Behind the Times...

Finally, the New York Times has gotten hip to passive solar homes, publishing, (a few days ago) The Energy Challenge - No Furnaces but Heat Aplenty in Innovative ‘Passive Houses.’ The piece is reasonably good, though it sadly, omitted Josef Kiraly, the architect of passive solar homes I pitched four years ago and profiled for Lexus in 2006.

And so while I'm sad they didn't include Josef, who is huge in his field, I'm glad they're giving the technology its due.

Oh, and Happy New Year All...

The wisdom of pardons -

This first person account highlights both the importance of pardons and the continuing tragedy of Bush's failure to use them.


'Tis the Season to Be Generous

And what a wonderful thing it is to be recognized by a spot on The Nation's year end donation list. A big shout out to Katha, for including the Bronx Freedom Fund (of which I am a board member) in this year's list. We were even #2! How cool is that? And what does she say?

2. Bronx Freedom Fund. This year-old organization posts bail for indigent people awaiting trial on misdemeanor or nonviolent felony charges in New York City's poorest borough. These are men and women who without the fund would languish in jail for perhaps six months for lack of $500, including many who are innocent and would plead guilty just to be free. Of all clients bailed out, 95 percent have returned for every court appearance and half have had their cases dismissed. Bonus: money used to post bail is returned when the cases are over, so a single gift can keep on giving. Address: 860 Courtlandt Ave., Bronx, NY 10451;

To donate, Just go to and click the "Donate Now" button.

Defiance Rocks...

I just watched the screener of DEFIANCE, and it's terrific. Nothing I love more than some bad-assed fighting jews, struggling with moral questions in a forrest during the second world war. Really a must see. And sure Daniel Craig doesn't look jewish, but you know what? I was willing to accept his pretty blue eyes after about 15 minutes. As far as the guys who brought us 30-something? Amazing. Absolutely great stuff.


Season One DVD...

In a few days, I'm off to LA again. Why? To record a bonus track for the DVD of Season 1 of RTB. I'm actually really looking forward to it. Somehow the physicality of a DVD set makes the whole endeavor seem very real and far more permanent.

Meanwhile, my program at the law school is fast approaching, and I'm trying hard to juggle everything. What suffers? This blog.

I'm hoping to post more soon, ideally on my new favorite target, those assholes who run the infomercials offering cash for gold. There should simply be a law preventing any precious metals dealer from paying a consumer less than 85 percent of the spot market price for fillings and jewelry. The idea that these folks send in valuable pieces for "ready cash" that represents a small portion of a tradable commodity's value is just outrageous...


The most hilarious christmas song ever...

Nightmare at Day Care

Over the years, I've read several accounts of the Wee Care case, but but this one, by Lona Manning does a fine job of exposing the reality of these awful cases.


Scooter Libby Pardon Countdown Clock...

With his approval rating hovering at historic lows, Bush 43 has little to lose by doling out political favors to his allies as he walks out the door. And if there is anything we've seen time and time again from this administration, it's the naked political rewarding of friends and punishment of enemies. Even though this president has no political capital left, fear not, he's going out a deficit spender. It is in this spirit that I hereby inaugurate the Scooter Libby Pardon Countdown Clock, which will count backwards until 4:25 PM Eastern Standard Time January 24th, 2008, at which time, I predict president Bush will Pardon Libby and perhaps a few others...


Citing Workload, More Public Defenders Are Refusing New Cases

As the economy continues to go south, and budgets continue to get slashed, we're in for a long hard fight to try to maintain even the barest of minimum standards. What's strange, of course, is that politicians don't see how arrest and enforcement patterns are the problem. Anyway, this has been a long time coming.

My favorite bit of the piece:

"On one day in April, Ms. Weber had 13 cases set for trial, so she had to arrange for delays in all but one. That same day, James A. Simons, 59, who was in jail on child pornography charges, was offered a plea: one year in prison. Ms. Weber said she simply had no time to discuss the offer with him, but that he would have accepted it and ended his case.

Not receiving an immediate agreement, prosecutors gathered more evidence and rescinded the one-year offer. Mr. Simons ultimately had to accept a five-year sentence. “My client suffered and it makes me feel terrible,” Ms. Weber said"

Who among us hasn't been there?


Say No More...


That's all folks...

Tonight marks the end of Season 1 of Raising the Bar.
Hope some of you enjoyed it. We've got 15 more on the way...


Big Pig Jig 2008

I'm on my way!

Been a while...

Sorry for the delay in posting. It's been a busy few weeks--a week in California breaking stories and starting to figure out the longer character arcs for season two. There has also been lots of work at the law school getting next semester's courses staffed and scheduled. (And of course there is my obsessive checking of and So sorry about that. It's my hope that I will return to a bit more personal blogging in the next few months.

For those of you that have written to be or posted comments about the show, thanks so much. It seems from an initial bout of skepticism, there is a growing sense of approval and appreciation, which, of course, I greatly appreciate. So thanks for your thoughts and comments.

Tonight, I'm off to South Georgia for the "Big Pig Jig" a massive BBQ competition that my friend Pete (a proud member of the "prime time swine" BBQ team) describes as "redneck mardi-gras." Should be a pork-filled load of fun. I'll post pictures if I can, and meanwhile, enjoy the RTB marathon monday where TNT will show every episode back to back...


I'm in!



Kenya Detains U.S. Author Critical of Obama -

Paperwork can take a while. So I wonder whether they'll deport him on, say, November 6th or so.


Remembering Paul Newman, By Dahlia Lithwick

Here's why Dahlia Lithwick is one of favorite writers. She wrote this and this the same day.


Socializing Risk, Privatizing Profit...

Ok, it's off topic, but I have to weigh in on this bailout situation. It's not that I'm against injecting liquidity into the economy, it seems clear that's necessary, nor am I even dead set against the idea of buying some bad securities. What I'm against is allowing greedy billionaires to suck down more cash like its Schlitz in a frat house beer bong.

Our government needs to learn from Sweden, which back in the early 90's put about 4 percent of it's GDP into a bailout. The thing is, it took equity positions in the places it saved, requiring banks and other distressed companies to hurt shareholders and rich directors as well.

Now personally, I wouldn't mind seeing the FBI compile a list of the 25,000 people who profited most from this--the biggest conspiracy to defraud in several generations, and offer everyone on that list amnesty in exchange for disgorging 20% of the money they've made in the past four years from all this. But as usual, the calls to "just move on" will leave the Billionaires safe on their yachts swigging vintage champagne, while the hard working people of middle america mortgage their children's futures to pay for yet another case of Cristal.


