Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving America!!

I want to give thanks to all the men and woman who are away from home protecting mine. This includes not only our Troops whose sacrifice is great as to make it unfathomable, but also to the men and women of our uniformed services like the police and firemen who work on the holidays. It includes the FBI and CIA and all the other Alphabet police of the Federal Government. I may have professional disputes with them, but I truly give thanks that they are trying to protect my family and I.

I give thanks to my colleagues and adversaries. Not only because without them I would starve, but because, for the most part, they are people who believe in the cause of Justice. They live most of their lives in courtrooms, working hard to defend the principals I hold dear. They are ethical and moral, they are patient and thoughtful, they are sincere.

I give thanks for my clients whose causes give my life meaning. Now I especially give thanks for those clients who pay us, because they make it possible to represent other clients for less and sometimes no money. I also thank all of them for entrusting their lives to me and my team. The work helps make my life meaningful.

I give thanks for my team. I work with 3 very talented young lawyers, 2 High School interns, 2 wonderful legal assistants and our bookkeeper. These young men and women come from many different backgrounds. Two were born in Countries where freedom and rights were either not available or were honored in the breech. Three were born on foreign soil, came here as young children and are pursuing their American dream. They remind me daily, not only why America is a beacon to the world, but of the opportunity we as a nation offer. These three women each work hard. They strive to better themselves through education and opportunity. They overcome language barriers and cultural differences to achieve. Each of my team speaks at least 2 and many 3 languages fluently. I am happy to get by in English and pretend to still speak High School German. I love the "United Nations" feel of our office. I love the compassion they show our clients and the camaraderie these people show each other and my family and me. In fact I think of them as part of my family and I love working beside them.

Finally I give thanks for my family. My mom and in laws. My boatload of cousins and aunts and uncles. I come from a family of very talented people. Musicians, builders, craftsmen, chefs, doctors, nurses, teachers, writers, and yes lawyers. I appreciate how they have continued to build on our grandparents dream for our family and our nation. They achieve with the knowledge that they are the children of immigrants. We are proud of our Italian Heritage and prouder of our American Citizenship. We are proud of our culture and of our country.

I give thanks and remember those in my family who are no longer with us here on earth but wait for us in heaven above. I miss my Dad and grandparents. My uncles and aunts. Sadly even a cousin. I love and miss them greatly. I appreciate the sacrifices they made so that I may have the life I share with my family.

I give thanks for my children Sal and Frank, in them I see a continuation of a dream brought over by pilgrims; and by 4 Italian men and women. Smart but without formal education, they overcame prejudice and the great depression by hard work and persistence. They traded everything for a dream. A dream for themselves and for our family. I hope they see its continuum in those two boys.

Finally I give thanks for my wife. MaryRose. She suffers each day with the ravage of Scleroderma. Yet she finds a way to be a full part of our lives. She is our inspiration and she is our cheerleader. She believes in our work. She encourages me to fight on when I don't think I have a chance. She sets an example of fortitude that I can only hope to shadow. I pray for everyday we have together. I pray for more. I am thankful for they love she showers on us, and pray she feels that which we offer to her.

If any of you are feeling thankful for the wealth and health of your life, and want to show that thanks... Help keep Scleroderma patients alive, by leaving a donation by clicking here. And Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours too.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Damn, And I Really Liked Those Little Hot Dogs They Served: The Heritage Foundation Proves It Is Nothing But A Bush Front Organization

I couldn't help but post this link to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish piece about how the Heritage allegedly Conservative "Think Tank" has decided to not invite Bush bashers to dinner.

If you have the nerve to be a libertarian and take umbrage with Bush and his Neo-con antics you cannot speak on Heritage grounds nor will you be invited to their 25th anniversary of the Reagan Tax cut.

I am really going to miss those Pigs in a Blanket...

Hattip to Volokh Conspiracy

Monday, November 20, 2006

At Least They Are Spending Their Own Campaign Money: Nassau DA Rice You Lost The High Ground On This In Your First Week In Office

More Political Hypocrisy

This story suggests that local politicians are feathering their own nests by using campaign funds for personal gain. One Pol bought $13,000 worth of flowers for town workers funerals. Another Pol, whose district has had a large influx of Spanish speaking residents paid $3000 for Spanish lessons. Finally a third elected official gave a close campaign aide/fundraiser a $300 wedding gift. (In reality only the last one is really questionable in an ethical sense. All three are probably legal) Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice is not happy with this and said the campaign finance law is not strong enough.

Rice said: Contributors should be able to know whether their gifts will be spent specifically to win an election, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said. Otherwise, she said, ``It chips away at people's faith in the whole system.''

