June 11 roundup

Updating earlier stories:

  • The Judge Pearson consumer fraud suit starts today. It’s exceedingly silly, but ATLA’s attack on Judge Pearson is hypocritical: the only difference between this consumer fraud suit and the consumer fraud suits ATLA supports is that it’s an African-American pro se going against a shallow pocket instead of a well-funded bunch of millionaires going against a deep pocket. The Fisher blog @ WaPo notes a publicity-stunt settlement offer. [via TaxProf blog]
  • Wesley Snipes playing the race card in his tax evasion prosecution would have more resonance if his white co-defendant weren’t still in jail while he’s out on bail. [Tax Prof; earlier, Nov. 22]
  • “Party mom host set for Virginia jail term” for daring to ensure high school students didn’t drink and drive by providing a safe haven for underage drinking. Earlier: June 2005. [WaPo]
  • Sorry, schadenfreude fans: Fred Baron settles with Baron & Budd. [Texas Lawyer; earlier Sep. 4]
  • Blackmail-through-civil discovery lawyer Ted Roberts (Mar. 19 and links therein) seeks new trial. [Texas Lawyer]
  • Second Circuit doesn’t quite yet decide Ehrenfeld v. Bin Mahfouz libel tourism suit (Oct. 2003). [Bashman roundup of links]
  • NFL drops claims to trademarking “The Big Game” as a euphemism for the trademarked “Super Bowl” (Jan. 31) [Lattman]
  • More on the Supreme Court’s “fake mental retardation to get out of the death penalty” decision, Atkins v. Virginia (Feb. 2005; Sep. 2003). [LA Times]
  • What does Overlawyered favorite Rex deGeorge (Sep. 2004) have to do with The Apprentice? [Real Estalker]


  • More on the Supreme Court’s “fake mental retardation to get out of the death penalty” decision, Atkins v. Virginia

    Life imitates art. I guess Examination Day by Henry Slesar is no longer science fiction.

  • “‘Party mom host set for Virginia jail term’ for daring to ensure high school students didn’t drink and drive by providing a safe haven for underage drinking.”

    Maybe I’m interpreting that statement incorrectly, but it sure sounds as if you agree that parents should be able to violate the law.

    Would you defend a mother who set up a safe haven for heroin use among kids?

    Would you defend a mother who bought a bunch of condoms so that a group of school kids could have a “safe” orgy?

    Alcohol use among people under the age of 21 is illegal. What the mom did was illegal. I can see no reason why she should not be charged.

  • Ima Fish,

    In the case in question, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE denies that there are parties every year (and IIRC, everyone even knows where they happen), and that the kids drink and thn drive home.

    Thus, the only change brought about was that there were FAR FEWER violations of the law, as none of the minors who went to her house were allowed to drive.

    If the law cannot understand that, then, “the law is an ass.”

  • There’s an issue of judicial discretion in the Virginia case. No previous offense had received more than ninety days locally; here, the parents pled guilty and were sentenced to eight years, and the reduction to 27 months only partially alleviates the injustice. Of the sixteen teens, seven had no alcohol, and nine were below the legal limit.

  • OK, I went and read through th whole story, and here’s another good example of what I’m talking about:

    “Kelly said she believed the kids were going to drink regardless. She reasoned that supplying the alcohol and keeping them home would be safer than having them out drinking and driving.”

    followed by this:

    “Camblos, who has made curbing underage drinking part of this year’s reelection campaign, denied any political motivation. “Politics had nothing to do with it. I’ve seen too many photographs of teenagers being killed in car wrecks because of drinking and driving.””

    and this:

    “The couple pleaded guilty in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, and Camblos recommended a 90-day sentence at the time. But the judge, angry about the recent death of one of Ryan’s classmates at Albemarle High School in an alcohol-related crash, sentenced them to eight years.”

    So, because kids die in alcohol-related car wrecks (that the authorities don’t seem to have much success in stopping), they put in prison someone who took a much more effective step in reducing drinking and driving?

    Yeah, *that* makes sense…

  • RE: Retardation.
    If someone has been placed under guardianship because of retardation, any act he commits is the responsibility of his guardian. If he has been walking around free, he pays like someone free. If a blind man gets behind the wheel and kills somebody, it is no defense to claim blindness.

  • “Yeah, *that* makes sense…”

    You seem to have a utilitarian view of criminal law, i.e., it’s OK to break the law if there is a possible benefit to people. So if I rob a bank to feed the poor, it’s OK? I’m just trying to figure out where you draw the line.

