November 25, 2011 1:47:12 PM by
Sometimes we can even be thankful for tobacco companies. On November 7th, Judge Richard Leon enjoined the FDA from enforcing new regulations which would force tobacco companies to emblazon their cigarette packages with graphic images depicting the worst ravages of diseases caused by smoking. While we are hardly fans of smoking tobacco or the companies which sell cigarettes, as my research assistant Daniel Schwartz and I write on Forbes.com this week, the tobacco companies were absolutely correct in their objections, and Judge Richard Leon’s decision represents an important reminder that the First Amendment guarantees us not only the right to speak, but also the right NOT to speak (and, in particular, the right not to parrot the government’s preferred point-of-view).
November 14, 2011 4:08:44 PM by
On October 27th, the Innocence Project, in conjunction with the Veritas Initiative and Voices of Innocence, announced a “nationwide tour seeking policy reforms to prevent prosecutorial misconduct.” Headlining the tour will be John Thompson, the man who, despite being placed on death row due to corrupt and negligent actions on the part of the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office, was stripped of his 14 million dollar judgment against the DA by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Connick v. Thompson. In our latest post on Forbes.com, my research assistant Daniel Schwartz and I discuss the ruling, and critique the notion that the prosecutor’s office deserves immunity for its horrific neglect of basic constitutional rights. As we have written elsewhere, the explosion of federal statutes has made all people increasingly at risk of facing criminal and civil charges for a host of innocuous behaviors. Surely, so-called public servants should be held to at least as high a standard as their masters, rather than be given protections that would be unheard of for normal citizens.
November 14, 2011 3:16:21 PM by
One of the most shocking, and under-reported, Department of Justice practices is the FBI's express policy NOT to tape-record interrogations. Not recording interrogations allows the FBI to claim itself the sole arbiter of what is, and is not, true in a witness's testimony. Such a strategy gives clear, and unfair, advantage to the prosecution, and presents problems for witnesses, defendants, and defense lawyers alike.
But there is a simple, and effective, strategy which, if implemented, can get around the pesky problem: insist on recording the interview yourself. Recently, the Massachusetts ACLU asked me to discuss what to do if the FBI decides it needs your testimony. Here is how I responded:
I have been happy to see that the ACLU video has been catching on. In a recent article on alternet.org critiquing the "surveillance state", my interview was given as pragmatic advice to those who fear they might face an FBI interview. I sincerely hope my advice helps and that, eventually, the FBI decides to reform its harmful policy.
[End of post]
November 09, 2011 2:33:50 PM by
On October 30th, the Obama administration proposed an executive rule that will instruct government agencies to lie to the citizenry. The administration's proposal is a rule-change to the Freedom of Information Act: under the new policy, agencies would be instructed to tell citizens seeking prohibited documents not merely that the documents are not available, but that the documents do not exist at all. As my research assistant Daniel Schwartz and I show in our article on Forbes.com today, the implications of this seemingly insignificant bureaucratic decision are quite far-reaching, and make a veritable mockery of President Obama's supposed embrace of a new "era of openness" in government.
November 07, 2011 3:10:21 PM by
Caleb Warner may not be returning back to school this year, but he has been inspiring people to speak out against the guidelines for prosecuting sexual assault on college campuses.
On July 15th I published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal about Caleb, a University of North Dakota student accused of sexual assault. Caleb was kicked out of school and the local police swore out an arrest warrant; not for him, but for his accuser. Utilizing the same evidence that led to his expulsion from school, the police determined that Caleb was not guilty, and that his accuser had filed a false police report. Even though police felt there was clearly insufficient evidence to bring charges (much less convict), the school was perfectly comfortable bringing him in front of a disciplinary board and expelling him. They were so comfortable, in fact, that even after Caleb's accuser left town following the warrant for her arrest, the school still did not agree to rehear his case.
But after a summer of bad press, along with intensive lobbying by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the University of North Dakota vacated all of Caleb's charges, including his expulsion. While he has said he is unlikely to return to the University of North Dakota, he now has a clean record, and can move on with his life.
Caleb's story has also inspired a number of other people who are concerned about due process on campus.