Recently in General Category

Sign Up to Be One of the Lucky 200

| No Comments
What happens when the "criminals-are-victims" mentality takes over, and your obligation to live within the law is no longer considered a cornerstone of citizenship?

This happens:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- They say crime doesn't pay, but that might not be entirely true in the District of Columbia as lawmakers look for ways to discourage people from becoming repeat offenders.

The D.C. Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a bill that includes a proposal to pay residents a stipend not to commit crimes. It's based on a program in Richmond, California, that advocates say has contributed to deep reductions in crime there.

Under the bill, city officials would identify up to 200 people a year who are considered at risk of either committing or becoming victims of violent crime. Those people would be directed to participate in behavioral therapy and other programs. If they fulfill those obligations and stay out of trouble, they would be paid.

The bill doesn't specify the value of the stipends, but participants in the California program receive up to $9,000 per year.

I have to tell you, $9,000 is more than I make teaching my course at Georgetown Law, and I haven't even lifted any of my students' wallets.  

I blogged here about the enormous increase in murder our country experienced in 2015.  This is after a generation of consistent decreases.

Time to confess error.  My estimate of the extent of the murder spike (14.6%) was too low.  The Washington Post's very liberal Wonkblog says, "The number of homicides in the country's 50 largest cities rose nearly 17 percent last year."

A murder increase of that size across the 50 largest cities is a national crisis, there's no other way to put it.  To give some actual numbers, Wonkblog continues, "analysis of preliminary crime data found that about 770 more people were killed in major cities last year than the year before..." In other words, the increase in murder in 2015 was more than 25 times the total number of killers executed that year.

Where's the White House emergency news conference?

And what's the explanation for this disaster?  As usual, that's where the pro-criminal crowd gets fuzzy.  

CJLF Website Under Construction

| No Comments
CJLF's main web site will be under construction today.  Hopefully we will have a new, redesigned site in operation by the end of the business day, Pacific Time.
CJLF is very pleased to announce an addition to our legal staff.  Kymberlee Stapleton was previously a recipient of our 2002-2003 fellowship and did fine work for the cause of justice.  She has now returned as a more seasoned and experienced attorney.  We will now be able to take on more cases to further advance the cause.  She may even find some time to blog here.  Welcome back, Kym.
The Marshall Project, a liberal but not unhinged group, has a commentary out with this appalling news:  The "national spike in murder [in 2015 is] the largest single-year increase since at least 1960."

If this does not set off alarms in Congress and in the states, nothing will.  But what we see instead of alarm is a snarling complacency, in which the problem is not murder but  --  ready now?  --  the death penalty.  This would be the death penalty the great majority of Americans continue to think is a morally acceptable punishment for (at least) the most aggravated murders.

The other aggressively complacent response is that, for all these many prior years when murder and other sorts of violent crime have been decreasing, we've been too tough on criminals  --  so now, in the wake of an astonishing murder surge, we should go easier and start emptying out the prisons!

This is what passes for "logic" in academia and some parts of Congress.
Chicago has probably the strictest gun control law in the country.  Illinois long since abolished the death penalty (but unlike California, has never put the question to the people directly).

We are endlessly lectured that these two major items on the liberal agenda will keep us safe, as well as help us become, as President Obama (once a Chicago resident) might say, "the people we truly are."

Yes, well, read all about it.

The 2015 Lie of the Year

| No Comments
Lying is not exactly new to political and ideological movements, but every year seems to bring a bumper crop, and 2015 had more than its share.  The Washington Post collects some of the leaders.  Among this year's winners were Donald Trump (thrice), Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and, of course, Barack Obama.

As respects criminal law, the Post's biggest winner was  --  drum roll  --  the anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement, "Hands up, don't shoot!"

This phrase became a rallying cry for protests after the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Witness accounts spread after the shooting that Michael Brown had his hands raised in surrender, mouthing the words "Don't shoot" as his last words before being shot execution-style. Democratic lawmakers raised their hands in solidarity on the House floor. But various investigations concluded this did not happen -- and that Wilson acted out of self-defense and was justified in killing Brown.

The odd and discomfiting thing is that, even knowing that its rallying cry is a fabrication, the BLM movement keeps right on using it, and using it belligerently.


Crime Is Worse Than You Thought -- Much Worse

There is no credible doubt that crime has fallen dramatically in the last generation, because of increased use of incarceration, more police, more aggressive and proactive policing, the aging of the most crime-prone component of the population, and probably several other factors.  But even given this welcome fact, we have vastly more crime than gets reported.

The crime figures I have been using (and almost all other bloggers and academics use) are taken from the Uniform Crime Reports compiled by the FBI.  That source, however, gives only reported crimes.  The number of unreported crimes is staggering. As you can see from the chart below derived from the BJS National Crime Victimization Survey (see here), almost all types of crime are massively under-reported.  The chart shows that theft  -- perhaps the most common crime  --  is under-reported by over 70%; rape and sexual assault by about 65%; simple assault by 60%; burglary by just over 40%; and robbery by just under 40%. Indeed, it would seem that the only crimes that routinely get reported are auto theft and (although the chart does not show this) murder.

