affluenza

She’s coming down with a bad case of ‘going to get a pony.’

Remember the “affluenza” kid? His name is Ethan Couch and the teenager went on an alcohol-fueled joyride after a party in the mansion his parents had bought for him. The joyride resulted in the death of 4 people and the injury of multiple others as alcohol-fueled joyrides are wont to do. Except Couch avoided the fate of pretty much any other person who might kill 4 people on the back of a clinical psychologist’s expert opinion that Couch suffered from a mental condition that he coined as “affluenza” — basically as a rich, privileged tool, the kid couldn’t be held responsible for his actions.

Most people found this ridiculous. Elie went so far as to call for the parents to be jailed. Which has a certain Nancy Grace-style emotional appeal, but also kind of feeds the argument that this kid himself should continue to remain shielded from the consequences of his actions. It also fans the flames of the same parent-policing logic that ends with people getting arrested for letting their kids play outside. But in any event, the fact that a juvenile system judge with a reputation for harsh punishments for poor, black kids — she sent a 14-year-old black kid to jail for 10 years for punching a kid who fell and hit his head resulting in his death — sent a 16-year-old, rich, white kid willfully driving drunk to a country club rehab facility — conveniently paid for mostly by taxpayers — exposed everything wrong with privilege in America.

Now the case raises another debate about privilege. One of the victims who survived the accident is suing and wants to see exactly how this clinical psychologist came to his groundbreaking diagnosis that rich kids don’t have to go to jail, and Couch’s lawyers are fighting that disclosure tooth and nail….

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Robert Richards IV

Sex offenders are the lowest of the low in prison. He’s a rich, white boy who is a wuss and a child perv. The prison can’t protect them, and Jan Jurden knows that reality. She is right on.

– Defense attorney Joseph A. Hurley, commenting on Judge Jan Jurden’s sentence of probation for DuPont heir Robert H. Richards IV as punishment for the fourth-degree rape of his 3-year-old daughter. Jurden noted in her sentencing order that Richards would not “fare well” in prison.

“Hey, kids! Just keep clicking the ‘Mommy’s Credit Card’ button!”

* The feds say that Apple has agreed to pay “at least $32.5 million in refunds” to people who didn’t realize their children were racking up huge bills in FarmVille and the like. It’s good to see parents won’t actually have to pay for their absentee parenting. [Washington Post]

* It’s a good day for successful — kinda rapey — pop songs, as the family of Marvin Gaye decided that they “Got to Give It Up” and settled with Sony over alleged copyright infringement by the Robin Thicke song, Blurred Lines. [Rolling Stone]

* Apparently the Florida Bar Association took a look at the state of the judicial system and decided to screw it and start selling baking utensils. Or it was hacked. But probably they just gave up. [IT-Lex]

* Tailgating at the Yale-Harvard game is way more dangerous than I’d realized — a clutch of Yale frat bros (what is the proper collective noun for Elis) have been sued over an incident where a U-Haul loaded down with kegs struck and killed one person. [Jezebel]

* A hearing was cut short in New Orleans when an inmate arrived from the prison high as a kite on illicit drugs he procured in custody. Way to run a tight ship, New Orleans. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on them. After all, they just got their “inmates unintentionally set free due to clerical oversight” statistic back down to zero. [New Orleans Times-Picayune]

* A rundown of high-profile cases that turned on expert witnesses. Good to see that everyone’s favorite “affluenza” made the list. [The Expert Institute]

* Cable news has really botched their coverage of Little Sisters. For example, if you think Obamacare requires religious institutions to offer coverage for contraception, then you’ve been duped. [Constitutional Accountability Center]

* To shake things up, let’s check out a defense of stop-and-frisk policies. If a society isn’t prepared to pay for police protection, it’s likely to find cops resorting to these sorts of short cuts. [Voice of San Diego]

* Musings on Staci’s recent piece on law firm client service and/or arrogance. [Law and More]

* A Little League coach is suing one of his players for $600,000. Something tells me a reboot of Bad News Bears would end exactly like this. Video of the story from local news channel KCRA embedded below…. [Deadspin]

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* Hughes Hubbard & Reed is doing its part to help fulfill wishes made in children’s letters to Santa at a time when the Post Office’s Operation Santa program is in desperate need. So to all you other Biglaw firms, the ball’s in your court. [USA Today]

* Judge Timothy Black cited Justice Scalia’s dissent to reject Ohio’s gay marriage ban. I’m sure this is a cite that warms the justice’s heart. [Associated Press]

* Professor Pam Karlan is off to become Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Voting Rights. Here’s the last article of the preeminent voting rights expert in her old role as a commentator at the Boston Review describing strange SCOTUS bedfellows. Good luck in the new job! [Boston Review]

* Good news for Florida lawyers! The Florida Bar has revoked its opinion banning LinkedIn endorsements and recommendations. Go back to patting each other on the digital back. [IT-Lex]

