18 December 2014

$100K for Swearing at the Cops!

Anyone who has bothered to take a look at some of my older postings will know that a favorite topic of mine is getting arrested for swearing in public. It is well established that free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution protect even vulgar speech like swearing. As a recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution points out in an article about an Atlanta woman who was arrested for swearing at the police:
“Ms. Barnes’ comments to the police may have been offensive, but no one in the United States of America should be chased down and arrested for their free speech,” said lawyer Cynthia Counts, who represented Barnes in her civil and criminal litigation. “The officers argued that it was a bad neighborhood and you shouldn’t disrespect the police because it could create issues,” she added.
Counts noted federal courts had overuled such reasoning after 1918 sedition laws made “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the U.S. government, flag or armed forces — or that caused people to view government institutions with contempt — a felony.
These are losers for cities and counties. In this instance, Cobb County settled out of court with this potty mouth for $100,000!! Hopefully, in the future Cobb County will train its police officers to ignore offensive speech directed at them.

11 December 2014

Getting a Hearing Before the Supreme Court: Only for Elites?

This week Reuters published a special report about the lawyers who get their cases heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. Their conclusion: if you want to access the Supreme Court you had better hire one of the 66 lawyers who seem to repeatedly be granted access to the Court. Part one of the report is entitled "A cadre of well-connected attorneys has honed the art of getting the Supreme Court to take up cases - and business is capitalizing on their expertise," which should give you an idea of the point the report is trying to make. The report is rather long but will give students a very good understanding of the process of having a case heard before America's highest court.

09 December 2014

The Power to Declare War

When was the last time the United States formally declared war on another country?

Students in my American Law courses (at least the ones who have already completed the Introduction Course) know the answer to this, and understand that the U.S. Constitution is a bit confusing when it comes to the question of when the President can send the military oversees to engage in battle.

Article I of the Constitution clearly give the Congress the power to declare war, however the President is Commander-in-Chief of the military and charged with defending the interests of the country. Custom plays an enormous role in this question, and arguably it has become custom to allow the President to commit troops oversees without a formal declaration of war, as this recent post on the National Constitution Center's blog clearly illustrates.