Tag Archives: Courts

Maura Ewing – Philadelphia’s New Top Prosecutor Is Rolling Out Wild, Unprecedented Criminal Justice Reforms

Link to an article by Maura Ewing:

“Philadelphia’s New Top Prosecutor Is Rolling Out Wild, Unprecedented Criminal Justice Reforms”


Bonus links: “Meet Larry Krasner” and …And the Poor Get Prison


No doubt about it, Krasner is one of the most heroic public servants in office in the U.S. today.  Nothing about Krasner’s policies is “wild” though, and it is quite sad that in this day and age they are “unprecedented” — his policies should probably be the norm not the exception.

The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives

Link to a “video” from a symposium by The Modern Money Network about the book The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives (2017) by Jesse Eisinger:

“The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives”


Admitted, this “video” is really just audio.  But Bill Black’s introductory comments make very clear how U.S. Department of Justice (non)prosecution of financial sector crimes is a matter of shifting ideology, or, more precisely, the activities of federal prosecutors really represent the outcome of an ideological war and class war over which class and which ideology will control the state and its judicial apparatus.


Bonus links: …And the Poor Get Prison and Why Not Jail? and The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology and The Fragile Absolute and The State and Revolution

Bonus quote: “Does the masses’ struggle for emancipation pose a threat to civilization as such, since civilization can thrive only in a hierarchical social order?  Or is it that the ruling class is a parasite threatening to drag society into self-destruction, so that the only alternative to socialism is barbarism?”  Slavoj Žižek, Afterword to Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin From 1917 (pp. 209-10).

D. Casey Flaherty – Law Departments and the Foundation of Law Firm Marketing Bullshit

Link to an article by D. Casey Flaherty:

“Law Departments and the Foundation of Law Firm Marketing Bullshit”


The title of this article is misleading.  The foundation of law firm marketing, and all marketing, is capitalism.  All marketing is misleading.  The entire article is confused because it makes vague references to things like improvement, efficiency, or whatever, without really explaining who benefits or in what way.  Anyway, the parts about the “lawyer theory of value” are useful, as a specific illustration of the old saying “to a hammer every problem looks like a nail.”  But that doesn’t really explain much.  The labor leader Tony Mazzocchi once said that the construction trades would “pave over the Atlantic Ocean, if given the chance.”  It is no different with lawyers and lawyering.  A rather useful frame to apply to these questions is what Paul Kivel discussed in his article “Social Service or Social Change.”  A better framework is public benefit, and a (materialist) distinction between public and private benefit.  Laywers, as part of what Kivel terms the “managerial class”, tend to look like self-interested collaborators with society’s bad actors (the exploitative “power elite”).  The Flaherty article at most sees the problem as one of degree, not of kind.  But corporate benefit — as in increased profits for shareholders of a particular company — is a stupid metric, one that presupposes capitalism and an unfair social structure.  Yet, it is also true that lawyers can do good.  Take, for instance, something that Moshe Lewin discussed in The Soviet Century, about how the Khrushchev administration dismantled the Stalinist gulag system in the former USSR and unwound the brutal system of arbitrary arrest by the NKVD through…increased use of lawyering! This latter example (drawn from a different country and historical period) illustrates a public benefit.  After all, confronting a institutions known for arbitrary persecutions leading to executions, torture and imprisonment in slave labor camps was fraught with potential peril and hardly a simple matter of self-aggrandizement.  Flaherty stops well short of concern for public benefit, discussing only private concerns within the realm of corporate law — and, it should be mentioned, the private concerns of legal consultants like Flaherty.  But if Flaherty did raise concerns about public benefit, it would probably mean eliminating corporations and corporate law departments entirely, eliminating the need for consultants like Flaherty.  The cynicism of this article reflects what Peter Sloterdijk called “enlightened false consciousness”.  Or, perhaps, this can be explained by Upton Sinclair, who long ago said it is hard to get someone to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.

