Law

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Criminal Docket Talk

Another week, another series of missteps and embarrassment for the National Felon League. More facts surface showing Adrian Peterson to be a backwards horrible human, the Cardinals’ Jonathan Dwyer is charged with felony assault for head butting his wife and breaking her nose and Roger Goodell held a news conference yesterday where he came off as even a bigger dissembling jackass than he seemed before.

Lost, at least somewhat, in the relentless shuffle of negativity surrounding the NFL were significant developments in the Ray Rice case that set everything off to start with. As an excellent report by ESPN’s Outside The Lines lays out, both the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL knew everything about the Rice incident immediately and colluded to minimize the impact on Rice. From the New York Daily News:

According to the ESPN report, the Ravens’ director of security, Darren Sanders, was made aware of the inside-the-elevator video just hours after Rice clocked his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, at the now-closed Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City in mid-February. Sanders, according to the report, had reached out to an Atlantic City police officer, who described in detail what transpires in the elevator video. Sanders then conveyed the information to Ravens executives, according to ESPN, although the report does not name which individuals Sanders contacted.

The report describes how Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass and GM Ozzie Newsome worked behind the scenes to try to have their star running back get off with a lenient punishment. According to ESPN, the three men campaigned with prosecutors in Atlantic City — where Rice was charged with assault — as well as with Goodell, since he would mete out punishment for Rice, and with organizational personnel.

The full NYDN article linked above is worth a read, and the long form detailed ESPN OTL article is chock full of further details and a tick tock from the night of the incident through the present day. Literally the only person who seems to have consistently been honest in this mess is Ray Rice. As I said in last week’s Trash Talk, I think he has a pretty good chance in his appeal with the league and the Ravens over his suspension in light of the Article 46 §4 single penalty clause. The Players’ Union formally noticed that appeal last Tuesday, and it is supposed to be heard within ten days.

Hey, it is not just the NFL that is chock full of criminals, the NBA has them too! Rex Chapman, former sharp shooting guard for the Bullets and Suns, and former NBA team executive, just got arrested for shoplifting $14,000 (yes, $14,000!!) of Apple products in Scottsdale. Oh, and career criminal Jameis Winston is in trouble again.

Welp, in addition to all the criminal docket activity, there is purportedly actual football to be played. It seems kind of secondary any more.

The Florida Gators are in Tuscaloosa and look ripe to get rolled by the Tide. I actually think the BYU and Virginia game may be decent. Don’t sleep on the Cougars, they have a good team and a favorable schedule this year. They are capable of going undefeated, but the Cavaliers will be a test. FSU may not have Career Criminal Winton at QB, but they should have enough at home to get past Clemson. Mississippi State could be a tough matchup for LSU.

The big game in the National Felon League is, of course, the rematch of the Super Bowl when Peyton and the Broncs meet the Seasquawks in Seattle. This game will be a lot closer that the SB was; I rate it a toss up, but would not be surprised if Peyton pulls off the win. The surprising Bills host the Chargers in an early game that should be pretty interesting. The Packers are in Detroit. Both teams are 1-1 and need the win. As much as I hate to say it, I think Detroit is the better team right now, and it will show. But Aaron Rodgers is starting to heat up again, so it could go either way. While the rest of the country is watching Peyton versus the Squawks, I will be stuck with Niners at the Cards. Carson Palmer is out again it appears for the Cards, and Drew Stanton will start for a second week in a row. With Palmer, I would like the Cards, but not sure there will be enough offense without him, so I will take the Niners there.

Well, that is enough. Talk some trash amongst yourselves.

Are New Sealed Filings in Barry Bonds Appeal More Dirty Tricks By DOJ? Update: YES!

The handling of the BALCO series of investigations, both by lead investigator Jeff Novitsky and the US Attorneys office, has been relentlessly aggressive and marked by dubious, at best, tactics. Considering that the DOJ, during the entire time period, could not find the resources to prosecute the banksters who brought down the entire economy, BALCO was one of the most hideous wastes of taxpayer money imaginable.