Obviously, the feelings that current and former PD's have about the show are important to me. As I've said here, and in comments on other blogs, I has always been my goal to finally portray a public defender who (long hair or otherwise) actually cares about the clients he represents, and show clients as what they really are: human beings with complex lives, who have sometimes done terrible things. And while it might be easier to just not read reviews or give a crap about what other people think about what you do, I actually do care, so it's really heartening to get comments like these:

Another PD here. I love the show and congrats being picked up for the 2nd season.
Especially enjoyable are the clients seeming like real people with real problems.

Or even:

Congrats David!
I was one of the ones who really hated the pilot, but was willing to hang in there and give the regular episodes a chance to win me over. From what I've seen, the original nose dive/tailspin is now on a serious altitude climb. I'm seeing more & more of what I was expecting originally. I must confess....I am having GREAT difficulty staying up late enough to watch the shows. So I had to watch the feed at the TNT site for the episode that I missed.
Anyway...your making us PD's proud! Hats off to ya!
Lil Spicy

Now, obviously, I welcome thoughts and feedback, and totally understand that different people have different reactions to the show, but amid the crush of people questioning my motivations, or just being mean, it's nice to get a little encouragement from the folks on our side of the courtroom.

So thanks.


Season Two!

Yes, it's true, we've already been picked up for a second season!

As the LA Times reports it: "After just three episodes have aired, TNT has ordered a second season of "Raising the Bar"

Steven Bochco's legal drama, starring the controversial long locks of Mark-Paul Gosselaar, premiered this month to 7.7 million viewers -- the biggest audience ever for a new-series launch on ad-supported cable TV.

To date, the per-average episode is 5.5 million viewers. "Bar" airs Mondays at 10 p.m.


The Hair Game...

Here's another reason I really love working with Turner and TNT. They're not only smart, not only respectful of the creative process, but they've got a sense of humor. Their reaction to all the distracting crap about Jerry's hair? This totally awesome Raising the Bar Game in which you can just replace Jerry's hair with whatever you want it to be.

For those of you who have known me for decades, this may evoke memories of the famed Hanna Grey Hairstyles Edition of FOTQ!

Episode Three Tonight @ Bowery Wine Co.


Hilarious Hat Eating from the New York Post...

You just gotta love the New York Post when it tries to explain why Raising the Bar worked even though they dissed it.

The piece begins with an admission: "TNT's new legal drama,"Raising the Bar," did something very unusual last week - it succeeded."

Of course what follows is a pan in the form of an apology. Basically they blame the viewers for being stupid. Really. Here's what they say:

"Raising the Bar' is nothing out of the ordinary," says industry analyst Marc Berman of Mediaweek.

But that ordinariness, it seems, may have been why it became an instant hit - and why cable and broadcast TV are now impossible to tell apart.

"It's formulaic," says Berman, "which works because viewers are comfortable with that."

"Critics are almost totally irrelevant," says Fordham University's Paul Levinson, professor of communications and media studies.

"TV critics write to entertain their readers with clever takes on shows - but those readers watch what they want."



Judges Sleeping With DA's???

Can't make this stuff up. Or can you?

Week Two Performance...

Episode 2 aired last night. Here's the early news...

"RAISING THE BAR continued to perform extremely well in its second week, delivering an audience of 5 million viewers, 4 million households, 1.6 million adults 18-49 and 2.2 million adults 25-54.

After two weeks, RAISING THE BAR’s average of 6.4 millions viewers ranks it fourth (behind Seasons 2, 3 and 4 of THE CLOSER) among ad-supported cable’s top series of all time."


A conflict comes to light?

With the questions about conflicts of interest in our fictional world of Raising the Bar, it's rather instructive to read about a guy about to be executed after being convicted in a trial in which the prosecutor was, what'dya know? sleeping with the judge.

The guy has been on death row for almost 20 years, even though the affair was "common knowledge" around the courthouse. My favorite bit though, is what one judge said as the condemned man's lawyers tried one last tactic to force the judge and DA to testify: The judge, Robert T. Dry set a hearing for two days after Mr Hood (the condemned guy) was supposed to be executed remarking “In reality, you are exploring a civil lawsuit for the estate of Mr. Hood.” Wait! Judges do that kind of thing? Yep. All the time.


Indefensible Tip...

Just FYI, it appears that Amazon is now sold out of the book--but you can still find it cheap at Barnes and

'Raising the Bar' and Clearing It in the Ratings

WaPo sings a different tune today...

Steven Bochco set a new record Monday when his premiering TNT lawyer drama, "Raising the Bar," clocked 7.7 million viewers. It was the biggest audience ever for a new-series launch on an ad-supported cable network.

Bochco's show, co-starring Mark-Paul Gosselaar and his hair, beat the record set in 2004 by USA's launch of "The 4400." That show opened with an average of 7.4 million tuned in; runner-up was TNT's "The Closer," which clocked 7 million viewers when it was unveiled in '05.

Bochco also got to thumb his nose at broadcasters: "Bar" trounced everything served up Monday across prime time by ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox or CW -- except NBC's "Deal or No Deal," and the network had to give away a million bucks to get 11 million viewers to watch that episode.

Among the shows attracting far smaller crowds than "Bar" was the highly hyped return of Fox's "Prison Break," which logged an average 6.5 million viewers. Also, the hysterically hyped second-season debut of CW's "Gossip Girl," which paled in comparison when 3.4 million tuned in.

Behind the scenes with me...


How'd we do?

Stephen Bochco court drama scores highest viewer, household totals of any new basic-cable show ever; best 18-49 numbers of year for any new basic-cable series.

We done good.
Thanks to all.

RCN Class Action Lawsuit...

Guess who the plaintiff in this one is?

RCN Class Action Lawsuit
In October of 2007, Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart filed a class action lawsuit against RCN Corporation ("RCN"), on behalf of all RCN customers who have had difficulty or have been prevented from canceling Internet, telephone or cable services from RCN.

I. Plaintiff's Factual Allegations
As set forth in the complaint, lead Plaintiff alleges, on behalf of a class of similarly-situated subscribers, that RCN employs unjust or unreasonable practices to delay or prevent its customers from canceling their services, such as freezing subscribers' telephone numbers, placing callers who wish to cancel on hold for inordinately long periods of time, and transferring them from one department to another. Further, RCN fails to provide its customers with a reasonable procedure for canceling their services or transferring them to another provider, as the only way to RCN services is by calling the RCN service department. As a result of such practices, customers have had to spend countless hours on the phone with RCN's customer service and/or pay more for services to RCN than they would have had to pay to RCN's competitors.

