And Then They Came For Me

Surveillance Nation

Though my post title invokes the memory of pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous quotation, I’m not going to repeat it here. Sadly, to do so is to descend into the trite.

Yet the quotation – deeply considered – analogically explicates an important point about how the criminal justice system in my neck of the woods works. In fact, it’s pretty much how things work almost everywhere I look within the United States.

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All You Care About Is Money

Contract

This morning, I received a phone call from the jail. Some poor guy is “between a rock and a hard place,” in that he’s been locked up for allegedly committing a crime – a physical assault on another person.

And he needs help.

Well, that’s what I’m here for, right?  [Read more…]


Dieting with Dignity

Lucky Strike Diet (Featured)

In my short lifetime (they’re all short, when it comes down to it), I was taught that eating eggs was bad for you.

Then it wasn’t.

I was taught that you should eat a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet to live a healthy lifestyle. Protein only. Eat like a caveman.

Then I was taught that you shouldn’t do that.

Lucky Strike – a popular brand of cigarettes when I was a kid – once ran an ad offering themselves up as a dietary aid.

Lucky Strike Diet

Lucky Strike Diet

For some people, it actually works, although it’s usually the chemotherapy that does it.

The upshot of this is that during my lifetime, a lot of things were bad for you before they weren’t – although sometimes they were good for you, before they weren’t. [Read more…]


Celebrating the Fourth

Flag & Fireworks

In a way, it is fitting that July 4th is the big celebration of American – United States – freedom. As ConstitutionFacts.com notes:

July 4, 1776 wasn’t the day that the Continental Congress decided to declare independence (they did that on July 2, 1776).

It wasn’t the day we started the American Revolution either (that had happened back in April 1775).

And it wasn’t the day Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence (that was in June 1776). Or the date on which the Declaration was delivered to Great Britain (that didn’t happen until November 1776). Or the date it was signed (that was August 2, 1776).

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Insuring That All Lives Matter

Officer with gun & insurance certificate

Yes, that’s insuring, and not, ensuring, although I believe one can lead to the other.

And I didn’t use any hashtag in the title here because, although I know about the #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter controversy, I’m not weighing in on that.

Rather, I’m going to accept, without arguing, that it’s not a bad thing for every person involved when police encounter ordinary citizens that both the officers and the citizen make it home alive. If you want to argue it, head on over to Twitter, and hashtag your heart out. (Or you could comment below, and I’ll razz you, or maybe just ignore you.)

I’m also going to recognize the fact that real police reform imposed by concerned citizens like myself is probably not going to be possible, where by “reform,” we mean “let’s try to convince police officers to quit killing us.” They’re not going to stop just because we ask them, whether nicely, or with more of our own force, and that’s that. As far as they’re concerned, we just need to STFU.

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It’s All In How You Define Things

Dictionary: Definition

Two articles in the May 21, 2015 Daily Journal out of San Francisco – yeah, I’m behind; I’m also reading out of order – make me wonder at the novel approaches of government when it comes to dealing with corruption, abuse, and the lack of basic human decency on the part of our dear leaders.

In the old days, they would stick their heads – or maybe ours – in the sand, in the hopes that no one would see what was happening. With the advent of the new cameras-everywhere society, something a little more inventive has been required.

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Court Considers New Rules for “Hide the Ball”

Officer shushing

I don’t often read the actual news section of the San Francisco Daily Journal, although I try at least every couple-or-three days to look over the Daily Appellate Report insert that comes with it.

Today I was in a bad mood, so I decided to look at the paper, instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing (reading a lengthy transcript).

I’m filing this under “Ethics & Law” because, for one thing, I don’t have a category for courts – I don’t often write about how courts themselves function, or don’t function, I guess – and for another, to my way of thinking this really boils down to a question of ethics. It’s a question of ethics first for prosecutors. But I think it actually boils down to an issue of judicial ethics, as well.

The article that inspired me to take to pen and paper keyboarding concerns discovery of information that may be important to criminal cases when the information to be discovered lies ensconced in that most sacred of places: a police officer’s personnel file.

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The Problem with Social Justice Warriors

protesters carrying mattress

There are times when it seems that the old saying, “There’s no convincing some people,” needs revision, editing, shortening, whatever: “There’s no convincing people.”

As a lawyer, I see this as a troubling development.

Now, in all honesty, I don’t know if what seems to be the case really is the case. It’s entirely possible that the Internet, which can serve as a megaphone for all speech, regardless of quality of content, has simply made encountering the roadblocks to convincing people more obvious.

The problem is, for most people, the voice you hear first, and the most, is the one that determines how you will think. For reasons that would require at least a whole ‘nuther blog post, after that you don’t easily change your beliefs.

This is why so many work as hard, or harder, on silencing oppositional speech, rather than arguing their point: particularly the modern “social justice warrior,” or as they apparently are usually referred to these days, the “SJWs.”

And when you’re busy shouting through a megaphone, the only voice you’re going to hear is your own – at best, since the crowd you hang with is typically going to be comprised of those who already agree with you, when you stop to take a breath, you’re just going to hear another voice echoing your own. If you happen to hear a contradictory voice, and you’re an SJW, odds are that you’re going to shift your fight temporarily to silence it – not to convince; just to silence.  [Read more…]


Don’t Blame It On The Donuts

picture of donuts

One of the more difficult aspects of working as a criminal defense lawyer – particularly in Fresno, California, where there are fewer brain cells in those in leadership positions than there are those in leadership positions – is learning that there’s really pretty much no such thing as good people. Or bad people for that matter.

There are just people. Period.

And we are all capable of ugly.

At best some of us are more ugly than others, more of the time. But the truth is that if you really stop, and look, there’s a little bit of ugly showing through in all of us, all the time.  [Read more…]


Law & Freedom

America: The Prison

Properly utilized, Law-with-a-capital-L is necessary to ensure freedom for as many people as possible in any space shared by more than one individual with divergent desires. This is ironic, since laws themselves are essentially the antithesis of freedom: their primary goal is to restrict individuals.

Because of this contradictory relationship between Law and the laws, the maximization of freedom in an environment with more than one human being is a balancing act. Without Law, we get chaos; people are hurt; and some end up less free than others against their desires, and through no fault of their own. Yet the more laws we have, the less freedom each individual has.

Beyond a certain point, the restrictions on individual freedom quickly result in diminishing returns. We could pass a law requiring video monitoring of all households, in order to prevent spousal, and child, abuse. We could post a cop in every bar to make sure not only that no one started a bar fight, but that people stopped drinking and driving. Everyone could be subject to being stopped and searched for weapons at any time, anywhere, regardless of whether there was probable cause, or not; maybe we could hire more cops, and post them at strategic locations throughout the city to do these searches.

After all, if one life is saved… [Read more…]