I just can’t keep up with all the ideas, all the ruminations running through my head. As a matter of fact, since college when I first read, recited, and memorized Keats, two lines in particular from one of my favorite poems,“When I have fears that I may cease to be,” have most inspired and stayed with me,
“When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,”
And so to put a lid for now on some of that “teeming,” here are a handful of “Quick Take Ruminations,”
Quick Take #1 – Drug Court Tough Love.
Glynn County, Georgia Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams has been catching a lot of grief along with unwelcome attention thanks to a recent report, “Very Tough Love,“ by Public Radio International’s (PRI). It was aired by PRI respected journalist Ira Glass last March. But the repercussions are ongoing, including according to media reports, death threats and calls to impeach and to remove Judge Williams from the bench. The judge, through her lawyer, has also done the unusual, issued a feisty response. See “Legal battle brewing over broadcast.”
Why the public brouhaha? Because according to her critics, the jurist has a different view of drug court. She’s accused of heavy-handedness and of being punitive rather than rehabilitative. It’s said that she’s violating the philosophical bases of drug court.
From the Glass’ report: “We hear the story of Lindsey Dills, who forges two checks on her parents’ checking account when she’s 17, one for $40 and one for $60, and ends up in drug court for five and a half years, including 14 months behind bars, and then she serves another five years after that—six months of it in Arrendale State Prison, the other four and a half on probation. The average drug court program in the U.S. lasts 15 months.
“But one main way that Judge Williams’ drug court is different from most is how punitive it is. Such long jail sentences are contrary to the philosophy of drug court, as well as the guidelines of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. For violating drug court rules, Lindsey not only does jail terms of 51 days, 90 days and 104 days, Judge Williams sends her on what she calls an “indefinite sentence,” where she did not specify when Lindsey would get out.”
Also see Law.com: “Broadcast prompts threats and calls for judge’s ouster” and further background from “Coastal Viewpoint Continue Judge Williams’ Story.“
Quick Take #2 – Cockroach Jargon
Business jargon is like the cockroach. The primordial cockroach is thought to be 350 million years old. It is nigh near indestructible. It cannot be killed.
And so it seems, stupid business jargon is likewise invincible. For example, there used to be a stupid piece of business jargon, “the low-hanging fruit,” which fortunately, has been mostly eradicated. If it’s seen or heard at all, like the cockroach in the basement, it’s mostly relegated poorly-lit spaces like those used by tired consultant hacks selling overpriced analytical obviousness.
But other jargon remains. I am still figuratively lighting candles to the saints that the same fate eventually happens to “At the end of the day”.
Quick Take #3 – ABA needs a head exam.
Law.com via Karen Sloan and NLJ Home reports at “Irvine wins provisional accreditation, but La Verne loses ABA’s blessing,” that the ABA has approved three more law schools: UC Irvine, Irvine, California; the Charlotte School of Law, Charlotte, North Carolina; and something called Elon University School of Law, Greensboro, North Carolina. (I know “Alack” as in “Alack, I am afraid they have awaked, and ’tis not done.” – Macbeth, Act II, Scene II. I also know “Anon” as in “Anon, anon! Come, let’s away; the strangers all are gone.” – Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene V. But I know not “Elon.” ).
But the real question is that with a profligate number of lawyers, a bellyful of existing law schools, and an increasing manifestation of how “Legal Services Have Transformed Into Legal Commodities,” what is going on inside the collective head of the ABA? How many more law schools can the marketplace take?
Quick Take #4 – “What is it about “No” that you don’t understand?”
I once worked for a boss whose dry wit and intelligence I much respected. He had the habit of carrying around in his suit coat pocket, a small card imprinted with the above-noted quotation. Every now and then, particularly, in the throes of a subordinate’s plaintive plea, he would smile sardonically and hand the whiner the card without saying anything more. “Priceless,” I thought.
On June 13, 2011, Michael Carrigan, an elected member of the Sparks, Nevada City Council, was figuratively handed that kind of a card by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of “Nevada Comm’n on Ethics v. Carrigan,” 10–568.
Carrigan convinced the Nevada Supreme Court that the recusal provisions in Nevada’s Ethics in Government Law were unconstitutionally overbroad and violated his First Amendment free speech rights. The Nevada Commission on Ethics appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But what Carrigan conveniently forgot was that he ‘can’t have his cake and eat it, too.’ He can’t aspire to sit on the city council but also expect to enjoy the identical free speech rights of the run-of-the-mill public citizen.
When he ran for city council to represent the interests of his constituents, the Court noted,“the legislative power thus committed is not personal to the legislator but belongs to the people.” His vote is not his own but “as trustee for his constituents, not as a prerogative of personal power.”
Moreover, the Court reiterated and reaffirmed the well-settled constitutionality of recusal rules, even citing Thomas Jefferson,
“Where the private interests of a member are concerned in a bill or question, he is to withdraw. And where such an interest has appeared, his voice [is]disallowed, even after a division. In a case so contrary not only to the laws of decency, but to the fundamental principles of the social compact, which denies to any man to be a judge in his own case, it is for the honor of the house that this rule, of immemorial observance, should be strictly adhered to.” A Manual of Parliamentary Practice for the Use of the Senate of the United States 31 (1801).
But Carrigan and his lawyers still don’t get it. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Nevada Supreme Court and remanded the case “for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.”
However, as quoted by a news account in the Reno-Gazette Journal, Carrigan still thinks he can revisit the Nevada statute’s purported vagueness, telling the paper, “From my point of view, they left the door open so we can still argue that the Nevada statute — specifically that catch-all ‘substantially similar’ provision — is unconstitutionally vague and that provision violates my First Amendment freedom of association with my supporters.” See “US Supreme Court upholds ethics law against Sparks …” – rgj.com
I doubt, though, that he will get anywhere with that expectation. I surmise the only “door left open” is the one for the hole in his argument. Someone send the councilman and his lawyers one of my boss’s little cards.
Quick Take #5 – FREE CLE – For fiscal reporting MCLE calendar types still hunting for ethics continuing legal education credit, look no further. Next Friday, June 24, 2011, courtesy of a tip from a colleague and via 4 Free CLE and provided by the Rimon Law Group at www.rimonlaw.com, there’s “The Ethics of Cloud Computing for Lawyers – Webinar (CLE Ethics Credit).