Palin Blasts Supremes’ Support Of Anti-Gay Church

The Westboro Baptist Church picketing at the m...
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On March 2, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Westboro Baptist Church’s right to picket funerals, espousing anti-gay rhetoric such as “God Hates Fags,” “You’re Going to Hell” and, as shown in the picture here, “Fags Are Worthy Of Death.”  In an 8-1 vote, the Justices ruled that such behavior was protected speech under the First Amendment.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:

But under the First Amendment, he went on, “we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” Instead, the national commitment to free speech, he said, requires protection of “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.

In the case at issue, the church picketed the military funeral of Matthew Snyder.  Interestingly, Matthew was not gay.  Matthew’s father sued and obtained a $5 million verdict against the church, which has now been set aside.

Surprisingly, conservative politician/commentator, Sarah Palin, initially blasted the High Court’s decision on Twitter, tweeting:

Common sense & decency absent as wacko “church” allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers’ funerals but we can’t invoke God’s name in public square

Subsequently, in an interview with the Daily Caller, Palin sought to “clarify” her remarks, saying:

Obviously my comment meant that when we’re told we can’t say ‘God bless you’ in graduation speeches or pray before a local football game but these wackos can invoke God’s name in their hate speech while picketing our military funerals, it shows ridiculous inconsistency.

Assuming Palin’s frustration is genuine, which I do for purposes of this article, I can understand where she is coming from.  Frankly, I am saddened that she felt the need to so quickly, sort of retract/clarify herself.  Where she seems to be coming from is quite legitimate, if you ask me.  Why is that, in certain circumstances, we cannot invoke religious verbiage or iconography – even if done so peacefully – but this rogue band of crazy, half-witted, inbred hate-mongers – pretending to be followers of Jesus Christ – get the full panoply of First Amendment freedoms?

As an attorney, I can – intellectually – comprehend the arguments on both sides.  On a personal level, I can even support the outcome, belonging as I do to a traditionally dis-enfranchised group that often needs First Amendment protection to make its own public case.  From a viewpoint based purely on political strategy, I can even see the benefit in exposing such idiots to the light of day rather than forcing them into the shadows where they fester like a stinking boil on the butt of Lady Liberty herself.

And yet, the difficulty I have – and which Palin may be trying her best to express – is that it does seem to be the case that this “church’s” hate-filled expression has received judicial imprimatur, while arguably neutral, civic expressions that merely touch upon religion are so frequently scorned or called into legal question.

What message are we sending?  Peaceful, neutral expressions of faith are a no go.  But, hateful expression is in.  In my opinion, true Christians ought to be concerned about this decision.  And, this “church” ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Furthermore, if they truly believe in Hell, they ought to be very afraid.  As my granny would have said, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Jesus Wept

Palin Stalker Arrested In Alaska

Palin Worried About Stalker In Alaska, courtesy of Getty Images

Back in October 2010,  an Alaska judge found 18-year-old Shawn Christy stalked 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin. The judge further ordered Christy to not follow or otherwise stalk the politician and to have no communication with her or her family.  You can read an article about the restraining order issued against Christy here.

In a frightening turn of events, Christy, who is now 19, was reportedly arrested and held by the FBI in Anchorage, only 50 miles from Palin’s home in Wasilla.

Palin received nationwide ridicule recently following the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona.  In fairness to Palin, it would appear that she may well have her own “lone gunman” to worry about, and Christy’s behavior ought to be no more acceptable because his target may be Palin.

While Christy reportedly told authorities that he traveled to Alaska in an attempt to get the restraining order against him dismissed, he is a resident of far away Pennsylvania.  In my experience, for someone to turn up so near to a protected person’s home – when that location is so far away from the stalker’s own residence – is highly suspect.

Palin’s family has reported that they are distressed by the events, and I think they have every right to be in this current political climate.  Palin would do wonders for this climate if she were to use her considerable public platform to speak out against such anti-social and criminal behavior.

