Patterico's Pontifications


“Bong Hits 4 Jesus” Case is Not Over Yet … and It may be Coming to a Theater Near You

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 9:52 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

In June 2007, the Supreme Court decided the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case that Patterico analyzed here. The case involved a high school principal who confiscated a student’s “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner during a school-sanctioned event across from the school. The Supreme Court ruled the student’s banner was not protected by the First Amendment.

While several Justices gave different reasons for their decisions, all agreed there was no basis to hold the principal liable. Accordingly, the case was reversed and remanded to the trial court for disposition. Last month, Alaska U.S. District Judge John Sedwick dismissed the student’s claim for damages and declared the remaining issues in the lawsuit moot:

“Following a 5-4 decision from the Supreme Court favoring [Principal] Morse last session, the case was returned to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court returned the case to Sedwick, who previously ruled against [the student, Joseph] Frederick.

[School district spokesperson Susan] Christianson said Sedwick dismissed Frederick’s remaining claim seeking damages because students no longer subject to school authorities no longer have claim to “declaratory or injunctive relief.” She said the judge noted that Frederick failed to appeal the court’s prior ruling that state law immunized Morse and the school board from claims for damages.

That left only Frederick’s demand that the school district remove any references to discipline associated with his display of the banner, Christianson said. Since the school district already expunged the records, the judge dismissed Frederick’s claims as moot, she said.”

Case closed, right? Not according to Frederick’s attorney:

“However, Frederick’s attorney Doug Mertz, called the ruling a “nonissue,” predictable and expected. “We now have the opportunity to return to the Court of Appeals on the state issues,” he said.

Frederick, who lives in Idaho and teaches English in China, could not be reached for comment. He graduated in 2002.”

I’ll give attorney Mertz credit for positive thinking. Only an optimist could view a total loss in the Supreme Court and on remand as an “opportunity” to appeal on state issues, especially when plaintiff originally failed to appeal those issues.

What do you do when you lose at every level and on every issue? Offer to settle:

“Juneau School Board officials are reviewing a settlement offer in the ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ case. The undisclosed offer comes from attorney Doug Mertz, the attorney for the student behind the free-speech case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

If the School District rejects the offer, the case would return to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on state — rather than federal — constitutional issues, Mertz said. “It’s time to decide if the board is ready to put this behind them,” he said.

Mertz said he expects to file an appeal with the appellate court over a recent decision by a U.S. District Court judge who ruled the case moot. Today is the deadline to file an appeal.

School District attorney David Crosby declined to comment on the settlement offer. “It would be inappropriate to reply before talking to opposing counsel,” he said Tuesday as he left a closed-door executive board session.”

I think I can guess what the school district’s reply will be. So …

Case really closed, right? Not by a long shot. Stay tuned for “Bong Hits 4 Jesus – The Movie”:

“Bong Hits 4 Jesus. It’s back.

The infamous U.S. Supreme Court case is now to be made into a motion picture, according to entertainment magazine Variety. The magazine reports Paramount Pictures and MTV Films have inked a deal to produce a “fact-based drama” about Juneau high school student Joseph Frederick, who unfurled a banner reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” during a school-sanctioned watching of a 2002 Olympic torch parade.

The story quotes producer Michael Shamberg, of “Erin Brockovich” fame, as saying the heart of the story is the relationship between a father and son and that the tone is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” about a young man standing up for his rights.

Meanwhile, the Juneau Empire reports students and others can test their mettle against the limits of free speech rights in a new online game based on the case.”

The free speech game (and apparel!) is sponsored by Students for a Sensible Drug Policy whose goal is “to expose how the punitive policies [of the War on Drugs] hurt us and to formulate effective strategies for fighting back.”


Another Kentucky Death Penalty Case

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 7:56 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Another Kentucky inmate is challenging the death penalty but this time the challenge is to the method of execution rather than its constitutionality:

“A Kentucky death-row prisoner claims that giving a condemned inmate a sedative on the day of execution interferes with the drug cocktail used in lethal injections.

The lawsuit by Gregory L. Wilson, 51, is a new challenge to Kentucky’s execution method after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments from two other death row inmates who claim it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The high court has allowed just one execution since agreeing to hear arguments in January in a case that could affect how executions are carried out in 36 states.

