06 January 2010

A Round Tuit (14)

A Round Tuit

When it comes to legal blogging, there seems to be no shortage of writing worth reading once one gets around to it.

What's that? You have no round tuit? My friend, you are fortunate indeed, for never before in human history have round tuits been so readily available. If you need one, Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. has them in stock.

While you place your order, I'll share a few posts which are worth your attention.


The conclusion of one year and commencement of another always seems to put us in a contemplative mood. Some look back at the year just ending and give "best of the year" awards; some look forward and offer lists of resolutions for the coming year; some well-rounded folks find a way to look in both directions, whereas others look at nothing except the bowl games on television. There were awards and resolutions both in the legal blogosphere this week and since there's no bowl game on right this second, I'll take a moment to mention a few notable ones.

The ABA Journal has for a few years now collected a "best of class" collection of legal blogs and blog-like substances into a list it calls the "ABA Journal Blawg 100". Scott Greenfield notes that the first time around, the list showed a few growing pains but was generally enjoyed as all in good fun. The second year, he continues, was "somewhat troubling. Good blawgs were ignored. Non-blawgs were included. It had the stink of arbitrariness and pointlessness." This year, Greenfield's Simple Justice blog was once again selected, but he chose to sit on the sidelines during the "best of" voting while others threw themselves into campaigning for votes:
[O]ne thing happened that compels me to even mention this ridiculous Beauty Pageant. This:

Neil Squillante at Technolawyer wants to win his category so badly that he has started a sweepstakes with cash prizes, substantial cash prizes, for those who vote for Technolawyer. Nothing that I've experienced as a part of the blawgosphere, as a blawg in the ABA Journal Blawg 100, has made me more ashamed than this.

This is what has become of the blawgosphere. The marketers, hypsters, snake oil salesmen have fought hard to change this from a community of thought and expression to a crass commercial opportunity. Nothing could be more crass than this. Obviously, Squillante thinks he can eke some monetary benefit from winning, enough so that it's worth putting up a substantial amount of money to buy votes. There's no rule against it, though the ABA Journal seems to make up rules for its Beauty Pageant as it goes along.

I urge everyone reading this post to now register and vote for Technolawyer in the hope of winning the $500 top prize. You would be foolish to pass up this opportunity to get some cash in your pocket for doing nothing of consequence.
While Greenfield encouraged voters to indulge their sense of greed at TechnoLawyer Blog's expense, Rex Gradeless appealed to the better angels of voters' natures, promising $500 to an animal rescue program if they opted for his site instead. In the end, the Blawg 100 competition went to the dogs, rather than for them. Notwithstanding, it seemed that even the folks at the ABA Journal felt something akin to shame and in awarding a prize to TechnoLawyer Blog provided a caveat: "The TechnoLawyer Blog drew the most votes in this category only after it ran a sweepstakes campaign offering readers who claimed to have voted for it the opportunity to win one of two $500 first prizes and five $100 second prizes. Had the sweepstakes offer not been made, the likely winner would have been E-Lessons Learned." Bob Ambrogi dismissed TechnoLawyer Blog's win as "a tainted victory, at best." He continued:
Let me say right here that my own LawSites blog was also a contender in this category. For that matter, I sometimes contribute to the TechnoLawyer Blog as a commentator for its YouLaw feature. But this ploy to offer cash prizes for votes does not pass the smell test. I would have been glad to see TechnoLawyer win under other circumstances, but this is a tainted victory, not to mention a dismal lesson in lawyerly behavior for the law students [who produce the E-Lessons Learned blog] who were edged out.
Though the Blawg 100 competition ended with a bit of controversy, there remain a few awards which are worth winning. Like many, I'm looking forward to the results of Mark Bennett's "First Annual Bloggers' Best Awards", which will be announced once he's finished answering his fan mail from Maricopa County, Arizona. Just announced was Scott Greenfield's award for the best criminal law blawg post of 2009; congratulations to TechnoLawyer Blog Jeff Gamso, whose post discussing the emotional turmoil associated with trying criminal cases, particularly capital ones, was the deserved winner. Not one to rest on his laurels, Gamso took notice this week of his fellows' end-of-year reminiscing and their start-of-year resolving and soberly looked at the year ahead:
So we've gone through the year recognizing that wins are few and often relative ([life without parole] in a death penalty case, fergodssake). Most of our clients are factually guilty. Most will end up convicted of something. Like a batter who's doing great if he gets a hit 30% of the time, we've mostly fought losing battles.


