I support radical reform of our nation’s drug laws not despite my conservative political views, but because of them. Decriminalization efforts support at least three values that mean much to me as a conservative. Decriminalization falls in line with the conservative (or at least libertarian-leaning conservative) emphasis on personal liberty and the rights of individuals to make choices about how they govern themselves, so long as their actions don’t directly harm others. Decriminalization makes good moral sense too, by not vilifying addicts and by not needlessly breaking up families through incarcerating non-violent offenders. Perhaps most significantly, radically reforming current drug laws avoids the economic irresponsibility of America’s failed war on drugs.
This week, of course, Attorney General Eric Holder announced new Justice Department policies for drug prosecutions, while addressing the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. In his speech, Holder proposed tinkering with the application of mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes; modifying the Justice Department’s charging policies “so that certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences”; and “taking steps to identify and share best practices for enhancing the use of diversion programs – such as drug treatment and community service initiatives – that can serve as effective alternatives to incarceration.”
I commend Holder’s effort. But as a conservative considering the economics of the drug war, I’m concerned that this new policy neglects one of the most significant reasons why we need much more radical reform than this . . . .
I didn’t go to Eric Holder’s big speech at the ABA annual meeting on Monday. I kind of halfheartedly tried to go, but there were a lot of people who wanted to see Holder say something they could’ve read about online hours earlier.
If the ABA had invited Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over to speak about the horrendous abuse of federal funds by purveyors of higher education, I’d have smashed my way in. But in the crush of people trying to get a look at the Attorney General trying to dismantle a big part of the United States “War On Drugs,” I was reminded that regulating legal education is a small part of what the ABA does — and a part that isn’t of great institutional importance to the organization. The ABA wants a seat at the policy table when it comes to big sexy issues of justice and legal services. Preventing member institutions from price-gouging young people doesn’t get its logo splashed across all the major news networks.
So, Eric Holder delivered a big policy address. And later, by which point I was on a plane, Hillary Clinton spoke about how she’ll be speaking about other things as she doesn’t run for president just yet. Holder! Hillary! Marvel at the ABA’s relevance in national policy debates!
Except, they’re not relevant. Holder did make an important speech on Monday, and he couldn’t have found a more supportive group for his take-down of mandatory minimums had he been speaking to potheads in Golden Gate Park. But really, the ABA isn’t going to be any more helpful when it comes to actually convincing Congress than a meeting of the 4:20 club…
* The speed (or lack thereof) of justice: The DOJ filed suit against Bank of America, alleging that the bank defrauded mortgage-backed securities investors in 2008. [DealBook / New York Times]
* Sri Srinivasan, the newest member of the D.C. Circuit’s bench, is getting ready to hear his first arguments, while litigants try to commit the spelling of his last name to memory. [Legal Times]
* The LSAT is not to blame for the dearth of minority enrollment in law schools, said a UVA Law professor, and then a Cooley Law professor had to swoop in to slap him down. [National Law Journal]
* After teaming up with Touro, the University of Central Florida is working with Barry on an accelerated degree program. The dean of FAMU is upset. Don’t worry, you’ll get your turn, too. [Orlando Sentinel]
* New Jersey is in no rush to legalize gay marriage. To support their views, officials point out that people with civil unions are just like married couples — except for the married part. [New Jersey Law Journal]
* Meanwhile, a judge in Illinois will decide whether she’ll dismiss a challenge to the state’s gay marriage ban by the end of September. In her defense, early fall is a great time for a wedding. [Daily Herald]
* Belvin Perry, the judge who presided over the Casey Anthony murder trial, may be getting his own Judge Judy-esque television show. Oh, Flori-duh, you never, ever cease to entertain us. [MSN News]
* Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the legal wrangling: Eric Holder’s use of the VRA’s “bail in” provision to circumvent the SCOTUS ruling in Shelby may prove to be trouble. [National Law Journal]
* The Fifth Circuit upheld warrantless cellphone tracking yesterday, noting that it was “not per se unconstitutional.” We suppose that a per se victory for law enforcement is better than nothing. [New York Times]
* The pretty people at Davis Polk are fighting a $1.4 million suit over a headhunter’s fee with some pretty ugly words, alleging that the filing “fails both as a matter of law and common sense.” [Am Law Daily]
* Howard Dean is rather annoyed that he’s had to go on the defensive about his work for McKenna Long & Aldridge after railing against Obamacare. Ideally, he’d just like to scream and shout about it. [TIME]
* The ABA is concerned about Florida A&M, and sent a second warning about the school’s imminent failure to meet accreditation standards. Well, I’ll be damned, the ABA actually cares. [Orlando Sentinel]
* Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is suing to prevent a clerk from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. A silly little lawsuit won’t stop this guy from doing what he thinks is right. [Legal Intelligencer]
