30 January 2007

Is Defending Guantanamo Detainees Unpatriotic?

The answer seems to be yes, at least for one high ranking U.S. Department of Defense official. Jurist Legal News and Research (operated by the University of Pittsburgh) has a great summary of how US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Charles "Cully" Stimson believes that some of the nation's top law firms are acting against the country's interest.
In an on Federal News Radio Thursday on the fifth anniversary of the US military prison, Stimson predicted that "when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line in 2001 those CEO's are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms." The former Navy lawyer said "It's shocking...The major law firms in this country...are out there representing detainees."
Advocates for such things as the Rule of Law and fairness immediately criticized Stimson. As the current American Bar Association President rightfully said,
Lawyers represent people in criminal cases to fulfill a core American value: the treatment of all people equally before the law. To impugn those who are doing this critical work -- and doing it on a volunteer basis -- is deeply offensive to members of the legal profession, and we hope to all Americans. The American Bar Association supports lawyers who give of their time and expertise defending those involved in legal actions. In fact it is one of the basic tenets of the Association's Second Season of Service, that lawyers should perform pro bono and volunteer work.
A Defense Department spokesperson quickly backed away from Stimson's comments saying they did not reflect the official view of the Department. Let's hope so. Stimson himself eventually tried to reverse himself using the age-old excuse "my comments were taken out of context." Right.

Semester Break

I will not be posting material during semester break (Feburary & March). I will resume posting in early April.

15 January 2007

Judge's Pay In America

Recently the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court said that the government was facing a constitutional crisis. Was he talking about attempts by the Bush Administration to increase the power of the Executive Branch? No. In fact he was talking about the wages received by federal court judges. In our Common Law Legal System class, I noted that many people who are appointed to courts in England and the United States actually take a rather large pay cut by becoming a judge. According to Chief Justice Roberts, this is taking a toll on the judicial branch of the U.S. government. There is an interesting commentary on the Law. com website on this topic that is worth checking out.

12 January 2007

What is an "American Baby"

The U.S. toymaker Toys R Us recently ran a competition whereby the "first American baby" born in 2007 would receive a $25,000 bond. The apparent winner was born in New York City at the stroke of midnight on January 1st. After naming the baby of Chinese immigrant Yan Zhu Liu as the winner, the company quickly revoked the prize claiming that the baby was not an "American baby" because the parents are not citizens or legal residents of the United States. The award was then given to a child in Georgia, whose parents were both "born and bred" Americans. A firestorm erupted as Chinese-American pressure groups cried foul. The company, sensing a public relations disaster, quickly reversed itself again and gave the $25,000 prize not only to Ms. Liu's child, but also allowed the child born in Georgia to keep its prize. The company even decided to give the award to a third child, whose parents are immigrants from El Salvador. Apparently, the fine print contained within the sweepstakes' rules limited winners to children born to American citizens or legal residents, but the large print simply said "American baby", raising some interesting contract interpretation questions. With our Common Law of Contract exam fast approaching, here is another question to ponder. Why is a competition like this one deemed an offer and not an invitation to treat?

10 January 2007

10 Worst Civil Liberties Violations in 2006

Slate Magazine writer

07 January 2007

Santa's Butt Can Be Displayed

Well, it can be displayed on beer bottles at least, according the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement. Last month I wrote about a First Amendment case in the State of Maine concerning a beer bottle label showing a cartoon of a bare-bottomed Santa. According the Associated Press, the State of Maine will allow bottles with this label to be sold in stores. State officials admitted that a Court would probably find that the labels are protected by the First Amendment's free speech provision.

03 January 2007

Few Cases Reach High Court

It appears that legal trends in the United States, at least those involving the Supreme Court, have a tendency to migrate north. Last year there was concern that the appointment of justices to the Canadian Supreme Court was becoming too political, just like the American process for filling court vacancies. Now comes word that Canada's highest court's caseload has been dwindling over the past several years, just like the caseload of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Toronto Globe and Mail reports:
A steady drop in the number of judgments produced by the Supreme Court of Canada hit a striking new low in 2006, with the court rendering just 59 decisions. Statistics compiled by The Globe and Mail show a total that is dramatically lower than years such as 1990, when the court rendered 144 rulings, and 1993, when it handed down 138 rulings.
This decrease looks remarkably similar to what is taking place in the U.S. As the New York Times reported last month:
The number of cases the court decided with signed opinions last term, 69, was the lowest since 1953 and fewer than half the number the court was deciding as recently as the mid-1980s.