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My blog and welcome to it.

Random thoughts, ramblings and rants about things legal, illegal, tortious, outrageous and otherwise.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Paperless courts
The federal courts are forcing electronic filing upon us.  My local court requires all attorney's to file motions and other documents over the internet.  Electronic filing was optional for a while, but became mandatory earlier this year.  I'm guessing that the group running the conversion decided that as long as e-filing was optional, there would always be a few holdouts who would gum up the system with paper filings.
During the training we were told that certain items would have to be filed electronically in .pdf, with paper copies mailed to the court for the judge.  When we questioned why the paperless system still required mailing copies the explanation was that most of the judges do not use computers and insist on handling case files in paper form.  Life tenure tends to get your whims indulged.
If it is true that most of the district's judges are not computer literate, what does that say about their understanding of the modern world?  It is a little scary to think that someone who has to make carefully reasoned decisions is far enough outside the mainstream that he has no experience with e-mail or the internet.
Tue, February 28, 2006 | link

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Trashing the transcript
Court-reporter's poor transcript may require do-over on murder trial.
Wed, February 22, 2006 | link

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I love the smell of birdshot in the morning
Available here (for a limited time)
Tue, February 14, 2006 | link

Sunday, February 12, 2006

They're so fly
What exactly is "retro" about $62 boxer shorts?  My grandfather (the most retro guy I know) would laugh anyone wearing $62 underwear out of his house.
Sun, February 12, 2006 | link

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Just the thing to go with my Clarence Thomas thong ...
From today's classified ads in the Winston Salem Journal.
Tue, February 7, 2006 | link

Electronic surveillance in the age of wooden teeth
George Washington authorized electronic surveillance?  It must have involved a Franklin stove, a kite, a key and a thunderstorm.  I wonder who he listened to?
(Link via Ed Cone, movie clip)
Tue, February 7, 2006 | link

At $500 per week you could pay this off in 1154 years ...
Under the recently amended bankrutpcy law Robert Blake had get financial counseling before he could file for bankrutpcy.  The major debt listed was a $30 million judgment in a wrongful death action for the killing of Bonnie Bakely.
I wonder what advice the financial counselor offerred Blake.  Cut expenses by coupon clipping?  Greater use of store and generic brands?  Dropping back to basic cable?
The Blake bankruptcy petition is here (.pdf format)
Tue, February 7, 2006 | link

Is that a zucchini in your pants or are you just not happy to see me?
The Atlanta Homeland Security police rousted a a vegan picketing a Honeybaked Ham store after she wrote down the license plate number of the undercover officer who was photographing the protest.
They told me if I didn't give over the piece of paper I would go to jail and I refused and I went to jail, and the piece of paper was taken away from me at the jail and the officer who transferred me said that was why I was arrested.
(From WXIA-TV).
According to the officer, this is what went down:
Detective Gorman was located in the CVS parking lot taking pictures of the protestors. Subsequently, two individuals later identified as Christopher Freeman and Caitlin Childs walked behind Detective Gorman's assigned police vehicle and wrote down the tag number.
Subsequently, Detective Gorman requested a uniform police officer to meet with him at the CVS parking lot. As the police officer was on his way, Freeman and Childs left the parking lot in a vehicle. Officer Moffit from the TAC unit observed the vehicle and followed the vehicle to a Mexican restaurant located at (need street number and name of restaurant) Buford Highway. Detective Gorman also followed the vehicle. The vehicle stopped subsequently, Officer Moffit activated his emergency equipment and walked up to the vehicle. Officer Moffit introduced Detective Gorman to the occupants of the vehicle.
Detective Gorman asked Freeman and Childs to exit the vehicle. Detective Gorman asked the two individuals why they wrote down his tag number. The two responded that they did not know who was taking pictures of them so they wanted to get the tag number. Detective Gorman advised the two that he was a police detective with Dekalb County police and that he was instructed to monitor and picture the protest. Detective Gorman then asked Childs for the piece of paper with the tag number written on it. Childs refused to hand over the piece of paper and advised that she was allowed to monitor the police and their actions. Childs questioned Detective Gorman as to why he needed the piece of paper back.
Gorman advised Childs that the vehicle he was driving was an undercover vehicle and he did not want the tag number passed around. Childs again refused stating that it was her right to keep the tag number.
This account came from a lawsuit the ACLU subsequently filed.
Apparently criminal charges have not been pursued.
What would have happened if the vegan had written the number in soy ink on hemp-based paper and eaten it?  Would there have been a body-cavity search?  What if she had memorized the number? A lobotomy?
Tue, February 7, 2006 | link

