Putting the brakes on “victims’ rights”

“The Young Savages,” a 1961 movie about teenage gangs (Italo-Americans vs. Puerto Ricans), filmed on the streets of pre-gentrified New York, opens with three Italo teens killing a Puerto Rican youth who’s not only unarmed but blind. “New York is cold, cold,” says the grieving mother to the Assistant District Attorney (Burt Lancaster). “In Puerto Rico, everybody say hello. In New York, there’s no love.”

Just when your heart is going out to her, she adds, “So I want those boys to fry, Mr. District Attorney! There will be no justice until you send them to the electric chair!”

It’s complicated.

A man pleads not guilty to sex trafficking and is found hanged in his cell. His accusers, not satisfied that he’s paid with his life, bitterly complain that they’ve been cheated of their day in court. The federal judge obligingly holds a special proceeding for them to vent their fury in the courtroom. “I believe it is the court’s responsibility and manifestly within its purview to ensure that the victims in this case are treated fairly and with dignity,” he announces. (“Manifestly” being a judicial term of art for “having no legal support whatever”).

Does anybody besides Simple Justice see anything haywire when a judge presiding over a case decides that the accusers are victims? Without the silly formality of a trial, much less a verdict?  Turning his courtroom into a soapbox because of a  “manifest” belief that a court has a responsibility to soothe their outrage? To hell with proof beyond a reasonable doubt when you can substitute “believe the victim.”

So it was pretty amazing when, during that same week, another New York court came out with the radical holding that although victims have rights, “those rights are limited and do not allow victims to control the criminal process.”

The occasion was a lawsuit filed by the widow of Police Officer Joseph Piagentini, who was ambushed and shot to death during the 1970’s enthusiasm for killing cops in the name of the Black Revolutionary Army.  Herman Bell, a college student at the time, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years to life. Now that he’s 70 years old and a changed man after serving 40 years in prison, he was finally released to parole.

“Irrationality bordering on impropriety,” fumed Mrs. Piagentini in her petition against the Parole Board. For her and the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, nothing short of life imprisonment for Bell will ever be enough.  After all, they argue, John Lennon’s assassin got 20 to life and is still being denied parole.

A slew of public defender organizations filed an amicus brief saying that crime victims shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with Parole Board decisions, at least not on the rare occasions when the Board gets it right.  The court agreed. A victim isn’t a party to the action and has no standing to appeal a decision.

They have plenty of influence as it is.

A.D.A. Burt Lancaster consults the wishes of the victims.




Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal law | 3 Comments

Maestro James Levine (somewhat) rehabilitated

No matter what people say, you don’t have to be a toffee-nose in a mink stole to enjoy opera.  Especially when you can spend the last week of summer watching it on HD on a giant screen outdoors in front of the Met as dusk fades into night and the Moon emerges. While sitting with friends, sipping wine from cans and munching peanut butter sandwiches (which pair nicely with red, white or rosé).

As for Mark Twain’s crack about Wagner’s music not being as bad as it sounds –obviously he’d never seen the Ring Cycle conducted by James Levine.

Although if the #MeToo cranks had their way, the rest of the world would never see it either. Because some middle-aged guys suddenly decided that this was a good time to accuse Maestro Levine — now in his mid-70’s, struggling with Parkinson’s and conducting from a wheelchair —  of having committed sexual improprieties against them 40 years ago when they were teenagers. The Met obligingly fired him, canceled all his scheduled performances and conspicuously omitted his HD recordings from last year’s outdoor opera week.

Levine sued for defamation.  Earlier this year, the court held that although it wasn’t defamatory for the Met to announce that this was “a sad moment,” it was defamatory to post on its website that it possessed “credible” “corroborated” “evidence” that he had committed sexual misconduct against “vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers.”  The court rejected the Met’s argument that it was merely expressing an opinion, finding that “the average reader” would infer that the Met had supporting facts  “detrimental to the person” that it wasn’t telling. Needless to say, none of these “facts” had been determined by anyone except the Met.

Whether because of this decision or an uprising by the mink-stole crowd, the Met allowed “Das Rheingold,” conducted by Levine in 2010, to be shown at this year’s outdoor HD festival. Marvelous! The version that Mark Twain slept through most likely portrayed Wotan as a dreary old stick, his wife Fricka as a nagging scold and Alberich the Dwarf as nothing but a grotesque villain. But Levine’s version was full of feeling and infinitely more riveting than “Star Wars.”

