Supreme Court Role Law Or Justice? – 1965 Editorial

Should the U.S. Supreme Court be a place of justice, or of law?

Though this question at first glance may appear to be one of those semantic traps – such as, “Have you stopped beating your wife? – its answer vitally affects your life and mine.

The traditional view of the court is that it is the final authority on the Constitution. Its only task, say political purists, is to decide whether laws passed by the legislative branch of the government are really legal.

Since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Supreme Court has been undergoing a gradual change. It was he who initiated the practice of appointing “liberal” politicians to the bench instead of experienced judges.

Those of us today in their late forties can remember well Roosevelt’s audacious attempt to “pack” the high tribunal. He tried to get Congress to increase the number of judges from nine to 12 so he could appoint additional “sympathetic” politicians and thwart decisions which were overturning many of his New Deal ideas.

Congress, which until then had blindly rubber-stamped Roosevelt’s wildest proposals, finally rebelled and refused to tamper with the court machinery. It was the first twinge of alarm by the party faithful who had ridden into office on the Roosevelt landslide.

With the recent nomination, and certain confirmation, of former New Dealer Abe Fortas to the court, the transition from law to justice is complete. The test of a law now will be, “Is it fair?” rather than “Is it legal?”

The philosophical approach of the Supreme Court justices had remained about evenly divided between the jurists and the reformers until the death of Chief Justice Fred Vinson in 1953. Then President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed California Governor Earl Warren to the post of Chief Justice. Unknowingly, Ike tipped the balance.

Warren had been a popular and able governor. He had been careful not to align himself with the liberals or conservatives. The mood of the country was “middle of the road,” and Warren seemed to be a model of neutrality.

Once relieved of the necessity of winning votes, Warren revealed himself to be a champion of individual rights as HE, not Congress, saw them.

After only two years on the bench, he wrote the now famous decision outlawing school segregation. He led the bench in abolishing school prayer and in reapportioning state legislatures on a “one man, one vote” basis. He also joined in the decision freeing some communists convicted of sedition, for which the John Birch Society still demands his impeachment.

For the past decade, Warren has consistently voted with the “activist” group of justices who evidently hold to the theory they can, and should, correct the shortcomings of a timid Congress.

Arthur Goldberg, during his short term on the Supreme Court, identified himself with the Warren outlook.

Now U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Goldberg was a liberal, labor-supported Jew. In these days of minority deference, our presidents have felt it necessary to keep one justice of these exact political qualifications on the bench. Consequently, President Lyndon B. Johnson has tapped his long time friend, Fortas, to replace Goldberg. The balance for “fair” decisions remains unchanged.

There is no objection at all, on my part, to Fortas’ neat appeal to an important block of minorities. He is just the counterpart of the conservative southern Protestant and the moderate midwestern Catholic also carefully represented on the court. It’s likely a Negro will be the next justice.

I do find disappointing, however, the present state of political affairs which make such opportunistic appointments necessary.

Fortas is one more of a long line of non-judicial Supreme Court Justices to troop to the bench. He was general counsel of Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration at 29 and undersecretary of the Interior at 32. Now 55, he is described by President Johnson as “a man of humane and deeply compassionate feelings toward his fellow man – a champion of our liberties.”

Inevitably, the rhetorical question suggests itself, “Is it the duty of a Supreme Court justice to champion causes with enthusiasm, or arbitrate disputes impartially?

As a senior partner of a prominent Washington D.C. law firm, Fortas has defended such clients as Owen Lattimore, the U.S. State Department specialist accused of lying about Communist associations; and Bobby Baker, former Democratic Senate aide whose lucrative business dealings came under Congressional investigation last year.

More recently, Fortas attracted public notice when he attempted to get Washington D.C. newspapers to suppress the story last fall about the arrest of President Johnson’s aide, Walter Jenkins, on morals charges.

Congressman Durward G. Hall summed up my misgivings when he said recently before the House of Representatives, “There is a serious question whether Fortas will be able to exercise independence of his ties with the President – he has been a quiet participant in some of the more dubious transactions of the Johnson Administration.”

Many Americans, including myself, have two minds concerning the conflict between justice and law. Unfortunately, the two are not synonymous.

In the hand of shysters, bureaucrats, and grafters our laws are dangerous weapons. Somewhere the spirit of the law must prevail over arbitrary letters.

Yet, the personal convictions of men beyond reach of the electorate can not be allowed to transcend the will of the people as expressed by duly elected representatives.

Until there is less politics and more statesmanship on the Supreme Court bench, we will be better served by a court of law than one of men.

