Monday night, three hours after acting Attorney General Sally Yates issued a letter instructing US Attorneys not to defend Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, Trump fired her. The last time that happened was in 1973, when Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox at the height of the Watergate scandal. It precipitated the resignation of Attorney …
Jan 31 2017
Nov 01 2016
Up Date: 11/1/2016, 16:30 According to Pro Puclica, an ethics complaint has been filed against Rep. Jason Chafetz (R-UT) for releasing information provided to him by FBI Director Comey. Representative Chaffetz, in an ill-planned partisan attempt, released information that compromised the integrity of the FBI, when he irresponsibly tweeted out that the case investigating Secretary …
Aug 17 2016
One of the many problems faced by the federal and state prison system is a fast growing elderly population that is ill requiring special medical attention and facilities. Some of these people, men and women, are serving sentences for violent crimes, others for low level drug possessions and have been sentenced due to mandatory minimums, …
Jun 28 2016
There was a of of speculation that the US Supreme Court would hand down numerous split decisions since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia this year and the refusal of the Republicans in the Senate to even give President Barak Obama’s candidate to replace him a hearing. There were some but not as many as …
Mar 20 2016
Since the Johnson Administration, Republicon presidents have enjoyed 13 of the 17 successful nominations to the U. S. Supreme Court. Jimmy Carter never had the opportunity to make such a nomination during his four years in office. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have had two successful nominations each, all four occurring during their first two …
Sep 23 2015
In a speech Saturday at The New School in New York, Noam Chomsky explained why he believes the U.S. poses the greatest threat to world peace. “[The United States] is a rogue state, indifferent to international law and conventions, entitled to resort to violence at will. … Take, for example, the Clinton doctrine-namely, the United States is free to resort to unilateral use of military power, even for such purposes as to ensure uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources-let alone security or alleged humanitarian concerns. And adherence to this doctrine is very well confirmed and practiced, as need hardly be discussed among people willing to look at the facts of current history.” Chomsky also explained why he believes the U.S. and its closest allies, namely Saudi Arabia and Israel, are undermining prospects for peace in the Middle East. “When we say the international community opposes Iran’s policies or the international community does some other thing, that means the United States and anybody else who happens to be going along with it.”
Transcript can be read here
Sep 22 2015
As you read this , you are reading history. Not in the sense that it is something memorable but in the sense that it has happened. So everything that we do or say, once said or done, is in the past one nanosecond later. Think about that and now apply it to the the Fourth Amendment and warantless searches by law enforcement. The North Carolina Court of Appeals has now applied that logic to a ruling involving the search of a defendant’s cell phone records without a warrant (pdf) through the backdoor of warrant that was tangential to the case.
Superior Court Judge Lucy N. Inman signed the order and Detective Mitchell submitted it to AT&T, the cellular phone service provider and holder of the account associated with the phone number. AT&T provided the records of the location of the cell phone tower “hits” or “pings” whenever a call was made to or from the cell phone. AT&T sent emails of the longitude and latitude coordinates of these historical cell tower “hits” to Detective Mitchell every fifteen minutes. Detective Mitchell testified an approximately five- to seven-minute delay occurred between the time the phone “pinged” a cell phone tower and the time AT&T received and calculated the location and sent the latitude and longitude coordinates to him.
Tim Cushing at Techdirt explains how the definition of “historical” has now been twisted to violate a defendant’s civil rights:
The defendant argued that the “real time” tracking of his location violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights (as well as analogous parts of North Carolina’s constitution). The court doesn’t buy these arguments, citing the Stored Communications Act, which allows government entities to obtain certain third party records without a warrant. It says the difference between what’s been considered unconstitutional by several courts — obtaining real-time location information with a tracking device — isn’t what’s happening here.
It argues that because the police didn’t intercept these “records,” everything is above-board, even if the sought “historical” data included two days of “records” that were created after the court order was approved.
