October 27, 2008

The Justice Society Gets Creative

The U.S. legal system can take some unexpected twists. For example, in California, U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper just took away a logo from the Mongols. (They're a motorcycle gang.)

Cooper granted an injunction disallowing gang members from wearing or distributing the Mongols' logo, and the government can now seize ANYTHING with the trademark. And the odd legality is that the U.S. government assumes control of the logo. So while Mongols can’t wear or fly their own symbol, anyone else can.
But since this is part of a nationwide crackdown on the Mongols for charges like murder, torture, and drug trafficking, it's hard to imagine a citizen hazarding a legal but foolhardy foray into Mongol biker gear.

Legal Loop II: A New York Times article about North Carolina lawyer Staple Hughes related that in the 1980s, he represented Jerry Cashwell, a man who privately admitted to Hughes that he had committed murder alone.
This was important because another man, Lee Hunt, was wrongly sentenced to life in prison for these very murders. At the time, Hughes could not tell anyone that he knew this was unjust imprisonment. A lawyer is required to keep a client’s secrets secret, even if it means that someone innocent goes to jail.

But in 2008, Hughes couldn't carry the truth around anymore. Jerry Cashwell—his original, murdering client—was dead, and the innocent Lee Hunt had spent 26 years behind bars. So Hughes tried to share what he knew. But no one wanted to hear it!

In fact, a judge ordered Hughes NOT to testify to what he knew. But Hughes did anyway, and for that, he was reported to his state bar and given a disciplinary complaint for professional misconduct. Experts in “legal ethics” agree that Hughes should've spoken up only if Lee Hunt was going to be executed for the crime he didn’t commit. Life behind bars? Deal with it. (Massachusetts is the only state that would have allowed Staple’s testimony.)

Last Legal Loop: When a certain executive candidate was recently asked to name a disagreeable Supreme Court decision, the candidate in question froze up. It must have been a lonely feeling. It was so uncomfortable to watch, many viewers wished they could help out by whispering an answer.

We weren't alone: A recent survey of professors of constitutional law and other court experts came up with plenty of controversial Supreme Court decisions to choose from. Many experts agreed that one of the all-time worst Supreme Court decisions was the relatively forgotten one of San Antonio School District vs. Rodriquez.

In 1973, the Supreme Court reached a 5-4 ruling held that education was NOT a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. The court also found that that funding differences between rich and poor school districts did not violate "equal protection of the laws.” (The kookiness of that ruling makes taking ownership of a motorcycle gang's logo seem rather... pedestrian in comparison!)

No comments: