Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald R. Ford: 1913-2006

Statement from Betty Ford:

My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, has passed away at 93 years of age.

His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country.

Rest in peace, Mr. President.

Statement from the White House:
Laura and I are greatly saddened by the passing of former President Gerald R. Ford.

President Ford was a great American who gave many years of dedicated service to our country. On August 9, 1974, after a long career in the House of Representatives and service as Vice President, he assumed the Presidency in an hour of national turmoil and division. With his quiet integrity, common sense, and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the Presidency.

The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character, and the honorable conduct of his administration. We mourn the loss of such a leader, and our 38th President will always have a special place in our Nation's memory. On behalf of all Americans, Laura and I offer our deepest sympathies to Betty Ford and all of President Ford's family. Our thoughts and prayers will be with them in the hours and days ahead.

More here.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

We're not sure exactly why this quote, from the movie Love Actually, is appropriate for Christmas. Maybe its because the movie is based on the weeks leading up to Christmas. Maybe its just because the Christmas season is based on love. In any event, we think this says a lot.

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What does your bumper sticker say?

Starting January 22, 2007, New Jersey's courts will begin to ask a new voir dire question to potential jurors: "If you have a bumper sticker that does not pertain to a political candidate, what does it say?" From the New Jersey Lawyer (article not yet available online):
The theory [behind asking potential jurors about their bumper stickers] is that there's a difference between "Question Authority" and "Have You Hugged a Cop Today?"

Of course, a criminal defendant won't want a "Hug a Cop" juror deciding his of her fate and the prosecution sure as hell doesn't want a "Question Authority" juror just itching to screw it to "the man." But what about people who have something like "If You Can Read This, Then You're To Fucking Close" or "My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student"? Do you want them on your jury?

In any event, if you want to get dismissed from jury duty in New Jersey, just slap a "Fry Them All" sticker on your car.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A French retreat

No, we're not talking about Versailles or a cute villa in the south of France.

We're talking about France's military retreating from the War on Terror. From the AP:
France is to withdraw its 200-strong special forces from Afghanistan, all of its ground troops engaged in the U.S anti-terror operation there, authorities announced Sunday.

The decision to pull the elite troops, based in the southeastern city of Jalalabad, comes as the Taliban militia are gaining strength despite the strong engagement -- some 32,800 troops -- in NATO's International Security Assistance Force. France has balked at sending its 1,100-strong NATO contingent outside the relatively safe Afghan capital, Kabul.

We're sure if the French could have found Mullah Omar, they would have surrendered to him instead of merely pulling their troops out.

With friends like this . . .

Friday, December 15, 2006

Debbie does jury duty

Former New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz has had a busy six weeks since leaving the court. She has interviewed, and taken a position, with the Princeton office of Drinker Biddle, been called for jury duty (although was dismissed without being put on a jury) and answered some questions for the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog. A few interesting tid-bits from the Q&A:

We must admit that the Law Blog's last question -- "Did you catch Scarlet Fever? We mean, have you hopped on the Rutgers University football bandwagon?" -- annoyed us slightly, partly because we've been asked the same question by several people. For your information, just because someone lives in New Jersey doesn't mean they follow (or even care about) Rutgers football. We're not that small town.

(But we were excited to see Rutgers do well)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Olivia can sing

Olivia Turton, a Frenchtown, New Jersey elementary school student, had her First Amendment rights violated when her school district barred her from singing the song "Awesome God" at an after-school talent show, according to a ruling issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson.

In May 2005, the school district denied the then-second-grader's request to sing the song saying that the lyrics amounted to the "musical equivalent of a spoken prayer." Judge Wolfson disagreed and held that the district's actions were inappropriate because Olivia's song was one student's "private speech" and could not legitimately be perceived as a public school's endorsement of religion.

Olivia had some help in her court battle:
The case drew national attention and the backing of strange legal bedfellows: The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy group that represented the Turtons, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which intervened as a friend of the court.
Strange bedfellow indeed.