Ohio Law Student Not Qualified To Be Atty If Debts Not Paid, Supreme Court Rules

According to an ABA Journal article, Ohio’s highest court has ruled law grad Hassan Jonathan Griffin of Columbus, Ohio failed to satisfy the “character and fitness qualification” requirements to be an attorney because he had no visible means to pay back his law school loans or credit card debt.  Mr. Griffin works part-time in the public defender’s office, earning $12/hour.  He has $170,000 in loan debt and $16,500 in credit card debt.  Griffin provided information that he was remaining at his part-time job in the hopes that it would become a full-time position

To the Ohio Supreme Court, these facts rendered Griffin unfit to practice law based on low moral character.  The opinion is downloaded to the Box for those who wish to review it.

Frankly, and I agree with the ABA writers, this decision is outrageous!  In my opinion, this young man is being penalized for a legal education system that yokes its students with back-breaking student loan debt, often well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The fact that Griffin is working – whether part-time or full-time – in a public interest career ought to be encouraged, not be grounds for punishment or banishment.  In fact, it is not at all unusual – instead, quite typical – for public interest jobs to be less than full-time at first, often working into more stable situations for those graduates that are able to stick it out.  In the present economy, Griffin is not doing anything extraordinary – certainly not immoral – when you consider the many articles recommending volunteer work as a means to land a full-time job.

If Mr. Griffin has any further avenues available to him to pursue this matter, this author strongly encourages him to do so against what is truly an inequitable decision, one with far-reaching implications.  For example, what if Mr. Griffin – like me – wanted to go directly into his own solo law practice, but lacked any clients at first.  Would that evidence insufficient morals to practice law?  If so, then can only the super rich, or super lucky, practice law in Ohio?



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The Dangerous Workings Of Sarah Palin

If you want to hear the real sound of “100% wacko,” then just listen to Sarah Palin.

In the wake of the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, many around the country blame Palin’s “incitement to violence”-style rhetoric and imagery which includes, among other techniques, use of the now-infamous “cross hairs” map that – rather literally – targets Democratic leaders.  The “cross hairs” map is pictured below:

At the time of writing this article, the “cross-hairs” map was still publicly posted on Palin’s Facebook page.  Furthermore, in response to criticism, Palin says that she (and her cronies) are being unjustly blamed for the attack; it is their right to free speech that is being trampled.

In other words – just in case you missed it – Palin is the real victim here.  It is not Congresswoman Giffords whom Palin targeted with her map and other violent-provoking rhetoric.  No way.  It is not the federal judge killed by the gunman.  Uh-uh. It is not even the 5 others that were killed in the shooting, including a 9 year-old girl who just happened to have been born on 9/11/2001.

Nope, Sister Sarah is the victim here – she, her cronies, and, well, I suppose the First Amendment.  You remember the good-ole No. 1, don’t you?  It is part of that pesky document called the Constitution that so many dangerous, half-crazed, ne0-con zealots can never seem to stomach – until it becomes useful to wrap themselves up in it for protection and justification.

Here’s a news bulletin for Sister Sarah – you can put lipstick on a pig, but in the end, you still got a pig.  And, in this case, a rather dangerous pig.  In this case, we have a pig willing to use this tragic event to transform herself into some kind of victim or martyr; or, at the very least,  Constitutional champion.  In so doing, Palin is revealing either a profound degree of psychological disturbance, or she is demonstrating her willingness to stoop deep to promote her own domination agenda.  Maybe both.

Also shocking are those that have publicly defended Palin.  For example, Barbara Walters feels Sister Sarah’s pain, saying that it is unfair to blame her for the shooting.  Although I normally regard Walters higher than most, not on this occasion.  As Lynn M. Paltrow noted in her “Open Letter to Sarah Palin,” Congresswoman Giffords – in particular – criticized Palin’s methods, including the “cross hairs” map.  What a coincidence, eh Babs?!?!