August 20, 1965

Click here to see this article on Lindsey Williams’s website

Criminal Justice Degrees Online – Affordable Bachelors and Masters Programs

An online, or distance learning, college program is an affordable way to obtain your associates, or advanced degree in criminal justice. The average cost of a year of college education online is $5,000 a year. A traditional or campus based college or university can be up to $20,000 a year. The average salary for a police officer is above $45,000. This means you can see a return on your investment in the first year of work if you obtain your degree online. It will take you two years to start to see a return on your investment from a traditional campus based school.

With a degree in criminal justice you can work as a police officer, for the FBI, homeland security, the secret service or a private security company. You could be a US Marshall, work for the DEA, or be a private investigator. The choice of career with a degree in criminal justice is full of choices.

The average salary for a police officer is greater than $45,000, for the Secret Service, US Marshall or DEA the salary varies from 25 to 50,000 dollars. If the FBI employs you you can earn 40,000 to 48,000 dollars a year. With an advanced degree and experience a person with a degree in criminal justice can earn a six-figure income.

An online criminal justice, or law enforcement college education program will educate you about things such as domestic terrorism, security measure, vulnerability assessment, tactical communication, theory of crime, dispute resolution, intelligence gathering and analysis and other law enforcement related subjects.

An online criminal justice program will allow you to have flexibility, you can study and complete assignments 24/7 online. You will have access to assignments, resources, and other classmates through the Internet. An online college degree program website can provide you with information about schools, curriculum, costs, financial aid, and other aspects of online education programs.

Is Your Website Or Social Media Contest Or Promotion Legal?

You may decide to offer some type of prize promotion, such as a sweepstakes or contest to promote your website or business. While sweepstakes and contests are generally permitted in most states, lotteries are not. The following summary of website and social media lottery, sweepstakes and contest laws should help your business stay within the boundaries of the law.

Online Lotteries

Lotteries are generally prohibited in each of the fifty states unless legislatively exempted (i.e., state run lotteries). The element of “chance” is one of the elements generally required to be present in order for some promotion or activity to violate a state anti-gambling statute. Most states have concluded that where the elements of skill, whatever they may be, predominate over the elements of chance in determining outcome then the game involved does not violate that state’s anti-gambling law.

A lottery consists of a prize, chance, and consideration. Therefore, sweepstakes, contests and similar promotions must omit one of the three elements of a lottery to avoid being deemed as an illegal lottery. They both only combine two of the three “lottery elements.” A contest combines the elements of prize and consideration, but the prize is awarded to on the basis of skill rather than chance. A sweepstakes combines the elements of prize and chance, but lacks the element of consideration.

Thus, a prize promotion that conditions the chance to win on subscribing for a service, purchasing a product or, in some states, visiting a physical store, may be deemed an illegal lottery.

Federal statutes prohibit, among other things, the mailing or transportation in interstate or foreign commerce of promotions for lotteries or the sending of lottery tickets themselves. (Pic-A-State Pa., Inc. v. Reno, 76 F.3d 1294 (C.A.3 (Pa.), 1996). State laws vary, but “chance” is one of the elements generally required to be present in order for a game to violate a state anti-gambling statute.

States restrict illegal lotteries through criminal anti-gambling laws. For example, the Illinois anti-gambling statute defines an illegal lottery as “any scheme or procedure whereby one or more prizes are distributed by chance among persons who have paid or promised consideration for a chance to win such prizes, whether such scheme or procedure is called a lottery, raffle, gift, sale or some other name.”

Most states have concluded that where the elements of skill, whatever they may be, predominate over the elements of chance, whatever they may be, in determining outcome, then the “chance” element is lacking and the game involved does not violate that state’s anti-gambling law. Most states apply this “dominant factor,” or predominance, test.

Are there express state Internet prohibitions?

The fact that a state has not passed a specific law does not make participation in or offering of gambling over the Internet legal under the laws of that state. The question is a complex one and is addressed in several of the articles included on this site.

Online Sweepstakes & Contests

Sweepstakes and contest or prize promotions are regulated by numerous federal and state laws. Federal agencies with jurisdiction to regulate sweepstakes promotions include the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), the United States Postal Service, and the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”). Sweepstakes promotions may also be regulated by state attorney generals and, in some states, district attorneys. In some states, this could require registration and obtaining a bond depending on the amount of the prize, among other requirements.

If you engage in this type of practice, talk to your Internet attorney to fill you in on the FTC and state requirements. You’ll also want to include sold terms and conditions of the contest or prize promotion to protect your business.

