Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Once again, let's review "judicial activism."

Ted Cruz is a moron. He released a press statement this week regarding the US Supreme Court's determination that it would not hear any of the cases involving gay marriage and in that press release, he called the Court's determination "judicial activism at its worst."

Please. Please stop. You're making my head hurt. 

Judicial activism actually means something. It has a real, legitimate, actual meaning. And that meaning isn't "I don't agree with them." 

In order for a court to be considered "activist," the court must do something. It must act. Weird, huh? It must make a decision on a case. 

The Supreme Court did exactly the opposite of that. It did nothing. Nothing at all. Not one damn thing. Therefore, it cannot be considered "judicial activism" because the Court won't hear the gay marriage cases. 

Here's how judicial activism looks in real life: 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Adrian Peterson situation and the problem with prejudging

So, as basically everyone has heard, Vikings football player Adrian Peterson has been indicted by a Texas grand jury on child abuse charges. Initially, he was deactivated from the team & prevented from playing in one game this past Sunday; the team owners then reactivated him to play on Mondaywhile the criminal case worked its way through the court system. The Radisson pulled its sponsorship of the entire Vikings team as a result of the indictment. Nike & Wheaties also severed ties with Peterson. On Tuesday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton weighed in on the situation, calling Peterson's alleged actions "a public embarrassment" & while providing lip service to the idea of innocent until proven guilty, said that the Vikings should have continued Peterson's suspension until the court case was finished. Senator Al Franken also called for Peterson's suspension to be reinstated. Finally, on Wednesday, the Vikings reversed course under the media & political pressure & placed Peterson on the exempt list, meaning he must stay away from the team.

This is all the result of an accusation. Not a conviction. Not a verdict of guilty or an admission of committing a crime. An accusation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


So, last week I was on vacation and on Friday, I was on a horseback ride and  I managed to fall off the horse during the ride and I really injured myself.  I had had concerns during the ride that the saddle was too loose, but I pushed them aside and thought that they were the professionals and they knew how to saddle a horse.  Technically, so do I, as I had a horseback riding class in college, but it's been awhile since I've actually had to saddle a horse, so I deferred to the stablehand's judgment on the saddle. But I did think it was a bit loose. 

Turns out, it was.  During our final canter towards the stable, my horse veered left suddenly because a flock of birds took flight from the ground close by us and spooked the horse.  The horse went left sharply, my saddle twisted to the right side, and BAM, down on the ground I went. I landed and rolled a few times in the dirt on the trail. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Today I was talking to a friend of mine who is also a public defender in a different area than me. She said she had been talking to the state public defender about me.

The way the public defense system is set up is that there are 10 judicial districts in the state. Each district has a chief public defender, so 10 chiefs (actually 11 if you include the appellate office). The chief hires assistant public defenders to cover cases w/in that district.

Above the chiefs, there is the state public defender. That is the top position w/in the public defense system. The state PD is the head honcho.  I have only met him a couple of times in the entire time I have been in public defense, including when I was an intern. I know him bc he was a chief before he was the state PD & everyone knows the names of the chiefs. But I have never had a conversation w/ him.

So, my friend was talking to him about me & he said to her that he had heard my name before & had heard good things about me. He said, "She's got a good reputation, doesn't she." My friend told me this today & I was floored.

I'm just a line attorney in some middle of nowhere land, doing my job. I haven't made the news for any big cases or taken down some poorly-run crime lab or represented some high profile case. I wouldn't expect the state PD to have any idea who I am, let alone have heard specific opinions about me.

I think it's really neat that he knows about me & that my reputation is a good one. I am just surprised that I even have a reputation in the legal field beyond my little area of the state.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

So much Supreme Court to discuss this week!

So. It's been a big week or so in Legal Nerd Land. The Supreme Court has recently issued two high-profile cases that have attracted a lot of attention.  

The first one to be released was Riley v. California, which I previously mentioned when it was granted cert. It was a case about whether or not police need a warrant to search your cell phone when you've been arrested.  The Supreme Court unanimously decided that police did need a warrant.

