Westerosi Justice

by S.J. In George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the land of Westeros has a complex formal justice system.  Although Westeros is ruled by a king, most day to day justice is carried out in the name of the king by the lords of different areas of the kingdom.  Only the lords have the power to impose a sentence of death or imprisonment, but they may delegate local judgments and law enforcement to their knights and underlings.  Some lords, like Eddard Stark, choose to carry out the capital sentences personally.  Since they have full sentencing discretion, lords can also give pardons. When an accused is highborn, he or she is entitled to a trial.  In small matters, the punishment is usually some sort of fine, which results in wealthy defendants having significantly more leeway.  Additionally, the higher a party’s social status, the better results they can

Another Bungled Florida Prosecution

by T.H. In November, 2012, an argument over loud music in a Jacksonville gas station turned deadly when Michael Dunn fired his pistol into an SUV full of teenagers, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis.  As tragic as this killing was, it is doubtful it would have gained national attention were it not for the demographics: Dunn is a 47-year-old white man, and Davis was African-American.  The case naturally drew comparisons to the 2013 trial of George Zimmerman—both occurred in Florida, and the lead prosecutor for Dunn, State Attorney Angela Corey, had been the special prosecutor assigned to oversee the Zimmerman case.  The circumstances echoed the Bernhard Goetz case; Dunn fired at four unarmed black teenagers, fled the scene, and later claimed self-defense. On February 15, 2014, the jury returned a partial verdict.  Dunn was found guilty of three counts of second-degree attempted murder (relating to the other occupants of the vehicle). 

The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., and America’s Limitless Jurisdiction

by A.H. The Avengers is a superhero movie featuring various characters (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc.) from Marvel’s absurdly successful shared universe of films.  While the team itself is comprised of selfless heroes who defend the world from threats too great for a conventional military, the entity behind this cadre of do-gooders – Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division, a.k.a. S.H.I.E.L.D. – is a seemingly American government organization headed by Nick Fury, who is a Cold War-esque master of espionage.  Fury (and with him, S.H.I.E.L.D.) is ubiquitous in the Marvel Universe, appearing in nearly every film and seeing more with his one eye than most people ever do with two.  While the Avengers are the attractive, public face of S.H.I.E.L.D., the entity is, in essence, a shadowy conglomeration of the C.I.A., F.B.I., D.H.S., and N.S.A., which polices the entire world without any jurisdictional qualms. The Avengers spinoff television


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Criminal Investigation by Association: Arrests for Celebrity Deaths

by M.F. In the early morning of February 2, 2014, Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York City apartment building. Investigators surmised that Hoffman’s death was caused by a drug overdose, after approximately seventy bags of heroin were found in the actor’s apartment. And Hoffman was found with a syringe in his arm. The New York City Police Department quickly launched a full investigation into the celebrity’s cause of death, including a widespread investigation into identifying those responsible for the drug dealers who supplied the actor with this amount of heroin. Within days, four individuals were arrested in connection to his death, with three of the suspects immediately charged with misdemeanor heroin possession. Best known for his work on Academy Award nominated films, Hoffman was considered one of acting’s greats and long-time New Yorker. Although tragic, Hoffman’s death and the ensuing investigation raise questions about how law

Better Call Saul!

by M.E. “Walter never told me how lucky he was.  Clearly his taste in women is the same as his taste in lawyers: only the very best…with just a right amount of dirty.” The portrayal of Saul Goodman from the television series “Breaking Bad” is one of a lawyer and facilitator between Walter White (high school teacher-turned-druglord), his partner and former student, Jesse Pinkman, and the cast of questionable characters that they come in contact with.  Saul personifies all the sleazy and least forgiving stereotypes about lawyers, constantly getting Walter and Jesse out of difficult situations using illegal means over the course of their drug operations.  Saul has numerous connections to criminals-for-hire, including drug distributors, evidence removers and impersonators.  At the same time, he is a highly competent lawyer who is able to solve problems and find loopholes in order to protect his clients that also serve an interest to

In Consideration of the “Natural Born” Requirement

by G.H. Following the United States of America’s triumph over Britain for independence there was an apprehension that the European aristocracy would be able to become citizens and use their money and influence to pursue their candidacy for the presidency and eventually use the presidency as a means to their own interests. The United States had just managed to free itself from the oppression of a regime, and it was not willing to sacrifice that freedom and the opportunity it now had to be its own country. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 of the United States was responsible for the creation of a new government with new rules and regulations. Although it did not shed any light on the meaning of the “natural born citizen,” requirement for the presidential election, it did make clear the immutable intention of the government to have a president that was part of the country

Mafia Lives

by C.D. Last week, in a coordinated effort with Italian authorities, American law enforcement officials stifled a would-be international drug smuggling ring.  The culprits: Mafia. But not just the garden variety Italian-American Mafia  groups— the Gambino, Colombo, Lucchese, Genovese and Bonanno families — that have captivated American feature-film makers and true-crime documentarians for decades.  This drug smuggling ring was also comprised of Mafia Mafia.  After a two year FBI investigation, culminating in an FBI undercover operative purchasing a handgun and accompanying silencer from a crime family associate in New York City, authorities allege that members and associates of at least the Gambino family arranged to illicitly import and export cocaine and heroin to and from one of Italy’s most powerful underworld organizations, ‘Ndrangehta. ’Ndrangehta, an Italian criminal organization of the Cosa Nostra order that has in recent decades eclipsed the once unparalleled power and influence of Sicilian Cosa Nostra organizations,

Mike Ross: Noble or Criminal Behavior?

by R.C. “Suits” is a popular drama on the USA Network that tells the story of a fictional New York City law firm.  The main character, Mike Ross, is a brilliant individual with an eidetic memory.  Although Mike has never been to law school, in fact he was kicked out of college for selling exam answers, he demonstrates a superior knowledge of the law in an interview with a top New York City attorney, Harvey Specter, and convinces Harvey to hire him as a first year associate. It is interesting to watch Mike, with no legal training, effortlessly weave his way through litigation matters and corporate transaction deals.  In fact, Mike’s witty personality, humor, efficiency and quick rise to the top of his associate class help most viewers forget that he is committing fraud by impersonating an attorney.  Under N.Y. Judiciary Law § 485-a, such an individual would be “guilty

Flashing Headlights To Warn Drivers: Constitutionally Protected Free Speech or Crime-Facilitating Speech?

by M.D. Place yourself in the following scenario:  While driving home from work, you notice a police cruiser on the other side of the road hiding behind a large tree. Out of instinct, you flash your headlights to warn the oncoming drivers of the potential speed trap. Soon after, a familiar red and blue flashing fills your rearview mirror. Have you facilitated the commission of a crime, or have you simply engaged in your constitutional right to free speech? Recently, that question was answered as the result of a federal civil rights claim brought by a Missouri native against a city police force that ticketed him for flashing his headlights to oncoming traffic. In Elli v. City of Ellisville, Judge Autrey of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri ruled that a driver flashing their headlights to warn drivers of an upcoming speed trap was an