Eduardo Peñalver on the Kelo case and my book “The Grasping Hand”

Cornell Law School Dean and prominent property law scholar Eduardo Peñalver’s has posted a thoughtful review of my book The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain. I am grateful to Dean Peñalver for his in-depth analysis of the book, and his praise of several aspects of it, particularly since we come at these issues from very different perspectives. In many ways, this is exactly the sort of debate I hoped to stimulate by challenging the conventional wisdom about Kelo among legal scholars.

Not surprisingly, I disagree with several of the points Peñalver makes. Here, I focus on two of the most important: the original meaning of “public use” in the Fifth Amendment, and the real-world effects of eminent domain.

In my book, I argue that the historical evidence strongly supports a narrow interpretation of “public use” under which the government can only take private property if it is used for a state-owned project, or for a private enterprise that has a legal obligation to serve the entire public (e.g. – a public utility). One important piece of evidence that I relied on is that by the time the Fourteenth Amendment made the Bill of Rights applicable against state governments in the 1860s, a large majority of the state supreme courts that had addressed the issue, had interpreted “public use” narrowly.

Peñalver worries that this was not a large enough majority to ensure ratification of the amendment by the required three-fourths supermajority of state legislatures. Perhaps not. But it is unlikely that any state legislature otherwise inclined to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment would have refused to do so merely because of disagreement with the majority interpretation of public use at the time. After all, the Fourteenth Amendment included many more prominent elements than this one, and – particularly for Republican-controlled legislatures in the North – it would have been difficult to reject the most important political objective of their party merely because of concern over this comparatively secondary issue.

Moreover, the interpretation of public use by state supreme courts is far from the only evidence that supports a narrow interpretation of the original meaning of public use, not only as of 1868, but also at the time of the Founding. No one piece is by itself decisive. But cumulatively, the evidence for a narrow interpretation far outweigh that supporting the alternative. In the book, I also argue that a relatively narrow interpretation of public use is supported by several leading versions of living constitution theory.

Peñalver quite properly raises the issue of how originalists should handle situations like this one, where both sides have at least some plausible historical evidence on their side. This is a huge issue that I could not fully address in my book. But I did not neglect it entirely. In Chapter 2, I suggest that originalists should favor whichever side has a greater cumulative weight of evidence. An alternative approach would, in effect, bias judicial reasoning in favor of the government, by upholding challenged laws unless there was no reasonably plausible constitutional defense for them. However, this would require originalists to bite some very painful bullets, including admitting that school segregation laws and laws banning interracial marriage are constitutional (there are at least reasonably plausible originalist defenses of both).

Peñalver also worries that I have relied on a libertarian framework that mostly assumes rather than proves that blight and economic development takings like that upheld in Kelo cause more harm than good. He is right to note that we don’t have anything approaching a comprehensive data base of takings and their effects, and that this limits the conclusions that can be drawn. But, as I describe in the book, since a broad interpretation of public use became dominant in the 1940s and 50s, such takings have forcibly displaced many hundreds of thousands of people (most of them poor and minorities), and large numbers of small businesses, and other institutions. That harm is so enormous that it is highly unlikely it could be outweighed by any plausibly imaginable benefits. Moreover, as I discuss in Chapter 8, both empirical evidence and economic strongly suggest that the standard “holdout problem” rationale for economic development takings is greatly overstated. For these reasons, I don’t think you have to be a libertarian to conclude that giving government a blank check to engage in economic development takings is likely to destroy more value than it creates.

Finally, Peñalver’s thoughtful review raises some big-picture issues about the potential for cooperation between liberals and libertarians, of the sort that occurred in the backlash against the Kelo decision. This is a hugely important issue that probably deserves a book of its own. For now, I will only say that, like Penalver, I am guardedly optimistic that such cooperation could extend to other issues where government intervention both undermines economic freedom and harms the poor and disadvantaged.

