Law and Legal
Statement of ABA President Judy Perry Martinez Re: Judicial Independence and Sound Exercise of Prosecutorial Discretion – WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2020 – “The American Bar Association steadfastly supports judicial independence and the sound exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Public officials who personally attack judges or prosecutors can create a perception that the system is serving a political or other purpose rather than the fair administration of justice. It is incumbent upon public officials and members of the legal profession, whose sworn duty it is to uphold the law, to do everything in their power to preserve the integrity of the justice system.”
See also – The Atlantic: “The Senate’s acquittal of Donald Trump elicited predictions that the president would now be “unleashed,” freed to do as he pleased. His actions over the past few days offer a first glimpse of what that might look like. With the threat of accountability gone, or at least diminished, Trump is bestowing favor on his loyal defenders, and visiting revenge on those he feels have betrayed him. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who testified in the impeachment hearings, was sacked from his post on the National Security Council, in what presidential aides made very clear was revenge. For good measure, so was his twin brother, a lawyer at the NSC and a fellow Army officer. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was asked to resign, and when he refused, he was fired Friday night. Elaine McCusker, who had been tapped to be Pentagon comptroller but clashed with the White House over freezing military aid to Ukraine, will have her nomination withdrawn, according to the New York Post…a day after prosecutors requested seven to nine years in prison for Roger Stone, the Justice Department suddenly intervened and announced that it would withdraw the recommendation in favor of a lighter sentence, a highly irregular move…”
And NBCNews – Barr takes control of legal matters of interest to Trump, including Stone sentencing – “Attorney General William Barr’s intervention in Roger Stone’s case wasn’t the first time senior political appointees reached into a case involving an ex-Trump aide, officials say…”
The Verge: “Frustrated tweets led scientists to believe that tidal floods along the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the US are more annoying than official tide gauges suggest. Half a million geotagged tweets showed researchers that people were talking about disruptively high waters even when government gauges hadn’t recorded tide levels high enough to be considered a flood. Capturing these reactions on social media can help authorities better understand and address the more subtle, insidious ways that climate change is playing out in peoples’ daily lives. Coastal flooding is becoming a bigger problem as sea levels rise, but a study published recently in the journal Nature Communications suggests that officials aren’t doing a great job of recording that.
The Verge spoke with Frances Moore, lead author of the new study and a professor at the University of California, Davis. This isn’t the first time that she’s turned to Twitter for her climate research. Her previous research also found that people tend to stop reacting to unusual weather after dealing with it for a while — sometimes in as little as two years. Similar data from Twitter has been used to study how people coped with earthquakes and hurricanes…”
The Atlantic – Smartphones aren’t the only killers of work-life balance. “It’s a common existential crisis among American office workers that virtually nowhere is now safe from the pull of their jobs. This inescapability is usually attributed to the proliferation of smartphones, with their push notifications signaling the arrival of emails and other workplace messages. The first iPhone, released in 2007, helped make social media omnipresent and pave the way for hyper-connected professional lives. Now, on-call retail workers and law-firm partners alike often feel as though they never really clock out. But that blame is often applied solely to the wrong piece of take-home technology. If staying home with a cold still requires a full day of work or you can’t find a seat at your local coffee shop on a Tuesday afternoon, iPhones are not responsible for ruining your life. The novelty and early popularity of smartphones seem to have distracted America from how quickly its laptops were also dissolving much of the boundary between work and home.
…As laptops have kept improving, and Wi-Fi has continued to reach ever further into the crevices of American life, however, the reality of laptops’ potential stopped looking quite so rosy. Instead of liberating white-collar and “knowledge” workers from their office, laptops turned many people’s whole life into an office. Smartphones might require you to read an after-hours email or check in on the office-communication platform Slack before you started your commute, but portable computers gave workers 24-hour access to the sophisticated, expensive applications—Salesforce CRM, Oracle ERP, Adobe Photoshop—that made their full range of duties possible. According to a recent study, Americans with college degrees and beyond—the ones most likely to start a new job and immediately be handed a laptop—spend 10 percent more time working now than they did in 1980..”
