Archive for the ‘Law & Lawyers’ Category

Legally speaking, when does “death do you part”?

November 11, 2019

A prison lifer seeks clarification … and freedom.

According to several sources

In 1996, Benjamin Schreiber was sentenced to life without parole for bludgeoning a man to death.

Usually, that sentence is pretty clear cut.

Not in Schreiber ‘s case.

Here’s the rub…


Nums: How many murders in Chicago since Newtown?

May 1, 2013

My eye caught a headline “Another murder near Obama’s home”.

The gist of the story:

A man was killed and another was wounded in a shooting early Tuesday in Hyde Park,

It’s the second shooting to happen near President Barack Obama’s home in neighboring Kenwood in about a week.

Last week 15-year-old Cornelius German was gunned down in the 5000 block of South Evans, less than a mile away from Obama’s house.

That got me wondering: how many murders have there been in Chicago since the Newton massacre.

Apparently, enough other folks ask the same question, so Slate has developed an infographic that provides a tally of murders by city since Sandy Hook.

The answer: 96 Murders in Chicago since Newtown. 


Think about that for a second … then continue reading.


Gene pool: Law schools’ is getting weaker …

February 1, 2013

According to the National Law Journal:


And, that’s only part of the story …

Applications are down almost 40%, but admittances are only down about half that amount.

In other words, the acceptance rate has increased from about 50% to about 80%.



The drop in selectivity wouldn’t be that bad if the weaker applicants were the ones who stopped applying.

But, that doesn’t seem to be the case …


“Prosecutorial Discretion” … the chickens will come home to roost on this one!

July 3, 2012

Long ago … you know, the week before last, King-O ruled by Executive Order that Illegal “dreamers” wouldn’t be deported (though the law says they should be), that illegals ID’ed in Arizona won’t be processed by Feds (though the law says that they should be), etc.

Setting the politics aside, the legal justification is called  “prosecutorial discretion”.

That means that not all laws are to be enforced … only those that the executive branch of government judges to be worthy of enforcement.

While Dems are cheering Obama’s “bold stroke”, I’m betting they’ll rue the day.

Let me give you a couple of examples why …

The Individual Mandate

OK, un-conservative Chief Justice Roberts ruled that the penalty — err, “tax” — is constitutional and has the force of law.

Fast forward to January 2013 … and, imagine a President Romney.

Now, imagine a President Romney issuing an Executive Order to the IRS that they should not enforce ObamaCare’s individual mandate.

Better yet, imagine him reversing the executive action to add 16,000 IRS agents to enforce the individual mandate … or for that matter, any ObamaCare provisions, say the 3.8% surcharge tax on investment income.

Boom.  Gone !

“Prosecutorial discretion” in action.

Think Dems will refer to it as Romney’s bold stroke?

* * * * *
Taxes on Dividend Income

For decades — maybe centuries — economists have argued against the double taxation of dividends … once at the corporate level, once at the individual level.

What if President Romney declares — by Executive Order — that the IRS should stop collecting taxes on dividend income and stop chasing down folks who don’t pay the taxes voluntarily.  So what if the law is on the books?

Boom. Gone.

No Congressional action required.

Just garden variety prosecutorial discretion.

* * * * *
I bet you get the picture …

My instincts tell me that the principle of the executive branch cheery-picking the laws it likes isn’t a long-term winner.

As old Rev. Wright would say: “The chickens will come home to roost on this one.

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Judge says 4 of the 10 Commandments should be tossed … hmmm, which 4 go?

May 11, 2012

A couple of weeks ago – during the clash between Team Obama and the Catholic bishops – some pundits thought that the Catholic Church should change its doctrine re: contraception because its position lacked popular support.

Hopping on that idea, HomaFiles asked: How about a referendum on the 10 Commandments ?

OK, the Catholic bishops are still pushing back on the ObamaCare mandate that church-affiliated organizations must “violate their consciences” and ante up for contraceptives.

Many pundits are counter-punching the bishops … arguing that they are woefully out-of-touch … that an overwhelming majority of Catholics support contraception.  So, the bishops should get off their soap boxes and ditch the rule.

Interesting angle: subject religious doctrine re: right and wrong  to a popular vote.  If it doesn’t get a majority, chuck it.


I think the idea has merit.

In fact, I say: why not hold a referendum on the 10 commandments?

Maybe #10 and #7 would fail to get enough votes and it would become legit for me to jack my neighbors big screen TV.

The idea has potential, right?

Think about it.

Which of the 10 would you like to see voted out?

* * * * *
Well, seems a judge in Roanoke thinks we were onto something

Could the Ten Commandments be reduced to six, a federal judge asked Monday.

That unorthodox suggestion was made by Judge Michael Urbanski during oral arguments over whether the display amounts to a governmental endorsement of religion, as alleged in a lawsuit filed by a student at Narrows High School.

After raising many pointed questions about whether the commandments pass legal muster, the judge referred the case to mediation – with a suggestion:

Remove the first four commandments, which are clearly religious in nature, and leave the remaining six, which make more secular commands, such as do not kill or steal.

What remains unclear is whether the county would be willing to make such a move – likely to produce more political turmoil – during future discussions to come from mediation.


Looks like we started something … though, those are the 4 commandments we would chuck.

