When Patents Attack!

This is one of the two podcasts that Bremen mentioned in class last week. You can also download them both as a podcast from this website.

A Plan to Cut Costs and Crime: End Hurdle to Job After Prison A Plan to Cut Costs and Crime: End Hurdle to Job After Prison A Plan to Cut Costs and Crime: End Hurdle to Job After Prison



Marilyn Scales, 52, of New York, who spent time in prison for selling drugs in the 1990s, said that telling the truth on job applications had made her virtually unemployable. “When I answer that question honestly,” she said, “I never get a call back.”
Edwin J. Torres for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — James White had steeled himself for the moment. But when he got to the question on the job application — Have you ever been convicted of a crime? — he shifted nervously in his seat.
If he checked the “yes” box, he would almost certainly not get the job as a hospital janitor.
He checked the box.
A moment later, a human resources employee looking over his shoulder told him not to bother with the rest of the form. “She said I should stop right there, that there was no need to continue filling out the application because I was done with the process,” he said.
Mr. White, convicted of possessing a handgun without a license 10 years ago, is one of the 60,000 people with a criminal record who live in Washington, and who, along with the 8,000 city residents who are released from prison each year, have a difficult time finding decent jobs.
To ease these residents’ re-entry into society, Washington’s City Council this summer approved legislation that forbids asking about criminal history on most job applications, a step being considered by Georgia, Michigan and New York, among other states.

Full story is here.

Jan Banning's Photographs

Bremen sends this in, about the photographer whose work is on the cover of Red Tape:

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Here is his Bureaucracy’s project gallery.

The Judge

Kuni sends this in, saying “The movie deals with questions such as "what is justice?" "How facts are made?", and "How people choose to present the knowledge or emotion to appeal to the audience?" as well as male masculines in family drama...the terminologies in the court (overload, objection, etc) was interesting, too.”

Law & Humanities Workshop

Here is the website for the lunch series I’ve mentioned in class. I’ll keep you posted with specific information. Generally participants have to RSVP (there is a lunch provided) and read a circulated paper beforehand.

Social Networks

Our discussion about the social ties needs for informal mechanisms for justice to operate (debatably), reminded me of a trailer for a documentary film I saw recently.

This film, about children walking to school in the US and Japan, is still in the process of being made. One of the producers is Len Schoppa our Associate Dean and Professor of Politics. I am very much looking forward to the film, not least because it seems to engage some of the themes we were thinking through in relation to Ellickson’s book.

Judicial Empathy

Here is that article about how judges with daughters are more likely to rule in favor of women’s rights.

Identifying Judicial Empathy: Does Having Daughters Cause Judges to Rule for Women’s Issues?
Adam Glynn and Maya Sen

And here’s some coverage about it in the Washington Post.

Tiny Little Laws

Bremen sends in this article from the Atlantic Monthly:

Tiny Little Laws
A plague of sexual violence in Indian country
By Kathy Dobie

My second day on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in the Dakotas, an official from the Bureau of Indian Affairs sent a memo to all its law-enforcement employees forbidding them to talk to me. One of those officers working the jail at Fort Yates, North Dakota, walked into a tribal judge’s office, and throwing the memo down, said, “Can you believe this shit?” Since I was on the reservation to write about crime—sexual assault and rape, in particular, and how often these crimes go unreported when they take place on tribal land—I had naturally hoped to speak to the police. But after politely declining to be interviewed, Standing Rock’s police chief, Michael Hayes, referred me to Elmer Four Dance, who, as the BIA’s special agent in charge of District 1—which serves fifty-two tribes in the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa—was the man who had issued the memo from his office in Aberdeen, South Dakota, 150 miles away.
“Who gave you permission to come here and talk to people without getting permission?” Four Dance asked me when I reached him by phone. He said I had to make a formal request in writing, which I emailed to him immediately. He promised to get back to me shortly. “Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” he said. And that was the last I heard from him.

...Full article here.

Facts vs. "Internet Facts"

The Dubious Sources of Some Supreme Court ‘Facts’
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court received more than 80 friend-of-the-court briefs in the Hobby Lobby case. Most of these filings, also called amicus briefs, were dull and repetitive recitations of familiar legal arguments.