    The other part of your argument is that if people are going to commit a crime, it’s OK to help them do it safely. So if your kids are out committing armed home invasions, it’s OK if you help them commit unarmed B & Es instead.

    The last part of your argument is most disturbing. Your entire argument is based on the premise the kids never follow the law so you might as well give up and join in. There’s no reason for me to respond to that.

  • I didn’t say it’s okay to break the law. I questioned the decision that this particular violation merited an 800% increase in penalty, or the devotion of scarce societal resources to disrupt this particular family for this particular crime. The utility of the law itself is yet another question.

  • “I didn’t say it’s okay to break the law.”

    Thanks for clarifying that Ted. I guess I have a different perspective because the neighborhood where I grew up had one of these “fun” families.

    They let all the kids drink, because “kids will drink so we might as well keep them safe.” But the parents also let them smoke pot, do coke, have sex, etc. All under the guise of protecting kids.

    I give kids and parents a little more credit. If you know your child is going to break the law, don’t help him. Ground him, take away his car keys, but don’t simply give up and participate.

    And one last thing, I think any utilitarian aspects could be brought up at sentencing to get a lower sentence.

  • Note that while the Virginia mom received 27 months in jail just for serving booze at her son’s party, a Tennessee Pastor’s wife will receive only a few months in jail for killing her husband by shooting him in the back while he lay in bed. (See
    “Woman Who Killed Husband Might Serve Only 60 Days,” Washington Post, June 9).

    Isn’t our criminal justice system insane? You get less penalty for killing your husband than you do for serving booze to minors.

    The Tennessee example is not an isolated incident. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ study of large urban counties, wives who kill their husbands without provocation get an average of only 7 years in prison.

    By contrast, husbands who kill their wives get a more reasonable 17 years on average. The grossly indulgent treatment of husband-killers seems to reflect deeply ingrained gender-bias.

    The U.S. Sentencing Commission has noted that gender-bias in favor of female defendants is commonplace in the federal courts as well.

  • Sorry, Ima, but there is not even an allegation that anyone was harmed by what the mother did. And your notion that her punishment is justified by crimes she is not alleged to have committed is ridiculous.

  • Ben, I believe Ima is among those who thinks alcohol consumption by minors is inherently harmful.

    (disclosure: I’m an abstainer who doesn’t categorically oppose drinking, teenaged or otherwise)

  • Ima,

    1) Breaking the law is, generally, a bad idea; however, the law is an IMPERFECT mechanism with a specific aim, and in this case, the mechanism misses the point. Also, just for the record, the odds of any poster on this forum not having personally broken a law in th last week is incredibly small (that’s how many ridiculous laws we have).

    2) Even ignoring #1, taking action against the parent in this case, while NOT taking significant action against “unsupervised” parties is quite ridiculous.

    3) Even ignoring 1 & 2, increasing the sentence for an activity that was spcifically designed to PREVENT drunk driving bcause the sentencer wants to prevent drunk driving (or prosecuting the case because one wants to be seen as being against drunk driving for political advantage) is, to put it as mildly and politely as possible, missing the entire point.

    One can say that the actions of the court and prosecution in this case are ridiculous without necessarily endorsing what is being prosecuted.

    Minors drink. 50+ years of trying to get thm to quit has failed spectacularly. If stopping drunk DRIVING is more important than stopping drinking (and I would hope that’s universally acknowledged), action against this particular couple is counterproductive (again, trying to be polite in word choice).

  • The issue is whether it’s okay to break the law when doing so will in fact replace a greater harm with a lesser one. If the madman is going to push the button to blow up a stadium full of people, you shoot him through the hostage.

    “You seem to have a utilitarian view of criminal law, i.e., it’s OK to break the law if there is a possible benefit to people.”

    If I have to trespass and steal your crowbar to get a child out of a burning car, I’m going to do it. And if the law charges me with trespass, the law is an ass.

  • Regarding the drinking case, I think the woman should have had some prison time. But what no one is mentioning here is that the 8-10 year sentence (that she originally got) is more time than most drunk drivers get for causing fatalities. I can’t see how the prosecution or the judge could possibly have justified such a ridiculously harsh sentence. Unfortunately, it was strongly supported by the local chapter of MADD, which means that MADD has now lost some of my support.


  • “I can’t see how the prosecution or the judge could possibly have justified such a ridiculously harsh sentence.”

    You know another thing we can’t see: the name of the idiot who handed diown the eight-year sentence. The name is conspicuously absent from every story I could find. Eventually, I find a story that mentioned the name of the appellate judge, but the trial judge’s anonymity is preserved.