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Gallup does an annual survey asking, "Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields -- very high, high, average, or very low?"

Police officers took a bit of a hit this year, dropping six points on their "very high or high" rating, but they didn't change rank, still fourth of eleven.  It would tempting to attribute the drop to the highly publicized cases of late, but pharmacists had a drop nearly as large with no obvious cause.

The public seems a bit more cynical overall, with every occupation surveyed but one moving in the negative direction.  The one, believe it or not, is lawyers, with a small (and statistically insignificant) uptick of 1%.  Lawyers are still pretty low, though, seventh of eleven and only 21% "very high or high."  Frankly, given what some members of my profession do, I can't blame the people for that opinion.

Car salespeople and members of Congress bring up the rear.

And the most trusted of the professions ... ?

Terrorists Win, Freedom Loses

One thing we heard from people on the liberal side was that the country should be leery about becoming too security conscious in the wake of the 9-11 attacks.  The refrain became familiar:  Those who give up freedom for security will get neither.

I always thought that was an oversimplified and somewhat sloganeering approach to the dangers and complications of the post-9-11 world.  It has been given significant and ominous new meaning, however, by today's announcement by several large theater chains. As the WSJ puts it in a news release within the hour:

The largest theater chains in the U.S. have decided not to play Sony Pictures' controversial comedy "The Interview" on its planned Dec. 25 opening, said two people with knowledge of the matter.

Insider Trading

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Is it a crime to trade stocks on inside information?  Sometimes.  Not as often as the U.S. Attorney for Manhattan has alleged.  Christopher Matthews has this article in the WSJ on yesterday's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in United States v. Newman and Chiasson.

The appeals-court panel ruled that, in order to be found guilty of insider trading, a defendant must know a tip was illegally disclosed in exchange for a reward of "some consequence." The court also dismissed prosecutors' contention that career advice or friendship constituted a reward, saying that, under that logic, "practically anything would qualify."

The Accused Is Presumed Innocent...NOT

Remember when those tending to favor the defense in criminal cases were the first to lecture us (correctly, for once) about the presumption of innocence?

Then you must be as old as I am.

Welcome to the New Reality, as explained in this Washington Post op-ed:

Now the narrative [by "Jackie," the alleged University of Virginia rape victim] appears to be falling apart: Her rapist wasn't in the frat that she says he was a member of; the house held no party on the night of the assault; and other details are wobbly. Many people (not least U-Va. administrators) will be tempted to see this as a reminder that officials, reporters and the general public should hear both sides of the story and collect all the evidence before coming to a conclusion in rape cases. This is what we mean in America when we say someone is "innocent until proven guilty." After all, look what happened to the Duke lacrosse players.

In important ways, this is wrong. We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist. Even if Jackie fabricated her account, U-Va. should have taken her word for it during the period while they endeavored to prove or disprove the accusation.

The presumption of innocence is an anchor of liberty.  But liberty just ain't that important when Political Correctness is running the show.

Heather Wilhelm has this article at Real Clear Politics with the above title (minus the bracketed part).  She pokes some fun at several articles that suggest you really should debate politics, religion, and hot-button social issues on this holiday with relatives who disagree with you.

For those of us who prefer the "or not" option, including myself and Ms. Wilhelm, the answer is to do the opposite.  Tomorrow, let us forget politics, crime and punishment, and other heated issues and enjoy the day with our families.  Give thanks - with the "to whom" broad enough to accommodate everyone at your home - and have a joyous holiday.
Alexandra Petri's column in the WaPo is advertised as "a lighter take on the news and political in(s)anity of the day."  Today, though, she offers a serious and thoughtful look at an important question.

Magna Carta

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(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
This great-grandfather of the Due Process Clause was signed by King John -- at swordpoint -- almost 800 years ago, along with many other promises.  Copies of the great charter were made and sent to the various counties of England, and one of those copies, from the Lincoln Cathedral, is presently on exhibit at the Library of Congress.

Update (11/13):  Justice Scalia's opening address at the Federalist Society Convention was on Magna Carta and its importance in the development of constitutional law. 

Update 2 (11/15):  Justice Scalia's address is now available online.
(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. - See more at:

Veterans Day

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VeteransDay2014.jpgThe two primary functions of government are to protect the people from foreign enemies and to protect them from domestic criminals.  Most of the time on this blog we discuss the latter, but today let us pause to thank all those who have served in the defense of our nation.

We have been informed that California Attorney General Kamala Harris has chosen Gerald Engler as the Chief Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, succeeding Dane Gillette (retired).

Outstanding choice.

Federalist Society Convention

The annual National Lawyers Convention of the Federalist Society is November 13-15 at (as always) the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.  The FedSoc website has the highlights and the full schedule.

