Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/10/14: Presidential Pardons

The President is given the pardon power for federal crimes under Art. II, section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment”. Pardon petitions are addressed to the President but usually referred further to the Office of the Pardon Attorney for a non-binding recommendation. A symbolic use of this power is the annual pardoning of a turkey as part of the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/3/14: Parole

Parole–the discretionary, provisional release of an inmate who agrees to abide by the terms of his or her early release–can be said to have its origins in antiquity, when soldiers defeated in battle pledged not to take up arms again in exchange for their release. Parole in the U.S. criminal justice system is a fairly recent invention, first introduced in 1876 in New York’s Elmira Reformatory.

Do-It-Yourself Lawyering in 1845

Well, one of my 2014 resolutions is to find a better balance between writing blogs (which I’ve sorely neglected of late) and my other online and published work. As such, I’ve decided to embrace inspiration as it comes. The other … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/20/14: Habeas Corpus

Meaning “you may have the body”, habeas corpus is a writ (officially known as habeas corpus ad subjiciendum) that requires a person tbe brought before a court to determine if their detention is lawful. The petitioner does not require standing in … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/6/14: Scofflaw

The word scofflaw, while often thought to be of ancient origin, was actually created through a contest held in 1921. A wealthy banker in Quincy, MA sponsored a contest offering $200 to anyone who coined a word to describe people who violated … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 12/9/13: The CSI Effect

The so-called CSI Effect–named after the hit t.v. show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its progeny–refers to the theory that these shows have an impact on real juries in criminal cases. In them, highly-trained lab specialists with limitless budgets and the … Continue reading

‘To shudder at the bare recital of those acts’: Child Abuse, Family, and Montreal Courts in the Early Nineteenth Century

‘To shudder at the bare recital of those acts‘: Child Abuse, Family, and Montreal Courts in the Early Nineteenth Century, in G. Blaine Baker and Donald Fyson, eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law, vol. XI, Quebec and the Canadas … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/25/13: Suing Satan!

In 1971 a plaintiff filed a pauper’s suit in U.S. District Court, on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated, against Satan and his servants. Plaintiff alleged that Satan had “threatened him, caused him misery, impeded his course in … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/11/13: Vermont’s Only Capital Crime

While Vermont abolished the death penalty in 1965, it still has one capital crime on the books: treason. Vermont law states that “[a] person owing allegiance to this state, who levies war or conspires to levy war against the same, … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/28/13: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Under Massachusetts law, gift certificates must remain valid for a minimum of seven years. They are required to have an expiry and issuance date specified on them (or, in the case of electronic gift cards, this must be on the … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/14/13: Good Samaritan Laws

Good Samaritan laws, often confused with duty to rescue laws, provide immunity against tort claims for those who attempt to rescue someone in peril.  In general, however, these laws provide immunity if the peril was imminent, if the rescuer obtained consent, … Continue reading