And beginning tomorrow, we'll do it again in 2010. It's who we are.


Day after day. Not with hope exactly but with something like determination.
Brian Tannebaum had one of the better lists of resolutions I saw; comprising nearly two dozen items — some conciliatory, some combative, all constructive — his list is worth careful consideration. Another list worth a look is Annsley Merelle Ward's two-parts list of the five leading intellectual property stories of the past year, including the unauthorized Catcher in the Rye sequel in the first part and the Google Books settlement in the second part. To start 2010 off right, Old John (Bolch) offers an amusing month-by-month preview of what will happen in the new year. The new year found Dan Hull in a philosophical frame of mind; he recommends us to start the year "fresh, curious and truly awed":
Children come with Imagination. It's standard issue. Some lucky adults hold onto Imagination, even as it is bombarded with a tricky, confusing, and lob-sided mix of messages favoring mediocrity over quality. Until Imagination becomes a value in and of itself, a lot us will "shuffle off" life on earth without even knowing what happened in the past 80-odd years.


True, few of us can have Einstein's talent for Western logic, or his IQ. But Einstein's advantage over other physicists may have been that he was a "new soul". He looked at everything as if he were seeing it for the first time. Imagination.

Take work. He approached it from a wellspring of joy. There are, and have been, others like Einstein in that respect. Those are the kind of people we want as friends to inspire us, and as co-workers to solve clients' problems. His IQ and genius is not the point. We'll take an IQ a lot lower than Einstein's (for associates, though, Coif or Law Review would be nice).

Reverence and a child's awe. Imagination. That's the outlook we prize here at WAC? Energy, intensity and creativity always seem to come with it. If it comes with serious brains, we'll take that, too.
It's powerful stuff which deserves to be read in its entirety; notwithstanding, if fresh, curious, and truly awed is too much to expect this soon after the holidays, perhaps you'd prefer Meatloaf's advice that "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad"?

Finally, as we're all starting a new year, I'd like to take a moment to mention that Ron Coleman's Likelihood of Confusion blog is starting its sixth year; this was one of the first legal blogs I read on a regular basis and now half a decade old, it's still one of the best.


Wayne Conley is a dishonorably-discharged former soldier, a convicted rapist, and a registered sex offender. To those sterling credentials, Conley has now added the distinction of becoming an internet stalker.

Several prominent legal bloggers have come to know of Conley mainly as a buffoonish online character, an obnoxious and pathetic presence on the fringes of legal blogging whose transparently-false posturing has been good for more than a few laughs. In recent months, Conley has adopted several pseudonymous Twitter identities to continue his harassment, 140 characters at a time. Over the past few months, the worst lawyer in Houston has gathered a few details about Conley's past crimes — orchestrating the gang rape of a fellow soldier — and pending charges (just misdemeanor telephone harassment — it seems tougher to get into really serious trouble when you're a registered sex offender living with your mother).

Lately, Conley's been tweeting under the account name @asshatlawyer. Hijinks ensued.

Discussing the self-proclaimed legal social media gurus, consultants, and experts who happily conversed with and retweeted @asshatlawyer, Scott Greenfield wrote:
[B]y following lawyers, many, many lawyers, their vanity kicked in and the notion of accumulating followers without having any clue who they might be overcame whatever judgment these lawyers might have. Asshat Lawyer followed them and they followed back. Woohoo! Another follower! How important I am! At the moment, @asshatlawyer has 860 followers, and climbing. How many realize that they are following a psycho-rapist-stalker?

Then they began to get the ignorant yet venomous twits of the nutjob. In their naiveté, they twitted back, as if to engage a normal person sending absurd and offensive twits. This placed the lawyers on the nutjobs enemies list, and his attacks would then be directed toward them. Some were so foolish as to demand telephone calls to "straighten out" this psycho and his lunatic ravings. They actually invited a psycho into their sphere.