Eric Owens as Alberich inspects the magic helmet whose transformative powers will lead to his turning himself into a toad, with unfavorable consequences.

But the Met had to extract its pound of flesh. Except for a quick glimpse of Levine’s head at the beginning, it cut out all the footage of him conducting. The way the Soviet Union used to airbrush out disfavored persons from official photos.

But nothing could destroy the music.

We hear Levine’s case was recently settled. We hope one of the conditions is that the Met bring back all the uncut HD’s of him conducting. Or else they’ll have to reckon with the canned wine and peanut butter sandwich crowd.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Compulsory Program Mystique

It’s a well-know fact that compulsory programs (CP) originated in ancient times when God felt offended at seeing His people worshiping other gods. “Hand me a couple of thunderbolts, will you?” He said to His Angel of Communications and Human Resources. “Oh, God!” said the Angel. “That’s so Old Testament! The goal is to improve their performance and engage them in transformational pathways to catalyze growth.”

“You mean make them go to church?” asked God.

“Kee-rect!” said the Angel. “Sitting through meetings inspires team cohesion and promotes productivity. At the very least,  they’ll learn how to sleep with their eyes open.”

CP flourished for centuries until the Spanish Inquisition, when thousands of heretics decided they’d rather be burned at the stake than endure another of Torquemada’s PowerPoint presentations.

CP was revived in China, which created the modern-day model:

Study Well and Grasp the Theory of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

Create Marxist Theoretical Troops

Smash Reactionary Thinking!

Since no one in a free society would dream of tolerating such blatant propagandizing and indoctrination, CP had to be re-labeled for export as “treatment” or “therapy.” And since CP was so good for addicts, the mentally ill and criminals, it was but a short step to require it for everyone.  CP slithered into the workplace as “mandatory training.”

Last week all employees were ordered to log onto our outfit’s creepily named  “Learning Management System.”  Starting  with the disclaimer, “this is not legal advice,” the video promised to instruct us about what behavior constitutes Sexual Harassment, how to report it and the legal consequences of not reporting it. Good thing our learning is managed or we might have thought that was legal advice.

After a perky song and dance about the variety of genders to choose from, the video gives the classic story of the vulnerable working woman threatened by the boss unless she yields to his sexual advances. We were duly stirred to indignation, ready to grab a pitchfork and stamp out sexual harassment wherever it rears its ugly head.

But the rest of the stories were like – a guy whose supervisor put her hand on his knee while sitting next to him in a bar, making him “uncomfortable.” The poor fellow couldn’t think of any way out, such as standing up to order another drink or going to the gents. “I was afraid she’d write a bad report,” he explains. “And I really needed a raise.”

And that’s supposed to be the same thing?

You might imagine that a film like this would overlook wrongful accusations. Perish the thought. We hear about a woman who reports a fellow employee for saying, “Your new haircut looks nice.” THAT’S NOT SEXUAL HARASSMENT concedes the voiceover. But the boss was very wrong to move the complainer away from the offending complimenter.  So long as a person believes she was sexually harassed, it’s RETALIATION to do anything that might chill her from filing complaints.

Also very wrong is for men to avoid being alone with women for fear of harassment accusations. That’s discrimination, explains the Voice. If you don’t want to be accused of sexual harassment, DON’T HARASS. This reminded us of similar advice from former NYPD Commissioner Bratton: if you don’t want to get choked to death by the police, DON’T RESIST.

Bottom line: your boss is forbidden to tell you how to wear your hair or how to dress. She can only tell you what to think.

Our Brigade Leader

Posted in Civil Liberties, Law & Parody | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Fox snarls at pursuing hounds, is shot for bullying behavior

In another victory for “the offended” over our blog post from two years ago, Are You a Cissy? the boss has condemned us to a course of treatment by Corporate Counseling Associates (“CCA”).  The boss has now added “bullying” to our list of sins because, she says, our outrage at our accusers hurts their feelings and “chills” their zeal for filing complaints. Would that were true!

According to its website, CCA provides CYA to organizations against lawsuits from the offended in the form of “Workplace Behavior Risk Coaching.” CCA’s “Case Studies” is a gallery of photos illustrating the various workplace problems they promise to fix.  For instance, one photo shows a phone off the hook in a conference room, captioned “Violence in the Workplace,” apparently suggesting murdered bodies under the table:

Violence in the workplace

Even more subtle is the same photo captioned “Opioids in the Workplace.”

