April 2010

You are browsing the site archives for April 2010.

Our laws against child pornography were created many years ago, when the production of child pornography was a much more difficult process. A would-be child pornographer had to use film cameras to take the pictures. And since a commercial lab would report him to the police, he had to have the equipment and skill to develop the film as well. Pretty much the only people willing to go through that much trouble were dedicated scumbags.

That’s not the case anymore. I haven’t seen any statistics, but I’m pretty sure that today the single largest group of child pornography producers — by sheer number of images and videos — are children. We can blame it on modern cell phones with built-in cameras, which give every child all the tools they need to create and distribute child pornography. And who has better access to naked children than a child?

Thus, we have the great “sexting” epidemic. And naturally we have the moral panic which goes with it. So we have teen couples who make videos of themselves having sex and get busted for child pornography, and we have 15-year-old girls busted for sending pictures of themselves to other kids.

All of which brings me to a rather surprising new law that’s just been passed by the Illinois legislature:

Teens who forward or post online racy pictures of their underage classmates would get juvenile court supervision that could result in mandatory counseling or community service under legislation sent to Gov. Pat Quinn today.

The first measure aims to educate teens about the dangers of “sexting” while modernizing state statutes for the Internet age. Under current Illinois law, teens caught with nude photos of other juveniles can be charged as sex offenders, lawmakers said.

The Illinois bill, which passed 52-0, doesn’t penalize youths who send or receive the risque photos but choose not to distribute them widely. It applies to kids under 18 who use computers or cell phones to distribute the pictures, and the court supervision amounts to a scolding.

That seems…sensible. The bill addresses the issue of sexting with a sense of proportion and avoids branding children as sex offenders. Our legislators appear to have successfully resisted the urge to moral panic and moral grandstanding.

I didn’t see that coming.

Scott Greenfield points out that if the police ask to search your car and you consent, the courts have ruled that you are consenting to let the police take your car apart. Here’s the language he quotes from United States v. Garcia:

The search here was reasonable. When the officers requested permission to search the truck after asking Garcia whether he was carrying “anything illegal,” it was natural to conclude that they might look for hidden compartments or containers.

Yes, I know that if a cop asked me “You don’t mind if I look in your car, do you?” I would immediately assume he intended to take it apart. Wouldn’t you?

Garcia only involves disassembling a speaker compartment, but where exactly does the court draw the line? Scott explains:

The problem, of course, is that the scope of the consent is whatever the cops say it is, and is based on a parsing of the language that far exceeds anything a reasonable person understands it to be.  When a cop asks a motorist if he can take a look in his car, does the motorist understand that to mean that he’s going to pull off the fenders in search of a secret compartment?

…Some cars, like the Nissan Maxima, were favorites, because they were fast and offered some great hiding places.

The solution became clear.  Not only were cops targeting Maximas, but after obtaining consent, physically dismantling the cars by pulling off body parts on the side of the road.  It was bad enough when they happened to stop a mule carrying drugs, but when they destroyed cars of innocent people in their search for the [hidden compartment], people were outraged.  Unfortunately, there was little to be done to stop it.  The courts ignored the issue of the search exceeding consent, the outrageous destruction of property in the never ending war on drugs.

Wouldn’t that suck? What do you do? Call a flatbed tow truck to pick up all the pieces and haul them to the dealer to be reassembled? Toss the parts in the back seat and drive to the body shop?

It was bad enough when they happened to stop a mule carrying drugs, but when they destroyed cars of innocent people in their search for the clavo, people were outraged.  Unfortunately, there was little to be done to stop it.  The courts ignored the issue of the search exceeding consent, the outrageous destruction of property in the never ending war on drugs.

Naturally, it’s the war on drugs. I’ve heard similar stories of customs agents cutting apart valuable import goods to make sure there aren’t drugs inside (except the customs agents don’t need your consent).

Personally, this ruling could come in handy. No police officer has ever asked to search my car, but if one ever does, I hang around enough crimlaw blogs to know that I should refuse the search on general principles. But I’m not very good at confrontations. I like to get along with people, and saying no to a cop would make me nervous. And you know his next question is going to be along the lines of “Why not? Have you got something to hide?”, which would really make me nervous.

Now, I’ve got an answer to “Why not?”: Because I just heard about a court case that says consenting to a search allows the cop to take my car apart, and I can’t afford the repair bill. It might work. Of course, if he manages to discover some probably cause, he’s going to tear my car apart for sure. So maybe that’s not a good idea.

