Suicide

Megyn Kelly of Fox News

I had the opportunity to take my surprisingly controversial argument that bullies shouldn’t be thrown in jail to a television audience. Megyn Kelly, the host of America Live on Fox News and a former litigator at Jones Day, invited me on her program and gave my argument a fair hearing.

Once again, I think my core principles here are sound: children shouldn’t kill themselves, children shouldn’t be incarcerated because other children kill themselves, and children should learn appropriate coping mechanisms when faced with embarrassment and humiliation.

As we all know, I have an insatiable appetite to offend and then devour fresh souls, but I become particularly strong when I can drink the tears of children. Kelly did everything she could to keep me from sounding like a raving lunatic who likes putting babies on spikes, but some people will come away convinced that I’m a heartless sociopath.

What do you think? Take a look at the clip, and let me know just how bad karma will eventually bite me on the backside…

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This zone... does not exist.

They had to set the Karate Kid remake in China. If they had set it in modern-day America, Daniel-san would have been mercilessly bullied by the kids from Cobra Kai, he would have killed himself, and the rest of the movie would have been a courtroom drama where Daniel’s parents sought to bring the evil sensei to justice in the form of a multi-million dollar civil suit.

You see, American children apparently have become so fragile, and Americans parents so litigious, that schoolyard bullying is as likely to be settled in a court of law as it is behind a dumpster out back where boys used to handle their disagreements. I used to tell my mother that nobody ever died from embarrassment, but apparently I was wrong. The ABA Journal reports that there’s been a veritable outbreak of children committing suicide in Ohio because they were hounded by mean kids. And that story doesn’t even take into account the Tyler Clementi situation.

And when kids kill themselves, parents are increasingly turning to the courts to stand up to the bullies in a way that used to be accomplished via a flush crane-kick to the face.

It needs to stop. No, not the bullying — which is unavoidable when more than one male competes for whatever status/prestige/sex is on offer — but the tragic overreactions to the bullying, and the accompanying rush to the courthouse steps.

I say this not as an alpha-male with a caviler attitude towards the feelings of others. I say this as a former omega-male who got the crap beat out of me like I stole something from the age of 7 through the point I realized that no girl would ever mate with a guy who couldn’t basically stand up for himself….

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Molly Wei didn't stop her friend for using her computer; now she could end up in jail.

Prosecutors looking into Tyler Clementi suicide indicated yesterday that they might not be able to charge Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei with a hate crime. Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan told the Newark Star-Ledger that his office was trying to see if they could charge Ravi and Wei with a second degree bias crime, but so far they don’t have enough evidence to support such a charge.

Right now, Ravi and Wei are charged with invasion of privacy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Given that some people have pushed for prosecution that goes all the way up to homicide charges, the possibility that Ravi and Wei won’t be charged with a hate crime (or burned at the stake, or whatever the hell will satisfy people’s revenge impulse) will disappoint many — perhaps including prosecutor Kaplan, who said: “Sometimes the laws don’t always adequately address the situation. That may come to pass here.”

And sometimes the public’s outrage completely outstrips the actual crime committed. I’ve already shared my thoughts about Dharun Ravi’s crime. Now let’s take a closer look at Molly Wei — a girl who, as far as we know, is guilty of letting a high school buddy use her computer…

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Tyler Clementi

Over the past few days, we’ve learned a lot about Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers college student and talented violinist who killed himself after his roommate streamed, live on the internet, a hidden webcam video of Tyler hooking up with another man. On September 22, a few days after the incident, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

Former ATL editor Kashmir Hill has learned even more. She’s been tracking Clementi’s digital footprints, and found that he went to a message board for gay men seeking counsel after he learned of his roommate’s prank.

I used the word “prank” because that’s how I see the actions of Tyler Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi. Ravi is an 18-year-old kid in his first semester at college. Along with a friend, Molly Wei, Ravi pulled a prank on his new roommate — one that went horribly wrong.

Because Clementi killed himself, the media has worked itself into a rabid lather over Ravi’s and Wei’s actions. The story was all over the New York Times yesterday. Michael Daly criticized Ravi so harshly I thought I was reading about some kind of modern day Billy Zabka in the New York Daily News this morning. Some gay rights groups want Ravi to be charged with a hate crime.

Before we crucify this college freshman, I have a couple of questions…

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Apparently, Angelina Jolie doesn't have a lot of friends. Aww. Would you be her friend?