Remarkably, the questionable tactics by DOJ may well be raising their ugly head yet again. Bonds’ appeal in the 9th Circuit is a somewhat mundane legal issue that has been fully briefed on the en banc petition for the better part of a year. The en banc hearing, before KOZINSKI, Chief Judge; and REINHARDT, O’SCANNLAIN, GRABER, WARDLAW, W. FLETCHER, RAWLINSON, CALLAHAN, N.R. SMITH, NGUYEN and FRIEDLAND, Circuit Judges is set for 2:00 pm tomorrow, Thursday September 18, 2014

Yet, less than 48 hours before the en banc rehearing is scheduled to commence, the DOJ has suddenly, and mysteriously, lodged sealed filings at 8:00 pm last night. These are Docket Numbers 64 and 65 respectively:

Filed UNDER SEAL Appellee USA motion to file a letter to the court under seal (PANEL). Deficiencies: None. Served on 09/16/2014. [9242886] (JFF)

Filed UNDER SEAL Appellee USA letter dated 09/16/2014 re: constructive amendment argument. (PANEL) Paper filing deficiency: None. [9242910] (JFF)

Here is Bonds’ Petition for Rehearing En Banc. Here is the previous panel decision in the 9th Circuit. If you don’t want to bother with the full pleadings, this article from the Orange County Breeze gives a nice synopsis of the scope of the en banc proceeding for Bonds.

As can quickly be discerned, the appeal centers really on common statutory interpretation as applied to the facts in the public trial record. The issue is whether there was sufficient evidence to convict Bonds because his statement describing his life as a celebrity child — in response to a question asking whether his trainer ever gave him any self-injectable substrances — was evasive, misleading, and capable of influencing the grand jury to minimize the trainer’s role in the distribution of performance enhancing drugs, and whether, under the law, that can properly constitute obstruction. I wrote an extensive piece arguing the weakness and infirmities of the verdict at the time it was handed down by the jury. Which is when the jury also acquitted Bonds of all the substantive underlying perjury counts.

Yes, the appeal is really that simple. So why, pray tell, does the DOJ need to be interjecting last minute sealed documents? What possible need could there be for anything to be sealed for this mundane criminal appeal? There may be a valid explanation, but it is nearly impossible to fathom what it could be.

I am willing to bet Bonds’ attorneys, Allen Ruby and Dennis Riordan, must be apoplectic.

UPDATE: Well well, I am sitting in Alice Cooperstown having lunch, waiting for my preliminary hearing to reconvene, and Josh Gerstein just sent me the answer to the question of this post. YES! Indeed the sealed filings are a slimy last minute trick pulled by the DOJ. DOJ was trying to insert grand jury testimony from the aforementioned government BALCO investigator, Jeff Novitsky, into the appeal when it has never, at any point of the proceedings, whether in the trial court or 9th Circuit, been part of the record or indictment.

Here is the responsive pleading just filed by Bonds’ attorney Dennis Riordan. Here is the pertinent part:

The grand jury transcripts referred to in the government’s motion and letter are not part of the record on appeal. Had they been before the district court in any form, the proper method of adding them to the appellate record would have been by means of a timely motion to correct or modify the record under Rule 10(e) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. The transcripts which are the subject of the government’s motion, however, were never placed before the district court in either pretrial, trial, or post-trial proceedings. Notably, the declaration of AUSA Merry Jean Chan which accompanies the government’s motion makes no claim that the transcripts were filed with the district court. “Papers not filed with the district court or admitted into evidence by that court are not part of the clerk’s record and cannot be part of the record on appeal.” Kirshner v. Uniden Corp. of Am., 842 F.2d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing, inter alia, United States v. Walker, 601 F.2d 1051, 1054–55 (9th Cir.1979)).

