Media – we have you, so we don’t need anyone else…

When people say, media coverage doesn’t affect anything in the law, contemplate the way in which the funding by Legal Aid in Victoria for an appeal has been met with oversight… Full story here.

Of course media coverage can affect criminal law matters. Some in the media contemplate that is a good thing. They lack legal skills or knowledge. Some may suggest that’s fine by them, get rid of the lawyers. Of course that’s a bit like saying, let’s get rid of the people who know how something works. Why would you want them? Well consider this…

Journalist-jurors are one thing, but apply the same approach of unqualified responsibility to surgery? Surgical-Editors – they’ll decide what surgery you need, or don’t need and they’ll do it. Would they call themselves “butchers”? Probably not. They don’t have any qualifications except good old common sense and life experience, but that’s okay, such dreadfully low standards of judgement are good enough to decide guilt in the lead article of a nationwide TV broadcast about a criminal case. Why not try the media hand at medicine?

Or better yet, lets get rid of lawyers, doctors and mechanics, bricklayers, ambulance officers, firemen and women, teachers and dentists – all those people (and all the rest) who have specialised knowledge and skills relevant to their field. I’m sure the media will be able to sort it out all for us in the meantime.

BLIND RAGE – arming the blind.

Let’s get serious people, blind people have rights too. They should be able to have guns, just not drive cars obviously.

Here are a few quotes from this article in the Des Moines Register about whether Iowa should be granting gun permits to blind people, as it is currently doing. As you can see, opinions vary:

Although people who are blind can participate fully in nearly all life’s experiences, there are some things, like the operation of a weapon, that may very well be an exception.
    Patrick Clancy, Superintendent
Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School
There’s no reason solely on the [basis] of blindness that a blind person shouldn’t be allowed to carry a weapon.
    Chris Danielson, Public Relations Director
National Federation of the Blind
I’m not an expert in vision. At what point do vision problems have a detrimental effect [on firing] a firearm? If you see nothing but a blurry mass in front of you, then I would say you probably shouldn’t be shooting something.
    Sheriff John LeClere
Delaware County, Iowa

When you shoot a gun, you take it out and point and shoot, and I don’t necessarily think eyesight is necessary.
    Michael Barber
blind person
Imagine me with a gun. It’s just crazy.
    Stevie Wonder
another blind person
Is it, Mr. Wonder? Or is it just very superstitious?

NSA Chief Builds a Starship Bridge for an Office and calls it the Information Dominance Centre

This is one of those stories that is to fabulous to simply believe, you want to check for more information. Straight out of Lowering the Bar (a terrific website by the way).

And yes, it is called the Information Dominance Centre (I kid you not).

Gen. Keith Alexander now runs the NSA but he used to be in charge of the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command. Here’s what he spent your money on while he was there:
What is that, exactly? This:
When he was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a ‘whoosh’ sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather “captain’s chair” in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.
“‘Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,” says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits.
Originally I had added emphasis to certain parts of that quote, but then I decided the whole thing is so ridiculous there would be no point. I mean, what do you emphasize? The name “Information Dominance Center”? The design as a whole? The “doors that made a ‘whoosh’ sound”? How much do you think the “whoosh” sound cost you? “Captain’s chair”? Jesus Christ.
I guess those are the things I would emphasize.
The quote is from a new article in Foreign Policy magazine titled “The Cowboy of the NSA,” which discusses what the article calls Alexander’s “all-out, barely legal drive to build the ultimate spy machine.” I’m not sure why the article describes it as “legal” (regardless of adverb), but maybe the author hasn’t been reading the paper. Obviously, not only does Alexander not care all that much about legal restrictions, he also feels free to spend tax money on stuff like a leather “captain’s chair” that he and his friends can sit in while they show off their tools to each other. The chair is in the middle of a 10,740 square-foot room that, according to the architects, “gives the illusion that one has boarded a starship.” (There are, or were, better pictures of the room in the brochure from which the above picture was taken, but oddly enough the architects’ website is down due to “increased traffic.”) Wonder what the illusion is at the $2 billion complex in Utah. Space Mountain?
I’m sure Alexander enjoys thinking of himself as Jean-Luc Picard, but this chair would be more appropriate.
Dr evil chair
The power of Congress compels you

The Eagles will kill you.