Walters is, of course, known for her own brand of “in your face” journalism.  However, as she should know, speech that promotes the public good by encouraging debate or controversy – even spirited or agitated – is not the same thing as the self-indulgent calculations of a demagogue trolling her cult of personality for violence with military-style words and imagery.  For example, evidence continues to mount suggesting that Palin’s racists comments aimed at President Obama has led to death threats against the President.

If Sarah Palin’s brand of “speech” is protected, then we ought to start now and re-write every Constitutional law textbook so that they feature the likes of Charles Manson and Jim Jones alongside Constitutional champions like Mary Beth Tinker (pictured below), Clarence Earl Gideon and Rosa Parks.  Hyperbole, you say?  Sarah Palin is nothing like Jim Jones?  How would we know that – until it is too late?

What if we suddenly learned that Sarah Palin had direct ties to a terrorist organization whose mission is to cause anarchy and civil unrest in the U.S. to destroy democracy?  What is the gunman in this case had ties to the same organization?  Suddenly, it might seem as though Palin’s comments were something less akin to pure free speech and something strikingly closer to conspiracy.

Even if Palin’s “speech” is protected, let us not dignify that which does not deserve dignity.   A lot of very undignified “speech” is legally protected by our Constitution, whether we like it or not.  That does not mean dignified citizens should go out of their way to be cheerleaders.

Mary Beth Tinker talks to students at Cardozo High about their constitutional rights. In eighth grade, Tinker was suspended for wearing a black armband, inspiring a Supreme Court case that upheld students' freedom of expression. (By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post)
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Man Claims Penis Enlargement Device Failed To Work After 500 Hours Use

Not all lawsuits revolve around tragic events.  In fact, some of the funniest stories can be read in the files of many court cases.  This is one of those case, hailing to us from Quebec.  For those of you who are offended by off-color humor or innuendo, my apologies, but I simply could not resist on this one.

Small-claims indeed!

According to papers filed in a small-claims case, a man is suing the manufacturer of a penis enlargement device, claiming that the device failed to produce the intended results – even after 500 hours of use. The plaintiff is seeking $762 in compensation against HotGVibe, the manufacturer of the product.  Of this amount, $200 represents the cost of the device, while $500 represents (according to the plaintiff) “moral and punitive damages.”

And you thought our friends up north were more laid back and easy going…

But Will The Plaintiff’s Evidence Stand Up In Court?

Although a plaintiff in a lawsuit may have a legal claim on which to sue, the plaintiff must still have enough evidence to persuade the trier of fact that his case stands up to vigorous examination.  Such an examination has already taken place in this case, and the judge has indicated that he will render a decision in about 6 weeks.

Huh…6 weeks to make a decision in a small-claims case?  The judge really seems to be taking a long time pondering the plaintiff’s evidence, don’t you think?

Frivolous Lawsuit…Or Is The Plaintiff Selling Himself Short?

As much fun as one can poke at the facts of this case, “erotic” or “adult novelty” devices and services – sold to men and women alike are often scams that pilfer millions of dollars from consumers’ pockets.  Many companies prey on the consumers’ most intimate desires or feelings of inadequacy or embarrassment.  For example, a recent article on a tech product website proclaimed that men could improve the size of their package by purchasing an iPhone app.  Bet you didn’t know there was an app for that, did you?

Cases such as this one challenge preconceived notions about sexual behavior as well.  Consumers such as this plaintiff are not necessarily desiring anything illicit, illegal or unwholesome.  In fact, one could describe this plaintiff as seeking a tool to correct a problem that hundreds of millions of men have encountered at one time or another in their life.  It’s a defective tool case.  What’s so wrong about that?

Finally, before you proclaim him as nothing more than a frivolous plaintiff, consider this – after accounting for the product’s cost, the plaintiff is only asking for $1 an hour per wasted hour. In light of the significance of the plaintiff’s point, perhaps he is letting HGVibe off cheap. 

