Posts tagged as:

Sarah Palin

Law professor Ann Althouse reacts to a Sarah Palin-ism.

Stephanie Mencimer suggests that 11% of Alaskans would have switched their votes to Obama in 2008 if they knew that the eeeevil author of this op-ed was in Anchorage helping Governor Sarah Palin address the politically-motivated “Troopergate” investigation. Color me skeptical.


January 16 roundup

by Ted Frank on January 16, 2010

August 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 3, 2009

  • On the medicalization of nearly everything: “Bitterness, Compulsive Shopping, and Internet Addiction” [Christopher Lane, Slate]
  • Lawyer representing Sarah Palin to blogger: do you want to be served with our defamation suit at the kindergarten where you help out? [Alaska Report via Rachel Weiner, HuffPo]
  • “The 7 Most Baffling Criminal Defenses (That Sort of Worked)” [Cracked via Popehat]
  • Canada: crash victim gets C$2M, sues deceased lawyer for omitting a defendant who’d have chipped in another C$1.3 million [Calgary Sun]
  • Privacy breach notifications mostly a costly waste of time but do keep lawyers busy [Lee Gomes, Forbes]
  • “News Websites in Texas and Kentucky Invoke Shield Laws for Online Commenters” [Citizen Media Law]
  • North Carolina suit against TVA “a sweet gig for the state’s attorneys” [Wood, Point of Law]
  • Blawg Review #223 is at Scott Greenfield’s [Simple Justice] with another part hosted at the Blawg Review home site itself.


Perhaps best known for his involvement in the Bhopal chemical-leak, tobacco, and mayoral gun litigation, the Washington, D.C. plaintiff’s lawyer mostly gave to Democratic causes last year but has emerged as an adviser to the Alaska governor, whom he met through his wife, Greta Van Susteren of Fox News. American Lawyer has more.

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High cost of the ethics wars? Today’s New York Times quotes Alaska’s lieutenant governor on the reasons for the governor’s surprise departure:

At the news conference, Ms. Palin cited numerous reasons for quitting, including more than $500,000 in legal fees that she and her husband, Todd, have incurred because of 15 ethics complaints filed against her during her two and a half years as governor. She said all of the complaints had been dismissed, but she still had to pay lawyers to defend her.

More: Lawrence Wood/Examiner, Anchorage Daily News and earlier.

Further: WSJ Law Blog with letter from Palin lawyer Thomas Van Flein (outlining possible after-the-fact state indemnification of cost of officials’ legal counsel when complaints are found without merit).


[Note: see important update/P.S. at end].

As you may recall, I wrote a piece last week for City Journal taking issue with various calls around the liberal blogosphere for having the McCain-Palin campaign investigated or even prosecuted for supposed incitement to violence against its opponents (a charge for which credible evidence appears severely lacking in the first place). Along the way, I criticized a Concurring Opinions post by University of South Carolina associate professor Susan Kuo in which Kuo first endorsed the charge that the Republicans were engaged in “character assassination” and “peddling fear, hate, and outrage to an audience that appears highly susceptible to this message” and then helpfully laid out potential theories under which criminal liability might be assigned to inflammatory campaign speech of such a sort. I said I found it bizarre that Kuo entirely omitted mention of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and went on to cite a relatively recent (1982) case in which a unanimous Court had cited the First Amendment as protecting even fairly extreme language of incitement which was soon thereafter followed by actual violence. These circumstances, I concluded, virtually ensure that no American court would countenance a prosecution of McCain, Palin, or their campaign staffs for incitement on current evidence absent a rapid and spectacular change in Constitutional jurisprudence from its present stance.

Now Professor Kuo has responded in a new post at Concurring Opinions by calling me names. She writes that it was predictable that “the Thought Police” — she links that phrase to my piece — would quickly emerge to “chastise” her “for committing crimethink”.

Before turning to this amazing charge and unpacking its heavy freight of irony, let’s dispose briefly of a couple of Kuo’s incidental points. First, she claims I champion the idea that “the mere existence of the First Amendment invalidates the notion of criminal liability for political speech”. In fact, as even a hurried reading of my post should have revealed, I made just the opposite point: I noted that there are some circumstances (such as, but not necessarily limited to, intent to incite violence combined with co-ordination with those who commit the bad acts) where notwithstanding the Amendment political speech can cross a line into crime. I also noted that reasonable minds could differ about whether the Supreme Court drew the line on incitement in the right place in its 1982 case. In short, Kuo attributes to me an extreme position of her own invention.

