Are your politics acceptable to your cabdriver?

Our fictitious hero Rumpole of the Bailey liked to say that a public defender is “a taxi plying for hire,” bluntly explaining to his clients that he was “duty bound to take on any client, however repellent.”

But his taxi metaphor has gone the way of the passenger pigeon, now that cabdrivers are being urged to screen potential riders for political acceptability.

“Cabdrivers Refuse To Pick Up Racists After Philadelphia Rally With Proud Boys!” asserts HuffPost with satisfaction. It shows cellphone videos of three cabs driving away empty from a rally of about 30 conservatives called “We, the People.” Which, according to the Huff, included “at least two” Proud Boys.

The videos also show that the cabs are surrounded by cops and some of the 300 counter-demonstrators who turned up at the rally brandishing signs saying things like, “Nazi scum not welcome.”  But when the Nazi scum obligingly tried to leave, the righteous urged the cabdrivers to refuse to take them. It’s unclear whether the cabbies complied out of political conviction or sensibly reasoned that it was better to lose a fare than risk having a bunch of indignants banging on their windshields.

Still, the idea might catch on.

Scene: Rainy Saturday night after a Knicks game.

Drenched couple: Taxi! Taxi! Oh, thank heavens, a cab!

Cabdriver: Not so fast. What do you think about climate change?

Drenched couple: Huh?

Cabdriver: I’m talking about the statistical distribution of weather patterns over an extended period of time.

Drenched couple: Yes, yes, we support zero carbon emissions —

Cabdriver: Ha! And putting me out of a job! (Drives off).

Drenched woman: I guess we’d better stay off politics if we ever want to get home.

Drenched man: Taxi! Taxi! We’re completely neutral, non-alligned persons.

Cabdriver: Oh, yeah? What are your views on abortion?

Drenched man: It’s the woman’s right to choose.

Drenched woman: It’s the murder of a human being.

Cabdriver: Nice try, but you can’t fool me. What’s your solution to the Middle East situation? Falling interest rates? Brexit? Hey, where’re you going, I’m not finished!

Drenched couple: Never mind, we’ll walk the 48 blocks to the subway. At least we don’t have to sign a loyalty oath to buy a Metro Card.

Cabdriver: Heh, heh.  Wait til they see the new Metro Card machines.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Satire and parody | 1 Comment

How to keep your employees safe and happy: give them guns for Christmas

A Wisconsin glassware company has discovered the perfect Christmas gift for its employees: a gift certificate for a gun.

“For us, now, we have an entire armed staff,” co-owner Ben Wolfgram told the Appleton Post-Crescent. “I think that’s pretty good.”

The company’s name is BenShot and this is the kind of glassware they sell:

   

“We are a small, close-knit team at BenShot,” said Wolfgram. “I want to make sure all of employees are safe and happy – a handgun was the perfect gift.”

It turned out that some employees “already had enough handguns.” They were allowed to use their gift cards for rifles instead.

Gee, we wish our boss would do that. An entire armed staff might solve a lot of problems.

You say your BenShot glass leaks?

Posted in Law & Parody | 3 Comments

Everything you’ve ever wanted to say to a judge but had sense enough not to.

Don’t pretend you’ve never been tempted to respond like this when you get a bad decision from a court:

I find it hard to believe that after the Court had the motion for 5 months to decide, that it could make up facts to support a finding. . . . But then…if you do not read plaintiff’s papers maybe it is possible.

Close your eyes and wish for facts to grant a defendant’s summary judgment.

* **

WHERE DID THE COURT GET THIS? THIS IS STATED NO WHERE IN [Plaintiff’s expert’s] REPORT. LA LA LAND, I COULD NOT MAKE THIS UP IF I TRIED.

***

THIS IS LA LA LAND ON STEROIDS…I CAN NOT COMPREHEND THE #%*$^% THAT IS THIS DECISION… This is so bizzaro land that it is hard to type. What is even more pathetic is the case I cited (citation omitted) has been ignored. 

That’s what it took for attorney Gino Giorgini to get the judge to read his papers, stop making up facts and reverse the summary judgment order.

In other words, it worked.

Two years later, Mr. Giorgini again expressed frustration with the court for not reading his papers:

This is outrageous!!!!!!! How dare the court disrespect my elderly client for the benefit of some political contributors. I guess my reply/sur-reply was not read. I pointed this out in my first paragraphs. Let me see…perjury…no problem…fraud…no problem….what a joke. I guess if you hire the right politically active lawyers like [opposing counsel] anything is excusable with this court. . . . I spent countless hours proving plaintiff’s fraud; putting forth case law so on point that there is no issue of defendants prevailing and the Court doesn’t read my papers. Do you know how angering that is? 

We know just how he feels!!!!!!!!!!!!

