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Quote of the Day - Any suggestion of civil liberties violations is an effort to shift the focus of the discussion away from the facts. There have been no verified civil liberties violations filed against the Patriot Act. Period. - Tasia Scolinos
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Yes, Virginia, We Still Have A Constitution

Portions of the Patriot Act that bypass the judiciary when the government wants to conduct searches were ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York.  You can read the ruling here, which has been stayed to allow the Department of Justice to file an appeal, which it will likely do. 

We "still have a Constitution around here somewhere," according to Wonkette.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, September 05, 2007 at 15:33. Comments Closed (0) |

Should Alleged Victim Of Rape Be Allowed To Use The Word During Her Trial Testimony?

Over at Courthouse News, the editors posted an article about a Lincoln, Nebraska trial.  Since I can't link directly to it, I reproduce it here in its entirety, without editing, graphic and all:

Alleged Rape Victim Sues Judge Who Won't Let Her Say 'Rape'
LINCOLN, NEB. (CN) - A woman whose alleged rapist's trial ended twice in mistrials because she violated the judge's orders not to use the terms "rape," "sexual assault" or "victim" while testifying has sued the judge on constitutional charges in Federal Court. Nebraska District Court Judge Jeffre Cheuvront twice declared mistrials because the woman used prohibited words. She says the juries were not informed about Cheuvront's language-cleansing order, and that Cheuvront threatened to imprison her for contempt if she used the words. She is facing a third trial, at which she must confront her alleged rapist again, and expects Cheuvront to issue the same orders and threats against her and against witnesses. She says Cheuvront "required her to testify using words that did not accurately describe her experience." Lead counsel Sue Ellen Wall says, "judicial review to determine whether (Cheuvront's) order violates federal constitutional principles is unavailable to the Plaintiff under Nebraska law." She says the vice president of the National District Attorneys' Association has said, "the practice of state court judges issuing orders restricting the language of victims has increased substantially in recent years. It has not yet been reviewed for compliance with federal constitutional law."

The problem likely centers around the criminal statute.  Most likely, the alleged victim is trying to gain a criminal conviction on a statute that contains the word "rape," which therefore becomes the ultimate decision the jury must make.  The judge probably wants to prevent the alleged victim from "conditioning" the jury to reach the conclusion. 

Is there really a way to communicate the crime without saying the words in the statute?   You can comment below.

9/27/07 update:  The case against the state court judge, filed in federal court, got tossed out



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, September 04, 2007 at 15:56. Comments Closed (0) |

Cal Puts Up A Fence To Keep Fans Out And Keep Mother Nature In*

For Berkeley, it's an unusual move.  At the Cal football game this weekend, some 70,000 fans came to watch the Cal Golden Bears play the Tennessee Orange Volunteers, and the school was concerned about the safety of a group of tree-sitters in what's been dubbed Memorial Oak Grove, protesting a proposed, new, $125 million athletic center and the removal of the trees.

They've been living in and around the trees for 275 days.

Cal erected a fence around the trees that date back to the 1800s and the tree people, figuring that environmental protesters and football fans might not see eye-to-eye, especially after the game when the fans are, shall we say, less inhibited and perhaps more inebriated than before the game.  Good guess.  While there were some shouting matches between the groups, a phalanx of police officers kept the peace and everything went smoothly for the most part.

As people streamed into the stadium, the protesters handed out leaflets with "seven reasons why the oak grove should not be destroyed," while singing "We shall overcome."  Not to be outdone, the Bears football fans protested, shouting, "The Sixties are over. Cut down the trees."  The Tennessee fans were perhaps predictably awestruck at the whole thing considering the numerous large stands of trees in their state.  "You've got to be kidding me.  They're protesting cutting down a few trees?  Give me a chainsaw, I'll show 'em," one orange-clad Volunteer was heard to say. 

Earlier this year in March, there was a nude protest (link contains nudity; not suitable to open at work) at the site; I'm surprised they didn't revisit that stunt for the football game if they really wanted to attract attention.

The trees are still up, and Cal won the game, 45-31.  Stay tuned - we're looking for signs (link has music).

______________________

*  With apologies to The Five Man Electrical Band



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, September 03, 2007 at 22:18. Comments Closed (0) |

From Thongs To Saggy Pants, Louisiana Tries To Establish A Dress Code

What is it with Louisiana?  First it was the State Legislature's attempt to ban thongs that showed above girls' pants.  Now, it's the Cities of Alexandria and Shreveport trying to ban crack.  Not the drug kind; the backside kind.

