You don’t mess with the Money

When creating your particular whiz-bang, social-network, made-of-awesome, Web-n+1 site, you don’t mess with the Money. As Brian McCarthy learned, it has an entire government to send after you:

When the US government decides to take down a website offering access to free TV streams over the Internet, it doesn’t mess around. Newly unsealed court documents show that Brian McCarthy, the 32-year old alleged operator of, got the complete treatment—investigators dug into his domain name registrar, his ISP, his Gmail account, his ad brokers, and the Texas driver’s license database. They even sent a surveillance team to the Deer Park, Texas home where McCarthy lived with his parents.

Tasers Kill

The Braidwood Inquiry report is a pretty damning document for Taser International. The inquiry began after Polish Immigrant Robert Dzienkanski died on October 14, 2007, at the age of 40, after being Tasered five times by four RCMP officers in British Columbia. The report concluded, as a finding of fact, that “conducted-energy weapons do have the capacity to cause serious injury or death” and that the risk increases with multiple uses, specifically when aimed at the chest near the heart. Taser International appealed the inquiry. They were not successful.

Read the Braidwood Inquiry Reports here.

Eventually, we will be forced to conclude that Tasers are not the safe, non-deadly alternatives to guns that we were told they are. These weapons are not Phasers from Star Trek, set to stun. Nor are they remote controls that can force a subject to submit to the shooter’s authority. Even the most benign use of a Taser can kill. These are deadly weapons, and it is time we treat them as such.

Tasers were sold to the public as a non-deadly alternative to firearms. The idea being that, in a situation in which an officer would normally be forced to shoot someone with a gun, the Taser can instead be used to achieve the same result without the mess of a bullet wound and potential for death. Unfortunately, we now know (and by now we do know it, despite what Taser enthusiasts may claim) that Tasers kill. We must retrain our police to only use Tasers in situations where the use of deadly force is required.

We do not allow police to shoot someone with a gun without giving warnings, trying to deescalate the situation by using words and a calming voice, and exhausting all other options. When an officer pulls his weapon, he has to be ready to intentionally kill another human being. So too must he be prepared to kill when he pulls his Taser.

Federal Government Increases Restrictions on Travel by Citizens

That’s how I’m spinning the passport rate increases.

What is the value of an expungement?

A local attorney is pushing expungement in new directions. Along with what has become the standard language of an expungement order, he included provisions requiring the local newspaper and a student-run newspaper to remove articles that named his clients.

Unfortunately, it appears the judges who signed these orders thought they were just the standard expungements and didn’t read every word. The attorney did not inform the judges of the additional provisions. One of the judges has vacated his previously entered orders. The other will likely do so shortly.

The story hasn’t quite gone national, but it is certainly regional. Here is the original Centre Daily Times article on the brouhaha. And the Philadelphia Inquirer picking it up. I also understand it is out on the AP wire from both sources, so I’d expect to hear about it on The Colbert Report within the week.

Whatever your views on whether the attorney was right or wrong in what he asked for or how he handled getting the orders signed, you have to recognize his point: in the age of Google, what is the value of an expungement if anyone can search your name and find the information that was meant to be deleted from the public record?

It is a thorny issue. Tied up in it are the competing interests of privacy, the right of the public to information (which the press keep confusing with their own First Amendment privileges), and the interest of the courts in supporting agreements between prosecutors and defendants that resolve cases without time-consuming court involvement.

When two fundamental rights such as these meet, which one should prevail? Does the individual’s right trump that of the community? I don’t think there is an easy answer. I certainly don’t have one. As a criminal defense attorney, I want the best outcome for my clients. As a civil libertarian and a private citizen, I cringe at any interference by the state in the operation of the press.

At the end of the day, I think that local attorney is correct: this is an issue our legislature needs to address. They are the people’s representatives, and the public should determine how it wants to be treated.

When in the Course of human events

For as long as I can remember, I’ve read the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. It is the closest thing to a religious text a secular humanist like myself ever embraces.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

So begins the body. It seems a fitting place to begin a legal blog — on July 4th, no less — that will deal with how and whether the government that came out of that revolution lives up to its promises as reflected in the lives of its least fortunate citizens.

Today we also remember Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, and George Ross. These men, my fellow Pennsylvanians, set their names to the Declaration, pledging their Lives, Fortune, and sacred Honor to what would become a republic – if we can keep it.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly on this day when we will be inundated with calls for blind patriotism and jingoistic pride draped in exhortations to “support the troops,” we must remember that the Declaration of Independence was a challenge to tyranny. In place of a king, we installed the people themselves as sovereign, and formed a government of, for, and by the people. The Declaration sets up the failure mode for that government: revolution. While the Constitution that was later adopted provides for its own modification through amendments, the fundamental principle “that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government” remains unchallenged.

We Americans really are a fascinating people, aren’t we?