II. Relief Sought

The class action complaint specifically seeks:

(1) to enjoin RCN from continuing is deceptive and unlawful business practices;
(2) to require RCN to provide a reasonable means for customers to cancel their RCN services;
(3) the disgorgement of all profits accrued as a result of RCN's deceptive practices; and
(4) the awarding of actual damages to Plaintiff and the members of the class of customers who have had difficulty or been prevented from canceling telephone services from RCN.

The PD's weigh in...

Some love it,some hate it. More accurately, lots of PD's hate it, and most for similar reasons. I understand. And here's what I have to say (this is from my response to Seth (link above):


It being 1 am, I'm too tired to attempt all ten questions. So for now, all I'll add is this. I'm not surprised you didn't like the pilot, and I'm not surprised by the things that upset you. Give it time.

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

It's a process. I'm proud of my book. It nails what I want to say, but it's easy to write a book that's pure, It's just you and an editor, and if you're lucky a few ten thousands of people will read it. Doing a TV show is different. The scale, the money, the interests involved all require some shifting of expectations, some compromise.

You can talk about The Wire. It was a fine show, but do you know how many people watched it? Fewer than a million. If we post numbers anything like that, you won't have to worry about RTB, we'll get canned in a heartbeat.

I don't mind your judgments. I'd prefer it if they were gentle given that I've given over a dozen years to direct representation, and fought my heart out for our clients and their cause, but go ahead and judge. But as you do, judge me too on this: Are the clients drawn humanely? Do the lawyers genuinely care about them no matter what they've done? Do the PD's fight passionately for every client? Does the show depict the system as fundamentally broken? Does the show confront issues of race and class?

If the sense is that the show does those things well, I'd ask for some leeway in the relationship stuff. Wait and see what happens. Give the show a chance. The script was the first one I ever wrote. Sure there are clunky parts, and sure it'd be better if I wrote it today. So watch three or four more. If you still hate the show, pull the plug. But give me the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, I was touched by this:

What I loved particularly, of course, the red meat for me, was the defense attorney telling the judge exactly what he thought of her. Boy do I know that judge! And boy do I know the feelings and thoughts that public defender expressed! And boy have I been there — exactly there — including where the judge says “I’m punishing your client b/c I don’t like you” but then says, “well, I didn’t exactly say that, did I?” And also I’ve been exactly there where the judge demands/requires an apology, whether I mean it or not. Kiss the ring the judge says. My situation was not in the middle of some case or contempt charge so it was a little different. My supervisor didn’t go to the judge on my behalf; instead, the judge complained to my supervisor about me so I’m the one who visited the judge and actually did apologize in a general way, explaining that I was just trying to do my job and I hope the judge understood that, then biting my tongue when the judge didn’t seem to hear a thing I’d said and then told me that the best way I could help my clients was to make sure I did not anger a judge, because, well, judges try not to hold it against a defendant when the judge is mad at the defendant’s attorney, but that’s not always easy so the best thing to do is just not make the judge mad in the first place. See? Got it bucko? My way, or the highway! So, yeah, different, but boy can I relate!


My Library...

Who Knew The New York Post Cares about what I Read?


We all remember what Steven Bochco did for the image of New York cops (they look like Dennis Franz); now he's turned his attention to New York lawyers and public defenders (they look like a long-haired Mark-Paul Gosselaar).

Bochco certainly has the right guide: David Feige, a former defender in The Bronx who wrote a book of his experience called "Indefensible: One Lawyer's Journey into the Inferno of American Justice." He's the co-creator of "Raising the Bar," the Bochco series that starts tomorrow night on TNT.

"The world view and perspective of 'Raising' are very much drawn from 'Indefensible'," Feige says. "Though none of the characters of plotlines of the show are directly based on the book, it is certainly the thing that most influenced the feeling of the show."

When he's not writing or producing, Feige is reading - though not always for pleasure. "Most law related books feel like a busman's holiday," he says. Still, "a few certainly standout," and those are the ones in his library:

Bikers and barristers | Philadelphia Inquirer | 08/31/2008

"Everyone on this show is ambitious and overworked. They're all trying to make the best of a legal system that is irretrievably broken, a bureaucracy that continually misses the forest for the thorny underbrush.

On Raising the Bar, urban criminal law is a blind and brutal assembly line covered with tears and blood. Yet the harried attorneys on this show find time to get involved in their clients' lives while bored judges do crossword puzzles on the bench."

Well, at least they get it...

Steven Explains how it all happened...

...Bochco also noted his relationship with David Feige, his co-creator on the series.

“David had just published a book called “Indefensible” and wanted to get it to me, as there had been some interest in the television community. I read it, and I thought it was wonderful, the book really chronicles up to 15 years of his life as a public defender in the Bronx.

I said I didn’t want to do a series about a public defender, as we had done ‘Philly’ with Kim Delaney, which I thought was a terrific show, but I didnlt feel found its audience, especially with attorneys who rep scumbags and such. So I told David, ‘great book, thank you and goodbye.’

Next thing I know, I get this 10 foot long e-mail from this guy with an impassioned defense of that world and why it’s worthy. I told my wife Dayna ‘you know, this man is so passionate about what he does and what he believes in, we should be in business with passionate people, because that’s what we do.
I coincidentally wound up having a meeting with TNT’s Senior VP Michael Wright and in just talking through some ideas, I said, ‘well I’ve been talking to this author in New York about his book,’ and literally in two minutes Michael said I should do this show.

I called David and said if you want to do a show abut a really dysfunctional criminal justice system where the point of view isn’t just skewed towards public defenders but to prosecutors and judges as well, I said that is something I would be interested in doing with you. He said ‘well okay, let’s do that.’ I said ‘good, because I already sold it.’ ”

Today's LA Times...

Can Raising the Bar raise Steven Bochco to Emmy glory again? - Los Angeles Times

Go Jami!


I'll take those odds...

Fancast's Odds for the success of RTB: (As predicted by Vegas Odds-Maker Johnny Avello, Executive Director of Race & Sports - Wynn Las Vegas)

It'll Evaporate First This Season: 18 to 1

It'll Live To See A Second Season: 16 to 1

I'll Become A Mega-Hit: 60 to 1

Someone put a hundred bucks on live to see a second season for me...

Just 'Cause I can't Help It...

Raising the Bar

More Cool Press...

What do you do when the entire culture thinks you're a bunch of crappy lawyers in bad suits who can't get better jobs?

