Nowhere to go
By Anna Louie Sussman
New York state law prohibits convicted sex offenders on parole from living within 1,000 feet of a school or child care facility. Now two trailers crammed with 40 sex offenders haunt the town of Southampton, on Long Island, serving as a reminder of the difficulty of enforcing that law, The New York Times reports.
Convicted sex offenders are required by Suffolk County to have a registered address. Due to local zoning regulations, there are few feasible housing situations available to them. Around the country, the Times reports, convicted sex offenders cluster under bridges and in campgrounds.
In 2007, Suffolk County set up temporary trailers for groups of men who were found living in cheap motels down the hall from families. Six years later the trailers are still there, and even staunch supporters of the sex offender rules are questioning them.
“When you propose a law restricting sex offenders to 1,000 feet from any bus stop, that’s just not going to work,” said Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center, who lives on Long Island. “You have to be reasonable.”
One trailer resident, convicted rapist Troy Wallace, has filed a challenge in federal court. Although Wallace is free on parole and studying to be a paralegal, a day care center near his family’s home prevents him from living with his wife and daughter.
“A murderer can live wherever he wants. A shooter, a robber can live wherever he wants,” Wallace told the Times. “I have to live in a trailer.”
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
A coalition of privacy organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, has written a letter to top U.S. administration officials urging them to support the European Union’s efforts to strengthen data protection laws, reports The Financial Times. The groups say U.S. and European citizens' privacy and personal data are "being abused by both the commercial sector and governments" and that the “line is increasingly blurred as personal data passes between both with few restrictions.” According to the groups, the United States should not only support the EU measures but also update its own laws, including the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Whether the United States goes along with the suggestion is another question. Some of the proposals the EU is considering go well beyond the policies of companies such as Google and require the websites to obtain permission before collecting personal data and also specify how and where the information will be used. The prospect hasn’t pleased Silicon Valley technology companies, which, over the last few weeks, have been lobbying against the measures, along with the Obama administration.
Jacob Kohnstamm, the head of the European coalition of data protection authorities, told the FT that lawmakers were fed up with companies trying to protect their corporate interests ahead of the fundamental rights of European citizens.
By Anna Louie Sussman
Women dancing at strip clubs are employees, not independent contractors, a Kansas State Supreme Court judge ruled last week, and can therefore collect unemployment insurance, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The decision comes in a 2005 lawsuit filed by a dancer against Club Orleans in Topeka who said that the extensive “house rules” the club imposed on dancers gave owners “right of control” over them, effectively making them employees of the club. The judge said the club must now contribute into the state’s unemployment insurance fund.
A former Club Orleans dancer told the Journal the ruling would offer more financial security for dancers but noted some women would not want their work to be moved onto the books.
The ruling is the latest in a series of victories for exotic dancers. In November, the Atlantic reported on a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips in California, who also ruled the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy unconstitutional, to award a $13 million settlement to 14 strippers from the Spearmint Rhino chain of clubs.
A lawyer for Club Orleans maintained the dancers were contractual talent who paid rent to the club for using the stage. He did not say whether the club would appeal the ruling.
Problem? What problem?
By Anna Louie Sussman
America doesn’t have an illegal immigration problem, writes University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner in Slate. It has a three-tier guest-worker system that serves America’s interests.
Tier one and two are skilled and semi-skilled workers who arrive here, are given green cards or short-term visas and sometimes become citizens. The third tier, those who enter illegally and stay illegally, have no path to citizenship but can work (although without the protection of labor laws) and often obtain a driver’s license.
“We call these people ‘illegal immigrants’ but that is a misnomer. Little effort is made to stop them from working or to expel them,” Posner writes. ”The system exists because it serves America’s interests…. In this way public policy recognizes a sliding scale of legal protections for aliens, offering the strongest protections to those we want the most, and the weakest protections to those we are less sure about.”
Posner says a formal guest-worker system would face opposition from both political parties as well as labor unions for creating a second-class group of workers who could work for less than minimum wage. Instead, he predicts, after the current population of immigrants are offered a path to citizenship, new migrants will continue to arrive in America. In 10 or 20 years, he says, “everyone will recognize a new illegal immigration ‘problem,’ which we will again ‘solve’ by removing the ‘illegal’ label from the foreheads of the migrants and affixing the ‘legal’ label in its place.”
A royal stink
By Ted Botha
It had all the elements of a battle royal: A young prince from Monaco, expensive booze, supermodels, smashed bottles, mud-slinging and criminal charges. But the final installment played out in a Manhattan court on Monday on a less regal note, when New York former bar owner Andrew Hock pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and agreed to 10 days of community service and 36 hours of anger management classes, according to the Daily News.
The saga started in February 2012, when Pierre Casiraghi, grandson of Grace Kelly, arrived at a New York bar with some friends, according to the Daily Beast. Depending on whose version you believe, Casiraghi and his pals went up to a table,started drinking vodka out of someone else’s bottle, flirted with Russian models at the table and were rude to Hock. A fight ensued, Casiraghi fractured his jaw, and two of his friends allegedly got roughed up.
Then came the inevitable legal maneuvering. Hock, who was arrested and charged with assault, hired power lawyer Sal Strazzullo, The New York Times wrote at the time. Casiraghi hired his own lawyer to sue Hock for battery, and though Hock pleaded guilty on Monday, he didn’t exactly sound contrite after his brief appearance in Manhattan Criminal Court. “My wife and people closest to me say I’m the least angry individual on the planet,” he is quoted as saying in the Daily News, but he added he would still be “open minded” about the anger management sessions.
The would-be diva
By Anna Louie Sussman
United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a reputation as an opera lover; she’s seen frequently at the Washington National Opera and has even made cameos in two of its productions. In fact, she says in an interview with the WQXR radio program Operavore, she would have preferred to be an opera singer than a lawyer.
Justice Ginsburg tells host and mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne that her career in law was a reluctant second choice.
“People ask me, ‘If you could be whatever you want to be, what would you be?’ And my first answer is not, ‘A great lawyer.’ It is, ‘I would be a great diva.’ But I totally lack that talent, so the next best thing is the law,” she said.
She also compared ruling on death penalty cases to the plight of Captain Edward Vere in Billy Budd, who is forced to obey the letter of the law and sentence Budd to hang, despite his doubts about Budd’s guilt. While she has said before she finds death penalty cases very difficult, she has also refrained from declaring them all unconstitutional.
“If I had my way there would be no death penalty. But the death penalty for now is the law, and I could say ‘Well, I won’t participate in those cases,’ but then I can’t be an influence,” she said.
She told Horne that the Supreme Court is no place for divas.
“Every time I have to participate in a case where someone has been sentenced to death, I feel that same conflict. But when you’re with a group of nine people, the highest court in the land, you can’t pretend to be king or queen,” she said.
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