Monday, May 17, 2010
Some commentary from around the blogsphere on Comstock and Graham
Cruising around the blogsphere has reveals this array of early commentary on the Supreme Court's criminal justice work in Comstock and Graham today:
From Concurring Opinions, "Graham v. Florida – Collapse of Capital-Noncapital Distinction?"
From Crime & Consequences, "Graham: The Bad News and the Really Bad News"
From Gits for Breakfast, "For once, Texas Lege ahead of SCOTUS curve: Juvie LWOP abolished"
From Sex Crimes, "United States v. Comstock: Some Early Observations"
From WSJ Law Blog, "Scotus: The Kids Are Alright (So Let Them Have Parole)
And a bunch of different folks at The Volokh Conspiracy already have all this commentary to share on Comstock:
- Preliminary Thoughts on Comstock (from Randy Barnett)
- A Few Thoughts on the Comstock Case (from Eugene Volokh)
- Bad News for Federalism? Some Preliminary Reflections on Comstock (Ilya Somin)
Sunday, May 16, 2010
New blog with "open source sentencing pleadings" for white-collar casesAn old colleague I have come to know from various sentencing settings, Benson Weintraub, has launched this new blog to provide open source access to his "favorite presentence and appellate pleadings" as well as "legal and social commentary on white-collar crime." Readers will not be surprised to know that I am a big fan of lawyers providing effective access to legal materials, and I encourage everyone to check out this new blog (and perhaps consider starting others).
Friday, April 09, 2010
Post number 10,001 of this blog...
will apparently be this post noting this this is my 10,001 post since starting this blog just under six years ago with this first post on May 14, 2004. That first post concerned the then-new report issued by the commission created by then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney concerning how to try to create a nearly "foolproof" death penalty system for the state.
As the early archives of this blog show, my initial plan for this space was to do just a few posts each week with links to new reports and articles that did not get much attention (and were hard to find) elsewhere. In fact, over my first six weeks of blogging, I averaged only three posts per week, and only two of my first 18 posts referenced a court ruling (one of which was this post speculating about a possibly big pending SCOTUS case).
But six weeks into this blogging experiment, the Supreme Court handed down its remarkable Blakely ruling, and this blog took a more manic (and case-centric) turn. Perhaps fittingly, I am noting a blogging milestone one post later than I expected because I had to give my 10,000th post to announcing the official retirement of whom I regard to be perhaps the "greatest" sentencing Justice of all time.
Saturday, April 03, 2010
Just bought an iPad...
in order to discover how blog friendly it will be. I probably won't get a chance to use it until Sunday, but will file a blog report.
UPDATE: I am disappointed to discover that the ability to pick up a weak WiFi signal is not very impressive on the iPad. Therefore, until I get back to a WiFi friendly location on Monday, iPad blogging will have to wait.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Not-quite-random mid-day blogger/tech comment
It has taken me only a few minutes to decide that I now want and need an iPad, though I am fearful (or perhaps hopeful) that the new Apple gizmo will be much better for reading blogs than for writing them.
Also, I am also already thinking about whether an iPad and other forthcoming like technologies might alter the resource and technology universe for lawyers, law professors and law students.
I have never tried to do any kind of legal research or legal writing on my Droid smartphone, and I suspect that there are relatively few smartphone apps that are truly helpful to the average lawyer or law student. In addition, I have been disappointed by the potential for my first-generation Kindle to be a means or medium for me to do professional reading of cases and other legal materials. The Apple folks are touting the iPad as having some of the best aspects of modern e-readers and modern netbooks. If this is true, I can readily imagine the possibility of an iPad with applications that are especially lawyer-friendly and lawyer-useful.
Thoughts, dear readers? Is anyone (other than me) eager to read this blog on an iPad?
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Welcome to the blogosphere the "Prison Law Blog"A law and history student at Stanford sent me this note about Prison Law Blog, a new blog that she has started:
I remember reading a post on your blog a while back in which you encouraged more bloggers to start narrowly focused criminal justice related blogs, and I have decided to focus on jail and prison reform efforts (e.g., legislation, conditions of confinement lawsuits, prisoners rights campaigns, etc.). Although there are now many very useful and well-done criminal justice related blogs already out there, I am hoping that this is a specific area where more focused blogging might be of interest.