David Walsh – Actor Matt Damon Comes Under Attack for His Criticisms of the Sexual Misconduct Campaign

Link to an article by David Walsh:

“Actor Matt Damon Comes Under Attack for His Criticisms of the Sexual Misconduct Campaign”

There are some useful reader comments under this article, especially from Jason Kennedy (criticizing the typical class-reductionist argument style of WSWS, which is prone to making a few sweeping, unsupported conclusions).  Trying to smear, shame and scapegoat the rich (including rich workers) undermines the effectiveness of the article by resorting to incoherent populist tactics — a problematic approach, lest Friedrich Engels‘ writings be dismissed on the same basis.

Bonus links: “Opposition Mounts to Sexual Harassment Witch-hunt” (“Under the blanket category of ‘sexual harassment,’ an extremely broad range of activity, including that which falls under the framework of normal interpersonal relations, is effectively being criminalized and associated with the horrific crime of rape. The effect is to create a situation where virtually anyone can be singled out and smeared with the charge of being a ‘sexual predator.'”) and “The Destruction of Matt Taibbi: How the Alt Right and Sloppy Reporting Smeared the ‘Rolling Stone’ Journalist” and « Nous défendons une liberté d’importuner, indispensable à la liberté sexuelle »

Bill Henderson – The Decline of the PeopleLaw Sector (037)

Link to an article by Bill Henderson:

“The Decline of the PeopleLaw Sector (037)”


This article conveys some useful factual information, but the commentary is troublingly limited.  The article states, “Our legal system as it pertains to ordinary people is unraveling.  *** No amount of tinkering at the edges is going to fix or reverse these trends. Instead, we need a series of fundamental redesigns.”  It then proceeds to suggest…tinkering at the edges.  The fundamental problem with the article is that it depoliticizes a fundamentally political issue, and then proceeds to suggest at most technocratic fixes at the edges that don’t touch the underlying political question.  That question?  Well, anti-labor, pro-business and pro-finance policies are at the heart of the so-called neo-liberal political project, inaugurated by things like the Trilateral Commission’s report warning about an “excess of democracy” or the infamous Powell Memo.  The decline of what Henderson calls the “PeopleLaw Sector” is just a small corollary to the intended political policies of neo-liberalism, which tends to be just a financialized version of the exclusionary logic of liberalism — which has always promoted economic polarization.  Anyway, the root problem is the extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of corporations and a small plutocratic elite.  Lawyers (like so many others!) generally follow the money, and also seek prestige, and most lawyers won’t be swayed by exhortations and moral chiding to forego money and prestige.  And frankly, the economic base for them to do so is shaky and limited without changes to the economy that are only possible in the realm of politics.  Henderson links to an article by Deborah Merritt, which further emphasizes minor technocratic fixes, mostly surrounding law school education.  Neither article addresses the problem of decreasing public funding for higher education, including law schools, which has the (intended) effect of pushing lawyers to accept corporate jobs to pay off the staggering tuition costs (increasingly pushed away from the state and onto students). Pierre Bourdieu usefully developed the metaphor of the left hand and the right hand of the state to make a similar point.

Henderson is correct, to a point, that “we are either going to redesign our legal institutions or they will fail.”  (Assuming he means they fail for most people; the current institutions are quite effective for the so-called “1%” [or really the “0.001%”] at present).  But redesigns to legal institutions without large redesigns of political institutions that shape the overall economy will produce no long-term changes.  But of course, Henderson doesn’t seem to want that.  He writes about finding “creative ways to restore the balance.”  What historical balance, precisely, is he referring to?  Is this yet another (implied) invocation of the “Keynesian” post-WWII “golden years” of prosperity, which depended on things like the destruction of industrial capacity in much of the world, racial discrimination, sexism/patriarchy, financial imperialism, wanton environmental destruction, etc.?  I don’t think there was a time in the past that we can say had anything close to a reasonable “balance” in the American legal system.  Reference to “balance” is just coded language in a way parallel to the slogan “Make America great again.”

I guess, in short, my major concern is that Henderson seems to suggest narrowly framing symptoms of class warfare in the legal sector as root problems that permit sufficient technocratic fixes solely within the legal sector, bracketing out the larger society-wide political dimension of class warfare (and avoiding a class-based materialist analysis in general) that better explains the origins of the (very real) downstream symptoms he chronicles in the legal sector.  For the kind of analysis I would like to see Henderson engage in, see Jeffrey Reiman’s …And the Poor Get Prison (which deals just with criminal justice).