The Eyes Have It

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process4 Comments on The Eyes Have It

During my freshman year at Boston University, I was engaged to a girl from just outside of Houston. It didn’t work out in the end, but it was a good relationship, and so I’ve tended to refrain from joining in on the jokes people like to make about Texans, particularly as pertains to their creative (i.e., absent) approach toward the rights of criminal defendants. But even I can’t resist taking some jabs at the Texas Supreme Court for this decision.

To summarize: Andre Thomas killed his wife, 4-year old son, and 13-month-old niece. He then (and I honestly can’t phrase this better than the article did)

walked into the Sherman Police Department and told a dispatcher he had murdered the three, then told officers he put his victims’ hearts in his pocket, left their apartment, took them home, put the organs in a plastic bag and threw them in the trash. He said G-d had told him to commit the killings.

This would probably be enough to give anyone pause, but it gets better (or worse, depending on how you look at it). Continue reading “The Eyes Have It”

What’s in a Name?

Posted on Categories Legal Education5 Comments on What’s in a Name?

A very interesting debate went on over at PrawfsBlog last month, as found here, here (in a post by Professor Esenberg), and here. It began with a discussion of how professors should address students in class (i.e., would I be called “Andrew” or “Mr. Golden”), and vice versa, but it has seemed to extend beyond that to how students are addressed outside of class and even what they are called once they graduate. Based on the posts and the bulk of comments I’ve seen over there, it seems the majority of the professors on that site tend to hold the opinion that it’s important for faculty to call their students “Mr. ___” or “Ms. ___”, be it to remain professional, show a level of respect, appreciate the formality of the law school process, etc. The level of importance indicated in their comments surprised me; I had no idea that this was something professors felt so strongly about!

But is it much ado about nothing? Continue reading “What’s in a Name?”

“When The Gods Wish To Punish Us, They Answer Our Prayers”

Posted on Categories Religion & Law1 Comment on “When The Gods Wish To Punish Us, They Answer Our Prayers”

I am, without question, a spiritual man. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to call myself “religious”; it’s not easy to keep one’s faith while surrounded on most sides by a grab for the most money, as law school tends to be. However, I’ve always balanced my strong personal belief in the value of (and my regular practice of) prayer with what I consider to be the immeasurable importance of the separation of church and state. Usually, this means I just let public showings of religion roll off my back; I’m not offended by choruses of “Merry Christmas,” and I didn’t gripe when benedictions have been said at Marquette gatherings I’ve attended. By and large, I’m a big fan of keeping a healthy dose of perspective; if one puts oneself in situations where prayer is likely to be found (for example, by attending a Jesuit law school), one needs to expect that prayers are going to happen and not take it as an affront to the First Amendment. Put another way, who does it really hurt if I observe 30 seconds of silence so that someone else can pray uninterrupted?

All that being said, this PrawfsBlawg post — written by Mississippi Law Professor Chris Lund — got me thinking about whether it’s reasonable to accept prayer in all circumstances. Lund discusses the “legislative prayer controversy,” which he illustrates by linking to an article about a 70-year-old man’s arrest for praying loudly over a City Council’s moment of silence, as well as a video clip of protesters interrupting the opening prayer of last year’s Senate session, which was given by guest Congressional chaplain (and Hindu) Rajan Zed. Continue reading ““When The Gods Wish To Punish Us, They Answer Our Prayers””

“The Power That I Have On You Is To Spare You”

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, President & Executive Branch2 Comments on “The Power That I Have On You Is To Spare You”

While instant messaging a high school friend yesterday, she mentioned that she had just seen the final episode of The West Wing on DVD (in which outgoing president Josiah Bartlett pardons ex-Director of Communications Toby Ziegler from a conviction for leaking national security secrets to The Washington Post), and then linked me to a recent Slate article handicapping President Bush’s potential pardons, while commenting that “maybe if Bush was more like Bartlett, he wouldn’t have to pardon so many of his cronies.” I commented that President Clinton (and most other presidents) have done the same thing, which caused her to rephrase her statement by replacing “Bush” with “all the real presidents.”

