How to keep your brief under the word limit

Judges are always kvetching that appellate briefs are too long and BO-ring or, as Judge Saxe says, “turgid and prolix.”  The federal judish has decided to strike back by slashing word limits from 14,000 to 13,000.

The decree sparked howls of protest from the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers. Long don’t mean dull, as any reader of airport fiction knows. And short don’t mean good, like, when your appeal is summarily denied.  If courts want snappier prose, says the AAAL, they should post “short videos” on their websites explaining “how to write a decent brief.”

Humbug. In briefwriting as in life, decency has nothing to do with winning.

Here’s how to save thousands of words – draw comics instead:


Involuntary guilty plea



Prosecutor’s improper summation argument (and ineffective assistance of counsel)


Fourth Amendment violation


Verdict against the weight of the evidence

Posted in Humor, Judges, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged | 6 Comments

Do prosecutors know the truth from a lie?


“If I said my robe is white, would that be the truth or a lie?”

Word is that California plans to make it a felony for prosecutors to hide exculpatory evidence from the defense.  That’s harsh: to the prosecutor cerebellum, “exculpatory evidence” is a contradiction in terms. After all, the defendant is obviously guilty or they wouldn’t have indicted him.

Instead of passing a law that can only contribute to mass incarceration, we have a better idea: subject all prosecutors to a swearability hearing to see if they understand the difference between the truth and a lie.

Swearability hearings are held when the prosecution witness is a very young child who, according to Ye Olde English legal tradition, is presumed not to understand the meaning of an oath. They typically go like this:

Scene: Two and a half-year old Stinky has accused her grandfather of violating the Federal Securities and Corporation Tax Law.  Judge Treacle questions her in a closed courtroom from which the defendant is excluded lest he make scary faces.

Judge: Good morning, dearie, I’m Judgie Treacle and this nice lady ADA Kickbush is here to help you. There, there, you mustn’t throw up. Dammit, Ms. Kickbush, can’t you get her a dog or something to put her at ease?

ADA Kickbush: I told them to send Fluffy the Child Witness dog, but they brought Terminator the K-9 by mistake. Fortunately we managed to keep him from eating the witness.

Judge: Is that what that barking was about? I thought it was Judge Bludgeon doing a sentencing. All right, let’s get this little monster – I mean, key witness – over with. Honey, if I said my robe is white, would that be the truth or a lie?

Stinky: Baaaaww!

ADA Kickbush: She’s saying it’s a lie, Your Honor.

Judge: Very well. Sweetheart, if I were to say this blue pen is red, would that be the truth or a lie?

Stinky: Snuffle.

Judge:  Correct. Do you understand that if you tell a lie, God will strike you dead and send you to Hell?

Stinky: Pee pee.

Judge: (Quickly) I find she’s clearly qualified to testify.

Stinky: I don’t think that’s an accurate description of God, Your Honor.  God is the Ground of All Being who exists everywhere and nowhere – (ADA Kickbush hustles her out of the courtroom).

Judge: What’s next?

Clerk: A couple of prosecutors from the DA’s Office are here for a swearability hearing, Your Honor.

Judge: (To them) If I said my robe is white, would that be the truth or a lie?

DA #1: Golly, that’s a tough one. Depends what the People’s position is. I’d have to ask my supervisor.

DA Supervisor: Judge, we have no statutory duty to disclose our position at this time.

Judge: Well then, if someone said this blue pen is red, would that be a lie?

DA #2: Not if we said so. The pen would be red.

Judge: (to DA supervisor) I’m shocked, shocked to see prosecutors who don’t know the difference between the truth and a lie!

DA Supervisor:   No worries Judge. We’ll put them in the Conviction Integrity Unit.

Posted in Criminal Defense Appeals, Criminal law, Humor, Law, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Homeland Security announces contest for best sex offender passport design

Last February Congress passed the “International Megan’s Law,” requiring registered sex offenders to have a conspicuous mark on their passports identifying them as such. A federal court summarily dismissed a lawsuit challenging the law, saying that, since the government has not yet decided what the mark will be, the plaintiffs were merely speculating that it would do them harm.  

Homeland Security is now calling for entries for their Sex Offender Passport Design Contest. Here’s ours:passport-for-sex-offenders




Posted in Civil Liberties, Humor, Law, Law & Parody, Satirical cartoons, SORA | Tagged | 2 Comments

Brooklyn DA Thompson on Gun Control


“I hate to do this, fellas, but she’s lost one trial too many.”

