Wednesday, March 27, 2013


The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) in New York City requests a donation of $25.00 to enter and view the exhibits. You can get in on a donation of $0.01. Somebody doesn't think that the MMA makes this fact clear enough, and this lack of clarity constitutes a fraud upon the public. So we have a class action lawsuit filed against the MMA for heartlessly taking advantage of the public. People who were duped into paying $25.00 ought to get a refund of some sort, and some heroic lawyer has undertaken to avenge the wrong done them. I am one of those poor benighted souls who were "duped" by the MMA. If I am awarded anything as a result of the lawsuit, I will refund the money to the MMA, as I feel $25.00 is a mere pittance of an admission fee to get in to see their exhibits.

I have been the "beneficiary" of several class actions over the years, and I just got notice that another nameless lawyer has filed a class action suit on my behalf for some wrong that I never knew had been done to me. I expect to receive as much compensation from this latest class action as I have from all the previous class actions "won" on my behalf--$0.00. The only people who win class action lawsuits are the lawyers who file them, and they win them by having the courts award massive legal fees to be paid by the defendants of class action lawsuits.

Class action lawsuits were intended to avenge wrongs upon the public where individual damage is too small to make it economically feasible for a single individual to file a lawsuit. What they have become is a vehicle for making class action lawyers rich. Since the victims in class action lawsuits are supposed to be the public at large, it seems to me that the US Attorney General or the Attorneys General of the several states ought to be tasked with the responsibility of pursuing such lawsuits. In this way, instead of enriching private lawyers, the legal fees awarded in such cases would go into the public coffers. It's just an idea.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


In previous posts I have made it clear that I think "Stand Your Ground" (SYG) is wrong-headed and promotes needless killing. The political climate is such that it is highly unlikely it will be repealed any time soon, but there are some hopeful signs that some of the excesses of SYG will be repaired in this session of the legislature. Here are a couple of Senate bills which speak to the issue:

SB 136 does several things:

 (1) It repeals the current language in the statute which warns the police against making arrests when SYG is invoked by the shooter. If the police believe they have probable cause to make an arrest, they would be free to do so without fear of running afoul of the SYG law. This seems to me to be a sensible improvement.

 (2) It makes it clear that if you start a fight, you cannot stand your ground. This seems to me to be a common-sense amendment to the current law.

(3) It makes it clear that although you have a duty to retreat, you have no privilege to attack. It strictly prohibits chasing people down to shoot them while "standing your ground." If they run away, you have won, no need to kill them. This makes perfect sense to me.

(4) It sets up a commission to collect data on SYG cases and regularly report their findings to the legislature. Again, this seems sensible. If the data shows people are being needlessly killed, then the law can be further amended.

You can read SB 331 at

 Red language in the statute is language that is being removed. Green language is language that is being added.

SB 362 proposes some needed changes to SYG as well.

(1) It makes it clear that the person you shoot has to be doing something aggressive toward you beyond frowning and yelling insults.

(2) It allows innocent bystanders who get shot to sue the shooter. Now they arguably can't because the law gives the shooter immunity from civil suit.

 You can read the bill at

There are similar bills pending before the House, and I heartily endorse them.

HOWEVER there is at least one proposed SYG amendment that is so far out in left field that it is no longer in the ballpark. HB 799 proposes some changes to the law which are obviously unconstitutional.

(1) Whenever a shooter who kills someone claims self defense, he MUST be carried to jail.

(2) He must stay in jail until the Florida Department of Law Enforcement decides that he was justified in shooting.

(3) If the FDLE decides that he acted unlawfully, that finding can be used in evidence against the shooter at the criminal trial.

 You can read this bill at

HB 799 is unconstitutional for the following reasons:

(1) It seems to mandate that someone who uses a firearm in self defense must be arrested regardless of whether the investigating agency feels the arrest is justified. The constitution requires that probable cause exist prior to arresting for a crime. The bill never mentions probable cause, thereby sanctioning the unconstitutional imprisonment of innocent people.

(2) It seems to usurp the power of judges to set bail by mandating that arrestees remain in jail until the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates the case and concludes that force was justified. Defendants have a constitutional right to bail, and this bill seeks to deprive them of it. Defendants have a constitutional right to have a neutral and detached magistrate determine whether they should remain incarcerated after arrest. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, although a fine police agency, is not and cannot be a neutral and detached magistrate.

(3) It creates an unconstitutional exception to the hearsay rule by making the findings of the Department of Law Enforcement admissible at a criminal trial. A criminal investigation is not a judicial proceeding, and the hearsay findings of a nonjudicial agency (which has not allowed the accused to confront and cross examine the witnesses it has relied upon) have no place in evidence before a jury.  

These objections leaped out at me upon a cursory reading of the bill, I am sure a detailed reading will reveal further flaws.

The NRA probably won't kick me out of the association because I wrote this blog, but I wouldn't be surprised if they took me off the mailing list for their legislative updates.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Not long after Constantine the Great made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire, a doctrinal controversy broke out among the Christians of the Empire. The dispute took its name from the champion of the side which lost—a bishop named Arius. The view which ultimately prevailed was championed by Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, who is sometimes called the Father of Orthodoxy. They played rough in those days, and Athanasius’s enemies trumped up a murder charge against him. An Arian bishop named Arsinius had disappeared, and the Arians were displaying a severed hand which they claimed Athanasius had cut from the body of his victim for use in making magic.

Eventually they complained to the Emperor, and he sent his half-brother Dalmatius to Antioch to preside over the murder trial of Athanasius. The legend has it that when the Arians displayed the severed hand at the trial, it angered the the spectators in the courtroom so badly that they almost lynched Athanasius on the spot. When it came time for Athanasius to present his case, two of his supporters brought a hooded monk out of the audience and presented him before the court. They took off his hood—and it was Arsinius.  Athanasius had them display Arsinius’s hands, both of which were still attached, and then he asked the Arians whether Arsinius might have had a third hand. Dalmatius dismissed the charge in disgust.

What actually happened, as described by Athanasius himself, was that Athanasius’s supporters had discovered that Arsinius was hiding in Tyre. They commandeered the man and brought him before Paul, the Bishop of Tyre, who wrote a letter to Dalmatius attesting that Arsinius was alive. The reality wasn’t quite as dramatic as the legend, but the letter of Paul was sufficient to get the charges dismissed against Athanasius. The full story can be read in St. Athanasius: His Life and Times, pp. 98-100 and Historical Tracts of St. Athanasius, pp. 94-96

It is not every day that you win a murder case by proving that the victim is still alive, but it does happen once every thousand years or so. The last time it happened was back in the 1840’s in Illinois. Two brothers named Trailor had been charged with the murder of a man who had disappeared, and they hired Abraham Lincoln to defend them. He won the case by using the testimony of a medical doctor to prove that the victim was still alive. The victim surfaced shortly after the acquittal, and he never gave a satisfactory explanation of what had happened to him. The case was so remarkable that Lincoln actually wrote a magazine article about it, and the article can be read in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1, pp. 371-376;singlegenre=All;sort=occur;subview=detail;type=simple;view=fulltext;q1=trailor+murder.