Wilson’s new lawsuit challenges the method rather the constitutionality of Kentucky’s execution procedure. Sedatives interfere with the effectiveness of sodium thiopental, a fast-acting barbiturate used during execution that renders an inmate unconscious, Wilson’s attorneys claim in the challenge filed Wednesday in U.S. District court in Frankfort. The other two drugs used are pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis, and potassium chloride, which causes cardiac arrest.

Wilson’s attorneys said the state gives a condemned inmate a Valium as a sedative – even if the inmate refuses. An offer of Valium or another anti-anxiety drug are available in at least 19 of the country’s 38 death penalty states.”

Kentucky lets death row inmates who were sentenced before 1998 choose between lethal injection and electrocution. Wilson, who was sentenced to die in 1988, also claims that Kentucky does not provide enough information to let death row inmates make an intelligent choice between the two methods. Thus, Wilson’s suit seeks to “force the state to show inmates its now-secret protocols for electrocution and lethal injection.”

Death penalty cases have become battlegrounds between those who believe the death penalty should not be allowed and those who believe it should. The current legal trend is to limit the scope of the death penalty as illustrated by Supreme Court cases like Roper v Simmons (death penalty does not apply to persons under 18) and Atkins v. Virginia (mentally retarded persons may not be executed). The Kentucky cases are a continuation of this trend.

I think courts will continue to limit the death penalty. In the short term, this likely means there will be strict limits placed on the methods used to execute inmates, but the death penalty may be abolished in the long term. In the meantime, I hope the discussion covers not only whether the death penalty is cruel and inhuman unusual but also the reasons why we have it.


L.A. Times Puff Piece on Justice Stevens

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Judiciary — Patterico @ 5:49 pm

The L.A. Times has a puff piece on Justice Stevens today. Typical of David Savage pieces, the article warns readers of the danger that the Supreme Court could become even more conservative than it is now . . . if you can imagine that!

The sucking up starts here:

In the last decade, however, he has emerged as the strongest voice for the court’s shrinking liberal wing. Stevens supports the strict separation of church and state, a woman’s right to choose abortion and strong protection for the environment. This year he wrote the opinion for the 5-4 majority that said the government may restrict greenhouse gases as a threat to the environment.

The court’s last remaining World War II veteran, he also has insisted that the Bush administration must abide by the standards of the Geneva Convention in its treatment of prisoners in the war on terrorism.

“As he sees it, he hasn’t moved over the years; the court has moved,” said Diane Amann, a former clerk for Stevens and a visiting law professor at UC Berkeley.

And continues here:

In the meantime, lawyers at the high court will have to contend with Stevens’ knack for asking questions that reveal the weakness in their argument.

“His questions often start with an unassuming and gentle lead-in, but he has ability to cut to the heart of a case,” U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, the government’s chief lawyer before the high court, said.

. . . .

“He seems to get younger every year,” Clement said in the interview.

Northwestern University law professor Steven Calabresi, a co-founder of the conservative Federalist Society, said: “He is absolutely remarkable for the vigor and intellectual energy he brings to the job. And I say that as someone who doesn’t always agree with him.

And continues:

An early riser, Stevens likes to work at his computer at home for several hours before coming to the court. While most of the justices rely heavily on their clerks for writing, Stevens prides himself in writing the first draft of all of his opinions and dissents. He also keeps active in several sports and plays in competitive bridge tournaments.

I’m sure Justice Stevens is a very nice and smart man, and I don’t begrudge him a pleasant little pat on the back from his liberal pals at the L.A. Times.

But can anyone imagine the Los Angeles Times running a similarly sycophantic puff piece on Justice Scalia or Justice Thomas?

A Miracle in Phoenix

Filed under: Real Life — DRJ @ 12:19 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Together, Luis and Sylvia Viniegra and Luis, Edgardo and Edmundo Rodriguez have overcome a terrible situation:

“Two twin boys who were found four years ago in improvised, cockroach-infested cages at their Phoenix home have managed to turn their lives around in a miraculous way. The 9-year-olds and their older brother spent Thanksgiving counting their blessings. The twins, Edgardo and Edmundo, and their older brother Luis emerged from a dark nightmare to a happy fairytale, thanks to the kindness of one special couple.

The twins had spent most of their life caged in a crib. They couldn’t speak and were labeled “feral children.” Officers discovered the twins in late August, 2003, after Luis told an off-duty police officer about their squalid living conditions.

