Thursday, December 31, 2015

Coloring books, case law, and the Devil’s Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce
In my second book, Tried and Convicted: How Police, Prosecutors, and Judges Destroy Our Constitutional Rights (Rowman & Littlefield), I discussed how the police indoctrinate kids at a young age through “Deputy Friendly.”  The good deputy’s message is clear: the police are your friends and they’re here to help.  Conversely, I lamented, early education excludes anything that runs contrary to that pro-government theme.  If you doubt that, try to imagine anyone teaching young people about how the police are permitted to lie to us, how we have the right to tell them to “pound sand” when they want us to talk, and how we can demand the presence of an attorney to gum-up the government machinery.  (Hard to visualize such an education, isn’t it?)  But as successful as Deputy Friendly has been indoctrinating America’s youth, I think the judiciary has just topped him with the publication of Learning about Judges: A Coloring Book.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

When Ethics Rules Attack: A Real-Life Example

I recently published an article criticizing ethics rule 1.9(c), and also filed a petition and memorandum (coauthored with Terry Rose) asking our state supreme court to change the rule.  The rule, which prevents attorneys from discussing even public aspects of their closed cases, not only violates our right of free political speech, but is an absolute disaster on every imaginable level.  I wrote in the article that the rule is nonsensical and indecipherable, leaving us lawyers at the mercy and whims of anti-lawyer bar associations and regulators. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Changing Rule 1.9

Current state of attorney free speech
There's been some progress on our petition to modify Wisconsin's SCR 1.9 (c), the rule that prevents attorneys from talking about even the public aspects of their closed cases.  In a nutshell, Terry Rose and I are trying to restore some sanity to the situation.  We are asking the supreme court to define "generally known" to include information that is publicly available or has been disclosed in a public forum, and further to recognize that, by definition, generally known information has already been "revealed."

Friday, November 6, 2015

Hiatus

Sorry for the lull in the posts.  I've got about ten good topics lined up in the writing queue, but they're all going to have to wait.  Even though Knightly is currently resting up, I've been working on a new project with coauthor Larry White.  More specifically, many Wisconsin criminal defense lawyers have lamented that our state's burden of proof instruction allows conviction with far less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. (I've always thought that the prosecutor's burden in our state was more like a preponderance of the evidence standard.)  So our new study and soon-to-be law review article tested that hypothesis.  And sure enough, mock jurors that were given the Wisconsin jury instruction convicted at a much higher, statistically significant rate than did mock jurors given a straight reasonable doubt instruction.  We plan to start submitting the article for publication to journals in February, and, historically, I've received offers on my articles by mid-March if not sooner.  Hopefully at that time the publishing journal will let us post a pre-publication version of the article to SSRN.  This should give defense lawyers some ammunition when filing pretrial motions to modify Wisconsin's burden of proof instruction.  Ultimately, the article should convince our jury instruction committee to modify Wisconsin's instruction to the constitutionally guaranteed beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard.  Stay tuned!  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Free speech today [Updated]

Many people — especially people at colleges and universities — have come to believe they have a right not to be offended.  The only explanation for this oversensitivity is the complete misunderstanding of the First Amendment.  (Click here for a First Amendment primer.)  This is particularly obvious when someone claims that another person’s speech isn’t free speech, but offensive speech.  Of course, the First Amendment protects offensive speech.  And, as a practical matter, if the speech weren’t offensive, it probably wouldn’t need constitutional protection in the first place.  The most recent incident of this came when a college newspaper published an op-ed questioning whether the tactics of a particular political movement were really effective.  What followed after the publication of the “controversial” essay was predictable: offense was taken; outrage was expressed; punishment was demanded; apologies were issued; and, likely, the college newspaper has learned not to publish any articles that express a contrarian viewpoint or question today’s politically correct stances.  But how did we become such a bunch of spineless, mealy-mouthed worms who insist that free speech has to take a backseat to our imagined right not to be offended?  Ken White at Popehat explains how this happened in his post titled “Safe Spaces” and the Mote in America’s Eye.  The post is also filled with links to numerous other posts, essays, and related works — a must read for anyone interested in the current state of free speech.  In sum, there is a real risk that the First Amendment, at least in some settings, will soon go the way of the Fourth Amendment — so enjoy this constitutional right while it lasts.  [UPDATE: Richard Dawkins on free speech on campuses, here.]