I know: there are any number of things lame duck presidents can do that should probably be reviewed and reconsidered before we get to presidential pardons. I also understand that the pardon is a valuable tool that allows the executive branch to swiftly undo so-called “travesties of law,” setting free the wrongly convicted. Yet the Slate article got me thinking about whether it isn’t worth considering a check on this particular executive power sometime soon, both on a state and federal level (though the misuse tends to be more egregious on the federal level).

Continue reading ““The Power That I Have On You Is To Spare You””

Is Our Partisanship a Poli-Ticking Time Bomb?

Posted on Categories Legal Education1 Comment on Is Our Partisanship a Poli-Ticking Time Bomb?

While trolling through PrawfsBlog to refresh my memory on a debate I wanted to blog about as to the teaching of Legal Writing and Research classes, I stumbled across this post from about a month ago in which FIU professor Howard Wasserman raised the question of how appropriate it is for professors to display their political preferences in the classroom and/or their offices. In reading it, I couldn’t help but think about a conversation I had had with a friend a week or two ago. In response to my joking about how important it was to read my blog posts while I was still able to post them, my friend commented that he/she refused to read the Faculty Blog because he/she didn’t want to read about the political beliefs of professors. Now, I don’t know that I find the posts here to be all that politically charged, but the fact that my friend was so adamantly opposed to that while at the same time being very vocally partisan regarding this past presidential election was something I found ironic. And now that this election has passed and the votes have all been tallied, I think it’s worth reflecting upon just how dangerous it is to be partisan in a learning environment.

Continue reading “Is Our Partisanship a Poli-Ticking Time Bomb?”

If The Drew Fits, Charge It?

Posted on Categories Computer Law, Federal Criminal Law & Process11 Comments on If The Drew Fits, Charge It?

Being fascinated with both the use (and misuse) of technology and criminal law in general, I have been intently following the Lori Drew case. For those of you who haven’t, however, Drew is the Missouri mother who — as a response to some animus between 13-year-old Megan Meier and Drew’s daughter — created a false persona, “Josh Evans,” on Myspace to flirt with and gain the trust of Meier, then insulted and demeaned her to the point where Meier committed suicide. Missouri state officials reviewed the case, but felt that there was no appropriate state statute under which to bring charges against Drew; federal prosecutors in Missouri declined to charge the case for similar reasons. However, federal prosecutors in California (where Myspace’s servers are located) disagreed; claiming jurisdiction, they charged and were subsequently able to indict Drew under 18 U.S.C. § 1030, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Specifically, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in California is charging her with violating 18 U.S.C. § 1030 (a)(2)(C), which makes it a crime for anyone to

intentionally access[] a computer without authorization or exceed[] authorized access, and thereby obtain[] . . . information from any protected computer if the conduct involved an interstate or foreign communication.

The indictment can be found here, if anyone is interested in reading it, but the gist of the argument that the AUSAs in California are making is that by giving fictitious profile information, Drew violated Myspace’s Terms of Service, thus “exceeding” the access authorized by Myspace. Then, as she used this fictitious profile to “obtain information” from Myspace’s servers — personal information about Megan, as best as I can tell — to commit the tort of infliction of emotional distress upon Meier, and since to access Myspace’s servers she was required to send packets of data across state lines, she met all the elements of the crime.

Continue reading “If The Drew Fits, Charge It?”

Spin Doctoring and the Judiciary

Posted on Categories Judges & Judicial Process, Wisconsin Court System2 Comments on Spin Doctoring and the Judiciary

I was extremely lucky to represent Marquette Law School this past Saturday night at the Wisconsin Equal Justice Fund’s Howard B. Eisenberg Lifetime Achievement Award Dinner, and the highlight of the event for me was not only my opportunity to meet and take a picture with Justice Louis Butler, but also to hear him present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Judge James A. Gramling, Jr. However, there were two things about Justice Butler’s speech that caught my attention. First, he began his speech by saying, “I’m Justice Louis Butler, and I’m not under investigation for anything.” Now, granted, this was an audience that had given him a thunderous standing ovation on his way to the podium, so he was certainly in the right crowd to make that joke. Nevertheless, it surprised me how eagerly everyone in the room applauded him; it certainly didn’t feel as though it was merely humoring him. Second, and perhaps more importantly, his tribute to Judge Gramling touched repeatedly on the Judge’s insistence in doing the right thing regardless of its popularity or public perception, both in his personal life and in the law. Continue reading “Spin Doctoring and the Judiciary”