Constitutional/Human Rights Law

I am writing this post for members and friends of the Oklahoma chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Please feel free to share this elsewhere. I think it may be timely given recent overreaction of OKC police to peaceful protest activities against the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Things to remember when being questioned by the police

NLG Logo

1. It is legal for the police to lie to you to get you to talk. The cops will often tell people that “we are just trying to help your friend. If you can tell us what you know, your friend won’t get in trouble.” Don’t believe it.

2. But, it is illegal for you to lie to the police. And yes they can and will prosecute you for this (even though they can lie to you with impunity).

3. Thankfully it is legal to refuse to talk to the police.

4. If the police come to your door and do not have a warrant, you do not have to let them. The best thing to do is not even open the door.

5. If the police are insistent that you talk to them, tell them you need to talk to your attorney first. Ask for their business card and tell them you will have your attorney contact them. And then contact us at the Oklahoma NLG for assistance in finding an attorney.

A more detailed discussion of these issues can be found in the National Lawyers Guild brochure – You have the right to remain silent


WHO: PFC Cliff Cornell, a native of Mountain Home, Arkansas, who was recently deported from Canada after having fled there to avoid the illegal war in Iraq

WHAT: The U.S. Army has prosecuted PFC Cornell under a General Court-Martial. A hearing will be held to accept PCF Cornell’s guilty plea and to argue over what the sentence should be.

WHEN: April 28, 2009, 2:15 p.m.

WHERE: Fort Stewart Courthouse, near Hinesville, GA

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Civilian attorney James M. Branum will be available for interviews following the trial by telephone at 405-476-5620 or 1-866-933-ARMY. (we anticipate this will be in the evening)

News about the ongoing campaign to free PFC Cornell from being unjustly imprisoned for his beliefs can be found soon at

The People’s Forum: HR 875 The food police, criminalizing organic farming and the backyard gardener

Campaign for Liberty: HR 875 The food police, criminalizing organic farming and the backyard gardener, and violation of the 10th amendment

Red flags I found and I am sure there are more………..

* Legally binds state agriculture depts to enforcing federal guidelines effectively taking away the states power to do anything other than being food police for the federal dept.
* Effectively criminalizes organic farming but doesn’t actually use the word organic.
* Effects anyone growing food even if they are not selling it but consuming it.
* Effects anyone producing meat of any kind including wild game.
* Legislation is so broad based that every aspect of growing or producing food can be made illegal. There are no specifics which is bizarre considering how long the legislation is.
* Section 103 is almost entirely about the administrative aspect of the legislation. It will allow the appointing of officials from the factory farming corporations and lobbyists and classify them as experts and allow them to determine and interpret the legislation. Who do you think they are going to side with?
* Section 206 defines what will be considered a food production facility and what will be enforced up all food production facilities. The wording is so broad based that a backyard gardener could be fined and more.
* Section 207 requires that the state’s agriculture dept act as the food police and enforce the federal requirements. This takes away the states power and is in violation of the 10th amendment.

There are many more but by the time I got this far in the legislation I was so alarmed that I wanted to bring someone’s attention to it. (to the one person who reads my blog)

Didn’t Stalin nationalize farming methods that enabled his administration to gain control over the food supply? Didn’t Stalin use the food to control the people? Monsanto’s Dream Bill, HR 875

HR 875, was introduced by Rosa DeLauro whose husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto.

The bill is monstrous on level after level – the power it would give to Monsanto, the criminalization of seed banking, the prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers, the 24 hours GPS tracking of their animals, the easements on their property to allow for warrantless government entry, the stripping away of their property rights, the imposition by the filthy, greedy industrial side of anti-farming international “industrial” standards to independent farms – the only part of our food system that still works, the planned elimination of farmers through all these means

Here’s the letter I just sent to Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas (minority leader of the Ag committee) on the subject:

Dear Congressman Lucas,

I just found out about HR 875. I am very concerned about it, because it would mandate that state departments of agriculture would enforce federal regulations and could in turn lead to the end of organic gardening and agriculture.

