Friday, April 15, 2011

Linguistic Diversity and the Law in Europe: What Role is Played in Legal Processes?

Research and Markets at BusinessWire.com asks in Linguistic Diversity and European Democracy:
"What role does linguistic diversity play in European democratic and legal processes?"
Read the article here.

The Good Old Boy Network Lives! A State Bar Restricts the Free Speech of an Attorney Member for "Ethical" Reasons: Don't Make Waves, Esq.!

Brett Barrouquere of the Associated Press has found a lawyers' anti-free speech wasp's nest in Kentucky, where U.S. District Court Judge Danny C. Reeves has ruled that TRUE public comments by attorneys can be restricted by the state bar in order "to uphold public confidence in the judiciary".

It seems that attorney John M. Berry had the unwanted audacity to publicly criticize Kentucky's Legislative Ethics Commission, which had -- perhaps wrongly -- exculpated without consequence Kentucky Senate President David Williams for "innocently erring" in soliciting (via his staff) $50,000 each from lobbyists attending a Republican fundraising luncheon, even though state law bans lobbyists from giving money to such state legislative campaigns.

Innocent error? This observer finds it hard to believe that politicians at this level of their game do not know the finance rules for political campaigning. Besides, ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse, as everyone knows. Errors are possible, of course, but innocent ones are unlikely.

John M. Berry surely called it correctly, but ran up against the good old boy Republican network in his State.

As anyone knows, to follow a successful career in many a profession, it is advisable to keep one's nose to the grindstone and one's mouth shut.

You have to be "politically" smart.

Never mind the law.

This particular case involves a state bar restricting the public free speech of its lawyers on the grounds of upholding public confidence in the judiciary. Hey, why not? Anything that undermines public confidence in the judiciary is grounds for disciplinary action. Now THAT is an overly broad field of restricted discourse.

Here is the Constitutional question: can the free speech rights of attorneys be chilled by state bars on the alleged grounds of professional ethics, the politics of public confidence in the judiciary, or for any other drummed up reason at all?

Reports state that Judge Reeves found that federal courts had no jurisdiction over disciplinary actions of the state bar, no matter what they are. Is that true? Such a holding would be patently false. There are NO "free zones" in the country where the U.S. Constitution does not hold sway, when push comes to shove.

At any rate, this particular case shows clearly why chilling limitations on free speech are a danger to the rights of all. If you can shut up the lawyers, you can shut up anybody, and dictatorship is just around the corner.

Is the rule of law in the USA being supplanted by the rule of the good old boy networks? Look at Kentucky. Look at what they are doing in Wisconsin. The people in power have no respect for the law. Frightening.

Sultanistic Dictatorships and the Revolutions of 2011: What Follows?

Jack A. Goldstone, Professor at George Mason University, has an article in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs as Understanding the Revolutions of 2011: Weakness and Resilience in Middle Eastern Autocracies, which appears in an abridged edition in print in the April 15, 2011 edition of the International Herald Tribune and is carried online at the New York Times as Understanding the Revolutions of 2011.

Goldstone writes that so-called "sultanistic" dictatorships are highly vulnerable to revolutions and that the "Revolutions of 2011" in the Middle East fall into that category.

We are somewhat more careful about prognoses about an Arab world not used to democracies -- see LawPundit at Why Are There No Arab Democracies? asks Larry Diamond at the Journal of Democracy -- and worry that the Revolutions of 2011 may just replace one type of dictatorship with another.

Time will tell.

Optional Contract Law for Europe to Facilitate Cross-Border Transactions: European Commission welcomes EU Parliament Committee Support Vote

EUROPA - Press Releases - European Commission welcomes European Parliament committee vote in support of an optional European Contract Law
"The European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee approved a report today that favours the elaboration of an optional European Contract Law. This is in response to several options put forward by the European Commission for a more coherent approach to contract law (see IP/10/872). Such a measure could be chosen freely by consumers and businesses in their contractual relations. This optional instrument would be an alternative to the existing national contract laws and would be available in all languages. It could apply in cross-border contracts only, or in both cross-border and domestic contracts. It would have to guarantee a high level of consumer protection and legal certainty throughout the life cycle of a contract. In today’s vote, the Legal Affairs Committee adopted an own-initiative report by Diana Wallis.

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, said: 'It is good news for Europe's Single Market that the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee favours work towards an optional European Contract Law to facilitate cross-border transactions, notably for small- and medium-sized enterprises and consumers. The Commission will take the European Parliament's views strongly into account in its further preparation of the European Contract Law initiative. We plan a first initiative on European Contract Law for the Polish Presidency.'
Read the rest here.

Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn: SCOTUS Majority Fails to Understand or Correctly Apply the Establishment Clause

A Supreme Court divided 5-4 on a relatively simple issue such as tax credits and the Establishment Clause is not going to be making much good law in the religious sphere.

Stanley Fish has a nice write-up at Opinionator at the New York Times regarding the case of Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn.

Read the Fish posting about that case at A Dollar Is a Dollar: Elena Kagan’s Style.

We have serious Constitutional problems with tax credits for donations to so-called "school tuition organizations" (STOs), which are often nothing but cloaks for funneling freebie money to religious organizations.

Does the enablement of tax-financed money for religious organizations help to "establish" those religions? Does anyone seriously doubt that? STOs were created precisely to launder money past the Establishment Clause.

Money talks. Without money, you can establish nothing.

Religions should get no tax breaks at all.
That would conform to the sense of the Establishment Clause.

This decision is what you in part get from a court that has not a single Protestant on it. Protestant Christianity developed to modernize the secular world. The Roman Catholic Church does precisely the opposite.

America continues to tread backward, also in its SCOTUS majority decisions.

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