Friday, April 10, 2015

The Liberator and the Liberated

This past week, I have been fairly active with the Innocence Project.

I attended a fund-raiser on Wednesday night.  The Illinois Supreme Court Justice who spoke at the dinner following the Red Mass of the St. Thomas More Lawyers' Guild was there.

State Senator Kwame Raoul and State Representative Scott Drury, a former federal prosecutor, both received awards that evening for their work on legislation standardizing procedures for eyewitness identification in cases of serious crimes.  Amendments to the legislation are planned to bring more offenses within the ambit of the statute.

In an especially moving address, Senator Raoul related an incident when he was false identified by an eyewitness when he was seventeen years old.  It was only that his clothing differed from the real attacker that permitted him to walk free on that night.

i spoke to Mr. Drury after the event, and he urged me to contact his office later; which I will be sure to do.  I see him as a like-minded man; a reformer, a true believer.  I too wish to work toward a New Era of Government.  As my readers know, I am wholly non-partisan in this matter-- I am an issues man.  I am quite happy to sail as first mate, as long as I can have a captain I believe in.

Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton spoke that evening.  Ms. Thompson was transformed from a crime victim to a true advocate.  Mr. Cotton showed himself to be a man of true grace and dignity.

The two spoke again at the school the following day, but I was attending class at that time.  I was able to speak with Mr. Cotton later.  I am very glad I did.  I will relate that incident later.

I also spoke with Angel Gonzalez on the stage at the end of the program.  A dignitary from the Mexican consulate attended the event with him.

This was a man kept awake some thirty-seven hours before being given a confession written in a language unknown to him.  He signed not knowing what he was signing.

I told him that I was learning to speak Spanish, so that what happened to him would not be permitted to happen again.

It was that Spanish class I was attending when I missed the appearance of Ms. Thompson and Mr. Cotton at my school.

There remains much to be done.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Of Alterations in the Hansard

Recently, at Lindsay’s Lobes, the distinguished Mr. Byrnes, noted poet laureate, expressed a profound distaste for alterations in the Hansard record of the Australian Parliament.

While I do not disagree with such an assessment per se, to my understanding the precedents from which this practice derives draws my eye to a more elusive target; the extent to which the exception is construed, whether broadly or narrowly.

The following disclaimers are in order:
While much of the analysis here deals with the laws of the United States, the English common law governs their construction; hence there is little difference from other nations of the Anglosphere.  The valid points of departure lie in the structural features.  In the Parliamentary system the judiciary is subordinate to the executive, which in turn is subordinate to the legislature; while in the Constitutional system, the three branches of government are co-equal in theory, though delegations of authority and the evolution of the office of the Presidency have effectively altered this somewhat.  This structural feature was introduced in the American system as a means of observing low conformity costs among the States, a necessity to secure ratification; while the Parliamentary system exhibits much lower transaction costs, and is geared more toward the legislature actually accomplishing its ends.

These structural features play no role in unraveling the precedents in the English common law in the matter of present inquiry.

Now, there are a number of different types of statements which can be given, and the applicable body of law is that of deposition testimony; it is separate from a hearing, but may be introduced at hearing.  There is an exception which is recognized in most jurisdictions that a deponent may review any statements made for correctness before execution of the testimony.  Effectively, the deponent retains sole possession of the statements given until this review is completed.  Any alterations to be had are typically made via errata sheet.

Still, some jurisdictions do not recognize this exception.

The rules for invoking the exception differ from one jurisdiction to the next: some require invoking the exception prior to answering any question, while others permit the exception to be invoked at any time during the deposition.  Still others permit invoking the exception for a length of time following the conclusion of testimony.

There is some utility in this.  I have seen a transcript where the court reporter transcribed the words, “Mister Peacock,” in a place where it was utterly nonsensical; nonetheless, “Mister Peacock,” were the words which the reporter had heard.  Such discrepancies are properly cured by errata.

That said, there are some jurisdictions in which the exception is construed so broadly as to permit answers of, “No,” to be changed to, “Yes,” and vice versa.  In these jurisdictions, the final deposition may be markedly different from that given.  (One particular case involving a pharmaceutical manufacturer comes immediately to mind.)  In such cases, the utility of the deposition itself is diminished.  Additionally, preparing for a deposition under such circumstances is practically impossible.

