Sunday, October 7, 2018
Like many of you who were concerned about the confirmation and hasty swearing in of our newest Supreme Court Justice, I woke up this morning tempted to despair. As I caught up with the public statements of McConnell, Collins, and others, however, I realized that there’s no need to fear for the independence of the judiciary—especially as it relates to criminal justice reform and mass incarceration. Indeed, those of us who spend our days in prisons, jails, courtrooms, and classrooms—worried about the school to prison pipeline; implicit (and explicit) racial bias; institutionalization; and whether our indigent clients can ever get a fair shake in this country—now know for certain that we have new champions in our corner, new converts to our cause: Republican Senators!
Mitch McConnell, who for years has played a leadership role in the Senate, supporting, for example, the war on drugs, disparities between sentencing for crack cocaine and powder cocaine convictions, the federal death penalty, and limitation of federal habeas relief, has now proclaimed himself the Standard Bearer for the Presumption of Innocence! Mitch, welcome to the team! I would never have guessed that this was your pet issue! Criminal defense attorneys don’t judge, however; it’s never too late to start spending time with people of color just hoping they can get a jury of their peers to see them as human beings! As they say on The Price is Right (not a reference to your donor base)… Come On Down!
And Senator Susan Collins, dang girl! I’m totally borrowing from your statement in my next appeal challenging the sufficiency of the evidence of a criminal charge! This is good stuff:
...we will be ill served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness, tempting though it may be. We must always remember that it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy...
I literally couldn’t have said it better myself. I know it must have taken a good deal of principle to risk alienating your base, which—let’s be honest—has supported you more for your votes supporting, say, withholding federal funding from sanctuary cities and authorizing (and extending) the Patriot Act. But you did it!! You planted your feet and stood up for the little guy facing the awesome power of the federal government arrayed against him. Well, not quite—but close enough.
So this is just an educated guess, but I suspect our new Presumption of Innocence Champions are going to start with national bail reform. I mean, that’s kind of low-hanging fruit, so it only makes sense. Divorcing considerations of wealth from considerations of whether a (presumed innocent) defendant will show up for court is a no-brainer! First, it supports the new Republican cause celebre (sweet! political points scored!). Second, it saves money (which is Republicans’ second favorite thing!) related to the expense of housing presumed-innocent defendants as they await trial—some for as many as several years. Third, it keeps families together until there has been a definitive adjudication of guilt. That only makes sense for Senators Collins and McConnell. I can’t wait to stand with them on this!
The next steps in criminal justice reform are anyone’s guess, really, and the sky’s the limit! There are so many many many many opportunities in America to support the ideal of the presumption of innocence and protect those facing charges when “fairness is most in jeopardy,” according to Senator Collins. All I know is, I want in! I mean, I’ve been waiting my whole career for someone to listen to the voices crying out in the wilderness for true justice for those facing criminal accusations. Oh me of little faith.
Monday, February 29, 2016
NYU Law Review Seeking Submissions on Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
NYU Law Review is seeking submissions for its online publication on the Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. You can find the original message posted on the Michigan State Indigenous Law and Policy Center Blog, Turtle Talk, and also linked here.
They are looking for pieces that discuss the case itself, its legal background and importance, and its implications for Indian and non-Indian country alike—particularly Indigenous women’s issues and its insights into women’s issues in general. If your clinical practice intersects women's issues, enterprise issues, or tribal issues I encourage you to research the case. It may infuriate you, but a minimum you will have a better understanding of the legal obstacles Indian tribes face in federal courts, most especially our Supreme Court.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
The LA Times just reported that The US Supreme Court has denied stay to Warren Lee Hill. "A man with the emotional and cognitive ability of a young boy," according to Brian S. Kammer, Mr. Hill's attorney.
If you aren't aware of this case, here are a few quick links to bring you up to speed:
For an external perspective, see these pieces from the UK (a country who seems to be providing more coverage than our own):
My head and heart hurt, and I am so very exhausted from the many battles we have been fighting these days on issues surrounding #Blacklivesmatter. I suppose this is just one more horrific story to add to that growing list. So for now, I have little to say except this...I am making a commitment to my clinical colleagues to talk about this with the faculty, staff and students here at Gonzaga and in my community.
Despite the wrongs you may have committed, your life matters Warren Lee Hill.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
There has been rightful focus on the Supreme Court’s most groundbreaking recent pronouncements: rejection of warrantless cellphone searches, establishing for-profit corporations’ rights to religious choices (!), and mandatory union dues curtailments. Because it was not, perhaps as socially consequential as those decisions, last Wednesday’s 6-3 ruling against Aereo, an upstart Over-The-Top (OTT) internet service, went under the radar, so to speak. Speaking to the Media Law and Policy teaching side of my brain, the Court held that Aereo, an internet provider of broadcast programs, directly violated the copyrights of ABC, FOX, CBS, NBC, and other “traditional” broadcast networks. The decision preserved—for now—broadcasters’ exclusive ability to control the re-transmission and licensing of its programs. On the other hand, the decision was a temporary setback for the ‘cord cutters.’
Cord-cutters, most of whom are Millennials, are those media consumers who have elected to do away with traditional television viewing, going so far as not just refused to subscribe to cable television, but not own a television at all. As a result, cable companies have seen a marked decline in subscribers. At the same time, broadcast and cable companies have chased viewers onto the internet, their laptops, their tablets and their smartphones. Television networks, in fierce competition with the likes of online networks such as Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime, have Hulu, Hulu Plus, or their own online channels streaming network content. Aereo posed a real and further threat to cable and broadcast television revenue streams.