Search Engine Journal – A Beginner’s Guide to Reddit: How to Get Started & Be Successful – “In this Reddit guide, you will learn what Reddit is, why it is such an important social platform, and what makes it different than all the other social platforms. You will also learn what you need to consider in order to successfully get started on Reddit. Reddit is a social media platform, that allows any individual to create and manage their own community, which Reddit calls a sub-reddit. The entire platform is a social aggregation site, where individuals curate content they either find around the web or create themselves. They then submit it to their sub-reddit to allow other Reddit users to ability to comment, discuss, and ultimately vote on the content, pushing the most popular content up to the top of the page and moving less popular content down and out of view…”
Motherboard: “Multiple confidential documents obtained by Motherboard show the sort of companies that want to buy data derived from scraping the contents of your email inbox…A dataset obtained by Motherboard shows what some of the information pulled from free email app users’ inboxes looks like. A spreadsheet containing data from Rakuten’s Slice, an app that scrapes a user’s inbox so they can better track packages or get their money back once a product goes down in price, contains the item that an app user bought from a specific brand, what they paid, and an unique identification code for each buyer…”
TechCrunch: “Apple’s built-in voice assistant won’t help you figure out who to vote for, but it will be able to update you on different races around the U.S. during election season, as well as deliver live results as votes are counted. The new feature, announced today, is part of Apple News’ 2020 election coverage, which also includes a series of curated news, resources and data from a variety of sources, with the goal of serving users on both sides of the political spectrum. With the added Siri integration, you’ll be able to ask the assistant both informational queries, plus those requiring real-time information. For example, you may ask Siri something like “When are the California primaries?,” which is a more straightforward question, or “Who’s winning the New Hampshire primaries?,” which requires updated information. Siri will speak the answers to the question in addition to presenting the information visually, which makes the feature useful from an accessibility standpoint, too. The live results are being delivered via the Associated Press, Apple says. The company is also leveraging the AP’s real-time results in its Apple News app in order to give county-by-county results and a national map tracking candidate wins by each state primary, among other things…”
FTC News Release: “The Federal Trade Commission issued Special Orders to five large technology firms, requiring them to provide information about prior acquisitions not reported to the antitrust agencies under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act. The orders require Alphabet Inc. (including Google), Amazon.com, Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook, Inc., and Microsoft Corp. to provide information and documents on the terms, scope, structure, and purpose of transactions that each company consummated between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2019. The Commission issued these orders under Section 6(b) of the FTC Act, which authorizes the Commission to conduct wide-ranging studies that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose. The orders will help the FTC deepen its understanding of large technology firms’ acquisition activity, including how these firms report their transactions to the federal antitrust agencies, and whether large tech companies are making potentially anticompetitive acquisitions of nascent or potential competitors that fall below HSR filing thresholds and therefore do not need to be reported to the antitrust agencies…”
protocol: “Ninjas, evangelists, alchemists: Silicon Valley has a long history of unsubtly repackaging jobs that might otherwise be titled technical support, marketing or office management. But beyond the distinctive euphemisms, the thousands of jobs posted each week by tech behemoths, well-heeled startups and those trying to bridge the valley of death in between often hint at more dramatic economic shifts underway. And, hey, even if those world-changing ideas don’t materialize, the listings provide a useful record of what once, for some reason, seemed like a good idea. We’ve rounded up a half dozen of the most intriguing current job openings in tech. Some sound perfectly normal at first, while the jobs they describe are anything but. Others sound bonkers but may be extremely normal. Who can tell? Enjoy…”
VentureBeat: “Mozilla today launched Firefox 73 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Firefox 73 includes a default zoom level setting, a readability backplate option, and a handful of developer features. There isn’t too much else here — Mozilla has now transitioned Firefox releases to a four-week cadence (from six to eight weeks). You can download Firefox 73 for desktop now from Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. The Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play. According to Mozilla, Firefox has about 250 million active users, making it a major platform for web developers to consider…”