Others stood out. They presented fresh, factual information that put the case in a broader context.

The justices are hungry for such data. Their opinions are increasingly studded with citations to facts they learned from amicus briefs.

But this is a perilous trend, said Allison Orr Larsen, a law professor at the College of William & Mary.

“The court is inundated with 11th-hour, untested, advocacy-motivated claims of factual expertise,” she wrote in an article to be published in The Virginia Law Review.

Some of the factual assertions in recent amicus briefs would not pass muster in a high school research paper. But that has not stopped the Supreme Court from relying on them. Recent opinions have cited “facts” from amicus briefs that were backed up by blog posts, emails or nothing at all.

Full article here.

Chelsea Jack's thesis on UVA's Honor Code

With Chelsea’s permission, I have added her fascinating thesis -- Pursuing the Truth: An Ethnographic Analysis of the Honor System at the University of Virginia -- to our course’s resource list. If you get a chance to read it and have any questions for her, let me know and I’m happy to pass them along.

How the Supreme Court Protects Bad Cops

An Op-Ed in the Times today reminded me of part of our conversation yesterday --

How the Supreme Court Protects Bad Cops

In recent years, the court has made it very difficult, and often impossible, to hold police officers and the governments that employ them accountable for civil rights violations. This undermines the ability to deter illegal police behavior and leaves victims without compensation. When the police kill or injure innocent people, the victims rarely have recourse.
The most recent court ruling that favored the police was Plumhoff v. Rickard, decided on May 27, which found that even egregious police conduct is not “excessive force” in violation of the Constitution. Police officers in West Memphis, Ark., pulled over a white Honda Accord because the car had only one operating headlight. Rather than comply with an officer’s request to get out of the car, the driver made the unfortunate decision to speed away. The police chased the car for more than five minutes, reaching speeds of over 100 miles per hour. Eventually, officers fired 15 shots into the car, killing both the driver and a passenger.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and ruled unanimously in favor of the police. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said that the driver’s conduct posed a “grave public safety risk” and that the police were justified in shooting at the car to stop it. The court said it “stands to reason that, if police officers are justified in firing at a suspect in order to end a severe threat to public safety, the officers need not stop shooting until the threat has ended.”
This is deeply disturbing. The Supreme Court now has said that whenever there is a high-speed chase that could injure others — and that would seem to be true of virtually all high-speed chases — the police can shoot at the vehicle and keep shooting until the chase ends. Obvious alternatives could include shooting out the car’s tires, or even taking the license plate number and tracking the driver down later.

Full article here, with details worth reading.

Military Gear for US Police

Although it will be many months until we read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, she makes talks about the ways American police forces have been given or bought “military” weapons. As part of his coverage of police response in Ferguson, John Oliver gives a few more examples. I post it here thinking that it might be helpful by the time we read Alexander, but perhaps it will be too far in the past by then.

On a Lighter Note

Maybe you all already know about this website, but I just found it. It is certainly ripe for analysis!



R. Kelly and What Gets Known

Over the summer, while reading something else, I found a link to this Village Voice story about R. Kelly’s legal and personal history. I had some vague knowledge -- everybody probably does -- but something about this story surprised me and made me want to make it available to you. I think, on a very basic level, I was simply surprised by how little I knew, and how much seems to have been ignored. In this course’s syllabus we don’t directly engage questions linking law / legality and entertainment, but I’m happy to talk through any thoughts you may have.

Who Can Wear "Native" Culture?

Presaging a book we will read toward the end of the semester, this story came out about a music festival banning (presumably non-native) audience members from wearing “native” headdresses. Perhaps this will be helpful to reconsider after we read Michael Brown’s book.

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Full article here.

A few days after I read this, I heard a segment on a more recent episode of the Backstory podcast (it is now quite apparent what I listen to while I walk around Tokyo!) that describes earlier instances of white Americans using Native clothing as fashion.

Passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Civil Rights in the US always seems like a classic example of the dialectic between law and culture. Legal changes, formally on the books and also supported in practice, were absolutely necessary to prompt social change. But social norms and individual attitudes also had to change, and it’s interesting to think about how the new laws and changing social norms both influenced each other.

Here is a recent episode from BackStory, which is a great history podcast produced right here at UVA and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.