For now the posts are mostly links (with some commentary), but in the future I am hoping to add more original content including updates on prison reform litigation and legislation around the country, and Q & A features with lawyers who work in this field.
Huzzah and welcome!
Monday, January 11, 2010
Off to the Big AppleAs the Supreme Court gets back in action today, so too do most law school semesters. And this Spring, I am a visiting professor at Fordham Law School in NYC. I hope to find time to blog about a few sentencing issues specific to the Big Apple, though I doubt my work in this cyber space will be nearly as different as my work in real space over the next few month.
Saturday, January 09, 2010
Will any new electronic device be especially blog-friendly?
I am going to go off-topic just a bit to seek reader reflection on whether any of the new and in-development mobile electronic devices seem especially blog-friendly for blog authors and blog readers. I love both my (first-generation) Amazon Kindle and also my new Droid, but neither device makes blog posting easy or enjoyable. And though I can read others' blogs on both devices, I also much prefer blog reading on a traditional PC.
Thus, as I read this new New York Times piece headlined "A Deluge of Devices for Reading and Surfing," I find myself particularly interested and concerned about whether any new form of electronics will be distinctively blog-friendly. Here is the start of the NYT piece:
You’ve heard of Amazon.com’s Kindle. And you probably know that Apple is likely to introduce a tablet computer this year. Soon you may also be hearing about the Alex, the Que proReader and the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid.
Those products are part of a new wave of slender touch-screen tablets and electronic reading devices that dozens of companies, both well known and unknown, brought to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.
Some of these gadgets allow people to read for long periods of time without eye strain and without killing the batteries. Others focus on allowing their owners to surf the Web, watch video and play casual games without being tethered to a bulky laptop and its traditional keyboard.
“There are a billion and a half Internet users on the planet today, and a lot of them are primarily using it for entertainment and social networking,” said Glen Burchers, director of global consumer segment marketing at Freescale, a chip company hoping to power the new tablets. “The PC does a good job on a lot of things, but it’s just not the ideal device for surfing the Internet or reading.”
Perhaps because I am old and have a status quo bias, I do think it is the case that the PC right now is the best way to both write and read blogs. But perhaps readers have others experiences, and I hope folks will share thoughts on this tech-topic.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Could commentor Supremacy Claus really be . . . Ralph Nader?I am pretty sure the answer to the question in the title of this post is "no," though this new piece in The Connecticut Law Tribune perhaps suggests that a (too) frequent commentor on this blog and famed activist Ralph Nader have more views in common than one might readily assume. The article is headlined "Ralph Nader Calls Out Legal Profession," and here is how it begins:
A University of Connecticut School of Law moot courtroom was a fitting setting last month, as consumer activist, politician and lawyer Ralph Nader sought to put the legal profession on trial.
Warrantless eavesdropping, the war in Iraq, corporate wrongdoing -- Nader is a man with quite a few bones to pick. But his chief complaint was that America's lawyers have done too little to stand in the way of government policies he labeled unconstitutional. He noted the strong reaction of Pakistan's lawyers last year when that country's leader threatened the integrity of its justice system. "Did you see our beloved profession up in arms here?" Nader asked. "Lawyers in Pakistan were marching. Where were our lawyers?"
The UConn law school chapters of the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild brought Nader, a Winsted native, to Hartford. The event drew roughly 100 law students, as Nader urged future jurists to observe a duty beyond zealous representation of their clients. "A lawyer's role is to look out for the administration of justice," he said.
Nader placed much of the blame on America's system of legal education, which he said has spent too much time teaching substantive law and too little encouraging students to think critically about why the law is what it is.