Should the Court nonetheless wish to consider the transcripts in question, they fully support Mr. Bonds’s argument that the district court constructively amended the indictment by instructing on “Statement C” as a basis for conviction on the Count Five obstruction count, although that statement was not contained in the indictment. In his testimony, in discussing Statement C, then labeled “Statement F” before the grand jury, Novitsky admitted that Mr. Bonds had responded to the pending question—“Did Greg ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?”—with a “denial” before veering off into a digression about “being a celebrity child.” (RT of February 3, 2011, at 110.) Novitsky’s admission that the prosecutor’s question was in fact answered by Mr. Bonds constituted a good reason why the grand jury would not have relied on Statement C in indicting on the obstruction charge. The only manner of accurately ascertaining whether a grand jury relied on an act in indicting is by the inclusion of that act in the indictment itself. Here, Statement C was expressly excised from the indictment by the use of asterisks. See Appellant Bonds’s Petition for Rehearing En Banc, at 16.

Hilarious. DOJ tries a patently inappropriate punk move and Dennis Riordan turns it around to bite them in the butt. Quite well deserved. You have to hand it to the DOJ in the BALCO cases, they are nothing if not consistently ethically dubious.

The National Felon League: Week 2 Trash Talk

Welp. Not a particularly banner week for the National Football League. In fact, I am not sure I have ever seen a league, any league, take quite the self inflicted beating that Goodell and the NFL have this week.

The Ray Rice affair was already quite the ugly black eye before all hell broke loose, and appropriately so, with the release of the TMZ tape clip from inside the elevator at the Revel Casino in New Jersey. Marcy already covered the tape and some of its implications. I don’t have a ton to add here, but I do have a couple of things to say. First, the NFL and Goodell are just flat lying through their teeth about the video. I have dealt with pro security offices before, including one in the NFL. They are almost always run by either ex-FBI or ex-state police. Experienced people that know what they are doing and are very connected to police and other local authorities (say, for instance prosecutors). If the Ravens and NFL security wanted the video, they would have the video, whether from the Atlantic City Police or from the Revel Casino itself. The thought they couldn’t get it is absurd. And that is irrespective of the law enforcement member that says he gave it to the NFL.

Secondly, a lot of people are shocked and outraged that Rice was give a diversion plea. Frankly, I am not all that shocked; diversion is not at all uncommon where there are no serious physical injuries, no prior convictions and the victim uncooperative as to prosecution and requests that diversion be given. That is certainly the case here, and from talking to a couple of experienced attorneys in New Jersey, it is not at all unheard of there. Here is the actual prosecutor’s reasoning for doing so. Here is a TMZ report citing anonymous junior prosecutors in the Atlantic County DA’s office saying it is very rare and expressing outrage. Frankly, in Arizona, I think the Rice case would be filed as a misdemeanor to start with and while diversion would be discretionary, it would not be uncommon. Time, and their own conduct, will tell if diversion was the right Continue reading

Holder’s Agency in Ferguson

Eric Holder just published an op-ed in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, apparently aiming to generate confidence in DOJ’s investigation into Darren Wilson’s killing of Mike Brown.

It starts with 3 sentences describing Brown’s killing — with no mention of Wilson, or even that a cop killed Brown.

Since the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, the nation and the world have witnessed the unrest that has gripped Ferguson, Mo. At the core of these demonstrations is a demand for answers about the circumstances of this young man’s death and a broader concern about the state of our criminal justice system.

At a time when so much may seem uncertain, the people of Ferguson can have confidence that the Justice Department intends to learn — in a fair and thorough manner — exactly what happened.

A disembodied shooting killed Brown in this telling; violence did not.

Holder then spends several paragraphs discussing both the investigation itself, as well as the actions of the Civil Rights Division before he turns – in the course of one paragraph — to the protests. Here, violence is described as violence.

We understand the need for an independent investigation, and we hope that the independence and thoroughness of our investigation will bring some measure of calm to the tensions in Ferguson. In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson. Although these acts have been committed by a very small minority — and, in many cases, by individuals from outside Ferguson — they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice. And they interrupt the deeper conversation that the legitimate demonstrators are trying to advance.