* The 9/11 health care bill finally passed the House. Too bad. Not about the bill, the bill looks good. I was just kind of hoping for another epic meltdown from Anthony Weiner. [Salon]

* Could an MBA be even more worthless than a J.D.? [Out of the Storm]

* Real Wall Street types opine on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. I’m using their input for the screenplay I’m working on, Wall Street: Money Flees America. [Hellerman Baretz]

* Let’s be clear: we need more lawyers. We just need them to work for poor or lower-middle-class clients. Wouldn’t it be awesome if law school tuition came down so that more people could do this work? Otherwise, we might just have to find a way to obviate the need for lawyers altogether. [Truth on the Market]

* Are successful women lonely? [Psychology Today]

* The laws surrounding suicide notes. The subject matter is so depressing that few people, even lawyers and journalists, actually know how to treat these documents. [Legal Satyricon]

We really don’t like writing about murders, suicides, and murder suicides here on Above the Law. They are always sad, the loss of human life is always tragic, and it’s really hard to be funny/snarky/edgy when people have died.

That said, we have to go where the news takes us, and so we press on today with a roundup of people in the legal community who recently met untimely ends. A Department of Justice lawyer took his own life, and an office manager for Townsend and Townsend and Crew allegedly killed her estranged husband, before turning the gun on herself…

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Clare Lenore Stoudt, a 35-year-old mother of five, was found dead in her home over the weekend. Stoudt was a tax associate at Pillsbury Winthrop. According to the ABA Journal, authorities believe that Stoudt may have been the victim of a murder-suicide:

The father of her three youngest children, Reginald Van Graves, 49, also was found apparently shot to death in the Howard County home, and a gun was in the vicinity, authorities say. A custody case over the three children, aged 2, 5 and 7, had begun less than a week earlier in Howard County Circuit Court.

The Howard County Times reports that police say the deaths may have been a murder-suicide. Autopsies have not yet been completed, however, and the investigation has not concluded.

Christine Kearns, managing partner for Pillsbury’s D.C. office, released the following statement for the firm….

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A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the decision by Philip Markoff, aka the Craigslist Killer, to take his own life. Today we’re seeing another version of that kind of thinking — less high-profile, less fatal, but still pretty harrowing.

The Dallas Morning News reports that a Texas man slashed his own throat — in the courtroom — after receiving a 40-year sentence for assault:

Marcial Michael Anguiano pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for cutting his niece with a butcher knife. After state District Judge Larry Mitchell announced Anguiano’s sentence, Anguiano cut himself with a razor blade.

“As soon as the judge sentenced him, I saw him do something with his right arm,” said Anguiano’s defense attorney, Juan Sanchez. “I turned and he cut himself with something he had brought into the courtroom.”

After Markoff offed himself, Professor Douglas Berman wrote on his blog, Sentencing Law and Policy, that from a utilitarian perspective we should be happy about Markoff’s suicide. But here Anguiano’s self-mutilation was a disaster, from a utilitarian point of view, for the state of Texas…

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Here’s an interesting issue for the pro-death penalty crowd: If killing violent offenders passes as justice, are they happy when a violent offender kills himself? That’s the question being bandied about the blogosphere in the wake of Philip Markoff’s apparent suicide.

Markoff was in jail awaiting trial as the “Craigslist Killer.” He allegedly murdered Julissa Brisman after meeting her on Craigslist.

Over on Sentencing Law and Policy (gavel bang: WSJ Law Blog), Ohio State law professor Douglas Berman makes an interesting point:

[A]ssuming he was guilty, my first reaction here is to be pleased. By killing himself, Markoff saved a lot of time, money and energy for those who would be tasked with prosecuting and defending him. And the family of his victim would, I hope, get some measure of closure from Markoff’s death.

Actually, the family of the victim does not seem at all pleased by Markoff’s apparent suicide…

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Stewart Dolin

There was unhappy news out of Chicago last week. Stewart Dolin, an M&A partner at Reed Smith, was struck and killed by a train on Thursday. According to the Chicago Tribune, the coroner has ruled the death a suicide.

Dolin was the co-chair of Reed Smith’s corporate and securities practice. He lived in Glencoe, north of Chicago, and was hit by a northbound train at a Blue Line station in the Loop at 1:45 p.m.

When suicides happen, many firms will turn the person’s website bio into a temporary “in memoriam” page, but Dolin’s bio has been removed. A firm spokesman tells us: “After conferring with the family we kept our communication memorializing Stu internal.”

The managing partner in the Chicago office has issued a statement about Dolin’s death.

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