Indeed, the potential for cooperation might be even greater than Peñalver suggests, because he is incorrect to complain about what he calls the “narrowness” of libertarian concern for the interests of the poor. Nearly all of the issues he cites as examples of seeming libertarian indifference to the poor (mortgages, landlord-tenant law, campaign finance, etc.) are in fact fact areas where libertarians have long argued that the standard left-liberal policy prescriptions would make the poor worse off rather than better. Moreover, all have been the subject of extensive analysis by libertarian scholars (myself included, in some cases). Thus, it is incorrect to claim that libertarians have either neglected these issues generally, or their relevance to the poor specifically.

Libertarians and left-liberals are unlikely to reach consensus on all of these matters any time soon. But that should not prevent cooperation on those issues – including eminent domain – where we do have some important common ground.


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California libel retraction statute extended to cover online publications

A nice change, to which this blog slightly contributed. Here’s the background:

Plaintiffs who win libel cases can generally recover various kinds of damages — “special damages,” which are provable economic losses stemming from the libel, “general damages,” which are presumed damages for loss of reputation, as well as emotional distress damages, and “punitive damages,” which are meant to punish the libeler for particularly reprehensible libels. (This doesn’t quite track the First Amendment proven compensatory damages / presumed damages / punitive damages line, because emotional distress damages are generally seen as proven compensatory damages for First Amendment purposes, but as “general damages” for the purposes of many states’ libel law.) Often it’s the general damages and punitive damages that are particularly ruinous for publishers.

But in the law in many states, general and punitive damages — anything beyond the provable economic losses that qualify as special damages — are unavailable, at least as to certain defendants, unless (1) plaintiff has promptly demanded a retraction, and (2) the defendant has refused to promptly publish a retraction. If the defendant promptly publishes a retraction, it is only on the hook for libel damages.

Ah, but which defendants get the benefit of these statutes? Many states limit this to particular kinds of publishers. Indeed, until Monday, the California libel retraction statute (Cal. Civ. Code § 48a), which dates back to 1931, applied only to “newspapers” and “radio broadcasters”; another statute made clear that “radio broadcasters” included TV broadcasters, but nothing covered other publications, such as magazines or Web sites. Indeed, last year, a California Court of Appeal decision (Thieriot v. The Wrapnews Inc.) held that Web sites don’t qualify:

By its plain language, section 48a applies only when the defamatory material is published in a “newspaper” or a “radio broadcast.” Defendants ask us to interpret “newspaper” to include online publications such as TheWrap. We cannot do so. “[A] reviewing court’s ‘fundamental task in construing a statute is to ascertain the intent of the lawmakers so as to effectuate the purpose of the statute.’ The analysis starts by examining the actual words of the statute, giving them their usual, ordinary meaning.”

At the time the statute was enacted in 1931, or amended in 1945, a “newspaper” was understood to mean a publication that was printed on inexpensive paper, often daily. Had the Legislature intended the statute to apply to defamatory material published on an online website, it could have amended the statute to say so, or add a statute to include such websites within the definition of “newspaper,” as it did when it enacted Civil Code section 48.5 in 1949 to expand the term “radio broadcast” to include both visual and sound radio broadcasting. Since the Legislature has not expanded the meaning of newspaper to include online publications, we must conclude that section 48a does not apply here, and Thieriot therefore is not limited to special damages.

Now to the news: I’m pleased to say that Monday, a new version of § 48a — introduced by assembly member Donald Wagner — was signed into law, and that version covers Web publications. The new version replaces “newspaper” with “daily or weekly news publication,” which “means a publication, either in print or electronic form, that contains news on matters of public concern and that publishes at least once a week.”

To be sure, the statute still distinguishes among media; monthly magazines, for instance, aren’t covered. But while the First Amendment generally protects publications without regard to how often they are published, libel retraction statutes provide extra statutory protection beyond what the First Amendment offers. And such extra statutory protection can be offered to some media (e.g., ones that the legislature thinks are especially subject to deadline pressure, or ones that the legislature thinks are especially valuable because they report on “matters of public concern”) but not others.