Several courts have held the SCA permits a government entity to obtain cell tower site location information from a third-party service provider in situations where the cell tower site location information sought pre-dates the court order and where the cell tower site location information is collected after the date the court order issues. Although the former may technically be considered “historical” while the latter is “prospective” in relation to the date of the court order, both are considered “records” under the SCA. The government entity only receives this information after it has been collected and stored by the third-party service provider.
In plainer English, this means law enforcement entities can seek “historical” records from the “future,” with the mitigating factor being that the records are collected by third parties first. A short delay of a few minutes is enough to call these records “historical” under this interpretation. [..]
While the majority’s interpretation dilutes the meaning of “historical” by including location data yet to be generated under its warrantless wing, it does point out to possible future problems with the use of Stingray devices. These have often been deployed with the same sort of court orders, but contain the ability to track individual phones in real time. Once more details on these deployments come to light, the courts will be forced to confront a plethora of Fourth Amendment violations — at least if they’re going to remain consistent with this interpretation of “historical.”
Can you hear the sound of the shredder?
Sep 21 2015
Once again the Department of Justice has failed to hold executives of a large corporation criminally accountable. This week General Motors agreed to pay $900 million and entered a deferred prosecution agreement to end a U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation into its handling of defective ignition switches in many of its vehicles. They have agreed to independent monitoring of their safety systems. If they adhere and their are no further violations, GM could have its record wiped clean. That’s hardly a satisfying agreement for the families of the 124 people who died in GM vehicles that the company knew were unsafe.
And even though General Motors will pay a $900 million penalty, it was 25 percent less than the record $1.2 billion Toyota agreed to pay last year.
“I don’t understand how they can basically buy their way out of it,” said Margie Beskau, whose daughter Amy Rademaker was killed in an October 2006 crash in Wisconsin. She added, “They knew what they were doing and they kept doing it.”
During the press conference US Attorney Preet Bharara defended the settlement and his satisfaction with the internal investigation that was conducted by a law firm with close ties to General Motors.
The two law firms hired for that inquiry, King & Spalding and Jenner & Block, had previously done legal work for G.M. And court papers show that Anton R. Valukas, the chairman of Jenner & Block, who headed the G.M. investigation, helped represent the automaker in its talks with the Justice Department.
Mr. Valukas declined to be interviewed, and several corporate lawyers said such arrangements are not unusual because an outside law firm that conducts an investigation knows the facts of a case. But Deborah L. Rhode, a professor at Stanford Law School, said the public’s interest may suffer when a law firm wears so many different hats.
“It would be nice to know that the law firm doing the internal investigation was truly disinterested and didn’t have an interest in subsequent representation” of the same company, Ms. Rhode said.
Needless to say the agreement has not satified the critics of the investigation. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) called it “extremely disappointing.” However, congress holds some responsibility in the inability to prosecute the auto makers:
As Danielle Ivory and Ben Protess reported at The Times in July, federal law sets a very high standard for pursuing a criminal case against people who knowingly withhold information about the risks products pose to human life. In auto cases, prosecutors have to prove corporate officers intended to defraud someone, something they do not have to do in food and pharmaceutical cases.
If it was not clear to Congress already that the law needs to change, this case should certainly make it clear. Serious safety problems in cars can be as deadly as contamination in food or drugs, and the law should treat them similarly.
G.M. used the defective switch in numerous cars and it has been linked to 124 deaths, according to compensation claims evaluated by a G.M. fund for victims administered by the lawyer Kenneth Feinberg. The fund has determined that another 275 people deserve compensation for injuries.
This is just one more failure of the Obama Justice Department who are suppose to prosecute criminals.
Sep 15 2015
Most people never expect to get arrested but many who do are poor and cannot afford a lawyer to represent them, so they are provided with a public defenders. Sounds fair but is it? According to John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” it is far from fair or adequate.
John Oliver: If you’re forced to rely on “hideously broken” public defender system, “you’re f*cked”
By Scott Eric Kaufman, Salon
On “Last Week Tonight” Sunday, host John Oliver discussed the plight of those forced to rely on “the attorneys provided for you” if you can’t afford one – public defenders – and how the poor are being “charged for access to a hideously broken system.” [..]
