Archive for the ‘ the law ’ Category

filed under: the law |

Keep Talking Wayne, You’ve Really Gauged The Mood Of The Nation

9PM ON 21/12/2012
BY Beth Comery

gun installation “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” So said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre today in a news conference, urging Congress to put an armed law enforcement agent in every American school. Put the pikes away people, let this idiot speak.

In a report on the CBS Evening News it was noted that Columbine High did have an armed guard on duty that day in 1999, but he was eating lunch at the time of the shooting. So clearly we will need two armed guards at all times which would, I suppose, double the $5.5 billion/year cost of LaPierre’s program (Slate). Seems like that might be a tough sell to their Congressional minions right about now.

A saner approach is suggested by NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof.

In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “national firearms agreement,” as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.

The law did not end gun ownership in Australia. It reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and they were the kinds most likely to be used in mass shootings.

In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings — but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The murder rate with firearms has dropped by more than 40 percent, according to data compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and the suicide rate with firearms has dropped by more than half.

No civilians need access to semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammo magazines, and gun show regulation should be included in any future legislation.

more »


filed under: Social Justice | the law

State Rep Edith Ajello To Proceed With Further Marijuana Reform

5PM ON 14/11/2012
BY Beth Comery

edith h. ajello I love this woman!  According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Rhode Island State Representative and Chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, Edith Ajello, will re-introduce legislation for the regulation and taxation of marijuana at the next legislative session.

On Election Day, voters in the states of Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives to remove criminal penalties for adult marijuana use and regulate the substance in a manner similar to alcohol. Tomorrow, state legislators from Rhode Island and Maine will join the Marijuana Policy Project on a teleconference press call to announce that they are introducing similar bills to tax and regulate marijuana in their state legislatures.

Joining on the call will be Rhode Island Rep. Edith Ajello (D-District 3, Providence) and Maine Rep. Diane Russell (D-Distrist 120, Portland). Both of these lawmakers have supported marijuana reform legislation in previous sessions. Robert Capecchi, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, will be introducing the representatives and moderating the call. All participants will be available for questions from reporters at the end of the call. In addition to Rhode Island and Maine, similar proposals will be submitted in at least two other states — Vermont and Massachusetts.

And remember, this isn’t about hippies wanting to get high; it’s about social justice and makes economic common sense. And it would also appear to be the will of the people.

WHEN: Thursday, November 15, 1pm EST

HOW: Dial in: 888.245.7033/Conference ID: 59480#/PIN: 111#


filed under: art | the law

Free Legal Workshop For Visual Artists

7AM ON 06/11/2012
BY volunteer@as220

as220 (11.8) In the course of their career, visual artists often confront a number of legal issues — and types of contracts — involving copyrights, trademarks, and the rights of privacy and publicity. Join Attorney David Spatt for a workshop focusing on these issues including  a discussion of the various types of contracts you may use (or be used by) in your life. Learn the basics of how to protect your rights as an artist, how not to step on the rights of others, and how to avoid a lawsuit when you do.

David Spatt is a 30-year practicing New York and Rhode Island Arts/Entertainment Attorney, an Associate Professor of Legal Studies at Johnson & Wales, the co-author of The Artist’s Friendly Legal Guide, and past-adjunct Sports & Entertainment Law professor at Roger Williams University School of Law. As founder of Ocean State Lawyers for the Arts, he created the artslaw.org website and has provided thousands of hours in legal services, lectures and workshops to Rhode Island artists and arts organizations, including AS220.

Free, 4pm to 6pm, Thursday, November 8, AS220, 115 Empire Street

filed under: the law |

Attention Doherty — It’s Called The Bill Of Rights

1PM ON 30/10/2012
BY Beth Comery

federal court Specifically the Sixth Amendment, enacted way back in 1791 by those Founding Fathers you Republicans are always talking about. “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial . . . and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

But Brendan Doherty continues with his odious television ad campaign conflating the integrity of criminal defense attorneys with that of the people they represent. The right to legal representation when facing criminal charges is one of the things that makes this country great, but the system only works if it works for everybody.

For one thing, the right to an attorney protects the citizenry from those people in positions of power (politicians and police officers for instance) who may want to “disappear” a person for political or personal reasons. It helps innocent people negotiate a complex legal system and ensures that even the guilty will be properly charged. If Doherty doesn’t understand these basic legal precepts after spending his life as a law enforcement officer than he is not smart enough to legislate in Washington. On the other hand, if he does understand all this then he must be engaging in the lowest form of demagoguery, linking Representative Cicilline with the behavior of his clients in the minds of low-information voters. Cicilline did not “work for” child molesters and pedophiles as stated in one ad, he represented them.

