The Well FED Society

This is the weblog for the University of Baltimore Federalist Society. Come back regularly for updates about our meetings and events, and you might even be treated to some original thought.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Entangling Alliances?

Nope, I'm not talking about international affairs that may compromise America's ability or willingness to protect it's interests. I'm referring to the apparent alliance between the "news media" and political parties. Specifically, but not to be partisan, the recent CBS *ahem* issues with apparently forged documents that seem to have been created to attack President Bush present a difficult question, and to me, look like an unseemly alliance that has compromised at least one party's judgment.

Basically, the question arises: At what point, if ever, does a media outlet transition from being a "news source" to being a de facto mouthpiece of a political organization?

Arguably, never.

The Supreme Court has said that the "Freedom of the Press" doesn't actually give any new or different rights to media outlets, but it does tend to reinforce that the freedom of speech that they exercise is not targeted for restriction unduly. (I won't bother digging up cites for that right now, but I might come back later with some.) This would tend to support the idea that there is nothing the government can do if a network, or all networks decide to actively persuade people to pick one candidate over another. (Right now, "news source" advocacy is usually passive, but that's another topic for another time.)

On the other hand, if news sources are allowed to be advocates, it would tend to argue against the reasons they are often given deference in defamation actions.

As for me, I think I fall towards the "no governmental truth-and-fairness detectors" for the media. However, I think that if a governmental official or candidate can make a prima facie case for a defamation case, AND then can show a pattern of bias against him or herself and or his or her party (or ideology), then the high standard required for defamation suits by public officials should be reduced to the normal standard.

I could be wrong, but I don't think this would have a "chilling" effect on speech by the media, because what would be encouraged would be an even-handed approach researching and presenting political news.

So... What do you think? Can or should the government expect the media to attempt to appear ballanced if they purport to be sources of news? If not, then why was a freedom of the press enunciated distinctly from the freedom of speech? If the government can or should be able to enforce some amount of fairness, what threshold should apply, and who should decide what's "fair."

Monday, September 20, 2004

Minimum Sentences = Minimum Justice?

Here's an article to tickle your noggin... Doing Justice

I see at least two interesting topics in this discussion of minimum sentences.

1. Does a minimum sentence actually promote justice?

On the one hand, I sympathize with the judge in the article. Sending somebody away, effectively for the rest of his life for a "no intent" status crime (Carrying a gun as opposed to firing a gun) does seem remarkably harsh. On the other hand, these substantial minimums seem to apply primarily to repeat (read habitual) criminals.


2. If not, doesn't the most democratic branch of government, the legislature, have the right to demand greater penalties for wrong-doers?
In context, I think that minimum sentences are a response... a backlash rather than some sort of original provocation. The public's perception is that criminals too often get a "slap on the wrist" for significant crimes. The public has a right to want to be reasonably free form the fear that known predatory criminals are free and undeterred by the thought of the criminal justice system. Maybe this is perception is based in fact, and maybe it's just fear, but the fact is that many people in the country think that criminals rarely have to pay for their crimes.


So, for your contemplation: Are minimum sentences cruel and unusual punishment? Does the harshness of the punishment promote justice overall?

I fear that the truth is that harsh punishments don't actually promote justice. The likelihood of getting caught and facing some significant punishment is what (I think) would provide a deterrent effect. If only one in 10 criminals get caught, and of them only 2 in 10 criminals get convicted because of the mistakes in the process and unreasonableness of the jury, and of them only 2 in 10 see a punishment that is more than a slap on the wrist, then we're talking about less than 1/2 of one percent of criminals would fact substantial punishment.

I don't know what the actual numbers might be, but if I'm anywhere near the ball-park, the idea of locking-up 0.4% of criminals for many years looks like a very good bet for the average criminal, and seems almost capricious. Over-punishment the 0.4% won't make up for the fact that 99.6% of criminals don't face enough or any justice.

I could be wrong. What do you think? What do you suppose would be a good way to attack this problem?