The implication, of course, is that the violence comes exclusively from that “very small minority,” not the cops shooting rubber bullets from their tanks.

I find the next paragraph truly remarkable.

The Justice Department will defend the right of protesters to peacefully demonstrate and for the media to cover a story that must be told. But violence cannot be condoned. I urge the citizens of Ferguson who have been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to join with law enforcement in condemning the actions of looters, vandals and others seeking to inflame tensions and sow discord.

The Justice Department — the Agency Eric Holder leads, the 40 FBI Agents and Civil Rights prosecutors Holder described — has done nothing visible thus far to defend the First Amendment.

And then, Holder says, “violence cannot be condoned.” A bizarre passive sentence with no agent. By whom? Who cannot condone violence?!?!

And he uses it to urge “the citizens of Ferguson who have been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights” — many of whom have been arrested, bullied, tear gassed, some of whom have formed chains to protect businesses — to “join with law enforcement,” the same law enforcement  that has been bullying them. Holder asks these citizens — who presumably are the ones he says cannot condone violence — to join the cops who have been engaging in violence to condemn others who have also been engaging in violence. Those “others” inflame tensions and sow discord. The cops don’t, according to this telling.

It takes a good paragraph and a half before Holder says the cops must restore trust. Only unlike the “citizens” of Ferguson, Holder does not urge the cops directly to do … anything. He just describes what should happen, he doesn’t command it to happen.

At the same time, good law enforcement requires forging bonds of trust between the police and the public. This trust is all-important, but it is also fragile. It requires that force be used in appropriate ways. Enforcement priorities and arrest patterns must not lead to disparate treatment under the law, even if such treatment is unintended. And police forces should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

Note what else happens? That violence — unmentioned in Mike Brown’s actual shooting, but explicitly described when “those others” did it — here becomes “force.” Something distinct from the violence of looters.

Darren Wilson’s shooting of Mike Brown? Not described as violence — not even described as the act of a known man. The looters’ looting? They’re engaged in “violence.” And finally, the cops, whom Holder doesn’t dare urge to tone things down? They are exercising “force,” not “violence.”

I get there are legal reasons why he did this — notably, this permits him to endorse findings that Wilson used “force” out of fear for his own safety! But the grammar and vocabulary of this op-ed insists on the state’s monopoly on violence that it has been abusing for 10 days.

Gov. Nixon Should Remove Prosecutor McCulloch Too

What a difference a day makes. After several days of police wilding in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon removed local and county control of policing and ordered the head of the Missouri State Patrol to take over. The change in tone was immediate, instead of making war on the citizens of Ferguson, last night the police walked side by side with the protesters and engaged them as actual citizens. Suddenly things were better and hope returned to the town.

The move pretty clearly should have been made a couple of days earlier, but Gov. Nixon was right to make it and made a strong and unifying statement when he announced the move.

But governor Nixon’s work is not done. It is not just the local police that displayed impropriety and lack of fitness for the job in relation to the aftermath of the Michael Brown killing…so to has the local prosecutor, Robert McCulloch.

Late yesterday, McCullogh said this to local reporter Paul Hampel:

First off, McCulloch’s statements displayed a remarkably tone deaf and tin ear, not to mention an affinity for the local police that is directly at odds with the duty of prosecuting the officer who killed Michael Brown. And make no mistake, the killing is shaping up as a straight up execution of Brown by the soon to be named officer. Yet another eyewitness came forward last night (in some superb work by MSNBC and Chris Hayes) reinforcing and corroborating the description previously given by Dorian Johnson, the youth who had been with Brown.

So, the statements of prosecutor McCulloch, who as the elected prosecutor for St. Louis County, would have presumptive jurisdiction of any prosecution, already place him in a position of potential bias.

But there is more in McCulloch’s background that makes him inappropriate for this case. As described in a Reuters background article on McCulloch:

As St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, McCulloch is responsible for deciding whether to pursue criminal charges against the police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Mike Brown on Saturday outside a low-income apartment complex in Ferguson, Missouri.