The irony of all this is that the efforts of this psycho are meaningless. His idea of doing harm to his enemies ranges from inconsequential to laughable, incapable of realizing that he sounds every bit the nutjob he is. But those unaware lawyers who have fallen into the trap of engaging with this ignoramus, following him, even inviting his further communication, have soured on the good that social media offered because of its inability to keep out the psychos. Their feelings are hurt by the nasty things twitted about them, not having realized that the most irrelevant psychotic with a computer is every bit as capable of twitting stupid nasty things as the most respected lawyers.

The social media gurus never speak about the downside of the digital world, the great equalizer, where the sickest, lowest individual can pretend to be as much a part of the legal world as anyone else. In fact, the more demented and obsessed they are, the more flotsam and jetsam they will leave in their wake, typing away feverishly in the middle of the night as if they are accomplishing their "fiendish plan," like some cartoon bad guy bent on hegemony.

Soon enough, lawyers will figure out that this is just a nutjob trying to infiltrate the legal sphere. Perhaps twitter will wake up, long after everyone has been duly annoyed and offended by this psycho, and take down his account (though he will start another the next day). But this is a roadmap to the great, gaping hole in twitter, the one that lets any nutjob bent on doing harm reach out to the multitude of lawyers (or anyone else for that matter) who have bought into the networking bonanza that social media gurus are selling. Don't expect twitter to protect you from the psychos. They are happy enough to have another million twitter accounts to announce, no matter who's behind them.


This is the downside to social media, and somebody has to tell you about it. Wayne Conley is just one of the little nobodies who wouldn't exist if he hadn't latched onto this blind squirrel trick. And he won't be the last. A long line of psychopaths with computers is waiting to follow you. Will you follow them back?
Eric Turkewitz added his cautions to Bennett's and Greenfield's:
[T]his is worth writing about as a lesson to newcomers to the blogosphere and those who think acquiring a jillion Twitter followers, or a bazillion Facebook friends, will magically lead your nascent law firm down the Yellow Brick Road to Oz. It doesn't work that way. And it could even be dangerous.

You would be foolish not heed the cautions of Greenfield and Bennett. Don't be so quick to add Twitter and Facebook buddies under the pretension that these networks give you a level of familiarity with others if that familiarity doesn't actually exist. If you don't know how to say no then you aren't an adult.
Brian Tannebaum, another of Conley's recent targets, has had enough; he supports a pending bill in his state to prohibit sex offenders from using the internet except for work in large part because of his experience with Conley's antics and the lack of concern or urgency shown by ISPs and online services used by other offenders:
A couple weeks ago, Senate Bill 932 was filed in Florida. Yet another restriction on the already oppressive, not working, sex offender laws:

"Prohibits persons convicted of certain sexual offenses involving the Internet from accessing the Internet or maintaining or contracting for access to the Internet. Provides an employment exception. provides criminal penalties."


Because of Wayne Conley. I support it.


They say the worst crime victims are criminal defense lawyers. We wake up every day and work to defend the rights of people that others hate and think should be in jail forever, or dead. We defend people like Wayne Conley. When we become the victims, we are unrelenting. No one should make a victim out of the same person who defends what others consider the indefensible.

To those sex offenders who have done their time, quietly living their lives hoping that restrictions will be eased, that legislators will be more reasonable, that criminal defense lawyers will fight for justice even for them, tell Wayne Conley how much you appreciate him screwing it up for the rest of you.

Although if you contact him online, he'll just deny it's him, and accuse you of, well, anything he can drum up.
After Twitter finally responded to the many complaints about Conley's (possibly criminal) misuse of its services, Tannebaum updated his readers and clarified his position on Florida Senate Bill 932:
My position is that if the sex offender is a sex offender because of an internet related crime, then they have forfeited their right to use the internet. Wayne Conley's crime was forcible rape. He should be allowed to use the internet (until he's convicted of that telephone and text messaging harassment case for which is currently has a warrant).

