The three R's: writing and rock'n'roll
It's the Friday odds and ends column, of course, as we scan the globe for... well, whatever. And I do mean the globe. Got a hit on my blog yesterday from someone in Israel, who had Googled the phrase, "fruit of the poisonous tree." Not sure if he was researching the legal doctrine or the religious doctrine; if the latter, he was disappointed.
Came across an interesting decision out of the Federal Court in Massachusetts. As many of you probably know, there's a Federal law which requires anyone convicted of a Federal felony (and certain other crimes) to give a sample of his blood to be stored in a DNA databank. The defendant, who'd been convicted of social security fraud, objected, and the court agreed that this violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The opinion, which can be found here, is a long read -- almost 50 pages -- but it's a masterful job, analyzing the issue from the historical perspective of the British general Writs of Assistance, which, as the name indicates, allowed general searches, and were the major impetus for our own Fourth Amendment's command that warrants "particularly describe the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized." Here's one of the final paragraphs of the opinion:
But the tapestry of constitutional protections that cover all Americans is woven with long threads, each section and each pattern revealing of the integrity of the whole. This holding seeks not to mend this fabric, but to preserve it. To preserve it, most directly, for the unsympathetic probationer who, despite a transgression against the law and against society, is now released to and embraced by that same law and that same society to the full extent reasonably possible. It is also preserved indirectly and with greater resonance for those who remain untouched by this individual invasion, but who suffer the collective erosion of their protection against arbitrary state action.
I'm not going to get into whether the judge was right or wrong, because there are arguments to be made on both sides, but damn, that's some good writing. I've been doing this blog for almost eight months now. I've read probably a hundred or so court decisions in that time, and skimmed God knows how many more, and it's a real pleasure to come across a decision which doesn't lapse into dry legal-speak.
Speaking of good writing, Kent Sheidegger over at Crime and Consequences took a look on Tuesday at Burton v. Stewart, the case pending before the US Supreme Court on whether Blakeley is cognizable on habeas corpus, and argued that it was the worst possible case for resolving that issue, because there are some monumental jurisdictional and factual issues that the Court would have to ignore before even reaching the question. As Schiedegger put it,
Out of all the salmon swimming up Blakely River, why pick the one that's lying on its side gasping?
As someone once said, a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a meta for? And yesterday, the Supreme Court kicked Burton out on technical issues.
A case that will make it to the Supreme Court soon is the constitutionality of several new state laws which impose the death penalty for child molestation. The ABA Journal takes a look at Louisiana's law, and the constitutional issues, here.
If you're contemplating a career change, you might want to check out the five law firms that managed to win a spot on Forbes Magazine's list of the 100 best companies to work for. At Perkins Coie, a firm specializing in international law, "each office has it own 'happiness committee' that surprises attorneys and staff with spontaneous celebrations on Cinco de Mayo or Mardi Gras." On the other hand, if you'd rather take the money and run, fax your resume to Nixon Peabody, which made the list because of its high rates of compensation: the average associate makes $181,000.
Finally, if you're an aging boomer like me with a fondness for that old-time rock'n'roll, head over to Wolfgang's Concert Vault. Once you register at the site (all you need is an email address), you get access to some 330 concerts from back in the 60's and 70's, which you can stream to your computer. (High bandwidth is pretty much of a necessity). As I'm writing this, I'm listening to the concert by Derek and the Dominos at the Fillmore East in October of 1970. Let me tell you, if listening to Eric Clapton and the boys jam doesn't get you moving, call the morgue, because you're dead. The best thing is you don't need to be an associate at Nixon Peabody to enjoy it: it's free.
Catch you next week.