Is Moussaoui worth the mess?
Juror questionnaire form in Moussaoui trial.
CBS legal analyst says the Moussaoui trial is just not worth it.
Tue, February 7, 2006 | link

Monday, February 6, 2006

Rolling over
I agree with this post on an Enron trial blog that that a defendant may make a rational decision to plead guilty even if he is not.  The enticement is a of substantial reduction in sentence in exchange for testimony.  Unfortunately the conventional wisdom is that the "the government witnesses are all trying to curry favor with the prosecutors" rarely works.
Mon, February 6, 2006 | link

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Get back to me when you're serious
Bay Buchanan appeared in Winston-Salem last night to speak out against amnesty or guest worker programs for people in the U.S. illegally.  In a brief radio report about the speech it was reported that there are an estimated 15 million illegal immigrants in the United States.  Buchanan quotes from a Charlotte rally included:
 "Do you know how many millions of people want to live in this country? When do we stop? Isn't 15,000,000 enough? How about 50,000,000 illegals? We have to stop sometime." ...
 "Let's put a few of these fellows in prison" (quotes from WCNC.com)
An article on the Voice of America website (I found the link from The American Cause, a Pat-Bay Buchanan organization) put the illegal immigrant population at 11 million.
My experience in illegal immigration comes mainly from representing illegal aliens who have returned to the U.S. after deportation.  When talk with the clients about why they came to America, the answer always is that there was no work home so they came here to work.
Buchanan's policy has an engaging simplicity.  After all, why should the U.S. tolerate flagrant law-breaking?  But if you are really seeking concrete change it seems there are some real practical problems:
1.  What would be the effect of immediately forcing 15 million people out of the United States?  That is 5% of the country's current population (estimated to be 298,017,998 as of Feb. 1, 2006).  I'm no economist, but a rapid loss of 5% of the population could have devastating economic consequences.  I'm guessing that would be true even if there were substantial savings resulting from no longer having to provide public services to illegal immigrants.
2. Assuming it would cost $100 per head to locate and deport each and every one of the 15 million illegal immigrants, the country would have to spend $1.5 billion.  That's $6.70 tax increase for each of the 224 million returns processed by the IRS.  Remember that a portion of the returns are for tax-exempt organizations or individuals who owed no tax, the per taxpayer charge would probably be more.
3. What would be the effect on countries in Latin America suddenly having to re-absorb 15 million people (I am assuming a large portion of illegal immigrants are from Latin America because it is relatively easier to get here from there).  So in addition to the economic problems caused by the loss of 15 million people from the U.S., there would be 10 million displaced people just south of the U.S. border.  If the chaos caused South American economies to tank, wouldn't that magnify the bad economic effects of the sudden population loss here in the U.S.?  We could be creating a hemispheric recession.
4. Convicting and imprisoning just 5% of illegal immigrants means 750,000 inmates added to a federal prison system that currently houses 185,000 inmates.  The Federal Bureau of Prisons would have to grow to more than 4 times its current size.
5.  Once all the illegal immigrants were deported the southern border would have to be fortified with some sort of security fence.  Fencing 3.5 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border was expected to cost $58 million.  The U.S.-Mexico border is 2,000 miles long.  At that rate the total cost to fence the border would be $33.1 trillion.  Total federal spending for 2005 was $2.473 trillion so the border fencing project would cost more than 13 times to total federal budget.
Any sensible solution to illegal immigration must accept a free-market fact: that goods (or labor) tend to flow to areas where there is demand.  As long as there are economic incentives to come here people will come.  A sensible solution would skip rhetoric about 1,000 new border patrol officers, prison and fences and make it difficult for those here illegally to work.  That would involve some kind of citizenship verification database that would involve the dreaded national ID card, and real sanctions for those who hire ineligible people as employees or independent contractors.  Making it easier for those who want work and can find jobs in the U.S. would relieve the pressure on the border.  Surely it is possible to dramatically increase the numbers of legal immigrants from the south without flooding the market and depressing wages.
One more thing: the America First aspect of these anti-immigrant crusades always makes me uneasy.  There is always some implicit idea of innate superiority of American citizens.  I don't recall becoming an American citizen because of my hard work, superior SAT scores or winning an essay contest.  My citizenship is a geographical accident of birth.  Had my ancestors not crossed the border in times of more lenient immigration policies, I would be on the outside looking in.
Wed, February 1, 2006 | link

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 "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.  But those that will not break, it kills.  It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.  If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
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