Fresh from lowering the bar

There are at least two kinds of people in Charleston, South Carolina: people who like the music of The Eagles, and people who want to kill those people:
When police talked to the victim, he said he had been listening to The Eagles when [his ex-girlfriend and current roommate] told him that she did not want to hear the classic rock band’s songs. So the man told her to shut up, the report states.
[She] responded by allegedly getting a 14-inch serrated bread knife and [swinging] it at the man repeatedly, the report states. The victim wrestled the knife away from [her], but she came back with another knife before the victim could run and lock himself in the bathroom.
The victim was apparently able to call police, who arrived to rescue him from the assault or her from The Eagles (the report is not entirely clear).
The woman was charged with “criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature,” but I think if she had really meant to aggravate it, she’d have grabbed a knife with a point rather than trying to slash him with a bread knife. And it’s not like she wasn’t provoked.
No one seems to know yet which Eagles song triggered the violence. The one above makes a pretty good headline, I think, but is only speculation. I would also speculate it wasn’t “Heartache Tonight” or “Seven Bridges Road” on repeat just because, again, she’d have used a different knife.

Difficult Choice for a Judge – to Judge or be funny?

And who said the law hasn’t got a sense of humour? Oh, wait… 
From ABC News – the real one in the States – full story and video here:
“A New Jersey judge resigned today after the state’s highest court forced him to choose between serving as a part-time municipal judge or moonlighting as an actor and comedian.
Vince Sicari told that he resigned after meeting with his presiding judge in South Hackensack, leaving the court with his robe in hand and a sense of pride over his time on the bench.
“I was beyond proud to be a judge and I consider myself lucky to have done two jobs I loved,” said Sicari. “But, I respect the court’s decision.”
Today’s unanimous decision dealt a blow to the man nicknamed the “joking judge” who’s stage name is Vince August, under which he’s performed stand-up comedy throughout the tri-state area since the 1990’s. But, it was the work of the 44-year-old actor on the ABC program “What Would You Do?” that seemed to give the justices their biggest concerns.
“The judge’s acting and comedy career is incompatible with the Code of Judicial Conduct and therefore he may not serve as a municipal court judge while continuing with that career,” read the 7-0 ruling.
Back in February when the court heard arguments, the justices questioned whether the public had the ability to separate Sicari’s position as a judge from the roles he’s played on the hidden-camera show, in which he has portrayed homophobic and racist characters. The judges noted that someone tuning into the show might not know that the characters used in sketches were actors.
Sicari said he had hoped for a different decision, but was braced for the court’s interpretation.
During the arguments in February, the court was provided with copies of Sicari’s comedy routine and episodes of the ABC show.
When reviewing this material, the justices saw that the New York Law graduate and former practicing attorney refrained from making jokes about lawyers in an attempt to keep his two careers separate.
“Vince is a very good comedian and actor who has managed to have the vocation for that that most of us don’t and it’s unfortunate that there isn’t room for both,” said Sicari’s lawyer E. Drew Britcher.
According to Britcher, his client made $13,000 a year, with no benefits as a judge, overseeing traffic tickets and misdemeanor crimes.
“He has to maintain other employment,” Britcher told “Economics may deprive him of a real choice.”
Sicari told that he makes more money as an actor and comedian than he did as a judge.
“As long as this is a rule, I won’t sit on the bench again in New Jersey. That is, unless someone wants to offer me a judge TV show.”

Apple Engages in some Asthetically Pleasing Censorship?

Hot on the heals of the announcement that the new Iphone has a device that can read your fingerprint (it’s okay, don’t worry, Apple isn’t going to compile a vast and unregulated database of fingerprint data which can be hacked into and used by nefarious types to put you at a scene of a crime – they said they wouldn’t), comes news that Apple has censored it’s phones advertising from certain words:
Chief executive Tim Cook, video site YouTube and any references to glitches or hacking – these are just some of the words Apple bans its iPhone distributors from using in advertisements for the new iPhone 5.

Apple’s tough rules on how distributors can promote the popular smartphones, obtained by Fairfax Media, run to a dozen pages and specify the format of advertisements in minute detail.


”It is fair to say Apple runs a very tight ship, and while it is unusual for a supplier to have so much control over the way we do business, you have to admire the results they get,” a telco executive, who declined to be named, told Fairfax Media.

”They are consistent and their brand is one of the strongest in the world.”

The guidelines state that advertisements on bus panels, taxis and aircraft are forbidden and posters bearing images of Apple are not allowed at bars, hotels, gyms or doctors’ offices. iPhone ads are allowed only on well-lit billboards, shopping malls and bus shelters.

Apple demands the right to review every place where ads are to be displayed and reserves the right to ask a distributor to move its advertisement if it conflicts with Apple’s own.

It bans the words ”a”, ”the”, ”new” or ”newest” from use before the word ”iPhone”, frowns on the exclamation mark and slaps a blanket ban on a list of ”negative” words.
The forbidden list includes ”second hand”, ”YouTube”, and ”Tim Cook [Apple’s CEO]”, ”jailbreak”, ”stolen”, ”broken”, ”crushed” and ”hacked”.

A marketing executive from a distributor of Apple products, who declined to be named for the fear of offending a key supplier, said Apple representatives would scream strings of expletives if advertisements deviated even slightly from the media guidelines.

