State and Local Legal Blog

Memorial Day

May 31, 2010
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I’m reading Rich Relations:  The American Occupation of Britain, 1942-1945 by David Reynolds.  (Random House, New York 1995; ISBN 0-679-42161-0).  Besides being a great read (my dad flew with the 8th Air Force based from Bassingbourn, which piqued my interest in the book) it is a wonderful study in the social difficulties that a warrior encounters.  Bullets and bombs are bad enough, but our military officers and enlisted men who are assigned to a foreign field of action are also faced with the strangeness of their surroundings and issues of homesickness.

David Reynolds makes this clear when he describes the difficulties that American GI’s had in dealing with the British and British community — even though they shared a common language with the Britishers.

While Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have served for the country, we often do not think of the social difficulties — the new and foreign culture, missing family holiday celebrations, the fond longings for their home town, and the fact that while they are there for a long period of time, it’s just not home.

Veterans, I appreciate your valor, your courage, and I despair of the social difficulties that you have experienced in order to serve.

If you know a WWII veteran who was stationed in England during the European Campaign, buy him or her the book!


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Graham v. Florida

May 28, 2010
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On May 17, the U. S. Supreme Court invalidated a Florida state law that would allow juveniles to receive a life sentence for lesser offenses than murder.  Thirty-four other states have statutes similar to the Florida law that was found to violate the 8th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.  While the Court indicated that Mississippi and 9 other states have inmates who are directly affected by the ruling, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Tara Booth indicated, on the date the opinion was issued, that there was no current inmate to whom the decision would apply.

According to the Court, it is cruel and unusual punishment to allow a juvenile offender to be sentenced to life in prison without parole for a non-homicide crime.  The Court reasoned that embodied in the cruel and unusual punishment clause is “the precept that punishment for crime should be graduated and proportioned to the offense.” [Weems v. U.S.]

Representative George Flaggs of Vicksburg (D) praised the Court’s decision, opining that opportunities for release  for youthful offenders who, upon maturity, can demonstrate rehabilitation and an intention to contribute to society, can only benefit the community.

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Incumbents Beware

May 26, 2010
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Primaries occurred in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Arkansas last week.  In the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, Senator Arlen Specter, who has served in the U. S. Senate for 5 terms, was beaten by U. S. Representative Joe Sestak for the Democratic nomination.  In Kentucky, Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, defeated Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hand-picked candidate, Secretary of State Trey Grayson.  Rand Paul opposed Grayson in the Republican primary.  [Yes, this is the son of Ron Paul, Libertarian presidential candidate; and yes, pundits say that Rand is more of a Libertarian than his father.]  Paul was the “Tea Party” candidate.  In Arkansas, two longtime Democratic politicos, U. S. Senator Blanche Lincoln and Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, fought to a virtual draw and will be in a runoff.  Seems like the voters simply don’t want business as usual.

Folks are angry.  They are angry because we’re bailing out big business but not our individual families.  Because business is more important than people.

Sure, sure, sophisticated economic theories are types of things that are difficult to understand, and more difficult to appreciate if you seem to be on the short end of the stick, but until individuals who choose to represent us begin to consider the feelings of their constituencies, staying in office may be a tough row to hoe.

Americans are, after all, our greatest national resource.

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Disgusting Fashion

May 24, 2010
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I was pretty mature before I realized the difference between fashion and style.  Fashion equates with fad.  Style equates with taste.

I admit that I find many current fashions pretty disgusting, but one of my least favorite fashions is “jailin”.  Yes, that’s the technical term for wearing extremely baggy trousers barely held on the hips, usually at the point that the buttocks meet the thigh, held on by cinching a belt to keep this fashion statement from falling to the ankle. The term supposedly comes from the fact that prisoners trousers are often worn low because prisoners are often not allowed to wear belts for reasons of security.

Horn Lake, Mississippi, has had enough!  Last Tuesday (5/18/2010) the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of Horn Lake began work on an ordinance that would ban the “jailin” fashion in the town.  Mayor Nat Baker, apparently tired of viewing baggy pants and exposed underwear to boot, has responded to complaints of many Horn Lake residents about the “indecent appearances” among young people wearing saggy, baggy pants which often reveal briefs or boxers.

According to the Mayor, similar ordinances have been upheld across the country and it is now time for Horn Lake to act. Since the ordinance has not been drafted as yet, specifics are not available for consideration.

In 2009, the Tennessee Legislature considered a bill which would have made it a crime to wear pants below the waistline and expose underwear or a bare behind.  The bill died in committee.

I’ll try to keep you updated on Horn Lake and its “jailin” ordinance.  In the meantime, consider the difference between fashion and style and try to opt for the second.

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Affirmative Defenses to a Lawsuit

May 7, 2010
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The City of Jackson has had to learn the hard way this week.  The Mississippi Supreme Court denied the City the opportunity to claim affirmative defenses in a lawsuit where the facts of the case indicated that the lawsuit had been going on for 26 months and the City had been actively involved in the litigation and defense of the lawsuit, but neglected to plead additional (relevant and meritorious) affirmative defenses until 26 months after it had filed its original answer.

The case is Homer Hutzel v. City of Jackson, NO. 2008-CA-02134-SCT (5/6/2010) and can be retrieved from the Court’s website at

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