Anyway, it seems to me that property damage during a search ought to be compensated, especially if nothing illegal is found. I’m sure the law-and-order types would argue that conducting searches of innocent people is an unavoidable cost of fighting crime. That’s probably true. But shouldn’t that cost be born by the public who benefit from all that crime fighting, and not the poor random folks whose property is damaged? Heck, since private property is being damaged for a public purpose, doesn’t this sound like a constitutional taking — requiring just compensation?

I know that sounds a bit crazy, but is it any crazier that the courts believing that people were actually consenting to have the police take their cars apart on the side of the road?

So, it’s 4/20, which is apparently some sort of big day for pot smokers. I don’t know why, but pot smokers have glommed onto the number 420 or 4:20 or 4/20 as somehow being tied to pot. I’m sure it makes sense if you’re stoned.

Anyway, I think I’ve established my libertarian credentials well enough that I can now afford to make a libertarian confession: I hate marijuana.

When I was a teenager, I hung out with some friends who sometimes smoked pot. I remember being at parties where the smell got so thick in the air that I’d reflexively hold my breath until it started to hurt. When I finally took a breath, the smell made me want to vomit, and I had to leave. Marijuana smoke is a disgusting smell, and I can’t imagine ever voluntarily inhaling something that smelled like that. I’ve developed a visceral hatred for the weed.

I hate the smell of it so much that just thinking about it now makes be feel a little queasy. I don’t like to see pictures of people smoking it. I don’t even like seeing pictures of piles of marijuana. I can imagine the smell and it makes me ill.

(In truth, I have no idea what unsmoked marijuana smells like, having never been around it in significant quantities, but what I imagine is pretty awful.)

I hate all the gadgets that pot smokers use. I vaguely remember some friend showing me his collection of pipes and expecting me to think they were really cool because they were carved into weird shapes, or because he had fuckin’ stories about how when he bought each one and the places he used them. I hate watching pot smokers constantly fiddling with the pipes, poking at the insides for some damned reason. I hate roach clips, which always look filthy and have stupid shit attached to them. I hate all the stupid decorative bongs, and they way pot smokers get so excited about a new one.

I hate cannabis culture. I hate all the cute words marijuana smokers use — pot, weed, grass, joint, blunt, roach, spliff, toke, jay, reefer, chronic, ganja. I hate all pictures of people smoking up and all the stupid drawings of marijuana leaves and all the little cartoon figures of people smoking pot.

Kids, smoking pot doesn’t make you cool. It just makes you smell like pot.

Sorry, but I just needed to get that out there. Truthfully, I’m using the word hate for effect. I don’t hate all that stuff I just mentioned, I just find it all irritating. Except maybe the smell of pot. That I probably do hate.

I think the smell has a lot to do with it. Olfactory memories tend to run especially deep and strong. I hate the smell of pot so much that I have an unpleasant response to anything that reminds me of the smell of pot. Such as, for example, pot.

None of this means I am any less in favor of ending drug prohibition. I hated pot long before I learned to hate the drug war, and my dislike of many illegal drugs has nothing to do with how I feel about legalizing them. It will be a great day when marijuana is finally legalized.

But on a personal level, I’m not looking forward to the smell.

Radley Balko points out that former president Bill Clinton has an ugly editorial in the New York Times. It’s the anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people. Clinton goes through the motions of mourning their deaths, but then he moves on to casting blame:

Finally, we should never forget what drove the bombers, and how they justified their actions to themselves. They took to the ultimate extreme an idea advocated in the months and years before the bombing by an increasingly vocal minority: the belief that the greatest threat to American freedom is our government, and that public servants do not protect our freedoms, but abuse them.

Clinton is, as usual, being careful with his words. He never quite comes out and accuses the “increasingly vocal minority” of causing the Oklahome City bombing, but there’s a clear implication that those of us who question big government are somehow culpable.

As we exercise the right to advocate our views, and as we animate our supporters, we must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.

No. That’s dead wrong.

I assume responsibility for what I say and what I do. But my words have no power to compel other people, so I’m not responsible for what other people do upon hearing them. And I’m certainly not going to assume responsibility for what happens when my words reach the “delirious” and the “unhinged.” It would be foolish for Americans to censor their own voices in our democracy out of fear of how some unknown madman might respond.

Civic virtue can include harsh criticism, protest, even civil disobedience. But not violence or its advocacy. That is the bright line that protects our freedom. It has held for a long time, since President George Washington called out 13,000 troops in response to the Whiskey Rebellion.