For more on this interesting case, you can check out this article from The Consumerist.

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Scalia To Women: Corporations Have Rights, Not You

Official portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ant...
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Just how ridiculously narrow-minded and oppressive will U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia get?  It boggles the mind when you consider his latest rant.

In an interview with the online publication California Lawyer” this past week, Scalia declared that the 14th Amendment does not protect gays or women from discrimination.

Scalia stated:

Q. In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?

A. Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.

If I understand the good Justice, taking into consideration his opinion in the recent Citizens United case, corporations have constitutional rights but women and other minorities are free game for discrimination, at least as far as the 14th Amendment goes.   Do you find it astounding that a jurist sitting on the Nation’s Court of Last Resort thinks that AT&T or Halliburton or BP has more rights than your mom does or your sister?  I do.

We all need to think very seriously about Justice Scalia’s comments.  Think about them in the context of this quote which I am re-printing from an excellent article in U.S. News’ Politics blog:

“…laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

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President Signs Reauthorization of Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...
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My colleague, Lori Paul, posted an important article on her family law blog, discussing the fact that President Obama has signed the Reauthorization of Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

As a survivor of childhood abuse, I believe the safety and welfare of children is of paramount importance.  Sadly, as Ms. Paul’s article mentions, over 770,000 children were victimized by abuse or neglect in 2008.  This is outrageous and, frankly, unfathomable when one considers how much attention has been paid to the problem in the last several years.

Fortunately, President Obama and Congress appear to recognize that the problem warrants continued focus until every child in our country can grow up without fear or harm.

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To All Our Veterans – Thank You!

I had intended to write a much longer piece in honor of our Nation’s veterans.  Unfortunately, a person can get too busy with this or that and the day gets away from you before you know it.  So, I will simply say “thank you.”  Because of your service, I had the gift of a day spent in freedom today.  That gift is priceless.

Here are a few images I saw on the Internet today that caught my eye.

This last picture is from an excellent blog article you can link to here. If you have the time to take a look at the article, it is a wonderful and quite personal tribute to all veterans.

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November Is National Adoption Month; Long-Term Foster Care Remains Serious Problem

There is a must-read article at which has some alarming statistics on the number of children in foster care in the U.S.  According to the article, which was written to commemorate November as National Adoption Month, on any given day:

“…[M]ore than 423,000 children are in the foster care system,
[N]early 115,000 of them are available for adoption, just waiting for the right family to find them.”
The article goes on to quote another interesting statistic from the National Adoption Attitudes Survey, which found that nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults have considered adoption.  That’s 81.5 million people who have considered.  If 1 out of every 500 of those people actually followed through and adopted a child in need, every child in foster care would (at least mathematically) be placed in adoptive families.
If you are thinking about adoption, or are interested in doing more to promote adoptions in this country, you may want to check out the Dave Thomas Foundation, which is dedicated to increasing the numbers of adoptions in the U.S.  Give some serious thought to adoption, particularly in times where we are looking at a world that is likely to have insufficient resources for the people already populating the planet.
If you are interested in legal issues involving foster care and adoption, particularly large scale public policy issues, you should consider contacting the National Center for Youth Law (NYCL), one of the foremost legal advocates in the area of foster care.  I was fortunate to have done an internship with NYCL during law school, and know the enormous contribution they are making to improve foster care conditions for children all over the country.
In particular, NYCL publishes a “Foster Care Reform Litigation Docket” that details their important work in this area, which is just one of their many areas of work on behalf of poor children.
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Will ‘Net Neutrality’ Fall Victim To The New House Leadership?

net neutrality world logo
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As the dust settles from the mid-term elections, a question is percolating around the Internet:  what will be the fate of “net neutrality” under a Republican-led House?