This last sentiment which I have highlighted seems quite similar to a key theme in many of Supremacy Claus's (too) frequent rants.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Orin Kerr gamely (and finally) admits that blogs can be legal scholarship
Way back in 2006, I had the joy of participating in an exciting conference at Harvard Law School entitled "Bloggership: How Blogs Are Transforming Legal Scholarship." The papers for the conference, which were all absolutely fascinating, can still be accessed here. In my contribution, which was titled "Scholarship in Action: The Power, Possibilities, and Pitfalls for Law Professor Blogs," I made the argument that blogs can be a new and useful form of legal scholarship. But Orin Kerr was part of a group of "traditionalists" who contended that, though valuable for other purposes, blogs were not (and should not be seen as) a form of legal scholarship.
I remind everyone of this history of blogs as scholarship debate as a prelude to linking to Orin's new post here titled "Rethinking Blogging-as-Scholarship." Here is part of Orin's game admission of a (partial?) change of heart:
Fast forward to the present, and I now think my old self was wrong. Or at least a bit off. I now think blogging actually does provide an effective way to present new scholarly ideas in many cases. In this post, I want to explain why my view has changed.
The main reason my view has changed is that I think the legal academic culture has changed. In the past five years, legal blogs have become an acknowledged and accepted part of the world of legal scholarship. Exactly why is open to debate. It might be because more law professors are blogging. It might be because our experience has been that what profs say on their blogs is usually the same as what they say in their articles. Perhaps the new online journal supplements have blurred the traditional paper-vs-on-line distinction. Whatever the reason, there seems to be more of a convergence between scholarly blogging and “traditional” law review articles today than existed 4 or 5 years ago. That convergence encourages more scholarly blogging and recognizes its value.
Citations in the Westlaw JLR database are an imperfect metric, but they tend to confirm the change. Consider the number of times that the phrase “Volokh Conspiracy” and/or “volokh.com” appeared in the database. (Usually, although not always, these phrases reflect a citation to a particular post appearing in a law journal.) In 2005, the phrases appeared 24 times in the JLR database. The year 2009 isn’t over yet, with roughly 20–30% of issues schedule for a 2009 publication not yet out and on Westlaw. Still, the phrases have appeared 108 times so far in the JLR database. That’s a lot of cites. Out of curiosity, I did a quick check of my own citations — vain, sure, but at least to an interesting end — and I would estimate that about 25% of the citations to my own work in the last year have been to my blog posts rather than traditional journal articles.
In short, I think we’re seeing a shift in how law professors and legal journal editors view blogs. The old lines have blurred. Blogs have become a significant part of the scholarly conversation. I didn’t expect this to happen, at least so soon. And I don’t know whether the trend will continue. But I think the trend is a real one.
The commentors to Orin's post usefully note that it seems what has really changed is how blogs are perceived as much as whether this medium of expression has changed. Thus, I will stick to my view that thoughtful blogs always were (or could be) a form of scholarship, just like any other form of communication can be a form of scholarship if deployed effectively to that end.
Though I share Orin's sense that the perception of blogs have evolved in recent years, I have been largely disappointed that blog technology has not advanced much to better enable blogging to serve as a truly sophisticated and effective academic medium. In my "Scholarship in Action" article, I urged the development of new forms of on-line collaboration like wikis and other means to further improve on-line legal idea development, but such technologies have been slow to take hold. Instead, society has been drawn to short-attention-span on-line media like Facebook and Twitter, neither of which seem capable of supporting the thoughtful and in-depth development of ideas that are often an essential aspect of true scholarship.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
SL&P honored again by ABA Journal
I am pleased and honored to report that this blog has once again been selected as one of the ABA Journal's Blawg 100. The ABAJ's annual list of the best of the blawgosphere appears in the December issue of the magazine, and is available online at this link. Here is how the ABA Journal kindly describes this blog: "A perennial favorite, Sentencing Law and Policy doesn’t disappoint. Ohio State law prof Douglas Berman offers daily sophisticated reviews of cases in the news and headed for the spotlight."
