Legal Research Blog


Free Book of the Month: The Common Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Selected Quote: “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience”

Download the entire publication below:

The Common Law by Oliver Wendell Holmes (PDF)

Read the entire publication online (Courtesy of Harvard’s Law Library)

Lou Pearlman Discovers New Act: Police Informant

Music producer Lou Pearlman, whom we have to thank for the “boy band” phenomenon of the mid-1990s, has recently tried to clean up his image by revealing to authorities information he has gleaned about a murder case while he serves his time in prison. Pearlman, convicted of fraud and sentenced to 25 years in prison for bank and investment scams, overheard a conversation between two inmates from his cell in a federal prison. Pearlman claims he heard Davin Smith, accused of murdering a cop during a failed robbery attempt, confess his guilt to another inmate. According to Pearlman, Smith and another man, Hugo Terry, were attempting to use a stolen bank card to rob a local bank when a stranger walked up. They attempted instead to rob the man, who turned out to be a cop, and according to Pearlman, Smith shot the officer before he could pull his own gun on them.

Pearlman’s account did not skimp on the details of his exchanges with Smith and the conversations he overheard, as his information could win him an early release from his own sentence. Joy Ragan, attorney to Hugo Smith, argues that Pearlman has no concrete evidence of the conversations, and that his cooperation is simply a ploy to help himself. Pearlman’s lawyer, however, asserts that he is only fulfilling his “duty as a citizen.” Pity that Pearlman did not feel the same duty to those from whom he stole that $300 million…

Source: CNN and the Orlando Sentinel

Olympic Games Do Not Divert Human Rights Attention

With the opening of the 2008 Olympic Games just a week away all eyes are turned towards Beijing in what is becoming unwanted attention for the government. Eager to impress the hundreds of nations participating, China has been making improvements to the capital city for a number of years. From building facilities to house the games and limiting car travel to ease pollution, the Chinese government has been made several adjustments to make Beijing as visitor friendly as possible in time for the August 8th opening. Unfortunately, it looks like China may be going a bit too far to mask some of their existing problems.

The communist country already faces criticism for their extreme censorship of the media, internet and their own people so becoming the epicenter for sports entertainment for the next several weeks is not helping their case. Initially, members of the media were told they would enjoy uncensored internet access while reporting on the Olympics leaving the world under the impression that perhaps China was finally opening up to some well-deserved criticism. Instead, reporters have been disappointed to find that although they can access the internet, a number of sites addressing human rights grievances have been blocked. A report from the BBC also notes that Chinese citizens are being detained, without trial, for showing opposition to the government’s response to the recent earthquakes that took thousands of lives including many children. Critics abound since the quake and subsequent collapse of several school buildings, questioning whether school buildings were ever up to standard or if more could have been done to prevent the deaths.

China appears to be avoiding these topics through simple censorship of any site that may spark a controversial conversation. In spite of their greatest hopes that hosting the World’s games would change their reputation, many are already frustrated and discouraged by their way of turning a blind eye. Additionally, groups like Amnesty International are now pressing even harder, reminding the world of promises China made during their bid for the Olympics in 2001 to improve conditions for all people in time for the start of the games. With one week left, it looks like those promises are pretty empty.

Source: BBC

Sit Down, Relax. It’s Just the Pledge of Allegiance

While it will no longer be considered a necessity for all students to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, they will have to provide a note from parents in order to invoke the new right. The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has delivered a somewhat indecisive opinion about the lawsuit brought against a Florida school system for not allowing students to remain seated during the pledge. A Florida teen introduced the lawsuit after he was reprimanded for his lack of respect for his country and sent to the office for the remainder of the school day all because he remained seated during the Pledge of Allegiance. In his eyes, the decision to stand or remain seated is an important expression of individual rights, one that was violated when he was given the limited options to either stand or leave the class.

Instead of answering yes or no to the question of where rights of the individual end and allegiance to our country begins, in this instance, the court is leaving the decision up to parents. A law drafted in 1942 requires all public schools to lead students in the pledge at least once a day but in the year following, the Supreme Court established that no student could be forced to recite it. Atlanta’s circuit court faced quite the dilemma as allowing all students to remain seated could potentially cause a lack of pledge participants while forbidding them to sit could have been considered a threat to their religious beliefs. In light of this conflict, parents, one of the strongest decision-making bodies in a teen’s life, will be responsible for determining their child’s stance during the pledge. As for the precedence in this case, it looks like as long as you’re living under their roof, you really do need to follow their rules.


Maryland Reviews the Death Penalty

This week, a panel appointed by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley began to investigate the state of the death penalty in the state. Governor O’Malley, a Democrat, publicly opposes the death penalty, and the newly formed commission will be deciding on whether the practice should continue in Maryland.

In December of 2006, the state’s supreme court ruled in Evans v. State that executions by lethal injection had not been administered correctly, leading to a hold on carrying out the death penalty until a set of new procedures has been drafted. Only two men have been executed in Maryland since the release of statistics in 2004 that called into question the fairness and consistency of the death penalty. The study, conducted by the University of Maryland, revealed that the pursuit of the death penalty varied widely between different counties in the state. Graver still was the realization that prosecutors tended to obtain the death penalty more frequently for crimes committed by an African-American against a Caucasian.

Members of the panel included former death row inmates, victims’ families, police officers, and legal professionals. One notable speaker was the brother of Ted Kaczynski, more commonly known as the “Unabomber,” who described the pain that the death penalty inflicts upon the families of the accused and the executed. The panel will continue to hear testimony and review statistics to reach a decision about the fate of the death penalty in Maryland.