Would that be the same George Washington who just a few years before had lead the armed insurrection against the British government? An insurrection which started, on this very day, in 1775 when local militia members killed 73 British soldiers in the battles of Lexington and Concord?

It’s assinine for someone like Bill Clinton, who for eight years commanded the most powerful army in the world, to say that violence has no place in civic virtue. If violence can never be virtuous, then why do we have a Department of Defense? Why do we arm our police officers? Why does our government have within its grasp, the power to kill millions with the push of a button?

The answer is that although violence is terrible, it is sometimes also the only way to protect ourselves against those who would do violence against us. In our civilized world, we have agreed to limit the use of violence, wherever possible, by empowering a democratic government to act violently against those who threaten us. This near-monopoly on the use of violence is the defining characteristic of government. George Washington understood this well:

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence — it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Which is precisely why our government is the single greatest threat to our freedom. What other threats could there be? The Russians? The Chinese? North Korea? Criminal gangs? Deceitful bankers? None of those threats compare to the harm that could come if those who should serve us try instead to become our masters.

Back to Clinton:

Fifteen years ago, the line was crossed in Oklahoma City. In the current climate, with so many threats against the president, members of Congress and other public servants, we owe it to the victims of Oklahoma City, and those who survived and responded so bravely, not to cross it again.

No problem. I’m just a blogger. All I’ve got are words. I have no blood on my hands.

Bill Clinton cannot say the same. It was his administration that sent the ATF into the Branch Davidian compound to start a violent confrontation where none existed before. He commanded the army that killed a thousand people in Mogadishu in 1993. He launched cruise missles into Afghanistan and the Sudan.

Whether you believe Clinton was right or wrong to use force when he did, it’s absurd that a man who has held the power to kill and used it should try to cast blame on those of us who only use words.

From Bill Otis at the slightly disturbing Crime & Consequences blog, here’s a pro-death penalty argument that I just can’t get enough of:

Recently I noted that prison security  —  or, more precisely, the inevitable fallibility thereof  —  puts the lie to abolitionist claims that LWOP will keep us as safe as the death penalty.  In-prison murder, erroneous release, and escape are among the lethal problems we can expect (and already have, for that matter).

In other words, let’s execute more criminals because the people who run our prisons are incompetent.

(The linked story, on the other hand, is rather amusing. It includes sheep.)

It looks like filling the next Supreme Court vacancy is yet another area in which I disagree with the Obama administration. CBS News‘s Jan Crawford says Obama wants “a sparkling intellectual who could go toe to toe with Roberts and Antonin Scalia,” but I’d much rather have Scott Greenfield.

Well, with Justice Stevens retiring from the Supreme Court, it’s time to start another round of speculation and wishful thinking about who will get the job this time.

I have no idea who the mainstream pundits are pushing for, but I’m always partial to Wise County Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Ken Lammers. He has more criminal law experience than the entire current court combined, and although he’s a prosecutor (and therefore won’t frighten the Republicans) he’s done some defense work in the past, and he seems less motivated by the desire to mete out punishment than certain other prosecutors.

On the other hand, Brian Tannebaum seems to be trying to generate a one-man blawgospheric groundswell for New York’s Scott Greenfield, proprietor of the venerated Simple Justice blog. Brian is obviously inhaling too much of whatever they’re smoking down there in Florida, but the thought of a no-holds-barred criminal defense lawyer like Scott on the Supreme Court is pretty amusing.

(And, let’s face it, the Supreme Court could sure as hell use a criminal defense lawyer in its ranks, someone who has had the experience of trying to save a client from the awful power of government vengeance. Not one of them has done that.)

Now it’s late at night, and I keep thinking about something that almost happened last year. I can’t get it out of my head, and it fills me with regret for what might have been…

Last year, some nut with ties to the Obama administration dangled the possibility of a federal judgeship in front of Norm Pattis. As things turned out, it didn’t happen. But what if it had…?

And what if the crazy impulse that lead them to consider Norm in the first place somehow struck again and lead them to nominate him to the Supreme Court? When I imagine a bomb-throwing madman like Norm on the Highest Court In The Land…damn, that would be glorious.

My latest post at When Falls the Coliseum takes on the issue of why the police in Fairfax County, Virginia, should be more forthcoming about how and why one of their officers shot and killed an unarmed man.

Jennifer tells me I need to work on my self-promotion skills, so I’ll just say that I think this is one of my more rantastic pieces. I almost sound like I’m accusing the Fairfax County police department of operating a death squad. You really should check it out.