Justice Scalia will deliver the opening address.  Justice Alito will speak at the black-tie dinner. 

The annual Rosenkranz debate will be on collection of phone records and the Fourth Amendment with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey against former ACLU President Nadine Strossen.

Mr. Mukasey will also be on the panel put on by the Criminal Law Practice Group (of which I am a executive committee member and former chairman).  He will be partnered with the notorious Prof. William G. Otis, Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center (and sometime blogger).  John Malcolm of Heritage Foundation and Marc Levin from Texas Public Policy Foundation are also on the panel, with Judge William Pryor moderating.

The Civil Rights Practice Group's panel also has a criminal-law related theme, sexual assault on campus, and unfortunately it is scheduled at the same time.  I would especially like to hear Heather MacDonald.  (Pardon me if I duck out, Bill.)

Former Senator and D.C. Circuit Judge James Buckley will close out the event.

Memo to burglars:  My home will be occupied in my absence, and the occupants are armed.

CJLF Newsletter

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For readers interested in following CJLF's work, the present and previous editions of our quarterly (more or less) newsletter, the Advisory, are available online.  Links are maintained in the Publications section of our main web site.

Hard copies of the Advisory are mailed to all CJLF contributors upon publication.
We often hear that non-violent offenses, of which white collar offenses are a significant part, should seldom or never earn jail time.

I have previously argued that non-violent offenses can be terribly harmful and often merit imprisonment.  Swindling an elderly couple out of their life savings or selling heroin to a teenage addict are among numerous examples.

Today, I saw a story in the ABA Journal about a white collar offense  -- insurance fraud  --  in which the defendant had additional things in mind to see to it that he'd become one of the "exonerated":

Already facing a 50-count indictment, a jailed defendant in a California insurance fraud prosecution is now facing 10 new charges concerning nine witnesses he is accused of targeting for murder in the Contra Costa County case.

District Attorney Mark Peterson said a witness "hit list" found by investigators not only lists the nine witnesses allegedly targeted by Charles Waldo, 37, but specifies the order in which they were to be killed and the methods by which they were to be slain, the Bay Area News Group and KTVU report.

The methods included fatal drug overdoses and staged car accidents, as well as slayings during robberies "gone bad," the DA said.

The Journal story noted that the articles don't include any comment from the defendant or his counsel.  I have no trouble believing that.

Last year, the Legion of Whiners was in good form, trying to intimidate speech not conforming to their views.  Indeed, they marched beyond the typical snarling reception given conservative speakers, and filed a formal complaint against Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit for her talk at a Federalist Society function at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.  The gist of the complaint, as reported below, was that the Judge's remarks were  --  ready now?  --  racist, and inappropriately favorable to the death penalty.

The complaint was widely reported, see, e.g., this NYT story and this one from CBS.  It was also reported on legal blogs, see, e.g.,  this entry.

The complaint was referred by Chief Justice Roberts to the DC Circuit.  After a lengthy and thorough investigation, the Court rejected the complaint in its entirety, with no dissent.  Its order is here.  Hat tip to Judge Richard Kopf on his blog Hercules and the Umpire.

I have been writing recently about left wing attempts to silence dissenting conservatives, basically by false and disgusting accusations.  The Jones complaint was of a piece with this New is the relative silence about its dismissal.

Congratulations to Judge Jones.  May she serve many more years on the bench, and continue to defy the Politically Correct Brownshirts who would silence her.

Ebola, Race and Criminal Justice

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Ebola screening of persons on incoming flights, and the concomitant implicit threat of detention and possible coercive quarantine, is deployed disproportionately against "people of color," to use the current politically correct phrase.  

Q:  Why, then, haven't the Usual Whiners against racial disproportionality been at the top of their lungs in protest? 

A:  Because even they understand that the government's response, though grossly racially disproportionate, has nothing to do with race.  It has to do with behavior. Specifically, it has to do with the higher-than-average prospect that persons on those particular flights have come in contact with the virus.

Q:  So why do Whiners refuse to understand that racial disproportionality in important areas of the criminal justice system  --  e.g., concentrating police patrols in high crime areas, and stiffer sentencing for those with long records or histories of violence  -- likewise reflects attention to behavior rather than attention to race?

A:  Because that is not on the Whiner Agenda.  Indeed, it affirmatively undermines the Agenda.  Once it is recognized that differences in treatment reflect differences in chosen behavior rather than differences in skin color, the Agenda collapses, and with it much of the force of the attack on police and prosecutors.

Eric Holder's Resignation

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This isn't entirely fair, but it's not entirely unfair, either.

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