Exactly when such distinction among media becomes impermissible is unclear — for instance, I suspect that offering such special protection only to magazines that don’t express racist or unpatriotic or anti-environmentalist viewpoints would be unconstitutional, though the Supreme Court hasn’t passed judgment on that. But classification based on frequency of publication, or even based on whether the magazine publishes content on matters of public concern, is likely permissible, again when it comes to these extra statutory protections that go beyond the First Amendment minimum that all defendants must enjoy.

In any event, this is a substantial victory for online speech in California, and I hope it leads to similar moves in other states (though some states already have statutes that are broad enough to cover all “publications” or “periodicals,” whether print or online).

Since Wagner had been in touch with me about this, I took the liberty of asking him to write up something about his bill, and here’s what he kindly passed along (some paragraph breaks added):

In … the spring of 2014 I read on the Volokh Conspiracy of the then-recent Thieriot decision. Under the law at the time, Civil Code section 48a, the “Retraction Statute,” limited a defamation plaintiff’s recovery to special damages in an action for “libel in a newspaper, or of a slander by radio broadcast,” unless the plaintiff demanded a retraction and was refused by the defendant.

The Thieriot court declined the opportunity — a proper and admirable example of judicial restraint in my opinion — to read online publications into the explicit statutory scheme and to thereby extend the Retraction Statute to online publications. According to the court, the Legislature is well aware of the existence of online publications and can, if it so desires, extend the protections legislatively.

As a legislator, I desired to extend that protection. Because of the sound public policy behind the Retraction Statute, I believed that a substantial majority of my colleagues would agree. As a later committee analysis of the eventual bill would explain:

California’s retraction statute reflects, at least in part, the value traditionally placed on freedom of the press in a democracy and the unique role that newspapers (and later radio and television) have played in the dissemination of news on matters of public concern. In upholding the retraction statute against a constitutional due process challenge, the California Supreme Court held that “the Legislature may reasonably conclude that public interest in the dissemination of news outweighs potential injury to a plaintiff from the publication of a libel, and [the Legislature] may properly encourage and protect news dissemination by relieving newspapers and radio stations from all but special damages resulting from defamation, upon the publication of a retraction.” (Werner v. Southern California Associated Newspapers (1950) 35 Cal. 2d 121, 128.) More recent cases have opined that the statute was intended to protect, in particular, enterprises engaged “in the immediate dissemination of news [because such enterprises] cannot always check their sources for accuracy and their stories for inadvertent publication errors.”

My first step in drafting the legislation which ultimately became Assembly Bill (AB) 998 was to contact you for your input. You responded right away and we had a substantive exchange which, as you know, found its way into the bill. After getting your thoughts, I began working with the Legislative Counsel’s office to draft the specific language.

Although I am the “author” of the bill, the fact is that the Legislative Counsel’s office, staffed with more than 100 attorneys, is responsible for the actual writing of all legislation. (As one of the surprisingly few lawyers in the Legislature, I perhaps take more of a hand in drafting my bills than do many of my colleagues; but the overwhelming bulk of the actual drafting is done by the very talented, experienced, and non-partisan attorneys working in the Legislative Counsel’s office.)

We quickly ran into two problems. First, we were “late” in the legislative year. The session begins in January, but, by the end of February, all bills for the year must already be introduced. We were beyond the deadline.

Fortunately, there was a way around the problem. Every year dozens of “spot bills” are introduced in time to meet the legislative deadline and then they sit, not moving through the process, but are available in the event needed for a late arising issue. In short, the “spot bill” makes non-substantive changes to a non-controversial part of a code and merely holds a place in line. When needed, for example with my Thieriot fix that had missed the original deadline, the “spot bill” is stripped of its non-substantive language, the new, substantive language is amended into the bill, and the deadline problem disappears. This process was used with AB 998 to avoid the filing deadline.