The shooting of the unarmed black teenager sparked days of rioting and protests in Ferguson and surrounding communities and some residents say the mostly white ranks of local and county law enforcement officials are not objectively investigating the case.

McCulloch, 63, has held the top county prosecutor’s job for 23 years and has promised an impartial investigation of Brown’s death. But protesters say McCulloch, whose police officer father was killed in the line of duty when McCulloch was a child, should be removed from the case.

“I don’t trust Bob McCulloch,” community activist Anthony Shahid said as he helped lead a march by roughly 100 people at the St. Louis County Justice Center this week. “His father was killed by a black man.”

Should that history disqualify a prosecutor in a normal situation? No, probably not. But this case is not at all a normal case. The eyes of the world are now on Ferguson, and the town is still distrustful of the local authorities and frayed at the emotional seams.

The investigation and charging determination have to be beyond reproach. It has to be done right and the citizens and victim’s family must trust justice is being fairly done. At this point McCulloch cannot be the man who leads that effort. Not now.

And there is a clear path for Governor Jay Nixon to remedy the situation. Chapter 27 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, specifically §27.030, provides:

When directed by the governor, the attorney general, or one of his assistants, shall aid any prosecuting or circuit attorney in the discharge of their respective duties in the trial courts and in examinations before grand juries, and when so directed by the trial court, he may sign indictments in lieu of the prosecuting attorney.

Governor Nixon has the clear authority to order Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to aid this prosecution and guide the grand jury investigation. In order to give the community confidence a fair process and justice is being delivered, that is exactly what the Governor should do.

[PS Note: While the post title talks of "removal", and there may or may not be a separate path for that available to Nixon under "emergency powers", §27.030 only provides a path to have the AG, or his designee, be effectively a co-leader of the prosecution, both in the grand jury and in the trial court. This would be a substantial move, in and of itself, in that a more neutral party than McCulloch would be involved along side him, with full rights to participate in proceedings.]

A Note Of Praise For Jake Tapper

photoYammering on the internet is not hard work, in fact it is blindingly (and sometimes maddeningly when it is pointed in your direction) easy. Getting heard, and functionally interacting in a fashion that can contribute to the real focus and discussion, however, is hard. For my part, I often carp enough about the failings of big media that it is only right to give praise where due.

Today credit is due to CNN’s Jake Tapper. Because he cares.

Two nights ago, rightly or wrongly …. but I think rightly … I laid into CNN for their overbearing focus on repetitive, and somewhat mindless, continuing drivel on celebrity. That was, of course, in relation to Robin Williams’ death. A noteworthy, sad, and tragic event for sure, but there was only so much news, the rest was pure Entertainment Tonight like pathetic drivel.

So I went after CNN, and I tacked Jake Tapper’s twitter handle on the end. I did so not because I thought he was the prime offender producing the overall CNN news product, but because I knew, from prior interaction, that Jake actually gives a damn and and is a contact point at CNN who would care. And maybe…maybe…be a change point. That was both fair, and unfair to him personally, at the same time.

I am pretty sure both CNN and Jake were bombarded by by an untold number of missives of the same variety. I don’t how how other inflection points at CNN dealt with what was surely a lot of feedback, but the fact Mr. Tapper took the time to take umbrage, and discuss…and think…seems significant and admirable to me. And I admire that.

I thought about writing this post long before I saw the following, but I was off with clients and court appearances, and could have easily shined it on, as I do with so many posts I want to write but don’t get to.

Until I saw something from Mr. Jake Tapper today that was just awesome.

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 3.26.25 PM

Well, yes!

But then, not long later, came this:

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Well, to be sure, this is the stuff even a critic of journalism can love and applaud. You know why? Because not only is solidarity with journalists under grand jury and governmental oppression admirable (I have some experience in GJ targeting), it is the only, and only proper, thing that can be done.

There are not many out there to be so applauded. Maybe tomorrow there will be an issue, and moment of difference, on a different case. So it goes, and so be it.