I would include a link to the relevant videos for these ads but they are nowhere to be found on YouTube nor, tellingly, on Brendan Doherty’s own website.


filed under: Civil Liberties | the law

Action Speaks — Live Forum

11PM ON 02/10/2012
BY Daily Dose

Action Speaks (10.3) Action Speaks kicks off its new season Wednesday. This year Action Speaks looks at moments when the rights of the individual have clashed with the needs or beliefs of the public and where the line between private and public has been defined or blurred.

In its fall 2012 season, Action Speaks: Underappreciated Dates that Changed America, turns its attention to how the line between public and private is drawn in a nation born from a stated commitment to individual liberty but now a part of an increasingly interdependent world. With the help of scholars, government officials, practitioners and artists, Action Speaks looks at underappreciated 20th-century moments when the rights of the ‘individual’ and the needs or beliefs of the ‘public’ have clashed and where the line between private and public have been both defined and blurred.

First Installment, October 3: Diamond v. Chakrabarty, the 1980 case that first secured the right to patent ‘life’ set the stage for the biotech revolution and a debate about what can be monetized. Join host Marc Levitt on the radio and online for the 17th season of Action Speaks, live from downtown Providence and distributed across the nation.

5:30pm, Wednesday, October 3, AS220, 115 Empire Street


filed under: Marijuana | the law

This Is The Year For Marijuana Reform In Rhode Island

1PM ON 28/03/2012
BY Beth Comery

state house Testimony in front of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees in support of reforming our marijuana laws has concluded. There are actually two separate initiatives under consideration: decriminalization and legalization.

Last week the house committee heard testimony on H7092 — the decriminalization bill introduced by Representative John G. Edwards (D-Portsmouth, Tiverton), which would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of $150, and no jail time — as well as H7582 a bill submitted by Representative Edith H. Ajello (D-Providence) for the taxing and regulation of marijuana. Testifying in support of both bills were: Jack Cole, retired New Jersey State Police Lieutenant and founder of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition); Robert Capecchi, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in Washington D.C.; Jarred Moffat from the Brown University chapter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP); Becky Mer from Open Doors an organization that provides services to formerly incarcerated individuals and their families; and myself, also a LEAP speaker.

Continued after the jump.

more »


filed under: the law |

‘Hot Coffee’ And The Myth Of Frivolous Lawsuits

10AM ON 27/11/2011
BY Beth Comery

hot coffee poster Remember the lady who scalded herself you-know-where with a cup of McDonald’s coffee? Were you sympathetic to her complaint or was a lame joke immediately forthcoming? Yes, even some enlightened progressive thinkers (well, me) heard about this one and went “Oh come on!” But whose version of the facts were we responding to? Only McD’s had the ability to spin the story to a national audience, until now. Not for nothing is this the case that corporate interests like to trot out when advocating “tort reform”. The Rhode Island Association for Justice is hosting a screening of the documentary Hot Coffee: Is Justice Being Served? followed by a discussion. Find out for yourself: What exactly is meant by “tort reform”? Who wants it and why?

Join us for a film screening and panel discussion with former public interest lawyer, first-time filmmaker and director/producer Susan Saladoff. A thought-provoking documentary, Hot Coffee follows four storylines, including the legal battle that began with a spilled cup of coffee, to investigate what’s behind America’s zeal for tort reform and challenge the audience’s misconceptions about our civil justice system.

Joining Saladoff on the panel: Carl T. Bogus Roger Williams University School of Law; the Honorable Alice B. Gibney, Chief Judge of the Rhode Island Superior Court; David A. Logan, Dean and Professor RW University School of Law; and attorney R. Kelly Sheridan. For more details, or to order the dvd, go to the Hot Coffee website where you can also check out Saladoff’s appearance last month on The Colbert Report. She’s awesome.

Attention attorneys: This has been approved for 2 CLE credits, and it’s free!

(RSVP to RIAJ Executive Director Lisa St. Pierre at rijustice@rijustice.org or 401.273.8820.)

Free and open to public, 6:30 to 8:30pm, Tuesday, November 29, RISD Auditorium, 17 Canal Street


filed under: the law |

Nothing New Under The Sun

5PM ON 02/10/2011
BY Beth Comery

Part one of “Prohibition” a film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick premieres tonight, Sunday October 2nd, on PBS at 8pm (repeats at 10pm). Parts two and three air Monday and Tuesday nights. Without specifically mentioning our failed “war on drugs”, Burns suggests in a recent interview on The Colbert Report that viewers will note many parallels to our current situation. For instance from the above PBS website,

The growth of the illegal liquor trade under Prohibition made criminals of millions of Americans. As the decade progressed, court rooms and jails overflowed, and the legal system failed to keep up. Many defendants in prohibition cases waited over a year to be brought to trial. As the backlog of cases increased, the judicial system turned to the “plea bargain” to clear hundreds of cases at a time, making a it common practice in American jurisprudence for the first time.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (of which I am a member) is an international organization of criminal justice professionals who bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies. We are former cops, federal agents, prosecutors, judges, etc. who have come to the conclusion that prohibition didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now.