We have broader laws that no one seems to debate much - You can't have a gun if you are convicted of a felony - any felony. So someone who is convicted of stealing a car, can't have a gun, and nor can someone convicted of bank fraud. Those crimes have nothing to do with guns, but the law says any convicted felon can't carry a firearm. We all seem OK with that.

So I'm not saying all sex offenders should be banned from the internet, just those who have shown their inability to use the internet like normal human beings, or who's crime relates to an internet sex offense. I also think the issue of anonymity of sex offenders on the internet needs to be discussed.
Kevin O'Keefe, who's done as much as anyone to evangelize social media to the legal community, offered a word of caution this week — common sense should tell you that you shouldn't be following anyone and everyone who follows you on Twitter:
In addition to being a good tool for getting to know people better, Twitter is a wonderful tool for getting to know the people you'd like to discover.

That doesn't mean following everyone who follows you. I look up everyone who follows me. If there's a link on their Twitter profile page, I follow it. I Google people's names looking for their LinkedIn profile. If they're in the legal profession or of interest otherwise, I'll likely follow them.

Social media, just like the rest of the world, is full of nut jobs and people looking for attention. And just like the rest of the world you'd be best served ignoring them.
This seems like common sense advice, but as has often been said, common sense ain't always common. Compared with other groups, lawyers may be even less prone to bouts of common sense generally and particularly so in this area. After a commenter on another blog recommended engaging with people like Conley in the "real world" — by, for example, sending them sternly-worded letters on firm letterhead — Scott Greenfield had to shake his head and give similarly-minded folks a reality check:
Sound advice for the common troll. Dangerously wrong advice for the cyberpath. Most lawyers never come into contact with honest-to-God nutjobs. They mistake the ordinarily annoying person for a psycho because they have no way to measure how crazy someone can be. Criminal defense lawyers, for somewhat obvious reasons, tend to cross paths with the mentally ill with greater frequency. Most mentally ill people aren't dangerous. Some are.

But it's the ability to distinguish the real nutjob from the merely annoying that can spell the difference between horrendously bad advice like that above, which can lead to a very dangerous situation, and taking more appropriate measures. As a general rule, when you have no clue what you're talking about, it's best not to talk. Lawyers are loathe to follow this rule.


There are dangerous people out there. That's the point. These are not trolls. These are not sane people. These are not people with whom one can have a dialogue or reason. They are sick and dangerous, and they won't go away on their own. Pretending otherwise isn't going to protect you.

As many have already found out by trying to address Wayne Conley as if he wasn't a nutjob, they have brought themselves unwanted aggravation. Some even misery. While the risk averse will hide under their desks, hoping never to make it onto the radar of someone like this, those who do have to make a choice. Psychos aren't going away, so we can either deal with them or allow lawyers to be dragged into the gutter. It's not a pleasant choice, but for those lawyers who had the misfortune to experience engaging with Wayne Conley on twitter, there really is no option.

As for those lawyers who neither experienced the situation, nor know enough about it or cyberpaths to be capable of comprehending the risk, don't give up your day job for social media guru. And keep your head under your desk, where you will never have to deal with reality.

Odds n Ends Shop

The resolution of a couple of notable cases, the Clarke matter in Britain and the Pottawattamie County case here, remind us that even when things work out for the individuals involved, "justice" can be a more elusive concept. Jack of Kent (Allen Green), whose coverage of Paul Clarke's arrest and trial set the standard for all media, discussed the conclusion of the case. Clarke faced five years in prison for possession of a shotgun after he found the weapon and attempted to turn it into local police; finding "exceptional circumstances", the judge in his case gave him a suspended sentence of twelve months. While Clarke left the courthouse more-or-less a free man, Green explained why an injustice had still been done:
[W]hen a case involves the double jeopardy of a strict liability offence and a mandatory minimum sentence, then there should be anxious scrutiny of decision-making earlier in the process: namely the decision by the police to charge and the decision of the [Crown Prosecution Service] to prosecute.

The finding by the judge of exceptional circumstances necessarily throws into question the soundness of these two crucial decisions. The police decision to charge appears to me to be incompatible with the relevant home office guidance; the decision of the CPS that it was in the public interest to prosecute appears to me inconsistent with the only version of facts before them: the evidence of Mr Clarke.