Oliver later discussed the ordeal of a Floridian who was arrested on a traffic violation and racked up over $600 in court fees in order plead “no contest.” “They may as well as charged him an irony fee,” Oliver said, “because as it turns out, being poor in Florida is really fucking expensive.”
Arrested? John Oliver Has A Warning You Have To Hear
Ed Mazza, Huffington Post
Public defenders are so overworked that they often handle hundreds of cases — or in Fresno County, California, they handle up to 1,000 felony cases a year when state guidelines say they should only have 150.
And in New Orleans, some public defenders get an average of seven minutes to prepare a case. [..]
It’s so bad that New Orleans is turning to crowdfunding to make up its budget shortfall, Oliver said, and many states now even charge people for access to a public defender.
“We have a system where conceivably, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you, provided that you pay that attorney, which is absurd,” Oliver said. “You can’t tell people something’s free and then charge them for it. This is the American judicial system — not Candy Crush.”
Aug 25 2015
In a passionate plea, John Oliver, the host of “Last Week Tonight,” explains why the need for the federal government must put an end to the discrimination that the LGBT community faces. He does it like no else could.
Aug 11 2015
It is one year since a young black man was gunned down by a white police officer on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri for jay walking. Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent cover up of his murder by the police and prosecutor’s office sparked months of demonstrations that were marked by more police brutality and violation of the constitutional rights of the protestors and the press.
Seven months later, the Justice Department cleared the white police officer, Darren Wilson, of civil rights charges. However, in a scathing report the police and the courts routinely demonstrated racial bias and violated the constitutional rights of the black citizens of Ferguson with illegal traffic stops, arrests without reasonable suspicion and excessive fines for minor infractions. Then Attorney General Eric Holder misguidedly thought that this report would effect change. The still mostly white Ferguson city council rejected the report and its reforms. And, as seen by this week’s violence, arrests of reporters and use of excessive police tactics during the demonstrations on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, nothing has changed and once again there is a state of emergency in Ferguson and St. Louis County.
The state of emergency was precipitated by the shooting and critical wounding of an 18 year old black man by undercover police who claim that the young man was firing at them. The officers were not wearing body cameras and unmarked vehicle they were in was not equipped with a dash camera. So there is only their word.
In the original New York Times article, this quote, cited by Esquire‘s Charles Pierce, from State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, whose district includes Ferguson, was removed:
“After a year of protest and conversation around police accountability, having plainclothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer’s account of the incident, which is clearly problematic,” Kayla Reed, a field organizer with the Organization for Black Struggle, said in a statement. State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, whose district includes Ferguson, said on Monday that she was seeking information about the shooting. “I’m just trying to figure out the timeline of events and ensure that police officers are following protocol,” said Ms. Chappelle-Nadal, who has been active in protests here. The shooting, which came toward the end of an otherwise peaceful day, was another vexing turn for activists and the authorities alike. It was the second consecutive night of gunfire on West Florissant Avenue.
There is also the issue of arresting reporters on bogus charges supressing freedom of the press:
Huffington Post, Washington Post Reporters Charged For Doing Journalism In Ferguson (UPDATE)
by Michael Calderone, Huffington Post
“You’d have thought law enforcement authorities would have come to their senses about this incident.”
Reporters from The Huffington Post and Washington Post have been charged with trespassing and interfering with a police officer’s performance, a chilling setback for press freedom coming nearly a year after their arrests in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Huffington Post’s Ryan J. Reilly and Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery were arrested while working out of a McDonald’s on Aug. 13, 2014, just four days after white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
Police claimed the journalists, who were covering the unrest that followed the police killing, didn’t leave the restaurant fast enough. Reilly described a police officer shoving his head against glass during his arrest, while Lowery said an officer pushed him into a soda machine. Both Lowery and Reilly were quickly released and not charged with any crime at the time.