So imagine Kathleen how we taxpayers feel when we see you hire a bunch of old friends from work as your assistants and give them huge raises and then hire your sister-in-law for a job and give her $5000 more than the gal who had held the job for 15 years before sis came along.

How can you justify increasing the size of your office by 4 people over the size of your predecessor and yet costing us $8 million dollars more than he did?*

* Based on the County Executive's numbers in his proposed budget, Rice's request was for nearly 30 Million Dollars. She has a staff that is four members more than Dillon had in 2003 and yet his budget was 23 Million Dollars. Where did the other 8 Kathleen? Mostly into the salaries and benefits portion of her budget. According to sources in the District Attorney's office, Rice hired a bunch of cronies and gave them raises over their previous employment and increased the size of the salary associated with each hire she made above and beyond what the same job paid under her predecessor. I don't know. I don't feel safer knowing her friends are making more money. Too bad she didn't earmark more of those funds to fighting and deterring crime.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Curse of The Mostly Innocent Client

I am in the midst of an impossible month. Not because I am so busy (though I have been running.) Not because every Judge in my life wants to start a trial with me (though I would love to know where everybody was when I wanted to try a few cases in the early spring and early fall.) And not because I am so tired I could sleep in the passing lane of Queens Boulevard (also known as the Boulevard of Death.) No, the real reason I am having an impossible month, is because e I have been Cursed With Mostly Innocent Clients.

Now most days, I am relegated to representing one of two types of clients. Innocent, or Guilty. Of the two, guilty is easier. They often set a lower bar and are more realistic about what the system will accomplish. Often they are more "professional" about the issues too. They have usually "been here before", know what to expect and can manage their emotions better.

Completely innocent is not bad either. It just means that there is a greater chance I am going to trial. Not much of one however. Usually, if completely innocent, the truth is going to come to light early enough to keep bad things from happening. It helps if I cross and re cross every T and dot and redot every I, but for the most part, though the stress level is higher among both client and lawyer, a job well done is rewarded.

The Mostly Innocent Client is usually a victim of circumstance, mixed in with a lack of legal training and judges/prosecutors who cannot see the forest for the trees.

For example: Client is in the armed service of state X which neighbors New York. He gets off work and puts his gun in his car picks up his girlfriend and goes to a concert on Long Island. While leaving the show 3 young males in a late model SUV get into a road rage beef with him. By his report they are dressed "ghetto tuff." As they approach his vehicle he remembers the gun. He takes it out and lays it across his chest in view of the guys who scramble away and back to their SUV. He leaves the concert happy he didn't have to defend himself. The three guys in the SUV stop a passing cop. They tell him they saw a gun. They do not Identify themselves. Realizing after they stop the cop they will have to identify themselves and further realizing the cop might find the drugs and or weapons they have in their SUV, they "beat feet" and take off. Cop meanwhile has no (and I mean no identifying information on these hoodlums.)

Now they stop the clients car and arrest him for the gun. Now it is loaded and that's a felony. Our guy is on active service with the national guard of another state. A sister state. If he were to be active in the US army we do not arrest him. But because he is a guardsman not a reservist, NY makes the arrest.

We learn that our client is an absolute hero whose record of personal sacrifice moves people to tears. He has often put his own goals and opportunities asunder to care for his mom and younger sisters. We find that already a guardsman on 9-11, while enrolled in College he immediately gives up his education to serve his unit full time. That until the semester ended he was going to school then pulling shifts at the tunnel and bridge entrances. This is all during the time we think someone is going to pull up with a panel truck and send everyone to smithereens. We also find out he has requested to go to Iraq on two separate occasions. Both times his attempts were thwarted because his specialty is so needed here.

The alleged victims of his crimes are still selling their poison to kids in the hood. Our guy was pulling him and his family and literally hundreds of other kids out of the hood and giving them hope. When not working for the guard our guy is out working in one of America's most dangerous High Schools starting a Jr. National Guard unit. But Good Ole Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, she is going to be sure to drum him out of the Corp with a felony record because hey she has a policy to uphold.

Now some of you may be asking how in the hell did the arrest get past the suppression hearing. That is the issue on appeal. The court's decision flies it the face of the decided law of the nation not just the department. However by the time I get in front of an appellate bench our guy is already out of the Guard. In the meantime I convinced our chief judge (not the one who decided the suppression issue)not to put our client in jail if he should plead guilty which was what he had to do.

Weigh the equities. Our District Attorney Kathleen Rice had the opportunity to help a guy who spent a lifetime helping others get over a mistake he made in 15 seconds in his life. She could have charged a misdemeanors and plea bargained the case out. Instead she supported the drug dealing, anger outraged thugs who didn't have the guts to give their names because the realized they would be charged should they hang around. She acted sanctimoniously, arbitrarily and capriciously. I will not forget. Hopefully our military guys won't either. Maybe others who can understand what it means to serve in harms way and the pressure even those stationed at home face in a time of war, they won't forget either.

