By Harvey Silverglate
Massachusetts judiciary – and as a result, the people of the Commonwealth
of Massachusetts – are about to lose one of liberty’s most effective
and reliable friends. But just because state Superior Court Judge Isaac
Borenstein will retire from his life-tenured position on the state’s
trial court on September 12th doesn’t mean that he will
disappear altogether from the battle for freedom, decency, and fairness.
Last September, Harvey wrote in The Free For All about Star Simpson -- the MIT student who was arrested at Logan Airport for wearing a (prank) sweatshirt displaying a working circuit board connected to a battery -- and predicted that "there is no way prosecutors can convince
twelve sane jurors that a student, wearing such a sweatshirt with the flashing
lights tacked onto the outside rather
than hidden underneath her clothing, was actually trying to perpetrate a hoax
that she was a suicide bomber."
A popular viral video making the rounds on the internet shows New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman getting hit with a pie as he begins a speech at Brown University. The Brown Daily Herald reported yesterday that one of the students was taken into custody (but then released) by Brown police, while the second, who calls himself “Captain Custard” and may not have been a Brown student, remains unidentified.
The New York Times is reporting that a group from Princeton has developed a way of reading encrypted data off of computer memory by literally freezing the data in place -- with liquid nitrogen -- before the data, in temporary storage, is erased. Private data thieves or government investigators could easily bypass sophisticated cryptographic systems with a cheap can of compressed air, potentially exposing private materials to unauthorized eyes.
This past weekend, my research assistant James Tierney and I published an op-ed in the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly about the dubious arrest and prosecution of local attorney Simon Glik under the state "wiretapping" statute. The op-ed (and the news article that David Frank of the Lawyers Weekly wrote to accompany our piece) lays out the facts in some detail, but here's a summary:
In this week's Boston Phoenix, Harvey Silverglate writes about how a troubling new obstruction-of-justice statute, and a precedent set in a Connecticut kiddie-porn case, could be used to prosecute the CIA if the government brings obstruction charges related to the destruction of the so-called "torture tapes."
By James F. Tierney
Yesterday, the Supreme Court released its decisions in two important cases about how judges sentence federal criminals: Kimbrough v. United States and Gall v. United States. Taken together, the cases increase individual judges’ discretion in how to sentence crimes, by allowing them to depart from the federal sentencing guidelines, which are “advisory” rather than binding on judges.
In the August 15, 2007 Boston Phoenix, Harvey described the criminal case against Powers Fasteners as a likely form of extortion, in which Attorney General Martha Coakley's motive in pursuing the company was to extort civil settlements from it and, more importantly, other companies -- such as contractor Bechtel -- with enough money to buy their way out.
It is all too true that when it
comes to questions of constitutional rights, the devil (or the angel, as the
case may be) can be in the details. This seems the case with the new Boston
Police Department initiative that would allow police officers to visit homes
where they receive a tip that a minor might have hidden a gun, or where the
parent suspects such and is willing to ask for police intervention.
Once again, the news media faces a “prior restraint against publication” imposed by the courts, yet few in that industry or elsewhere seem to understand the nature and impact of prior restraints and the true threat they pose. Contrary to common belief, prior restraints pose a more serious threat to Sixth Amendment rights (i.