Two Men in Va. Face Rare Lynching Charge

Anthony Buco David II died on his 24th birthday, two days after he was beaten outside a Virginia Beach nightclub.

Following a monthlong investigation, prosecutors charged two sailors in David’s July 7 death – not with murder, but with lynching.

Though the term is commonly thought to suggest mob hangings, the charge was brought because the 1928 statute defines lynching as act of mob violence that results in death. And though David was Filipino and the suspects are white and Hispanic, authorities determined race was not a factor.

Findlaw has the interesting story here from the AP.


My Big Fattening Greek Salad

If the various lawsuits against “Big Food”�the teens suing McDonald’s because they’re obese or the guy who sued Kraft over too-yummy Oreos chock-full of trans fat�look familiar, they should. The suits have been organized, plotted, and launched by some of the same advocates who brought you those big tobacco suits in the 1980s and ’90s. While none of these cases has yet found its way before a jury (the McDonald’s complaint was dismissed in January with leave to file again), Big Food is scared. Kraft is downsizing its portions, McDonald’s is said to be testing a Happy Meal with fresh fruit instead of fries, and Frito-Lay is cutting the evil trans fats from their Doritos.

Dahlia Lithwick’s latest column from Slate has the details.


Partner Booted From Jail For Dressing Too Sexy

Leg chains are in. Legs are out.

That’s the word from the fashion police over at Miami’s Federal Detention Center visiting area, where attorney Rebekah Poston got booted for improper attire, again, last week.

Poston, chairman of Steel Hector & Davis’ white-collar criminal defense practice and corporate compliance group and co-chair of the firm’s immigration practice group, said she doesn’t own a stitch of clothing that’s longer than knee-length.

That’s a problem for prison officials, who follow a federal code that bans women visitors from wearing too-short skirts, blouses that zip or button down the front, or even sweaters. Also banned are halter tops, Spandex pants and “clothing with revealing holes,” according to a “Social Visiting” rule list distributed at the detention center.

“Clothing with revealing holes”?? Read the rest here from The Miami Daily Business Reveiw via Law.com.


“First Two Lawsuits Challenging the Patriot Act Likely Aren’t the Last”

“This is not the final gunshot. It’s the opening salvo,” said Charles Shanor of Emory University School of Law. “It’s a complex process that no doubt will involve the courts, the legislature and public opinion. And it could turn on matters that are as nonlegal as whether there is another terrorist attack between now and judicial decision time.”

The process involves weighing whether the judgments made in the act were appropriate or over-reactions, Shanor and others said.

“Part of the context of this is the Patriot Act was enacted in an environment where there was virtually no discussion or careful scrutiny,” said Stephen Schulhofer of New York University School of Law. “Maybe there shouldn’t have been because we needed to act quickly. But now we have the time and room for thought about what we need in the post-9/11 world.”

“[N]ow we have the time and room for thought about what we need . . . .” Let’s use it wisely. Details here from The National Law Journal.


Convicted Murderer Seeks Law License

James Hamm is a rare murderer.

He readily admits his brutality and his guilt, recounting how he shot and killed a customer who intended to buy marijuana from him in 1974. But in prison, Hamm says, he transformed himself from drug-peddling thug into law-abiding scholar.

He graduated from college while still incarcerated, later completed law school and passed the bar exam on his second try. Now about to turn 55, he wants a license to practice law in Arizona, the same state that imprisoned him for 17 1/2 years for first-degree murder.

This article is fascinating and I highly recommend it. In addition to Mr. Hamm, it discusses the cases of several other convicted murderers who have led exemplary lives after serving long sentences.

It also points out that these reformed murderers are a dying breed, because harsher sentences now keep most murderers from ever getting out, which is increasingly turning our prisons into very expensive nursing homes. “America incarcerated about 110 of every 100,000 people from the 1920s until the 1970s, according to Blumstein. Today, the rate of those in prison has more than quadrupled, to 470 of every 100,000.” (See related article, Prison Population Boom Means Added Costs For States)

Good idea? I don’t think so. Read the very thought-provoking article excerpted above from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.


Supreme Court to Revisit Online Porn Law

Here we go again:

The Bush administration has appealed to the Supreme Court to reinstate a law that punishes Web site operators who expose children to dirty pictures and other inappropriate material.

The court has already sided with the government once this year in its war against online smut, ruling that Congress can require public libraries that receive federal funding to equip computers with anti-pornography filters.

In an appeal filed Monday, Solicitor General Theodore Olson said the filter technology alone is not enough. Children are “unprotected from the harmful effects of the enormous amount of pornography on the World Wide Web,” he told justices. . . .