Change the culture. Tell the people. This one makes me proud...

Mark-Paul Gosselaar got a real-life dose of the public defender's world before assuming the role on TV, in Steven Bochco's TNT "Raising the Bar" series that debuts Sept. 1. Due to the show's cocreator David Feige's ties with his former colleagues in the The Bronx Defenders office in the South Bronx, he relates, "They allowed me to become an intern for a week."
"Television has had an obsessive focus on prosecutors and high end defense attorneys," he points out. "I thought of public defenders as being schleppy attorneys who only became public defenders because they weren't good enough to go elsewhere. But that's not David's world with The Bronx Defenders. You find Ivy Leaguers, people who want to make a difference, to use the power of their law degrees to help the powerless. Their clients need protection from the system. Usually they have about 100 cases going on all at once. Obviously they're not doing this for money. They have such a connection with their clients.


MPG, JB & Me...

The Wisconsin State Journal (more on that soon) dug up this picture of me on the set...

Let the Reviews Begin...

Ok, sorry to be such a crappy blogger of late. I've been packing up my west coast apartment, and moving back to NYC (with an absolutely amazing trip to Paris and Namibia in between). But I'm back, getting settled in the old apartment, picking up at the law school, and watching as the RTB tide begins to rise. I've got lots of thoughts, and my meditation on seeing your show on a billboard or on TV will follow at some point, but first, a preview of some reactions to the show as they start to trickle in. This one just came in. And I particularly like it not just because it's nice, but also because it compares us to The Defenders...

"But if the potential displayed in the trailers is fulfilled, the new TNT show Raising the Bar, which debuts Sept. 1 at 9 p.m., may become this century’s equivalent of The Defenders. "



Crimes and Misdemeanors...

This interactive Venn diagram from slate allows you to see the case for the prosecution of Bush Administration officials. Mouse over a person's name for information on how each person is involved. Mouse over the title of each circle for specifics about the particular scandal. It's awesome!


This you gotta see!

Off with her leg!

In 2006 an inmate’s leg was amputated after an infection beneath a cast went untreated. Read the charming details in the federal report on the Poor Conditions at Cook County Jail.

Steven Says...

So now that I've got a little more time (the show wraps tomorrow), I'll be a little better about blogging and linking to show related stuff like the little interview below.

TCA Video: Bochco on ‘Raising the Bar’ - TVWeek - News


Customs can look through your laptop just for fun

I'm not kidding. According to this decision from the 9th circuit, they can look at anything they want without probable cause.

I look like who?

The RTB media train is just getting into gear...
And what better place to start than with this piece from St. Louis that says I look like Patrick Warburton, and this hilarious photo from the red (actually orange) carpet. What I truly love about this photo is the caption. It reads:

2008 Summer TCA Tour - Turner Party

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 11: Cast members of 'Raising the Bar' (L-R) Actors Gloria Reuben, Teddy Sears, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Melissa Sagemiller and unkown attend the 2008 Summer TCA Tour Turner Party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 11, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California.

(Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)


Charitable Giving...

As you know, I generally only put in plugs for The Bronx Defenders, my alma mater and the finest public defender office in the world, but today, a quick departure from that general rule to encourage readers to donate to Peter Wagner's Prison Policy Initiative, an impressive organization devoted to exposing the social costs of our prison policy. For the next three days they've got a donor who will match any contribution up to a total of 10,000. If you're so inclined, (I just sent them a few hundred bucks) You can donate here.


Dancing on the graves of the poor

Want to know what judges do when they're thinking about getting elected? They slam poor people convicted of crimes.

A study in Pennsylvania by Gregory A. Huber and Sanford C. Gordon found that “all judges, even the most punitive, increase their sentences as re-election nears,” resulting in some 2,700 years of additional prison time, or 6 percent of total prison time, in aggravated assault, rape and robbery sentences over a 10-year period.



We Rock Estonia

This from the hollywood reporter:

"Olle Mirme, director of programming and acquisitions at Kanal 2 in Estonia, liked the new Steven Bochco-produced legal drama "Raising the Bar"

Very Nice.


Left in her cell for four days...

An innocent woman who was left in a courthouse cell for four days won't be prosecuted. Wow. Seriously here's the announcement :

A woman who was forgotten in a courthouse holding cell for four days without food or water will not be prosecuted on the charge that landed her there, a prosecutor in Fayetteville said. A charge of selling pirated recordings was dropped after prosecutors were able to verify Adriana Torres-Flores’s alibi, Deputy Prosecutor Mark Booher said.


A whirlwind...

Jets, stars, green rooms and sweet suites.

The last 24 hours have been astonishing. I sat on the floor of the Hammerstein Ballroom under a massive screen and watched TNT's "Upfront" presentation this morning. The upfront is where the network sells ad-space on their upcoming shows and so it's also where they previewed our show.. My view was pretty much what you see above (and if you look closely you can see the stars of our show on the far left hand side of the stage there).

I'll leave out for now any lengthy descriptions of traveling by private jet, or even the head spinning coolness of the green room, the hospitality suite or even the hotel room (at the London) and say instead, that for the first time, as I watched our show fill that enormous screen, I was moved and awed at the reach of this medium and really excited to be doing a show with a point of view that been ignored for far too long.


You wonder why they hate the police...

This interesting piece in the New York Times claims that newly released data Shows an Increase in Street Stops. That alone is interesting, but here's the bit that gets me:

The 145,098 stops from January through March — up from 134,029 during the same quarter a year earlier — led to 8,711 arrests. That means that in 94 out of a 100 cases, the cops were harassing an innocent person. (Calls into question "reasonable suspicion" doesn't it?) And given that blacks are stopped in wildly disproportionate numbers it explains why there is such a sense of over policing in poor communities of color.



Report: 400,000 weed arrests...

Finally a report documenting what we've all known about for years: The absurd flood of weed cases, many of which are charged as misdemeanors rather than violations because the cops coaxed someone into giving up the joint rather than discovering it during a search.

What's the real problem with hundreds of thousands of people getting busted for weed? The fact that enforcement is racially disproportionate. As my dear friend Robin Steinberg, the executive director of Bronx Defenders, put it in Newsday...

'The real issue here is that massive numbers of police officers are being deployed in communities of color -- poor communities of color -- and are staying outside schools waiting for kids to walk home, to go to the bodega, to go to their friend's houses, and then searching them,' she said.

'Those same police forces are not being deployed on the Upper East Side of Manhattan waiting outside privileged, overwhelmingly white private schools to search their backpacks go through their children's pants.'"

