Thursday, April 12, 2012

The principle that lawyers discipline themselves sometimes leads to questions about whether it's a fair system, but in fact we're far harder on ourselves than the State is on any other profession it regulates.

A case in point is this week's disbarment of former Phoenix prosecutor Andrew Thomas and his chief henchwoman. Thomas was Sheriff Joe Arpaio's biggest ally, and basically went power mad trying to treat any policy disagreements with what the two of them wanted as criminal corruption. It culminated with charging a sitting judge with serious crimes for ruling against them. See

The US Department of Justice has been working for several years to get Arpaio under control, and despite his open criminality they're still in the preliminary stages. The Arizona Bar, on the other hand, has now wrapped up what was probably their biggest case ever and booted the culprits out of the profession (subject to appeal of course, which won't get anywhere IMHO). Like us or not, we do deal with our bad apples efficiently.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Prop 8 in Washington?

I haven't finished going through the 9th Circuit decision invalidating Proposition 8, the anti- gay marriage initiative, but one thing jumped out at me:

A big part of the decision was that California already had an "everything but marriage" law, so any argument that gay unions were somehow bad for society was moot- since California had already legalized gay unions, the only issue was whether calling them "marriages" rather than "civil unions" was a problem. All the usual arguments that gay marriage should be unrecognized because marriage is about procreation, not good for kids, or whatever other strained nonsense the opponents put out are irrelevant- all that's legal, so the only issue is the label. The 9th Circuit apparently decided that there was no good argument that referring to gay unions as "marriages" rather than "civil unions" would hurt society.

Now, Washington State is about to legalize gay marriage through the Legislature, and there's already plans afoot to run a referendum to challenge that law. We've had an "everything but marriage" law on the books for several years. I think we're in the same position as California, and the logic is the same- and as a result the referendum will meet the same fate as Prop 8.

By the way, I've been married for 22 years, and I have absolutely no fear that my wife will leave me to become a lesbian if gay marriage is legalized. Whose marriage, exactly, is threatened by gay marriage? If it's yours, you have some fundamental problems that aren't going to be solved in the Legislature.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sharia in Washington State?

Lately there's been a lot of silly fearmongering about US courts applying Sharia law. Sometimes US courts do have to get into foreign law, though, and the results can be odd.

In re Marriage of Akon, 160 Wn.App. 48, 248 P.3d 94 (2011) was a child custody/paternity dispute between some Sudanese refugees that turned on whether the mother's first marriage in the Sudan was valid. Apparently her husband had agreed to pay her father fifty cows for her on a time payment arrangement, but had only paid thirty five when the civil war reached the village and they all fled, with Mom eventually ending up in Spokane with another man. When that relationship fell apart, a dispute developed as to which she was married to. Thus, the Washington courts were left with the unenviable task of figuring out the effect of a debt of fifteen cows on the validity of a marriage under Sudanese law.

Now, judges would always prefer to apply the law they're familiar with. I'm sure the judge in this case was buying Excedrin at Costco by the time it was done. Judges have to apply the law to real life people with real life issues, and it's not always simple. What would have happened if the judge was forbidden from considering foreign law in the Akon case?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You know it's a bad one when I lock the door of my home office before I go through the evidence. A while ago it was a guy who was beaten and set on fire with gasoline. Somehow I got the job of going through the autopsy photos and interviewing the medical examiner to get straight what happened. It took me a while to realize that I was sitting there eating potato chips as I went through the photos.

I suppose people get used to dealing with stranger things. Still, I wonder if it should bother me more than it does.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Job security?

People in my line of work like to play at who can be the most cynical. When we see some kid or totally dysfunctional adult with a new child, someone's likely to sigh and say "Oh, well, it's job security!"

We're not running short on work these days, but with this recession governments are running out of money to pay us to do it. It's not like we were at the top of the priority list to begin with. Puts me looking for work elsewhere, and not at a good time for it.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day: 65 years later

When you go Home, tell them of us and say:
"For your Tomorrow, they gave up their Todays."

Happy belated Memorial Day.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The CSI Effect

Prosecutors these days complain about the "CSI effect": the belief among jurors that a case isn't proven unless there's some whiz-bang lab work involved. Most cases, of course, are more about individuals saying "this is what I saw". Prosecutors have to try to work around the CSI effect. Sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. I stole this from a colleague, but it's too good to pass up:

Q (prosecutor): Who here watches CSI? (Lot's of hand raise)
Q: Juror #7, do you believe CSI is realistic?
A: No
Q: Can you give me an example of how CSI is unrealistic?
A: All the women wear low cut blouses.