Civil liberties

The weather is finally heating up here in New York City, so this seems like a good time to remind everybody of their rights to unburden themselves of oppressive upper body clothing.

It’s cool, it’s for charity.

It’s legal, and if the cops hassle you about it, you might be able to really cash in…

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Casey Anthony: Paralegal?

* “[W]e cannot continue as a nation with 11 million people residing in the shadows.” And we especially can’t have all those people in the shadows without hundreds and hundreds of drones in place. Civil liberties be damned! [Huffington Post]

* According to this Wells Fargo survey, Biglaw did quite well in terms of revenues last year. Given that PPP was up nearly five percent, it’s now appropriate to bitch about why your bonuses weren’t even bigger than they were. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* “Being a lawyer is a damn good profession.” To be fair, it could be an even better profession if things in legal education were subjected to some serious change, and Hofstra Law’s new dean seems to understand that. [New York Law Journal]

* Stoners everywhere would like to know when the federal government is going to legalize marijuana, but to be frank, they should thank their Lucky Charms they’re not getting prosecuted in states where it is legal. [TIME]

* Russia is officially trying to prosecute a dead man — a dead lawyer, no less. That said, we’re pretty sure it’s safe to say that not even Yakov Smirnoff himself could come up with a reversal for this one. [New York Times]

* Oh my god, some of Lat’s pop culture prophecies are coming true: Casey Anthony wants to become a paralegal. Nancy Grace is in the process of birthing a herd of cows over Tot Mom’s ambitions. [ABC News]

* The grand jury in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case thought there was enough evidence to indict the Ramseys on child abuse charges. This would’ve been a great thing to be outraged about in 1999. [CBS News]

* I’ll be tweeting from the LegalTech show today. Follow me on Twitter to get all the latest updates. [Twitter]

Every good story needs a villain, which is why people love to hate traffic cameras.

Cold and unblinking, they stalk us like prey, hitting drivers hard in the wallet when they blow through red lights, make rolling stops or, as is sometimes the case, let someone else drive their car.

Frederick County, MD recently began mounting traffic cameras on school buses to ensure that drivers obey traffic laws meant to safeguard children as they cross the street. The cameras will be able to record a car’s front and rear license plate number, GPS position and speed as it passes, according to WTOP.

In February, six Maryland lawmakers proposed mounting traffic cameras on school buses statewide. However, the proposal has met opposition from civil libertarians, who are fighting to protect the rights of motorists to run down kids on their way home.

“There are some school buses which can extend their ‘stop’ sign without actually coming to a full stop themselves or turning on their yellow lights first, so a driver could be charged with ‘passing’ in the opposite lane when in fact the bus that was still moving or they simply had no warning,” wrote Ron Ely of StopBigBrotherMD.org, a group that opposes traffic cameras and sees them as manifestations of “unchecked government power” and “backdoor taxes,” according to their website.

“Statistically speaking, compared to other types of traffic accidents, the number of traffic fatalities involving children boarding school buses is very small,” Ely said, citing a report from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration which indicated children were at eight times greater risk riding with their parents than taking the bus.

We’d like to know if children being maimed is an acceptable risk, as long as they’re not being, you know, killed, as they rush home to play video games.

Read more and comment on AltTransport….


While in journalism school, one of my “assignments” was to hang out at New York’s night court (open until 1 a.m. every night), observe the proceedings, and then write about them. It was less exciting than Judge Harry had led me to believe, but was an interesting night replete with drug addicts, prostitutes, and a cheap-date-loving couple who had stopped in to observe as free post-Chinatown-dinner entertainment.

It also introduced me to a 2006 New York law that requires felons to submit a genetic sample to the state DNA database. When informed of the law, one defendant arraigned on burglary charges resisted giving up his double helixes. “Are you willing to issue a court order to make me do it, sir?” he asked the judge.

“Is my saying it to you not enough?” the judge replied. The defendant said: “If you sign a court order, I’ll do it.” The judge asked for a piece of paper, and the defendant objected, “No, I want an official court order.”

The assistant district attorney then explained, in an annoyed tone, that any paper written and signed by the judge qualifies as a “court order.” The judge issued the order, but the man returned 15 minutes later, still refusing to give the DNA sample. The judge set bail and again reminded the dude that the DNA sample was required by law.

Many states have criminal genetic databases these days. As noted by the Genomics Law Report, the LAPD’s using theirs to catch the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer has resulted in a lot of media attention for these databases, despite the fact that they’ve been around for awhile. That’s because, according to GLR, “the case marks the first time in the United States that a DNA search technique known as familial searching has led to an arrest in a homicide case.” The LAPD nabbed the Grim Sleeper after DNA samples from the murders were found to be genetically similar to those of the Sleeper’s son, who had given up his DNA after a felony weapons charge. (Apparently, criminal genes run in that family.)

The attention being paid to the databases is not all positive, though. The ACLU, which has a problem with the way that California compiles its database, filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Jerry Brown last year. It’s now before the Ninth Circuit. What’s the ACLU’s problem with California’s compiling genetic information for felons and suspected felons?

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