Snipped from his website – we swear the photo isn’t doctored!

Posted in Law & Parody | 1 Comment

Prez advisors warn: halt convictions based on pseudoscience


Galileo tries to persuade the Inquisition to look at the Moon through a telescope.

A mysterious Deep Throat, known only as Dr4ensic, has leaked a draft report from a Presidential commission warning that courts are falling down on their job of keeping out junk science offered by the prosecution.  That’s mighty public-spirited of Dr4ensic, considering that the report trashes his own field of bitemark comparison, among others, as  hopelessly unscientific. Yup, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has concluded that the highfallutin scientific jargon of expert opinions that a bitemark, fingerprint, shoe print, tire print, bullet or hair found at the crime scene could only have come from the defendant amounts to nothing but “because I say so.”  But you mustn’t peek, because the report is marked “DO NOT QUOTE OR DISTRIBUTE.”  draft-pcast-report-1-2

Nevertheless, the National District Attorneys Association has lost no time in howling that the report is “scientifically irresponsible” and screaming that it relies on “unreliable and discredited research.” ndaa-press-release-on-pcast-report  Harrumphing that the status quo is fine, just fine, they cry that PCAST “has taken it upon itself to usurp the constitutional role of the Courts and decades of legal precedent and insert itself as the final arbiter of the reliability and admissibility” of forensic evidence. They predict that adopting any of its recommendations would put an end to criminal investigation.

Hell, you’d think a national DA outfit would have the class to at least pretend they care about wrongful convictions. 

What’s great about the PCAST report is that it explains in everyday, non-statistical language exactly why these cops-in-labcoats sciences are based on logical fallacies and circular reasoning. Also how their “reforms” in response to criticism merely beg the question. For instance, “proficiency tests,” where the test-takers can figure out by process of elimination which items match, say nothing about their ability to “match” items in real cases where the right answer may not be there.

Our favorite example of pseudo-reform is the DOJ’s new policy whereby footprint examiners are allowed to testify that a print matches the defendant’s shoe but not to say, “to the exclusion of all other possible shoes.” As PCAST points out, this is meaningless. If an examiner says the defendant’s shoe is the source of the print, he necessarily believes that no other shoe is the source. Even if the DOJ doesn’t get it, any juror would.

But here’s the problem. Remember when the FBI declared that Brandon Mayfield, an American lawyer living peacefully in hippie Oregon, was the Madrid train bomber based on a “100% valid” fingerprint match? Which would have landed him on death row if the Spanish authorities hadn’t convinced the FBI that it wasn’t a match after all?

And remember how the judiciary rose up as one and said, “If the FBI lab, which claims to be the best in the world, could make such a deadly mistake, fingerprinting is obviously dangerously unreliable and we’ll have none of it in the courtroom.”

What, you don’t remember that part? We must have dreamed it.

Then there was the 2009 report by that whoopee outfit, the National Academy of Science (NAS), saying that these “training and experience” sciences are nothing but cop folklore. Just like the Brandon Mayfield incident, the NAS report completely transformed the landscape of criminal prosecution. Trials after 2009 started to look like this:

Prosecutor: I call to the stand Officer Krupke of the Cross-Bronx Expressway Crime Lab. Officer, did you examine Exhibit A recovered from the windowsill of the crime scene?

Officer Krupke: Yes, and I’m ashamed to say I reported that I was 100% certain that it matched the defendant’s fingerprint. But after reading the NAS Report, I realized that was just my subjective opinion influenced by cognitive bias.

The PCAST report not only threatens the amour propre of the DA junta, it’s death to the vested interests of the forensic science establishment. What’s Dr4ensic going to do for a living now? Fill cavities? You can bet your wisdom teeth there’s going to be powerful pushback.

PCAST also assumes that judges give a hang about scientific validity. They oughta know better. Although the report lists a dozen judges as advisors, those are probably the only twelve judges in the country who would dare preclude prosecutor-friendly “scientific” evidence. (And one of them, we happen to know, quit the judging racket precisely because she got tired of getting kicked in the head for trying to do that. She’s now in Academia where everyone is purely dedicated to the truth-seeking process).

Judges happily embrace all kinds of junk science to shore up the cred of prosecution witnesses. The NY Court of Appeals, for instance, has swallowed every kind of “syndrome,” including “hebephilia,” the scientific finding that attraction to teenage jail bait is a psychiatric disorder.  But the judicial attitude to science that contradicts their cherished beliefs remains unchanged since 1610 when the Inquisition indignantly refused Galileo’s invitation to look through a telescope.