“We cried and said, ‘We wish we could help them,'” Luis Viniegra recalled. Luis and Sylvia Viniegra were in the process of becoming certified foster parents when they saw the “caged twins” story on the news. A few months later they got the call to care for all three brothers.

With the boys’ biological parents imprisoned for child abuse, the boys and the Viniegras have become a family – a family of heroes:

“My wife and I said what they need is a lot of love and nurturing,” Viniegra said. “I said, ‘let’s roll up our sleeves, change diapers, potty train and teach them language.'” The couple admitted they had no idea what they were getting into.
They said the challenges at times seemed insurmountable. But with Sylvia’s skills as a retired teacher and the pair’s determination, the boys are now going to school and striving.

“One of our boys who had no language skills is winning spelling bees,” Viniegra said. “The smaller boy is a fantastic artist. The oldest is reading at graduate school level.”

A year ago, the couple came to a crossroads. They would have to release the boys so a family could adopt them or make them permanent members of their own family. Last Saturday, on National Adoption Day, the boys’ last name changed from Rodriguez to Viniegra.”

The Viniegras credit the help and support of many people they call their ‘guardian angels.’ I think Luis, Edgardo, and Edmundo know who the real angels are.


Lebanese President declares State of Emergency; Gives Army Control (Update: Elections Postponed)

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 11:19 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Hours before he was scheduled to leave office, pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon has declared a state of emergency:

“BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – Lebanese President Emile Lahoud declares a state of emergency and orders the army to take control, less than four hours before his terms ends.”

In August, President Bush warned Syria and Hezbollah of severe consequences if they attempted to interfere with Lebanon’s democratically elected government:

“President Bush said Thursday that the United States would freeze the property and assets of anyone trying to undermine Lebanon’s democratically elected government — a move intended as a sharp warning to Syria and its ally Hezbollah.

The announcement, in an executive order and an accompanying letter to Congress, reflects heightened concern in Washington that Syria is trying to reassert control over Lebanon. It comes a little more than a month after the administration announced that it was enacting a travel ban, barring “those who have contributed to the breakdown of the rule of law in Lebanon,” possibly including leading Syrian intelligence officials, from entering the United States.

Taken together, the steps are an effort to ratchet up pressure on Syria at a time when the administration contends that it is helping to fuel the insurgency in Iraq, as well as creating instability in Lebanon. Mr. Bush’s order deems interference in Lebanon’s government to be an “extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” and declares it a “national emergency.”

Administration officials say they are especially concerned that the fragile democratic government in Lebanon, headed by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, could splinter if the Lebanese president, Émile Lahoud, who has close ties to Syria, tries to establish an alternate government. That concern has grown in recent months, said an administration official involved in formulating the executive order.”

Syria views a flourishing democratic government in Lebanon as a grave threat, and this demonstrates Assad and Hezbollah will act to keep that from happening. The question now is “What will Syria and the US do?”

Update 11/23/2007 @ 1:00 PM PST: This IHT report has more information:

“The speaker of the Lebanese Parliament on Friday postponed until Nov. 30 the vote to elect a new president, prolonging Lebanon’s two-months old political crisis and leaving the country in limbo and a vacuum at the top level of government.

The current president, the pro-Syrian head of state, Emile Lahoud, leaves office at midnight Friday. At midnight, when the current president’s term expires, the cabinet of the prime minister will now assume full constitutional authority in a caretaker capacity.”

The Lebanese President is selected by Parliament and not by popular vote. Officials from all sides are described as living insulated lives, cut off from their constituents for security and political reasons. The resulting vacuum takes a large toll on the Lebanese people’s involvement in government:

“With almost no public debate over the bargaining to find a consensus candidate for president, politicians worry that they may have difficulty explaining the choice to the Lebanese public. “At the end we might have to face an unsatisfying deal in order to avoid a vacuum,” said Mohammed Kabbani, a member of Parliament from the governing majority.

Kabbani said the political class had been locked in a process he described as “bargaining in a closed room with an armed group backed by a bigger neighboring state,” meaning Syria.”


David Shaw’s Four Experienced Times Editors Fall Down on the Job Again

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 11:03 am

In March 2005, the late David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times wrote a silly article blasting bloggers. That article featured a classic line that has achieved immortal status in the memories of bloggers:

When I or virtually any other mainstream journalist writes something, it goes through several filters before the reader sees it. At least four experienced Times editors will have examined this column, for example. They will have checked it for accuracy, fairness, grammar, taste and libel, among other things.