But, now, James Risen stands exposed and on his own. As a man, and as a journalist, Tapper stood up and gave public square to his voice. Good on him.

Tonight, I am glad Jake Tapper is out there and is willing to engage. Tonight he did one hell of a report from Ferguson Missouri. Even if a big part was consumed by press conference feed. But, before and after, he made his voice clear. That is not exactly a common thing. It is to be commended.

Give the man credit, he was there, and he cares. And I will buy him a drink.

Leaving Motown

Bs7J-LDCAAAe9Z2.jpg-largeHi there Wheelhouse denizens,how ya doing? Jim White and I are both in the air right now on our way home from yet another Netroots wild weekend. We were dropped off at the airport by Marcy, who is on the actual road on her way home to Grand Rapids.

A great time was had by all, and, yes, we are all a little worse for the wear. We had a rocking good time. The picture above is from Marcy’s NSA Surveillance panel yesterday afternoon. Normal content and posting should resume tomorrow, thanks for bearing with us. You are all the greatest, see you soon. Until then, rock on and chat amongst yourselves!

Meet Adam Kwasman, Arizona’s Racist Bigot Politician of the Month

With the latest furor over minor children and the border already in full swing on top of all the other immigration fear mongering going on in this election year, you would think you had about heard it all when it comes to preening idiotic nonsense from “conservative” politicians.

Think again.

Exhibit A: This somewhat beyond amazing story of Adam Kwasman, a current member of the Arizona State Legislature and a candidate for Congress in Arizona LD-1. Kwasman, in a mad rush to the gun nut bigot fest protest of immigrant children in southern Arizona, inspired by the Murietta hatred, saw a bus load of YMCA campers in a school bus on their way to summer camp. Kwasman, displaying every ounce of his razor sharp Einstein like brilliance, immediately concluded they were evil immigrants.

From Brahm Resnik and the Arizona Republic:

He [Kwasman] had tweeted from the scene, “Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law.” He included a photo of the back of a yellow school bus.

Kwasman later told me he saw the migrant children. “I was actually able to see some of the children in the buses. The fear on their faces…. This is not compassion,” he said.

But there was a problem with Kwasman’s story: There was no fear on their faces. Those weren’t the migrant children in the school bus. Those were children from the Marana school district. They were heading to the YMCA’s Triangle Y Camp, not far from the Rite of Passage shelter for the migrants, at the base of Mt. Lemmon.

12 News reporter Will Pitts, who is at the protest scene, says he saw the children laughing and taking pictures of the media.

Watch Brahm Resnik make an idiot of Kwasman at this link. I will not embed the video because I cannot get rid of the auto play command.

Immunity Empire

The Daily Beast has a story about how, having withdrawn in 2011 from Iraq because it could not get immunity approved for US troops approved by Iraq’s parliament, the US will now be satisfied with an immunity deal signed only by Iraq’s Foreign Minister.

Yet this time around, Obama is willing to accept an agreement from Iraq’s foreign ministry on U.S. forces in Iraq without a vote of Iraq’s parliament. “We believe we need a separate set of assurances from the Iraqis,” one senior U.S. defense official told The Daily Beast. This official said this would likely be an agreement or exchange of diplomatic notes from the Iraq’s foreign ministry. “We basically need a piece of paper from them,” another U.S. official involved in the negotiations told The Daily Beast. The official didn’t explain why the parliamentary vote, so crucial three years ago, was no longer needed.

That the US is in a rush to forgo parliamentary approval is all the stranger given how many people are calling for Nuri al-Maliki to be replaced.

The Maliki government, candidly, has got to go if you want any reconciliation,” said U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Republican Senator John McCain, speaking in the Senate, called for the use of American air power, but also urged Obama to “make it make very clear to Maliki that his time is up.”

The Obama administration has not openly sought Maliki’s departure, but has shown signs of frustration with him.