The key for conducting a sweepstakes is avoiding consideration. That definition varies and will depend on various factors, such as: (1) how easy or difficult it is to participate in the sweepstakes; and (2) whether an alternative method of entry (e.g., entry by mail or fax) is available. Examples of consideration include conditioning entry on the participants purchase a product, a monetary payment, visiting a store, or even providing detailed consumer information in some cases.

Social Media Contest Liability

The FTC’s 2009 revised guidelines confirmed that the rules continue to apply to endorsements and testimonials made directly through “new media” platforms including social media.The FTC has stated that a consumer endorsement made in an effort to win a prize is not different from a consumer endorsement in exchange for the payment of cash or free goods! If the chance to win a prize requires participants to post content featuring your business’s products or services, the participants must disclose that their posts are pursuant to a contest. (This includes “pinning” photos of your business’s products on Pinterest). Your business is expected to tell the participants to make clear that their posts are being made as part of a contest.

Don’t Forget To Disclose “Material Connections”!

In a nutshell, your business and any individual endorsers must disclose any material connection. According to the FTC, “When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement (i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed.”

For direct endorsements made on social media, the FTC guidelines state that receiving a payment, a free product or some other benefit from your business in exchange for posting a product review or other endorsement is a “material connection” which must be disclosed. The individual endorser is the party expected to clearly and conspicuously disclose that connection. However, your business is expected to advise the endorser up front that this connection should be disclosed and have procedures in place to try to monitor postings by such individuals to confirm the connections are being disclosed.

In March, the FTC sent a letter to the shoemaker Cole Haan indicating that the pins required to enter its contest on Pinterest for a chance to win the $1000 prize were endorsements subject to the disclosure requirements! In that letter, the FTC has essentially clarified that asking consumers to post, pin or otherwise publish content on a social media platform regarding the company’s products or services in order to enter a sweepstakes, contest or other prize promotion requires that the post be clearly labeled as being part of the contest!

How Should Social Media Contest Entry Disclosures Be Made?

It is not entirely clear how a chance to win a prize must be disclosed as a material connection with the contest posts or pins. What is clear is that a disclosure which makes no reference to a contest or to the company’s brand fails the FTC’s standards for disclosing the material connection. The FTC did not explain in its letter to Cole Haan exactly how such disclosures should read. But, according to the FTC’s.Com Disclosures guide, “disclosures must be communicated effectively so that consumers are likely to notice and understand them in connection with the representations that the disclosures modify.” This is required even though space-constrained limitations of mobile devices and social media platforms causes obvious problems.

So, potentially, using a hashtag that names the sweepstakes or contest with each post will be sufficient. But, to play it safe, businesses should use a longer disclosure indicating that the post is being made as part of entering a particular contest, when the platform allows for longer disclosures to be made.

Keep Your Kid Safe On The Internet! Law Enforcement Agencies And Citizen Groups

I have already submitted a couple of articles about the dangers the internet holds for children. My next series of articles will be about the various citizen groups and law enforcement agencies that work to deter or stop predators and keep children safe online.

The first group I want to cover is a group called Perverted Justice. Their “nickname”, or what they are also known as is PeeJ. Perverted Justice is a citizen group that was set up for the purpose of identifying adults willing to have chat room sexual encounters with minors. Millions of Americans have seen this group in action during the operation series called “To Catch a Predator” that Dateline NBC carried out on the air.

The people who make up Perverted Justice are volunteers. These volunteers carry out sting operations, using “young” sounding screen names, such as sara_so_bored. They then wait for older men to approach them in chatrooms. The volunteers of PeeJ do not make the first contact with the adults, but instead wait to be approached.

Once the men approach the volunteer (who they think is a young teen girl or boy), the volunteer works to get identifying information from the men; information such as a phone number. This information is usually given during talk about setting up an offline meeting with the perceived minor. The PeeJ volunteer then uses a Reverse Look Up service to find out the name of the person who owns the telephone number, and passes the information on to law enforcement.

Perverted Justice was started in 2002 by Xavier Von Erck of Portland Oregon, who got the idea after watching men attempt to woo young girls in chatrooms in Oregon. Von Erck says that PeeJ is a computer watchdog agency that works closely with law enforcement. During the ‘To Catch a Predator’ stings put on by Dateline NBC, Perverted Justice was actually temporarily deputized by law enforcement, since some of the operation was required by law to have been carried out by members of law enforcement.