The decision to charge Reilly and Lowery now is especially surprising, given that St. Louis County settled just last week with two other journalists arrested while reporting in Ferguson.
Until recently, Reilly and Lowery believed their incidents with police were long over with. The Huffington Post reported last month that the St. Louis County Police Department filed incident reports in late April describing the two reporters as trespassing in the McDonald’s. Police referred their cases to the St. Louis County counselor’s office, which, given a one-year statute of limitations, had until Thursday to bring charges.
Peaceful, unarmed protesters and reporters doing their jobs are harassed and arrested. Now, the vigilantes have arrived:
Heavily-armed members of a controversial right-wing “patriot” group added an extra dose of unease to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, early Tuesday.
The Oath Keepers organization says its members – all former military, police and first responders – pledge to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
However, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar described their presence as “both unnecessary and inflammatory.”
Protesters and police confirmed that a handful of Oath Keepers with what appeared to be assault rifles, bulletproof vest and camouflage gear were seen early Tuesday on the streets of Ferguson, which was under a state of emergency following demonstrations pegged to the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.
Several protesters confronted members of the group, asking why they were allowed to openly carry weapons.
“I’m happy that we’re able to defend ourselves,” one Oath Keeper replied in footage from NBC station KSDK. “It’s been our right for a long time.”
The St. Louis County Police Department said it would consult with the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorneys Office about the legalities of the issue.
Missouri allows individuals with concealed weapons permits to openly display firearms, unless it is done in an “angry or threatening manner.”
Shawn McGuire, a spokesman for St. Louis County Police, said he did not believe officers had confronted the Oath Keepers or told to leave.
Holy crap on a pogo stick, protesters are arrested for lawful assembly, two reporters are being railroaded, black men are still being indiscriminately shot by white cops, yet, civilian white men, armed to the teeth are allowed to roam free on the streets of Ferguson, unchallenged by the police or courts. Seriously, nothing has been learned from last year. Not one damned thing.
Aug 07 2015
The cocksure Tea Party governor of Maine, Paul Lepage, decided he would play games with what he thought were his veto powers under Maine’s constitution by using a pocket veto of 65 bills.
On Thursday, LePage delivered vetoes of 65 of those bills (the rest he returned unsigned) and urged the Legislature to consider his vetoes. Both House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said they would not let the vetoes hit the floors of their respective chambers.
LePage argued that because lawmakers left Augusta on June 30, he had been prevented from returning the vetoes before the 10 days had expired. The Maine Constitution states that if a Legislature adjourns, the governor may hold bills until three days after they return.
The House and Senate passed a temporary adjournment order on June 30 to give LePage time to act on the bills. Top lawmakers and Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat elected by the Legislature, said that temporary recess was not adjournment, and thus did not give LePage more time to act.
Gov. LePage’s problem was that he was using his interpretation of the constitution, not what it really said. So off to the Maine Supreme Court he went. Briefs from both sides were submitted and oral arguments were heard last Friday
Today that court disagreed with the governor and those 65 bills are now law:
Gov. Paul LePage erred in his end-of-session veto gambit, and in so doing lost the ability to veto 65 bills that he opposed.
In an advisory opinion released by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday (pdf), the justices said that the bills in question became law without the governor’s signature, and that the Legislature should not be required to consider his attempted vetoes. [..]
In making its decision, the court relied in part on decades of precedent in which Maine governors had returned vetoes to the Legislature while it was in recess.
“History demonstrates that Maine governors, for nearly forty years, have routinely returned bills with their vetoes during temporary absences of the Legislature that came at the end of the session – after an “adjournment” but before the Legislature adjourned sine die,” the court wrote.
“These examples demonstrate that temporary adjournments of the Legislature near the end of a legislative session-whether until a date certain or until the call of the leadership, and whether beyond a ten-day period-have not prevented governors from returning bills with their objections to their Houses of origin within the constitutionally-required ten-day timeframe.”
LePage on Thursday thanked the court for its ruling.
Indeed, too clever by half.