Opioids in the workplace

And totally beyond us is the one of birds perched on telephone pole wires, captioned “Employee Assistance Program”:

Employee Assistance Program

Then there’s “A range of interventions to move an organization forward”:

A range of interventions to move an organization forward.

which if that doesn’t portend “Violence in the workplace,” we don’t know what does.

We figure we’re destined for the category “CCA helps address difficult behaviors to deliver business results.” Unfortunately we haven’t a clue what these little blocks are:

Addressing difficult behaviors to deliver business results

Evidently the red circle is having its difficult behaviors addressed by the offended cubes.

The website goes on to provide success stories like this one:

“A new executive joined a senior team. Her knowledge, experience, and capability in delivering results were excellent, but her style alienated supervisors, peers, direct reports, and stakeholders.” After being worked over for 6 months, says the website, (emphasis added) she “learned to modulate her style to adapt to both the culture and specific individuals.”

We look forward to doing the same.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Satire and parody | Tagged | 3 Comments

“Pray for Trump”

A friend spotted this bumper sticker: “Pray for Trump. Psalm 109:8.” Being an alert attorney and law professor, she naturally checked the cite.

The verse is: “Let his days be few and another take his office.”

Posted in Humor | Tagged | 3 Comments

Squawk gets kicked off jury duty, is astonished.

A few years ago we briefed an appeal from probably the worst trial since Sacco and Vanzetti. When Judge “This-is-MY-courtroom” Napaloni wasn’t screaming at the defendant and his lawyer, he was encouraging the prosecutor to put in outrageously prejudicial-not-remotely-probative evidence.  All to keep the jury from being “misled” into returning the wrong verdict.

The last straw was when a police witness started reading to the jury a list of guns confiscated in an unrelated case, which just happened to include the same kind of guns (but not the same ones) as in the defendant’s case. “That wasn’t my shit!” protested our young man. “That wasn’t my house!” “Quiet!” roared His Honor. “If you don’t like it, why don’t you get up and testify?”

The judge kicked him out of the courtroom for the rest of the trial, blowing off the defense lawyer’s pleas that it wouldn’t happen again and that the Constitution frowns on trials in absentia. But after the trial was over, he graciously allowed the defendant back into the courtroom to hear his sentence.

When asked if he had anything to say, the soon-to-be-our-client observed that the judge and the prosecutor had been sucking each other off for the whole trial. An accurate assessment in our opinion, although we wouldn’t have put it that way. Judge Napaloni, with a merry twinkle in his eye, sentenced him to 107 years.

So imagine our horror last week when we were summoned for jury duty and found ourselves in the bailiwick of none other than Judge Napaloni. Even more shocking was that instead of the usual strapping presumed-innocent at the defense table was a frail old man.  Murder with a justification defense, they said.

“Does anyone recognize me?” asked the judge of the 50 potential jurors in the courtroom.  We raised our hand. We recognized him from his picture. “Is it still up in the Post Office?” he chortled and went on to something else. Giving us no chance to tell everybody that not too long ago the NY Post featured a huge photo of him on the bench surreptitiously vaping behind his beard.

OMG, he was just a great big lovable teddy bear, cracking jokes, some of them funny, and very sincere indeed about the importance of jury duty. This is the only country in the world, he explained, where a criminal – er- an accused – is entitled to the judgment of 12 of his peers. And it’s very, very important not to pre-judge cops, but see them as individuals who put on their pants one leg at a time.

Back at the office, our colleagues opined with much hilarity, “You’ll never get picked for a jury!” But dammit, jury duty is important! We’ve seen how the People routinely reduce the charges for the very purpose of depriving the defendant of his right to a jury. (You’re not entitled to a jury for “petty” misdemeanors).  And how, when no sensible jury would have convicted, the judge who tries the case is afraid to acquit for fear of getting his picture in the NY Post with a caption like JUDGE FREES PERV CHILD MURDERER. Even if it’s only a subway fare beat.

And why assume we can’t be fair and impartial just because we’re a defense attorney?  Don’t we put on our pants one leg at a time, just like any other juror? Well, yeah, except. . . we know Judge Napaloni’s penchant for handing out 100+ year sentences. Should we say something when he asks if we promise not to consider the sentence? Of course that would get us instantly sent back to Central Jury and put onto some eye-glazing civil case that goes on for three months before they settle. But could registering our disapproval at least make him think twice about handing a century to that little old man if he’s convicted? We thought about it all weekend.