Monday, September 28, 2015

Citizenfour

In her Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour, Laura Poitras exposes the extent and impact of our government’s domestic spying operations.  Her documentary focuses on Edward Snowden, and includes many of the things you’d expect to see in great filmmaking.  For example, there is the early congressional testimony of an NSA bureaucrat who repeatedly denied that the government intercepts our emails, phone calls, texts, and google searches.  But later, another NSA bureaucrat testified and tried to spin it: The NSA does not intercept such data “wittingly.”  It does so “inadvertently, perhaps,” but not “wittingly.”  (This type of statement makes the testimony of cigarette company executives — “I believe that nicotine is not addictive” — appear truthful by comparison.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Race matters in eyewitness identifications

By now, most people have seen the video of former professional tennis player James Blake being roughed up by a New York cop in a case of mistaken identification.  (If you’re familiar with names like Agassi, Sampras, and Federer but haven’t heard of Blake, the guy was not a superstar but he was legit; he earned more than $1 million in prize money alone in 2008.)  And once this video surfaced, several worthwhile issues have been raised, including police brutality, police cover-ups, and disparate treatment of minorities.  But two topics have largely been glossed over.

Monday, August 24, 2015

How stupid is “the market”?

Few things are as annoying as a business analyst talking about the stock market like it’s a human being.  “The market reacted to this,” or “the market doesn’t like that.”  In reality, such statements are just after-the-fact attempts to make sense of irrational price movements.  But let’s play along.  Let’s assume that the stock market’s movements do have rational explanations.  And today, after a week of price declines totaling about ten percent of market value, almost all of the talking heads agree: the cause is the ongoing collapse of China’s economy, which hurts even U.S. stocks in our “interconnected world.”  Okay, good enough.  But this explanation, in turn, leads to another question: How stupid is the market?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Seneca on judges (and a 2,000 year-old practice tip for defense lawyers)

I’ve written numerous times how judges often fail to grasp even the most basic legal principles — including, for example, the concept of hearsay.  (See here, here, and here for just a few of those posts.)  This is incredibly frustrating for defense lawyers who go to trial intending to put on evidence in defense of their clients.  But there’s good news.  A Stoic philosopher named Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 bc – 65 ad) offers some advice for the criminal defense lawyer.  This advice will certainly help us keep our composure in court, and might even increase our odds of successfully educating the judge — though educating the prosecutor, who typically raises the inappropriate objection to our evidence in the first place, may be beyond hope.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tom Brady, Deflate-Gate, and the Criminal Justice System

Photo by Jeffrey Beall
One of my favorite bloggers, Paul Campos, recently studied the transcript of deflate-gate and concluded that “The NFL’s case against Brady is a joke.”  I don’t doubt his claim for a minute; in fact, it’s what I suspected from the get-go.  (Who the hell would want to play with an under-inflated football anyway?  Not Tom Brady.  See p. 50 of the transcript.)  But that’s not the point of this post.  Rather, my point is that Campos’s observations about due process in the Brady case are also relevant to defendants charged with crimes.  For example:

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Swim with the Sharks

I don’t mind admitting that Shark Tank is flat-out addictive.  Essentially, five “sharks” — billionaires or multimillionaires looking to invest money — listen to pitches from entrepreneurs seeking capital for their businesses.  Sometimes the entrepreneurs’ ideas are so bad that the sharks will ridicule these people to the point of making them cry.  Other times, the business ideas have such profit potential that the sharks will fight each other for an ownership stake in the entrepreneur’s company.  Yes, I love Shark Tank, but probably not for the reason I’m supposed to. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Podcast: Episode 11: The Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel

Welcome to episode eleven of The Legal Watchdog Podcast.

In this episode we discuss the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the case of State v. Delebreau.  Essentially, this constitutional right has been wiped from Wisconsin's history and has been merged with the Fifth Amendment right to counsel.  We discuss this unfortunate development, as well as how difficult it is to actually invoke your right to silence or your right to counsel under the Fifth Amendment.  (For more on that see pp. 922 - 925 of this article.)

Amy and Matt also do intense battle over an innocent Game of Thrones disclosure.  Don't worry, there are no actual spoilers involved, so fans of that show -- I actually thought it was a video game -- can still listen freely.  

To meet your podcast hosts, click here.