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Constitutional Law 101 …

May 9, 2012

Mainstream media missed it, but last week Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before a Congressional committee to rehash her directive that Catholic organization pony up for contraceptives.

Representative Trey Gowdy (R–SC) asked Sebelius to explain the legal basis for what the secretary called an “appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

In her responses to subsequent questions, the secretary admitted she was unaware of Supreme Court cases stretching back several decades, in which religious believers’ rights against government intrusion were upheld by the court.

So, Rep. Gowdy schooled her.

It’s worth watching the video of the trainwreck … portions of the transcript are below.

         click to view

Excerpted for the Catholic News Agency 

“So, before this rule was promulgated,” Gowdy continued, referring to the federal contraception mandate, “did you read any of the Supreme Court cases on religious liberty?”

“I did not,” Sebelius responded.

The representative proceeded to ask the Health and Human Services secretary whether she was familiar with the outcomes of several cases pitting state interests against religious believers’ claims under the First Amendment.

Sebelius agreed with Gowdy that the state had a “compelling interest in having an educated citizenry.”

“So when a state said, ‘You have to send your children to school until a certain age,’ and a religious group objected because they did not want to send their children to school until that certain age, do you know who won?” he asked. “It went to the Supreme Court.”

The 1970s case, Wisconsin v. Yoder, is considered a landmark in U.S. jurisprudence. Sebelius said she did not know its outcome. “The religious group won,” Gowdy informed her.

“I think the state has a compelling interest in banning animal sacrifice,” he continued. “When a state banned the practice of animal sacrifice and a religious group objected, it went to the Supreme Court. Do you know who won that?”

“I do not, sir,” Sebelius responded. She was again informed that the religious group prevailed, in the 1993 case of Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah.

“When a religious group objected to having a certain license tag on their cars, it went to the Supreme Court,” Gowdy said, in an apparent reference to the 1976 case of Wooley v. Maynard. “Do you know who won?”

Sebelius said she was unaware of this outcome as well. “The religious group won,” Gowdy told her.

The congressman also noted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s recent 9-0 loss in the Supreme Court. The commission accused a Lutheran church and school of retaliatory firing, but lost the case when all nine justices upheld the school’s right to choose employees on religious grounds.

“So when you say you ‘balanced’ things,” Gowdy said, “can you see why I might be seeking a constitutional balancing, instead of any other kind?”

Ouch …

3 pages, single-spaced … due Thursday noon.

April 5, 2012

On Monday, former Constitutional law prof and now President Obama, laid into the Supreme Court for even thinking about declaring ObamaCare unconstitutional — either in part or in total — saying he was “confident” the Court would not “take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

CBS News reports:

Overturning a law of course would not be unprecedented — since the Supreme Court since 1803 has asserted the power to strike down laws it interprets as unconstitutional.

And, in the escalating battle between the administration and the judiciary, a federal appeals court apparently is calling the president’s bluff — ordering the Justice Department to answer by Thursday whether the Obama Administration believes that the courts have the right to strike down a federal law, according to a lawyer who was in the courtroom.

An Appeals Court Judge asked a DOJ lawyer if she agreed that the judiciary could strike down an unconstitutional law.

The DOJ lawyer answered yes — and mentioned Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case that firmly established the principle of judicial review more than 200 years ago.

Now the part that I like.

The panel ordered the Justice Department to submit a three-page, single-spaced letter by noon Thursday addressing whether the Executive Branch believes courts have such power.

That’s a big difference between academia and the courts …  I always ask my students to double-space their homework.

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Breaking news: Congress sees the light …

December 16, 2011

From the Washington Times

Congress overturns incandescent light bulb ban

Congressional negotiators struck a deal Thursday that overturns the new rules that were to have banned sales of traditional incandescent light bulbs beginning next year.

That agreement is tucked inside the massive 1,200-page spending bill that funds the government through the rest of this fiscal year,.

Now, back to dishwashers and clothes washers that wash?

Call me a dreamer …

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Recession Batters Law Firms … a silver lining ?

January 26, 2009
    Excerpted from WSJ, “Recession Batters Law Firms”, Triggering Layoffs, Closings, Jan. 26, 2009

    * * * * *

    “Law firms are not the kind of companies that do well in adversity”

    After upending a succession of U.S. industries, the recession has arrived for U.S. law firms, which have long seen themselves as partially insulated from economic downturns. Profits, on average, were down 8% to 12% across the industry last year, after 15 years of consistent profit growth. Throughout the industry, business has dropped off in such key practice areas as mergers, public offerings, and corporate finance. Litigation, often counted on to carry firms through downturns, has become less profitable as clients increasingly settle big cases, forgo lawsuits altogether, or pressure firms to discount their fees

    Pay cuts and layoffs are becoming commonplace …   New York legal giant Cravath, Swaine & Moore announced it was reducing year-end bonuses for junior lawyers, and that it wouldn’t raise its billing rates in 2009 …  Latham , one of the nation’s highest-grossing firms, said that associates would not get raises in 2009 — a move followed by many other firms.

    The glimmers of hope (for lawyers): Some practice areas, such as bankruptcy, are robust … [and, the new administration is tight with trial lawyers}.

    Full article (with an interesting case study): * * * * *

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