It is not enough for such decision-makers to pass ultimate responsibility to a court in circumstances such as that of Mr Clarke. Their administrative decisions had the real effect of someone facing a five year sentence, unless a court somehow found exceptional circumstances.

In particular, it is, in my view, wholly inappropriate for such administrative decisions to be made to charge and prosecute when the "exceptional circumstances" before the court were also before the police and CPS.

When deploying the coercive power of criminal sanctions, justice requires that each stage in a criminal prosecution should also be as just as possible - and not only the process as a whole.

In my opinion, this did not happen in the Paul Clarke case, and that is the injustice done to Mr Clarke.
Pottawattamie County v. McGhee, a case which would have settled the question whether prosecutors could face civil liability for misconduct, was dismissed before a decision could be rendered by the Supreme Court. While the Plaintiffs will walk away with $12 Million, Mike Cernovich notes that society generally and the taxpayers of Pottawattamie County particularly are poorer for this settlement:
Professionally and scholarly speaking, the dismissal is demoralizing. As a citizen, it's even more demoralizing to reflect on the fact that the prosecutors who knowingly had an innocent man convicted are still practicing law. The prosecutors were never punished. The unethical prosecutors won't even write any checks, as taxpayers will foot the bill.

But at least the plaintiff is going to get paid.
Recognizing that the decision could have gone either way in the divided but conservative-leaning SCOTUS, Norm Pattis wrote that he was both relieved and bothered by the dismissal:
Obviously, it takes a case or controversy to keep a case alive, and if the parties have resolved their differences in this case, then so be it. But still, I would have preferred the Court to retain jurisdiction over the case to decide its merits once and for all. Surely, the public importance of a decision involving prosecutors who will lie to obtain a conviction raises issues fundamental to a republic. The case was on submission: the Court should have reached a decision. Substantial questions still remain about when and whether prosecutors can be liable for lying.

Instead, what we ended up with is the worst of all possible worlds, especially if you are are a taxpayer in Pottawattamie County. When lawyers for the lawmen agreed to ante up a fortune, they agreed to pay funds from the public fisc. In other words, the good people of the county are now offering financial insurance to conduct that should be regarded as a crime. And the lawmen apparently will suffer not at all.


So instead we hide the truth from juries and call it justice. In Pottawattamie County that means prosecutors can lie, cheat and steal. And when they get caught, taxpayers can pay the damages. It's time for a new word in American life and culture. What do you say of a man or woman whose been snookered, made a fool of, treated as a fool, and then told that everything is fine? Why, the person's been pottawattamied, of course.
Bygones, gentlemen, bygones. John Elwood has moved on to scouting the successor to Pottawattamie County:
The facts of Pottawattamie County were particularly sympathetic, which made it more cert-friendly than the run-of-the-mine case; but at this point, I think the Court is interested in the issue and won’t need outrageous facts to grant.

When the Court is considering a case, it typically “holds” other cases that present the same question pending the case’s resolution; when a case is dismissed for whatever reason after argument, the Court not infrequently chooses another case from among those being held and uses it as a vehicle for resolving the question. The Court does not state on the docket that a case is being “held”; instead, you typically see that a case has been assigned to a specific conference for consideration, and then there simply are no further docket entries. Thus, it is not particularly easy to find which cases on the Court’s docket are being held unless you happen to be watching a case as it moves through the system (or unless the government is a party to the case; its hold recommendations in non-IFP cases, which the Court typically follows, are available on the SG’s Office website).

While I have compiled a list of cases I suspect the Court is holding pending resolution of cases on its merits docket, I am not aware of any cases being held for Pottawattamie County. Nor am I aware of any pending cases out there that present the same question.

In the wake of the attempted Christmas crotch-bombing, the Transportation Security Administration hurriedly concocted some new security regulations and then told us about them only in the vaguest sense, claiming that secrecy and unpredictability would enhance our security. It always does; thanks, geniuses. Though we, the traveling public, couldn't be trusted with a more detailed understanding of the new security guidelines, to put them into immediate effect internationally the TSA sent those super-secret documents to more than ten thousand people around the world; much to the TSA's chagrin, one (or more) of those thousands forwarded the guidelines along to a couple of travel bloggers, Steven Frischling and Christopher Elliott, who promptly published them online.

