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Abusive Positions

31 Aug

Is This Consensual, Or Abusive?I astounded that Betsy Karasik, supposedly a lawyer, wouldn’t have known intellectually, that rape is not about sex, but all about power.

There is a painfully uncomfortable episode of “Louie” in which the comedian Louis C.K. muses that maybe child molesters wouldn’t kill their victims if the penalty weren’t so severe. Everyone I know who watches the show vividly recalls that scene from 2010 because it conjures such a witches’ cauldron of taboo, disgust and moral outrage, all wrapped around a disturbing kernel of truth. I have similar ambivalence about the case involving former Montana high school teacher Stacey Dean Rambold. Louie concluded his riff with a comment to the effect of “I don’t know what to do with that information.” That may be the case for many of us, but with our legal and moral codes failing us, our society needs to have an uncensored dialogue about the reality of sex in schools.

As protesters decry the leniency of Rambold’s sentence — he will spend 30 days in prison after pleading guilty to raping 14-year-old Cherice Morales, who committed suicide at age 16 — I find myself troubled for the opposite reason. I don’t believe that all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape, and I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized. While I am not defending Judge G. Todd Baugh’s comments about Morales being “as much in control of the situation” — for which he has appropriately apologized — tarring and feathering him for attempting to articulate the context that informed his sentence will not advance this much-needed dialogue.

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Shenanigans Trump Politics In Texas Redistricting Fight

17 Aug

Supreme Court Steps In to Review Texas RedistrictingFive districts here, five districts over there – what does it matter?

Lawmakers made relatively small changes to the House maps that were used in the 2012 elections, but left the Senate and congressional maps just as they were. If the courts go along, that would mean incumbents seeking re-election would run next year in the same or essentially the same districts that elected them last year.

It has been a long, detailed and contentious process, and it is probably far from over. The short form of our story so far:

The 2010 census resulted in shifts in the distribution of congressional seats from states that lost population to states that grew. Texas gained four seats, for a total of 36.

Minority groups noted the state’s growth was fueled by their populations; 89 percent of the population growth in Texas from 2000 to 2010 came in minority groups, and 66 percent was in the Hispanic population.

The 2011 Legislature, with a Republican supermajority in the House and a near supermajority in the Senate, drew new maps for congressional and legislative elections that were immediately challenged by minority and Democratic plaintiffs as unrepresentative of the state’s population. Their cases were consolidated and sent to a panel of three federal judges in San Antonio.

At the same time, the state asked a different panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C., to pre-clear the maps — a requirement under the federal Voting Rights Act.

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The People’s Voice On FISA

13 Jun

FISA?I’m willing to stipulate that the data mining reforms the Obama administration put into effect are more sophisticated than the previous clumsy, illegal, unconstitutional, and immoral eavesdropping regimes. Yet, there’s one weak link: the FISA court. Ron Fournier asks, “Why does a secret federal court almost always side with the government’s requests to seize information.” Penza responds:

The problem might arise from the nature of FISA itself: it is a non-adversarial process where only the government presents information and where that information is not subject to challenge. In a regular investigation, there is at least some potential for the target of the investigation to cry “foul” and bring information to the court that undermines the government’s basis for pursuing the investigation. Regular warrants can be challenged as overbroad, overly intrusive, or not supportable by probable cause or even reasonable suspicion. No such mechanism exists in FISA. Indeed, this is a feature not a bug because doing so in the regular way would alert targets that they have been detected, making it more difficult to track and counter an organization like al-Qaeda.

But a mechanism could be added to adjust the FISA process to introduce some check on the government’s ability to obtain a rubber stamp from a court without compromising its ability to hide its activities from the targets of national-security investigations. And no, the best such process does not lie in allowing egomaniacs like Snowden and Greenwald to have veto power over what the government is allowed to do. Rather, it lies in introducing an adversary — call it an ombudsman or a public defender — into the FISA proceedings as an institutional skeptic, empowered to participate in FISA proceedings to challenge the government’s requests as overbroad or not supported by reasonable suspicion.

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