Public corruption prosecutions: a panel

Nearly everyone agrees with prosecuting public officials (as well as, on occasion, lobbyists and other private actors) for bribery and some other instances in which officials trade, or are asked to trade, a quid pro quo of official action for money or gifts. Defendants in such cases, on the other hand, such as former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, often object that they are being menaced with criminal sanctions for politics-as-usual doing of favors and constituent service, with the frequent additional suggestion that prosecution is selective and ginned up by opponents for purposes of criminalizing politics and destroying reputations in the media.

A panel discussion at the recent Federalist Society national lawyers’ convention discussed this issue including the episodes of the Wisconsin John Doe proceedings, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Tom DeLay, lobbyist Kevin Ring, and many others. Panelists included private attorneys Todd Graves (Graves Garrett), Edward Kang (Alston & Bird) and Peter Zeidenberg (Arent Fox), Prof. Eugene Volokh, and as moderator the Hon. Raymond Gruender of the Eighth Circuit. David Lat has a good write-up of the panel at Above the Law.

Saudi Arabia plans to sue Twitter user who called it #ISISlike

Watch what you say about Saudi Arabia:

According to a report in pro-government newspaper Al Riyadh, the Saudi justice ministry is planning to sue a Twitter user who suggested that a death sentence recently handed out to a Palestinian artist for apostasy was “ISIS-like.”

…The ministry would not hesitate to sue “any media that slandered the religious judiciary of the Kingdom,” the source added.

The Washington Post adds that “the comparison to the Islamic State appears to be a particular bone of contention for the Saudi kingdom.” A Saudi spokesman explained to NBC News recently that the country’s beheadings and hand-choppings for religiously-based and other offenses differed from Islamic State’s because “the country’s Shariah-based legal system ensures fairness. ‘ISIS has no legitimate way to decide to decide to kill people’.” The target of the contemplated Twitter suit was not named, and it was not immediately apparent whether that person is a Saudi subject. [Washington Post, Reuters] The hashtag #ISISlike was spreading rapidly on Twitter last night.

Yik Yak for good

Invoking Title IX, that law of so many uses, some identity advocates are demanding that colleges curtail student access to the chat service Yik Yak, popular for anonymous chatter on campus. While the press routinely portrays Yik Yak as a sump of digital hostility, Virginia Postrel found something quite different when she went on. “On a routine basis, the app grownups love to demonize is much friendlier than the Twitter and Facebook feeds I read daily. For reasons built into its structure, Yik Yak offers fewer rewards for mean, grouchy, tribal, and polarizing posts and more for those that are supportive, funny, inquisitive, and community-building.” Its anonymity “creates a place of support and solidarity amid academic and social struggles” [Bloomberg View, earlier here and here; related, New York Times]

Academic freedom, conformity of opinion, and the student demands

Of the demands being made by protesters in the current wave of unrest on American campuses, some no doubt are well grounded and worth considering. Some of them, on the other hand, challenge academic freedom head on. Some would take control of curriculum and hiring out of the hands of faculty. Some would enforce conformity of thought. Some would attack the rights of dissenters. Some would merely gut the seriousness of the university.

Last night I did a long series of tweets drawing on a website which sympathetically compiles demands from campus protests — — and noting some of the more troublesome instances:

  • From Dartmouth: “All professors will be required to be trained in not only cultural competency but also the importance of social justice in their day-to-day work.”
  • From Wesleyan: “An anonymous student reporting system for cases of bias, including microaggressions, perpetrated by faculty and staff.”
  • From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: “White professors must be discouraged from leading and teaching departments about demographics and societies colonized, massacred, or enslaved under white supremacy.”
  • From Guilford College: “We suggest that every week a faculty member come forward and publicly admit their participation in racism inside the classroom via a letter to the editor” in the college paper.

My series drew and continues to draw a strong reaction. Now I’ve done a Storify pulling it together as a single narrative and including some of the responses. Read it here.

November 25 roundup

  • Mississippi federal indictments in Mikal Watts BP case include fraud charges (arising from multiple wire transfers) against man who a decade ago, when pastor of a Hammond, La. church, pleaded guilty to fraud charges arising from fen-phen client recruitment [Robin Fitzgerald, Biloxi Sun-Herald]
  • Critique of Madison Fund project proposed by Charles Murray in new book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, I get a mention [Philip Wallach, New Rambler Review, earlier on book]
  • “So You Had Sex With Charlie Sheen and Want to Sue: 5 Legal Hurdles” [Eric Turkewitz, Hollywood Reporter]
  • “[Online form provider] LegalZoom Fought the North Carolina Bar on claims of UPL and Won” [Ben Barton, BNA]
  • After prison escape manhunt: “‘Psychic’ Sues Governor Of New York For Reward Money” [Bob Dorigo Jones]
  • Suit challenges D.C.’s methods for seizing and disposing of houses over very small tax liens [Christina Martin and Todd Gaziano (Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed an amicus brief), Washington Post, earlier on business of tax liens here and here]
  • Change in patent venue rules sought: “EFF asks appeals court to ‘shut down the Eastern District of Texas'” [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica, more on E.D. Tex.]

“Firefighter who flunked physical injured 10 days into job”

Deemed a “priority hire” for FDNY under a federal court order, “probationary firefighter Choeurlyne Doirin-Holder injured herself Monday while conducting a routine check of equipment at Queens’ Engine 308 in South Richmond Hill.” She had been on the job for ten days following a bumpy ascent that had included a failed pass at the academy, a previous injury, and the bending of physical test requirements. “Since she was injured on duty, she is eligible for a disability pension that would pay three-quarters of her annual salary, tax-free, if deemed unfit to return.” [New York Post; similarly two years ago] I wrote more on the watering down of firefighter physical tests to avoid screening out female applicants in my book The Excuse Factory, as briefly summarized in this 2007 post.

Toy roundup: grain as Grand Guignol, and legal blocks

Those “most dangerous” toys lists are an easy way for news editors to fill space before the holidays, but could a note of strain be creeping in? One of the ten on this year’s list from Massachusetts-based W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm) is a recreational art dough that contains wheat (and warns of that fact for allergy sufferers). [AP]

In other toy news, meanwhile, “Everything is awesome for the lawyers; Civil litigation-themed Lego is a thing” [Legal Cheek on parody “Lawgo” via Camie Pickett]

“Texas teen Ahmed Mohamed seeks $15 million for homemade clock incident”

“Ahmed Mohamed, the Irving teenager who made national news after he was suspended for bringing a clock to school, is seeking $15 million in damages from the city of Irving and the Irving school district.” After the handcuffing incident in September, in which public opinion sided strongly with the youngster, he was widely praised for his interest in science, appeared on Good Morning America and was invited to the White House; his lawyers now say, however, that Mohamed’s “reputation in the global community is permanently scarred.” [Sacramento Bee via Sam Ro (“Now you know for sure he’s an American.”)]

Police union roundup