First Amendment

Judge Mike Norman

I told my preacher I thought I led more people to Jesus than he had but, then again, more of my people have amnesia. They soon forget once they get out of jail.

– Judge Mike Norman, commenting on the rather unusual sentences he hands down in his courtroom. Last week, Judge Norman gave a 17-year-old who pleaded guilty to manslaughter a deferred sentence, provided that the teen goes to church each week (among other conditions).

Left to right: Alex Kozinski and Diarmuid O’Scannlain.

This week is an exciting one for conservative and libertarian legal nerds: the National Lawyers Convention of the Federalist Society starts tomorrow. I’ll be attending and covering the proceedings; if you see me, please say hello. (If you haven’t registered for the conference in advance, you can still register at the door.)

As always, the conference will overflow with legal luminaries. This year, two of the Ninth Circuit’s most notable names — Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, and Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain (for whom I clerked) — will be making presentations. Chief Judge Kozinski will debate Professor Hadley Arkes about natural law and constitutional law, while Judge O’Scannlain will moderate a panel about religious liberty.

To whet your appetite, let’s read more about both of these judges and some recent First Amendment fun at the Ninth Circuit….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “First Amendment Fun at the Ninth Circuit”

* Shashank Tripathi appears to be behind the fake tweets about the flooding of the New York Stock Exchange. Is that protected speech or (wait for it) DID HE JUST SAY “FIRE” IN A CROWDED THEATER??????? [Gigaom]

* But to be clear, Romney is free to lie as much as he wants. Political speech, even misleading speech, is clearly protected. [ABA Journal]

* Court is back in session. Kinda. [National Law Journal]

* Will Election Day get washed away? [CNN]

* Just to be clear, because I know “low information” voters are easily confused, “Government” are the people going around trying to help you out in the storm. “PRIVATE BUSINESS,” in this case insurance companies, are the ones looking to screw you over and profit from the disaster. [New York Times]

* If you want to help the victims of Sandy (instead of just staring at pictures of their suffering like I do), you can. [Red Cross; NY Cares; Humane Society]

* Only now, at the end, do you understand the true power of Disney. Skadden helps Disney buy Star Wars. Now Lucas’s failure is complete. [Am Law Daily]


I had packed up my things and was about to turn off the light. That’s when the phone rang here at the Circumcision Law Desk. The shrill tone of the ring sounded more urgent than usual. I put down my box of Pulitzers and picked up the receiver.

“Hell-” “You’ve gotta write quick, Mister! Gawker ran a story on circumcision and it’s crazy!” I replied that I was too old for this game. Tracking down every circumcision tip had left me a hollow shell of a man. But the kid was insistent. “What about the babies???” Now you listen here, you sniveling punk, I said. I was never in it for the babies. Heck, I never could figure out just what I thought about circumcision. Mutilation, health, hygiene, aesthetics. The whole racket made my head spin. And that’s when the young punk said something that set me on my present course.

“There might be a lawsuit. Some Jews are crazy-mad about a new regulation passed by the City of New York and they’re threatening all kinds of holy hell over it. It’s not that New York is outlawing circumcision. It’s not about that. It’s that… well, it’s that some of these Jewish folks do something.” Out with it! “I can’t… I don’t wanna say… It’s that these Jewish fellas, some of them… Well…”

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Circumcision, Anti-Semitism, And You (Part Deux)”

Scalia v. Posner meets Mean Girls

* Someone was finally able to liken the Scalia v. Posner debate to a suitable situation: bitchy mean girls fighting each other in a middle school cafeteria. Seriously, only the inclusion of “like” throughout the entirety of the dialogue could’ve made it better. [lawprofblawg]

* Who pays your law professors’ salary? The obvious answer is law students, since professorial wallets are padded by tuition dollars. But what happens when IBR comes into play and loan debts are forgiven? Then the answer shifts to the taxpayers. [PrawfsBlawg]

* When Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers died, everyone was expecting that a lawsuit would be filed, but no one really thought that it would be one based on contract law. [New York Law and Legal Analysis Blog]

* What kind of case “really turn[s] on” everyone’s favorite First Amendment lawyer? Free speech cases that are riddled with challenges, of course, and questions about what does and doesn’t constitute porn. [Vegas Inc]

* You must be wondering where Above the Law fell on this ranking of the 15 Most Influential Law Blogs. We won’t give it away, but let’s just say that we now share something in common with Cooley. [Business Insider]

* “[S]ome dude with the munchies is getting a little legal education.” That’s what we thought when one of our top searches last week was “pictures of tacos” — and not even “duck tacos,” but regular ones. [Search Party]

* New Zealand’s Parliament has passed the first stage of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. Lawmakers were apparently inspired by President Obama’s public support of the issue. [Huffington Post]

* The trial of a Florida teen accused of impersonating a physician assistant is underway. Among other things, he allegedly dressed in scrubs, used a stethoscope, and performed CPR on a patient. Apparently, just because you’ve seen it on Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t mean you’re allowed to do it in real life. [ABC News]

* “And to my son, I bequeath my playlist of one-hit wonders and my season pass to Breaking Bad.” Marketwatch tackles the tricky question of who owns your digital music (and e-book) collections after you die. [Marketwatch / WSJ]

* A New Mexico criminal defense attorney, David “Chip” Venie, was charged yesterday with allegedly shooting a man in the leg at his law office. Oh, and Venie’s wife filmed the whole thing on her cell phone, including the unarmed victim holding out his empty hands. [ABA Journal]

* Lawyers for the Amish men and women charged with forcibly cutting the beards and hair of their “perceived enemies” say they were motivated by compassion, not hatred. Sometimes you’ve just got to let someone know her haircut’s not doing her any favors. [NY Times]

* In First Amendment news, the D.C. Circuit court has invalidated an FDA regulation requiring cigarette companies to place warning labels on packages. Is this a victory for free speech, or for big tobacco? [The Atlantic]

Build-a-gun!

This is absurd. Over the past month, the United States hasn’t been able to go a full week without a devastating public shooting — but we still have stuff like this rising from the collective woodwork.

Meet Cody Wilson, a University of Texas Law student and founder of Wiki Weapon, a new venture aiming to merge the growing popularity of 3D printers, the internet age, and deadly weaponry.

Step right up, get your cheap, do-it-yourself gun right here. And while you’re at it, why don’t you just shoot me in the face, too….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Gun Is Your Gun, This Gun Is My Gun: A 2L’s Quest To Make Printable Firearms”

Sydney Spies

Remember Sydney Spies, the teenage dream from Colorado who fought valiantly to get her provocative pictures featured in her high school yearbook, all in the name of free expression? Despite the threat of a lawsuit and national media coverage, all of Spies’s racy photos were rejected — but she was able to earn a spot in Americans’ hearts (and spankbanks) around the country.

The young Hollywood hopeful landed a small role in an upcoming SyFy movie, and her mother, Denise “Miki” Spies, was preparing to ship her daughter out to Los Angeles in the hopes of her making it big. Why not throw one last bash to celebrate Sydney’s single success in stardom? And that’s apparently where all the trouble began for this mother and daughter duo.

Little did Sydney and Miki know that their alleged exploits at the party would someday be able to serve as the basis for a Lifetime movie. The pair could face jail time for allegedly serving alcohol to minors — but at least they’re back in the headlines. (And this underage drinking drama could earn Sydney another line on her iMDB profile, so she’s probably patting herself on the back.)

Let’s discuss the charges that the Spies are currently facing, and all of the allegations that make them appear to be quite the hot messes….

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Where's Waldo? In court, apparently.

* Jason Cai, the software engineer convicted in the spring of murdering a young attorney, was sentenced today to life in prison without parole and ordered to pay more than $700,000 to the slain woman’s family. [Mercury News]

* An appeals court revived a discrimination lawsuit filed by a woman against her employer. And nobody cares. Wait, hold on a sec. Her employer is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. What, what, whaaaat? [WSJ Law Blog]

* James Holmes, the man accused of last week’s movie theater shooting spree, has been formally charged with 142 criminal counts. They include 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder in the first degree. [Courthouse News Service]

* The Twinkie defense is so played out. Now, courtesy of an ex-Citigroup employee, introducing the brand spanking new “Where’s Waldo” defense. [Reuters]

* India’s largest and oldest television network has accused Nielsen of violating the FCPA by manipulating viewership data in favor of networks that offer bribes. Say it ain’t so! [Hollywood Reporter]

* Chick-fil-A, free speech, zoning laws, and homophobia — all thrown together onto a failure pile in a sadness bowl. Noted First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza, counsel to ATL, takes to CNN to educate the masses. [CNN]

Free speech is a complex area legally, but it’s important to recognize that there are distinctions between one’s ability to express an opinion versus one’s ability to use F.C.C.-regulated airwaves to do so, and also one’s ability to engage in speech versus one’s ability to engage in slander.

Georgetown Law graduate Sandra Fluke, in a New York Times Magazine interview this weekend. Fluke was launched into the national spotlight after Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” for speaking out in favor of affordable contraception.

(An additional excerpt from the interview, after the jump.)

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