”Apple is very difficult to deal with and very particular. Media releases take days to clear and sometimes they have to be cleared by Tim Cook himself,” said the executive. ”They know they can get away with it because of who they are.”

The executive said Apple had been easier to deal with this year as excitement around the brand had receded.

For advertisements that appear in print, Apple prefers only full-page ads in big metropolitan newspapers and magazines.

Apple demands TV commercials run nationally during mainstream programs, more than half of which must be in prime time.

The company also has rules on advertising in all digital media, including online video, online display, tablet, mobile and social media.

Apple makes it clear it does not want its distributors to advertise on YouTube, a site owned by its arch-rival Google, by banning YouTube in-stream ads. Google’s Android is the largest competitor to Apple’s iOS operating system.

The Android operating system accounts for 64.8 per cent of all smartphones sold in the world. Apple’s iOS operating system accounts for 18.8 per cent, according to Gartner, a research consultancy.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all refused to comment on their relationships with Apple.

Full story here.

Genuinely Funny

One of the genuinely funny people in the legal profession writes in his regular SMH piece that he has been confronted by the shocking image of himself:

“Accustomed, as I am, to public speaking in court, I am unaccustomed to seeing my public speaking replayed on virtually live television. Little did I realise that sometimes when I go to speak, my whole mouth opens very wide, like a python where the mandible dislocation occurs in order to swallow the family dog whole, and my distended tongue comes out just before I speak, quickly retreating into my mouth, but not before a couple of licks of the lips. It’s little wonder I am not on the public-speaking circuit. The occasion was an appearance on The Observer Effect on SBS, safe from mass sightings.

Judges don’t tell you when you are speaking from the bar table that you are opening your mouth like a cobra, licking your lips like a cat, all without realising your lips have all but disappeared over the past few years. When people say about my son that he has my lips, it is now apparent that he literally does, because mine have disappeared. It makes kissing awkward, like one-handed clapping.

The hostess/interviewer, Ellen Fanning, is an excellent cross-examiner. Things got off to a bad start when I told her before the cameras rolled that I always admired her when I was growing up, and indeed had a bit of a schoolboy crush on her at boarding school. Women are sensitive about age, even when I am joking.
The vanity in me loves being taken to the SBS studio in a limo, driven by a Mr Khan, a Pakistani gentleman. He knew Imran Khan, a man I passed in many hotel corridors late at night in the 1980s.

The elegant Mr Khan opened the front door for me on Elizabeth Street, outside chambers, in full view of the footpath revellers and remnants from lunch at Bambini. I took my sweet time getting in, twisting the onlookers’ forearms in a gigantic Chinese burn of envy. We chatted about Pakistani politics, and as always, I turned the subject towards Jemima Khan.
On arrival at SBS, I was treated like royalty, powder was placed on my face and hands to cover, hopefully, all the leopard and liver spots that high living and sun have caused. However, on seeing the replay, I see that a leopard never changes his spots, even with an immense amount of make-up.

My hair was brushed by a professional dresser, devoted solely to the appearance of the hair of participants in the show. This is the way we should treat barristers before going into court. An attractive beautician would professionally squirt brown colouring on to the back of her hand and then dab it onto those parts of your anatomy that need camouflage and disguise, lest the real skin tones scare potential viewers.

The Bar Association should advocate for make-up rooms and beauticians before court appearances in jury trials. We should all look like Richard Wilkins in the morning. At least we wouldn’t need a hairdresser, as we would wear 17th-century horsehair wigs to cover mostly balding heads. The wig is a great equaliser in court, which is why I grow my own hair as long as I can, consistent with bar rules and avoiding any resemblance to Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I have considered shorter hair since Jimmy Savile gave eccentric, erratic hair a bad name, but I persevere.

Live television also reveals the various attempts to get the hair colour right – it now looks like external tree ring-barking. And you should never cross your legs on TV if you are wearing spotted orange socks, bought from a skateboarding shop because they felt warm and looked, I thought, cool.

Fanning and her team at The Observer Effect did not believe in giving me any notice of the subject matters on the show. They hit me with a gigantic picture of Tony Abbott in full-frontal Lycra and bike, the morning after his election win, and described him as the Anti-Rake, which made me the Antichrist, I guessed. His obvious fitness was thrust down my cake-and-pie loving throat and I was asked to explain on the spot. Ad libbing requires rehearsals and questions without notice should remain in Parliament, where at least they are written down.
One thing that did strike me was the fact that ministers of state should declare all their financial interests, but Abbott seemed to have more sponsors on his Lycra than on MasterChef at its boom. I couldn’t make out his major sponsors. Bike riders are a weird bunch. They wear their lapels on their sleeves and bodies, all the better to advertise insidious products such as the energy drinks that propel fists of fury around George Street on weekend nights. Sometimes, Abbott teases advertisers by taking off his top, but thus far, no tattoos have appeared. This space is open, including for Bondi Ink. No better way to attract new business to Australia than have a big black sleeve on the Prime Minister’s arm and ”Which bank?” on his chest.”