They'll fine you $100 if your pants are too low and exposing, well, too much. 

There are six cities in Louisiana that passed such an ordinance.  The attempt to ban thongs didn't get very far, and it's likely this attempt to legislate attire won't either.  Beyond the fact that we're not in high school anymore, attempts to regulate dress just don't pass constitutional muster.  The simple solution?

Wait until Mardi Gras if you want to really see some clothes.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, September 02, 2007 at 21:31. Comments Closed (0) |

High School Football Stadium Card Stunt Prank Successfully Imitates College Efforts

'WE SUCK' Display By Opposing Team's Fans Results In Detention, Fame

High school football season is underway in full force this year, which always reminds me of the "glory days" I spent playing football in my youth at small-town Schuylkill Haven Area High School, home of the Hurricanes, mind you.  In my senior year of 1975, I had the opportunity to tour Lehigh University as a potential recruit.  The University football coaches took us on the obligatory tour of the football field, which to their dismay when we reached the top of the stands and looked down, revealed a different-colored grass that clearly spelled out "Lehigh Sucks" from goal line to goal line, in huge, block letters. 

My father, a graduate of Lehigh's rival, Bucknell University, had the inside story.  Bucknell students staged a late-night incursion onto Lehigh's field in mid-August, staked out the large block letters, complete with string to outline the letters, then proceeded to apply a strong fertilizer within the outlined block letters.  Once all the fertilizer had been applied, they cleaned up the stakes, string and now-empty fertilizer bags, and left the scene of the crime without any evidence remaining. 

The weeks ticked by to the near end-of-the-season game with Bucknell, and sure enough right on cue, the fertilizer had done its trick and the big letters greeted the Leheigh fans, insulting the home team.  The planning and execution made the prank just that much sweeter.

Things have changed, however, at least from the presentation standpoint.  The level of planning and execution remain the same. 

In the town of Hilliard, Ohio, a small suburb outside Columbus, two crosstown rival high schools, Darby and Davidson, duke it out each year for football bragging rights.  The pre-game festivities include the obligatory pranks back and forth, including the message "You Suck" scrawled on a car window in the Davidson High School parking lot.  That message apparently got high school senior Kyle Garchar thinking and scheming. 

He plotted revenge, and sweet revenge it was because he captured it on video and posted the return insult on You Tube.

Kyle and two of his fellow seniors, Danielle Jewell and Jen Trimmer, at Davidson High School mapped out the stadium stands and created a schematic of black and white blocks to spell out letters, just like the pranksters from Bucknell.  In fact, Kyle likely got the inspiration from a similar stadium prank pulled by Yale University students at a Yale-Harvard University football game in 2004 by the now infamous "Harvard Pep Squad," which was actually about 20 Yale students who are now enshrined in the Yale Hall of Fame

This type of prank first got started in the early 1960s, with the Great Rose Bowl Hoax in a game between the Washington Huskies and the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a card stunt that's been labeled as one of the "[f]ew college pranks can be said to be more grandly conceived, carefully planned, flawlessly executed, and publicly dramatic," according to Neil Steinberg, the author of If At All Possible Involve a Cow: The Book of College Pranks.  In that stunt, fourteen CalTech students broke into the hotel room of the Huskies' cheerleaders and substituted 2,232 instruction sheets for the card stunts preformed in the stands, which resulted in misspellings of the Huskies' name and infamously displayed "CalTech," previously a largely ignored school near the Rose Bowl, which TV broadcast of the game succeeded in gaining the desired notereity for the school.

In Kyle's case, he and his two friends passed out the black and white colored pages in the stands, which contained a note stapled to the back with the Darby High School panther, encouraging participation by everyone in the stands to spell out "Go Darby" at the beginning of the third quarter.  At the prescribed time, everyone flashed the monochromatic pages and held them high above their heads.

You can see the results here on this You Tube video, and get the full story from the follow-up TV news cast.  A classic prank indeed.

For his trouble, Kyle and his two friends were suspended for three days worth of detention and banned from extracurricular activities for the remainder of the semester.  In their fellow Davidson High School friends' eyes, however, they are heroes, even though Darby won the August 24 season opener, 21-10.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, September 01, 2007 at 12:20. Comments Closed (0) |

Should Illegal Aliens Pay Lower In-state Tuition While Out-of-state Citizens Can't?