In addition to thanking the ABA Journal for giving me this honor now for the third year in a row, I also want to thanks all the readers and commentors who keep helping me find the energy (and often the insights) to keep this blog going. I doubt I would have expected to still be blogging so much five years after Blakely and Booker first made this space so exciting; it is quite clear to me that I now maintain this blog largely because I greatly enjoy the engagement, and learn so much, from readers and commentators concerning the array of topics I discuss.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Trying out the Droid
I got a new toy today: the new Droid phone. And this post is a test of Droid-blogging.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Blogger being prosecuted for threatening judges gets transfer and restricted bailThis new article from the National Law Journal, which is headlined "Blogger Charged With Threatening 7th Circuit Judges Gets Home Confinement," reports on the latest developments in a notable federal criminal case:
U.S. District Judge Donald Walter has ordered the release of Internet blogger and Web talk show host Hal Turner, who was arrested in June for declaring in an online posting that three Chicago-based federal judges "deserve to be killed."
Turner is on his way back to his home state of New Jersey after Walter decided in a Wednesday conference call meeting with lawyers that Turner could be released under "strict conditions," including a prohibition on his speaking to the media, home confinement and electronic monitoring, said Michael Oroczo, who represents Turner. He said his client was currently in the U.S. Marshal Service's custody in Oklahoma City as he's being transferred to New Jersey....
The release order by Walter, a U.S. district judge from Western Louisiana who was assigned the case to avoid potential bias, runs counter to a decision made last month by Chicago-based U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin Ashman, who found that Turner should remain in custody until his trial. It's not clear if a bond amount was set for the release.
Turner was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago with threatening to assault and murder three judges in retaliation for a June 2 decision they made. In a Web posting the same day, Turner called the 7th Circuit ruling, which declined to overturn laws banning handguns in Chicago and a nearby suburb, an "outrage" and said that the judges behind the decision "deserve to be killed." The judges who decided the case were Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, Judge Richard Posner and Judge William Bauer. In a second posting on June 3, Turner provided the names, work addresses, phone numbers and photos of the judges.
Walter last week also allowed Turner's case to be transferred to the Eastern District of New York, granting his request for a change of venue from Chicago to Brooklyn. Walter granted the venue change partly because he agreed the defendant would have a harder time getting a fair trial in Chicago where there was significant media coverage of the 2005 murder of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's mother and husband.
Turner said in his postings that federal judges in Chicago hadn't gotten "the hint" from those killings. "Memories are not so short as to erase the event from the public mind," Walter wrote in a Sept. 8 decision. "On balance, it is this court's opinion that granting the motion would best serve, not only justice, but the appearance of justice.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
A great new blog for resources on criminal informants, aka snitches
CrimProf Alexandra Natapoff has done ground-breaking work on criminal informants in articles and a book, and I am pleased to learn that she has now brought her expertise to the webvia a new blog called Snitching Blog. An introductory post here provides details of the project:
Snitching Blog is about a part of our criminal system that most people know little or nothing about: criminal informants, or snitches. At any given moment, thousands of informants are trying to work off their own criminal liability by giving information to the government. These informants may be in court, in prison, on the street, or in the workplace. Police and prosecutors often rely heavily on information obtained from snitches — especially in drug enforcement but also in white collar crime, organized crime, and terrorism investigations. In fact, it is impossible to fully understand the U.S. legal system without understanding snitching. Nevertheless, there is very little public information available about this important public policy. That's where Snitching Blog comes in.
This blog does a bunch of things. It discusses how snitching works — on paper and in reality. It provides resources to individuals, lawyers, law enforcment, and legislators — check out the links on the left. It covers current events and news stories. And it lets you share your own experiences by posting a "Testimonial" — click on the link at the right.
Looks like I have another regular must-read to add to my blog browsing, especially since so many big sentencing cases have a snitching element. For example, Sasha has this recent post on the Troy Davis case, titled "Troy Davis Gets a Hearing — Recantation Redux."