Unfortunately, the Appellate Division decided that Mr. Giorgini’s flaming prose constituted “undignified or discourteous conduct which is degrading to a tribunal,” and suspended him from practicing law for three months.

They oughta lighten the #%*$#^% up.

Posted in Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Leave a comment

The Presumption of Innocence, “Sleeping on One’s Rights” and Fundamental Fairness

One of our finest moments in court was hearing a tearful prosecutor whine, “Judge, I know he did it, I just don’t have proof.” Too bad, so sad. No proof, no foul.

So we were shocked to discover during the furor over Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation how many people believe that the mere fact of an accusation constitutes proof. Not only the demonstrators in pussy hats scapegoating him for all the wrongs inflicted on women, but lawyers. 

The most extreme example comes from an indignant Facebooker waving aloft her degree “from one of the top law schools in the country,” only to descend into hillbilly talk:

“Y’all need to delete the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’ from your lexicon until you are prepared to use it correctly. Seriously. Next one of you I hear blithely parroting this phrase in the wrong context, I might just have to whack you upside the head.”

This legal eagle (whose career is in public relations) explains that as a matter of law, women’s accusations of sexual misconduct are presumed to be true until the accused disproves them.  A reminder not to rely on Facebook for legal information.

But all too often we’ve heard otherwise reasonable people assert that presumption of innocence applies only to criminal trials. As if it were a quaint courtroom custom, like the judge’s robe or the velvet cord separating the public from the bench.

The presumption of innocence is nothing more – or less – than the principle that the accuser has to prove her accusations. The standard of proof may vary according to what kind of proceeding it is, from “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal trials, to “more likely than not” in civil trials, to “some evidence” in prison disciplinary hearings, but the principle is the same: it’s for the accuser to prove guilt, not for the accused to prove innocence. It can never be fair to inflict injury on a person just because accusations were made, whether it’s a trial or a playground dispute.  If even lawyers treat the presumption of innocence as irrelevant to everyday life, it’s pretty hard to expect juries to apply it in the courtroom.

There’s also the tenet that accusations made long after the accuser could have brought them, i.e., “sleeps on her rights,” should be disfavored.  The purpose of statutes of limitation and the doctrine of laches is “to protect individuals from having to defend themselves against charges when the basic facts have been obscured by the passage of time; and to minimize the danger of punishment because of acts in the far-distant past.” This was an established precept even before psychological research demonstrated how thoroughly memory can be tainted over time. We now know that people not only forget what happened, but may sincerely “remember” what didn’t.

But legislatures have stood this principle on its head by eliminating statutes of limitations for sexual assault. The fact that the complainant said nothing for decades is now considered proof of how traumatic the event must have been, and therefore, of the guilt of the accused.

It’s up to reasonable people (which may or may not include lawyers) to insist on fairness, even towards – especially towards – people whose politics they despise. Sir Thomas More had it right when his son-in-law Will Roper argued that legal principles should be set aside when the cause is just:

Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

― Robert Bolt A Man for All Seasons

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

New labels for old

We’ve just received a directive to reform our vocabulary in compliance with The Criminal Justice Reform Phrase Guide authored by The Opportunity Agenda, a progressive propaganda outfit describing itself as a “social justice communication lab” that “shapes compelling messages and narratives” to combat “well-financed communication efforts that support inequitable and unjust policies.”

The Guide sets out “Five Tips for Language That Changes Hearts and Minds,” #1 being “People, Not Labels.” Thus, we speak not of prisoners, but of “People who are currently incarcerated.”  Ex-Cons should be called “People who have paid their debt to society.” Offenders are “People who have committed offenses.”

Burglars are “People who do not have the house keys,” and drug dealers are “People whose merchandise lacks FDA approval.” JUST KIDDING, sorry, sorry, sorry. But when it comes to describing People who have committed offenses, there’s not much you can teach a defense lawyer about euphemism.

Under Tip #2, one eschews the terms “racial disparities” and “gaps,” substituting “Obstacles to Equal Justice, Discriminatory School Discipline, Racial Profiling and Unconscious Bias resulting in unequal rates of arrest, incarceration, long sentences.” Which makes for a very long sentence indeed.

One does not call neighborhoods “dangerous,” but “Communities experiencing high levels of violence.”

Under Tip #5, the way to “Foster New Thinking and Innovative Approaches” is to replace “punish crime” with “Prevent Harm, Promote Community Safety. ” “Law and Order” becomes “Accountability, Rehabilitation, Equal Justice, Due Process.”

Not to be negative, but we have little hope for a t.v. series called “Accountability, Rehabilitation, Equal Justice, Due Process.”

Another example of the Opportunity Agenda’s shaping of compelling messages and narratives is a comic book featuring a heroine who transforms from “Ariel Black” to “Helvetika Bold” (misspelled typefaces, get it?).