As a non-lawyer, and as a generally law-abiding citizen, my main interaction with the criminal justice system is going to be as a juror. But over at a public defender, Gideon is saying that jurors don’t really understand the presumption of innocence:

I have come to believe that that is hogwash. Jurors are smart enough to know what to say. They’ve also been reading the same newspapers and watching the same news. There’s still this cultural divide between “them” the defendants, and “us” the jurors. Someone’s been arrested and is going to trial? Well, there must be something to it or why else would the State waste its time?

The presumption goes to the State. If the State, in its benevolence and infinite wisdom has decided to pursue this matter, then, well…

I don’t feel that way at all. And what’s this “divide”? Maybe if the defendant was some kind of obvious species of scumbag — a marked gang member, giving us all the stink-eye, or a raging psychopath — but when I was a juror, I thought I had a lot in common with the defendant. After all, I didn’t really want to be there either, but the prosecutor insisted we take a part in his show.

If you had a client in whose case you believed the State’s evidence could not sustain the burden, would you dare rest without putting on any evidence? Do you have that much faith in jurors?

I have this belief – it may be a naive belief – that most trials are won not because the jury upheld the presumption of innocence, but because the defense overcame the presumption of guilt.

It is human nature to want to hear both sides of a story and then decide which one is more believable. To force the jurors to perform their duty in a manner that is contrary to this human need is merely wishful thinking, no matter how forceful the instruction from the judge.

That last part has the ring of truth. The human decision-making process does not perform well under highly artificial conditions. That’s why we get fooled by things like math riddles and gambling. So it makes sense that we wouldn’t do well in a situation where we can’t hear both sides like we would in a normal conflict.

Still, even without legal training, I don’t think the presumption of innocence is that difficult to follow. I’m pretty sure I could do it. I’m pretty sure I have done it.

Meanwhile, Scott Greenfield quotes jury consultant Harry Plotkin, who thinks jurors have the attention-span of weasels on meth:

What matters most, more than ever these days, is that you keep your jurors engaged in the trial and focused on the things you want them focused on. Jurors try their best, but they won’t pay attention to everything you present to them in a trial, and they’ll remember even less by the end of the trial. So your jurors’ attention spans are limited, their memories are limited, and–perhaps most importantly–their patience is limited, and that’s the main focus of this month’s tip.

They’re cynical too:

Aside from how quickly they demand information, Generation X and Y jurors are generally more cynical than older jurors. They grew up in a world with lawsuits, corporate scandals, and written contracts for every agreement instead of handshakes and trust. They’re not necessarily more prone to favoring plaintiffs or defendants, but they tend to be more critical of plaintiffs, less trusting of defendants, and tend to have higher expectations of what the litigants “should have done” better.

Scott adds:

While this cynicism cuts both ways, the defendant will be the one left without any showing to satisfy their demand for evidence.  If they come into court cynical, then there is little expectation that they will honor the presumption of innocence or the burden of proof.  They will sit back and demand that both sides satisfy their curiosity, and do it on their terms.

I am puzzled by this. I could be a juror — I have been a juror — and that’s not how I did it. I went in understanding that I might never know the truth, but I knew I had a job to do, and I think I did it. So why are Scott and Gideon and so many other defense lawyers saying these things?

I can think of three explanations.

First of all, maybe Scott and Gideon and all the other criminal law bloggers are wrong. Maybe jurors are a lot smarter than they think. Maybe they are generalizing from a few bad experiences, or maybe they are disappointed in their own performance as lawyers and reaching for explanations other than their own incompetence or the maniftest guilt of their clients. In other words, maybe all these lawyers who I rely on, who I trust and admire, are morons who don’t really understand juries.

The second explanation is more positive: Maybe I’m different from other people. Maybe — unlike most people — I really get our system of justice. Maybe where other people would walk into a jury room filled with prejudices against the defendent, I would enter with a true presumption of innocence. Maybe I alone would require clear proof of every element of the crime — untainted in whole or in part by reasonable doubt — before I would convict. In other words, maybe I’m special.

The third explanation is the worst: Maybe I’m exactly like those other people. Maybe, I make the same mistakes they do, and maybe I fool myself into thinking I’m doing it right, just like they do. Maybe I’m failing to do my part, just like everyone else.

It’s that second one, though. Right?

[Update: Just to be clear, because Scott sounds a little pissed off in the comments, I don’t really think the first explanation is likely. Nor the second one, for that matter.]

