A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Archive for May, 2012

Occupy Journalism!

occupylasis

By LASIS Staff

The LASIS team demands excellence, of ourselves and other journalists, too, and we took to the streets to protest for quality reporting.

Click here to view enlarged photo and see from left to right, back row: (Publisher) Jethro Lieberman, with megaphone; Jessica McElroy, demanding punctuation; Jaclyn Tyndorf, loving free speech; Leah Braukman, needing nothing but LASIS; and (Editor) Michelle Zierler and Drew Carroll, with raised arms, Occupying LLAW Street. From left to right, front row: Ryan Morrison enjoying a mid-protest smoke; Meghan Lalonde, singing her heart out; and Halina Schiffman Shilo, earnestly studying her iPad.

We wiill be taking time off for a while while our reporters are busy with their summer jobs.  We may have an infrequent post or two but for the most part, this is it for a while.

We thank you for reading us, and for all your comments, and wish all of you a great summer!

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Thinking About Breaking Up a Marriage? It Could Cost You.

Third Wheel

 

By Jessica McElroy

Mississippi plumber Johnny Valentine and his wife Sandra Day wed in 1993 and didn’t enjoy the happiest of marriages. Mr. Valentine was a drinker and gambler who showed no signs of changing no matter how many times the missus threatened to leave.  In 1998, an unhappy and fed up Ms. Day began having an affair with her boss, Jerry Fitch, a wealthy oil and real estate businessman.

The following year, Ms. Day gave birth to a baby girl whom Mr. Valentine assumed was his daughter– until he didn’t.  Seven months after the little girl was born, Mr. Valentine took a paternity test.  He’d been right to be suspicious; the girl was Mr. Fitch’s child. Ms. Day continued adulterous relationship with Mr. Fitch, and Mr. Valentine filed for divorce.

Shortly after that, Mr. Valentine brought another suit – this time, against Mr. Fitch – essentially accusing him of stealing his wife.  Mr. Valentine won, and earlier this year,  the Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the jury verdict against Mr. Fitch including $754,500 in compensatory and punitive damages– plus 8 percent annual interest.

Yikes.

Mr. Fitch’s big payout to Mr. Valentine came courtesy of Mississippi’s common law tort of alienation of affection.

LASIS wasn’t even aware that such a law, even if on the books, could still being litigated in today’s courts. It may not be nice to have an affair with someone married but how the heck can it be illegal?  We were intrigued, and investigated.   (more…)

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Public Bike Share Delays, Snafus, and Improprieties

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By LASIS Staff

It hasn’t made big headlines yet.  But look carefully, and you’ll find that the media has been chirping about the city of Chicago’s selection of the company to run its public bike share system, which looks like it may have been less than kosher.

A formal protest was launched by Josh Squire ,President of Bike Chicago, who alleges that “the entire RFP process was tainted.”

Mr. Squire competed and lost in the Chicago contest.

So are his allegations legitimate or just sour grapes?

We reviewed the complaint, and in our estimation, Mr. Squire has it right.  There were many improprieties, and lots Chicago will now have to answer for.

With public bike shares rolling out all across the country, we wondered whether any other cities might be guilty of improper conduct. And though we can’t say for sure, we didn’t have to look further than our own backyard.

New York City Department of Transportation:  Say it ain’t so.  (more…)

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Go Ahead, Critique the Commander-in-Chief

Marines

By Russell Smith

President Obama hasn’t hesitated to silence critics of his military policy.

First, he kept Private Bradley Manning in solitary confinement for months after Pvt. Manning allegedly leaked thousands of military documents revealing U.S. human rights abuses to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. Then President Obama pressured Yemen to jail a journalist who uncovered evidence that the U.S. was lying about missiles lent to Yemen and used in a strike that killed Yemeni citizens. Now President Obama is discharging U.S. Marine Corp Sergeant Gary Stein for posting critical comments of the president and his military leadership on Facebook.

Sgt. Stein is 26 years-old, a nine-year veteran, and a Tea Partier. His Facebook group, Armed Forces Tea Party, critiques liberal politicians and policies. An example the group’s sharp wit: superimposing the faces of President Obama, Vice President Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi onto the movie poster for “The Incredibles“, but with renamed title, “The Horribles“.

Okay, not that witty. But perfectly legal.

In 2010, the notoriety of the Armed Forces Tea Party got Sgt. Stein an invite to appear on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” – but at the Marine Corps’ command, Sgt. Stein declined. At the time, Sgt. Stein was also directed to put a disclaimer on the Armed Forces Tea Party group, indicating it was not affiliated with the Marine Corps. He agreed and did so.

But two years later, Sgt. Stein received notice that his political postings constituted “serious misconduct” mandating the termination of his service to his country.

Sgt. Stein’s “other-than-honorable” discharge – resulting in a loss of rank and veteran’s benefits – has drawn reactions from politicians to pundits. Lawyers from the ACLU and the U.S. Justice Foundation have claimed that discharging Sgt. Stein for his political speech would violate his first amendment rights and have pledged to file a federal lawsuit on his behalf.  But some members of the media disagree, arguing that soldiers must give up their first amendment rights and fall in line behind their commander-in-chief.   (more…)

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