Here's the sitch: 

Monday, June 23, 2014

The predatory offender law is out of control

So I have discussed previously how ridiculous the predatory offender law is. Today I learned something new about it that makes it even more ridiculous to the point of becoming completely useless.

The law requires a person register for a certain set of crimes, as well as any offense "arising out of the same set of circumstances." So if you've been charged w/ a registration offense & a non-registration offense for things that occurred @ the same time & you plead top the non-registration offense, you still have to register. That's stupid enough on its own. But the stupidity doesn't stop there.

I stumbled onto a case today while doing legal research. Oftentimes, we ask prosecutors to dismiss the original complaint w/ the registration offense & recharge a new complaint w/o that offense as part of a plea agreement. Apparently that's no guarantee the defendant won't have to register.

The case I found, Gunderson v. Hvass, involved just that type of agreement. The evidence of the alleged sex offense didn't exist. The sex assault kit showed no semen, for example. So the prosecutor dismissed the original complaint & recharged just an assault, per a plea agreement, & the defendant pled to that.

A bit later, The Man comes along & informs him he has to register for that dismissed complaint. What??

The court held that the law requires that the person register for any conviction for a registration offense, and any offense arising out of that same set of circumstances, but it isn't required that they be charged in the same complaint.

*bangs head*

Ok this has gotten out of control. If a prosecutor charges something based on the initial information  & later determines that there isn't evidence to support that charge, so they dismiss & recharge something more appropriate, the person still has to register. So now we have people who have not committed a registration offense being required to register based on an erroneous charging decision. That's probably who the general public is concerned about. I know I want the government keeping tabs on people who shouldn't be required to register.

What in the actual fuck is the point of a "predatory offender" registration if it is just a list of people who were charged w/ things but never convicted of those things? Isn't the point of the stupid thing to know where PREDATORY people are so we aren't @ risk? When everyone is on the list, it completely negates the usefulness of such a list.

For a predatory offender law to be useful for the intended purpose, it needs to be limited to include only people who are predatory. This law needs to be seriously overhauled bc right now, it's not doing anyone any good & isn't protecting anyone.

What needs to change? Here's a list of ideas:

1. Juveniles should never have to register, especially for their entire life. It happens. A kid who screws up @ 11 yrs old will be paying the price of his mistakes for the rest of his life.

2. Registration should apply to only those offenses which are truly predatory in nature. That means if you're a teenager who had consensual sex w/ your girlfriend who is 3 yrs younger than you, you don't have to register.

3. Registration should only be required if you're actually convicted of a registration offense. Skip the "arising out of" business. If the prosecutor has the evidence to convict you on the registration offense & does that, fine. But if they plead it out bc of bad evidence or whatever, then you don't have to register.

Start w/ those. Make those changes & start making the predatory offender law actually meaningful in some way.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Summa, summa, summatime

Went to Target Field today for the first time this season. It was a gorgeous day out, perfect for watching a baseball game. We got absolutely destroyed by the Astros. Final score was 14-5. The Astros hit not one, but two grand slams! Unbelievable. But it was still a good time.

I love summertime bc it always seems like life slows down in the summer & people enjoy the moment more. The days are so much longer, too, so it feels like you've got more hours in the day. It's just so laid back & relaxed in the summer, which is nice.

Sometimes people tell me they don't understand how I can be so laid back & not care about things they do. I just think that life will always give everyone something to stress over, to cry about, to be miserable about; there's no need for me to create things to be up in a tizzy about when things are generally pretty good. Summer is a lot the same way. There will always be a winter, when it will be really cold, when the days will have only a couple hours of daylight, etc. But when it's summer, it's important to slow down & enjoy it.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Minnesota's high court gets it wrong again

I'm a bit late on this, but it's still interesting, so I wanted to touch base on it.  Recently, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the necessity defense does not apply in cases that deal with a person's loss of their driver's license for a DWI. 

It's a case called State v Axelberg and it's a case where the court had a perfectly situated defendant for the necessity defense, but instead of doing justice, the Court did nothing and furthered the injustice of the situation.