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Rational") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:

Friday, June 5, 2015

Podcast: Episode 10: The Preliminary Hearing: To Waive or Not to Waive?

Welcome to our tenth episode of The Legal Watchdog podcast.

In today's podcast we discuss the preliminary hearing in criminal cases in Wisconsin.  While the decision whether to waive or have the preliminary hearing rests with the defendant, we discuss the thought process that goes into the defense lawyer's recommendations on this point.  We also consider the limited benefits of having the hearing, as well as two serious but often overlooked risks of having the hearing.  The case that gave us the idea for this episode is State v. Hull, where the state was allowed to use hearsay at the defendant's prelim, and the defendant was prevented from calling a witness in his own defense.  During the podcast we also discuss the problematic case of State v. Stuart.

Toward the end of the episode when Matt gets out of line, as is his custom, Amy is forced once again to threaten both the stun belt and the restraint chair.

To meet your podcast hosts, click here

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Murgatroyd") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:


Friday, May 15, 2015

Podcast: Episode 9: "I didn't do it, but I know who did"

Welcome to episode nine of The Legal Watchdog Podcast.

So you're charged with a crime and you didn't do it, but you know who did -- and you can't wait to tell the jury about it.  Not so fast.  In this podcast, we discuss State v. General Grant Wilson, where the court shut down the defendant's "wrong person defense," a/k/a "third party defense."  We discuss how difficult it is for a defendant to introduce evidence that another party committed the crime -- after all, police and prosecutors always get the right guy -- and in the second half of the podcast we discuss my article, An Alternative to the Wrong-Person Defense.  

To meet your podcast hosts, click here.

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Rational") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Podcast: Episode 8: Reversed and Remanded?

In today's podcast we discuss two cases, State v. Harrison, Jr., and State v. Coleman.  In both cases, a child accused the defendant of sexual assault.  In both cases, there was no physical evidence.  In both cases, there were no eyewitnesses.  In both cases, the child couldn't keep the story straight.  In both cases, the defense lawyer didn't thoroughly cross-examine the child-accuser.  And in both cases, the jury convicted the defendant.

But that's where the similarities end.  In Harrison, the District III Court of Appeals simply dispensed with the defendant's appeal via a conclusory, four-page decision that barely discussed any of the facts or cited any law.  It's probably the thinnest appellate court decision in the history of appellate court decisions.  But in Coleman, the District I Court of Appeals issued a detailed and thorough twenty-page majority decision that reversed the conviction and remanded the case for a new trial.  We try to figure out why these two defendants got such dramatically different treatment from the courts.

Also, there's some new stuff in the podcast.  First, we have new intermission music, again courtesy of David Pizarro (see below).  And second, in her ongoing effort to keep Matt in line, Amy abandons the traditional "stun belt" and instead implements the use of a "restraint chair."  Listen to the podcast to see if it works.

To meet your podcast hosts, click here

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Redd") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Podcast: Episode 7: Trial potpourri, flipping the bird, and Dick Cheney

Welcome to episode seven of The Legal Watchdog Podcast.

In today's podcast we discuss a number of trial related issues, ranging from the composition of the jury to your right to have your attorney in the court room during trial. (Spoiler alert: your attorney doesn't always have to be awake, or even present in court, during trial.)  The main cases for our discussion are State v. Robinson and Woods v. Donald.

Our apologies to the southern judiciary.  One of our topics in this podcast was the Batson challenge during jury selection.  And we went off on a tangent to discuss the case of Walker v. Girdich, where the trial judge held that the prosecutor's striking a juror because he was "a black man" was a race-neutral, and therefore acceptable, reason. And our first guess was that this was a case from the southern judiciary, but it was not.  It was a case from the allegedly politically liberal New York judiciary.  (As I've written before, there is no relationship between political affiliation and the respect for individual rights, and this is yet another example.)  In any case, kudos to the Second Circuit -- which covers Connecticut, New York, and Vermont -- for the reversal. 

Our apologies also go out to Dick Cheney.  You were a vice president -- and an especially influential one at that -- so I should have known that your first name was Dick, not Don.  (Though I did accurately peg you as an avid, but not necessarily an accurate, hunter.)  And this leads to my final apology: the former Temple basketball coach was John Chaney, not Don Chaney.  I have no knowledge of whether John Chaney liked to hunt and, if he did, whether he was a more accurate shot than Dick Cheney.