Click here to join and receive action alerts, newsletters, updates on LEAP appearances in your area, and the latest current events in drug policy reform. It only took Grandma 13 years to come to her senses — what is taking us so long?! Prohibition does not work.


filed under: Marijuana | the law

Ixnay On The Decrim Bill

4PM ON 03/07/2011
BY Beth Comery

state house You’d think with someone named Weed at the helm . . . oh well, maybe next year. Big big thanks to Representative John Edwards (D-Tiverton) for sponsoring the ‘Marijuana Decriminalization’ bill which, despite having 40 cosponsors, apparently lost momentum in the final days/hours of this year’s sausage-making session of the General Assembly. (More on what did and didn’t make it in the ProJo.) Make sure your legislators know you want this to pass next year. Too bad.


filed under: Marijuana | the law

ProJo Supports Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

2PM ON 24/06/2011
BY Beth Comery

steps to rotunda The editorial board of the Providence Journal has come out in favor of bill H-5031/S-270 so that we may join the 14 other states that have eliminated jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana. (ProJo 6.23.11)

. . . we strongly support a bill in the Rhode Island General Assembly sponsored by state Senators [sic] John G. Edwards and Joshua Miller to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of pot.

Rather than facing up to a year in jail, people found with this amount would pay a civil fine of $200. (Even as people found drunk in the street with a bottle of bourbon are left alone . . .) Half the money would go to fund drug education and half to localities that issued the citations.

It’s past time to bring some reason to the needlessly fierce and expensive battle against marijuana use and better allocate strained law-enforcement resources.

In a recent editorial to The Tiverton-Little Compton Patch (also signed by Senator Miller) Representative Edwards lays out his position to his constituency. Both he and the ProJo note that in the states that have decriminalized marijuana, “the sky has not fallen in.” Dose readers drive through Massachusetts all the time, noticed anything different?

Let’s get this done! Make sure your State Reps and Senators know that you support this bill!

(On the national front: Students for a Sensible Drug Policy are rallying behind legislation aimed at eliminating the federal government’s authority in marijuana prohibition, “Congressmen Barney Frank and Ron Paul, along with courageous co-sponsors, have introduced H.R. 2306 the “Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011″ and we need your help to pass this historic piece of legislation that would end federal marijuana prohibition as we know it.”)


filed under: Books | Technology

But Do They Make Good Pillows?

1PM ON 17/01/2011
BY Annie Messier

MP900308953Eleven years ago, my old-school editor Joe and I presented our hottest item to our production team: an “interactive edition” textbook that included a CD-ROM with both audio and video content.  [To get what a big deal this was at the time, note that my cubicle was full of floppy disks containing backed-up files from my Gateway computer, stemmed from the belief that everything electronic would crash on January 1, 2000.]  When the discussion turned to the new concept of e-books, where students and instructors could access content on the web with a special code, Joe complained, “Why can’t books just be books?”  He then half-convinced me that by 2010, publishers would be extinct because books would be made “for computers.” He resigned eight months later.

Joe wasn’t entirely off base.  Today, customers walking into Borders are confronted with displays for Kobo, Cruz, Sony and Franklin e-readers before reaching any bookshelves.  After Christmas, a co-worker showing off her prized new Kindle bragged that it can even be read upside-down. So can books, if that’s what you’re into. According to their commercials, Kindles are also great for people who love having dogs lick their books while they’re reading.

An environmental columnist declared e-readers more earth-friendly than printed books, although libraries were still his favorite option (which is great, as I’m at the Providence branch weekly scouring for new stuff).  Publishers know it’s normal for several people to share a book, whether through a library or circulating a favorite copy amongst friends. However, they’re banking on most people paying for the content. If it’s sold via an e-reader or website, so be it.

more »


filed under: nature | the law

All We Are Saying Is Give Bees A Chance

11PM ON 03/07/2010
BY Annie Messier

annie-bee-thumbHere’s a fantastic article and video about the White House honeybees. Yet a blurb last year about a White House bee swarm prompted one commenter to accuse Michelle Obama of breaking a D.C. ordinance stating that hives can’t be kept within 500 feet of a residence (although “enclosed properties” are exempt—does the White House fence count?). Hobbyist beekeeping is legal in some cities, including Denver, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco, but not in most, including Providence—and that’s a shame.

