“The name above appears on the pass list for the February 2019 California Bar Examination.”
I have two significant cases pending at the moment:
My readers regularly ask me (in comments, on Twitter, by e-mail, etc.) for updates, and my answer is always the same: I’ll post them as soon as I have them. The gun rights case above has had the government’s motion to dismiss pending before the court, fully briefed (that is, all parties have been completely heard and we are just waiting on a ruling), for 5 months. Especially considering the government shutdown earlier this year, that’s not abnormal.
However, yesterday marked the 2 year anniversary of the TSA case being fully briefed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which has neglected the case for that amount of time. This is not the usual amount of time to wait on an appeal, so I sent that court an anniversary card this afternoon. I wouldn’t exactly say that courts “appreciate” reminders that they are taking too long, but at some point, the prejudice to my case and our rights outweighs the risk of offending a judge’s feelings.
There is no statutory limit to how long a court can take, although courts often rule within 6 months because they have to report to Congress when cases take longer. Be patient with me — and I promise I’ll post updates as they come.
Last week I wrote a brief blog post about New Zealand’s attempt to criminalize a video taken of the infamous Christchurch mosque shooting, leveling penalties of up to 10 years in prison for possession and 14 years for sharing it. New Zealand, apparently, has a “Chief Censor’s Office” that gets to make decisions about what its residents may and may not see.
The banned manifesto of the shooter, whose name I don’t really care to spread, clearly lays out the motivation behind this act of terrorism. The tl;dr version is that the shooter is a self-admitted racist who believes that non-white immigrants will take over “white countries” because of the combination of unchecked immigration and declining birth rates among white people. In other words, this man is a white supremacist.
There are really two ways to address terrorism: 1) to take away the means, and 2) to address the root cause. New Zealand, as many countries, has decided to go exclusively with the former, banning all semi-automatic weapons in a country where guns were already quite regulated. But terrorists always find a means to accomplish their goals, whether with homemade bombs, speeding trucks, hijacked airplanes, or otherwise.
New Zealand’s approach not only fails to try to remedy underlying causes, but actually prevents its residents from gaining any insight into the same by hiding a primary source that reveals the motivation in detail. At the same time, they place an authoritarian boot on the free speech rights (let alone gun rights) of their people with little benefit as future terrorists accomplish their goals via different means.
We can’t defeat terror by ignoring what motivated the terrorist. Without my personal support for any of the ideas expressed therein, here’s the manifesto (.pdf). Don’t click if you’re in New Zealand — that will be 10 years.
The mosque attack in Christchurch, New Zealand shocked the world a few days ago with approximately 50 killed by a white supremacist who, in brief, explained that he considered Muslim immigrants to be invaders. As part of his attack, he shared a livestream of the carnage, which has been re-posted around the Internet literally millions of times.
Because using tragedies to strengthen the government’s authority over its people is the thing to do in such situations, New Zealand has begun a crackdown not just on guns (already heavily regulated) but also free speech. According to local police, who arrested a 22 year old citizen for one of the millions of shares of the video, “[t]he live stream video of the shootings in Christchurch has been classified by the Chief Censor’s Office as objectionable.” The penalty for anyone who “knowingly makes or knowingly trades, distributes, or displays an objectionable publication via the Internet” is apparently up to 14 years in prison.
Chief Censor’s Office? Yes, they really have one.
As an American, I get upset whenever my countrymen call to ban “hate speech,” to limit access to Internet and financial infrastructure to Web sites that have extreme views, or to demand that social media companies decide what is and is not “fake news” and remove such content. Many of us do not know how privileged we are to not have a “chief censor” who can drag us out of our home for sharing something deemed to be too violent or otherwise “objectionable.”
“But why do we need to share such despicable acts?” Because to outlaw doing so would be to hide reality. To insulate us from the horrors of the world, as if it makes those horrors go away. I’ve not seen the video nor do I have any desire to see it, but for the millions who chose to watch, they have a right to see the world as it is, and in doing so have allowed us all to have more confidence that we’re not being spoon-fed bullshit propaganda by a government “censor.” Just as we should not allow China to hide the atrocities of Tiananmen Square, nor should we allow our own government to hide the gruesome photos of Vietnam, Waco, Abu Ghriab, etc., New Zealand is doing a service to no one by protecting its citizens from reality.