Appearing today in the Illawarra Mercury, an article on the current proposed changes to Police search powers:

An Illawarra lawyer has criticised proposed state government legislation allowing police to search those subject to firearm bans without a warrant, saying it will violate the individual right to privacy.
The legislation, to be introduced to Parliament this week, aims to curb gun violence across NSW by giving police “wide ranging new powers to search for firearms and target criminal hangouts”.
It means police will be given the power to detain individuals subject to firearm bans and search their vehicles and properties without a warrant.
The penalty for the possession and/or supply of a firearm for a person who is subject to a firearm ban will also increase from 10 to 14 years in jail.
Kernaghan and Associates principal and member of the Illawarra Law Society Aaron Kernaghan said the legislation created a “fiction” whereby the public were being misled into thinking police needed more powers than they already had.
“If police can stop people without a warrant or without having proper suspicion that something illegal is going on, how would that be in any way different to living in a police state?” he asked.
“People who carry guns are going to carry the gun whether police can search them with or without a warrant.”
Premier Barry O’Farrell said tackling gun crime was a “key priority for the NSW government”.
“The community rightly expects people who use illegal guns to be caught and to face the full weight of the law,” Mr O’Farrell said.
Firearms have allegedly been used in at least two separate armed robberies in the past week in the Illawarra – one at Bomaderry and the other at Port Kembla.
However, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research two-year trend data shows rates of prohibited and regulated weapons offences for the Wollongong, Shellharbour, and Shoalhaven local government areas are stable.
Shellharbour recorded the worst rate of offences, at 228.6 per 100,000 people, while Kiama was the only Illawarra council to have recorded a lower offence rate (110) than the state average of 113.3 per 100,000.

Billy Connolly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Billy Connolly has also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

“Billy Connolly recently underwent minor surgery in America after being diagnosed with the very early stages of prostate cancer. The operation was a total success, and Billy is fully recovered,” the statement read.

“In addition, Billy has been assessed as having the initial symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, for which he is receiving the appropriate treatment.”

Billy recently appeared in the movie Quartet, alongside Dame Maggie Smith, and will feature in the upcoming two Hobbit movies.

His representative has insisted his diagnosis will not have any effect on his career plans.

“Billy has been assured by experts that the findings will in no way inhibit or affect his ability to work, and he will start filming a TV series in the near future, as well as undertaking an extensive theatrical tour of New Zealand in the new year,” the statement continued.

Full story here.

The Trial of a P.E. Teacher

A 30-year-old woman has pleaded not guilty to three counts of having sexual intercourse with the teenager who was under her care. 

The District Court trial on Monday heard the Catholic school teacher, then aged 22, did not teach the boy, but got to know him after they both attended a weekend outing at Luna Park to celebrate the girls’ team reaching the finals.

“(She said) I was one of the most mature guys at school and it felt more like a friendship,” the former student, now aged 25, told the court.

He described how over the following three Wednesday afternoons, the teacher picked him up on a side street near his home and drove him to a secluded area near a soccer stadium where they engaged in sexual acts.

The jury was told the sexual intercourse charges were based on the allegation the boy digitally penetrated the teacher on those occasions.

The man said he couldn’t remember exactly what time of year it was, other than towards the end of Year 12.

He told the court that after the teacher began talking about wanting to have children one day he got scared and suggested they should just be friends.

“She said no, either we’re in a relationship or no friendship,” he said.

After the meetings ended, there was no more contact between them for the rest of the school year, he said.

The student admitted he lied when the alleged relationship was investigated by the Catholic Education Officer in 2008.

He told the court the teacher rang him in tears about it.

“I said don’t worry about it, I’ll deny everything,” he told the court.

Charges were eventually laid against the woman last year following a police investigation.

Defence barrister Phillip Boulten, SC, told the court the woman never had a sexual relationship with the student whose claims were “empty and false”.

“She was the subject of a lot of attention at school because she was young, attractive and popular,” Mr Boulten said.

He put to the former student that he and his friends treated the teacher, who had just graduated from university, as a “sexual object”.

“You were making a big name for yourself at school by making out that you had got with (her),” Mr Boulten said.

The former student denied this.

Mr Boulten said there was no forensic evidence, CCTV footage or phone records to back up the Crown’s case.

“There will be two witnesses in this case who will shed light on whether it did or it didn’t happen,” Mr Boulten said.

They would be the teacher and the alleged victim, he added.

The trial continues before Judge Leonie Flannery

Full story here.