The villain is “The Mindset,” a robot with a keyhole for a face, who declares, “Consumers! Behold as I ravage the Truth, play on your fears and defeat your hopes and aspirations using the most powerful weapon ever known. . . THE DOMINANT NARRATIVE!

Beneath The Mindset are five disembodied heads trapped in ice cubes saying things like, “Lost your home? Well, sorry, buddy, some people just shouldn’t own houses,” and “Look, I love legal immigrants. . .it’s just those Hispanic ones I can’t stand!”

Comes now Ariel Black, a slender black woman with glasses, “who dares to speak counter to The Mindset,” and is duly reviled by the powerful organization “Media Corpse.” She stalks over to their headquarters to demand a retraction, passing through a community experiencing a high level of people whose heads are enclosed in ice cubes, and ends up in the old composing room where “the great underground newspapers of the past” are buried.

“Man, they were the real deal,” she exclaims, apparently never having seen an underground paper, with or without trigger warnings, of which this is a typical example:

Suddenly, KRZZAAAK!!!  and four-eyes Ariel metamorphoses into the hefty Helvetika Bold. Her first act is to reshape the consumerist, Truth-ravaging messages of Times Square:

The ice cubes around people’s heads melt, as they say things like, “Makes me wonder why I am being paid less than my male co-workers?” and “Maybe another world is possible?”

“The fight for our common narrative is far from over,” warns Helvetika, brandishing her fists, Maoist poster style.

“Watch as our hero battles against NEW VILLAINS” in the next issue, advises the comic.

We feel transformed already.

Posted in Criminal Defense Appeals, Law & Parody | Tagged | 3 Comments

Judge Kavanaugh’s crickets

What with all this brouhaha over Judge Kavanaugh’s high school conduct, it’s time to look at some of the more substantive issues, such as his outstanding crickets jurisprudence. This might have been entirely overlooked but for the ever-alert Lowering the Bar.

Here are a few salient excerpts from Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions:

“Nothing in [the statute] pins a jurisdictional label on this requirement; indeed the entire provision is crickets on judicial review.”

Sack v. U.S. Dept. of Defense (D.C. Cir 2016) (Kavanaugh, J.).

“Think about what the FCC is saying: Under the rule, you supposedly can exercise your editorial discretion to refuse to carry some Internet content. But if you choose to carry most or all Internet content, you cannot exercise your editorial discretion to favor some content over other content. What First Amendment case or principle supports that theory? Crickets.

U.S. Telecom v. FCC (D.C. Cir. 2017) (Kavanaugh, J., dissenting).

“Even if a reasonable police officer could have doubted the credibility of the trespassers who claimed to be invitees, those credibility doubts do not count as “conflicting information.” What case had ever articulated such a counterintuitive rule? Crickets.”

Wesby v. D.C. (D.C. Cir. 2016) (Kavanaugh, J., dissenting)

In case you’re not up on the latest judicial slang, “crickets” means silence where an answer is called for, as in, “After hearing nothing but crickets from the FDA, plaintiffs filed suit alleging unreasonable delay.”

Or, as a Texas judge warned about “a federal take-over,” where “this Court will stand by watching as it happens, doing nothing and saying nothing. All that will be heard is the sound of crickets.” Ex Parte McCarthy (Tex. Crim. App. 2013).

Might be a relief to hear nothing but crickets for a change.

Posted in Judges, Law & Parody | 1 Comment

Queens judges say the darndest things

Welcome to Queens, birthplace of the Mets, Weight Watchers and President Trump. Where, if you’re on trial for a crime, the prosecutor is likely to be the judge’s kid.

Picture this:

Prosecutor: Objection.

Judge: Overruled.

Prosecutor: Dad-dy!

Judge: Oh, all right. Just this once. Sustained.

The Queens DA’s Office – the pipeline to the Queens judiciary – sees nothing shady about hiring their judges’ little gene copies. Indeed, says their spokesperson, it would be wrong to reject applicants just because of who their parents are!

Then there’s Queens Judge Hollie, who’s set a record for being reversed four times over the last 15 months.

How in the world did he manage to provoke the Appellate Rubber-Stamps into one reversal, let alone four? By trying to run trials without the pesky interference of lawyers.

Does the prosecutor need help shoring up his witness’s credibility? No worries, Judge Hollie will take over the direct and cross-examination. In one case, he interjected himself into the questioning over 50 times, asking over 400 questions.

Is defense counsel being a little too efficient about impeaching the witness with her inconsistent testimony? Judge Hollie will instruct the jury that, in his opinion, she’s telling the truth.

Is the prosecutor not eliciting enough testimony damaging to the defense? Judge Hollie to the rescue!

Tut, tut, said the Second Department. Even if we all know the judge is a prosecutor in a robe, he mustn’t look like one.

 

 

 

Posted in Judges, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged | Leave a comment