March 2010

  • March 10, 2010
    Practical Advice
    For the attorney mulling a jump into the blogosphere to expand business by trumpeting expertise, a recent ABA article, as noted by The Wall Street Journal, provides a good starting point. In "Memoirs of a Blogger," Mark Herrmann, an attorney and one-time legal blogger, offers tips on how to launch a blog and flags some pitfalls to avoid. As the WSJ article notes, however, Herrmann, who once blogged at the Drug and Device Law Blog, illuminates many drawbacks for launching a blog, such as finding enough topics to write about, carving a niche in a blogosphere that is always expanding and already is burgeoning with hundreds of millions, and keeping and attracting readers.

    Herrmann writes:

    Be provocative; be funny; be distinctive. Perhaps most importantly, don't be staid. A blog written by a committee of starched-shirt, bureaucratic lawyers might proclaim: "Our firm has the utmost respect for our learned adversaries, whose experience in complex, multi-jurisdiction litigation nearly matches our own." We'd write: "Those clowns couldn't spell ‘FDA' if you spotted ‘em two letters." We might not have much institutional gravitas, but we sure as heck have readers.

    See the WSJ article for a link to Herrmann's pointers. 

  • March 10, 2010
    In an indictment recently unsealed, Justice Department officials accused Colleen R. LaRose of using the Internet to link up with overseas militants and plotting to commit murder. The case of LaRose, a resident of suburban Philadelphia, presents what The Christian Science Monitor reports as, "a rare example of a white American woman becoming involved in global jihad over the Internet."

    The New York Times reports

    Ms. LaRose, 46, was arrested in Philadelphia in October, but her case was kept under seal. Although the indictment does not identify the target, a law enforcement official said her case was linked to the arrests Tuesday of seven Muslims in Ireland in connection with a scheme to kill the cartoonist, Lars Vilks. A group linked to Al Qaeda had put a $100,000 bounty on his head for the cartoon, which the group perceived as an insult to Islam.

    LaRose, who also went by the aliases "Fatima La Rose" and "Jihad Jane," had prior run-ins with the law in Texas, where she lived before moving to Pennsylvania in 2004. LaRose's prior arrests, both of which took place in 1997 according to CNN, seemingly bore no relation to any terrorist activity.

  • March 10, 2010
    Chief Justice John Roberts complained about President Obama's State-of-the-Union critique of the high court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, saying the address had become too political. The Associated Press reported that following a speech to University of Alabama law students, Roberts responded to a student's question about the president's criticism of the decision. "To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I'm not sure why we're there," Roberts said.

    Roberts conceded that anyone is free to criticize Supreme Court rulings, but in this instance the surroundings called for muted or no criticism. "The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court - according [to] the requirements of protocol - has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling."

    Several media sources following the State of the Union, noted that Justice Samuel Alito did not sit expressionless, mouthing the words "not true," to Obama's criticism of Citizens United. The decision invalidated decades of regulation of corporate campaign financing, making it easier for corporations to spend freely on electioneering.

    The AP reported that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, when asked about Roberts' comments, said, "What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections - drowning out the voices of average Americans."

    Recently, ACS hosted a national event focusing on the implications of the decision. Video of the event is here. Following the event, Professor William P. Marshall, a constitutional law expert, talked with ACSblog about what the decision reveals about the Supreme Court, and elections law expert Joseph Sandler focused on what the decision may mean for future elections. 

  • March 10, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Jonathan Manes, Legal Fellow, ACLU National Security Project

    Most of the opposition to U.S. detention policy since 9/11 has focused on the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay. But for nearly as long, the United States has been operating a prison in Afghanistan that has been, in many ways, Guantánamo's uglier twin. Stories of abuse and mistreatment at the Bagram facility have been all too common. At least two detainees were killed by guards at Bagram, the consequence of repeated beatings and shackling in stress positions.

    Unlike prisoners at Guantánamo, however, whose habeas rights were restored by the Supreme Court in 2008, Bagram prisoners have never had a meaningful and adequate process to challenge their detention. Yet many Bagram prisoners have been held for years, without charge, without access to courts, without access to lawyers, and without even being told why they are being held. And according to official government investigations, reports by nongovernmental organizations, and interviews with former Bagram detainees and their families, many of the detainees at Bagram have never engaged in or been a part of groups engaged in hostilities against the United States. Many were instead originally picked up in the course of night raids, neighborhood sweeps, and cordon-and-search operations. Others were picked up by military forces acting on the basis of flimsy intelligence like anonymous tips from local rivals or business competitors. The risk that people at Bagram are erroneously detained is very high. It is therefore crucial that the people detained there have prompt access to a court or, at the very least, a fair, independent and impartial tribunal that can order their release. Just as with people held at Guantánamo, those imprisoned at Bagram must not be falsely imprisoned for years without charge.

    Last week the ACLU filed habeas petitions on behalf of four people detained at Bagram. One petition is on behalf of two brothers: a 24-year-old Afghan who, until his capture by U.S. forces nearly 20 months ago, served as a translator for the U.S. military for four years, and a 25-year-old customer service representative for an Afghan Internet service provider, who has been imprisoned for nearly two years. The second petition is on behalf of a 61-year-old Afghan government employee, and his 27-year-old nephew, who have been imprisoned at Bagram for more than one year after U.S. forces seized them from their homes. Even though they have already been locked up at Bagram for well over a year (and for some, almost two), the government has never informed our clients of the reasons why they are being detained. Neither do our clients' families have any idea why their relatives are in prison. In fact, it was months after our clients' arrest before their families learned what had become of them.

  • March 9, 2010

    Convicted murderer Lawrence Reynolds now has until next Tuesday to recover from an apparent suicide attempt before Ohio state officials carry out his death sentence.

    When Reynolds was found unconscious in his cell over the weekend, the state faced a predicament: save the inmate scheduled to undergo lethal injection in a matter of days at taxpayer expense, or let him die. The state chose the former option, and has rescheduled his execution, which was previously planned for today.

    "We have a constitutional duty to provide health care for this inmate until the execution commences," said a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. "And we are legally responsible to carry out executions under the law. We will meet both our legal obligations."