Police officers in Fairfax County, Virginia, have been killing civilians. Then they’ve been stonewalling everyone who asks about it, not even revealing the names of the officers who pulled the trigger:

Last November along the roadside of Richmond Highway, a major thoroughfare in Fairfax County, Virginia, a police officer shot and killed David Masters, an unarmed motorist, as he sat in the driver’s seat of his car…

Last month, [a reporter] asked Fairfax County Police Public Information Officer Mary Ann Jennings why her department won’t at least release the incident report on Master’s death, given concerns raised about the shooting. “Let us hear that concern,” Jennings shot back. “We are not hearing it from anybody except the media, except individual reporters.”

That’s an astounding answer. “Except the media?” That’s exactly who you would expect to file most open records requests. When asked why her department won’t even release even the name of the officer who shot Masters, Jennings got more obtuse. “What does the name of an officer give the public in terms of information and disclosure?” Jennings asked in reply, presumably rhetorically. “I’d be curious to know why they want the name of an officer.”

Because he holds a position of public trust, and he just killed a member of the public.

It galls me to no end when police officers complain about their privacy. They spend all day, every day, poking their noses into other people’s business, but when someone asks them the hard questions, they refuse to answer. (We could all learn a lesson here.) People who cash the public’s paycheck should answer to the public.

So let me ask what every cop asks when a citizen refuses to cooperate: What are you trying to hide? Until I get a better answer, I’m going to assume that they’re covering up a murder by a police officer. They’re welcome to prove me wrong.

Happy Easter everybody.

Today’s not really a great day for me. It was a year ago today that my mother died. The trouble actually started two weeks earlier when she went into the hospital. That’s when she really disappeared. But today’s the first anniversary of the day she died.

All in all, this is the end of a rough year for me. I lost both my parents, I lost months of my time, I lost some income, and I spent a lot of money I didn’t have on things I suddenly needed. It was also kind of depressing, in the clinical sense. I know that depression can sneak up on you, but you know what? Depression snuck up on me.

I thought I was okay. A little sad and a little tired, maybe, but basically okay.

However, over the past month or so, as this anniversary approached, I noticed that I’m starting to take control of my life: Fixing things around the house, replacing busted backup disks on my computer, getting excited about my job again, bringing my personal financial records up to date (yikes!), thinking about taking up photography again…I’m even blogging more.

At the time, I didn’t realize I was doing any of these things less, but comparing how I was six months ago to how I am now, it’s pretty obvious that I went through a mild depression that seems to be waning.

(I say “seems” because, for all I know, in another six months I’ll be blogging about how depressed I was now.)

Anyway, I just want to give thanks to everyone who stuck with me, both here in the blogosphere and in real life. I’m glad to have all of you in my life.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the case of Jerry Lemaine, an immigrant who has been living in the United States for 25 years, who was busted for pot twice — convicted only once — and has now spent three years in jail awaiting possible deportation because of his “crimes.”

I put “crimes” in quotes not just because I despise the war on drugs, but because, legally speaking, he appears not to have been convicted of any crimes. Scott Greenfield explains:

The underlying charge of unlawful possession of marihuana (another New York quirk is the odd spelling of marijuana), in violation of New York Penal Law 221.05, is a “violation”,  defined as an offense that is neither a misdemeanor nor a felony.  There is nothing lower than a violation, and it is not a “crime” as defined by New York law.

There’s one additional quirk to consider, that a dismissal, under New York law, gives rise to a legal fiction that the arrest and prosecution never happened.  While it may remain on the defendant rap sheet, ironically noting that it’s dismissed and sealed but still there, it may also magically disappear as if it never happened.

So, one violation (with all the criminal severity of a parking ticket) and one never-proven accusation by a police officer is enough for the jerks at Immigration and Customs Enforcement to call it a felony, even though it’s not.

How the hell does this stuff happen?

Immigration law isn’t something I’ve spent much time thinking about, so please bear with me, but it looks like a huge part of the problem is the legal fiction that immigration cases are not considered criminal cases. They proceed under civil law, where the government has a lesser burden of proof.

It makes sense that not every legal action by the government is a criminal proceeding. The government has to be able to sue someone who accidentally breaks a window on a government building or a supplier who defaults on a contract, and it would be silly for the government to face a higher burden of proof than an ordinary citizen filing the same lawsuit.

However, many of the government’s so-called “civil” actions actually involve the kinds of things that only governments can do. If someone hits me with their car, I can sue for my injuries, but if I see them commit a crime in their car, I can’t just confiscate it. Only the government can do that, and yet forfeiture is considered a civil matter.