For what it’s worth, this is different from the justly maligned “gut and amend” process that also exists and is frequently abused. With “gut and amends,” a bill has its language completely stripped and new language inserted, as with “spot bills.” But in the “gut and amend” case, the old bill has already gone through the legislative process, including most importantly, had its committee hearing or hearings where it could be debated openly with proponents and opponents testifying and questions asked and answered.

When the new language is inserted, the bills then often go straight to an up or down vote without the new language — and the policy behind the new language — being debated. It is, frankly, a sneaky way to circumvent the process, deny opponents of a bill their opportunity to be heard, and ram a bad idea into law. In my five years in the Legislature, I have seen numerous bills die in committee, only to suddenly show up again for passage, usually late in the evening on one of the last nights before we adjourn. This is not what I did with AB 998. Use of a “spot bill” only avoided the filing deadline. It did get around the appropriate committee process.

Which brings me to the second problem, the committee to which the bill was assigned did not have time to analyze and hear it.

AB 998 was referred to the Judiciary Committee for hearing once it was put into print. I have served as vice-chairman of that committee for my entire time in the Legislature and have a very good working relationship with the committee staff responsible for analyzing every bill that comes before the committee. Because of the committee’s very broad jurisdiction, it has one of the heavier bill loads of any policy committee.

Thus, I was disappointed but not surprised when the chief committee consultant came to me and “explained” that there was no time, as late as we were in the session, to work up the bill, schedule a hearing, and work through the process. While I doubted that, frankly, there was nothing procedurally to do about it other than obtain the committee consultant’s assurances that there were no substantive problems with the bill — i.e., that the committee majority was not using the timing issue to derail a bill that it did not like on policy grounds — and shelve it for the year. Upon receiving that assurance, trusting the consultant because of our history together in the committee, and really having no other choice, I allowed the bill to die.

With the start of the legislative session in January, 2015, I came back again with AB 998. The filing deadline was met, it was referred again to the Judiciary Committee, and I began moving it through the legislative process. As mentioned, I have a good and professional relationship with the committee staff (which is controlled by the other party) and used that relationship to work closely with staff in its review of AB 998.

The bill fortunately generated very little opposition. On April 4, I presented it personally to the Judiciary Committee for debate. In support, the California Newspaper Publishers Association sent witnesses to testify… . In any event, a couple of minor drafting issues were identified and, with a promise of fixing those issues, the committee unanimously approved the bill… . [A]mendments were made to the bill that satisfied the committee. On May 28, I presented the new version of AB 998 on the floor of the Assembly and, with no “No” votes, it was approved and sent to the Senate.

In the Senate, the process was essentially the same. On July 14, the Publishers Association and I … appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to present the bill. The committee asked for another amendment, this one broadening the Retraction Statute protections to “weekly” newspapers, which I was happy to provide.

With that, only one Senator (curiously, a Republican, John Moorlach, who is not a lawyer despite being assigned to the Judiciary Committee and gave absolutely no reason for his position), failed to support the bill and it easily passed out of committee. Legislative counsel then gave us the necessary amendment language and the full Senate approved AB 998 on March 31.

Because of the Senate amendment, the Assembly had to approve the new version of the bill. I presented it on the Assembly floor on September 1. AB 998 again passed, also again without a single “No” vote. This final legislative action sent the bill to the governor’s desk. On September 28, Governor Brown signed AB 998 into law. It takes effect January 1, 2016.


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No slam dunk in Ninth Circuit antitrust ruling in O’Bannon v. NCAA

The Ninth Circuit just handed down a partial victory for the NCAA in its antitrust case, O’Bannon v. NCAA. The NCAA’s amateurism rules prevent student athletes from being paid for the use of their names, images, and likenesses (these are so-called “NIL payments”). Judge Claudia Wilken of the Northern District of California ruled that these amateurism rules were an unlawful restraint of trade and thus violated the Sherman Act. The district court’s ruling enjoined the NCAA from prohibiting member schools from giving student athletes (1) scholarships up to the full cost of attendance at their schools and (2) up to $5000 in NIL payments, deferred to the time they leave school. (Previously, scholarships were capped at the amount of a full “grant-in-aid”, which is generally slightly lower than the full cost of attendance — it doesn’t include optional books and supplies, transportation, etc.)