Under U.S. law, the administrative body governing the Internet is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  However, major telecommunications legislation must still be approved by the House and the Senate.  With a divided Congress, any major telecommunications legislation is unlikely to pass.  The result – Internet service providers (ISPs) now hold all the cards and “net neutrality” is likely to be their primary target.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, “net neutrality” is a principle that advocates no restrictions by Internet service providers (e.g., AT&T or Comcast) and governments on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and the modes of communication allowed; or, at the very least, extremely limited restrictions.

According to an article produced by Reuters, the underlying idea of net neutrality is that high-speed and mobile Internet providers should not be allowed to give preferential treatment to content providers that pay for faster transmission.

You can read further on the topic by linking to a definitional article from Wikipedia.  You can also link to the full Reuters article analyzing the mid-term elections.

“Net Neutrality” is not a subject that should just be discussed by “techy” types.  “Net neutrality” is one of the most important civil rights issues of our day.  As a society, for good or ill, we have become utterly dependent upon the Internet.  It is a primary method of information-gathering and information-sharing.  For many, it is the source for social interaction, which broadly includes political organizing and activism (as witnessed by President Obama’s success as well as the growth of “causes” and “groups” on Facebook).  Finally, to an ever-increasing degree, educators and institutions of learning are turning to the Internet as a mainstream tool to teach students of all ages.

Because of these developments, our societies must insist upon a robust and open Internet, with as few restrictions as possible.  This is not to say that Internet service providers should not expect a reasonable rate of return on their services.  However, just because I might choose AT&T as my provider, should not result in me being unable to freely communicate with certain other users or sites that AT&T finds objectionable.  Same goes for you Verizon and Apple. And, just because I might not be able to afford your latest and greatest gadget, should not necessarily mean that I end up with something akin to “dial up” speeds when I attempt to find our the latest current events or get information on candidates running for office.

These kinds of results are not hypothetical populist-speak.  According to its corporate “fact sheet,” “Comcast Corporation is one of the nation’s leading providers of cable, entertainment and communication products and services, with 22.9 million video customers, 16.7 million high-speed Internet customers and 8.4 million Comcast Digital Voice customers.”  You can link to Comcast’s corporate information here.

This “leading provider” to tens of millions of Americans already restricts the amount of access its users can have to certain types of sites – most notably, peer-to-peer file (P2P) sharing sites.  Comcast’s argument:  sites which allow users to privately upload and download files (admittedly, sometimes large files) use up too much of the Internet’s bandwidth.

Comcast felt so strongly about their argument they filed a successful lawsuit in federal court over the issue.  Almost immediately after the case ended, Comcast began aggressively marketing their more costly Xfinity service.  Was private peer-to-peer file sharing sacrificed so that Comcast could charge its customers more money for allegedly faster Internet speeds?

I am not a Comcast customer, but I would like to hear from any of you who are.  What do you think about this issue? Certainly, I invite Comcast to also share its thoughts on this topic, or on the topic of “net neutrality” in general.  All non-spam comments will be approved.

In particular, it would be most welcome if Comcast would explain how it restricts its users access/use of the Internet (as its primary competitor contends it does) as well as provide its position on “net neutrality.”  The same invitation is extended to AT&T, Verizon, Apple and Google.

Even if you claim not to use it as your primary method of gathering and sharing information, other users – your doctors, lawyers, banks, hospitals, government agencies – do rely on the Internet and their reliance affects you and your family every day.  If made available to everyone, the Internet is the most powerful tool for advancement humankind has devised.  Unfortunately, if access to this tool is segregated by class or wealth or geography or because of a corporate balance sheet, those without the tool will find themselves distanced and dis-enfranchised from much of what is taking place around them.

I strongly urge all my readers, followers and friends to view “net neutrality” as I do – a civil rights issue.  If you are concerned about this issue, you can find out more about how to stand up for “net neutrality” by visiting this link.  There are also Facebook causes devoted to the subject, which you can easily find simply by searching for the term net neutrality.

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