By Joseph Schuman
Judge: Bill of Rights protects anonymous, nasty Twitter
Twitter is the contemporary equivalent of public bulletin
boards from Colonial times, according a federal judge who
dismissed a criminal case against a man who posted violent
That reach back through history could influence how the
First Amendment is interpreted in the Internet age.
The government case accused Californian William Lawrence
Cassidy of inflicting "substantial emotional distress" on a
Maryland-based Buddhist leader, Alyce Zeoli, the New York Times reports. His Tweets, issued under Twitter identities that
frequently changed, included the likes of "Do the world a favor
and go kill yourself. P.S. Have a nice day." Cassidy was
charged under a federal cyberstalking law that was recently
expanded. But district Judge Roger Titus in Maryland ruled that
"while Mr. Cassidy's speech may have inflicted substantial
emotional distress, the government's indictment here is
directed squarely at protected speech: anonymous, uncomfortable
Internet speech addressing religious matters."
When the Bill of Rights was composed, the judge said,
bulletin boards were what blogs are today. "If one colonist
wants to see what is on another's bulletin board, he would need
to walk over to his neighbor's yard and look at what is posted,
or hire someone else to do so," the judge wrote. He equated
Twitter with the ability to automatically post on another
colonist's bulletin board and added that the postings can be
"turned on or off by the owners of the bulletin boards." No one
is forced to read them. "This is in sharp contrast to a
telephone call, letter or e-mail specifically addressed to and
directed at another person," Titus said.
That distinction "is likely to be quite influential," UCLA
law Professor Eugene Volokh told the Times, because "this is an
area where there has been very little case law." That's not how
Zeoli sees it.
Her lawyer, Shanlon Wu, said his client was "appalled and
frightened by the judge's ruling." There was no immediate
decision from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland on whether
it would appeal the dismissal.
Appellate ruling on guns and immigrants offers perfect
question for White House candidates
Talk about timing. The federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals
today issued a ruling that offers a perfect storm of issues
roiling the race for the Republican presidential nomination:
guns, immigration and, well, the federal courts themselves.
A day after the latest primary debate featured several
rhetorical volleys at the federal judiciary, the court issued a
one-paragraph ruling saying illegal immigrants don't have
Second Amendment rights to bear arms.
Here is the paragraph: "Joaquin Bravo Flores was indicted
on a charge of being an illegal alien in possession of a
firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§922(g)(5)(A) and
924(a)(2). Flores moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that § 922(g)(5)(A) was facially unconstitutional in light of
District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) [the
landmark 2008 Supreme Court ruling bolstering gun rights]. The
district court denied the motion, and Flores appeals. Agreeing
with the 5th Circuit that the protections of the Second
Amendment do not extend to aliens illegally."
So Summary Judgments nominates today's circuit ruling as
the subject of a perfect question for Republican White House
aspirants at the next debate: Do you agree with this decision,
or should the Second Amendment trump the government's efforts
to get tough with undocumented immigrants?
Trying to comply with Muslim law, Goldman may be flouting
There's only one big problem with a $2 billion securities
offering designed by Goldman Sachs to be its debut Islamic bond
complying with sharia law. The sukuk may not comply with sharia
Goldman announced creation of the security in October,
saying it was established in a way that gets around the Muslim
ban on usury, which under sharia includes all interest, as the
Financial Times explains.
The investment vehicle, set to be registered in the Cayman
Islands and listed on the Irish Stock Exchange, will sell
certificates to investors, whose funds would be spent on
commodities. Those commodities would then be bought by Goldman
itself. The deferred payments for the commodities would then go
to the certificate holders, mimicking a bond yield without
being actual interest.
But sharia legal experts say the Goldman sukukmay be
breaking the rules.
Saudi-based sharia adviser Mohammed Khnifer tells the FT
the deal's structure has some "flaws": The security's
prospectus leaves open the possibility a third party could buy
the underlying commodities; Goldman could end up getting the
funds directly; and the securities could in theory trade beyond
the par price. Just one of these could violate sharia, Khnifer
says. Lawyers who put together other Islamic investment
vehicles say investors could be put off by even the suggestion
that sukuk doesn't comply. "Goldman can list this program on
the Irish Stock Exchange, but that does not mean they will get
the buyers," one lawyer tells the FT. "They may well find there
is not much demand because of the widespread doubts over the
issue in the market."
Asked about the doubts, Goldman issued a statement saying,
"We are entirely confident in the certification we received
that our program is in compliance with sharia law." And Asim
Khan, managing director at the Islamic investment consultancy
Dar Al Istithmar, which advised Goldman, insists the
credentials of sukuk are solid "This particular transaction has
been vetted and approved by various scholars [who are] very
well known, very well reputed," he says.