I signed on to a brief of 15 antitrust scholars, written by Daniel Sokol at University of Florida and his colleagues at Wilson Sonsini, Jonathan Jacobson and Daniel Weick. (Jonathan Jacobson is the incoming vice chair of the ABA Antitrust Section.) The brief argued:

The court below took an excessively broad view of its authority under the Sherman Act to invalidate a restraint based on the possibility that a less restrictive approach could be taken. Once the court found that restricting payments to students was reasonably necessary to the amateurism/integration justifications, it should not have condemned the restraints solely because it thought a different level of athlete compensation was preferable to the level chosen by the NCAA.

But that is just what it did. The injunction below simply elevates the compensation caps from existing athletic scholarship levels (full grant-in-aid) to cost of attendance plus a deferred $5,000 per year payment. In other words, the court below rested a finding of antitrust liability on the court’s disagreement with the details of the restraint’s implementation rather than a finding that the restraint itself was unreasonable. Absent a showing by the plaintiff class that an approach other than restriction of student-athlete compensation would have achieved the valid justifications with equal efficacy, the restraints should have been upheld.

The district court’s decision to read what amounts to a “least restrictive alternative” inquiry into the rule of reason, if accepted, would authorize courts to substitute their judgments regarding the details of a restraint for the judgments made by the actual market participants seeking to achieve admittedly procompetitive goals. This goes well beyond judicial enforcement of Section 1 of the Sherman Act and instead imbues courts with rate-setting and other powers analogous to those of regulatory agencies, but without the benefit of detailed statutory guidance and without the institutional expertise of such bodies. This Court should clarify that courts do not possess such regulatory authority and reverse the judgment below.

In today’s opinion, the Ninth Circuit partly agreed. (The panel consisted of Judge Bybee, Chief Judge Thomas, and senior district judge Gordon Quist (from the W.D. Mich., sitting by designation). Bybee wrote the majority opinion, and Thomas concurred in part and dissented in part.) Judge Bybee wrote (citations omitted):

The NCAA, along with fifteen scholars of antitrust law appearing as amici curiae [that’s us!], warns us that if we affirm even this more modest of the two less restrictive alternative restraints identified by the district court, we will open the floodgates to new lawsuits demanding all manner of incremental changes in the NCAA’s and other organizations’ rules. The NCAA and these amici admonish us that as long as a restraint (such as a price cap) is “reasonably necessary to a valid business purpose,” it should be upheld; it is not an antitrust court’s function to tweak every market restraint that the court believes could be improved.

We agree with the NCAA and these amici that that, as a general matter, courts should not use antitrust law to make marginal adjustments to broadly reasonable market restraints. The particular restraint at issue here, however — the grant-in-aid cap that the NCAA set below the cost of attendance — is not such a restraint. To the contrary, the evidence at trial showed that the grant-in-aid cap has no relation whatsoever to the procompetitive purposes of the NCAA: by the NCAA’s own standards, student-athletes remain amateurs as long as any money paid to them goes to cover legitimate educational expenses.

As to the matter of the $5000, though:

In our judgment, however, the district court clearly erred in finding it a viable alternative to allow students to receive NIL cash payments untethered to their education expenses. Again, the district court identified two procompetitive purposes served by the NCAA’s current rules: “preserving the popularity of the NCAA’s product by promoting its current understanding of amateurism” and “integrating academics and athletics.” The question is whether the alternative of allowing students to be paid NIL compensation unrelated to their education expenses[] is “virtually as effective” in preserving amateurism as not allowing compensation.

We cannot agree that a rule permitting schools to pay students pure cash compensation and a rule forbidding them from paying NIL compensation are both equally effective in promoting amateurism and preserving consumer demand. Both we and the district court agree that the NCAA’s amateurism rule has procompetitive benefits. But in finding that paying students cash compensation would promote amateurism as effectively as not paying them, the district court ignored that not paying student-athletes is precisely what makes them amateurs.