Monday, August 17, 2009
The re-leaunch of CrimProf blog
I am pleased to be able to report on an exciting new development in the climinal law blogosphere. Here is the news (with links) from an e-mail I received today from Professor Kevin Cole:
My CrimProf colleagues here at the University of San Diego School of Law — Larry lexander, Don Dripps, Yale Kamisar, Adam Kolber, and Jean Ramirez — and I are happy to report that we have re-launched the CrimProf blog. You can find our introductory post here and can access the entire site at http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/.
We hope to continue the efforts of the blog’s previous editors to make this site a valuable resource for criminal law and procedure teachers. Please send comments and content suggestions to [email protected].
If you would like to receive daily email updates about new postings on the blog, you can “subscribe” by going to the blog at http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/ and entering your email address in the column at the left under the heading “News Readers and Feeds."
The "new" CrimProf blog already has lots of new content, including links to lots of new criminal law papers appearing on SSRN. I made a regular habit of checking the "old" CrimProf blog, and now I suspect that site will be a daily must-read.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Who will get the first e-book into the law school classroom?
Thanks to this post by Jonathan Alder at Volokh, I see from this article that Case Western Reserve University will soon have students in certain classes getting their their textbooks via the Amazon Kindles. This Wall Street Journal report explains that Amazon "on Wednesday plans to unveil a new version of its Kindle e-book reader with a larger screen and other features designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers." Here's more:
Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school's chief information officer. The university plans to compare the experiences of students who get the Kindles and those who use traditional textbooks, he said.
The new device will also feature a more fully functional Web browser, he said. The Kindle's current model, which debuted in February, includes a Web browser that is classified as "experimental." Five other universities are involved in the Kindle project, according to people briefed on the matter. They are Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State.
Over at Law School Innovation, we have been talking about Kindle and other e-readers in the law school classroom for almost two years already (see 2007 posts here and here and here). From the get go, I have never doubt that e-books would eventually take over the law-school classroom. Because of the extraordinary costs and inconveniences of traditional law school casebooks, the issue in my view has always been, not whether e-books become common, but rather just when and exactly how they will enter the law school classroom.
Cross-posted at LSI
UPDATE: The new Kindle, known as the Kindle DX, can be seen in the picture above, and this report on its launch highlights why e-books are the future and also has a great quote from my former OSU College of Law colleague (who is now a tech rock-star):
Bezos reminded the assembled journalists at this week's launch event that the Amazon Kindle will soon be able to offer "every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."
"Eighteen months ago, we launched Kindle, and at the time we had 90,000 books available for Kindle. (We had) 230,000 books just three months ago when we launched Kindle 2," Bezos said. "We've added another 45,000 books in just the last three months. We're actually accelerating."
"The display is 2 and a half times the size of the Kindle 2," added Bezos, adding that with the "Built in PDF reader, you never have to pan, you never have to zoom, you never have to scroll. You just read." Also, rather niftily (just as with Apple's iPhone), "You just rotate the device and you go to widescreen mode."...
"Textbooks shine with this display," Bezos continued, telling the assembled crowd in NYC that he was "excited to announce today that we've reached an agreement with three leading textbook publishers."
As for students, Bezos confirmed that they already have five universities involved in piloting the Kindle DX this autumn, welcoming in Barbara Snyder, President of Case Western Reserve to give her own opinions on the new electronic textbook.
"We believe this will revolutionize learning," said Snyder. "As a research university, we're bound to test our hypothesis -- will the Kindle change how students work? We're going to look at these questions. To all the reporters here, can you imagine what it would be like to craft your story using paper, a typewriter, white out?"
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Too much of a good thing at the new site The Legal Workshop?
I am pleased to report on a new scholarly on-line project (which I hope will evolve to better achieve its laudatory goals). The project is the Legal Workshop, and here is its basic mission statement:
The Legal Workshop is a website providing a single online forum for cutting-edge legal scholarship from the top law journals in the country....
The Legal Workshop features “op-ed” versions of the articles published by the member journals. These concise and lively pieces are written for a generalist audience, combining the best elements of print and online publication.
