Prisons

Sheryl Crow

* I’m standing in the middle of a desert, waiting for my ship to come in. But now no joker, no J.D. degree, can take your losing hand, and make it win; you should be leaving Las Vegas. [WSJ Law Blog]

* If Miami Law could somehow figure out a way to actually do this, they would usher in a new era where law schools might still be expensive, but not useless. At some point, the way we educate future lawyers has to change, doesn’t it? [Roy Black]

* The law and law enforcement will always be behind the curve when trying to police cutting-edge techniques employed to unwittingly photograph naked women. Still not sure if you want to click on the link? How about: “This is why Kash is afraid to pee.” [Not-So Private Parts / Forbes]

* I don’t understand and/or don’t care why so many lawyers have a problem with the “and/or” construction. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Listening to Lat and Bess Levin discuss the various things can happen to meth users was the highlight of my day at the office, but seriously kids, don’t do drugs. [Dealbreaker]

* What do you get for the billionaire who has everything? His own prison. [Sentencing Law & Policy]

Chris Christie

* Wait, John Grisham stories are fictional? Man, I always thought that nobody offered to pay off my debts and buy me a house and a car in Memphis because of my race. [ABA Journal]

* New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is going to be okay. [Slate]

* Scott Drake asked me to do a podcast just after I read Rick Matasar’s response to the New York Times. This recording was made after I calmed down. [Legal Broadcast Network]

Maybe I’m just naive, but I find the concept of conducting any courtroom business via video enthralling but also a bit unnerving. It seems so inconsistent with the mythical and timeless ideals of the hallowed halls of justice, yadda yadda yadda.

Whether we like it or not, however, video conferencing is creeping into courthouses across the country. For example, as I previously reported, a Georgia court let a criminal witness testify via Skype.

Last week a government survey revealed that Pennsylvania state courts conduct more than 15,000 video conferences each month. More than half were preliminary arraignments, but the state used videoconferencing for warrant proceedings, bail hearings and sentencing hearings, too.

According to the survey, not only does video conferencing save the state a boatload of money, it also saves magistrate judges from having to personally interact with the pesky “derelicts” charged with crimes.

Keep reading to find out how virtual arraignment conserves dollars and judicial peace of mind….

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Rachel Brand

* High-powered litigatrices on the move: Rachel Brand and Kate Comerford Todd, two fabulous members of The Elect, are joining the National Chamber Litigation Center — where they will contribute to the Chamber’s impressive track record of litigating against excessive regulation. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

* Was it Anthony Weiner’s wiener that went out over Twitter? The congressman isn’t saying. [Daily Caller via Instapundit]

* Professor Sasha Volokh floats the intriguing idea of prison vouchers: “What would the world look like if, instead of assigning prisoners to particular prisons bureaucratically, we gave them vouchers, good for one incarceration, that they were required to redeem at a participating prison?” [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Dance protests aren’t allowed at the Jefferson Memorial, but might they be coming to Apple stores? [TaxProf Blog]

* An update on “don’t ask, don’t tell” developments. [Metro Weekly]

* This should be interesting: disgraced ex-judge Sol Wachtler tells all. [92YTribeca]

* A moving Memorial Day edition of Blawg Review. [Securing Innovation via Blawg Review]

Justice John Paul Stevens

* Opponents of “three strikes” hope that the SCOTUS decision requiring California to reduce its prison population by 33,000 inmates will help them to repeal three strikes. Four balls, standing eight count, and wicked googly are among sports terms vying to take its place. [San Diego Union Tribune]

* A law firm librarian in New Jersey is suing her old firm and police for being falsely arrested and accused of pulling a fire alarm in the law firm’s building. This lawsuit is long overdue. Dewey even need to check out the complaint? Folio microfiche rare books. [New Jersey Law Journal]

* An in-depth look at the legal issues facing moral exemplar and top-shelf human being John Edwards. [Charlotte Observer]

* Utah became the first state to recognize gold as legal tender, momentarily sending the price per ounce skyrocketing to 5.7 wives. [International Business Times]

* Retired Justice John Paul Stevens, at 91, remains as spry as ever. At an age when most men are dribbling pudding onto their shirt, he is dribbling it onto his bow tie. [New York Times]

* “Again?! Egypt bizman busted at Pierre hotel.” [New York Post]

Justice Kennedy says: 'Open Sesame.'