The stopping of random drivers to check for sobriety without cause is a search that barely meets constitutional muster. In 1990, the U.S Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 split decision that sobriety checkpoints are legal (Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990)), but part of its decision considered that drivers were free to avoid those checkpoints by making a u-turn. About a dozen states have outlawed the practice.
If a part of the constitutionality of a search depends on one’s ability to avoid it (just like the “if you don’t like it, just don’t fly” argument in favor of TSA nonsense), then a means for obtaining knowledge of an impending search is necessary. Subsequent cases have made clear that citizens have the right to warn others of police activity: for example, judges in Florida, Kansas, and others have ruled that there is a constitutional right to flash headlights to warn other drivers of speed traps.
Yet, New York police have always had a thing for arresting citizens for “interfering” with them verbally, despite New York law (and possibly the Constitution, absent some pretty compelling circumstances) quite clearly stating that such a charge requires physical interference, intimidation, or interference with telecommunications systems (case ruling against the police when interference is non-physical, listing other cases where police lost the same arguments time and time again). It’s therefore no surprise that an NYPD attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to Waze, the driving directions app that allows you to flag checkpoints:
Individuals who post the locations of DWI checkpoints may be engaging in criminal conduct since such actions could be intentional attempts to prevent and/or impair the administration of the DWI laws and other relevant criminal and traffic laws. The posting of such information for public consumption is irresponsible since it only serves to aid impaired and intoxicated drivers to evade checkpoints and encourage reckless driving. Revealing the location of checkpoints puts those drivers, their passengers, and the general public at risk.
Irresponsible? Maybe criminal? Given that the Supreme Court has, to date, not allowed secret checkpoints. that seems far-fetched.
The letter was written by Ann Prunty, who lists herself as “Acting Deputy Commissioner, Legal Matters.” A review of State Bar records shows that she is a licensed attorney, which means she has the duty to avoid sending out letters like this without a good-faith basis for her assertions.
Of course, Ms. Prunty declined to respond to my request for clarification. I’ll take that as an indication that she’s full of shit.
One silver lining: if the police do actually arrest someone for using Waze, this letter makes not just the individual officer, but the City itself, liable for the false arrest, since it’s now the official policy (“pattern or practice,” if you will) of the government. Perhaps Ms. Prunty should think before she speaks and puts the taxpayer’s dollars on the line.
This blog has been quiet as I study for the February 2019 California Bar Exam, but I couldn’t help but notice the buzzing around how the government shutdown has affected the TSA.
CNN is now reporting that 10% of TSA screeners are calling out sick, while on a random day that number is in the 3% range. That doesn’t quite give the full picture. At some airports, the call out rate is much higher, and management has been forbidden from releasing statistics for specific airports while begging airports with lower call out rates to ship their employees around the country.
Those that have been showing up clearly have less regard for doing their job. Screeners at New York’s JFK airport have taken to using the PA system to play rap music. Those at Washington State’s SEA are busily protesting outside the airport. And at airports across the country, TSA is literally asking travelers for donations of food, as if they were homeless on a street corner:
I feel for government employees that are going through tough times right now because we have a President who acts like a child. (“Let’s get our way on border security by crippling our government, including those who secure the border!”). The shutdown should be ended and no wall should be funded.
But if there were actually terrorists about to strike our nation but for the TSA, they’d have done so. It’s almost like the whole premise behind the need for the TSA is manufactured to take our rights and our tax dollars with no proportional benefit to our safety.
(No updates on any of my court cases. No idea if they’re even being considered during the shutdown.)
On Thursday, I took my final exams for my final year of school at Northwestern California University School of Law. Assuming I passed my exams, I now have a law degree making me eligible to take the February 2019 California Bar Examination, which I shall do.