The government has no business in my garden. I live on my late grandparents’ old farm and try to grow as much of my own food as possible, using sustainable and organic methods. I am afraid that HR 875 could some day lead to the government being able to regulate or even forbid me from doing this, as it defines “food production facility” very broadly, effectively meaning that a garden that grows produce for my own consumption could potentially fall under governmental regulation.

I understand that you are on the committee that will be considering this bill. Please do all you can to kill it.

James M. Branum

I also will add that I for one will be breaking this law if it passes.

Yesterday marked yet another sad day, in a long line of sad days in Oklahoma.

I was in the room and saw it with my own eyes as 10 of our state Senators voted against Randy Brogden’s bill to reform Oklahoma’s horridly undemocratic ballot access laws. I’m going to email the Senate Rules Committee Staff and Chair to make sure I got the votes correct, but as soon as I get confirmation I’ll post the names of those who deserve shame for voting against democracy and those who deserve praise for taking a stand for equality and fairness.

For now though, I must say I have tremendous gratitude for Republican Randy Brogden bringing the bill to the floor. I was very struck by his eloquence in arguing on behalf of the bill. I was also struck by the silence of the opponents of the bill. Most didn’t want to go on the record as opposing democracy so instead they just were silent during debate and then let their votes hit. (the only comments I recalled was one guy cracking a joke about whether Randy would support his bill, and another person who was worried if the ballot access retention standards were based on the state or federal vote count)

I was stunned and outraged at this point and decided to speak my mind (even if I was disruptive), and told the committee, quite loudly as I was storming out of the room, “It’s good to see that Oklahoma isn’t a democracy.” — Not my most eloquent moment for sure, but I had to say something. I wanted the “Gang of 10” to know what they had done.

The fight isn’t over though. I don’t know what it will take, but somehow these laws have to change, as I frankly don’t see the point in voting anymore as long as you don’t get to vote for people of other political parties.

For more information on this issue, please check out the good folks at OBAR (Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform)

CNN: Israel prepares legal defense of soldiers

JERUSALEM (CNN) — Israel’s government on Sunday approved a measure that will give legal protection to its military officers if they are accused of war crimes during the Gaza incursion, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said.

“The state of Israel will completely back anyone that acted in its name,” Olmert said Sunday at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “The soldiers and commanders that were sent on missions in Gaza need to know that they are safe from different tribunals.

“Israel will assist them and protect them as they physically protected us during the operation in Gaza,” he said.

The logic here is pretty amazing and absurd.

The basics of International law, as codified under The Nuremburg Principles make it clear that “following orders” is not an excuse for war crimes.

Here are two portions of the Principles that are revelant here…

Principle II – The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law…

Principle IV – The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.

To me the Israeli state’s decision to protect officers who may have committed war crimes (to say nothing of the culpable political leaders who are liable under principle III of the Nuremburg principles) is not a far stretch from the actions of those who helped Nazi war criminal escape justice by fleeing to South America.

As I have said before on this blog, I am not anti-Jewish. I do think in the end that some form of a two-state solution (provided that monetary compensation is made to displaced Palestinians for land that would be retained by Israel) is the best solution to the situation.

But I am disgusted to see the Israeli state continue to act without any sanction against the people of Palestine, and now to see the Israeli state defy international law like this is beyond the pale.

I know that irony is not the right word to describe this, but it is absurd to see a nation created as a refuge for victims of the holocaust, now use the very tactics of the Nazis to defend their actions. It is shameful and must be called for what it is.

This is an update to an earlier blog post.

I have been reviewing the initial case documents in this case and I am stunned. I think the allegations are likely true, but if even 10% of the allegations are true, this is a horrible, horrible travesty that must be addressed.