It’s late May, so we’re entering the home stretch of the Supreme Court Term. Over the next few weeks, the Court will be handing down opinions in the most contentious, closely divided cases.

One such opinion came down today: Brown v. Plata (formerly Schwarzenegger v. Plata). In this high-profile case, a three-judge district court issued an order that directed the State of California to reduce its prison population — e.g., by releasing prisoners (as many as 46,000, at the time of the order) — in order to address problems with overcrowding and poor health care for inmates.

When SCOTUS granted cert, I thought that it did so in order to summarily reverse. Federal judges running penal institutions, ordering tens of thousands of convicted criminals to be let out onto the streets? The district court’s order reeked of the kind of Ninth Circuit liberal activism that doesn’t sit well with the Roberts Court. (Note that one of the members of the three-judge panel was the notoriously left-wing Judge Stephen Reinhardt.)

Well, I was wrong. The Court just affirmed, 5-4, in an opinion by (who else?) Justice Anthony Kennedy.

There were two dissents, by Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Justice Scalia’s opinion in particular contains some stinging (but ultimately ineffectual) benchslaps….

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[T]he never-ending stream of futile petitions suggests that habeas corpus is a wasteful nuisance. By almost any measure, the use, and abuse, of habeas by convicted state prisoners is a failure, one that could corrode one of the most revered pillars of our legal system.

– Professors Joseph Hoffmann and Nancy King, in an interesting and persuasive New York Times op-ed piece, arguing that habeas review of state criminal cases should be limited to “capital cases and cases in which the prisoner can produce persuasive new evidence of his innocence.”

* If the Muslim Brotherhood gains power in Egypt, they will impose sharia law. Just like Oklahoma! [ABC Online]

* Lindsay Lohan took to Twitter to announce that she “was not raised to lie, cheat, or steal.” Well, nature it is. [msnbc.com]

* Arizona is suing the federal government over the porous border. Mr. Obama, build us a wall! [Reuters]

* Barry Bonds, he of the enormous dome piece, had the number of felony charges against him dropped to five. Hauling that gargantuan cranium about. I’m not kidding, that boy’s head is like Sputnik. [ESPN]

* Mario will mediate the Madoff / Mets mess. [New York Post]

* How to fix the criminal justice system? I say gulags. Mostly because I like the word gulags. [The BLT via WSJ Law Blog]

* Hospitals have begun turning away job applicants who smoke. This guy thinks hospitals are acting like a bunch of weiners. [New York Times]

This experience has been both profound and humbling. I have been able to reflect on my relationship with the universe and despite the physical incarceration of the past year, it has been incredibly emancipating for all other aspects of my being. Everything I have learned, seen, and lived I regard as invaluable in the journey of my life. I embrace this entire experience as a necessary one in the fulfillment of my future and destiny.

Kumari Fulbright, Arizona law student and beauty queen turned convicted felon, in a letter to Judge Michael Miller (who sentenced her last week).

When we last discussed Kumari Fulbright, the Arizona beauty queen and law student turned felon, we mentioned that she was going to be sentenced in early 2011 for her role in the kidnapping and torture of her ex-boyfriend. Well, it looks like Christmas came early for Kumari — her sentencing hearing took place yesterday.

Fulbright was sentenced to two years in prison and six years of probation. She also has to pay $15,000 in restitution. The sentence itself wasn’t a surprise, since it was consistent with the plea agreement we previously mentioned.

Far more shocking was the truly hideous hairstyle that Kumari sported at sentencing….

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In Friday’s Non-Sequiturs, while linking to an interesting article about a man who served 27 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, I used an intentionally inflammatory blurb:

Would Michael Green, exonerated of rape charges by DNA evidence, be worth $2.2 million today if he hadn’t gone to prison? Just asking.

Judging from some of the comments, it seems that this blurb offended some of you. If so, I apologize.

(But I should also note that part of the blogger’s job is to troll provoke readers, intellectually and emotionally. Elie is tasked with baiting provoking the conservatives, and I’m in charge of provoking the liberals. If we don’t offend you every now and then, we’re not doing our jobs.)

In making my excessively irreverent quip, I was trying to get at a fairly serious question: How can we put a price on a man spending years behind bars for a crime he did not commit?

Let’s discuss….

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