Von Erck goes on to say that “The media likes to use the term vigilante because it gets attention, but we don’t consider ourselves vigilantes. We cultivate cooperation with police and work within the law to get justice, not outside of the law.”

Perverted Justice’s volunteers act as bait in chatrooms where children and minors can often be found. The profiles the volunteers set up have youthful sounding nicknames and often pictures of children. The volunteers do not initiate contact with the men, but instead wait for the men to first come to them. They refuse to act on tips from internet users, to avoid the risk that someone might use the website for purposes of revenge.

If a man starts chatting with the volunteer and turns the conversation toward sex, the volunteer attempts to obtain identifying information from the man; information such as a telephone number so that a “meeting can be arranged”.

In years past, the chatlog and details would then be published on Perverted Justice’s website. However, beginning in 2003, the organization began its “Information First” program, in which interested police departments could contact Perverted Justice, and any busts made within the jurisdiction of that department would be sent to them without having been posted to the website.

In the early days, PeeJ did not initiate contact with the police, due to the difficulty of prosecuting online criminals in a court of law. Because the law has evolved in such a way that law enforcement now CAN and regularly DOES prosecute online criminals, PeeJ has switched to a policy of cold calling local police with the information they obtained. If a one of the government agencies is interested (police, FBI, military CID, etc.) then the chatlog and other information is not posted to the site until after a conviction has been reached.

To date, Perverted Justice has been responsible for over 100 convictions of online predators. Some of those convictions were witnessed by television-watching Americans, glued to their T.V. screens during the airing of Dateline NBC’s To Catch a Predator series. One of these “public convictions” was a rabbi, who entered a home with the intention of having sexual relations with a minor boy. The “candid-camera” photograph of this rabbi as he was caught by Dateline NBC is posted on my website, which is dedicated to keeping kids safe online.

My website is interactive and includes a place for parents, educators, and interested parties to post methods of keeping kids safe online, as well as a message board where people can chat about online safety and what can be done. I have a page that shows Internet Safety in the news, as well as a page dedicated to educating parents on what can be done to “keep your kid safe on the internet”. Everyone is welcome.

Safe Gun Storage Federal and State Laws

Safe gun storage laws are in effect in most all States to prevent accidents in homes especially where children are involved. The ATF (Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) has a mandate in place for gun selling facilities which states that firearms are to be secured in safes or have trigger locks installed to prevent firing. The selling establishment has to sign a certification form that they comply by this law. This law is required by all states.

Just to mention a few of the state’s safe gun laws, in Texas, as well as other states, a firearm sales facility has to place a sign somewhere visible to all customers buying rifles, shotguns and pistols in their store that says ” It is unlawful to store, transport, abandon an unsecured firearm in a place where children are likely to be and can obtain access to the firearm” (information taken from The Firearm Laws of Texas) or a similar statement.

In New York State, all retailers that sell firearms to customers, whether they are new or used, must provide some type of locking device with their purchase such as trigger locks, cable locks, etc. These locks do not need to be installed when sold and each device must meet certain requirements that prevent firearms from being fired. This law does not apply to sales between dealers. New York does not require buyers to secure their firearms with these devices but it is highly recommended they do. Firearm owners should check with their local authorities to determine if there are any local ordinances require otherwise. There are codes within the state that states it is a criminal violation punishable by up to 10 days imprisonment and/or a fine up to $250 for any owner to store or leave a firearm in such a manner that is out of their immediate possession or control, without making the weapon inoperable by installing a safety locking device.

While these required types of locks do protect firearms from being fired, they do not prevent them from being stolen once the buyer places them in their home. Gun cases and wood gun racks do not deter gun theft and do not qualify as safe storage. They should be secured in locking devices such as locking gun racks, firearm safes, etc. to add extra security.

Several states have passed laws that make firearm owners criminally liable if someone is injured because a child gains unsupervised access to a gun and can issue fines or jail time where children are involved depending on the circumstances.

Florida, as well as other states, has several laws and regulations regarding safe gun storage in homes as well as in vehicles. The state of Florida’s major concern is the safety for children. Anyone in violation of improper storage of firearms where children can have easy access could be subject to up to 60 days in jail and a $1000 in related fines.

The state of California, like in most all other states, requires all firearms be stored in a safe and secured manner. They also require all retail sales of firearms include a Department of Justice locking safety device or proof that the purchaser owns a firearm safe that meets regulatory standards established by the department. The types of approved devices can be found on the Department of Justice’s website…

Since State laws are constantly changing, this article is for general information and not for official use. You can check with your state and local authorities for current updates pertaining to safe gun storage laws.