At that point, the TSA sent agents to visit the men and serve them with subpoenas for information identifying the source(s) of the leaked documents. According to Wired's "Threat Level" blog, having received the information anonymously and being unprotected by any journalism shield law, Frischling cooperated and allowed the agents to leave with his computer; Elliott, however, contacted the Electronic Frontier Foundation and with EFF counsel's assistance resisted the requests. The legal proceedings against both men were then promptly abandoned without any explanation from the TSA other than that the information was no longer needed. Observed a former prosecutor quoted in the Wired blog, "It strikes me that someone at TSA is apoplectic that somehow there’s a sense that they’re not doing their job right. To go into this one reporter’s house and copy his computer files and threaten him, it strikes me that they’re more aggressive with this reporter than with the [terrorism suspect]." Mike Masnick was dismissive of not only the TSA's heavy-handed attempts to investigate the leak of their "secret" documents but also their attempts to keep that information secret at all:
[T]he argument in favor of this action is that these sorts of security procedures are probably supposed to be kept quiet (again, the idea would be to throw off any terrorist), but if you actually think about this, it doesn't make any sense. First, it wouldn't take long at all for reports of universal pre-boarding pat downs to be spread around. After all, thousands of people get on planes to fly to the US every day. In fact, among the many stories I heard, the universal pat down story was among them. So it's not like it's actually a secret. It's quite clear from what's being done. Second, if the TSA's security plan is based on keeping information like this "secret" (even if it's made obvious by their actions), then we're in even more trouble than I thought. It's security through pretend obscurity. It's ostrich-level security theater. It's security theater where the idea is that if the TSA pretends no one knows what's actually happening, then it can assume that no one knows what the procedures really are for airport security.
Xeni Jardin confirmed Masnick's arguments through personal experience:
Two days earlier, I'd flown home to the US on an international flight during which I personally experienced the procedures detailed in the directive. I tweeted what I experienced of those procedures before, during, and after my flight on the 26th. Thorough physical patdowns and secondary hand luggage screening pre-board, no leaving your seat or electronics or putting anything on your lap during the final hour of flight, and so on. Attendants on my flight explained that the stepped-up procedures came from a just-issued TSA security directive. As soon as airlines and airports began implementing the directive—and that began before the bloggers posted their copies—the contents of the directive were no secret. So why the strong-arm tactics?
In a lengthy post, Andrew Moshirnia speculated that the lack of any journalism shield protection for bloggers contributed to the TSA's decision to harass Frischling and Elliott: "[W]ould the TSA have ever tried this stunt with the 'legitimate press?' I’m guessing that there is zero chance they would bother the New York Times." He concluded:
[I]t seems to me that the TSA was trying to save face by pushing an absurdly flimsy subpoena on some bloggers because just a few weeks ago someone leaked the entire TSA Security Manual. This was a smidge more serious because A) it detailed procedures that the average passenger would not inevitably discover and B) each page clearly stated that this information was to be shared only to persons with a need to know. How did that leak take place? According to a CBS report, the TSA says it was "improperly posted" by the agency to a government jobs site with redactions, but the redactions were merely black text boxes added to a PDF. A few clicks and presto-changeo the text became legible. Good one. Let's all give the TSA a slow clap.

So to sum up: Though the law does give the TSA power to collect information... that does not strip citizens of their rights. TSA abused its power to subpoena in order to bully, then turned tail when at least one blogger decided to test the legal waters.
Perhaps an overbearing, intrusive TSA is a natural consequence of our collective wish to be coddled by our government and protected from all harm; Mike Cernovich suggested that we've become "a nation of children" and it's past time for us to grow up:
In a mature nation, President Obama could go on TV and say, "An airplane isn't a school bus, and you are not children. If something seems suspicious, speak up. The lives of you and your fellow Americans depend upon all of us taking responsibility for our own safety - and for the safety of our countrymen. Act like adults."