Kansas has a law that allows illegal aliens who live in Kansas to pay in-state tuition rates at its public colleges, while out-of-state U.S. citizens must pay higher, out-of-state tuition rates.  The Tenth Circuit avoided addressing the merits of this law, but denied a challenge to the law by several out-of-state students based on the lack of any effect on them if the law was successfully overturned based on standing.

In other words, the Court told the out-of-state students, "You're not the right ones to challenge this law." 

Call me silly, but if the illegal aliens are not Kansas residents and the out-of-state U.S. citizens are not Kansas residents, but are treated differently than the illegal aliens, then it seems there's an equal protection violation.  Simple as that.  People in the same class but treated differently.  The harm is readily apparent, too.  The out-of-state citizens pay more while the in-state aliens pay less.  But then again, I'm not admitted in Kansas. 

The Tenth Circuit doesn't place the aliens and out-of-state residents in the same class, however, and views them quite differently, according to the opinion:  "None of these [student] Plaintiffs would be eligible to pay resident tuition ...  even if the allegedly discriminatory test ... favoring illegal aliens were stricken, because none attended Kansas high schools for at least three years and either graduated from a Kansas high school or received a Kansas GED certificate."  The illegal aliens met those criteria, and were thus eligible for in-state tuition, according to the Circuit Court.

The real question, it seems is more fundamental, and one that's even harder to answer.  Should we provide different and better benefits to illegal aliens than to citizens based on where you live?



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, August 31, 2007 at 13:05. Comments Closed (0) |

Homeland Security Puts CalTech JPL Scientists Under A Microscope

Rebellion By Lawsuit

Long-time CalTech scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are not happy.  They claim NASA and Homeland Security are threatening their jobs and invading their privacy because of allegedly unconstitutional "background checks" into their sexual orientation, sexual histories, associations and other "dangerously vague" criteria. 

The alleged offenses are "putatively based upon Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12."  According to this Complaint, NASA demands "that JPL employees - including senior scientists and engineers, many of whom have been employed there for decades, and none of whom work on classified or national security materials or issues - submit to 1) an open-ended background investigation prying into their protected associational activities as well as myriad private and irrelevant personal information, and 2) a determination of their suitability for employment that includes such wrong-headed and/or dangerously vague criteria as sexual orientation, sexual history, medical and emotional history, financial history, ‘attitude,' and ‘personality conflict.'"

Wow.  "Geek" has a whole new meaning now. 



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 13:38. Comments Closed (0) |

Farmers Life Insurance Policy Escapes Court Scrutiny, But Not Damning Admission

When you think of the term "services," do you think that description includes life insurance?  Before you ponder that question too long, the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, which is relevant to our inquiry today, defines "services" as follows:  "work, labor, and services for other than a commercial or business use, including services furnished in connection with the sale or repair of goods."  California Civil Code, § 1761(b).

Sure, some businesses purchase life insurance, but in this situation, Pauline Fairbanks individually bought a universal life insurance policy from Farmers New World Life Insurance Company.  Farmers sells what it calls interest-sensitive universal life insurance policies.  According to Farmers, the Flexible Premium Universal Life policies were supposed to be "permanent."  Farmers told Pauline that she could keep the policy in full force indefinitely by paying a stated premium amount.

According to the Court, "In reality, this premium amount was insufficient to keep the policy in force to maturity."

Oops.

Pauline filed a class action, and alleged Farmers' policies were misrepresented and that Farmers engaged in deceptive and unfair practices in the design and marketing of the policies. She also alleged these policies were systematically underfunded so that they would lapse before maturity, and that Farmers fraudulently failed to warn policyholders of this possibility. 

She sued under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, assuming life insurance was a service.  Farmers got the case dismissed by the trial court, and Pauline appealed.

Simple issue, but the appellate court upheld Farmers' dismissal of Pauline's case.  Here's how they looked at it:  "Insurance, in contrast, is defined by the Insurance Code as 'a contract, whereby one undertakes to indemnify another against loss, damage, or liability arising from a contingent or unknown event.'  ...  An insurance contract is not something akin to a haircut, a plumbing repair, or a two-year warranty on a microwave oven - it is simply an agreement to pay if and when an identifiable event occurs."

How would you rule?  MIPTC looks at life insurance the same way it does as a contract to purchase a microwave.  When I turn it on, it better work as promised. 



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, August 29, 2007 at 16:48. Comments Closed (0) |



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