HuffPost – The Highline: “…The criminal justice system has given up all pretense that the crimes of the wealthy are worth taking seriously. In January 2019, white-collar prosecutions fell to their lowest level since researchers started tracking them in 1998. Even within the dwindling number of prosecutions, most are cases against low-level con artists and small-fry financial schemes. Since 2015, criminal penalties levied by the Justice Department have fallen from $3.6 billion to roughly $110 million. Illicit profits seized by the Securities and Exchange Commission have reportedly dropped by more than half. In 2018, a year when nearly 19,000 people were sentenced in federal court for drug crimes alone, prosecutors convicted just 37 corporate criminals who worked at firms with more than 50 employees…But the rich are enjoying a golden age of impunity unprecedented in modern history. “American elites have become more brazen than they were even five years ago,” said Matthew Robinson, a professor at Appalachian State University and the author of several books on “elite deviance”— all the legal and illegal social harms caused by the wealthy. Elite deviance has become the dark matter of American life, the invisible force around which the country’s most powerful legal and political systems have set their orbit…”
The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society wants to keep linked content accessible. Whether links fail because of DDoS attacks, censorship, or just plain old link rot, reliably accessing linked content is a problem for Internet users everywhere. This isn’t a new problem. Some centralized initiatives, such as the Internet Archive and Perma.cc, are attempting to snapshot and preserve certain web pages…
“Amber is an open source tool for websites to provide their visitors persistent routes to information. It automatically preserves a snapshot of every page linked to on a website, giving visitors a fallback option if links become inaccessible. If one of the pages linked to on this website were to ever go down, Amber can provide visitors with access to an alternate version. This safeguards the promise of the URL: that information placed online can remain there, even amidst network or endpoint disruptions.
WSJ.com video [no paywall] – “The U.S. government is using app-generated marketing data based on the movements of millions of cellphones around the country for some forms of law enforcement. We explain how such data is being gathered and sold.”
Mitterer H, Eger NA, Reinisch E (2020) My English sounds better than yours: Second-language learners perceive their own accent as better than that of their peers. PLoS ONE 15(2): e0227643. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0227643
“Second language learners are often aware of the typical pronunciation errors that speakers of their native language make, yet often persist in making these errors themselves. We hypothesised that L2 learners may perceive their own accent as closer to the target language than the accent of other learners, due to frequent exposure to their own productions. This was tested by recording 24 female native speakers of German producing 60 sentences. The same participants later rated these recordings for accentedness. Importantly, the recordings had been altered to sound male so that participants were unaware of their own productions in the to-be-rated samples. We found evidence supporting our hypothesis: participants rated their own altered voice, which they did not recognize as their own, as being closer to a native speaker than that of other learners. This finding suggests that objective feedback may be crucial in fostering L2 acquisition and reduce fossilization of erroneous patterns…”
“The Library Publishing Directory provides an annual snapshot of the publishing activities of academic and research libraries, including information about the number and types of publications they produce, the services they offer authors, how they are staffed and funded, and their future plans. In documenting the breadth and depth of activities in this field, this resource aims to articulate the unique value of library publishing; establish it as a significant and growing community of practice; and to raise its visibility within a number of stakeholder communities, including administrators, funding agencies, other scholarly publishers, librarians, and content creators.
Specifically, the Directory:
- Introduces readers to the growing field of library publishing and helps articulate its unique characteristics as a distinctive “publishing field.”
- Facilitates collaboration among library publishers and other publishing entities, especially the university presses and learned societies that share their values.
- Alerts authors of scholarly content to a range of potential publishing partners dedicated to supporting their experimentation with new forms of scholarly communication and open access business models.
