University of Louisville Law Faculty Blog
The crisis in Pakistan throws into stark relief the importance of the bench and bar in protecting the rule of law in a representative democracy. When voices (including a U.S. senator) attacked the U.S. federal courts for upholding legal precedent in the Terry Schiavo case--even hinting that the violence against judges was justified--national, state and local bar associations rightly condemned these attacks and rallied around the principle of an independent judiciary. However the lines formed by the American bench and bar did not have to face lines of riot police. In Pakistan, lawyers are in the streets, almost alone, to defend that nation's supreme court from measures designed to subvert the Pakistani constitution and neutralize the judiciary. (Their surest allies are the Pakistani press, another institution whose freedom is vital to a democratic state, but, like lawyers, are regularly villified in quieter times).
Now it would be easy to say, like Gen. Musharrif, that Pakistan is under seige by extremists who have no love of democracy and that this measure, in the long run, will allow democracy to return stronger. However, the lawyers of Pakistan know that adherence to the rule of law is not a luxury to be put away in times of crisis but in fact is the basis of a stable society. The Pakistan lawyers are to be commended and their example kept in mind as we in the U.S. continue to grapple with the issues of preserving our essential rights as we fight a long struggle against terrorism.
For extensive coverage of the Pakistan bar protests, see JURIST's Pakistan aggregator.
At this time of year it is impossible to turn the channel without a reminder of Bram Stoker's most famous character, Dracula. However, Mr. Stoker's taste for eerie tales did not end with with that classic. Two years after his death in 1912, Stoker's wife published a collection of his gothic short stories entitled Dracula's Guest.
One of the stories, "The Judge's House," concerned a mathmatics student studying for exams in a house haunted by the spectre of a cruel and vengeful judge embodied in a bell rope fashioned from the very hangman's noose that the old jurist had so often set in fatal motion. While it would have been more satifying (to me) if it had been a student reading for the bar, it nevertheless is a "ripping good yarn."
Prof. Metzmeier brought to my attention an article in the Oct. 15 issue of The National Law Journal ("Litigation Clues Are Found on Facebook," p.1) The impact of social networking is a subject we have discussed for quite some time, but in a different context. We have long been warning students that anything they place on Facebook or MySpace can be accessed by potential employers. When employers find incriminating photographs or descriptions of bad behavior on these sites, they often refuse to hire applicants who they see as unstable or using poor judgment. The article in NLJ describes how postings on these sites have influenced the outcomes of trials. The article says that one father succeeded in securing joint custody because his wife had posted sexually explicit comments on her boyfriend's MySpace page. "In another case, a husband's credibility was questioned because, on his MySpace page, he said he was single and looking." The article recounts enhanced sentences for defendants accused of DUI, because their pages on social sites contained photos of them drinking, or comments about getting drunk after arrest. Many times, people assume there is a cloak of confidentiality surrounding their sites and those of their friends. They don't appreciate the public nature of the sites or understand how the information might be regarded by people who are not within their group of online friends. This article makes it clear that everyone should be aware of the potential consequences of placing personal information on a social network site.
View the ABC News story at http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=3777651
From the Georgia judiciary website:
"Atlanta, October 26, 2007 -- The Supreme Court of Georgia today ordered that Genarlow Wilson be released from prison. In a split 4-to-3 decision, the state’s highest court has upheld a Monroe County judge’s finding that Wilson’s 10-year-prison sentence constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Georgia and U.S. Constitutions. Wilson was convicted in 2005 of aggravated child molestation for engaging in consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17. Under the law at the time, the crime was punishable by a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison with no chance of parole, followed by registration as a sex offender. The law was amended July 1, 2006 making conduct such as Wilson’s a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in prison and no sex offender registration. But the legislature did not make the law retroactive, and the change did not apply to Wilson."
- The opinion can be downloaded here: Wilson opinion
Viacom, owner of cable's Comedy Central channel, took a lot of flak from netizens when it forced Google to pull videos from its popular Daily Show with Jon Stewart from YouTube. Yesterday, it debuted its creative answer: a website with every episode of the show from its inception in 1999. The website, sponsored by Hyundai, is free, requires no log-in, and (like YouTube) allows fans to embed clips into their email, web pages, blogs, as well Myspace and Facebook pages.
This represents a surprisingly sensible approach to an intellectual property challenge. Viacom controls the usage of its property, while giving users much of the usability of YouTube with higher quality footage. And they pick up a little change (Hyundai's mini-ads) that wasn't realistically available through silly per-use schemes. Let's hope they extend the principle to other programs (like the Colbert Report)...
As an example, here's Jon's practical method of predicting how the Supreme Court will rule in a case: