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BLAWg In Bloom

The Indiana Law Library Blog

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A Town Hall on Facebook

President Obama will be holding a town hall today—on Facebook.  At 4:45 Eastern Time there will be a streaming town hall.  All you have to do is like the White House Facebook page and then RSVP for the event.  You can submit questions, either via Facebook, or from  President Obama has been active in using social media in the past, and for this event he will be broadcasting live form Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto.  More than 35,000 people have already RSVP’d.

Your 2010 Federal Taxpayer Receipt

Want to see how your federal tax dollars are spent?  Check out your Federal Taxpayer Receipt.

What happens during a Federal Government shutdown?

If you’re interested in what might happen to some government resources in the event of a shutdown, read on.

A Difficult Time For Legal Aid

The National Law Journal and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog are reporting that Legal Aid organizations are having a particularly difficult time at the moment.  With state funding being cut across the country the already hardworking Legal Aid system is struggling.  Organizations from many states are reporting significant funding drops, coupled with large increases in the number of people seeking low cost assistance.  The Legal Aid Society can help only one in nine people who seek their assistance. Legal representation for the impoverished is both important and expensive.  Any thoughts as to how it can be maintained?

The Value Of The White House

According to popular real estate website the White House is not immune from the recent housing crisis.  The famous house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has dropped in value from $331.5 million dollars in 2007 to a mere $251.5 million at the moment.  It seems to have dropped about $5 million in value just in the past month.  It is entertaining to look at the Zillow listing—it is not often that you see single family residences of 55,000 square feet built in 1792 with forced air heating.  For more information, take a look at articles from Yahoo and the L.A. Times.

Police Created Exigencies

Participants in last semester’s Moot Court dealt with a case on police created exigencies.  Warrantless searches are permitted when there are exigent circumstances—i.e. if the evidence would vanish in the time it takes to get a warrant—but not when law enforcement officers create those circumstances themselves.  It turns out that the Supreme Court is just about to hear oral arguments on a case involving this same issue—Kentucky v. King.  Both the Volokh Conspiracy and SCOTUSblog offer the thoughts of Prof. Orin Kerr of George Washington University on the subject.  Kerr offered his professional opinion to the defendant, so the article is not meant to be unbiased, but he does offer some really interesting thoughts on police created exigencies in general.  SCOTUSblog also includes other case documents.  Go take a look—particularly if you spent time with this issue during Moot Court.

Cell Phones in Prisons

It’s not a new story.  Time Magazine ran an article on it a year and a half ago, but the appearance of smart phones in prisons is growing by leaps and bounds.  In August of last year President Obama approved a law that added additional jail time for those caught with cell phones in prisons, but there is still an ever growing number of inmates who are texting one another, talking with family, and maintaining Facebook pages. A day or two ago the New York Times had an article about it, also picked up by the Indiana Law Blog. Now it doesn’t seem so bad that an inmate might talk with his child, but it is certainly a different story when they are coordinating a strike or concealing online evidence from prison.  So what is the solution?  There has been some talk of jamming cell phones near prisons, but the jam could bleed over into other areas.  Mississippi started a program that created a network around a prison that blocked calls and texts from unauthorized cell phones. It caught over 600,000 unauthorized messages just in the latter half of 2010. According to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger, the same program also made money for the prison system—as the use of pay phones went way up.  What do you think?  How bad is it for inmates to have smart phones?  What is the best method to prevent it?

John Paul Stevens Speaks Out

Having recently retired from the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens is speaking his mind about issues he dealt with on the court.  In a forthcoming book review for the New York Review of Books he discusses the death penalty, and why, more than 30 years after he voted to reinstate the death penalty in 1976, he no longer feels that it is appropriate.  The New York Times covers the story, and also suggests that this may be a new trend for retired justices, who tend to stay away from controversial issues in their retirement. On Sunday Stevens appeared on 60 Minutes, talking not only about the death penalty, but also the Bush v. Gore case, the rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees—and about being at the famous 1932 World Series ball game in which Babe Ruth called his shot.

Chandra Levy Verdict

One of the big news stories of the day is that ten years after the Chandra Levy case made headlines there is finally some resolution to it.  Yesterday a jury returned a verdict finding Ingmar Guandique guilty of her murder.  There was a lack of forensic evidence, but there was circumstantial evidence.  This does finally take some of the shadow off of former Congressman Gary Condit, who was a suspect in the case for some time.

For more information see the news stories on and the Washington Post.

Alcohol, Caffeine, and Tobacco

The FDA has some strong words for the makers of a beverage called Four Loko.  Four Loko is a sweetly flavored malt liquor drink which is also highly caffeinated.  The beverage has been linked to several deaths, most recently a Florida man who shot himself in the head.  The family is suing for wrongful death.

This is very reminiscent of things like tobacco litigation.  Recently there is another tobacco case in the news concerning an alleged past practice of freely distributing cigarettes to children in Boston.  Dangerous products pose difficult questions.  Shady marketing practices and already addictive substances can be laid at the feet of large companies—but on the other hand, where does the free will of the consumer fit into the picture? 

What do you think?  Should the family in Florida prevail over Four Loko?  The family in Boston over the Lorillard Tobacco Company?  Let us know how you feel!

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