I have taken this chart from Vox, a liberal source.

Tell me again that now is the time to become complacent about crime.
I promised to furnish a link for the conversation between Judge Alex Kozinski and me, and it is now available, here.  I want to thank Judge Kozinski for the many insights he shared, and the Federalist Society for hosting a lively and wide-ranging discussion.

Items of No Interest

The ISIS massacre in Paris occurred on Friday night, November 13, a little more than three weeks ago.  The massacre in San Bernardino occurred last Wednesday, December 2.  I believe it's safe to say that these have been the most discussed news stories in the United States, and possibly in the world, from the time they happened until now; I would bet considerable money on the proposition that they have been the most discussed crime stories.

One would think, then, that blogs about criminal law issues would have seen extensive discussion of the multitude of issues these events suggest.  Among them are electronic (and other) surveillance, legal and illegal immigration, gun control, the forcefulness of the police response (which killed several suspects, obviously without trial), and the appropriate sentences for those found to have aided the terrorists in each instance.

I have therefore been nonplussed, to say the least, to see that not a single word about any of these questions  -- indeed no mention of any kind  --  has been made on one of the most widely read and eclectic criminal law blogs, Sentencing Law and Policy.  Not a word by the author, the redoubtable Prof. Doug Berman, and none by any of his numerous commenters. In the meantime, SL&P has covered such things as Tennessee's fetal assault law, Hegel's theory of punishment, and "Stray Kittens Strut Their Stuff in Prison."  

Criminal law blogs are private property and may choose their subjects as their owners see fit. I have no portfolio to patrol anyone else's choice of topics. That said, the total silence about Paris and San Bernardino is, I think, revealing.  My guess is that one reason for the blackout is that the audience for SL&P is overwhelmingly against the death penalty, while, for the mind-numbing savagery of crimes like these, any lesser punishment would strike most Americans as a mockery of justice. Perhaps, then, silence is the best option.
The tape of the Federalist Society teleforum I had the opportunity to join with Judge Alex Kozinski is not yet available.  When it is, I'll post the link.

In the meantime, I can repeat only half the discussion, to wit, my opening statement.  (Judge Kozinski did not prepare a written opening).

Our debate continued what has become a national examination of some extremely important topics in criminal law, including what some call "incarceration nation," imploding crime rates, policing and police behavior, the reliability of forensic evidence, the increasing number of non-mens rea offenses, prosecutorial immunity, and plea bargaining, among many others.

Although the Judge and I had our disagreements, the breadth and sharpness of his knowledge was something to behold.

My opening is below.
I noted here that tomorrow, Tuesday November 24 at 3 pm EST, Judge Alex Kozinski and I will be talking over the failings (or successes) of the criminal justice system.  After introductory statements of 10 to 12 minutes each, we'll be taking audience questions.

The call-in number is 888-752-3232.  

Neither of us has much of a reputation as a wallflower, so if you have something about the system that's been bothering you, now is the chance to speak up with a question.
The Federalist Society will be hosting a teleforum next Tuesday at 3 pm EST titled, "Pros and Cons:  Our Criminal Justice System at Work."  The participants will be Judge Alex Kozinski of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and yours truly.

The topic is introduced as follows:

Our panelists will discuss the criminal justice system generally, and the role of the prosecutor in particular.  Some argue that, with the weight of the state and its resources on one side, including a deep book of potential crimes, the deck is unfairly stacked against criminal defendants.  Others argue that police and prosecutors act in good faith, and credit them with incapacitating career criminals, trimming recidivism, and causing a plunge in national crime statistics.  Who has the better of the argument?

Judge Kozinski has been outspoken on this subject, see, e.g., his preface here to the 44th Edition of Georgetown Law's Annual Review of Criminal Procedure. 

There will be an opportunity for call-in questions.  A lively time should be had by all.
The U.S. House Judiciary Committee has this press release on a package of bills that, if the descriptions are accurate, may actually make improvements in the criminal law.

In recent years, it seems like every package labeled "reform" has actually been a proposal to condemn us to repeat the soft-on-crime errors of the Age of Aquarius. 

According to the press release, these four bills would address (1) the required mental state where the statute specifies none, (2) acts made criminal by regulations rather than statutes, (3) acts that never should have been made criminal in the first place, and (4) just plain drafting errors.  These are all genuine problems that genuinely need fixing.

I hope to have time soon to look at the actual bill language and see if the bills live up to their billing.

And I am really looking forward to citing the Fix the Footnotes Act of 2015 in a Supreme Court brief.

Veterans Day 2015

| No Comments
To all who served in defense of our freedom, thank you. 

I have noted this on the blog before, but it bears repeating.  Statesmen may proclaim freedom until the cows come home, but the declarations are only scraps of paper unless and until the forces of freedom win the war.

The people who volunteer to fight that fight sacrifice much.  At a minimum, they give up much of their own freedom for the duration of their service and accept a life of discipline and obedience.  Too often, they sacrifice much more, lives and limbs.  We must not forget that or fail to respect it.

Monthly Archives