Each Legal Workshop Editorial undergoes the same rigorous editorial treatment and quality screening as the journals’ print content, but readers are able to offer comments and esteemed academics have the option of submitting response pieces, which are checked for citations and substance.
By aggregating the work of multiple law reviews, The Legal Workshop is able to provide frequently updated content. New article-based content is posted every Monday and most Wednesdays and Fridays. The Legal Workshop provides a one-stop forum for readers wishing to stay abreast of contemporary legal scholarship.
Larry Solum has a terrific early analysis here, which includes these three spot-on reactions:
First, the basic idea of creating an outlet for short-form legal scholarship is to be applauded....
Second, I am a bit skeptical of the ambitious claims in the press release about reaching "the general public."...
Third, I am also skeptical about potential for the format of "The Legal Workshop" to produce pieces that will directly influence practitioners -- lawyers and judges, who are most interested in descriptive doctrinal scholarship.
The fact that there is currently only this single criminal law piece now posted on the site, and that it runs nearly 4000 words and proposes a radical change to modern habeas law, confirms all that Larry has to say about this new project. It is great to have a short-form version of this 70-page habeas article from the Duke Law Review, but I doubt that either the general public or practitioners are going to find the short-form version much more useful and accessible than the long form version.
Plus, on a very practical level, I will be much less likely to cite the short-form version of the article inbecause its cite form -- which much include this cumbersome URL: http://legalworkshop.org/2009/03/18/habeas-corpus-and-state-sentencing-reform-a-story-of-unintended-consequences -- is much longer than the cite form for the full article.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Off-line while participating in Stanford Law Review symposium about media
Ironically, I may be off-line and unable to comment on media, justice and the law for a little while because I am participating the Stanford Law Review's symposium on "Media, Justice, and the Law." The details of the event are here and here. All of the papers written for the event are really interesting; I am looking forward to an exciting event and I think a webcast should be available here.
Friday, January 02, 2009
In praise of How Appealing (and a call for more criminal justice blogs in 2009)
I suspect that all fans of the legal blogosphere already know that they must make regular stops at How Appealing to keep up with all the legal news that's worth following. But Howard Bashman's most recent two posts, both which hit on sentencing topics I likely cannot give their due, reminds me of how essentially he remains to my ability to keep up with the sentencing news of note. Here are the two posts, with titles drawn from notable major newspaper headlines:
- "Long Held in Capital Case, Man Sues to Get a Lawyer"
In addition to wanting to again praise Howard for all he does to make my life easier, I also wanted to use this post as an opportunity to encourage any and every sentencing fans and/or potential bloggers to consider starting a new criminal justice blog in 2009.
Though blogging my now seem old hat, the fact remains that many smaller criminal justice issues would be well-served by a focused blog. Recent entrants to this part of the blogosphere — sites like Pardon Power and Sex Crimes — have been so valuable and successful not only because of the insights and energies of their authors, but also because there are so many criminal justice topics that can and should be covered by smart folks from so many different perspectives.
Monday, December 01, 2008
I would like to thank the ABA, Justices and judges, sentencing commissions, criminals and their lawyers....
Of course, it is an honor just to be nominated. But, since nominations were not ever made public, it is more exciting to win again a place on the ABA's list of the best legal blogs. This poston the ABA's blog, titled "50 New Sites Make 2nd Annual ABA Journal Blawg 100," provides the basic back story:
On our second annual list of the best legal blogs, just half of last year’s honorees make a return appearance.
What explains the high turnover? For one thing, every day new legal blogs are started, and some existing blogs—including some that appeared on last year’s list—cease to be updated regularly. Plus, some of the upstart blogs are just plain better than some that made the cut last year.
This year, blogs that aren’t updated at least weekly—no matter how interesting—often didn’t make the grade. We put a premium on blogs that broke news in 2008, or were among the first to provide trenchant analysis of one or more breaking legal news stories.
All kidding aside, I am grateful and honored that the folks at ABA put this blog on its Top 100 list in the crime category for the second year in a row. The full list of the ABA Journal Blawg 100 can be accessed at this link, where one can also find links to some fun blog feature stories.