- Enables benchmarking and identification of trends in the field…”
Science: “It’s another sea of red ink for federal research funding programs in President Donald Trump’s latest budget proposal. The 2021 budget request to Congress released today calls for deep, often double-digit cuts to R&D spending at major science agencies. At the same time, the president wants to put more money into a handful of areas—notably artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum information science (QIS)—to create the new technology needed for what the budget request calls “industries of the future.” Here is a rundown of some of the numbers from the budget request’s R&D chapter. (The numbers reflect the portion of each agency’s budget classified as research, which in most cases is less than its overall budget.)…”
WSJ.com [paywall]: “The U.S. Justice Department filed three lawsuits against California, New Jersey and a Washington county late Monday over their laws and policies limiting local cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, escalating a Trump administration battle against liberal states and localities that adopt so-called sanctuary cities…”
Justice Department Sues State of New Jersey, New Jersey Governor, and New Jersey Attorney General for Prohibiting State Officials From Sharing Information With U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: “Today, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the State of New Jersey, New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy, and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. The lawsuit challenges New Jersey Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2018-6, which prohibits state officials from sharing information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) related to the immigration status and release dates of individuals in their custody. The directive also requires New Jersey law enforcement to “promptly notify a detained individual, in writing and in a language the individual can understand” if ICE files an immigration detainer request for the individual. According to the complaint filed today, on multiple occasions last year, New Jersey officials failed to provide information regarding the release dates of aliens who had been charged with or convicted of crimes. New Jersey’s decision to obstruct federal immigration enforcement by refusing to provide such information is unlawful under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
A memo obtained by BuzzFeed News outlines options to put leverage on states that, like New York, deny federal immigration officials access to state driver records: “The Trump administration drafted a slew of plans to consider not only circumventing state laws limiting the Department of Homeland Security’s access to driver records, but to retaliate against states that are refusing to provide the information they seek, according to government documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. According to a DHS memo, the administration considered using “friendly” states to discreetly collect information for federal immigration authorities that would otherwise be inaccessible by law. The plans also include retaliation measures against states that limit access to records, such as closing down DHS offices there, refusing to accept their state identification, cutting TSA PreCheck services, and potentially subpoenaing for drivers’ licenses provided to undocumented immigrants. The signed memo — written by James McCament, an influential agency figure and acting head of the DHS policy office, on Jan. 27 to acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf — offers a view into the agency’s secretive considerations to obtain the information it wants and, in particular, to punish New York for recently cutting off DHS access to driver records. New York also granted the ability for those without lawful immigration status to obtain a drivers license.
Via LLRX – Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues February 8, 2020 – Privacy and security issues impact every aspect of our lives – home, work, travel, education, health and medical records – to name but a few. On a weekly basis Pete Weiss, highlights articles and information that focus on the increasingly complex and wide ranging ways technology is used to compromise and diminish our privacy and security, often without our situational awareness. Four highlights from this week: DHS Buys Phone Location Data, Skirting Fourth Amendment; Report: DMVs Sell Your Personal Information For Millions Of Dollars; The California Consumer Privacy Act explained; and IRS Launches “Identity Theft Central” Webpage.
Wasserman, Howard, Academic Feeder Judges (January 28, 2020). Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3526903 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3526903
“This paper identifies “academic feeder judges”—the federal judges (especially from courts of appeals) for whom law professors clerked at the beginning of their careers and the judges who “produce” law professors from the ranks of their former clerks. The study is based on a summer 2019 review of publicly available biographies and c.v.’s of full-time faculty at ABA-accredited law schools, identifying more than 3000 “academic former clerks” and the judges for whom each clerked. From this, the paper identifies:
- 101 lower federal judges with the most academic former clerks,
- 52 federal trial judges,
- 53 federal judges appointed since 1995,
- top state-court judges, and
- SCOTUS justices, current and past.
For each judge within each grouping, the study examines appointing presidents, biographical information such as former career, numbers of academic former clerks, rankings of the schools at which former clerks teach, and a projection of how many academics newer judges might produce over a 35-year judicial career. The study closes with some comments and conclusions from the data. (Spoiler alert: The leading academic feeder judge is Guido Calabresi (Second Circuit), followed closely by Stephen Reinhardt (Ninth Circuit, died in 2018), Stephen Williams (D.C. Circuit), and Dorothy Nelson (Ninth Circuit)).”