Immigration cases appear to involve the same sort of deceptive definition. The government is hurting people in a way that only the government can, yet the accused doesn’t receive the presumption of innocence.

In the Lemaine case, for example, the proceedings are apparently conducted under civil rules despite the fact that ICE (1) is sending armed agents to capture people, (2) is locking them in a cage to ensure they show up in court, (3) is seeking to take away some of their freedom, and (4) is doing so because of alleged crimes.

Doesn’t that sound like a criminal issue to you? I mean, if this is a purely civil matter, how come the government gets to use pre-trial detention? I’ve never heard of courts detaining people to make sure they show up for a lawsuit.

I’m willing to be convinced that some aspects of immigration cases are essentially civil in nature. It might make sense to require immigrants to prove they got here legally, and to prove that their paperwork is in order. But when the reason for throwing them out of the country has nothing to do with the act of immigration, and is in fact due to allegations of criminal behavior, the burden of proof really should fall on the government.

Opponents of increased immigration to the United States often justify their bigotry by claiming that foreigners don’t understand American values. I’m sure there’s some truth to that, but I usually feel that the most un-American values are held by people who are already here. And whether it’s turning back friendly tourists, keeping out musical styles they don’t understand, or letting cancer victims die in their custody, an awful lot of them work for ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Consider the case of Jerry Lemaine, as reported by Nina Bernstein in the New York Times:

ELMONT, N.Y. — When a police officer in this Long Island suburb found a marijuana cigarette in Jerry Lemaine’s pocket one night in January 2007, a Legal Aid lawyer counseled him to plead guilty. Under state statutes, the penalty was only a $100 fine, and though Mr. Lemaine had been caught with a small amount of marijuana years earlier as a teenager, that case had been dismissed.

But Mr. Lemaine, a legal permanent resident, soon discovered that his quick guilty plea had dire consequences. Immigration authorities flew him in shackles to Texas, where he spent three years behind bars, including 10 months in solitary confinement, as he fought deportation to Haiti, the country he had left at age 3.

You may be wondering why Immigration bothered to fly a New Yorker all the way to Texas. The answer, as usual, is jurisdiction shopping:

Under federal rulings that prevailed in Texas, Mr. Lemaine had lost the legal opportunity that rulings in New York would have allowed: to have an immigration judge weigh his offenses, including earlier misdemeanors resolved without jail time, against other aspects of his life, like his nursing studies at Hunter Business School; his care for his little sister, a United States citizen with a brain disorder; and the help he gave his divorced mother, who had worked double shifts to move the family out of a dangerous Brooklyn neighborhood.

If you’ve been reading Windypundit for a while, you already know I have no respect for the war on drugs, so I don’t see the point of deporting drug users. But even if you think drug use is a real crime, this next part should disturb you:

The government maintains that for deportation purposes, two convictions for drug possession add up to the equivalent of drug trafficking, an “aggravated felony” that requires expulsion and prohibits immigration courts from granting exceptions based on individual life circumstances.

In other words, Lemaine is being deported for a felony for which he has never been convicted…or even charged.

As if that wasn’t bad enough,

The judge decided that under Fifth Circuit rulings, two marijuana violations made Mr. Lemaine a “recidivist felon” ineligible for bond or for any relief from deportation, even though his first marijuana offense had been dismissed.

Got that? Two misdemeanor convictions add up to a felony, even if one of the convictions isn’t actually a conviction.

We’re still not to the weirdest part. :

Aaron D. Simowitz, 31, who shouldered part of the legal work, said the case often seemed surreal. For example, the New York criminal court refused to vacate, or erase, Mr. Lemaine’s first marijuana conviction, reasoning that there was nothing to vacate because the conviction did not exist; the case had been dismissed, as planned, after a six-month adjournment.

Wow. Paging Franz Kafka…

If I understand correctly, it sounds like the first case got an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, meaning that the judge decided to hold off on the proceedings for a while and see if Lemaine could stay out of trouble. If he did, the case would be dismissed, as if it had never been filed. Part of the reason for doing this (instead of a plea with a light sentence) is to avoid creating a criminal record for the defendant. You know, so committing a minor crime doesn’t cause him trouble later in life.

This is as un-American as it gets.

I’ve been blogging about legal issues for several years now, and I’ve learned a lot about lawyers and law firms and legal marketing, and I’ve earned the trust and respect of the legal blogging community. Now it’s time to leverage that for my benefit.

To that end, I’ve joined as a silent partner on a new extreme project.

Update: For those of you reading this out of context: It’s an April Fool’s Day joke.