

And then he got creative.

If the court sided with Rettig, he demanded his client no longer be referred to as "the Defendant," but instead be called "Mister," "the Citizen Accused" or "that innocent man" — since all defendants are presumed innocent until a judge or jury finds them guilty. As for himself, clearly "lawyer" or "defense attorney" wouldn't do him, well, justice.

"Rather, counsel for the Citizen Accused should be referred to primarily as the 'Defender of the Innocent.' … Alternatively, counsel would also accept the designation 'Guardian of the Realm,' " Justice wrote.

And since prosecutors are often referred to formally as "General" in court, Justice, in an effort to be flexible, offered up a military title of his own.

"Whenever addressed by name, the name 'Captain Justice' will be appropriate."

Gathering steam, he went on to say that even "the defense" wasn't adequate and that "the Resistance" would be far more appropriate.

He then concluded his motion, returning to the formal language of court documents — sort of.

"WHEREFORE, Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm and Leader of the Resistance, primarily asks that the Court deny the State's motion, as lacking legal basis."

The prosecution reportedly was "disappointed" by Captain Justice's response, and wanted to keep its mind on the specifics of the case.

Happy Friday!


November 1, 2013 in Current Affairs, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

San Francisco Chronicle To Ban Washington Redskins Team Name

Via The Huffington Post:

The San Francisco Chronicle has announced it will stop printing the team name “Redskins” when referring to the Washington, D.C. football team -- the latest development in the ongoing controversy stemming from the perceived racial insensitivity of the team's name.

The decision, the newspaper says, is its responsibility as a purveyor of language.

"Words are powerful, and so is how we choose to use them," the paper’s managing editor Audrey Cooper told POLITICO. "Our long-standing policy is to not use racial slurs — and make no mistake, 'redskin' is a slur.”

According to NBC Sports, the Chronicle made the decision on October 25, aligning it with several other publications that have dropped the name, including Slate, Mother Jones and The Kansas City Star.

The paper will refer to the team instead as “Washington,” except in cases where it may be confusing to the reader.

“For example, we will use the team name when referring to the controversy surrounding its use," Cooper explained.

The Chronicle’s decision calls further attention to the controversy surrounding the name, which President Obama recently said the team should consider changing.

"I don't know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things," he told the Associated Press.

The team's owner, Dan Snyder, has vowed never to abandon the name.

October 30, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Opposition stymies gun legislation that would establish mandatory minimums for illegal gun possession

The Illinois House Judiciary Committee has axed a controversial measure from H.B. 2265 that would have established mandatory minimum sentences for illegal gun possession. According to The Chicago Tribune, "Supporters say the measure is aimed at felons, gang members and people in possession of weapons without a valid firearm owner permit." Opponents, however, worry that the measure will send people to jail for up to three years for a simple mistake. The NRA claims, "This specific provision incorrectly targets otherwise law-abiding citizens, rather than deterring violent criminals with harsher penalties[.]" The measure will be subject to further negotiation.

Both sides argee that Chicago has a gang problem. Gang activity in Chicago is increasing, and gang membership has reached 100,000. Gang-related violence is high and guns play a prominent role in much of that violence. One evening last September, for example, gang-related shootings killed 3 people and put 23 more in the hospital.  

But the question of how to deal with that violence remains a difficult one. Mandatory minimums for illegal gun possession reportedly would have prevented as many as 19 deaths just this year, and one study estimates that the law would prevent nearly 4,000 crimes annually. According to DNAinfo Chicago:

The cost-benefit analysis found that more than 63 percent of those on probation for unlawful use of a weapon are arrested again for the same crime within a year, with 7 percent rearrested for a violent crime.

But, mandatory minimums may not be the answer. As the Chicago Sun Times editorial observed:

In the real world, this is what happens: Mandatory minimums, dictated by law, make it impossible for judges to use common-sense discretion when imposing sentences, so judges must nail some poor sap who simply made a foolish mistake with the same harsh sentence they would impose on a hardened criminal. But those mandatory minimums do nothing to reduce the ability of prosecutors to use discretion when deciding what charges — light or heavy — to file against a defendant. The indirect result is that prosecutors, not judges, set the sentence.

Whether establishing mandatory minimums would achieve desired outcomes is debatable, but one thing is certain: curbing gang-related gun violence requires social programs and community investment. As several Chicago officials have observed, social conditions such as high unemployement and underemployement exacerbate the problem. One group has protested South Chicago's "trauma care desert," noting that gunshot victims must be taken as far as 10 miles to receive care--sometimes with deadly consequences.

Some effots have been taken to ameliorate the situation facing youths in areas of high gang activity. In Chicago, city officials reportedly plan to provide social services such as GED programs and help securing jobs for former gang members. Others have tried to create dialogue between rival gangs. Father Michael Pfleger, for instance, has brought rival gang members together through a weekly basketball league. Reportedly, violence in his community has dropped.

Gun regulation likely would be valuable to curbing Chicago's gang violence, especially in conjuction with other efforts aimed at broader systemic problems. But mandatory minimums may be a short-term fix to long-term problems. Maybe not. 

CRL&P related posts:

For more on manditory minimums see Sentencing Law and Policy.

October 23, 2013 in Current Affairs, Gun Policy, Prisons and Prisoners | Permalink | Comments (0)