Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Appellate Lawyer of the Week: Eric Schnapper, University of Washington Law School

The National Law Journal's website features Appellate Lawyer of the Week: Eric Schnapper, University of Washington Law School, Oct. 27, 2010. Prof. Schnapper, a veteran of Supreme Court practice, has three oral arguments coming up.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Free CLE on Wrongful Convictions

Friday Oct. 29, the UW School of Law presents a free CLE, Justice for Washington's Wrongly Convicted? The registration page says that the deadline for signing up was yesterday, but I'm told that there's still room. I'll be there -- will you?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Boys accused of violent robbery on bus may not be tried

Boys accused of violent robbery on bus may not be tried, Seattle Times, Oct. 25, 2010.

Two young boys accused of a violent robbery aboard a Metro Transit bus two months ago remain jailed — although it's still unclear whether either will face prosecution.

Because the boys are 10 and 11, King County prosecutors have to prove in court that they have the intellectual, moral and psychological development to fully understand the crime they're accused of committing. Before that determination can be made, their defense attorneys are collecting evidence, including having the boys meet with mental-health professionals, aimed at proving they are too young to be prosecuted.

County official pulled thousands of elderly residents from jury summons pool

County official pulled thousands of elderly residents from jury summons pool, The Daily News (Longview), Oct. 23, 2010.

An employee in the Cowlitz County Superior Court Clerk's office has been purging the names of people 80 and older from the local jury pool, raising questions about the fairness of recent trials, county officials said Friday.

The news has prompted the delay of several trials — including a murder trial - until authorities are sure that the jury pool has been restored to a full list of eligible jurors, the officials said.

Begining in July, the jury management clerk, Sue Anderson, removed the names from a master list of potential jurors in an effort to save money, officials said. But in doing so, she violated a key [tenet] of the justice system: that defendants are entitled to a trial by jury of their peers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Justice for Washington's Wrongly Convicted?

The University of Washington School of Law is presenting a half-day program on wrongful convictions and the prospect of compensation for the exonerated. Justice for Washington's Wrongly Accused? will take place Fri., Oct. 29, 2010, 1:30-5:00 p.m.

Jack Hamann, author of On American Soil: How Justice Became a Casualty of World War II, is the keynote speaker, followed by Lara Zarowsky, policy staff attorney, Innocence Project Northwest, and a panel of three Washington who were exonerated after being imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

The program has been approved for 2.75 CLE credits. It is free, but registration is required.

Judge and Parties OK with the Juror's Blog

A juror in Queens blogged about his experience, from waiting in the jury room, through the trial. Prof. John Clark, who teaches criminal justice at the Univ. of Texas at Tyler, came across the blog and alerted the court.A Juror’s Blog Chronicle Stirs an Age-Old Question, N.Y. Times, Oct. 17, 2010.

To Professor Clark, Mr. Slutsky’s blog posts clearly "crossed the line."

Jurors are not allowed to talk to one another about the case, "much less go on the World Wide Web and discuss it with everybody," he said.

No one involved in the case — the judge, the lawyers, the parties or Mr. Slutsky himself — found Mr. Slutsky’s blog entries troubling.

"I didn’t do anything wrong," said Mr. Slutsky, 61, of Flushing. "I didn’t blog about the actual case, just about the jury process. I specifically said in my blog that I’m not allowed to talk about the case."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Trial Tip from History (Lady Chatterly's Lover Trial, 1960)

We're coming up on the 50th anniversary of the trial of Penguin Books for publishing Lady Chatterly's Lover.

The prosecutor was Mervyn Griffith-Jones.

In his opening statement, he tried to defuse the antiquated impression he must have realized he made [in his wig and gown], assuring the jury they were not being asked to "approach this matter in any priggish, high-minded, super-correct, mid-Victorian manner."

He went on to pose a series of rhetorical questions, the last of which, in the judgment of many commentators, doomed his case. Supporting this judgment is a document the defense had prepared, now in the Penguin archives. It is a list of the members of the jury and alternates, including their occupations. Among them were driver, cabinet fitter, dock laborer, teacher, dress machinist, none, housewife, butcher, and timber salesman. It is amusing to imagine the reaction of, say, Robert F. Bowman, the driver, as Griffith-Jones asked his questions:

"Would you approve of your young sons, young daughters -- because girls can read as well as boys -- reading this book? Is it a book you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?"

There was a titter in the courtroom, immediately silenced by the judge.
Tip: If you're trying to seem like a regular bloke, it's best not to assume that everyone has servants.

The trial, in late October and early November 1960, included testimony by writers, professors, ministers, and others. On November 4, the jury took just three hours to return a verdict of not guilty and the book sold briskly. This victory for the publisher "did not mark an immediate end of literary censorship in Britain" - but the climate changed soon after. Ben Yagoda recounts this historic trial in Trial and Eros, Am. Scholar, Autumn 2010.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Litigation Not Just About Winning

Jules Lobel (Univ. of Pittsburgh and Center for Constitutional Rights) spoke yesterday afternoon on "Success Without Victory: Progressive Lawyering in an Era of Judicial Conservatism." He discussed not only his own career as a public interest lawyer but also the longer reach of history. Salmon P. Chase lost his cases on behalf of fugitive slaves before the Civil War, but the cases drew attention to the unjust situation and his arguments were published and circulated widely by abolitionists. Susan B. Anthony lost her case arguing for women's right to vote, but publicized her cause. Lobel says public interest lawyers should certainly try to win cases, but invites us to think beyond the outcome of any one case.

For more, see Jules Lobel, Success Without Victory Lost Legal Battles and the Long Road to Justice in America, K184 .L63 2003 at Classified Stacks. The publisher's description is here.

You might also be interested in this book Lobel edited: A Less Than Perfect Union: Alternative Perspectives on the U.S. Constitution, KF4550.A2 L47 1988 at Classified Stacks.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Social Media in Court

The Conference of Court Information Officers conducted a nationwide study of how social media affects the administration of justice: New Media and the Courts: The Current Status and a Look at the Future (Aug. 26, 2010). It discusses these media:

  • social media profile sites (Facebook, Myspace, et al.)
  • microblogging (e.g., Twitter)
  • smart phones, tablets, and notebooks
  • monitoring and metrics
  • news sharing (blogs, RSS feeds, etc.)
  • visual media sharing (YouTube, Flickr, etc.)
  • wikis

Some of the findings (lifted from the executive summary, pp. 9-10):

  • About 40 percent of responding judges reported they are on social media profile sites, the majority of these on Facebook. This is almost identical to the percentage of the adult U.S. population using these sites.

  • Judges who are appointed and do not stand for re-election were much less likely to be on social media profile sites. About 9 percent from non-elected jurisdictions reported they were on these sites.

  • Nearly half of judges (47.8 percent) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement "Judges can use social media profile sites, such as Facebook, in their professional lives without compromising professional conduct codes of ethics."

  • Judges appear to be more comfortable with using these sites in their personal lives, . . .

  • More than half (56 percent) of judges report routine juror instructions that include some component about new media use during the trial.

  • A very small fraction of courts (6.7 percent) currently have social media profile sites like Facebook; 7 percent use microblogging sites like Twitter; and 3.2 percent use visual media sharing sites like YouTube.

  • A smaller proportion of judges than might be expected (9.8 percent) reported
    witnessing jurors using social media profile sites, microblogging sites, or smart
    phones, tablets or notebooks in the courtroom.

  • Almost all (97.6 percent) respondents agree that judges and court employees should be educated about appropriate new media use and practices.

Prof. Anita Ramasastry has written commentaries on Findlaw about many aspects of social media in the courts: