Why I Support the Philadelphia Soda Tax

June 12, 2016

Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about the Philadelphia Soda Tax. Basically, the City of Philadelphia has decided to tax all beverages that contain sugar (high fructose corn syrup). This affects a whole lot of beverages.

According to Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax, it will mostly impact small businesses and people who are economically disadvantaged:

This regressive tax stands to hurt Philadelphia’s lower-income families and small businesses the most, burdening them with higher costs even though they are still struggling to emerge from the recession. It could also hurt retailers and restaurants, which are likely to lose sales and customers. It’s a slippery slope – this discriminatory tax is singling out beverages. Which grocery items are next?

So why would I support this, especially as a conservative? Shouldn’t I be supporting everyone’s right to do what they want, and oppose any taxation to regulate one’s freedom of choice?

It’s more complicated than you think, and the problem in the first place was actually created by the federal government…

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Is the Brock Turner case as bad as it looks? Yeah, it is.

June 11, 2016
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Brock Turner really is raping everybody out there

When it comes to commenting on court cases, I don’t get my information from silly clickbait blogs like Gawker. Instead, I try and pull the actual evidence and adduce what I can from it. Blogs like Gawker simply want people to click on links, and pander to the lowest common denominator.

Lately my Facebook feed has been filled with the name Brock Turner. The narrative going around is this: Brock Turner, a Stanford swimmer, pulled a woman behind a dumper, raped her while she was unconscious, and then ran away. After getting convicted, Judge Aaron Persky then gave Turner an extremely lenient sentence because he’s white and went to Stanford.

Of course, the internet was incensed. College rape, a white kid of privilege, a heinous crime, and parents who just don’t seem to get it. Then, of course, there is a powerful victim impact statement which has been circulated all over the internet, combined with a judge who seemed to favor a rich white kid and completely ignore her suffering.

When I first heard about the story, it sounded too outrageous to be true. However, most of what was coming up in my newsfeed were from sources that either aren’t typically credible or didn’t provide a lot of substantive information. So, I decided to do a little digging, using actual documents submitted in court.

After reviewing the evidence, police reports and trial documents, believe it or not, this one might be as bad as it looks…

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Apparently you do not have a First Amendment right to photograph the police in Pennsylvania. Unless you do a little jig.

February 22, 2016

This could be a significant blow to the First Amendment, as apparently videotaping the police is not protected speech in Pennsylvania. Unless, of course, you also decide to yell at them or do a jig at the same time.

I wish I were joking, but I’m not…

Two cases before the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, were recently consolidated into one for the purpose of determining “whether photographing or filming police on our portable devices without challenging police is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.”

This is the trial court’s entire opinion, if you want to read the decision in its entirety.

The underlying facts are simple:

In the first case, Temple University student Richard Fields was standing on the sidewalk. There were 20 police officers standing outside a house party. Fields thought it was worth photographing for whatever reason. The police officer asked Fields to leave and stop taking pictures. Fields refused and continued to film. The police officer then took his phone and arrested him. Fields wasn’t taping the matter to protest the police or anything like that. He simply felt like recording it, maybe to put on Facebook, Instragram, or Philly Law Blog (holla!). The student did not claim to be protesting the police (or the house party for that matter), but merely recording the event.

In the second case, Amanda Geraci was at a protest. During the protest, the Philadelphia police arrested one of the protestors. Geraci moved closer to get a better view and hoped to videotape the incident. Geraci claims Officer Brown “attacked her” by physically restraining her against a pillar and preventing her from videotaping the arrest. Geraci claims that “I was just legal observing.”

Both sued the Philadelphia Police Department under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for First Amendment Retaliation.

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What Does the American Bar Association Actually Do?

February 9, 2016

When you think of the American Bar Association, you imagine an institution that focuses on lawyer things. I’ve always assumed that the role of the ABA was to function at the top of our profession, and to hand down things like the Model Rules for the rest of the states to incorporate. I remember studying the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in law school, which were drafted by the ABA and then adopted in full or in part by most of the states. As a small time practitioner, that’s what I’ve always assumed their role in the legal world was – to set legal policy at the highest level, which then trickles down into state law, and eventually finds itself on my desk in the form of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct or Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence.

I was up last night reading Twitter when something from the American Bar Association popped up in my feed:Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.39.29 AM.png

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RooshV And His Family Get Lynched By the Social Justice Mob

February 7, 2016

badb65c2868bc2a60c9bdd0ff56be419Rape is currently a hot button issue. There are those who argue that a “rape culture” has been created across the United States, and that our women are in danger everywhere. On the other hand, there are bloggers like Scott Greenfield who have suggested that there is a difference between rape and regret.

We draw a fine legal line when it comes to the definition of consensual sex and due process. As Scott Greenfield put it, “[t]he law requires reason, or it fails to sustain its legitimacy.”

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Why is Density a Four Letter Word?

January 10, 2016
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If you’re going to own a car in the city, go all out.

“Density.” Anyone who has ever attended a zoning community meeting or hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustment has heard this word. The project is “too dense” or it’s “an over-utilization of the property.”

In English, this means someone feels a developer is trying to put too many units into too small a space. Typically, neighbors tend to disfavor residential multi-units because more residents means less parking. Many residents also assume that families want to live in traditional style row homes, while only college kids, renters, and “Section 8” want to live in smaller units. Frankly, I’ve seen a lot of stereotyping and prejudices expressed at zoning meetings, and often unfairly.

Economically, townhomes are more expensive to build, more expensive to sell, and generate less of a return for the developer. An average rowhome in Fishtown could sell for about $350k – $500k. That price is beyond the means of many people.

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Lawyers Represent Clients, Not Causes

January 10, 2016

Unbeknownst to most lay people, law students graduate law school woefully unprepared to do their job. Even when they graduate, most law students have never filed a lawsuit, taken a deposition, cross-examined a witness, or filed a motion. Rather, law school is focused on examining principles of case law, which in reality comprise about 20% of what practicing lawyers actually do. What’s worse is that law school is taught by academics, many of whom have never tried a case before a jury, deposed a witness, or worked in private practice. Nevertheless, law students do read actual case law – legal opinions written by courts. Those opinions are supposed to be grounded in logic, not feelings.

This means sometimes the law might be contrary to your ideals. For instance, as Scott Greenfield points out, “[t]here is no constitutionally protected right to equal dignity. There is no legally cognizable meaning to the phrase, “equal dignity.” It’s a lie that social justice poseurs tell themselves, argue to their choir, want so desperately to believe that they repeat it as much as possible in the desperate hope of making it so.”

In other words, sometimes big corporations prevail over the little guy, and sometimes the outcome is seemingly unfair. But that’s how the law works.

On a personal level, you might not like that. But as lawyers, our duty is to work within those confines to best serve our clients.

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