Thursday, November 1, 2007

In Memoriam - Robin Prosser

"Robin Prosser was a former concert pianist and systems analyst who suffered from an autoimmune disease similar to lupus for over 20 years. The disease left her in constant pain and made her allergic to most pharmaceutical painkillers. Only medical marijuana brought her relief, but last spring the DEA seized her medicine. Unable to cope with the chronic pain any longer, she committed suicide on October 18th." (Metafilter)

Here's Robin speaking on her own behalf:

"The nation’s DEA agents can sleep a little easier tonight. They now have one less medical marijuana patient to worry about policing...." (Read the rest at Helena Independent Record, A medical marijuana casualty By Tom Daubert - 10/30/07)

A Tale of Two Decisions

Thanks to Dennis for pointing out this story of "A Tale of Two Decisions" by Steve Bergstein with references to stories at How Appealing, Appellate Law and Practice, and Steve's own blog on Second Circuit civil rights decisions at Wait a Second.

The long and short of it is that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued its decision in the case of Higazy v. Templeton on October 18, 2007 and then, within hours, withdrew its original opinion and re-released it in redacted form. The case was about an Egyptian student the U.S. government interrogated and detained in the wake of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks (details described in the accounts linked above). The portion deleted from the court's opinion (beginning at p. 7) described the way his so-called confession was coerced. The Second Circuit overturned the trial court's ruling and decided that Mr. Higazy could, after all, proceed with his lawsuit challenging the government's use of a coerced confession to file criminal charges that claimed he made inconsistent and false statements about whether the radio found in his hotel room was his and the legality of his subsequent detention.

Now courts issue, retract, and reissue court opinions all the time, but normally only because a typographical error is found, a point of law needs clarification, or the court rehears the case or otherwise reconsiders and changes some aspect of its decision. But the retraction here was remarkable because it was, in effect, censorship and what some have characterized as a blatant attempt by the government to try to cover up exactly what its agents did to Mr. Higazy. The court's opinion no doubt had been circulated among the judges and law clerks involved in the case before it was released (almost always the case and almost certainly for a high-profile decision such as this), and apparently none of them perceived any error in the summary of events contained in the original opinion (which the government alleged was information from an appendix that had been placed under seal by the trial court). Yet within hours, the opinion had not only been withdrawn but a court official actually telephone Howard Bashman to try to get him to remove his copy of the original opinion from his blog, How Appealing. Mr. Bashman refused and the opinion still appears there.

Having formerly served as a law clerk on a federal court of appeals (the Seventh Circuit), I can only imagine the uproar this has caused within the court and legal circles (not to mention the grief and attention given to the judge and law clerk(s) responsible for the redacted portion of the opinion). But for ordinary non-lawyer citizens of the U.S. and the world at large, this whole fiasco should come as yet another alert about not only this kind of conduct from the U.S. government in its inept attempts to both wage war and "secure the peace," but also the long-term effects of the way it has manipulated the U.S. legal system and seriously eroded everyone's constitutional protections. Someday the U.S. will finally extract itself from Iraq (assuming, God forbid, it does not create another conflict in or with Iran). But the actions of the Bush lawyers and judges and the precedents and appointments made during these years will haunt us all for a very long time.

I confess that in the last few years I, who should know better, have tended to barely skim over these kinds of stories, simply because they sicken me so. The law, as well as the legal system, sadly is not the same as it was when I was in law school in the late 1970's and early 1980's. It was hardly perfect then, either, but back then even the Republicans (sometimes especially the Republicans, who used to stand for less government intervention in all realms of life) stood for constitutional principles. Something's gotta change now for the better, but it won't if we keep putting our heads in the sand, thinking that it will all somehow blow away if we can simply see our way to the end of the Iraq war.

P.S. On a somewhate related topic, listen to what Stuart Herrington had to say the other day about changes in the U.S. governements methods of interrogation and use of torture (and why they've been ineffectual, not to mention immoral) on NPR's Fresh Air.


Anna Lisa came home two days ago and last night attended the semi-finals game of the boys' varsity soccer Sectional championship games. She not only is doing well but, in the midst of the usual tumult in the stands during a hotly contested soccer match, had a remarkable conversation with her friends about her ordeal, which included questions to and answers from her friends about what they and others thought and felt about it. She is one remarkably brave and wonderful young woman.

Meanwhile... though I hesitate to mention it together with Anna Lisa, the game ended in its own kind of tragedy. Our team was ahead 4-0 at the half, having played some of the best soccer I've seen anywhere. The second half was not played so well by either team, but when there was only 7 minutes left in the game, a young (9th grade) player for our team, A.J., made the fifth goal and was (by most reports) taken down by the goalkeeper from the other team. I did not see it myself (and even if I had been looking, I would have been too far away to judge what happened, it being dark and windy). The paper this morning reported it as a "collision." In any event, A.J. was down on the field with a broken leg for a very long time until the ambulances could come and move him and take him to the hospital. Meanwhile, the other team cheered the goalkeeper who "collided" with him, and the rumors on our "side" were that the goalkeeper had kicked A.J. in the shin so hard that his shin-guard cracked in two. This is the kind of stuff I hate about soccer (and all sports, for that matter). Prayers are in order for for A.J. and his family and for better sportsmanship among all.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blessings in Celebration of St. Francis

“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless these pets. By the power of your love, enable them to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”

Gracie, eagerly awaiting her turn.

A new choir member.