This photo is of my thumb as I hold up a frame full of bees in my Rhode Island backyard. I intended to document the bees’ progress, but I might also be documenting myself breaking the law. more »


filed under: Film | the law

‘Conviction’ — The Betty Anne Waters Movie

9PM ON 27/06/2010
BY Beth Comery

The story of Betty Anne Waters, Roger Williams University School of Law ‘98, just had to be a movie. Hilary Swank snagged the lead and heads an amazing cast in the upcoming movie ‘Conviction’. Ms. Waters is featured in the Summer 2010 Amicus, the magazine of the RWU School of Law. (The school is rightfully proud of this illustrious alumna, and must be pretty excited about this movie). According to IMDB the original choice to play the lead was Naomi Watts (I might have gone with Amy Ryan) and the filming was done in Ann Arbor (waaa).

The February issue of Rhode Island Monthly covered this incredible story. Betty’s brother Kenneth had been convicted in Massachusetts of a murder that occurred in 1980. Convinced of his innocence, she set her course.

Though she dropped out of high school as a teen, her crusade sent her back to the classroom, first at Community College of Rhode Island, then Rhode Island College, then Roger Williams University School of Law. She’s now a brand-new lawyer, with her brother as her only client.

What tenacity. That’s one helluva sister. I will not spoil the ending; Betty Anne Waters now works with the Innocence Project. The film is scheduled to be released this fall — should be quite an event around these parts.


filed under: Criminal Justice | the law

Probation Violation Reform Is Now Law

5PM ON 17/06/2010
BY Beth Comery

courthouse Often referred to by defendants (without irony) as “getting violated” the old hair-trigger violation threshold of the Rhode Island criminal justice system is now a thing of the past. According to R.I.’s Future, as of last Saturday a law sponsored in the Senate by Senators Perry, Levesque, Miller, Metts, and Sosnoski, and in the House by District Two rep, and Dose contributor David Segal,

. . . now requires the dismissal of any probation violation or violation of a suspended sentence that is based on a new criminal charge for which the defendant is not convicted within a reasonable period of time, or is acquitted or dismissed.

This has been a long battle and the parties involved should be proud of their hard work. The legislation had previously been vetoed twice by Governor Carcieri, who seems to be consistently on the wrong side of everything. Matt Jerzyk does a great job explaining the changes in the law over at R.I.’s Future. This new law corrects a gravely unjust regime — we are all better for it. And don’t forget the above names come election time. . . Dave worked real hard on this one.


filed under: Good Ideas | the law

Providence Journal — End Prohibition

11PM ON 30/03/2010
BY Beth Comery

prohibition I did not see this coming. The editorial board of The Providence Journal has come out in favor of ending our government’s futile war on drugs by legalizing, regulating and taxing all illicit drugs and placing addiction in the public health realm where it belongs. The title of the piece “Silver or lead?” refers to the ‘choice’ given to Mexican officials by the violent drug cartels. The recent murders in Ciudad Juarez of a U.S. consulate official and her husband have brought to our attention the unbelievable death toll the drug war is exacting right across the border. Juarez, a city of 1.5 million people, had over 2600 murders — last year. The editorial takes Obama to task for his recent offer of $1.4 billion in aid to Mexico and Central America to help fight the drug lords, characterized as “money down the drain”.

The time has come to end this war, and recognize reality. It is impossible to stop an illicit business that creates fortunes in poor countries.

This is an excellent piece which should persuade any people who, for whatever reason, have yet to see the light on this issue.


filed under: Good Ideas | the law

The Smokin’ Of The Green

9AM ON 17/03/2010
BY Beth Comery

marijuana The Senate commission chaired by Senator Joshua Miller (D-Cranston) has recommended the decriminalization of an ounce or less of marijuana. According to the ProJo, the panel

. . .voted Tuesday to approve the contents of a 24-page final report that concludes that “marijuana law reform” would save Rhode Island a substantial amount of money by avoiding “costly arrests [and] incarcerations due to simple possession of marijuana.”

So a fiscal meltdown will finally bring about what decades of government data and reasoned arguments (from liberals and conservatives) could not. Okay, I’ll take it.

Opposing panel member Central Falls Police Chief Joseph Moran trotted out that long-discredited malarkey about ’sending the wrong message’ calling marijuana “a dangerous drug”. Children get their ‘messages’ from their parents not the general assembly or the police chiefs of America. Former hall monitor and current Attorney General Patrick Lynch also opposes decriminalization (anyone hoping for Carcieri Redux will be interested in this man’s gubernatorial platform). What world do these people live in? Or what decade? It’s as if they were frightened as children by an episode of Dragnet, and have read or heard absolutely nothing on the topic ever since.

So let me take this opportunity to wish a Happy St. Patrick’s Day to Mister Lynch and Mister Moran. Feel free to hoist a pint or two of ‘the right message’.


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