Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Great Law School Time-Suck

By Michael Stone

It was December 2009. Being the proto-typical political science major, I devoured all the news I could get my hands on—university news, local news, state news, and national news. I engaged in op-ed warfare with a conservative person on the university newspaper staff. I would tell others: “You have a DUTY to keep up with current events!”

I lived and breathed this mantra. I balanced school, work, leisure, and news. I felt like Mr. Responsible Citizen, and I was more than a little smug.

It’s now April 2013. That guy from December 2009—yeah, that guy is a jerk. Yesterday I managed to listen to a podcast on my way to law school from my unpaid internship. I wasn’t really listening because I was mentally running a presentation on Fourth Amendment searches through my head. I disagreed with a comment on the class blog today—my uncle’s comment in fact. I’m too tired to fight with him. I keep telling myself, “You have a DUTY to do well in this internship and school in the hopes that you can secure some sort of job after law school.”

I drag my carcass around with this mantra. I devote most of my time to classes, preparation for classes, writing for classes, and the internship. I had to put a reminder on my Google calendar the other day to remind me to eat lunch. I prioritize an hour or two to spend with my fiancée.

I hear that news occurs—though I rarely see it. My name is Mr. Generic Law Student, and I am more than a little exhausted.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Baltimore's Costly Cars

By Dean Fleyzor

In 2011, Baltimore's Labor Day Weekend inaugural Grand Prix left the city in a tough financial position. Initially, the Baltimore Sun claimed that the races were a success because profits for hotel revenue in the downtown area increased by $270,000 and food and drink sales increased by $155,000 compared to 2010's Labor Day Weekend. Although the 160,000 attendees at Baltimore's first Grand Prix in 2011 brought money into the city, the event amassed $47 million due to the increased presence and spending of tourists. However, the races failed to bring in $23 million needed to meet the city's goal of $70 million from hotel, food, entertainment and shopping revenues.

2011 map (from Wikimedia Commons)
The impact of this past Labor Day Weekend’s Grand Prix may never be fully known. According to the Baltimore Sun, in September 2012, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Baltimore would not conduct an "economic impact study" of the race's revenues to the city.

Unofficial estimates report that the impact of the race in its second year was around $42 million, a 10% drop from the inaugural Grand Prix. While the official numbers may never reveal the failure of Baltimore’s second Grand Prix, there might have been some positive impacts to the city. Anirban Basu, owner of an economic policy-consulting firm in Baltimore, told ABC News that the Grand Prix "continues to be a risk for Baltimore but the reward may eventually be priceless."

The race could possibly grow in reputation in the coming years, and eventually see profit. Basu noted that if the racetrack could be redesigned to induce more people to walk to Federal Hill or Little Italy, the economic impact could dramatically increase. Some changes were already implemented after the Grand Prix in 2011, such as efficient exits for spectators and race times that increased the impact of tourism downtown. The city has a contract to host the Grand Prix races through Labor Day 2015.

Tom Noonan, President of Visit Baltimore, said he saw an increase in the number of organizations interested in holding conventions in Baltimore after the Grand Prix began. So there may be a silver lining in the underwhelming Grand Prix after all. If the races can attract the eye of more investors, the short-term financial loss may increase the chance that Baltimore will host more large events in the future.

Monday, April 15, 2013

How Not To Report a National Bombing Attack

By Josh Swanner

Another act of senseless violence is currently impacting the nation, coming through on the news waves. And with it, another chance for hate mongers to spew their hate, and continue to contribute to a false, ignorant fear of the other.  Today, that “other” is people of Middle Eastern descent.

After hearing about the bombings, which took place during the Boston Marathon, I immediately went to the Internet to see what I could find. So I clicked through various blogs until I happened upon this headline on Drudge in bright red—“NY POST: Suspect apprehended… Saudi national under guard at hospital…”

I immediately smelled a rat. The NY Post is known for being a bombastic news rag, leaning to the right (owned by Mr. Rupert Murdoch since 1976). And right before reading this I had just watched President Obama on CNN live at 6:10 PM, and on the bottom of the screen I read no suspect had been apprehended. Wait, what?

The article goes on to say, “Investigators have a suspect — a Saudi Arabian national” who is a “20-year-old … under guard at an undisclosed Boston hospital.” And of course, like magic, “Fox News reported that the suspect suffered severe burns.”

I searched on Google to see what other news outlets were saying. Sure enough, many articles appeared citing the New York Post—here is one local Boston outlet.*

It also seems like I’m not the only one smelling a rat. Eric Wemple at the Washington Post blogged “Boston explosions: New York Post better have good sources.” He posted pictures of headlines of major news outlets, closing with the NY Post’s headlines, adding, “Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Boston Police Department is saying that authoritieshaven’t been notified of any arrests or anyone apprehended.’”  

In the wake of a tragedy, the impulse to believe “they” did it is strong for those already pre-disposed to being Islamaphobic.

Naturally, then, “news” outlets leaning to the right are spreading signals to those who are primed to give into their hate—here the signal being the word “Saudi.”

"Saudi" implies Muslims, who have become the “other” in American society since 9/11. That “other-ness” has peaked since President Barack Obama’s rise to power in 2008.**

That’s truly disgusting. And what’s more so is the belief that being Islamaphoic is OK, evident through the rise of violence against Muslims in America. These strong beliefs are caused by a myriad of sources, but it sure as heck should not be from “news” reports. Media reports such as the one presented by the New York Post only further cake on layers of unconscious hate towards the “other” in our society. They do us no good.

Stop it New York Post, stop it Fox News. In America we have the luxury of having a free press. Stop being the engines of hate, and start being the purveyors of facts. You call yourselves journalists, don’t you?

*As of 10:40 PM the news article now reads, "Federal officials told NBC News that Boston police were guarding a 'possible suspect' who had been wounded in the blasts, but they cautioned that there was no information at the federal level to consider that person a suspect." This was not what I read earlier, which tells me that in a rush to get a story online, news people tend to put up what they have, then go back later and clean up their tracks after getting all the facts.

**My theory on that phenomenon? Racists in this country cannot be outright racists against Obama, but they sure as heck can be Islamaphobic. So, if the President isn’t a Christian, but a Muslim, eureka! He’s a bad man. But that's a blog post for another day. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Dream Criminal Law Exam: Hero or Menace – How Link Would Fare Under the Law?

By Michael Stone

Here is the final exam question: The well-intentioned Young Man races to the state prison in the pouring rain. A beautiful Senator sends a secret letter to Young Man, and asks for his help. She knows that the corrupt and well-connected Lieutenant Governor poisoned the Governor. And few know that Lieutenant Governor is actually Crime Boss’ lackey. Lieutenant Governor trumped up some criminal charges and had Senator arrested to silence her. He even bribed some judges to deny Senator bail and delay trial. However, Young Man sneaks into the prison, fights through the guards, and breaks Senator out. The two leave behind a trail of dead prison guards, including the warden. Young Man hides Senator in a nearby church—the preacher is a member of an underground organization that knows the truth about Lieutenant Governor. Discuss all of Young Man’s criminal liability.

*          *          *

I was a gamer before law school swallowed my free time. The exam question is basically the introduction to my favorite game, “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.” The plot of the game involves Link (Young Man) traversing the land of Hyrule to search for objects to defeat Agahnim (Lieutenant Governor) and Ganon (Crime Boss), save Princess Zelda (Senator), and ultimately restore Hyrule by making a wish on the Triforce.

I bring it up because last spring break I had the chance to have a free thought: What would legally happen to Link as a defendant? Let’s assume that there is no magic involved, and let’s assume that all events occur in Maryland. How does our hero fare in court?

Defendant aka Link
According to the game’s official history, Agahnim “put the soldiers of the kingdom under his spell” after killing the King. This forces Link to fight every knight in the kingdom he encounters. The game actually includes wanted signs for Link’s arrest, and the knights actively attack Link on sight. I found a map and counted approximately 50 knights that Link would encounter in just one pass of Hyrule.

Since we are ignoring magic, let’s say the soldiers are just following orders. Assuming knights are equivalent to police, a fully-armed Link is resisting arrest in each violent encounter. Each resisting arrest charge and conviction comes with a maximum three year jail term and/or $5,000 fine. That is 150 years of incarceration and $250,000—a lot for a guy that only carries $40 (according to this exchange rate).

But that is the least of his problems. Link must rob the knights for money, and he’s armed. So Link can be charged with and convicted of 50 counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon. This is a felony, and it carries a maximum of a twenty year sentence for each encounter. That is potentially 1,000 years in prison. By now he should be questioning whether Zelda was worth it.

It gets worse. Link kills every knight he encounters in Hyrule or dies trying. That is a lot of acts of homicide. Link could argue they were all self-defense because they are trying to kill him. But that might be tough considering Link is mute and can’t say he was in fear for his life. Also, he did rob the corpses. Worst-case scenario, the state charges Link with at least 50 counts of first-degree murder (homicide with the intent to kill). In Maryland, each count of first-degree murder has a mandatory minimum of life in prison. Ipso facto, Link could be facing 50 consecutive life sentences. Now facing the slammer, Link could really use some magic.

Of course this doesn’t include Link’s repeated burglaries of people’s homes, animal cruelty (Link attacks chickens for fun), or malicious destruction of property (he destroys people’s hedges and fences). Nor does it include his possession of destructive devices (bombs and other explosive devices), or harboring the escaped fugitive Zelda (let's not even begin to talk about the possible federal conspiracy charges since that crime probably involved by crossing state lines).

The gamer in me still believes Link is a hero. But the law student in me hopes he gets a good attorney.