The Curse of the Mostly Innocent Client. Today it perplexes me... Tomorrow, it may come back to perplex Ms. Rice. I certainly hope it does. Next Election for Nassau County (NY) District Attorney is just under three years away...and counting...

"Christian Conservative" hypocrites Howl About Saulito Arrelano's Trip to Mexico: 7 Year old Shames Us When He Puts a Face On the Immigration Problem

Second grader fights to stay in America with his illegal immigrant Mother.
Oh how I love to hear the neo-conservatives and the Christian Right howl when they get hoisted on their own petard. There is a lady living in a Chicago Church. She is guilty of illegally coming into the USA, not once, but twice. She has a child born here. He is seven (7) now. He just went to Mexico to ask the government there to lobby President Bush not to send his mom back to Mexico. Now these "conservative" pundits are angry because the kid is getting sympathy for his cause. They accuse his mom and her sympathizers of (get this)"making the kid a political pawn." What a joke. These people have no shame.

First the kid is no political pawn. He has a vested interest in wanting to grow up in the country in which he is a citizen. He also, it seems ought to have a right to live with his mother the way most kids do. It may not be a Constitutional right, but morally it seems like it should be.

Second, Remember Elian Gonzolez the kid whose mom wanted him to leave Cuba and come to the USA so badly she drowned trying to get him here. Then conservatives used the kid to try to embarrass Clinton and crew? If we weren't using him (and we weren't) then pro immigration forces are not "using" this boy.

Third, every time "conservatives" want to pass some half baked piece of anti-crime or anti-civil rights legislation, they attach a dead child's name to the legislation, parade their grieving families infront of the TV Camera's, and make it impossible for legislators to vote against the bill because it would be seen as a vote against the crime victim whose name the bill carries (Megan's law for example.)

What gets me, is that if this mother had threatened to abort this kid if sent back to Mexico, these same morons would have called for her to be detained and tried to force her to have the baby, just to then deport them. "Have your kid, then raise him in poverty and squalor, so he can grow up with the same lack of opportunity you had." Now that's everymother's dream.

I hear there is a move on to try to convince courts that the children of Illegals are themselves Illegal. That's not what I learned in civics class. The Constitution seems really clear on that:
"all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States."

Of course these guys forget all about strict construction when it doesn't suit them.

Here is the REAL CONSERVATIVE position on Immigration reform. Too bad for the Republicans, the Democrats will get to take credit for passing it.

Oh, and for all you Republicans who ran on your "anti-immigration pro-fence record", hoping that it would get people out to vote for you based on the immigration issue; it worked for me. I voted for a Democrat for Congress for the first time in 25 years. I'm glad you guys lost. I hope you learn from it and get back to representing the majority of Americans and not the cranky few who make all the freaking noise. You know Nixon was far from perfect, but he was right about a silent majority. I think you guys heard them last week... They weren't happy.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Are The Democrats Beckoning Libertarian Republicans?: TalkLeft's Big Tent Democrat Dangles Sen-Elect Tester As A Lure

TalkLeft (TL) is a blog that looks at criminal law thru the eyes of partisan politics. It is a group defense lawyers blog and is typically a heavy liberal slant. In this post Big Tent Democrat (hereinafter BTD, a blogger on TL) writes that Senator Murak O'Bama should not be the point man for bringing back a democrat majority. Instead he points to "conservative" Senator Elect John Tester of Montana as the model of the modern 21 century Democrat. In reviewing Tester's stated platform, (There is the first good thing, they guy actually has annunciated his plan) BTD notes Tester has a decidedly libertarian view. For example this is what he quotes a Tester ad with his views on Criminal law and the War Against Terrorism:

Jon Tester believes in freedom first. Under the PATRIOT Act, the FBI could obtain records on every video you ever rented and every book you ever checked out. They can obtain your bank statements and medical records; they can even keep tabs on our guns. What’s worse is they can request this information for any reason at all, without your knowledge.

Tester believes we should be fighting terrorists, not invading the lives of innocent Americans. In Washington, Tester will fight for more human intelligence, a greater investment in our Special Forces, and closing backdoors to terrorism like the one left open by the Burns-Abramoff immigration policy in the Marianas Islands.

He sounds like a member of the Cato Institute on the issue of Abortion:

We all share the same goal: to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in this country. There are concrete steps we can take to achieve that goal. Jon Tester trusts the women of Montana to make their own medical decisions in consultation with her family, doctor and God. The politicians in Washington shouldn't interfere with this very personal and difficult decision. The decision to have an abortion is a difficult one and it should remain safe, legal, and rare.