As I've often said, if we policed the upper east side like we police the Bronx, there'd be a revolution in NYC inside of a month.


I called that one...

Wesley Snipes Gets 3 Years for Not Filing Tax Returns

Another review...

Weird thing about books is they stick around (even after being remaindered). Another review of INDEFENSIBLE from march of this year. Who knew?


My Latest Op-Ed...

"Pursuing the polluters" ran today in the Los Angeles Times


Prosecutor seeks 3 years in prison for Wesley Snipes

I've said it before and I'll say it again: . Wesley Snipes is going in


Just too funny...

I know this is old, but I just came across it (thanks to blonde justice) and I couldn't help but re-post it.


A Must Read.

This piece is one of the finest bits of expository writing I've come across in a long time. It's an phenomenal times Op-Ed by Taylor Branch called The Last Wish of Martin Luther King.

Just one little tidbit to get a taste of his delicious writing... "we have encased Dr. King and his era in pervasive myth, false to our heritage and dangerous to our future."


Indefensible RIP

Remaindered at last...


Sentence First Verdict Afterwards: Plea Coercion In Brooklyn

Michael Brick’s ambitious piece in today’s New York Times about the wide ranging narcotics prosecutions in the housing projects of Brooklyn omitted some important details which suggest that the “historic conspiracy” referred to by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office was not the series of drug transactions being prosecuted under the false flag of an overused conspiracy law, but rather one between Mr. Hynes’s office, and a compromised judiciary conscripted in the service of unsustainable prosecutions by fawning press coverage and a lack of simple courage.

While Mr. Brick does imply (by quoting defense lawyers) that the use of first degree conspiracy charges had the effect of “exacting jail terms they might not otherwise have won,” he does a shoddy job of explaining just how the use of bail coerced plea bargains, and entirely omits the fact that bail is a matter of judicial discretion, thus failing to pose the question of why judges continued to set and maintain bail as case after case collapsed.

The omissions reflect Mr. Brick’s thesis that the cases “stumbled at the courthouse steps.” That thesis posits that the system actually works with judges fulfilling their proscribed role as checks on prosecutorial power. In fact, judges were complicit in the continuing prosecution of the cases at each step from arraignment onwards.

Mr. Brick correctly noted that those charged with Conspiracy in the First Degree (Penal Law Section 105.17) had bail set at astronomical numbers. Certainly (though he didn’t mention it) this is in part because 105.17 is a class A-1 felony, punishable by life in prison and subject to the same penalties as a murder. Still there is no statute that requires judges to set high bail, or even, bail at all. In fact, releasing defendants charged even with serious crimes is the prerogative of any presiding arraignment judge, and one of the main things those judges are required by law to consider is “the weight of the evidence against (the defendant) in the pending criminal action and any other factor indicating probability or improbability of conviction.” When juries soundly reject conspiracy charges in case after case, and when the district attorney’s office resolutely refuses to even explain the basis for such serious charges citing secrecy, it becomes incumbent upon judges to refuse to set bail and to begin to release defendants charged in the same manner.

What happened in Brooklyn, though is precisely the opposite. For years and years, despite the District Attorney’s office’s utter failure to secure even a single conviction on Conspiracy 1 charges, judges continued to set and maintain high bail knowing full well that it would take a year or more for cases to come to trial, and that when they finally did, almost no defendant in their right minds would refuse a “time-served” or get out of jail today plea offer. In short, judges were the silent partners in an Alice-in-Wonderland like sentence first, verdict afterwards regime. Had they done their jobs, and refused to set bail based on unsustainable charges, prosecutors would quickly have tired of the legal charade they have used for years to railroad potentially innocent people into pleading guilty to unprovable cases founded on questionable and sometimes virtually nonexistent evidence.

Letting the judiciary off the hook for their complicity does a disservice to readers, and perpetuates the myth of a well functioning system of criminal justice. In fact, as even the most cursory look reveals, co-opted judges, all to eager to appear tough on crime and unwilling to exhibit the courage necessary to take an unpopular stand, have long ago become prosecutorial partners in the tragic dismantlement of the constitutional safeguards we all rely on to protect us from an increasingly overreaching government.


I'm a Philandering Blogger...

So in addition to posting my own thoughts about things here (where my personal reflections on writing, being in hollywood, and doing the show get a bit of air), and Huffington Post (Where I occasionally post random legal and other musings), I've been asked to participate in a very smarty-pants legal blog at Slate.

The blog is called "convictions" and the contributors include genuine heavyweights--guys like Balkin, Barron, Kerr and Dellinger. (The complete list is here and a list of my posts so far is here.) Mostly I'm there to dumb down the conversation and get everyone away from their ethereal battles about theories of judging, or the unitary executive. As readers here know, my tastes are far more pedestrian, and my concerns far more reified--hence my last post about how wildly screwed up sentencing for acquitted conduct is.

Anyhow, just thought I'd explain where the absent verbiage has gone.

TNT spins out dynamite TV...

This from today's Los Angeles Times. It was the front page of the calendar section...


RIP Popeyes

Loved that Chicken...

The creator of one of my favorite restaurants died today--of cancer of the salivary gland. That seems fitting for the man who created Popeyes.

Hot off the presses?

Do me a favor: Compare Adam Liptak's article in the NYT Today in which he reports on Samuel R. Gross's upcoming rejoinder to Justice Scalia's opinion in Kanas v. Marsh,


with this piece from the Boston Globe published in 2006 (by me). I think Professor Gross does some fine work, but the fact that his rejoinder is coming out now--literally years after Marquis's crap was published, and years after it was cited approvingly by Scalia--just confirms all my unfortunate feelings about the sclerotic nature of much of legal scholarship and almost all legal academic publishing.

The Wire and Jury Nullification...

While the last episode of "The Wire" may not have wrapped up as many of the plotlines as some closure-loving commentators may have liked, the final act of the writers-captured not on screen but on the pages of Time Magazine-may represent the high water mark of a politically engaged Hollywood.

In the magazine this week, David Simon and his staff take dead aim at this country's war on drugs and conclude that "If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented." Citing the legendary example of John Peter Zenger, they declare jury nullification in drug cases to be an act of righteous civil disobedience.

The problem is that in taking their pledge to nullify, the authors have gently finessed a rather difficult and practical point-in order to acquit or hang the jury, they'll have to lie to get on the jury in the first place. This is no small omission. Many people will take comfort in Zenger's example but far fewer will be willing to intentionally shield their convictions from official scrutiny once a Federal judge or state prosecutor starts asking them directly. It's hard to lie as a juror, and particularly hard to do so in open court, but without the lie there will be no nullification.

