Jan 23, 2014

Measures Schools Are Taking To Reduce Risk of Mass Shootings

These steps will be exponentially more effective in saving lives than any gun control regulations:

School administrators across the country have worked with police departments in recent years to create detailed plans to secure their schools, an effort that was redoubled after the December 2012 shootings in Newtown, Conn. At the whiff of a threat, teachers are now instructed to snap off the lights, lock their doors and usher their students into corners and closets. School officials call the police. Students huddle in their classrooms for minutes or hours, texting one another, playing cards and board games, or just waiting until they get the all clear.

“They kept saying, ‘Lock your doors and keep everyone away from the windows,’ ” said Rebecca Grossman, a 10th grader at Watertown High School, outside Boston, where students have been forced to “shelter in place” three times this school year, a less serious version of a full lockdown.

The lockdowns were more disruptive than scary, Rebecca said, like the time last month when a bullet was discovered in a classroom, and she and her classmates had to stay in place for four hours. She said the litany of false alarms was desensitizing students, who have come to see the responses as “just an annoyance.”

The lockdowns are part of a constellation of new security measures deployed by schools over the last decade, a complement to closed-circuit cameras, doors that lock automatically and police officers in the building. Most states have passed laws requiring schools to devise safety plans, and several states, including Michigan, Kentucky and North Dakota, specifically require lockdown drills.

I have talked about similar concerns with professors at my law school. Currently, there is absolutely no way to lock a classroom from the inside. The doors can be locked from the outside but I have no key. Also, there is no moveable furniture that can be used to barricade the doors. I think, and worry about these kinds of things.

For example, this story references the incident at Arapahoe high school. By following these procedures, lives were saved.

Last month, when an 18-year-old student walked into his high school in suburban Denver and fatally shot a classmate in the head, students huddled in their classrooms behind locked doors as police commandos swept the building. They were evacuated classroom by classroom, hands over their heads, onto the snowy playing fields, all according to a plan school officials had put in place to prepare for just such an emergency.

“The staff and students knew how to safely lock down and then evacuate the school,” Scott Murphy, the district schools superintendent, wrote to parents after the shooting at Arapahoe High School in Colorado, praising what he called a well-coordinated response. “They acted quickly, appropriately, and bravely.”

These steps are consistent with a recent report from Texas State University which suggests the most effective way to halt mass shootings is for armed officers to rush the shooter right away, rather than waiting to assemble a team.


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Jan 23, 2014

WSJ Tries to Delicately Nudge Justice Scalia on Harris v. Quinn

Out of an abundance of concern that Justice Scalia may provide the 5th vote to uphold the labor practice at issue in Harris v. Quinn, the WSJ Editorial Page asks, oh so nicely, for Justice Scalia to do the right thing and strike it down.

This week’s Supreme Court oral argument in Harris v. Quinn showed that four Justices seem ready to provide a major victory for First Amendment rights over monopoly union power. The conservative Justice on the fence seems to be none other than Antonin Scalia, whose concerns as always are serious and deserve a response.

We realize this is getting into the legal weeds, and tangling with Justice Scalia is one of life’s more harrowing experiences. But the High Court has a major opportunity to restore a first constitutional principle—dare we say even an originalist one—and we’d hate to see such a stalwart supporter of the First Amendment as Justice Scalia join the liberals in forfeiting this chance.

 Pretty please Nino, with sugar on top!

This is not quite like telling Chief Justice Roberts to grow back bone, but it’s the same idea.

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Jan 23, 2014

Dorf on the spat between Ginsburg and Sotomayor in Bauman

I previously blogged about the back-and-forth between Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor in Bauman over the scope of 1952 case of Perkins v. Benguet. Mike Dorf sheds some light on what may have happened here:

 For example, Josh Blackman nicely captures the substance and tone of the exchange–including dueling accusations that the other side is dishonestly reading either prior cases or the record–and also notes a prior occasion when other Justices have made similar accusations against Justice Sotomayor.

Moreover, the testiness is most testy over how to read the somewhat cryptic 1952 case of Perkins v. Benguet.  It’s hard to see why anyone would get especially exercised about such an arcane question, unless there was some pre-existing animosity.

So, what’s the deal?  Are eight Justices ganging up on Justice Sotomayor because of her tendency at oral argument to interrupt lawyers before they are finished answering questions posed by her colleagues?  Did Justice Sotomayor take more than her fair share of nuts from the communal candy dish at the Court’s holiday party?

Before everyone gets too excited, let me suggest a more banal explanation. The most pointed digs in the respective opinions appear in footnotes.  The footnotes in the Ginsburg majority opinion that respond to the Sotomayor opinion would have likely been added after the other Justices had joined in Ginsburg’s opinion. And although the Ginsbug footnotes are hard-hitting, they don’t exactly come right out and say “Justice Sotomayor is a liar”, so it’s not surprising that the seven Justices who joined Ginsburg’s opinion did not thereafter beseech her to remove the tough footnotes.

Put differently, Justice Sotomayor probably “started it”, and did so entirely on the merits:  she was worried that the majority opinion was constraining plaintiffs’ rights to sue.  Meanwhile, Justice Ginsburg may well have taken some offense at the accusation, both as a civil procedure expert and as someone who sees herself as sympathetic to plaintiffs.  From there, things could have easily escalated as each of the Justices’ respective law clerks looked for any ammunition they could find.  Of course, each Justice bears responsibility for accepting what her respective law clerks may have proposed adding to the footnotes, but it is easy to imagine that no one was paying all that much attention to the tone of the footnotes.

So yes, it’s possible that some of the snark reflects underlying personal tensions, but the case is no smoking gun.

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Jan 23, 2014

$7 Million Renoir Painting, Stolen From Baltimore Museum in 1951 and Bought at West Virginia Flea Market in 2009, Returned to Museum

This is a case made for property nerds. When teaching adverse possession, a common case in textbooks is O’Keeffe v. Snyder. Long story short, a painting was stolen from Georgia O’Keeffee and passed hands for several decades. Finally, when it was discovered, O’Keeffe sought the return of the painting. The current owner claimed adverse possession because he had owned it for some years. The New Jersey Supreme Court opinion was muddled, and didn’t clearly resolve the obvious issue–how could someone keeping a painting on display in a private home satisfy the open and notorious element?

We have a similar case out of the Eastern District of Virginia: In Re: “Paysage Bords De Seine”, 1879 Unsigned Oil Painting on Linen By Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Reuters has a good summary of the issues.

A napkin-size Renoir painting bought for $7 at a flea market but valued at up to $100,000 must be returned to the museum it was stolen from in 1951, a federal judge ordered on Friday.

The 1879 Impressionist painting “Paysage Bords de Seine,” dashed off for his mistress by Pierre-Auguste Renoir at a riverside restaurant, has been at the center of a legal tug-of-war between Marcia “Martha” Fuqua, a former physical education teacher from Lovettsville, Virginia, and the Baltimore Museum of Art in Maryland.

Judge Leonie Brinkema, in a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, dismissed Fuqua’s claim of ownership, noting that a property title cannot be transferred if it resulted from a theft.

“The museum has put forth an extensive amount of documentary evidence that the painting was stolen,” Brinkema said, citing a 1951 police report and museum records.

“All the evidence is on the Baltimore museum’s side. You still have no evidence – no evidence – that this wasn’t stolen,” said Brinkema to Fuqua’s attorney before ruling in favor of the museum.

Here is the key analysis from the opinion:



Alas, there was no adverse possession argument. I suspect the current owner could not establish who owned it before her to establish the tacking necessary to satisfy Virginia’s adverse possession period.

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