Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hearsay 101

The experienced criminal defense lawyer’s worst nightmare is having a great case with great evidence of innocence, and then being shut down by the trial judge who won’t let you present that evidence to the jury.  (Inexperienced criminal defense lawyers, on the other hand, don’t yet have this fear; they still operate under the assumption that judges will know and follow the law.)  The single biggest source of this fear is judicial misunderstanding of the hearsay rule, which was on full display in State v. Prineas

Drugs: Another failed war

The thing about wars is that you need enemies in order to have them.  But what if you don’t have any enemies?  No worries; you can just make them up.  That’s what New York police did so they could wage their war on drugs.  Their first tactic was nothing new: they simply stole drugs from real drug busts and then planted those drugs on innocent people.  This helped them make their arrest quotas and kept their war on drugs going.  But their second tactic was a little more creative.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Judges-gone-wild, part 2: The Supreme Court version

Yours truly with Justice David Prosser in 1999.
Judicial shenanigans aren’t limited to circuit court judges; even our lofty Wisconsin supreme court justices have jumped into the act.  While The Dog was on hiatus, journalists reported that Justice David Prosser and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley engaged in a heated debate that, by all accounts, turned physical.  Some who witnessed the throw-down said that Prosser aggressively put his hands around Bradley’s neck, while others reported that Bradley first charged Prosser, causing him to react.  In any case, I have no intention of rehashing what did or didn’t happen, or even discussing the negative effect this incident had on an already battered judiciary.  (The Trial Lawyer magazine [Fall, 2011] has already captured the popular view of this incident: “[Prosser is] certainly a hero to all of the shirtless, beer-swilling, wife-beating men living in trailers across America.  Maybe they too can be elected to Wisconsin’s high court!”)  Instead, what caught my eye were some post-incident acts and comments by the justices that call into question their basic knowledge of the law.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Judges-gone-wild, part I: The circuit court version

On the topic of misbehaving judges, I have to begin with circuit court judge Linda Van De Water.  But I must admit that I have a soft spot for this judge.  After all, it was her outrageous behavior on the bench that motivated me to start The Legal Watchdog about one year ago.  (You can read The Dog’s inaugural post, here.)  And after that, her honor turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving.  Soon she was charged with her own crime for allegedly storming a residential neighborhood in her pajama bottoms, screaming, jumping on moving cars, and chasing down her ex-boyfriend who had, to her honor’s dismay, moved on to another relationship.  So, whatever happened in her criminal case?

The Dog’s hiatus is over

Photo by Amy Kushner
My second book, Tried and Convicted: How Police, Prosecutors, and Judges Destroy Our Constitutional Rights, is now complete and in the hands of the editors at Rowman & Littlefield, with an expected publication date of September 2012.  I am therefore freed up—at least temporarily—to return to work at The Legal Watchdog for some judge-bashing blog posts.  And it turns out there is plenty of bashing to do.  Several Wisconsin judges have been behaving badly lately and, even worse, they’ve been getting away with it.  Please enjoy the two-part “Judges-Gone-Wild,” with part one following soon after this post.