Olivia plans to sing the song in an upcoming talent show.

Poritz to Drinker

Deborah T. Poritz, former Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, has signed on as "Of Counsel" with the law firm of Drinker Biddle. More about Poritz's new job here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Steven v. Steven (with a side of Nate)

This week's debate in New Jersey on gay marriage v. civil unions certainly wasn't short on the rhetoric or ad hominem attacks, including the following exchange between uber-conservative Bogota, New Jersey Mayor Steven Lonegan and Garden State Equality's Chairman Steven Goldstein.

Steve Lonegan started it with the following (from the Record via PoliticsNJ):
"No! I'm not doing it! They're not going to force me to do civil unions. They're going to have to put a gun to my head. Even then it's going to be a challenge." -- Bogota Mayor Steven Lonegan, on performing civil unions. Lonegan " said he performs about two dozen marriages a year, and officiated at one in which the groom 'was so drunk he couldn't stand up.' He said he didn't object to adults who choose a particular lifestyle, but resented that he would have a government-ordered role in their union."
Lonegan has officially left the reservation. To advertise that he's performed a marriage with a groom who was so intoxicated that he couldn't stand up makes us question Steve's judgment. Furthermore, he should know that as a mayor, he won't have a "government-ordered" role in performing civil unions or gay marriages. He certainly isn't required to perform heterosexual marriages today.

So what was Steven Goldstein's reply, you ask? Well:
"So let's get this right: Steve Lonegan, whose stunning political achievement has been to make Bret Schundler look moderate in statewide elections, would not preside over a ceremony between two loving, committed people of the same gender but would preside -- and has -- over a groom too intoxicated and thus not legally capacitated to enter a legal contract? With defenders of marriage like Steve Lonegan, grooms don't even need to show up anymore. On any marriage license, Mayor Lonegan is apparently willing to write the name Johnnie Walker. It's time to let gay couples marry. Not civil union -- but marry. We'll protect the institution from Steve Lonegan."

We give Goldstein a B for effort but a C- for content. He came out with his guns blazing, and was correct in mentioning (and attempting to take Lonegan to task for) the the "drunk groom" wedding. But instead of offering a substantive response to anything that Lonegan said, Goldstein just stuck with his talking points and the nasty rhetoric that is so typical in today's politics. The potential was there, but the execution fell way short.

But not to be disappointed, North Plainfield Council President Nathan Rudy decided that he'd weigh in on Lonegan's comments:
"Not for nothing here, Steve, but no one is gonna put a gun to your head to make you marry anyone. Performing marriage ceremonies -- or civil union ceremonies -- is an optional duty of being a Mayor and you can pick and choose when you want to officiate at a wedding. Your very strong stand is little more than bluster and bullspittle, and what is most pathetic is that you know it. However, your employees will have to issue the licenses for civil unions or same-sex marriages, and if you had real courage in your homophobic convictions you'd risk getting your butt sued off by refusing to let them. Frankly, I'd like to see if you have the guts to do it or if you are just blowing smoke up everyone's ass like usual. I suspect the latter."
Wow, Nate! Let's not pull and punches man. Despite not taking sides in this battle of the Steves, we did like your response (much more than Goldstein's who, in our opinion, blows a lot of smoke as well), even with the nasty.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Jun Choi

Why is Jun Choi, the mayor of Edison, New Jersey, having a $1,000-per-person fundraising banquet with Governor Jon Corzine, Senate President Richard Codey, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and former Governor James Florio and hiring a high-profile political team to advise him on strategy and media image and to conduct polls?

Is it to help him solidify his position in Edison (despite the size of Edison, does Mr. Choi really need a media consultant and pollsters?) or does he, not even one year on the job, have his sights set on a different elected position?

Well, whatever the reason, Mr. Choi better keep his eye on his current job or a recall effort might just be successful and a future political career in doubt.

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