Instead, Obama will fire someone for "failing." Yet no one failed. In a human system, terrorists will slip through. Life is uncertain.


The government cannot eliminate risk. The government can mitigate risk, and indeed the government has. Since 9/11, how many Americans have been murdered on American soil by Muslim terrorists? The system is working. That one idiot out of hundreds-of-millions of post-9/11 fliers slipped through security should validate the government.

That the people in the airplane with the Nigerian fire starter actually did something should make us all feel better. At least some people got the memo: Take responsibility for your own life.

Gideon offered an outstanding post this week concerning the causes and effects of false confessions. Though prompted by a forthcoming paper on the subject, it's a worthy academic work in itself; I won't do Gideon a disservice by trying to summarize or excerpt it here — you really should just go read the whole thing when you have a chance.

The execution this past week in China of a British citizen of Pakistani origin was strongly, if ineffectively, condemned by British diplomats and politicians. David Osborne was critical of the "blinkered" views of some in the debate who satisfied their moral sensibilities at the expense of effective persuasion, if not this time then perhaps the next:
The Chinese reason, and not without cause, that if the vulnerable are going to be treated leniently, this will simply encourage the ‘barons’ to keep using them. The Chinese also reason, and again not without cause, that if leniency based on mental illness, or a dozen or more excuses, is not an option, then perhaps Akmal and others who follow him will pause to reflect.

Despite the best efforts of the British Government, the execution was carried out in accordance with Chinese law. We in the western world might ‘tut’ and click our teeth, and trot out statistics about China executing more of its criminals than the rest of the world put together, but it wasn’t so long ago that we here in Britain hanged children for theft, and often on the flimsiest of evidence, and it wasn’t until 1965 that we abolished capital punishment....

I do not criticise the British Government for their efforts, but any idiot could have told them it was doomed to failure. However, I doubt the wisdom of criticising China after the event, and in such strident language. As they say in China: “Softly softly catchee monkey,” and then boil it lightly in a garlic and butter sauce. Strident language certainly won’t help the next time around.
In his excellent Blawg Review this past Monday, Charon QC wondered how stridently his country's leaders challenged China's action, considering the business interests at stake there, and wondered also about his countrymen who are expressing support for capital punishment in significant numbers:
I can well understand that the British government had ‘difficult’ conversations – but they, like many other Western governments, can barely breathe as they hyperventilate about the opportunities that China provides to weakened western economies. I am opposed, as many are, to the death penalty – yet, sadly, it continues to be exacted in many civilised countries throughout the world, including many states of the World’s most powerful democracy, the United States of America. There are many in our own country who support the death penalty – indeed, only today it is believed that 60% of Daily Mail readers (may ‘god’ have mercy on their souls – as the judges of old used to say after passing sentence of death) support the death penalty.
Osborne and Charon are but two of the many tremendous legal bloggers across the waters in Old Blighty. In his Blawg Review, at his blog, and at his alter-ego's InsiteLaw Magazine site, Charon does an laudable job in covering the depth of British legal blogging. Though I read a number of those bloggers regularly, I never seem to do them justice in these Round Tuit posts; thus, I'm very glad to see the first of what I hope will be many "not Blawg Review" posts from Michael Scutt. Scutt notes that "by supporting each other we raise the profile of us all" and offers an outstanding collection of recent U.K. legal blogging in a "blog of blogs".

Header pictures used in this post were obtained from (top to bottom) Carbolic Smoke Ball Co., Web Worker Daily, Simple Justice, gadgets.boingboing.net, and Paris Odds n Ends Thrift Store.


Hull said...

Very nicely done, Colin--and it let us all know about stuff we missed. Thanks for the mention and the praise.

Unknown said...

My pleasure, sir. Thanks for reminding us to approach our work with creativity as well as commitment!

Michael Scutt said...

Dear Colin

Thanks for the kind words; much appreciated. I thoroughly enjoyed your post and particularly agree with your comments on Twitter followers.

I now try to only follow those people that are known to me via one channel or another, although I did make the mistake of joining up to one of those "you follow us we'll all follow you" - big mistake!