February 27, 2013

Constitutional Compromise

The February 27, 2013 "Room For Debate" section of the New York Times is devoted to the issue of "The Constitution's Immoral Compromise" the Three-Fifths compromise in Article 1, Section 2, paragraph 3 of the US Constitution:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
Five scholars weigh in provocatively and thoughtfully on the political and moral necessary of this compromise: Paul Finkelman (Albany Law), Henry L. Chambers, Jr.,  (Richmond Law), Leslie M. Harris (Emory) Sanford Levinson (University of Texas Law), and Ray Diamond (LSU Law).

February 26, 2013

No Laughing Matter, Your Honor

From the ABA Journal, a story about a judge who moonlights as a stand-up comedian. But this jurist, South Hackensack Municipal Court Judge Vince Sicari, who uses the name Vince August when he practices as a jokester, is in trouble with the New Jersey Advisory Committee on Extra-Judicial Activities. The Committee says he shouldn't be clowning around; doing such brings the judiciary into disrespect. According to the Columbus Telegram, Judge Sicari says he doesn't mix his two personas--judge and comedian. The New Jersey Supreme Court is hearing an appeal from the judge over whether he should be allowed to continue making people laugh--outside the courtroom.

February 23, 2013

History, Law, and Story

Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott discuss whether Hollywood has any responsibility to history in its storytelling. Here's the article in the February 22, 2013 issue of the New York Times. Meanwhile, relatives of a victim of the 9/11 attacks object to the use of her recorded voice in "Zero Dark Thirty." What are the limits of artistic license?

February 22, 2013

Two Articles On Law and Literature

Use the First Amendment For Good--Tweet Expressively--In 140 Characters, Or Fewer

The State Bar of Texas Appellate Section announces the winners of its Twitter Brief competition for 2012. The winner for Best Haiku Twitter Brief? A piece by Ryan P. Bates.


Hope springs eternal,
But second or successive. 
Deny habeas.



Hop on over to read all the winning briefs at the Section's website here.

February 21, 2013

Mississippi Finally Files Its Paperwork

The state of Mississippi finally ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the U.S., in 1995. But the paperwork didn't actually reach the National Archives until this month. Why did it take so long? It might have taken even longer. Dr. Ranjan Batra, who works for the University of Mississippi Medical Center, happened to see Lincoln, the Stephen Spielberg film, and wondered when the state ratified the amendment. He found the record of the state's vote, dated 1995, but no indication that Mississippi was listed in national records as having ratified the amendment, and mentioned the fact to a co-worker, Ken Sullivan. Dr. Sullivan took up the question with Mississippi's present Secretary of State, who dug out the paperwork, to discover that the paperwork was never sent in to the National Archives; he sent it in. Dr. Sullivan received notice of the National Archives' recordation on Lincoln's birthday. Another example of the power of film, and the power of Lincoln.

Here, Jon Stewart has fun with Mississippi's embarrassment over failing to file 13th Amendment paperwork.

February 10, 2013

More On Richard III

The current issue (February 8, 2013--available in digital version only) of Newsweek has several articles on the identification of Richard III's bones and the meaning of the find. Simon Schama weighs in with a discussion of whether the simple discovery of the king's skeleton means anything at all about his character or legacy. Harold Booth discusses Shakespeare's version of Richard, and how it necessarily differs from reality. Dan Jones explains some of the science involved in identifying the bones and linking them to Richard's living relatives. And the impact of the discovery? One controversy has popped up: where to rebury the last Plantagenet king of England. Apparently the present Queen has nixed the idea of interring him in Westminster Abbey with other English monarchs. Should he be reburied where he has laid for centuries? That's presently a parking lot. Should he, nevertheless, stay in Leicester, the city where he died? Or be moved to York, where he spent much of his short life (he died at 33)? What are the burial rights of a king who had no direct heirs, died in battle, and lost his kingdom? After all, the victors tend to write history.

More speculation here on Richard's actual face and voice, reproduced via a commission by the Richard III Society.

February 4, 2013

Richard III Identified

From CNN: Scientists working on the bones found in a parking lot ("car park" in British parlance), the site of an archaelogical excavation, have announced that they are now certain that the bones are those of Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England. The investigators obtained mitochrondrial DNA from a descendant of Anne Plantagenet, one of Richard's sisters, and matched it to DNA obtained from the bones. Once the scientists are finished with their research, Richard will be reburied at Leicester Cathedral. More here from the Guardian.

February 3, 2013

Agatha Christie, Literary Critic

The used book site abebooks.com features a post about fictional detectives here. Blogger Beth Carswell notes what the Guardian calls author Agatha Christie's "waspish" 1945 critique (for the Ministry of Information) of literary sleuths, discussed last year.

February 1, 2013

Lawyers Acting Badly Get Tips From Lawyers In(n) Court

NPR's Tanya Ballard Brown brings us the story of legal civility set to music here. In December of 2012, some members of the New York Inns of Court decided that a spoonful of sugar music would assist in explaining courtesy to attorneys who just don't get the message. Thus was born A Civility Seder, new lyrics and additional patter for some hits we already know, such as "If I Were a Rich Man" (Fiddler On the Roof) and "Age of Aquarius" (Hair). More here from the Wall Street Journal.

Well, we always knew a lot of lawyers are exhibitionists (in a good way).

Here Lies Richard III?

The BBC and other media report that Richard III's bones seem to have been discovered, six centuries after he died after the battle at Bosworth Field that cost him his throne and brought Henry Tudor to power in England. According to scientists at Leicester University, DNA studies are being run on the bones and on descendants of Richard's sister Anne to determine if the bones might indeed be those of the last Plantagenet king of England. The appropriately named Dr. Turi King explains that DNA from females is important to use in such tests because, "after death, the usual mechanisms which keep our DNA molecules long and healthy when we’re alive are no longer working and our DNA begins to break down. While there is only one copy of our genomic DNA in each of our cells, there are many, many copies of our mitochondrial DNA; so if anything is going to be left, it will be mtDNA....The other reason that mitochondrial DNA is so useful in this case is that it’s passed down the female line, from mothers to children (but only daughters pass it on)[.]”

Because he died on the battlefield and his body was lost, Richard was never buried honorably in a king's grave. Many literary works, including Sir Thomas More's History of King Richard III, which influenced Shakespeare in writing his Richard III, vilified him, because during the King's reign his young nephews Edward and Richard, the sons of Edward IV, disappeared. For a different view of Richard, see Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time (1951), in which the detective Alan Grant attempts to reconstruct the mystery of the princes' disappearance and determines that Richard is innocent. See also attorney Bertram Fields's Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes (Harper/Collins, 1998); Paul Murray Kendall's Richard the Third, (W. W. Norton, 1956); A. J. Pollard's Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, (St. Martin's Press, 1991), Charles Ross's Richard III, (Methuen, 1981), and Desmond Seward's Richard III: England's Black Legend (Penguin Books, 1997).   Of the filmed interpretations of Shakespeare's play, I particularly like Ian McKellan's 1995 version, with Annette Bening as Elizabeth Woodville, Kristin Scott Thomas as Anne Neville, Maggie Thomas as the Queen Mother, and Robert Downey, Jr. as Lord Rivers.