So this is a partial victory for the NCAA. (Side note: one of the NCAA’s lawyers is Daniel Volchok [no relation] of WilmerHale, a law school classmate of mine.)


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‘A mob in India just dragged a man from his home and beat him to death — for eating beef’

A cow is milked at the Shree Gopala Goshala cow shelter in Bhiwandi, India. (Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

Michael Miller (Morning Mix), here at The Post, writes about yet another example of perceived blasphemy leading to murder:

The attack allegedly came moments after an announcement at a nearby Hindu temple that Mohammad Akhlaq had slaughtered a calf. The calf had gone missing several weeks earlier, according to the Indian Express. Rumors quickly spread around the neighborhood that Akhlaq was the culprit.

Incited by the announcement, the mob broke down Akhlaq’s door and dragged him into the street, where 100 men beat him to death with bricks, his family members told the Express. The invaders also dragged Akhlaq’s 22-year-old son, Danish, outside, beating him until he was close to death as well.

“They accused us of keeping cow meat, broke down our doors and started beating my father and brother,” Akhlaq’s daughter, Sajida, told the Express. “My father was taken outside the house and beaten to death. My brother was dragged to the courtyard downstairs and they used bricks to hit him on the head and chest, leaving him unconscious. They also tried to molest me and hit my grandmother on her face. They threatened to kill me if I said a word to the police.” …

“Preliminary investigations revealed that an announcement was made from the temple” about the family consuming beef, senior superintendent of police Kiran S told the Express. “We have been told that a group of people entered the temple and used a microphone to make the announcement. However, investigations are still underway. We do not know if any of the accused are associated with the temple.” …

Akhlaq’s family insists that the meat in question wasn’t even beef.

For more, see this Indian Express article.


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Nassau County D.A. rescinds ban on prosecutors’ owning and possessing handguns

Last week, I blogged about the Nassau County (New York) D.A.’s policy banning prosecutors from owning handguns. The ban wasn’t limited to forbidding prosecutors from carrying handguns on the job, or carrying them in public. Rather, it applied to all ownership and possession, including at home, at private shooting ranges, and so on. In the days since then, quite a few media outlets have covered this policy, most prominently Fox News.

I’m delighted to report that the policy has just been changed. Here’s the memo that the Nassau County D.A.’s office just sent out, with a cover e-mail saying that this is “our office’s updated policy on handguns for attorneys, which is effective immediately”:

To: Madeline Singas, Acting District Attorney
From: Albert Teichman, Chief Assistant District Attorney

Date: September 30, 2015
Re: Handgun Ownership by Assistant District Attorneys

You requested a review of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office policy established in 2006 restricting handgun ownership by Assistant District Attorneys.

History:

In 2006, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office established a policy prohibiting its prosecutors from owning handguns, absent special permission from the District Attorney. Many neighboring jurisdictions impose handgun restrictions on Assistant District Attorneys.

This policy was established to absolutely avoid the dangers posed by armed, ununiformed lawyers working in charged situations like crime scenes, with other armed law enforcement, without proper firearms training, to prevent friendly fire tragedies like those that have occurred in recent years in Nassau County and neighboring jurisdictions. Including:

* In 2006, off-duty NYPD Officer Eric Hernandez was shot and killed by an on-duty officer after attempting to apprehend suspects who had attacked him.

* On January 25, 2008, off-duty Mt. Vernon, New York, Police Department Officer Christopher Ridley was shot and killed by officers from another department while Ridley was holding a suspect.

* On May 28, 2009, off-duty New York City Police Department (NYPD) Officer Omar Edwards was shot and killed by another officer as Edwards was in foot pursuit of a suspect who had broken into Edwards’s car.

In 2009, Governor David A. Paterson established the Task Force on Police on Police Shootings, which recommended, among other things additional training and protocols for police officers to prevent future friendly fire tragedies.

