Repeal the Second Amendment: it’s obsolete and unnecessary

So, another loser with a gun kills some folks. Maybe “going cinema” will be the new “going postal.”

Politically, repealing the Second Amendment is a dead letter, and usually I’m not interested in pie-in-the-sky politics. Gun control is much more likely to benefit from a reformed Supreme Court’s overruling Heller. But just in the interest of rational thought, it’s worth pointing out that the Second Amendment no longer makes sense and should be repealed. Continue reading

Why isn’t law a subject taught in high school?

The abusive arrest and mysterious death of Sandra Brand in the custody of Texas cops has been all over Twitter, and one thing I noticed was Wesley Lowery asking questions about a citizen’s rights during a traffic stop. Can the officer require you to step out of the car? Can he order you to put out your cigarette? The answers confirmed my own vague recollection from Crim Pro in law school, i.e. that you might as well roll the Fourth Amendment up & smoke it every time you leave your driveway.

Sandra Brand may not have known these things, and to be quite clear, I’m not blaming her at all—that cop was hellbent on escalating the situation. Police should share some skills with social workers, and one of the things they have to do is explain the law, patiently, to people they detain, whether those people are happily detained or not.

That’s especially the case because ignorance of the law is surely the rule, not the exception, amongst the general public. How would anyone who hasn’t been to law school, or worked in law enforcement, know the rules about traffic stops? Or anything else about the law, for that matter? What’s a tort? What kind of conduct makes you liable for punitive damages? How do contracts work? What are the basics of divorce and child custody? When can you go to jail for sleeping with someone who goes to your school?

(Don’t confuse this with civics class, which may teach a bit about the Supreme Court and some points of con law, but doesn’t begin to cover practical law.)

None of this is rocket science, at least on a general level. It could be taught as a high-school subject. And in a democratic republic, where the people’s votes are supposed to determine the laws … as well as in our modern state, where knowing one’s rights and responsibilities can not only make a huge difference to one’s finances and family life, but even be a matter of life and death … can we afford to let our students graduate from high school (those who do graduate …) with “many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse,” but nothing about the law that they are going to be held responsible for knowing whether they know it or not?

The bookshelf

Sooo behind on this … I’d feel guilty, if you cared.

Nell Zink, Mislaid – this was a quick, light, and funny read; the dustcover premise (white lesbian student knocked up by gay prof, hides out posing as black) is quickly realized, and Zink has some predictable and not-so-predictable fun working that out. Lots of pitch-perfect observation of things Southern (it’s set in Virginia). Need to get her first novel now.

Elena Ferrante, The Story of a New Name – took me a while to pick up vol. 2 of her Naples quadrilogy tetralogy, but I tore through it this weekend. Anyone dismissing these books as potboilers (1) may well be a sexist asshole, (2) has little appreciation for just how tough it is to construct a plot that keeps bringing the reader up short, and (3) must be ignoring Ferrante’s power of characterization and, even in translation, sharp and beautiful prose. Already into vol.3, which is going to suck because vol. 4 isn’t out here until fall …

Fritz Leiber, Our Lady of Darkness – a classic, but the kind of horror story that’s more interesting than good. You know those SF novels with a great premise that just doesn’t get worked out? Same problem. Leiber’s buildup is too slow (the book doesn’t get scary until halfway through); the next quarter of the book is the most interesting, as the protagonist learns about the eerie backstory (megalopolisomancy!); and then the conclusion is, well, lame. Leiber carries it off with his charm and characterization; if I lived in San Fran, I’d have to take a weekend to walk around with this book in hand, tracking down the locations.