Kuo also suggests that her post merely laid out a hypothetical (or “thought experiment”) about what the law might do as opposed to prescribing what it should do. I have no problem with hypotheticals and have been known to use them myself, recognizing that they can be (though I don’t think they were in this case) a bracingly non-normative device in which the actual prescriptive views of the narrator are irrelevant or impossible to discern. I simply think this hypothetical was rendered both bizarre and misleading by its omission of the First Amendment, by which the courts of this land have greatly curtailed the scope of criminal liability for incitement.

Now back to the question of who should get tagged with the dismissive Orwell-invoking cliche “Thought Police”. Let’s review the bidding. Sarah Palin and GOP surrogates stir up controversy by using blunt and divisive language to question Barack Obama’s judgment in the Bill Ayers matter. Voices around the liberal blogosphere then call for Palin & Co. to be criminally investigated and even prosecuted for riding this campaign issue too hard. Kuo, entering the debate, does not call these bloggers and Huffington Post writers “Thought Police” for suggesting that speech that offends them be subject to legal sanction, but instead conveys their views uncritically if not sympathetically. She then takes up her hypothetical of possible enforcement action against McPalin, outlining theories under which prosecutors might bring such charges and judges might agree to impose punishment, but does not label these hypothetical prosecutors or judges “Thought Police” for punishing the impassioned expression of political opinion. No, the only time the Thought Police make an entrance at all is after the fact, when someone presumes to criticize her. Only then does she detect, with fearful intake of breath, the sound of the hobnailed boots ascending the stairs. And it turns out to be that scary libertarian bogeyman, me!

I suppose I should take offense, but I haven’t managed to get past the comic aspect (& Ambrogi, Legal Blog Watch).

Important P.S.: I heard from Prof. Kuo herself this afternoon and we had a talk that was pleasant and in no way confrontational. She said her second post, to which this one responds, was dashed off in a spirit of light-hearted banter and that the last thing she meant was to call names or give insult. Obviously, it came across differently to me, and I reacted as one might to a seriously meant attack. As I noted, almost everyone who blogs has had the experience of writing something intended as funny that fails to register that way with part or all of the audience. And it’s probably also true that, as someone tender of my libertarian credentials, I’m especially apt to have my buttons pushed by any suggestion of being cast as Thought Police. Anyway, I’m glad to take Prof. Kuo at her word when she says she meant no offense, and I hope commenters at this site as well as Concurring Opinions will do the same (see also update post).


[Cross-posted from Point of Law]. I’ve got a new piece just up at City Journal in which I examine last week’s boomlet of interest around the liberal blogosphere in the notion that by riling up campaign crowds about Obama’s links to Bill Ayers, John McCain and (especially) Sarah Palin have engaged in “incitement to violence” of a “borderline criminal” nature that perhaps should even draw the attention of the Secret Service or FBI. (For examples of this boomlet, look among the several hundred occurrences of “Palin + incite” at Technorati between October 7 and 13; I also include a sampling as links in my piece). The article originated in a short post at Point of Law that City Journal asked me to expand into a longer treatment. I must say I find it fascinating that many bloggers, Huffington Post writers, etc. could so casually jettison the hard-won victories of free-speech liberalism, which fought long and hard against “incitement” theories by which criminal penalties might be applied to inflammatory speech. The idea of exposing your opponents to investigation or even arrest because you don’t approve of the contents of their speeches doesn’t seem like a particularly liberal one to me.

More: Stephen Bainbridge takes note.