[C]ritics contend the law violates the rights of adults to see or buy what they want on the Internet.

Olson said the main target was commercial pornographers who use sexually explicit “teasers” to lure customers.

I’m all for protecting children from porn, but I’ll make two points: First, I highly doubt that concerns about child protection actually drive Ashcroft’s most recent assault on free speech; and second, isn’t it a better idea to have parents take responsibility for what their children do, rather than have John Ashcroft move in and regulate it for them?

I occasionally — though still quite rarely — receive unsolicited “spam” email that displays graphic porn on my screen before I can delete it. I would have no problem prosecuting the people who perpetrate that. But most “reputable” porn sites make you be affirmatively proactive before you can actually see anything “dirty.”

Anyway, the article I quoted from above is here from the AP.


ABA Opposes Renewal of Anti-Terrorism Law

The American Bar Association, an outspoken critic of certain Bush administration anti-terrorism polices, on Tuesday opposed the renewal of surveillance powers granted to the executive branch in a post-Sept. 11 law.

The ABA’s policymaking body voted to oppose efforts to repeal the Dec. 31, 2005, expiration date of the powers contained in the USA Patriot Act until Congress reviews whether they have been used properly and determines if they should be extended.

The law, which was adopted shortly after the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, gives the executive branch broad new law enforcement, immigration and intelligence-gathering authority.

The article on the ABA is here from Reuters via Findlaw.com. For the record, the ACLU doesn’t like it much either.


Under Ashcroft, Justice Is Blind and Handcuffed

The Los Angeles Times has this excellent opinion piece by Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington Law School. It points out, among other things, that Ashcroft’s system for having the US Attorneys’ offices rat out judges who give downward departures from the sentencing guidelines not only targets judges, but targets the US Attorneys themselves. Think you’d have much of a future in the Justice Department if it came to Ashcroft’s attention (and, under his system, it would) that you had not opposed a downward departure? Think again.

Turley also points out that, according to the ABA, prosecutors have appealed only 19 of more than 11,000 such sentence reductions. Talk about a solution in search of a problem . . . .

The only thing Ashcroft’s new system is guaranteed to accomplish is to universally increase unnecessary misery and suffering. But since only “bad” people will be forced to endure it, Ashcroft thinks its a good idea. I’d wager that Ashcroft’s next crusade will be to not only increase the use of the Federal death penalty, but to have Ashcroft himself carry it out by personally smiting the condemned with fire and brimstone. (Or perhaps he thinks he is capable of summoning Jesus to do it for him — it wouldn’t surprise me.)

Ashcroft needs to take his ultra-conservative fundamentalist Christian agenda out of the Justice Department, and leave it where ever he found it. It is not what the majority of Americans want. And even if it was, our Constitution clearly prohibits John Ashcroft from imposing it on those who don’t want it. As the officer with the highest authority regarding the Constitution in the executive branch, he ought to at least be aware of that. Apparently, he isn’t.

The man is a borderline lunatic and he’s seriously damaging our nation’s justice system, in both in actuality and appearances, as the Dayton Daily News (hardly a bastion of social liberalism) points out here.

UPDATE: TalkLeft has an excellent post about the ABA’s debate on whether the sentencing guidelines should be abolished entirely (which I think they should — or at least judges’ discretion under them should be radically increased).


Big Firms Begin Hiring for Upturn

In the late 1990s, shrewd law firm managers deepened their litigation, bankruptcy and white-collar crime practices in hopes of capturing business during an anticipated economic downturn.

Now they’re quietly calculating which practices will ripen next.

Many of D.C.’s biggest firms are preparing for a transactional comeback, hanging on to corporate lawyers despite low billables and even starting to hunt for laterals. Others are honing in on European regulatory work or arbitration. Still others say that, while evergreen, health care is a solid bet for growth.

Good news for those laid off over the past few years. Legal Times has the story here.


EEOC Finds Sex Discrimination at David Boies� Law Firm

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, investigating a case that was settled out of court more than a year ago, has found that David Boies’ law firm discriminated against women in wages and working conditions.

“Female employees were subjected to disparate treatment in compensation, terms, conditions and privileges of employment,” said Spencer Lewis Jr., New York district director of the EEOC, in an opinion dated Thursday and made public Monday.

Lewis also found that Boies, Schiller & Flexner maintained a two-tier system of compensation — one for lawyers on the partnership track, one for the others — “which is not applied uniformly, resulting in discrimination against a class of female associate attorneys.”

Read all about it here from the AP.