As everybody knows, when scientific evidence is offered in the courtroom, judges scrupulously determine its reliability under two distinct legal standards. One for the prosecution and one for the defense.  Experts for the prosecution can send a man to death row by testifying that his teeth match the bite marks in a baloney sandwich. But if the defense had to rely on showing that the earth revolves around the sun, it could be a tough sell to get that in. At the very least, there’d have to be a Frye or Daubert hearing.

The PCAST report is a gold mine for cross-examination and a stiletto for puncturing inflated “scientific” claims. It’s up to the defense bar not to let it go the way of the NAS report, but take it and run with it. After it becomes public, of course.

Addendum: 9/19/2016: the final public report pcast-forensic-science-report-final



Posted in Criminal law, Forensic "science", Law & Parody | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Ken Thompson, Brooklyn’s model DA


We barely know what’s going on in our own office, let alone over at Renaissance Plaza where the Brooklyn DA perches on the heavily guarded 19th floor. But thanks to “Down the Rabbit Hole” by the intrepid blogger ADA Fustian Orotund, we learned that one of the proposed reforms of New Broom Ken Thompson, or Bobble Head as he’s affectionately known to his subordinates, was to eliminate meal reimbursements for same when they work the night shift. A severe blow, considering that ADA’s are always creeping around at night on some pretext or other.

Which makes it all the more hilarious that Boss Thompson is being fined by the Conflict of Interest Board (COIB) for using $5,524 of City money to pay for his meals ever since taking office in January, 2014. Even more sidesplitting is that he was warned that this could violate the prohibition against using City money for personal benefit. Did he consult the COIB? Certainly not. It’s up to the DA’s Office to decide what the law is. He consulted his staff.

This was apparently the same crew that routinely assures ADA’s that there’s no such thing as Brady material that has to be turned over to the defense. Thompson kept on billing the public for his feed until, as he delicately put it, “I later realized this practice violated City rules.”

Slapped on the wrist by the COIB and fined $15,000, he explained that he’d paid back the dinner money, saying, “I accept complete responsibility for this violation and regret that it occurred.” A new era has dawned in Brooklyn.

Scene: Brooklyn Criminal Court

Judge: The charge is robbery, gun possession and loitering in the park after sunset. How do you plead?

Defendant: I accept complete responsibility for this violation and regret that it occurred. Plus, I gave the wallet back.

Judge: Very well. You will be fined the same proportion of your income as the District Attorney was. Pay the two dollars to the clerk downstairs.

Next case. Madam, you’re charged with receiving $5,524 in Welfare payments that you weren’t entitled to. How do you plead?

Defendant: I  was warned that I might be violating the prohibition against listing one’s cats as dependents, but my I consulted my friends and they told me to go ahead. I later realized that this practice violated Welfare rules. I accept complete responsibility for this violation –

Prosecutor: Violation! Since when is bilking the City out of five and a half grand a violation? It’s felony if there ever was one – [Supervisor whispers in his ear] Oh, sorry.

Defendant: – and regret that it occurred.

Judge:  Of course, how could you possibly have known? The rules are so confusing. Go in peace, my child.

As for Fustian Orotund, his blog has disappeared. We fear he’s hanging by his thumbs in some oubliette underneath Renaissance Plaza.



Posted in Criminal law, Humor, Law & Parody | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Not the News: ISIS Highly Insulted by Trump’s Crediting Obama as Founder

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump told his supporters at a rally that President Obama is “the founder of ISIS.” He later said his remarks were merely “sarcastic.” A spokesman for ISIS responds:

terrorist   Effeminate sodomite crusaders! Is there no end to the lies promulgated by the West? No limit to America’s  shameless policies of cultural appropriation? To credit that apostate Obama as our founder! Outrageous! How many infidels has he beheaded? None!

We do not understand this Trump. If he doesn’t like Mexicans, why doesn’t he just invade their country and slaughter them, as we do over here with Shi’ites, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Al-Quaeda, Taliban. . . the list is too long to remember. Why waste time running for president when he has the money to found his own state? Where would we be if we’d waited to get elected?

And if he thinks we’re a laughing matter, we direct him to our house magazine, Dabiq conveniently published in all the infidel languages. For strong stomachs only.

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