While not my view, it is the way that he states it that is important to me. "He trusts the women of Montana to make thier own medical decisions..." The view that the state needs to stay out of most of our personal medical decisions. Further he seems by this statement to favor a view that the states should make the decision and that Washington should not be legislating this stuff for the nation.

Recently I read something about the Democrats as a new home for "classically liberal" (ie libertarian) voters. I have said before that as the Republicans continue their shift toward social and far right Christian value politics, conservatives of the libertarian ilk will begin to stray from the party. Sen. Elect Tester may be proof of that. In fact as BTD suggests he may be the model for which to win back the presidency for the Democrats.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Night Morning: My Take On The National Election

It is almost 2:00AM the day after election day. I am tired having just driven to and from Dannemora to Clinton Prison to see a new client. I would usually do the trip as an overnight but it was last minute and I just did not want to miss voting.

I spent a lot of the day listening to the pundits on Fox and CNN handicap the races nationally. I haven't said much about politics on this blog because it is not the main point of the blog. Mostly "That Lawyer Dude Blog" is about the politics of law. National politics is mentioned only when it has something to do with law. Even then I try to talk about Policy more than Politics. That may change. I haven't decided. This post however is about what I think happened today.

First, the neo-conservative part of the Republican party gave away the House of representatives and probably the United States' Senate (right now Dems lead in Virginia, Missouri, and Montana)and basically have run off almost any moderate or libertarian in their midst's.

The pundits on CNN announced tonight was a big night for the liberals in the Democrat party. They are wrong. In the key races where Republicans were chased by Democrats, the Dems were almost to a man conservatives (as the Democrat party goes) and many of the losing Republican's were either moderates or conservatives with blemished records.

The net result is a more neo-conservative Republican caucus. Nancy Pelosi is the nations first Italian American Speaker of the House of representatives. She is also the first woman. She is liberal from northern California. She was raised by the First Italian American Mayor of Baltimore Md. She is old line Democrat. She is pragmatic. She is going to have to let her new more conservative brethren off the hook on some of the left's issues if they are going to be returned to office.

The Guy who took accused pedophile Mark Foley's seat barely beat Foley! How is going to be expected to hold that seat in two years? Senator-elect Webb from Virginia is a Reagan Republican. He really hasn't left that reservation. He just got sick of the Neo-cons. He will be to Harry Reid as Sam nun was to Tom Daschle...a pain in the ass. If the Republicans are more solidly neo-conservative, the Democrats are more conservative. Where does that leave the liberals? The moderates in the Democrat party, once they get their act together and realize they swing the balance of power, can work with either side to get their agenda passed.

The next two years do not bowed well for getting anything accomplished. George W. Bush is not Ronald Reagan. He does not have his talent for compromise because he is not as pure on the message. He doesn't understand it. He stays the course in a pure fashion, because he cannot figure out what the key principals are that he needs to protect. Hence he presides over a ridiculous deficit and fights a war that has no end in sight. He will have to compromise to accomplish his work. He seems unable to do that. He just doesn't get it.

He is also scared to death of another on soil attack. I am not sure that is political. My cynical friends think he is afraid to be the first president since Madison to be invaded on the mainland. He lives in abject fear of it happening twice on his watch.

I do not ascribe the same motivation to the President. I think he very much can not bear to see us lose anymore innocent lives in the USA. I think he is worried about our safety. He just doesn't understand that a real American knows that you cannot beat us, until you take away our freedom. Our freedoms make it impossible for the enemy to beat us. If Bush understood the eke points of American History, there would be no "Patriot" act. No Boarder Fence, no Torture program and no NSA Domestic spying. He would understand that trying to protect us by giving away our freedom neither makes us safe or free. That is the problem with the Neo-cons. They do not understand the basic tenants of our History. And that is why they lost the house. It is a major reason why they may lose the Presidency too. If the Neo-cons want some success, they will drop the more draconian demands of the Christian right (which is neither Christian or right) and coax the libertarian conservatives back into the fold.

Stop with the gay marriage amendments, and the stem cell research bans. Let Rumsfeld resign and go to Georgetown to live out his days. Concentrate on reducing the size of the budget and focus some tax cuts on people making Fifty to Two Hundred Thousand Dollars a year. Give Parents a real tax reduction for paying tuition, and cut some of the fat in the budget. (Start at Main Justice. If you guys would stop taking state crimes and federalizing them you could probably cut the size of the AG's office by more than half.)

The chances that debate in this nation is going to get any less polarized in the foreseeable future is slim or none.

One last note. To those that lost in their attempt to keep their House or Senate seats, Thank you for your service to our Country. To those who won seats... May God Spead you to safety. To those that ran and lost, never give up. And to you that voted, Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.