If it is not apparent at this point, the location where a deposition is given can be of primary importance.

And so, I find it fully appropriate that the Hansard be reviewed prior to publication to ensure proper spelling of names, corrections of dates (provided no material alterations result), exclusion of vocal artifacts, speech impediments, and the like, etc.

That said, it is also fully proper that appropriate counter-measures be observed when such alterations occur; i.e., that, in invoking the exception, implicit consent of review is given.  Any errata noted should be declared and subject to the objection of other members.

Additionally, measures to ensure access to the recorded records of the original proceedings should be easily available for review by the press and interested citizens.

Provided the exception is narrowly construed, and proper declaration is made with opportunity for objection, while recordings of the original proceedings are easily available, I hold such alterations are not improper, but rather prudent.

That said, legislative immunity is of a much greater scope in the Parliamentary system.  Unfortunately, I believe that immunity would apply in this case.

And that, I respectfully submit, is the issue of true concern; that the legislative immunity of the members may need to be pared back.

At any rate, the current scandal gives the opportunity to review the procedures in invoking the exception, which, by all rights, appears to be in order.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

At Your Service

A short break from midterms to pen a quick note.

A few twists and turns to speak of:

The scholarship student of the Peoria County Bar Association is now the law clerk for Catholic Charities Legal Services, via the St. Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild.

I attended a Red Mass, and saw a Cardinal in the flesh for the first time; something of a magical thing amidst a most moving occasion.

A man of great kindness befriended me, and introduced me to a number of lobbyists, as I have some interest in lobbying myself.  I sat to dinner with a state legislator who is a walking encyclopedia of credit unions, and an expert in all manner of financial institutions.

I also met an Illinois Supreme Court Justice, who turned out to be the former place-kicker for the American football team, the Chicago Bears.  It was quite impressive as he spoke with frank and humble admiration of the late Walter Payton, the star running back for the Bears, who was, by any measure, a great leader, a man of uncommon goodness and character, as well as a talented and skilled athlete.  Ordinary men can be capable of extraordinary things— this I will surely remember.

I discovered that I have an intuitive knowledge of required structure in the shaping of law.  I am sure this will be put to use one day.

Should our Prairie Stars do well, which they most certainly will, by all rights, with yours truly as the “swing,” I should be arguing before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor next March (I was the only one in class that recognized her from a photo; but, granted, this was a cross-listed class with a bunch of beef-headed criminal justice majors).  For those unfamiliar with moot court, the competitions are staged in teams of three; where one argues one side, another argues the other, while the “swing” argues both sides.  Of course, arguing both sides of an issue is something which comes quite natural to me.  I can’t imagine there would be any better at it.

At present, I have a hearing to prepare for, a continuing maintenance in dissolution action (“maintenance” is the new term for alimony, and “dissolution” is the new word for divorce), with new laws that went into effect at the first of the year; a petition to an appellate court that I’m working on, and hopefully in time to send the arguments section to our debate champion to spy out any soft spots; and four essays on 19th cent. American law— all due by Monday.  And then an essay on a topic I can’t quite recall at present to be due on Thursday.

Which is to say, I am quite busy for now.

For months now I have internally debated on whether to set up another site, leaving this to hang as a lantern extinguished.  Surely I will as time permits.

I sincerely hope that my faithful readers (all three of you!) make the move with me.  My world is enriched for your presence.  I will provide a link here when that time has come.

Though good laws do well, good men do better.
—— William Penn

I die the king’s good servant, and God’s first.
—— St. Thomas More

I will close with the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., for whose publication, available to the general public, I was prosecuted criminally; and exactly as I had printed it then.  If you wonder how a person can be prosecuted for posting the words of MLK, I will explain it to you as I have explained to more than seventy others, and no one has questioned this explanation yet:

I can tell you in four words why I was prosecuted for making publicly available the words of MLK:
1) Saint, 2) Louis, 3) County, 4) Missouri.

“[U]nenforceable obligations are beyond the reach of the laws of society.  They concern inner attitudes, genuine person-to-person relations, and expressions of compassion which law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify.  Such obligations are met by one’s commitment to an inner law, written on the heart.  Man-made laws assure justice, but a higher law produces love.”

---ML King, jr
Strength to Love
p. 37