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Thursday Roundup

Yeah, it's a day early; usually, by the end of the week, I've run out of stuff to write about, so I surf the web and post items of interest I've run across, and that's the Friday Roundup. I'd wanted to do a story about the dog sniff cases argued before the Supreme Court yesterday, but because of the storm, the transcripts were late in getting posted. I'll cover Florida v. Jardines tomorrow; in that case, the police had approached Jardine's home with a drug dog, who had alerted, which the police used to get a search warrant. The question there is whether the dog sniff at the outside of the door constituted a search. We'll get to Florida v. Harris next week; that case involves the qualifications the state must show, if any, of a drug dog. Based on the limited descriptions I've read of how oral argument went, I think we've got good news and bad news, but we'll get into it in more detail at the appropriate time. For now, well, "Surf's up!"

The march of technology. Here's your factoid for the day: There are 350 Powerpoint presentations made every second, somewhere around the globe. It must be true, because I read it on the Internet, on a site about Powerpoint presentations. It wasn't exactly pro-Powerpoint; it conceded that about 99% of those 350 presentations suck, and gave advice on how to not suck when doing them. I'm not sure of the 350-per-second stat, but the 99% suck rate seems about right, from what I've observed. In fact, the whole concept of the Powerpoint presentation is often reduced to mockery anymore, such as this one, which contemplates Lincoln's Gettysburg Address given in that fashion. Or this story, about a presentation prepared for a military staff briefing on the Afghanistan war, which produced a slide so impenetrably complex that the NATO force commander was prompted to comment, "when we understand that slide, we'll have won the war."

Powerpoint presentations have become a fixture in the legal arena, too, and there are no dearth of sites, such as this one, to coach lawyers in how to give not-sucky presentations. An alternative source of Do's and Don'ts, at least for prosecutors, was provided by the Washington Supreme Court a couple weeks back, in a decision reversing a kidnapping, robbery, and assault conviction because of the misconduct of the prosecutor in a Powerpoint presentation he gave in closing argument. Actually, the opinion is rather skimpy on the Do's, but it's very specific on the Don'ts, at least in two respects:

  • If you're going to use the defendant's mug shot, don't superimpose the word "GUILTY" over it in big red letters.
  • You might also want to stay away from putting captions under the mug shot like "DO YOU BELIEVE HIM?" and "WHY SHOULD YOU BELIEVE ANYTHING HE SAYS ABOUT THE ASSAULT?"

The court found this to be "flagrant" and "ill-intentioned" misconduct.

And you were wondering if you'd ever win another case. I ran into a lawyer the other day who'd lost a case that he should've won. Same thing happened to me a couple months back. It goes with the territory; like every other trial lawyer, I've had cases where I almost feel out of my chair when the judge read the "not guilty" verdict. We commiserated for a while, and he said that the ones that the ones you lose bring you down more than the ones you win give you an up. That's probably true; you lose a couple of trials and it's easy to start questioning yourself.

Well, the next time you hit a losing streak, you can boost your spirits by looking at this chart. It's the "birther scorecard": a compendium, 70 pages long and birther-scorecard.pnglisting 175 cases, of all the lawsuits filed alleging that Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen, and thus is ineligible to be president of the United States. Most of them were filed by dentist and lawyer Orly Taitz (interesting combo, that; two ways to inflict pain), and she and her co-horts have achieved a record of futility that is without equal in the annals of law: the current score is 0-166. (Nine are still pending.)

The scorecard lists not only the outcomes (with reference to court and case number), but contains a brief blurb about the case. While most are straightforward attempts to disqualify Obama from the presidency or from the ballot, some are, shall we say, a bit fringier. Thus, we have American Grand Jury v. Obama, which sought to present an "indictment" against Obama, prepared by the plaintiffs on behalf of the public, and Ealey v. Sarah Obama, which the summary notes "alleged that Obama's grandmother cast spells on various people in the United States." Also among the weirder plaintiffs is one who filed suit against the electors in four states (Maine, Illinois, Virginia, and Wisconsin), captioning herself in two of them as Annamarie Last Name Uncertain and in the other two as Annamarie Last Name Unknown.

Actually, the birther record should be 0-165. The chart notes that Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations of Missouri v. Obama should not properly be counted as a birther case, because it does not argue that Obama is ineligible because he's not a natural-born citizen; it argues that he's ineligible because he's not white.

We'll talk about dogs tomorrow.


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