To meet your podcast hosts, click here

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Murgatroyd") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:


Friday, March 27, 2015

Podcast: Episode 6: The Alibi Defense

Welcome to episode six of The Legal Watchdog Podcast.

In the first part of the podcast we briefly discuss State v. Hackel, a case about jury selection gone wrong.  In the second part, we dive into State v. Copeland, a case about the alibi defense.  What exactly is an alibi defense?  Who decides whether to use it, the defendant or the defense lawyer?  And can the defense lawyer withdraw the defense when he has reason to believe the entire thing will blow up in the defendant's face?

To meet your podcast hosts, click here.

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Rational") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Podcast: Episode 5: The Right to Testify

Welcome to episode five of The Legal Watchdog Podcast.

In today's podcast we discuss a criminal defendant's right to testify at his own trial.  Surprisingly -- or, for regular listeners and readers of The Dog, perhaps not so surprisingly -- this right is as easily violated as many of our other constitutional rights.  

We spend the entire podcast discussing a single case: State v. Anthony.  (However, near the end of the podcast, Matt does recite some very impressive and important language from another case, Wright v. Estelle.)

To meet your podcast hosts, click here.

This podcast is not legal advice.  Please read our full disclaimer on the right-hand side of the blog, or on the "About the Podcast" page, above.    

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Murgatroyd") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:


Saturday, February 28, 2015

State Bar and Public Defender Bureaucracies: Obvious Conflicts of Interest?

Throughout my legal career — including at Quarles & Brady, as a solo practitioner, and especially as a writer — I’ve pondered a wide variety of “conflict of interest” scenarios.  And while attorneys are conditioned to run scared from any situation that could conceivably be construed as a conflict, there are two huge conflicts of interest sitting right under our noses.  First, let’s begin with state bar associations.

The mandatory, integrated state bar is such an obvious conflict that it needs little explanation.  In a nutshell, the bar forces attorneys to become members, takes their dues money, and then actively works for “the public” and against its membership.  Some state bar associations still pretend to serve their membership, when actually they are nothing more than Great Public Protection Perpetual Motion Machines: “The [attorney] members of the State Bar might still be stakeholders in the discipline system but that stake has shrunk to the size of the steak you order in a trendy restaurant, the one hiding under a stalk of asparagus.”  But as the Irreverent Lawyer informs us, some state bars might do away with this pretense altogether.  The State Bar of Arizona, for example, proposes clarifying the issue as follows: You, attorney, must join our ranks and pay your annual dues, and we will serve you only if it doesn’t conflict with our “mission . . . primarily to protect and to serve the public[.]”  (For all of the Irreverent Lawyer’s posts on “your friendly state bar,” click here.)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Podcast: Episode 4: Liar Liar

Welcome to episode four of The Legal Watchdog Podcast.

In part one we discuss the case of State v. Charles C.S., Jr., where the appellate court lowers the boom on a cop who gave false testimony and the prosecutor who let it happen.  For the first (and possibly last) time ever, Cicchini has some sympathy for the prosecutor.  Perz and Kushner, on the other hand, remind him of the prosecutor's "minister of justice" role and are quite pleased with the force of the court's scolding.

In part two we once again discuss free speech and the Madison, Wisconsin "sing-along" protests -- this time State v. Gruber.  Unlike State v. Crute, though, the government charged Gruber with disorderly conduct -- something we wondered about in our earlier sing-along podcast debate.

To meet your podcast hosts, click here.

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Rational") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:


Monday, February 9, 2015

A new feature on The Dog

Check out the right side of the blog under "Labels," and now you can find blog posts organized by topic!  (The labels list doesn't include all topics; for example, the odd posts on college sports or science are not included, but you can still find those by scrolling through the blog or by searching on Google.)  Just click on the topic of interest, e.g., "Legal education," and all of those posts will appear.  This organization scheme isn't perfect, but it's a nice way to narrow down the old posts to try and find what you're looking for.  And if you want all of the podcast episodes, you can click the "Podcast" label, or just click the picture of the microphone, right about the list of labels.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Podcast: Episode 3: The sing-along

Welcome to episode three of The Legal Watchdog Podcast.

In part one we discuss a criminal defendant's right to file a substitution against the judge assigned to his case -- and the trial judge that wouldn't let him do it.  The case is State v. Harrison.  We had no choice but to analogize to Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Doppelgangland episode, though I think Matt might have been a bit lost in that part of the discussion.

In part two we discuss free speech and the Madison, Wisconsin "sing-along" protests.  (On this topic, Matt redeems himself.)  Learn how "The Man" tried to silence the citizenry, and why it didn't work, in State v. Crute.  (And for anyone interested in free speech issues on our college campuses, check out the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.  Spoiler alert: academic bureaucracies don't like free speech and will go to great lengths to silence students and professors.)

To meet your podcast hosts, click here.

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Murgatroyd") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

Finally, here is the podcast:

Monday, February 2, 2015

Knock-knock game replaces warrant requirement

I don’t know how, logistically, this would work, but someone needs to put the Fourth Amendment out of its misery.  Actually, it’s too late for that.  It is already dead.  We just need to bury it and quit talking about it as if it still exists. 

I’ve been down this road before, but let’s briefly recap.  Assume the police believe that you smoked pot in your home, or possessed a medication that wasn’t prescribed to you, or visited an illegal website from your computer, or owned a pornographic video to which a child was exposed, etc.  Further assume the police claim their belief is based on “probable cause” (e.g., an accusation by your neighbor that he smelled pot smoke coming from your apartment, an accusation by your kid’s friend that he saw “naked people” on your TV when he slept over, etc.). 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Podcast: Episode 2: Your home is your castle (unless you rent)

Welcome to episode two of The Legal Watchdog Podcast!

In part one of the podcast we discuss the fourth amendment and your right to privacy in your own home and its attached garage.  Spoiler alert: if you live in an apartment or condo, the news is not good!  If you want to read the case before listening to the podcast, you can find it here: State v. Dumstrey.

In part two of the podcast we discuss the community caretaker exception to the fourth amendment.  If you want to read that case, you can find it here: State v. Matalonis.

To meet your podcast hosts, click here.

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our cool intermission song ("Murgatroyd") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  To hear more of David's music, you can listen to his philosophy-psychology podcast Very Bad Wizards, or go directly to his SoundCloud page.

This podcast is not legal advice.  Read our full disclaimer to the right, or above (click here).

Finally, here is the podcast:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

False confessions

Dr. Larry White, my coauthor on two articles and a psychology professor at Beloit College, recently gave a great presentation on false confessions.  The presentation should appear below; if it doesn't, you can find it on Youtube by clicking here.  You can also click these links for our article on Miranda and our article on false confessions.  (Click this link for my solo article on Miranda.)


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Podcast: Episode 1: "Ignorance of the Law"

Welcome to the first episode of The Legal Watchdog Podcast!  In the first half of the podcast we discuss two Fourth Amendment cases.  If you want to read up (so you know what we're talking about and can post comments correcting or criticizing us), you can find the cases at these links:

Heien v. North Carolina  and

State v. Cobbs.

And here's an article (as promised in the podcast) that makes the distinction between the Fourth Amendment (the right) and the exclusion of evidence (the remedy):  An Economics Perspective on the Exclusionary Rule and Deterrence.

In part two of the podcast, we discuss 2014's two Wisconsin expunction cases.  You can find the cases at these links:

State v. Hemp (Hemp I) and

State v. Hemp (Hemp II).

Our funky, jazzy theme song ("Cold Hurt") and our hip-hoppy intermission song ("Rational") were generously provided by David Pizarro.  You can find all of David's music at SoundCloud.

And finally, here is the podcast:


Monday, January 5, 2015

Expunction junction, what’s your function?

There were two Wisconsin cases this past year – Hemp I and Hemp II – on expunction of criminal records for young people convicted of relatively minor crimes.  Aside from the substance of those cases, Hemp II may have put to bed a debate that my colleague Terry Rose and I were having against the director of state courts back in 2010.  In a nutshell, the director put out a pamphlet stating that, even after expunction, “If you are asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime, such as on a job application, you must answer ‘Yes.’ ”  We disagreed.

Friday, January 2, 2015

"Invisible airwaves crackle with life"

Coming soon, to an air wave near you: The Legal Watchdog podcast!  We hope to have our first episode posted on the blog sometime on January 6th (barring technological issues beyond my already limited capabilities and control).  To learn more about the podcast, go to the "about the podcast" page, above.  To learn about your podcast hosts, go to the "about your hosts" page, also above.  And then check back here on January 6th!