In fact, the jury selection in drug cases around the country increasingly resembles the kind of "death qualification" that capital juries go through. So common is the revulsion to our misguided drug war that judges and prosecutors routinely ask jurors if they have a principled objection to it, following up with questions specifically designed to expose anyone who would have a moral or political objection to voting to convict. Avoiding disclosure often takes more than just failing to raise one's hand in response to a general question. More and more, specific jurors that prosecutors suspect for one reason or another may harbor anti-drug way sympathies are directly queried about their views making withholding look very much like outright deception.

The problem with all of this, of course, is that in the end, more and more juries are comprised not of a fair cross-section of the population, but rather by conservative folks who have no compunction about convicting someone of a drug crime regardless of the of the eventual sentence. And generally speaking those same jurors are more likely to view the evidence in ways that are favorable to the government in a drug prosecution, increasing the likelihood of conviction.

In the end, taking the pledge that Mr Simon proposes may be a wonderful thing when it comes to raising awareness of the terrible injustices perpetuated every day in drug cases around the country. But if called down to the courthouse, a more moderate position will most likely be the more effective one.

Of course the true ideologues may be able to look a judge or prosecutor in the face and claim they'll convict when they won't, but this is far harder in practice than it seems in theory. There is something about the majesty of the process that makes lying difficult. The solution then, is a bit of existential trickery: Don't decide yet. Make no pledges you'll feel the need to disclose, insist that you will listen fairly to all the evidence presented, tell them honestly that you care passionately about the law, and that you'll withhold decision until you've heard the entire case. Get yourself on that jury. But when closing arguments are through and the judge has instructed you on the law, do precisely as Mr. Simon urges. "think for a moment on Bubbles or Bodie or Wallace. And remember that the lives being held in the balance aren't fictional."


Why I'm here...

It's been a confusing few weeks here in hollywood. Disorienting, taxing, if often wonderful. Surfing in the morning with pods of dolphins breeching and leaping delightedly over the waves is hard to beat. And then there is the relentless sunshine and the delightful distractions of eating well, meeting people and having fun in a new city. The work is exciting too. Breaking stories and working for the first time with a group of talented writers is a challenge I've warmed to. And of course, working for Steven B is a dream.

But in the quieter moments, stuck in LA traffic, or listening to the comforting white noise of the waves, I do wonder about the legitimacy of this entire enterprise. It's so far from the lives I used to touch, the people I used to know, the succor I used to provide that it's hard to reconcile with my life long goal of living well by giving more than I take (and of course being me, taking abundantly). There is an immediacy that is lacking. The artistic enterprise as end in itself has never been a particularly persuasive philosophical point of view, and I don't think I'm much closer to adopting it then I was when I came out here. All of which begs the question of what is the point of doing what I'm doing?

I haven't answered the question for my self, but two things in the papers today helped a lot. The first was this spectacular piece from the creators of "The Wire." It leverages their work in a radical and inspiring opinion piece published this week in Time.

In it they say "This is what we can do — and what we will do. If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens."

It is a manifesto of Jury Nullification written by people who for five years have brilliantly helped to shape the public understanding of the drug war. And it's the sort of convincing statement it takes a platform like theirs to publicize.

The other piece was the NYTM's cover story this week. It discussed the outsized (and rather absurd) influence of pop culture on real philanthropy, the way in which celebrity, even of the fleeting or secondary sort nonetheless provides opportunities for real world influence, particularly in the philanthropic universe. The artistic enterprise as radical reform.

The sun is setting, Catalina is swathed in an luminescent pink haze. The last surfers are staggering wet, and happy from the lineup. Even taken together, I'm not sure these articles provide me a convincing answer, but on day marked by reflection and sometimes even bafflement, they sure felt like good omens.


I spun the wheel

I was going to blog a bit about the astonishing stupidity of the ADA who picked the jury in the islander case, but instead I'll simply say: Tonight I spun the wheel on the Price is Right!

Yes, that wheel.


"I can learn!" whines Wacko Judge

Remember wacky judge Cheryl Aleman? The one called an "Evil Unfair Witch" by Sean Conway? (Conway--a hero to readers like us-- also described her “ugly, condescending attitude” and exposed how she forced lawyers to choose between unreasonable trial dates or waiving the right to a speedy trial.)

The Evil One...

Well Conway may have been brought up on charges before the Bar Association for his pointed remarks, but ah, blessed justice, Aleman has been FOUND GUILTY AT TRIAL

Yes it's true, and the Judicial Qualifications Commission recommended the state's highest court should punish Alemán for what it said was "arrogant, discourteous and impatient" conduct. Thank heavens we have people like Conway to point out and publicize the shortcomings of arrogant judges like Aleman.

So just how evil and witchy is she? At trial the comission found that Alemán, unfairly threatened to hold defense attorneys in contempt of court and set unreasonable time limits for lawyers to prepare important court documents.

In particular, in Alemán's first death penalty case, she turned down requests from the Broward Public Defender's Office to disqualify herself during jury selection and gave the attorneys, one of whom had campaigned for her election opponent, 15 minutes to write a complicated legal argument. When they missed the deadline, she threatened to hold them in contempt. Charming.

And what's her response? She doesn't even want a reprimand and thinks she should get reimbursed for the costs of her defense. Why? 'Cause she's "teachable"

Teachable my ass. She's presided by her own account over 10,000 cases--that's ten thousand cases too many. There have been more than enough victims of her presence on the bench already.

Judge Aleman and her colleague and defender Eileen O'Connor bring shame on Broward County and on the judiciary. They both should have been removed from the bench long ago.


Raising the Curtain on "Raising the Bar"

So according to this interesting article, TNT Plans Dramatic Increase in Original Programming, Setting the Stage for a Major Primetime Shift And guess who is right in the middle of that schedule... The article provides a cool overview of their thinking and overall plans.

Meanwhile, I'm still getting used to the atomized ways of Los Angeles. It's just not like NY where you can call friends and meet for a drink on the corner, or just swing by someplace where something is happening. Here it takes planning and driving and freeways.

That said, I'm having some fun. Heading to dinner at Fraiche in Culver City tomorrow. It's a place Frank Bruni ranked in his top 10 nationwide. So though I don't often agree with him, I'll be interested to see.

Here we go...

Until a friend of mine forwarded this to me (thanks ANB) I had no idea it all looked so real. Better get back to work...

All about parity...


