Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Six months on

and the sheep are already wandering away.

And no wonder -- how dare Barack Obama not fix decades of decadence and graft after six months in office! At a time when the 24-hour news cycle is now 24 minutes long, who is he to think that people won't demand results in a similar time frame?

I think that the new president of the USA Bargainville should take to heart the story, probably apocryphal, of Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev's two letters to his successor Leonid Brezhnev (the one with the eyebrows). [EDIT: It is altogether likely that I stole this story from the Steven Soderbergh movie Traffic unconsciously.] A very cursory Google search did not yield this story so I will relate it as I recall it:
On the first day of Secretary Brezhnev's term in office, he sits down at his desk (steel, two hundred pounds, gunmetal blue, in the Bolshevik fashion) and opens the drawers. Inside the bottom drawer are two envelopes addressed to him from his predecessor. The first reads, "Open me the first time you get into trouble."

This being the Soviet Union, in due course Secretary Brezhnev is in political hot water. The Party is at his throat, the mob is at his doorstep. He opens the first letter. It contains only two words: "Blame me."

Secretary Brezhnev complies. He tells the Party that Khrushchev's legendary incompetence brought them to this pass, but that he will get them out of it. The Party blames Khrushchev, the mob is mollified.

Years pass and the Secretary's fortunes wax and wane. [Brezhnev was in power for eighteen years, until his death; this part of the fable is a little thin.] Finally, rampant economic stagnation cannot be ignored [at least that part is true] and the proletariat is whispering again. Despairing, Brezhnev rips open the second envelope. This one contains three words: "Write two letters."

Comrades Obama and Brezhnev both attained to the captain's chair, as it were, too late to turn their respective ships around, but just in time to take the blame for the vessels' going down. The difference between the two is that here we have some indication that Brezhnev's predecessor could spell.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Proposed Moratorium

When a seventeen-year-old does something idiotic that mimics something (likewise idiotic) he saw in a movie, such as bombing a Starbucks like "Project Mayhem" did in Fight Club to dubious effect, the media shouldn't be allowed to say he was "inspired" to do the deed by said movie. "Inspiration" is what happens to inventors, artists, innovators. "Wildly missing the point of Fight Club" is what happened to this dude.

Anyway, if the poor, stupid bro really wanted to pay homage, or whatever, to "Project Mayhem" and Fight Club, he should have bombed a large piece of "corporate art" in a manner calculated to incidentally destroy a Starbucks. And then he should have gotten shot in the back of the head.

(I want to weep like Cornelius every time I have to type "Starbucks" without an apostrophe.)His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. His name ...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Attn: skids

It is imprudent to report your victimization to police while you are high on crack cocaine.

The more you know! [chimes]

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Skills that did not make it onto my articling applications

  • Gmail labels
  • tying a tie so that it falls to the proper length, just grazing the belt
  • alphabetizing bookshelves
  • furrowing brow in direction of caselaw/charge sheets/dockets/computer screens/justices of the peace
  • pluralizing multi-clause titles
  • avoiding street corner charities
  • unlimited girl pushups
  • hair volume

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fun with Quicklaw: Glaringly Self-Serving Edition

As summer edges damply forward, and back-to-school commercials linger threateningly just over the horizon, the thoughts of the aspiring lawyer turn idly to employment, and the grim spectre, casually-mentioned, that one's blog may be perused by decision-makers.

What was the last entry I made on this blog? the student wonders. Could it have been the one about the marijuana? Oh dear. That is not fairly representative. If only it could have been the one about justice (Texas-style), or that other one about how the Nashville Predators organization should give me $200. Oh well. Perhaps I am due for a new entry.

But what search string is called for in such a situation? Perhaps the interests found on one's resume will serve. The word 'caribou' in the British Columbia and Yukon law reports brings roughly 200 cases to attention. The noble beast has had some significant legal troubles, it would seem. A search for 'murder' within those results procures a rather more manageable six, among them them R. v. Wise, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 527. Odd, thinks the aspiring lawyer, I've come across this case before. Perhaps the volume of Canadian jurisprudence has been exaggerated!

The case should be known to any student with the unenviable task of arguing for the admissibility of ill-gotten evidence, under s. 24(2) of the Charter. Whether inclusion of such evidence will "bring the administration of justice into disrepute" is a question haunting many a moot court, and the Collins test haunts the dreams of many a moot court participant. Indeed, were the Supreme Moot Court of Windsor to have its way, young Jagrup Singh would today be walking free, despite the aspiring lawyer's best efforts in the spring of 2008, it must be admitted.

Mr. Wise, a suspect in a murder with possible serial implications, made the mistake of committing some mischief to property over $1000. Significantly over. Having placed an electronic tracking device in Mr. Wise's car during the course of their investigation, police had little trouble tying him to the destruction of a two-million dollar communications tower. The twisted hunks of metal found in his car provided fairly clearcut evidence.
Unfortunately, the police, armed with a warrant to search the man's property and vehicle, failed to install their tracking device until 30 hours after the expiry of that warrant. A Charter violation was made out, and Mr. Wise was acquitted. The Crown, however, was not so easily dissuaded. The Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Canada agreed that Mr. Wise should be imprisoned, in the interests of justice. While the accused's Charter rights under s. 8 were violated, the violation was forgivable based on the factors outlined in Collins. Noted Justice Cory for the majority of the Supreme Court, "the beeper monitoring of the accused's vehicle invaded a reasonable expectation of privacy" (para. 19) and thus violated s. 8 of the Charter; however, the evidence was not conscriptive, there was a pressing need for it, and the administration of justice was not brought into disrepute by its admission.

But what does the caribou have to do with it?

According to Justice Cory at paragraph 28, the mighty caribou herds solve a thorny problem afflicting law students nationwide: the definition of the word 'conscriptive' in s. 24(2) --
In this case, I agree with the court of appeal that the movements of the car constituted real evidence. There was no police compulsion or enticement which required the appellant to enter or drive his car. Rather he exercised his own free will. It was the accused who determined that he would drive his car, the routes he would follow and the manner in which he drove. The movement of an object may be transitory but it is real. The movement of a terrestrial body can be and often is plotted. That movement is transitory but real. The migratory route of the caribou herds is transitory but it is vital and real to those who depend upon that movement for food and clothing. So too is the movement of a motor vehicle real. This evidence could be considered conscriptive if the actions of the police forced or perhaps enticed the accused to utilize his vehicle and to follow prefixed routes in arriving at destinations selected by them.

Lessons learned:
  • If one happens to be a person-of-interest in an investigation into a rash of serial killings, it is best to keep one's head down, refraining from wanton destruction, even in the wilds.
  • The Collins test will stay with you long after the moot court's venerable doors have slammed on you. Whether or not evidence may be considered 'conscriptive' is a question which cannot safely be left to the academics. Only by the the migratory route of the caribou herds may you be saved.
Lessons learned in first year law, about which one is now uncomfortably reminded:
  • When the judge agrees to disagree with you about the meaning of the word upon which hinges the case, victory is probably not at hand.