Even though the recommendations of the Task Force were well received, additional friendly fire tragedies followed in Nassau County, specifically:

* On March 12, 2011, plainclothes Nassau County Police Officer Geoffrey Breitkopf was killed by an MTA Police officer at an active crime scene in Massapequa Park.

* On December 31, 2011, off-duty ATF Special Agent John Capano was killed in a friendly-fire incident involving a retired Nassau County Police Department Lieutenant and off-duty NYPD Officer during a pharmacy robbery.

The policy’s scope is limited to handguns, and imposed no restriction on shotguns and rifles.

Analysis: Upon review, the public safety interests served by the policy can be substantially effectuated though a less-restrictive means that does not preclude ADAs from owning handguns, but strictly prohibits work-related possession and use.

Proposed New Policy: Under the proposed new policy, attached, ADAs are strictly prohibited from carrying or possessing a weapon any time they are working, including, but not limited to work in the DA’s office, courthouses, crime scenes, witness interviews, meetings with other agencies, without the express written permission of the District Attorney or the District Attorney’s authorized designee. Any Assistant DA who owns a handgun must supply a copy of all licensure and registration documentation to the DA’s office. Violations of this policy may result in termination.

Threats Against ADAs: Any ADA who becomes aware of any threat against her or him is encouraged to immediately report that threat to the District Attorney or Chief Investigator, or to call 911 for emergency assistance. All threats are taken seriously, investigated fully, and employees of the DA’s office will be provided with all appropriate protection.

NCDA Policy Change

To: Nassau County Assistant District Attorneys
From: Madeline Singas, Acting District Attorney
Date: September 30, 2015
Re: Handgun Ownership and Possession by Prosecutors

Effective immediately, please advised of the following change in the policy of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office regarding ownership and possession of handguns by Assistant District Attorneys. This policy supersedes any previous policy.

Handgun Ownership and Possession by Assistant District Attorneys: It is the policy of the Nassau County District Attorney’s office that Assistant District Attorneys are strictly prohibited from carrying or possessing a weapon any time they are working, including, but not limited to work in the DA’s office, courthouses, crime scenes, witness interviews, meetings with other agencies, without the express written permission of the District Attorney of the District Attorney’s authorized designee. Any Assistant District Attorney who owns handgun must supply a copy of all licensure and registration documentation to the DA’s office. Violations of this policy may result in termination.

Threats Against ADAs: Any ADA who becomes of any threat against her or him is encouraged to immediately report that threat to the District Attorney, Chief Investigator, or to call 911 for emergency assistance. All threats are taken seriously, investigated fully, and employees of the DA’s office will be provided with all appropriate protection.


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You’re asking to be deported to heaven? Are you sure you’ve thought that through?

“Heaven Can Wait” with Warren Beatty. (Mary Evans/Ronald Grant via Everett Collection)

From Dave Bendinger at KDLG (Dillingham, Alaska):

Kevin Francis Ramey, [a former member of the Togiak City Council], was recently indicted by an Anchorage grand jury … [for criminal failure to pay] over $84,000 in back child support….

Asked by the Judge if he understood his rights, one of Ramey’s questions got a laugh in the courtroom.

“It says if you’re not a US citizen you could be deported. I know I have three citizenships: number one in heaven, number two in America, number three in California. And that’s my primary citizenship, is of course, in heaven. So I was kinda wondering, are you guys going to deport me to heaven?” …

Ramey heads up a group known as Sui Juris Court Angels, the members of which adhere to tenets of sovereign citizenry. In a rambling five page rebuttal to the case, Ramey claims the government lacks the authority to charge him with crimes.

There’s only one way I know of to deport someone to heaven (assuming he’s right about exactly which of the alternative locations is his “primary citizenship”) — not that I would advise courts to do that in such a situation.


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Product Safety Recall—Ikea

Furniture and home store IKEA has issued a recall of certain crib mattresses that were sold in their stores. The mattresses in question are the model VYSSA SPELEVINK. They are being recalled because they pose a fire hazard. They “failed to meet” the open flame standard of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). No… [Continue Reading]

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