Broadcast networks bring in billions of dollars per year from cable companies by permitting them to air broadcast programs such as ABC’s Modern Family. In addition, the owners of those shows (which may or may not be the network’s parent company) can yield untold revenue by licensing syndication rights to cable networks or OTT streaming networks such as Netflix. In that context, it should be apparent why the networks were so concerned about Aereo, whose technology captured broadcast signals by way of miniature antennas on large antenna boards, and provided broadcast program downloading and time-shifted viewing or recording. While charging subscribers between $8-$12 per month for the service, Aereo paid the program owners nothing.
The broadcasters executed a bold legal strategy that paid off. They argued that Aereo was legally liable for direct infringement (primarily liable for re-transmitting copyrighted work), as opposed to indirect infringement, or secondary liability. For the Supreme Court, the issues came down to two seemingly simple questions: Was Aereo performing a copyrighted work, and if so, was it performing it publicly? Justice Breyer, writing for the majority, answered both questions “yes.”
Aereo’s position was that it was simply a “dumb pipe”—like a set of rabbit ears or a VCR—that any consumer could purchase and use to watch or record programs. Justice Scalia, in dissent with Justices Alito and Thomas, agreed, arguing that Aereo was more like the Kinko’s that provides a patron with the library card: It’s the patron that may violate copyright law when copying the book, not Kinko’s.
The majority disagreed, and held that Aereo was acting more like a cable company, through which subscribers can elect which shows to watch or record. Moreover, despite the fact that Aereo technology assigned an individual to each antenna, and even if subscribers were watching the same show, a separate copy of the show was made for each viewer, the Court said Aereo was providing the show to the public. Consequently, Aereo was bound to seek copyright permission from the copyright holders—just like cable companies.
The decision will likely ring the death knell for Aereo and similar streaming servicers (e.g., FilmOn), if Aereo’s weekend decision to suspend its streaming service is any portent. On the other hand, the decision was a tremendous victory for broadcast networks. By ruling not just that Aereo was liable for copyright infringement, but directly liable, the Court spared television program copyright owners the fate that befell the music industry. The Napster and Grokster decisions caused the record industry to engage in nearly a spate of “John and Jane Doe” lawsuits—chasing individual consumers for alleged or actual illegal downloading and sharing of music. Those lawsuits—tens of thousands—proved to be both economically costly and a public relations disaster for the industry. Copyright holders of television broadcast content, for now, will be spared a similar fate.
Even if Aereo ceases to exist in its current form, there are other internet businesses that allow consumers to view broadcast programming without the aid of cable or satellite infrastructure. In addition, virtual multiple-system operators are seeking to aggregate television channels and deliver them by broadband connection. However, under any regime, how the business makes money will be, well, the $64,000 question. In light of the Supreme Court’s Aereo decision, paying for content from television broadcasters will be a given for the foreseeable future. For now, cord-cutting Millennials will have to find another OTT to watch their favorite broadcast show.
Friday, April 25, 2014
Here is an op-ed I wrote for Gannett on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Paroline vs. U.S.: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/opinion/2014/04/25/congress-listen-child-sex-abuse-victims/8172953/. The battle to help restore victims of child pornography will now shift to Capitol Hill. There is a critical role for law school clinics to play and I hope that you will consider joining the effort.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
This morning the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Paroline v. U.S. (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-8561_7758.pdf). The case involved the question of how to determine restitution for victims of child pornography. Although the majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan, agrees with the victim and the government that restitution is mandatory, it held that courts should determine on an individualized basis each defendant’s unique role in the causation of the victim’s losses and then be held liable only for that limited amount.
This interpretation renders the mandatory restitution statute (18 U.S.C. §2252) untenable. Child pornography victims are routinely harmed by thousands of perpetrators many of whom are never identified, let alone prosecuted. It places a significant burden on courts, the government, and victims to try to calculate the relative harms caused by each individual perpetrator. Moreover, perpetrators are routinely found to possess or distribute child sex abuse images involving numerous victims. Thus, courts, the government, and victims would have to make this complex determination for each individual victim. The process as described would be highly inefficient, ineffective, and will lead to victims reliving their sexual abuse trauma indefinitely through the court system.
Thus, a legislative solution must be generated. According to the dissent, which was drafted by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Scalia and Thomas, “Congress set up a restitution system sure to fail in cases like this one.” Congress simply imported a generic restitution statute “without accounting for the diffuse harm suffered by victims of child pornography.” According to the dissent, the mandatory restitution statute is untenable and Congress should be given the opportunity to fix it.
Justice Sotomayor also dissented, but on entirely different grounds. She, essentially, agrees with the victim in this case, “Amy,” that each defendant should be held liable for the full amount of each victim’s losses. She, too, invites Congress to recodify the mandatory restitution statute to make clear that its command to award full restitution to victims of child pornography. Congress should accept the invitation.
Here is Amy’s response to the decision:
“I am surprised and confused by the Court’s decision today. I really don’t understand where this leaves me and other victims who now have to live with trying to get restitution probably for the rest of our lives. The Supreme Court said we should keep going back to the district courts over and over again but that’s what I have been doing for almost six years now. It’s crazy that people keep committing this crime year after year and now victims like me have to keep reliving it year after year. I’m not sure how this decision helps anyone to really know if, when, and how restitution will ever be paid to kids and other victims of this endless crime. I see that the Court said I should get full restitution “someday,” I just wonder when that day will be and how long I and Vicky and other victims will have to wait for justice.”
Willamette’s Child and Family Advocacy Clinic originally filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children in this case (http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/supreme_court_preview/briefs-v3/12-8561_resp_amcu_dnrthbsvc.authcheckdam.pdf) and I previously published a guest opinion on Paroline v. U.S. with Jurist (http://jurist.org/forum/2014/02/warren-binford-paroline-supreme.php).