Amazing Whitepaper by ArchCity Defenders, a legal aid organization representing indigent defendants in the St. Louis metropolitan area, on how Ferguson police/prosecutors/judiciary are in league to milk poor defendants of large fines on the basis of petty offenses.
Among the shocking bits — yes it’s still possible to be shocked — are
- Plea bargains offered to defendants rich enough to hire lawyers, but not to pro se defendants
- the systematic closing of courtrooms to the public,
- prohibiting defendants from bringing their children to court (and in at least one case charging the defendant for child neglect for leaving the child outside)
- starting trials 30 minutes before time on summons and locking doors to court five minutes after the official hour, “a practice that could easily lead a defendant arriving even slightly late to receive an additional charge for failure to appear.”
There’s actually a lot more – well worth a read. Note in particular that Ferguson was one of only three municipalities in the greater St. Louis metro area singled out by Arch City Defenders for a particularly abusive practices; this is not business as usual but nor is it an isolated phenomenon.
(Spotted via Daily Kos).
The dissent rightfully, in my opinion, points out that Baze has as much to do with abuse of discretion for denying 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss as does a hot dog.
That’s Corey Yung, writing in What do a Writ of Mandamus, 12(b)(6), the Death Penalty, and a Batson Challenge Have in Common?, in an interesting discussion of procedural issues in a recent 8th Circuit opinion in method-of-legal-execution case. That dissent is pretty convincing on some other issues too, by the way.
(I post this in fear that someone will come along and say it’s really some kind of metaphor.)
In I Got Myself Arrested So I Could Look Inside the Justice System Bobby Constantino, a former prosecutor, discovers a number of things: it’s tough to get arrested for a misdemeanor while white; cops routinely mistreat prisoners in urban jails; probation officers couldn’t really care less.
If any of these sound like they might be news to you, you should read his well-written article in the Atlantic.
Shocking story in the Guardian: California was sterilizing its female prisoners as late as 2010 — without, it appears, required authorizations from state officials. (Even the idea that there’s a procedure is troubling given the history of bad eugenics-based thinking in the US.)
It would have been more morally pure for Snowden to choose to stay home and face the consequences after his act of civil disobedience.
I don’t think it follows, however, that Snowden is acting irrationally or treasonously or (wrongly) “taking a hostage” by setting up (or claiming to set up) an information-disclosure insurance policy against reprisals by the US. For evidence for this proposition one need look no further than the very eloquent NYT op-ed by Nasser al-Awlaki, The Drone That Killed My Grandson. Remember that we now live in a country that has a track record of executing US citizens (so-called “targeted killing”) without trial, at least outside the US. The limiting principle, we are told, is that the US only does this when it considers them a grave threat, and cannot get hold of them any other way because they are beyond the reach of arrest — not principles likely to be of great comfort to a Snowden.
For a cryptographer’s analysis of this tactic, see Bruce Schneier’s, Snowden’s Dead Man’s Switch. Schneier suggests it may be counter-productive:
I’m not sure he’s thought this through, though. I would be more worried that someone would kill me in order to get the documents released than I would be that someone would kill me to prevent the documents from being released. Any real-world situation involves multiple adversaries, and it’s important to keep all of them in mind when designing a security system.
A commentator counters that in fact this creates a different incentive:
If the US does not want these secrets released then it is in their interests to keep him alive.
It’s also makes it more imperative to capture him in case anyone else kills him.
If you want to see what an absolutely first-class appellate brief looks like, look no further than Petitioner’s Brief in U.S. v. Auernheimer, authored by Tor Ekeland and Mark Jaffe, Hanni Fakhoury of the EFF, Marcia Hofmann (ex-EFF, now in private practice) and Orin Kerr (GWU Law).
If I’m ever convicted of reading and copying stuff off an unprotected web page, I want these guys as my lawyers.
And, yes, that’s the essence of the felony conviction being appealed:
The government charged Auernheimer with felony computer hacking under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) for visiting an unprotected AT&T website and collecting e-mail addresses that AT&T had posted on the World Wide Web. The government also charged Auernheimer with identity theft for sharing those addresses with a reporter.
Auernheimer’s convictions must be overturned on multiple and independent grounds. First, Auernheimer’s conviction on Count 1 must be overturned because visiting a publicly available website is not unauthorized access under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(C). AT&T chose not to employ passwords or any other protective measures to control access to the e-mail addresses of its customers. It is irrelevant that AT&T subjectively wished that outsiders would not stumble across the data or that Auernheimer hyperbolically characterized the access as a “theft.” The company configured its servers to make the information available to everyone and thereby authorized the general public to view the information. Accessing the e – mail addresses through AT&T’s public website was authorized under the CFAA and therefore was not a crime.
Disclosure: I’m on the EFF Advisory Board, but have no connection to the case other than liking those of the lawyers I know.
Update (7/2/13): Here’s EFF’s official announcement, Appeal Filed to Free Andrew ‘Weev’ Auernheimer.