“This current government in Iraq has never fulfilled the commitments it made to bring a unity government together with the Sunnis, the Kurds and the Shia,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the congressional hearing.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Maliki had not done enough “to govern inclusively and that has contributed to the situation and the crisis that we have today in Iraq.”

He stopped short of calling for Maliki – in power for eight years and the effective winner of a parliamentary election two months ago – to resign. Asked if Maliki should step down, Carney told reporters: “That’s not, obviously, for us to decide.”

Even beyond the irony that we’re willing to accept immunity from a government we tacitly want to replace, take a few steps back and consider the plight of the late American Empire, in which we refuse to project our power unless we get immunity from those we’d like to project our power over first.

I get why the US won’t stay in Afghanistan and Iraq without legal protection. You can cite either their dysfunctional legal systems or you can cite all the crimes our troops committed during occupation, giving the state reason to demand jurisdiction. I’m not endorsing exposing our service members to Nuri al-Maliki’s concept of justice.

But it is an interesting approach to hard power, requiring immunity before exercising that power.

1st Amendment and Other Concerns On Appeal of Redskins Decision

JusticePicThere has been a lot of commotion over Wednesday’s decision by the US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel several trademark registrations of the Washington Redskins originally recognized back in the 1960′s by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The full decision is here. It is quite long, detailed, and, at least facially, pretty compelling in its finding that the trademarks are “disparaging to Native Americans”.

Before I go further, let me say that I agree with those who think Daniel Snyder and the Washington Professional Football Franchise should change their name. It may not be the most pressing issue in our society, but it is something for which the time has come. Josh Marshall posted his thoughts on this subject at Talking Points Memo, and I think he put it all in excellent perspective and I agree with his conclusions.

The simple fact is we shouldn’t be using whole peoples as mascots for sports teams. Whether or not Indians in America today find it offensive is almost beside the point. The fact that most do is just an extra reason to do away with the practice.

With all I’ve said, there’s a part of me who feels like, ‘We really can’t have the Cleveland Indians anymore?’ It feels like a loss – part of the landscape of American sports I’m attached to. But it’s time.

Well said and, again, I agree. Josh’s entire piece is not long and is worth a read.

That said, and as much as I would like to see the name changed, I have trepidation about the government forcing the issue through agency decisions on what is proper speech, and what is not.

Tradenames and trademarks are, by their nature, really public speech and, thus, at least where they interact with the government, should be entitled to First Amendment protection. Now First Amendment protection is never absolute, but it is presumptively extremely broad. Likewise, First Amendment protections are against governmental action restricting free speech, not necessarily against private persons or entities. If I refuse to listen to you or to print what you have to say, that would be censorship, but it is not First Amendment action. If I am the government and censor you, then that is a different matter and there is a First Amendment issue.

So, here, the TTAB has taken it upon itself to restrict, at least in some regards, the free expression of the Redskins, via refusal to extend the same protection offered other “acceptable” speech and they do so by obvious decree of a governmental entity. Now the TTAB decision made out a VERY thorough and facially compelling case for Continue reading

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emptywheel Jack Goldsmith Declares Victory … for Osama bin Laden http://t.co/S1zvR1d5Fg
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JimWhiteGNV @SCOTUSblog @ColMorrisDavis So the insane-sex marriage lobby is happy?
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JimWhiteGNV CDC Director: “Zero Risk” to Passengers on Flights With Dallas Ebola Patient http://t.co/vZUrf0yrSk
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bmaz @Will_Bunch Why does a cop get a level of ultimate detail in presentation NO other defendant ever gets, even by McCulloch's own admission?
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bmaz @Will_Bunch Any other case in the world, with identical facts, and the grand jury would take 2-3 hrs, day at the most. This is just insane.
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bmaz @TimothyS Apparently the oh so attentive @AmbassadorPower cares more about China than the far worse oppression in Ferguson and Occupy in US.
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bmaz @Will_Bunch I'm absolutely stunned there has been so little pushback on how McCulloch is throwing the grand jury. What he is doing is absurd
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