The complaint includes accounts of gross sexual harassment (and I would argue even assault when a male professor uses in appropriate physical contact with a female professor) of other professors, law students and undergraduate work study students; sexual discrimination (including a practice of promoting equally qualified male professors over female professors and paying male professors more than female professors); and an atmosphere that mocks and belittles those who think that women and racial minorities have a place at the table for events like Constitution Day.

Since these documents are in the public domain (see, I am publishing them here. OCU Law apparentely has done its best to minimize these complaints and brush them under the rug. I think it is time to shine some light on this situation.

* Document 1-1 – “The Complaint”
* Document 1-2 – “Confidential Memo to William J. Conger dated October 17, 2007”
* Document 1-3 – “Grievane for Sexual and Racial Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation and Failure to Following University Policies and Procedures, dated April 16, 2008”
* Document 1-4 – “Protocol: Procedures for Faculty-Discrimination panels convened under subsection IX(A) of the Faculty Handbook”
* Document 1-5 – “OCU Whistle Blowing Policy”
* Document 1-6 – “Letter to OCU Law Faculty from William J. Conger”
* Document 1-7 – “EEOC Charge of Discrimination”
* Document 1-8 – “EEOC Dismissal”
* Document 1-9 – “Civil Cover Sheet”

I will publish later case documents as well as my finances permit (PACER charges 8 cents per page to access these documents in the public domain). Certainly it is fair to hear the responses to the complaint by Dean Hellman and OCU Law.

I now have all of my picture from the march uploaded (that took forever… lots of cropping and tweaking, especially to deal with low light conditions at the end of the march).

The photos are organized into 2 galleries…

Part 1

August 27, 2008 These pictures are of the first part of the march, from where I caught up with it in downtown Denver to the first “confrontation site” where IVAW lined up in formation facing the DNC secured convention site. Initially participants though that there would be civil disobedience happening at the site, but a decision was made out of safety concerns (this location was one in which protesters were boxed into a very small area) to march back to the front of the building

Part 2

These pictures are all from the 2nd part of the march. IVAW led the march to the other side (I think the North side) of the secured convention area to present their demands to the DNC and the Obama campaign. Protesters were told that there was a possibility of arrest during this portion of the march. The police buildup was huge during this time of action, but thankfully the risk of police violence and/or arrest was averted. I believe the order of these pictures is roughly chronological (the last few are of my dog and I riding a pedicab back to the car if you are wondering)

Washington Post/MSNBC: Beijing curbs religious rights — Christian activists detail harassment

. . . Officially, China allows worship only at registered churches belonging to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a government-controlled organization of about 25 million members founded in the 1950s to free China from foreign funds and foreign influence. Beijing has about 30 official Protestant and Catholic churches.

But many members of China’s rapidly growing Christian community prefer to worship in unofficial or underground churches where there are no restrictions on teaching children and where leaders are not controlled by the Communist Party. House church membership ranges from 50 million to 100 million nationwide, activists say, with as many as 1,000 unregistered churches in Beijing that include tiny congregations that meet in people’s bedrooms.

. . . “An important reason for the crackdown is the Olympics. This year, Chinese leaders face more pressure from outside groups, house churches and even ordinary individual citizens,” said Fan Yafeng, a law professor at the Institute of Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a leader of the 80-member Sina house church. “The Public Security Bureau always misuses its power. . . . They have lost their humanity.”

“In the Olympic Village, you can find religious freedom. Maybe some foreigners can worship,” Fan said. “But I tell you, the real crisis in China now is that there are no reformers left. The power struggle among the leadership is for power, not reform. To have real political reform, they would lose their power.”

MSNBC: Bush sharpens China criticism — President singles lack of freedoms, including religious expression

. . . “This trip has reaffirmed my belief that men and women who aspire to speak their conscience and worship their God are no threat to the future of China,” Bush said, adding that the United States had “made it clear that trusting their people with greater freedom is necessary for China to reach its full potential.”

I am glad that Bush is speaking out in China. I still think it was a bad idea for him to attend the Olympics, but if he was going to, I’m glad that he has taken a more strident pro-freedom stance that he had previously articulated.

