Pioneering Florida

I already knew Florida got a bad rap and there was proof of that fact last week. In case you don’t know, we all get to make fun of weird people in Florida because the state makes police reports public and easily accessible to nosy newsers. So we get the funny stories.

But funny stuff abounds everywhere. Here’s my favorite headline of the week: “Authorities: Alabama man fed meth to caged ‘attack squirrel.’”

You see? Alabama Man can be just as hilarious as Florida Man.

I’m a little concerned, however, after reading the story for the inhabitants – human and otherwise – of Alabama. It seems that law enforcement for some reason decided to release the squirrel. There’s now a drug-crazed, desperate-for-a-fix bushy-tailed beast roaming the streets of Alabama.

I see litigation in Alabama’s law enforcement future.

By the way, the news story said a sheriff’s spokesman claimed “there was no safe way to test the squirrel for meth.”

Clearly, there’s a need to invest in smaller handcuffs.

Reality check. Florida, it turns out, is going to be even more in the news. The ABA Journal last week reported that the state has passed a law requiring court clerks to compile data on such things as arrests, pretrial release, bail and case outcomes.

So look for upcoming news stories about bias in the Florida criminal justice system — and then bear in mind that Florida is almost certainly not an outlier. It’s a pioneer.

Rocking the boat. Favorite opening sentence from a federal court ruling in California last week: “The yacht rock classic ‘How Long’ by Ace begins with a simple question: ‘How long has this been going on?’ Ace, How Long, on Five-A-Side (Anchor Records 1974).”

Favorite sentence last week from a conclusion of a federal court ruling (the same case): “This port on a western bay may not serve a hundred ships a day, cf. Looking Glass, Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) on Looking Glass (Epic Records 1972), but its marinas nonetheless deserve to be reimbursed when they render necessaries.”

There’s also a 1972 Steely Dan song in the opinion. This is a judge who enjoyed the ‘70s.

Litigation tip: if you go before this judge, do not quote hip-hop from this century.

Bias everywhere. Fans of gerrymandering and sabermetrics will enjoy a recent Kentucky Law Journal article that analyzes the assignment of judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. One of its conclusions is that “senior judges nominated by Democratic presidents tend to sit with other Democratic nominees, and senior judges nominated by Republican presidents tend to sit with other Republican nominees.”

School cafeteria habits are hard to break.

The upshot of this is that senior judges who can pick their assignments get to have their way because they put themselves on panels with judges who, at least theoretically, have the same point of view.

And, yes, you guessed it – gerrymandered judges can rule on gerrymandering. This sentence appears in an article footnote: “The two most recent redistricting cases involved Democratic Sixth Circuit Judges Moore and Clay leading 2–1 Democratic panels in ruling against the Republican-created maps of, respectively, Ohio and Michigan.”

Fighting gerrymandering with gerrymandering?

Maybe it all balances out.

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