I couldn’t help but remember that line as I glanced over this morning’s nearly incoherent editorial about Justice O’Connor. Never mind that the editors’ point is so opaque, it is virtually unintelligible. Let’s just focus on how many filters the editorial went through before this was presented to readers:


See if you can identify any mistakes in that passage that the “four experienced Times editors” missed. Click on “more” to see whether you are a better editor than the editors at the L.A. Times.


Former Secret Service Agent Claims JFK Assassination Thwarted in Chicago

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 10:06 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

A former Secret Service Agent that protected President John F. Kennedy claims an assassination plot by a Lee Harvey Oswald look-a-like and Cuban nationalists was thwarted in Chicago just weeks before JFK was assassinated in Dallas:

“A former Secret Service agent says there was a plot to kill president John F. Kennedy in Chicago three weeks before he was assassinated in Dallas. President Kennedy was murdered on November 22, 1963. Thursday is the 44th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. But Lee Harvey Oswald would never have had the chance to kill Kennedy in Dallas, had an assassination plot in Chicago succeeded three weeks earlier, a plot that has been mentioned over the years.

Kennedy was due to arrive in Chicago the morning of Saturday, November 2 to attend the Army-Air Force football game at Soldier Field and ride in a parade. Newspapers had even printed JFK’s detailed travel plan from O’Hare to the Loop. Although police were preparing to line the motorcade route, Secret Service officials in Chicago were deeply troubled about the visit because of two secret threats.

Right-wing radical and Kennedy denouncer Thomas Vallee, had arranged to be off work for JFK’s visit, Vallee, an expert marksman, was arrested with an M1 rifle, a handgun and 3,000 rounds of ammo.

But then there was the phone call to federal agents from a motel manager concerning what was she saw in a room rented by two Cuban nationals. “Had seen lying on the bed several automatic rifles with telescopic sights, with an outline of the route that President Kennedy was supposed to take in Chicago that would bring him past that building,” said former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden.”

Bolden claims the Secret Service agents bungled surveillance on the Cubans and, as a result, Kennedy’s trip to Chicago was canceled:

“Chicagoan Bolden, now 72, was a young agent in 1963. After a few years as an Illinois state trooper, Bolden had joined he Secret Service and was invited by President Kennedy onto the prestigious White House detail – the first black agent ever assigned to protect a president.

Bolden recalled how agents bungled surveillance of those two suspected Cuban hitmen. They disappeared and were never even identified. “No one was sent to the room to fingerprint it or get an I.D. The case was lost and that was the end of it,” Bolden said.

On November 2, the president was about to leave the White House for Chicago, and Bolden says a Cuban murder squad here was unaccounted for. “The morning of the game, the special agent in charge of the Chicago office called the White House and recommended the president cancel his trip to Chicago,” Bolden said.”

Bolden alleges this information may not have been given to JFK assassination investigation. He also claims that agents were sometimes drunk on the job:

“Information about Vallee, his similarity in appearance and background to Lee Harvey Oswald and details of the Cuban hit squad in Chicago were never given to federal agents in Dallas, Texas. Bolden said the information was not known to have been passed on to Dallas.

In a book that Bolden wrote with his late wife, due out next spring, he will cite another contributing factor in the JFK murder: on-duty drunkenness by Secret Service agents. “I told the chief of the Secret Service this, that if anything happens, an emergency situation develops with President Kennedy, that their reflexes are going to be in a condition that they won’t be in a condition to respond, and Dallas, Texas proved I was right,” he said. “The president’s life was in grave danger because of the inefficiency of security around him, too many weaknesses.

“When that bullet struck the head of the president, it struck me too because I saw it coming,” Bolden said.”

That would be a memorable quote to put on the dust jacket of Bolden’s forthcoming book.

Bolden also claims he tried to notify the Warren Commission but was framed with a bribery charge that was manufactured to silence him:

“When the Warren Commission began investigating JFK’s assassination, Bolden says, he attempted to inform members about the Chicago plot and misconduct by his fellow agents.

During that time Bolden himself was arrested and prosecuted for soliciting a bribe from a counterfeiter and served a six-year sentence. He claims it was a set-up to silence him. The main witness has since recanted, and Bolden hopes now to clear his name.”

President Kennedy died 44 years ago but the JFK assassination theories never die.


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