On a somewhat related note, I think it is worth noting (based on the statistics cited in the first article), that there 25 million members of the government sanctioned protestant Christian Three Self Patriotic movement (see wikipedia article), while there are an estimated 50-100 million members of unauthorized Christian churches.

One has to wonder why the majority of Protestant Christians in China (maybe Catholic Christians too, but i don’t have ready access to stats on them) chose to be members of illegal unauthorized churches? I think in large part it is because they see that a self-professed “patriotic” church, is no church at all. Part of being a follower of Christ, is subscribing to the idea that one’s true citizenship and highest calling is to the Kingdom of Heaven, and that the dictates of God and conscience are higher than the dictates of the state.

It is ironic that in China the majority of Protestant Christians are actively resisting the heresy of patriotic Christianity, while the majority of American Protestants are actively adopting the heresy.

I think the Chinese believers are right. Every time the church has become too cozy with the state, bad things have happened. The two big examples that come to mind are: (1) how the Christian faith became militaristic and void of meaning after Constantine legalized the religion in the Roman empire and then co-opted it for his own purposes and (2) when theologians in Germany preached that faith and state should be one, and then Hitler came along and turned the church into a fundamental backer of his regime and the holocaust.

I don’t think we should thumb our noses at the law without cause, but if the law and our consciences conflict, then we should defy the law. Churches are supposed to support that notion. In China, most people seem to understand that. I wish American Christians would wake up to this truth too.

I have been torn about the Olympics controvery for some time and haven’t said much here because of my contradicting concerns.

Generally, I believe that the concept of the Olympics has merit. The original Olympics was an actual time of truce in which all of the wars stopped for the games. Today, the wars continue on during the Olympics, but at least in principal there is the idea that the games provide a chance for all nations (even enemies) to come together and compete against each other in a context other than war. And as a child of the 80’s, I felt that dueling boycotts of the USA and USSR of the games were an unfortunate thing.

However, the situation in China is atrocious right now. I understand that not all of my readers will agree with me, but from my perspective (as a person of a Democratic-Socialist political persuasion), China is currently on a horrible path. It has adopted the worst of both of the dominant political systems of the last century: from the USSR model a repressive and totalitarian political environment, and from the USA model, a cut-throat capitalist system that is widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

More precisely, the PROC (People’s Republic of China) regime is committing the following wrongs as I see it…

1. It imprisons independent journalists and anyone who dares to ask too many questions.

2. Contrary to the rosy views of some (including my alma mater, OCU School of Law) it is now cracking down on the rights of Attorneys.

3. It horribly censors the Internet.

4. It persecutes people of all faiths (including Buddhists, Christians and practioners of Falon Gong).

5.  It is treating the rural poor like dirt, while allowing the upper classes to become filthy rich.

6. It has “one-child-only” policies that force parents to abort pregnancies after their first child’s birth.

7. It continues to enslave the people of Tibet.

8. It continues to imprison many of the brave young men and women who protested at Tiannenmen Square in 1989.

9. It is rapidly arming itself to the teeth (of the USA is a far bigger wrong-doer in this regard, but the USA being wrong doesn’t make the PROC right).

This is only the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even touched issues such as environmental justice, the rights of other ethnic minorities in China besides the Tibetans, etc.

The more I think about it, the spectacle of the Olympics is just that, a spectacle. I wish it actually represented the values of fair sport and peace, but it doesn’t today. Instead it is big money-making racket that is being used to give legitmacy to one of the most represive regimes on earth.

For me, reading this website ( is what pushed me to the point of deciding to publicly protest the Beijing Olympics. Things are not only bad in China, but are getting worse, and that worsening of the situation I think is in large part due to the Olympics.

So that’s why I’m taking the stance that I am. I encourage all of my readers to follow the link on the side of this blog to the Reporters without Borders website to read more about the situation and planned actions of protest.