Fritz Leiber, the Fafhrd & Gray Mouser series – surely, if you’re the kind of person to read sword & sorcery (a term Leiber coined), you’ve already read these, right? The best of the best. Having just slagged on Our Lady of Darkness, let me hasten to say that many of these fantasy stories are quite scary in themselves (“The Bleak Shore,” “The Sunken Land,” & more). Spooky or not, these stories exceed my powers of praise; the thieving & fighting duo are the archetype of the Likable Rogue, and get their comeuppance often enough to keep them a few notches short of insufferable. Collected in seven volumes, their origin story is in Swords and Deviltry, but there’s much to be said for starting with the tales in Swords Against Death, or the novella “Adept’s Gambit” in Swords in the Mist (a retrofitted story set in Hellenistic Tyre, not the world of Nehwon).

Alfred Cobban, A History of Modern France (3 vols.) – these books have been replaced by Penguin with weightier, worthy volumes, but the shorter books are well worth your attention. Cobban’s erudition is lightly worn, and his style had me underlining favorite lines. (On Haussmann’s “passion for vistas”: “The place de l’Etoile looks very fine from the air; it is a pity that it is not normally seen from that angle.”) Francophiles should pick these up. (The volumes cover 1715-99, 1799-1871, 1871-1962.)

Mississippi’s gay-divorce case: still pending …

Pretty promptly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals applied that holding to the pending gay-marriage suits before it. (Like, the next Wednesday after the Friday, June 26, decision.)

Pending in the Mississippi Supreme Court is the “gay-divorce” case of Czekala-Chatham v. State. The plaintiff was married to a woman in California, but denied a divorce in DeSoto County because the chancery court didn’t recognize a valid marriage that could be dissolved.

On July 1 (the same day CA5 ruled), C-C moved for entry of judgment on the basis of Obergefell. The next day, the State conceded the motion. That was also the last day the MSSC issued opinions (which come down Thursdays at 1:30) before its 2-week summer vacation. The case continues to sit. (Even if it wanted to, the chancery court could not review its ruling in light of Obergefell, because the appeal deprived it of jurisdiction.)

Here’s hoping that Ms. Czekala-Chatham’s domestic situation does not continue to hang in limbo … and that the MSSC’s decision does not have any embarrassing concurrences and dissents like Louisiana’s supreme court managed to publish. The next day for decisions to issue is July 23.

The EEOC holds that Title VII forbids employment discrimination vs. gays … but is it correct?

So, the EEOC has issued a ruling that employers are barred by Title VII from discriminating against gay employees. I haven’t read the decision, but Slate sums up the logic:

The EEOC previously held that when an employer discriminates a gay employee for being effeminate—or a lesbian employee for being butch—that qualifies as illegal sex stereotyping. Now the commission has taken that logic one step farther. When an employer disapproves of a lesbian employee’s orientation, he’s really objecting to the fact that a woman is romantically attracted to another woman. This objection is based on irrational, stereotyped views of femininity and womanhood. Thus, when the employer discriminates against his lesbian employee, that discrimination is based in large part on her sex, and on his anger that she does not fit into her gender role.

Works for me! But longtime commenter Loki at the Volokh blog (whose opinions over the years I have generally respected) thinks this is just bad law (scroll down to 8:06 comment): Continue reading

Top 10 Reasons Not to Request Oral Argument (When You’re the Appellant)

In many courts, such as the Mississippi appellate courts and the federal courts of appeal, there’s no oral argument unless the parties request one, and the rule of thumb is that, if you’re the appellant, you’d best ask for it. Yet many appellants do not! Why not? We can only guess at their reasons …. Continue reading

Miss. S. Ct. 2014 annual report data

The 2014 report hasn’t been posted at the Court’s website (indeed, the link to the 2013 report posted last year has now vanished), but Judge Griffis’s presentation to the state Bar’s annual convention includes the 2014 (and 2013) data.

Some highlights:

  • 144 Rule 5 petitions filed; 44 granted (31%)
  • 216 cert petitions filed; 50 granted (not counting 9 granted & then dismissed) (23%)
  • 32 oral arguments in the MSSC; 31 in the COA

(Subject to the usual caveat that, for instance, some of the cert petitions granted may’ve been filed in 2013.)