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Wednesday ruminations

Well, so much for that.  My buddy Paul Kuzmins of the County public defenders once hiked the Appalachian Trail.  That was a walk in the park -- okay, not such a good metaphor -- compared to the reception he received in oral argument in the Supreme Court last week in State v. Tate.  Tate had met several young girls in a library and enticed one to follow him outside, where he propositioned her for sex.  The 8th District's reversal of his conviction seemed pretty cut-and-dried, too:  the prosecutor hadn't asked any of the witnesses to make an in-court identification of Tate, so the panel tossed it on that basis.

As even Kuzmins had to concede, the law does not absolutely require an in-court identification, so long as the circumstantial evidence is sufficient to establish that the defendant was the one who committed the crime.  And there was oodles of it in this case, including Tate's admission that he was the one in the library surveillance video.  Even better was the fact that Tate had given the girl he propositioned his business card, and as the police were questioning him, another officer dialed the number on the card.  Guess who answered?

Kuzmins' main argument was that this was simply error correction.  The problem is that the court's typical response to that argument is, "Yeah, we don't do error correction, but as long as we're here, we might as well correct some error."  We're not even going to handicap this one.  The only good news for Tate is that the 8th District didn't address any of his other assignments of error, so the case will go back for that.

A problem I've never had.  I finally broke down and went to Vegas about ten years ago, and the first day there I spent about four hours at the craps table, and won $840.  (Yes, I know, you're asking, "Gee, Russ, eight Franklins.  Hard to see how that didn't make the papers.")  The next year, I blew $200 at the craps table in three rolls.  Not exactly a high stakes gambler. 

I'm certainly not in the same league with Ernest Franseschi, an LA lawyer who's suing the MGM Mirage for throwing him out last year, supposedly for counting cards at blackjack.  His hope is to force the casino to warn prospective gamblers that they can be barred for winning too much.  Yeah, that's a warning I would have taken to heart.

Another bad idea.  We've all heard of Megan's Law, but there seems to be an endless number of laws named after children who came to a bad end.  There's the Amy Robinson Memorial Act, named after a girl who was mentally handicapped and was murdered by her co-workers, which requires employers to provide written notice to parents or guardians of children under 18 or those with handicaps if their child or ward is working with a person convicted of a violent crime.  The Michael Minger Act, named for a college student killed in an arson fire, expanded campus crime reporting requirements to include arsons.  North Carolina features both Ethen's Law, which makes it a crime to kill or harm an unborn child while attacking the mother, and Laura's Law, which targets drunk drivers.  Guess who they're named after?

It wasn't surprising, then, that in the aftermath of the acquittal of Casey Anthony in the death of her child, state legislators fell all over themselves in the rush to produce laws making it a crime for parents to fail to report dead or missing children, which even the legislators admitted was rare.  And just last month the California senate considered Audrey's Law, named after a 15-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted after she passed out at a party, then committed suicide when the perpetrators circulated photos they'd taken of her; the bill would make it a felony to share obscene or sexual photos of young people or their body parts on social media or smartphones to harass or bully them.

And if you're wondering about the basis for the new regulation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requiring cars to have rear-view cameras, look no farther than the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, which Congress passed in 2007 requiring the NHTSA to develop rules regarding such cameras.  The NHTSA brewed over this for seven years, probably because the cost -- estimated to be as high as $2.7 billion -- wasn't really justified by the benefit:  true, it would save about 200 lives a year, but four times as many people die falling off of furniture.

One thing's certain:  if you're a kid and you wound up having a law named after you, chances are very good you didn't make it to adulthood.

  *   *   *   *   *

I get to play Road Warrior this week:  a jaunt this morning down to Belmont Correctional Institution (directions:  go to Nowhere and make a left), then up to Youngstown to visit a couple of Federal clients, and tomorrow a schlep to Columbus for a meeting of an ad hoc committee on standards for assigned counsel.  So no post tomorrow.  I'll be back here on Friday.


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