So this is why the only proper way to insure funding for PD's offices is to pass a law (concomitant with the creation of any state-wide system) which requires PD funding to be directly correlated to the budget of prosecutor's offices. That way when the prosecution gets more money the defense gets more money. Otherwise you wind up like Georgia.



The Road to Perdition...

Seat 4D. That’s in the first class compartment. The one where you sip cocktails before take off. Where the nuts say “Gourmet Nuts” on them, where a fabulously gay steward notices that you’re reading a script and is just dying to hear about your new project.

I kind of can’t believe I have a new project. My new project is to fly to LA and learn to write a television show.

In the line at the Budget Rent-A-Car a very handsome young kids asks me if “I’m in the industry?” I don’t really know what to tell him and as I stammer, he says “You must be an attorney.” “Yes” I say relieved. “An Attorney.” Such clarity there. An attorney, an Industry attorney. I’m still kicking the question around in my head, telling myself I need to get used to being “In the industry” when the woman in front of me veers off to a beckoning agent, and I am left alone at the front of the queue. One sharp “Next!” and I’m handing over my license and credit card, looking to make short work of the transaction. “I don’t need the insurance, and I’ll return it full.” I say in my practiced bored car-renting voice. “Great” says the chipper woman, swiping my card. “You have reserved an economy…” “Yeah, that’s fine…” I say hoping to avoid a lengthy upsell. “But would you mind if I put you in a convertible?” “A convertible…” Strangely, I actually think about it. I actually ponder for a moment the allure of a sunny LA day in a rag top before killing that particular reverie. “Thank you, that’s very sweet but…” I say demurring. “Oh, it’s the same rate” she says. “And it’s a lot of fun to drive.” I look at her blankly as she slides the keys to an essentially new Nissan two seater across the counter at me. She smiles again. “Welcome to LA!”

Welcome indeed.

I’m already sunburned.
We drove the ragtop up into the mountains, where under the beating sun, we donned masks, grabbed guns and played paintball.

Paintball is like war for fat people. I make a large target.

Down in the valley, we stop for breakfast or lunch or brunch at some crazy cool place advertising BBQ. Turns out they don’t smoke any meat there, but they do have a hell of a breakfast ham. The waitress is very sweet, and she brings me a diet coke fit for a blue whale. I turn my head to nod a thank you to her, and on the wall behind me, I notice a signed picture of a grinning MPG—it’s a publicity still from a show I don’t know. I nudge RGS, “Hey look—we know him.” She nods at the strangeness. Somehow we know the guy whose picture is up on the wall at some random restaurant in some previously unknown valley. We know that guy.

Welcome to LA.

Also, The bed in the guest house is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen.

Welcome indeed.


Gosh, what a shock!

A prosecutor who deleted a bunch of e-mails in violation of a subpoena, and whose other e-mail messages included endearments to his executive secretary, sexual and racist jokes and pornographic videos. It it really a shock that this jack-ass was not just a prosecutor, but a tough-talking militant guy who has incarcerated folks for a living since 1977? Just another disgrace to a generally disgraceful profession.

The Now Disgraced Prosecutor Charles Rosenthal.




An excellent Expose of Bush's Hardheartedness

It's a piece called Begging Bush’s Pardon which documents just how awful the administration has been on the compassionate part of conservatism--presidential pardons.

A Pardon Notice from the Roosevelt Administration


How Likely Are Sex Offenders to Repeat Their Crimes?

Like many hysterical folks over the last few years, Fox News (like the Wall Street Journal) has said of child molesters, “Not only are they almost certain to continue sexually abusing children, but some eventually kill their young victims.”

As it turns out, the numbers don’t bear this out. Not even close.


Kick at your peril...

On the day he took office, Jan. 14, State Representative Douglas Bruce, a Republican delivered a swift kick to the knee of a photographer for The Rocky Mountain News who was snapping his picture during a ceremonial prayer. Bad Idea.



An Interesting Op-Ed

John Farmer, has written an interesting Op-Ed arguing for special terrorism courts. What is striking about his argument though is his candid recognition of how deeply terrorism cases have subverted the rule of law and undermined some bedrock principles of our justice system. It's worth a read.


The Huffington Post

David Feige: Nifong, Gitmo and the Topless Undercover: The Top 10 Criminal Justice Stories of 2007

Nifong, Gitmo and the Topless Undercover: The Top 10 Criminal Justice Stories of 2007

If there is one truism about America it is this: we are obsessed with crime and punishment. Every lurid tragedy produces calls for tougher laws and harsher punishments and these days, when calamity strikes, someone goes to prison (except for #9 below).

And so, herewith, 2007’s top 10 criminal justice stories -- replete with bizarre prosecutions, absurd punishments and the continuing evisceration of the constitutional protections that once made us a free society.

10. It’s A Dog Eat Dog World: Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of Carnivores

As every animal lover in the free world knows, Michael Vick, the talented quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons went to Federal Prison for almost two years for running a dog fighting operation in which he killed some dogs. Sure Vick’s conduct was gross, but most of his critics wear leather belts, and some had a steak for dinner last night (or at least a piece of non-free range chicken). The simple truth is that cruelty to animals, while disgusting, isn’t worth incarcerating a human being for. Vick will have lost his career, more than $25 million dollars, and he’ll cost taxpayers money. While in prison, he’ll eat terrible meat purchased on the cheap from industrial farms in which millions of animals are kept in torturous conditions before being slaughtered in some of the most disgusting ways imaginable — their fate far worse than that of Vick's dogs. Of course as part of his plea agreement, Vick had to agree to pay the costs of killing the dogs he went to prison for planning to kill.

9. Pardon Me! Scooter Libby Avoids the Big House

When a jury rejected Scooter Libby’s “I was too busy to actually lie” defense and convicted him of obstruction of justice and perjury, they also made him the highest ranking white house official to be convicted of a felony since the last mangy band of republicans tried to trade arms for hostages in what we now fondly remember as the Iran-Contra scandal. The Libby trial’s genesis was in a high level scheme to blow the cover of a covert CIA operative for political payback, and his prosecution did genuine violence to the traditional (though not legal) deference prosecutors have afforded journalists. The sentence for Libby’s lies: just a few more months than Vick got for dog fighting. The big difference though is that while Michael Vick is currently incarcerated, Scooter Libby had his sentence commuted by President Bush. Odds are that exactly one year from today, the president will issue a full pardon. One of the things that makes a great leader is standing by your hatchet men, particularly when they lie to protect you.