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Federalist Society Luncheon -- Washington, DC

D.C. Luncheon - Friday, September 24
  
 

Author John Fund
will be speaking on his book:
Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens our Democracy

The Federalist Society is hosting a D.C. Luncheon on
Friday, September 24

The speaker will be John Fund,
Columnist, The Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com

To RSVP (acceptances only):
Email RSVPs to rsvp@fed-soc.org
or
Call 202-822-8138
(please include the names of all registrants).

D.C. LUNCHEON

DATE: September 24, 2004
TIME: 12:00 - 1:30 PM
LOCATION: Tony Cheng's Restaurant located at 619 H Street, N.W. (Gallery Place Metro)
COST: The cost is $15.00 for members and $20.00 for guests (collected at the door)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Is an Income Tax in Line with a Federalist Philosophy?

Sitting through a socialist rendition of “Name That Tax” in last Wednesday’s Tax Policy class, I started thinking. Would our Forefathers condone such a blatant redistribution of wealth?

Then there are the “alternatives” to the income swap: a true consumption tax, a “National Sales” tax, a VAT tax, and a little ditty called the “Mark to Market” tax.

All of these taxes are designed with one purpose in mind: to create revenue to feed the ever-growing central government. But is this what our Forefathers envisioned?

Folks grow up and get married. Then something happens, and kids arrive. Those folks choosing to send the kids to day care are given a deduction for expense, but those parents looking to raise their children themselves are given no such deduction on their taxes.

That’s right, the first couple makes two incomes and receives a deduction for the expenses incurred in day care, but the parents who want to instill their values in their child, instead that of a nanny, get one income and no deductions. Do you think that our Forefathers envisioned this?

I would love to hear your thoughts…

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Mark Your Calendar! - Fed. Soc. Event in Baltimore (9-30-04)

I know, I know, the title doesn't leave much suspense.

The local (Chesapeake) lawyers' chapter of the Federalist Society is sponsoring an event -

The Malpractice Insurance Crisis in Maryland:
A Time for Tort Reform?

Panelists:
Moderator:
Date: Thursday, September 30, 2004
Time: 6:00 PM
Place: Renissance Harborplace Hotel / 202 East Pratt St. / Baltimore, MD 21202 (map)

UPDATE: - I forgot to mention... If you plan on attending (and I hope that you do... if it helps there will be refreshments, including liquid) please email the coordinator for the event, Scott Haiber, shaiber@milesstockbridge.com.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Semester's Focus *** (Input requested!) ***

Many of you know, we've decided to participate in the series of debates that the Federalist Society is sponsoring thoroughout the nation on various aspects of the "War on Poverty."

Originally, I had wanted to host discussions of how the War on Poverty impacts and interacts with family law. I still like that idea.

A thought that ocurred to me today as I sat in the incredible traffic mess that is now the normal state of commuting in the Baltimore-Washington area (and increasingly throughout the nation). The thought was this:

How does traffic management policy affect the poor?
I think that there is probably a discernable connection between the policies that guide road-way development and the War on Poverty. For example, is the failure to construct sufficient roads to handle traffic without cronic congestion equivalent to economic discrimination? It does drive up property values near employment centers because people who can afford it, won't choose to spend siginficant portions of their lives stuck in traffic. By using development policy and other "smart growth" tactics, are the people of the state really being served in the preservation of the environment, or does it primarily serve to drive real-estate prices out of the reach of most working-class individuals?
Let me know what you all think about either of these policies. Perhaps we can sponsor debates on both. If you have a different idea, make sure you share that too!

A Maryland Voting Issue (not involving Ralph Nader or touch-screens)

Although the Federalist Society is non-partisan, issues and public policies that arise in the political and electoral process are of significant interest to us. For that reason, I was intrigued when I heard about this story entitled,Out-Of-Town Voter Ruling Expected Soon. (See also Are Ocean City's Out-Of-Town Voters In?.)

This might not be a big issue, but it's interesting for a couple of reasons. How a state defines "residence" is an important issue. The potential for vote fraud is very high if non-full-time-resident property owners or part-time residents of a municipality are given the right to vote.

The State's current stance, roughly that if you are a resident of the state with multiple possible residences, then you can choose which ONE you want to be your residence of record for voting purposes without regard to where you spend most of your time seems reasonable to me. The important thing is that the individuals who want to vote in Ocean City need to change their driver's licenses (and a couple of other official records) to reflect that choice, and that registering to vote in OC while maintaining an official primary residence elsewhere in the state could result in jail-time.

