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January 05, 2010

Group that created the modern American death penalty disavows it

Sidebar - Group That Shaped Death Penalty Gives Up on Its Own Work - NYTimes.com Comments are open. What do you think? Does this mean we can get rid of it now?
Last fall, the American Law Institute, which created the intellectual framework for the modern capital justice system almost 50 years ago, pronounced its project a failure and walked away from it. There were other important death penalty developments last year: the number of death sentences continued to fall, Ohio switched to a single chemical for lethal injections and New Mexico repealed its death penalty entirely. But not one of them was as significant as the institute’s move, which represents a tectonic shift in legal theory. “The A.L.I. is important on a lot of topics,” said Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “They were absolutely singular on this topic” — capital punishment — “because they were the only intellectually respectable support for the death penalty system in the United States.” The institute is made up of about 4,000 judges, lawyers and law professors. It synthesizes and shapes the law in restatements and model codes that provide structure and coherence in a federal legal system that might otherwise consist of 50 different approaches to everything. . . . A study commissioned by the institute said that decades of experience had proved that the system could not reconcile the twin goals of individualized decisions about who should be executed and systemic fairness. It added that capital punishment was plagued by racial disparities; was enormously expensive even as many defense lawyers were underpaid and some were incompetent; risked executing innocent people; and was undermined by the politics that come with judicial elections.

The Saddest Cowbellista UPDATE!

YouTube - Boise State girl tearin' it up on the...

January 04, 2010

Malaysia actually has Morality Police, and they are not messing about

BBC News - Unmarried couples caught in Malaysia hotel raids
Fifty-two unmarried couples could face charges of sexual misconduct and jail terms after being caught in hotel rooms by Malaysia's Islamic morality police. Scores of officers conducted raids on budget hotels on New Year's Day in the western state of Selangor. Those detained in the early hours of New Year's Day were mainly students and young factory workers. The Muslim couples are expected to be charged with the offence of close proximity, or Khalwat.

January 03, 2010

Inside the life of a substitute teacher

Op-Ed Contributor - The Replacements - NYTimes.com Comments are open on this one.
In 28 states, I told her, a principal can hire as a sub anyone with a high-school diploma or a general-equivalency diploma. In many places the person can be as young as 18. Not a single state requires that substitutes hold a teaching degree. In some places, a substitute teacher’s daily pay is less than the school janitor’s. And in my two years of subbing, I told Maggie, a principal visited my class only three times. Before I started to sub — an assignment that always began with a 6:15 a.m. phone call from a district sub-finder, asking if I was available to take an assignment that day — I had never laid eyes on a lesson plan. But then, boy, did I see some doozies! . . .
She begins with anecdotes about the terrible lesson plans left for her by the teachers she is subbing for, dovetails into statistics (with no source, of course) about the terrible problem absent teachers are, and then ends with a call to action to train subs better. Part of me agrees (because education is important) but then most school districts can't even afford to keep the teachers they do have, so where will this substitute-training money come from? Also, check out her rather draconian suggestions in her final few paragraphs. Tell us what you think.

January 02, 2010

A Nation of Do-It-Ourselves Lawyers; or, A Revolution in the Courtroom

Op-Ed Contributors - A Nation of Do-It-Yourself Lawyers - NYTimes.com
As judges, we believe more needs to be done to meet this growing challenge: an inaccessible, overburdened justice system serves none of us well. California took a major step forward in October when it became the first state to recognize as a goal the right to counsel in certain civil cases. (The state also committed to a pilot project, financed by court fees, to provide lawyers for low-income citizens in cases where basic human needs are at stake.) But this is only a beginning. It is essential that we promote other efforts to close the “justice gap.” One such effort involves the “unbundling” of legal services. Forty-one states, including California and New Hampshire, have adopted a model rule drafted by the American Bar Association, or similar provisions, which allow lawyers to unbundle their services and take only part of a case, a cost-saving practice known as “limited-scope representation” that, with proper ethical safeguards, is responsive to new realities. Traditionally, lawyers have been required to stay with a case from beginning to end, unless a court has excused them from this obligation. Now, in those states that explicitly or implicitly allow unbundling, people or businesses can hire a lawyer on a limited basis to help them fill out forms, to prepare documents, to coach them on how to present in court or to appear in court for one or two hearings.