ICC prosecutor suspects Gaddafi's death might be war
It's official: The International Criminal Court (ICC),
already prosecuting the Gaddafi family for alleged war crimes
against Libyan civilians during the Arab Spring, wants answers
about the killing of the late Libyan strongman, too.
Since Moammar Gaddafi was killed in the custody of former
rebels in October, his children have been calling for an ICC
probe, Al Jazeera recounts. On Thursday, ICC Prosecutor Luis
Moreno-Ocampo said he, too, thinks the matter is worth
"I think the way in which Mr. Gaddafi was killed creates
suspicions of ... war crimes," Moreno-Ocampo said. "I think
that's a very important issue." Under the treaty that created
the ICC, the court can investigate the matter only if the new
Libyan government can't or won't, the prosecutor added. And
Moreno-Ocampo said he has written to the head of the National
Transitional Council (NTC) to ask if the government plans to
look into possible war crimes by all sides in the conflict.
U.S. and European officials have already pressed the NTC to
examine Gaddafi's killing, but the details of such an inquiry
haven't been clear. Also unclear is whether the NTC will hand
over to the ICC Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son and one-time
heir of the late leader, and ex-Libyan intelligence chief
Abdullah al-Senoussi -- both indicted by the ICC in March.
Moreno-Ocampo said his investigators were in Libya last week to
seek information on the pair from the NTC, which now has them
in custody. In theory, he added, the government must tell the
ICC what it will do with them by Jan. 10. It's not even clear
who would make the decision, but much of the rhetoric out of
Tripoli suggests the current Libyan rulers want to handle the
any trial themselves.
When the FBI investigated Gingrich ... and found
Was Newt Gingrich for sale? We'll tell you right away, the
answer was no. But there was a time in mid-1990s when a tip
from an arms dealer triggered an FBI investigation of the
then-Speaker of the House and current presidential candidate.
It all began when arms dealer Sarkis Soghanalian met with
FBI agents and federal prosecutors in Miami, the Washington Post reports. At the time, Soghanalian was pushing for an end
to the U.S. arms embargo on Iraq, which owed him $80 million.
He told the agents that he had met with Marianne Gingrich, the
woman then married to the speaker, and that she said her
husband would help provide congressional favors. Though
Soghanalian was a convicted felon, the FBI managed to get
approval from Washington to open a major
Soghanalian told the feds that he had been contacted by
someone who once traveled with him and Marianne Gingrich, a
Miami car dealer named Morty Bennett. Soghanalian secretly
recorded the arms dealer saying that for the right price, the
arms embargo could be lifted. Marianne Gingrich "wanted 10
million dollars to get the job done, five million of which
would go directly to Marianne Gingrich," Bennett said on the
recording, according to an FBI document. Interviewed yesterday
by the Post, Bennett said: "I knew somebody and introduced them
to somebody and that was it."
Ultimately, the FBI found no evidence that Gingrich knew
about the arms dealer's recordings of conversations with
Bennett and called off the probe in 1997. "There was no basis
whatsoever for an investigation," says Victoria Tensing,
Marianne Gingrich's lawyer. "These were people puffing, which
means they were making up access to a high-level government
person." Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign declined the
Post's request for comment.
NYC investigation finds most online gun sellers willing to
sell to unqualified buyers
It was nearly five decades ago that the American public was
shocked to learn that Lee Harvey Oswald used a mail-order
catalogue to buy the rifle that killed President John Kennedy.
It turns out such long-distance arms buying remains possible
The administration of New York City Michael Bloomberg sent
investigators around the Internet to see how easily they could
procure guns from sellers willing to commit a felony by hawking
weapons to people who admitted they probably wouldn't pass a
background check, the Wall Street Journal reports. Turns out it
wasn't that hard. The investigators called 125 private sellers
who'd posted ads for guns on Craigslist and other sites in 14
states. Seventy-seven of the gun sellers -- 62 percent - agreed
to sell guns even when told the buyer was underage or otherwise
probably off limits.
Under federal law, private sellers are allowed to sell guns
online without background checks, but it's a felony to do so if
the seller "has reason to believe" the buyer wouldn't pass one.
At a news conference Wednesday, Bloomberg played a recording of
one of the calls, regarding the purchase of a Ruger 9mm handgun
-- the same kind of weapon used to kill an NYC police officer
on Monday. "No background checks or anything like that?" the
investigator asks of the Arizona-based seller. "No, I'm just a
private person," the seller answers. "Oh, that's good, 'cuz I
probably couldn't pass one," the investigator says. "Yeah, I
probably couldn't either," the seller responds, and then they
The Bloomberg administration said it has turned over the
result of its investigation to the director of the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and ATF field offices
near where it purchased the guns.
Summary Judgments for Dec. 15
Summary Judgments for Dec. 14
Summary Judgments for Dec. 13
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