What I find interesting is the motivation for people to want to register to vote in a location where they do not live most of the time (i.e. Ocean City).

I see two potential motivations
The prospective voters might want to try to have a say in the governance in the location where they have a significant capital investment.
The prospective voters might want to artificially alter the political landscape of the state.
At first, my mind jumped to the second possibility. One thing that is true about Maryland politics is that the parts of the state with lots of money are, well, exceptionally liberal. By that same token, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, (very rural) is predictably right-of-center when the election returns come in. Perhaps the Democrats in the state are frightened by recent advances by the state's Republicans, and they want to spread some votes from where they have a surplus to areas where they are in a local minority.

Perhaps.

However, in my years on this planet, I've learned that people are naturally selfish. When two potential motivations exist, one based in desire for personal gain by the actor, and the other is part of a broader strategy, bet on selfishness. It's possible that there's some sort of plot to change the electoral flavor of the Eastern Shore, but I after consideration, I suspect that we've got a group of property owners who, since they don't live in the location full-time, but because of the economics of Ocean City now have a significant portion of their personal wealth located away from where they live. These people probably have a legitimate concern that their property interests may not be considered in the governance of the city.

It's reasonable. Of course, the locals will have a legitimate argument that it's not appropriate for their voices in local politics to be drowned-out by people who don't have to live with the results every day.

So, my UBFS friends, what do you think? As a policy issue, which side do you think has the best argument?

OK, OK, I give in... Here's a link to a story about Ralph, and here's one to a story about touch-screens.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

HEADS-UP! - DOJ jobs deadline approaching

The following is the text of the email I just received from Peter Redpath, the Director of the Student Division for the Federalist Society. If you're a law student and want to consider getting a job in the Department of Justice after you finish your degree, you'll have to get in through the "Honors Program." If you miss the deadline, don't cry about not being warned...

The deadline for the The U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General's Honors Program is rapidly approaching and I'd like to encourage you to apply if you do not already have plans after graduation.

The Honors Program is the Department's recruitment program for entry-level attorneys and is the only way the Department hires graduating law students.

Go to http://www.usdoj.gov/oarm/arm/hp/hp.htm for more information and please let me know if you end up applying.

Thanks.


Welcome!

This is the inaugural posting on the Weblog for the University of Baltimore Federalist Society (UBFS). What we're going to do with this blog is keep members and interested persons up-to-date as to the goings-on with our organization.

Of course, since this weblog is run by the officers of the UBFS, all postings will be consistent with the goals of the national Federalist Society organization.

Below, I'm shamelessly copying the purpose from the Federalist Society's webpage because it expresses principles which do motivate this organization.

  • Law schools and the legal profession are currently strongly dominated by a form of orthodox liberal ideology which advocates a centralized and uniform society. While some members of the academic community have dissented from these views, by and large they are taught simultaneously with (and indeed as if they were) the law.
  • The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.
  • The Society seeks both to promote an awareness of these principles and to further their application through its activities. This entails reordering priorities within the legal system to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law. It also requires restoring the recognition of the importance of these norms among lawyers, judges, and law professors.
  • In working to achieve these goals, the Society has created a conservative and libertarian intellectual network that extends to all levels of the legal community.

In addition to updating members with news about meetings and events, this weblog will include postings that link to articles of interest to members, UB students, law student, and legal professionals generally. But wait, there's more! This site will also (occasionally) include original thought about law and public policy issues written by the executive board of the UBFS, and possibly, by our members, by permission.

If you're not a University of Baltimore student, and would like some more information about our school, and especially the law school, follow the links! You can get whatever information you want at the official sites, or at least a phone number to call to get somebody to answer your questions. The great thing about UB is that it provides a quality education without the snobbery that can be noticed at some universities. If you've got a question, the admission's staff (at least at the law school) is more than happy to help.

The UBFS's wise and gracious faculty advisor is Professor Mortimer "Tim" Sellers. He's one of the very best professors in the entire University System of Maryland, and that was recognized recently by his being named the University System of Maryland Regents Professor.

So... Welcome to The Well FED Society.