If you’ve been following, you know NWCU is a distance learning school. They combine reading assignments, live online classes, recorded coursework, and a message board to accomplish a legal education. The American Bar Association categorically refuses to accredit law schools that offer distance learning, so graduates are left to take the bar exams of states that do not require the ABA’s blessing. That said, four years at NWCU cost me about a tenth of a traditional law school (~$15,000 — total, not per year), and I was able to do it without giving up the day job.
The graduation rate at NWCU seems to be in the range of 15%, based on a count of students in each year, so it shouldn’t be thought that this law degree is easy. It also requires passing California’s First-Year Law Students’ Examination after the first year, which is probably the biggest driver behind the low graduation rate given that the pass rate for that exam hovers around 20%.
I posted a review of my experience at around the 2 month point and the 2 year point. I still think those are fairly reflective of my experience: you must be self-motivated, have 2 hours per day, every day for 4 years, pay attention to deadlines, and know that if you don’t, no one’s going to remind you until it’s too late. It would probably be in eveyone’s interest if the school did more to keep people on track, but then again, you’re an adult in law school, and as a lawyer, no one is going to hold your hand to make sure you file that brief on time. I do also wish NWCU would update some of their materials that have obviously aged quite a bit, but then again, for most areas of the law, the curriculum hasn’t changed that much.
I look forward to beginning my bar prep shortly. I feel well-prepared and appreciate that I was able to learn the law with minimal disruption to my life. Three months until the exam…
This blog is really, really not a political blog. I’m a civil rights advocate, not a partisan.
However, the President today took two steps that cross a line from “politics I may not like” into “authoritarian behavior we should not tolerate.”
First, Trump demanded, and obtained, the “resignation” of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A.G. Sessions was a regressive who struggled to concede that heroin was more dangerous than marijuana, and no one on either side of the aisle would be sad to see him go but for the obvious reason for the firing: Sessions had recused himself from the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election instead of shutting down the investigation as Trump wanted. This crosses the line because a president must not interfere with law enforcement investigations, especially when his own staffers are the subject of those investigations (several of which have already plead, or been found, guilty of felonies). I couldn’t care less if you think the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt:” allowing an official to stop investigations into his own people is flatly fascist regardless of whether the investigation turns out to show no misconduct. If Mr. Trump has nothing to hide, then there is no reason to obstruct this investigation.
Second, this evening Trump revoked the clearance of CNN’s White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta, resulting in the veteran reporter being unable to step foot on White House property. The justification given by the Trump administration is that he “assaulted” a woman during a press conference. Take 20 seconds to watch this alleged assault:
A White House intern attempted to take a microphone from Acosta, reaching over and grabbing at him, and Acosta’s arm grazed hers in the process. It is clear that Acosta committed no “assault,” but rather that Trump was upset at Acosta’s line of questioning and thus ordered him removed. The only assault here was Trump’s upon the press and upon the First Amendment, and for this, and for blatantly lying to the American public about what happened, Trump has also crossed a line.
Today, protests will occur across the country focused on Trump’s attempt to obstruct the Mueller investigation. You may find your local event here. Whether you vote Red, Blue, or are colorblind, ask yourself if the above is ok, and if not, step outside and let the White House know.
It’s been a slow fall here at the Professional Troublemaker blog, as I prepare to finish law school in just 2 more weeks. There haven’t been any substantial updates on any of my lawsuits since the summer, as they work their way through the courts.
But, today I got a letter from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office indicating that they’ve completed the registration of a trademark for “Professional Troublemaker.” Near the beginning of the year, I sent in an application, largely as a way to get some experience with trademark law. Filing trademarks can now be done entirely online and registration of a simple mark comes with a fairly reasonable $225 fee, so long as you complete the process without any paper filings.
I’m not sure I got too much useful experience or learned a whole lot from the process — I spent half an hour submitting online forms, gave them the filing fee, waited about 8 months, and got my mark with no hassle — but it’s always interesting to me to see how another area of law works.
So, watch out, imposter troublemakers: the name is mine!
(Why would I pick the name Professional Troublemaker? What is a “profesional troublemaker?”)