First Amendment, Middle Finger. It’s all protected speech.

This Amendment is Number One! See...?

An Oregon man flips off some cops.  They stop him.  Then, he does it again.  They stop him again.  The man then sues claiming the cops harassed him by stopping him while engaged in free speech.  The case settles without a trial paying the man $4,000.00.  Protected speech?  Certainly.  Ridiculous plaintiff?  Most probably.

I agree that making a certain infamous hand gesture is free speech.  Shoot, any hand gesture is probably protected as free speech by the First Amendment to the Constitution.  But for Robert Ekas, I do not think the constitutional question is at issue so much as the personal conduct/gentlemanly behavior issue.  Why flip off a bunch of Sheriff’s deputies?  What’s the point?  My guess is that it was just a way to get national attention including an appearance on The Colbert Report.

Personally, I think Mr. Ekas’ victory (if you can call it that) should be widely celebrated by giving Mr. Ekas the very free speech he holds so dear.  So when you see Robert Ekas, make sure to extend your favorite hand, extend that hand’s middle finger, and let us all celebrate what our Founding Fathers must have truly intended with the First Amendment.  Let us direct that speech squarely at the man that fought so hard to protect it by taking a $4,000.00 settlement and running rather than trying to establish legal precedent that the “cop flip-off” is protected free speech.  That’s definitely the forthright man’s way through the case.  (Readers, I hope you’re picking up the sarcasm, because I’m laying it on pretty thick here). Continue reading

What the heck is habeus corpus?

Correctly pronounce habeus corpus ad subjiciendum and you can have this card.

It’s not a dead body or something you can pick up from touching raw chicken.  People have asked me this question several times over the years.  They have seen the term in newspapers, on TV news, and have probably even seen William Shatner shouting about it on Boston Legal reruns.  It’s Latin, it sounds funny, and it doesn’t make much sense.

In Latin, habeus corpus means “you have the body.”  A writ of habeus corpus is a written judicial order to bring a party before a judge or court.  99% of the time, the writ is used to seek release from unlawful imprisonment.

The complete name for the order to release someone from unlawful imprisonment is habeus corpus ad subjiciendum, which is the Latin equivalent for Monopoly’s get out of jail free card.  (Just kidding, it truly is a serious matter).

Unfortunately, in our justice system, there are people that have been jailed and later proven innocent.  A writ of habeus corpus is the process by which the legality of someone’s imprisonment is tested.  For a recent example of great work by a Columbus attorney that saved death row inmate, Kevin Keith, from execution, read this.  After obtaining clemency from execution from Governor Ted Strickland, Rachel Troutman is now trying to get her client released from prison.  A writ of habeus corpus will start the way.

The Second Amendment’s Arms get Beefier

Woo-hoo! Mr. Blasty gets to stay at home with me!

In a 5-4 decision issued today by Justice Samuel Alito in McDonald v. Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court signaled the strengthening of the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms with respect to a state law out of Illinois.  For the AP, Mark Sherman writes:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court held today that the Constitution’s Second Amendment restrains government’s ability to significantly limit “the right to keep and bear arms,” advancing a recent trend by the John Roberts-led bench to embrace gun rights.

By a narrow, 5-4 vote, the justices also signaled, however, that some limitations on the right could survive legal challenges.

Writing for the court in a case involving restrictive laws in Chicago and one of its suburbs, Justice Samuel Alito said that the Second Amendment right “applies equally to the federal government and the states.”

The court was split along familiar ideological lines, with five conservative-moderate justices in favor of gun rights and four liberals opposed. Chief Justice Roberts voted with the majority.

Two years ago, the court declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess guns, at least for purposes of self-defense in the home.

That ruling applied only to federal laws. It struck down a ban on handguns and a trigger lock requirement for other guns in the District of Columbia, a federal city with a unique legal standing. At the same time, the court was careful not to cast doubt on other regulations of firearms here.

Gun rights proponents almost immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging gun control laws in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Ill., where handguns have been banned for nearly 30 years. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence says those laws appear to be the last two remaining outright bans.

Lower federal courts upheld the two laws, noting that judges on those benches were bound by Supreme Court precedent and that it would be up to the high court justices to ultimately rule on the true reach of the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court already has said that most of the guarantees in the Bill of Rights serve as a check on state and local, as well as federal, laws.

Monday’s decision did not explicitly strike down the Chicago area laws, ordering a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling. But it left little doubt that they would eventually fall.

Still, Alito noted that the declaration that the Second Amendment is fully binding on states and cities “limits (but by no means eliminates) their ability to devise solutions to social problems that suit local needs and values.”

The Opinion effectively strikes down Chicago’s hand gun ban, however the case was remanded back to the Illinois’ federal court for further proceedings.  The five Justices concurring in the Opinion are Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas in addition to Alito.  The dissenting Justices were John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor.  You can read their bios here.

If you have some time on your hands, you can read the Court’s entire 214 page opinion here.  The Court’s opinion is actually 51 pages, with the rest dedicated to a concurring opinion by Scalia, Thomas’ opinion concurring in part,  and dissenting opinions by Stevens and Breyer.

What do you think?  Should states be able to ban handgun possession by private citizens, or does the Second Amendment guarantee our right to keep guns?