Back in court on Monday morning, there were only about 30 potential jurors left. We recognized our deli man from the Flatbush Food Co-op. Good to see a familiar face, although our only exchanges up to then had been along the lines of, “Do you want collards or kale?”

It was our turn to be individually questioned.  We’d each been given  a questionnaire to which we had to answer aloud, “Number two, yes, number three, no,” and so on. But if your answer to “Are you employed?” is yes, you have to say what you do. So we did.

Judge Napaloni, fixing us with a terrible eye, bellowed, “You’re not going to second-guess my rulings, are you?” “Absolutely not, Your Honor,” we bravely squeaked.

What happened to our resolve to explain that we should be seen as an individual, fair and impartial, putting on our pants one leg at a time, etc.? Alas, neither the prosecutor nor the defense attorney so much as looked at us while questioning the other jurors. It was like there was a bee over our head.

So we didn’t get picked. But maybe it was because we answered “Flatbush Food Co-op” when asked what organizations we belonged to.  The lawyers so obviously liked the deli man, it was no contest between him and us.  Poor guy, he’ll be in court for a good three weeks. But eventually we’ll get to hear about the verdict over the collards and kale.

Posted in Criminal law, Law & Parody | Tagged | 3 Comments

Supreme Court to Patent Office: Don’t FUCT with the 1st Amendment

  Wanna look cool and edgy? Drive over to your local mall and buy a FUCT® t-shirt! Your friends hanging out at Shake Shack will take their noses out of their I-phones and exclaim, “Look at that viewpoint of non-compliance with conventional social mores! What a devastating critique of Capitalism, Government, Religion and Pop Culture!”

That’s the idea, anyway, according to FUCT, a pioneer in the billion-dollar “urban streetwear” industry.

But when knockoffs started eating into its profits, FUCT realized that maybe the Government has its uses after all. Registering the FUCT trademark would give it a clear claim of ownership, making it easier to go after the infringers.

But the stodgy old U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) said it violated their prohibition against  registering trademarks that are “immoral” or “scandalous.” “A total vulgar,” harrumphed the PTO.  “Has decidedly negative sexual connotations.” Communicates “extreme misogyny, nihilism and violence.” As everybody knows, FUCT is “the equivalent of the past participle of a well-known word of profanity.”

This from a government agency which, according to the FUCT brief in the resulting Supreme Court case Iancu v. Brunetti, has registered trademarks such as FCUK, PHUC, MILF (maybe the PTO didn’t know what it stands for), ANAL FANTASY COLLECTION, EDIBLE CROTCHLESS GUMMY PANTIES, WHORES FROM HELL, SOCIAL NETWORKING FOR YOUR PENIS and WONDROUS VULVA PUPPET.

The satirist P.J. O’Rourke and former ACLU head Nadine Strossen co-wrote an amicus brief about how “Vulgar Language Is Necessary for Full and Authentic Expression.” It’s just a hoary old stereotype, they explain, that people whose every other word is a past participle of a profanity are stupid. “In fact, studies have shown that using profanity is positively correlated with both intellect and honesty.”  Fcuk, yeah!

Well, not even the Supreme Court wants to be an old stodge. They had no trouble deciding that the PTO’s “immoral or scandalous” prohibition is viewpoint-based and therefore violates the First Amendment.

Still, a few of the justices didn’t quite buy that swearing is a mark of authenticity and intellect. The past participle at issue “signifies nothing except emotion and a severely limited vocabulary,” sniffed Justice Alito.

Justice Breyer, showing off, informs us that swear words “originate in a different part of our brains,” and “excite the lower-brain circuitry responsible for emotion, resulting in electrical impulses that can be measured in the skin.” Therefore, he reasons, swear words in trademarks “threaten to distract consumers and disrupt commerce. And they may lead to the creation of public spaces that many will find repellent, perhaps on occasion creating the risk of verbal altercations or even physical confrontations.”

Not to be outdone in dire predictions, Justice Sotomayor foresees that the result of the decision will be a “rush to register trademarks” “containing the most vulgar, profane, or obscene words and images imaginable.”

Repellent public space.

Posted in First Amendment, satire, Supreme Court | Tagged , | 2 Comments