* When it comes to the U.S. Congress — especially the current one, said to be the least productive and least popular in history — and federal lawmaking, “action isn’t the same as accomplishment.” [Boston Globe]
* The Department of Justice won’t seek the death penalty against Edward Snowden, but only because the crime he’s charged with doesn’t carry that kind of punishment as an option. But oh, Eric Holder can wish. [CNN]
* Sorry to burst your bubble, but Biglaw as we know it is on a respirator, so be prepared to recite its last rites. The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber responds to the critics of last week’s hard-hitting piece. [New Republic]
* The grass isn’t greener on the other side right now. Revenue per lawyer rose at Biglaw firms in 2012 (up 8.5 percent), but small firms struggled (with RPL down 8.1 percent). Ouch. [National Law Journal]
* Let me Google that for you: Hot new technology startups have been looking to lawyers who hail from the innovative internet company’s ranks when staffing their own legal departments. [The Recorder]
* If you’re wondering why more financial crimes haven’t been prosecuted since the Wall Street meltdown of 2008, it’s probably because they’re too just difficult for most juries to understand. Comforting. [NPR]
* In a recent interview having to do with all of the problems that law schools are currently facing, from shrinkage to joblessness, Professor Paul Campos sat down to politely say, “Told ya so.” [Denver Post]
“For example, on or about July 29, 2009, a recently hired SAC PM (the ‘New PM’) sent an instant message to [Steve Cohen] and relayed that, due to some ‘recent research,’ the New PM planned to short Nokia when he started work 10 days later. The New PM apologized for being ‘cryptic’ but noted that the head of SAC compliance ‘was giving me Rules 101 yesterday – so I won’t be saying much[.] [T]oo scary.’”
Possibly the weirdest part here is that new hires got compliance lectures two weeks before they showed up at the firm? But maybe not; the DOJ takes a pretty dim view of SAC’s hiring process generally, and if you believe the DOJ that SAC’s main hiring criterion was “is good at insider trading,” then you could imagine the need for a little pre-start-date warning in email etiquette:
* Akin Gump partner Patricia Millett is willing to take a whopping pay cut to serve on the D.C. Circuit — from $1MM to $184K — and for that alone she should be confirmed ASAP. [National Law Journal]
* With the number of law firm mergers in the last six months alone, we’re on a “potentially record-setting pace” for 2013. Hey, look at it this way: it’s cheaper than hiring and firing laterals. [Am Law Daily]
* According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in June, the legal industry lost more jobs than it has in a single month since June 2011. Congrats, Class of 2013! welcome to the real world. [Am Law Daily]
* In its defense, Standard & Poor’s claims its ratings were puffery, and that no reasonable investor would rely on them. Aww, poor widdle “sophisticated consumers of [investment information].” [Bloomberg]
* For those of you practicing personal injury law in New York, this case is a bombshell. If you want to put the whole insurance industry on trial, follow the action here. [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]
* Sarah Jones, the ex-cheerleader who sued TheDirty.com for defamation, was back in federal court yesterday for the beginning of her case’s retrial. What a way to start an engagement. [ABC News]
* With a sharp focus on the Supreme Court and the legal definition of equality, only one thing’s for sure with respect to this week’s anticipated rulings: at least one group of people is probably going to get screwed. [New York Times]
* And lest we forget, thanks to our society’s near slavish obsession with social media and knowledge on demand, we’ll salivate uncontrollably as we wait for those opinions while the justices blissfully ignore new technology. [New York Times]
* The Justice Department charged NSA leaker Edward Snowden with espionage, and now he’s pursuing political asylum in Ecuador with the assistance of legal counsel representing WikiLeaks. [NBC News]
* Biglaw firms are trying to strengthen their pricing power in a post-recession world, with average rate increases of 4.8% in 2012, and hourly rates soaring in New York City. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* There’s no solace for people who have had to pay to have their mug shot “depublished” from the internet. Sorry, the First Amendment allows people to turn a profit off your misery. [Washington Post]
* This lawsuit over unpaid internships filed against Gawker will sting any gossip girl’s heart to the core. But really, isn’t the privilege of working for Gawker enough? This fangirl thinks so. [New York Post]
The NYPD really loves its stop and frisk policy. The prospect of randomly stopping exclusively minorities a random selection of New Yorkers really excites the department. And why not? The practice has done wonders to prevent crime in the city. Well, if you define “crime” as pot possession. Because the policy hasn’t accomplished much of anything else.
Now the constitutionality of the policy is in jeopardy, awaiting a decision from Judge Shira “Don’t Call Me Judy” Scheindlin, the judge the City decided to embarrass by commissioning a report accusing her of bias because the City is incredibly stupid.
When and if (OK, “when”) Judge Scheindlin strikes down the current iteration of the policy, Eric Holder has a suggestion for how to remedy the violation. And Mayor Mike Bloomberg is none too pleased…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
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