* Realtors are getting sued for using a home as a sex pad. Strangely enough, this isn’t even the first time we’ve talked about this at Above the Law. [New York Magazine]

* Do you have to work over vacation? Probably, but it’s worth researching. [TaxProf Blog via Corporate Counsel]

* We shouldn’t have been so surprised by the affluenza defense because North Texas is basically one big monument to the concept. [New York Times]

* Here’s an infographic showing the most popular TV show set in each state. What legal shows make the list? [Business Insider]

* The top 10 most ridiculous lawsuits of the year. Apple porn guy clocks in at a mere number 10? Outrage! Bigger outrage: they ultimately link to the HuffPo write-up of… the original Above the Law piece. Why no direct link, hm? Video embedded after the jump… [Faces of Lawsuit Abuse]

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* The Grinch goes to court to get some legal redress. Dr. Seuss really is all about the law. [NPR]

* How much bulls**t is wine appreciation? This guy is in trouble for selling fake wine to so-called experts for years and they never noticed. [Gawker]

* Is this really the most likely scenario after you graduate with a law degree? [Law School Lemmings]

* Congratulations to Eric Schneiderman for successfully getting fired Domino’s workers back on the job. Living up to the New York’s AG’s new “If You Don’t Get Justice In 30 Minutes, It’s Free” promotion. [Daily Kos]

* Celeb lawyer saves kid from getting bowled over by Chicago Bulls. Amazingly, the Knicks were able to take this guy’s lead and actually won a game. [TMZ]

* Creating fake Linkedin accounts to make your competitor seem like it’s really a foreign company. Well, that’s one way to compete. [IT-Lex]

* Folks who’ve been watching the Ninth Circuit’s en banc proceedings have asked why Judge Gould appears by video. The reason is that Judge Gould has multiple sclerosis and works from his home base in Seattle. Here’s an awesome profile of the judge. [United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit]

* Elie joined Non-Sequiturs all-stars Jessica Mederson of Legal Geeks and Kevin Underhill of Lowering the Bar on Legalese It! with Mike Sacks. They discussed the D.C. Circuit, India’s new anti-gay law, and the affluenza case. The video after the jump…

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(A stock photo of a teen driver — not actually Ethan Couch.)

I’m sure that by now you’ve all heard the story about the wealthy white teenager who killed four people while drunk driving. As we mentioned in yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs, 16-year-old Ethan Couch got off — sentenced to therapy — because the judge agreed that the kid was a victim of “affluenza”: his parents gave him everything he wanted, and he believed that being rich meant that he wouldn’t have to face consequences for his actions.

The kid’s not wrong; the fact that he’s not facing incarceration for killing four people kind of proves the point. A poor white kid would be in jail right now. A rich black kid would be in jail right now. A poor black kid would be picking out items for his last supper right now. Anybody who thinks that this kind of lenience would be given to anybody other than a wealthy white dauphin is wrong and stupid (and probably racist). The rich kid isn’t in jail because rich people don’t suffer the full force of consequences for their actions.

That said… the judge isn’t wrong either. When you have a jerk-off prick of a 16-year-old, as this kid appears to be, it’s probably not his fault. Not really. My outrage isn’t that Couch is getting off, it’s that so many other teens and young people are being incarcerated without this kind of compassion.

Not that there aren’t people who deserve jail time behind this. It’s just that those people are Couch’s parents….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “In Defense Of The Rich White Boy Who Killed Four People And Got Away With It”

* Beware of “affluenza” — the condition where rich kids believe that their wealth shields them from consequences. One kid with affluenza was convicted of four counts of manslaughter and got… probation. Great way to teach him that there are consequences. I don’t doubt being a hyper-privileged douche contributed to his criminal behavior, but let’s see if the judge is equally lenient to the next kid in this courtroom who argues that poverty contributed to his crimes. [Gawker]

* In America people complain about law reviews sharing outlines for free. In the U.K., they’re selling notes on eBay. If you’re buying notes off the Internet, perhaps law school isn’t your bag. [Legal Cheek]

* Do Twitter mentions reflect the scholarly significance of a professor’s articles? No. [TaxProf Blog]

* Here’s some terrifying stuff that lawyers want for Christmas. It’s not quite our gift guide. [The Spark File]

* The word “spin” is apparently trademarked. This is the company that did it and enforces its trademark against gyms with uncertified spin classes. [Racked]

* Law school applications are in free fall. Too bad all these people are going to miss out on that sweet $1 million law degree. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* Mental health remains a seriously undiscussed problem in the legal industry. [Law and More]

* TSA now confiscating prop guns off stuffed animals. [Lowering the Bar]

* A Chinese law professor lost his job for writing an article advocating constitutional rule. If you think this is a harsh response, remember this government used to throw tanks at people over less. [Washington Post]

* Speaking of China, next month the CBLA is hosting a panel discussion about the expanded use of the FCPA, specifically with regard to China. [CBLA]