Microblog 2008-09-24

by Walter Olson on September 24, 2008

  • Both McC and Palin seem cold-blooded about firing people, might be seen as feature rather than bug [McLaughlin/Baseball Crank] #
  • Legal obstacles to four day work week [Point of Law via @lilyhill] #
  • Yep, that’s Joe: Biden said he’s “done more than any other senator combined” for trial lawyers [Point of Law] #
  • Day of protest against software patents [OUT-LAW via @lawtweets] #
  • Related? “EPO staff strike over patent quality” [OUT-LAW] #
  • What a curious Nigerian scam email, do you think it could be genuine? [Cernovich] #

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Twitter for 2008-09-19

by Walter Olson on September 19, 2008

September 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 11, 2008


While the commentariat is gripped by discussion of whether Gov. Sarah Palin should have cut personal travel expenses only by 68 percent compared with her predecessor as Alaska’s chief executive, or by some higher amount, maybe it’s worth pausing a moment to note that the dean of New York’s Congressional delegation — and the most powerful figure in Congress in charge of tax legislation! — has just been caught not paying his taxes.

More: Turns out tax compliance is hard. Who knew?


White House race roundup

by Walter Olson on September 8, 2008

  • High-profile trial lawyer and Hillary fundraiser John Coale now backing McCain, believes plaintiff-friendly Sen. Lindsey Graham, a confidant of the GOP candidate, will sway him on liability issues [Gerstein, NY Sun, Tapper/ABC, Haddad/Newsweek] More on McCain-Graham friendship [New Republic]
  • Reasonably neutral evaluation of contrasting McCain and Obama positions [Chris Nichols, NC Trial Law Blog]
  • No Naderite he? Sen. Biden has generally taken a “protect the golden goose” approach toward his state’s niche as provider of corporate law [Pileggi, Bainbridge]
  • Palin’s views on legal reform mostly unknown; Alaska (like Delaware) has one of the most highly regarded state legal systems, and wouldn’t it be fun if the state’s distinctive and longstanding (if somewhat attenuated) loser-pays rule got mentioned in the campaign?
  • Lending spice to campaign: prospect that victorious Dems might criminally prosecute Bush officials [Guardian (U.K.), Memeorandum, OpenLeft ("we'll put people in prison" vows whistleblower trial lawyer/Democratic Florida Congressional candidate Alan Grayson)] Some differences of opinion among Obama backers on war crimes trials [Turley (Cass Sunstein flayed for go-slow approach); Kerr @ Volokh (Dahlia Lithwick doesn't think it has to be Nuremberg or nothing); earlier]
  • If anyone’s keeping track of these things, co-blogger Ted is much involved with the McCain campaign this fall, I am not involved with anyone’s, so discount (or don’t discount) accordingly.


Palin and jury nullification

by Walter Olson on September 4, 2008

Expect some controversy over hints that the Alaska Governor may have expressed sympathy with the argued right of criminal juries to decide on matters of law as well as fact, perhaps in the process acquitting some violators of unjust laws. Despite its extensive pedigree in Anglo-American legal history, that position has become highly unpopular with most authorities in bench and bar, even as it remains popular with many Americans at the grass roots. (Eugene Volokh, Sept. 3). Some blog background on the subject: Randy Barnett, Dan Markel, Anne Reed, Eric Muller, Tim Lynch.


Perhaps a candidate for the “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” files? From Gov. Sarah Palin’s ethics disclosure form to the Attorney General of Alaska concerning allegations that she improperly sought the removal of Alaska state trooper Mike Wooten, an estranged brother-in-law who’d made threats against her family:

It was a matter of public importance that some Alaska State Troopers seemed to feel themselves above the law. Beyond the governor’s own personal experience, the state was sued for troopers’ violations of constitutional rights, occasionally losing jury trials that would cost the taxpayers substantial money. And, of course, such abuses of power by troopers are exactly the kind of corruption that the governor has long opposed. On occasion, Governor Palin would let Monegan know that she felt this was a problem within the Department of Public Safety; Monegan has told the press that at least once the Governor included mention of Wooten as a prime example of someone who was a problem within the department. Monegan himself told the Washington Post about an e-mail Governor Palin sent him after he informed the governor about one such jury trial loss.

(courtesy Anchorage Daily News, PDF — see p. 9, paragraph 45)(background: WaPo, CNN). More: Beldar.

Gov. Palin as judge-picker

by Walter Olson on September 1, 2008

Jeralyn Merritt @ TalkLeft and Jonathan Adler @ Volokh identify one data point.

P.S.: via comments, Robert Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch has more.