8. You Talk, We Listen: Conservatives Tap Your Phones.

Despite the posturing of conservatives who constantly claim to want government off our backs and out of our lives, this year brought unprecedented revelations of wildly intrusive warrantless surveillance of not just terrorists, but of many ordinary Americans. To detect narcotics trafficking, the the government has been collecting the phone records of thousands of Americans and others inside the United States who call people in Latin America. As it turns out, the secret surveillance undertaken by the Bush administration isn’t limited, it isn’t rare, and it isn’t confined to terrorism investigations. Instead, the current white house has done more to erode the warrant requirement than any administration since the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure went into effect in December of 1791.

7. Dispensing Dispensary Justice or Republicans get High, Ignore Federalism.

Another long-running debate in American politics is over “Federalism” or states rights, with conservatives traditionally advocating a small central government and a robust respect for the individual preferences of the states. And while a number of social issues over the past decade (civil unions for homosexual couples, abortion etc) have suggested that conservatives only invoke federalism when they think it helps them, the Pot Dispensary Cases of 2007 have truly put the lie to this traditional republican trope. Despite the clear will of the people of several states, the Bush administration has been waging an all out war against medical marijuana laws across the country. Nowhere is this war being more aggressively fought, than in California where federal prosecutors use indictment and intimidation in an attempt to pressure licensed pot dispensaries into oblivion. Their most recent tactic? going after landlords. Yes indeed, despite a decisive vote in a ballot initiative, many California landlords who have rented to legal pot dispensaries, have received a letter from a federal agency telling them they could lose their property or face up to 20 years in prison.

"Federal law allows for the seizure of assets, including real property, which have been used in conjunction with the distribution of controlled substances," The letter also contends federal laws "take precedence" over state laws, such as Proposition 215 and SB 420, which allow for medical marijuana use. So much for federalism.

6. Habeus Schmabeus: CSRT’s and the Gitmo Follies

The great writ may not be dead just yet, but unless the Supreme Court intervenes again, it will remain in the constitutional ICU with a pretty pronounced death rattle. The pathetic nature of Combat Status Review Tribunals (CSRT’s) in which a supposed enemy combatant can’t see the evidence against him, gets a non-lawyer representative that works for the government rather than him, is tried by a government that can reject not-guilty verdicts, in a system in which being found not-guilty doesn’t insure one’s release. This, the administration agues constitutes a greater level of legal protection than that enjoyed by any POW’s in history. Now that is a whopper about as big as the Adminstration’s false claims about who they actually have in Gitmo.

5. Prosecution Run Amok: Mike Nifong and Persecuted Duke Boys

How much is there to say about a prosecutor who hounds a bunch of innocent kids? Not much more than this: Had they been black, had they been poor, had they been public defender clients, rather than rich, white, well-connected university students, the Duke boys would be serving long sentences right now and Mike Nifong would still be the DA of Durham. No doubt about it. Duke wasn’t an isolated incident, it was merely the perfect storm necessary to expose the rot at the core of the justice system.

4. Finally Some Sense: Powder/Crack Disparity and Retroactivity

On the good side of the ledger, 2007 brought us the faintest movement toward a saner drug policy. Not only was the appallingly racist powder/crack cocaine disparity rolled back, the US Sentencing Commission made that rollback retroactive. Finally thousands of people serving absurdly long sentences will have a chance to have those sentences modified. Fear not though, a bunch of republican zealots (one of whom is from Texas) have already introduced a bill to overturn the crack retroactivity decision

3. Go Get ‘Em: The Justice Department Becomes the Attack Dog of the Administration

Among the most depressing criminal justice scandals of 2007 has to have been the firing of a bunch of right wing United States Attorneys for not being right wing enough. Basically, anyone who smacked of fairness or a willingness to follow the laws rather than the particular political agenda of Karl Rove, was drummed out of the Department of Justice, essentially leaving a bunch of attack dogs willing to use the frightening power of the federal government to arrest, indict and destroy it’s political opponents, while seeking to spare those like Duke Cunningham who were already under investigation for corruption.

2. Sentence first! Then trial: The Conviction of Jose Padilla

The Padilla case, as well as anything this year exposes just how profoundly we’ve abandoned the procedural protections we, as citizens once took for granted. Here’s the basic story: We arrest a citizen, detain him as a material witness, declare him an enemy combatant, hold him in isolation in a military brig and torture him until he’s basically insane, we refuse to allow him to have a lawyer until a court orders us to do so. Unfortunately, once a lawyer is involved we then decide we have no evidence on which to try him for the things we held him as a material witness for or even the reasons we declared him an enemy combatant. What to do? Label him a terrorst involved in some vague plot, charge him with the most sweeping laws on the books, and then expand the interpretation of those laws to include some provable behavior, pick a conservative jurisdiction in which to hold the trial and then play for the jury lots of tapes of Osama Bin Laden. Result: The worst federal criminal conviction of the year.

1. The Sexual Surveillance Society: Larry Craig, GPS and the Topless Undercover

2007 also seems to mark yet another year that America couldn’t get sex off its collective mind. There’s not much left that we can do to torture sex offenders, what with hundred year sentences, GPS devices, and laws that are so restrictive about where they can live that some states are effectively off limits. So the persecution of our sex predators, long a favored target of cops, crusaders, and TV shows, has given way to the arrest and conviction of young lovers like Gernarlow Wilson the Georgia teenager sentenced to 10 Years for having oral sex. (Yep you read that right, 10 years even though he was 17 and she was 15 and it was utterly consensual).

2007 also brought us wonderful stories of undercover sex stings: this year our sex patrols snared gay senator Larry Craig, the toe-tapping senator driven so underground by his sexuality that he resorted to looking for forbidden sex in airport stalls. (The question of why we’re spending our crime fighting dollars to pay an undercover to squat in a shitter and tap his feet when we could, employ a bathroom attendant who would cost less and keep the place clean to boot somehow doesn’t seem to arise). And, of course, (for the grand prize—the most appalling deployment of our crime fighting men and women) 2007 marked the year we managed to arrest a firefighter named Robin Garrison, an arch criminal so evil that only 2007 could have found a way to bring him to justice.

And what did poor Mr. Garrison do? He chatted up the famous hot topless undercover of Columbus Ohio. Yes, it turns out that Columbus dispatched a sexy undercover to lie around topless, chat up guys and flirt with them in an attempt to get them to show her the junk in the trunk. What poor Mr. Garrison and the others ensnared by this brilliant bit of policing didn’t know, was that though it seemed as if there was no one around, there was in fact a police van cleverly hidden, and in it, a bunch of prurient coppers with a good video camera—hence, public exposure.

Gotta love 2007.