Category Archives: drugs

Jah on their side…

This article about the collapse of a legal trial against some Rastafarians cracks me up.

Apparently the five Rastas had been charged with cannabis dealing, and the trial had been running for two weeks when one of the police officers recognised a paralegal from the defence team for one of the defendants. The paralegal was said to have telephoned the police and complained about alleged drug running at the Rastafarian temple, although she denied this. What were the chances of that?

The trial descended into chaos, and the prosecution decided not to tender any further evidence. The judge decided that the defendants should be acquitted.

(Hat tip to Dave Bath at Balneus)

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Filed under courts, crazy stuff, criminal law, drugs, law, religion, society

Carrots that eat milk

When my sister and I were little, we came up with the sentence which is the title of this post (during a trip to Jenolan Caves). We found it hilarious because it made no sense. Carrots are incapable of eating, and even if they were capable, they couldn’t “eat” milk anyway. Yeah, we were strange little kids.

Dave from Balneus has drawn my attention to this interesting linguistic analysis of the US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Morse v Frederick, also known as the “Bong HiTS 4 Jesus” case. The events took place on 24 January 2002 when the Olympic Torch Relay passed through Juneau in Alaska, en route to Salt Lake City in Utah for the Winter Olympic Games. The Torch Relay passed by Juneau-Douglas High School, and the principal, Deborah Morse, decided to let students watch it. As the torchbearers and camera crew passed by the high school, Frederick and his friends unfurled a 14-foot banner which read “Bong HiTS 4 Jesus”. Morse immediately crossed the street and asked the students to take the banner down. Everyone but Frederick complied. Morse then confiscated the banner and suspended Frederick for 10 days. This was upheld by the school administration. Frederick then brought a legal action alleging that his First Amendment right to freedom of speech had been violated. It went all the way to the Supreme Court.

A majority of the Supreme Court upheld the school’s actions, saying the school was within its rights to cause Frederick to take the banner down. Roberts CJ said:

At least two interpretations of the words on the banner demonstrate that the sign advocated the use of illegal drugs. First, the phrase could be interpreted as an imperative: “”[Take] bong hits –” . . .”—a message equivalent, as Morse explained in her declaration, to “smoke marijuana” or “use an illegal drug.” Alternatively, the phrase could be viewed as celebrating drug use — “—“bong hits [are a good thing],” or “[we take] bong hits” — ”—and we discern no meaningful distinction between celebrating illegal drug use in the midst of fellow students and outright advocacy or promotion.

Accordingly, the school had a right to prohibit banners such as that displayed by Frederick.

The minority found that the school did not have a right to prohibit the banner because it did not advocate drug use. In fact, the minority was of the opinion that the banner said very little of sense whatsoever:

To the extent the Court independently finds that BONG HiTS 4 JESUS” objectively amounts to the advocacy of illegal drug use—in other words, that it can most reasonably be interpreted as such—that conclusion practically refutes itself. This is a nonsense message, not advocacy. The Court’s feeble effort to divine its hidden meaning is strong evidence of that. Ante at 7 (positing that the banner might mean, alternatively, “‘[Take] bong hits,’ ‘bong hits [are a good thing]”,” or “”‘[we take] bong hits’”). Frederick’’s credible and uncontradicted explanation for the message— — he just wanted to get on television— — is also relevant because a speaker who does not intend to persuade his audience can hardly be said to be advocating anything. But most importantly, it takes real imagination to read a “cryptic” message…with a slanting drug reference as an incitement to drug use. Admittedly, some high school students (including those who use drugs) are dumb. Most students, however, do not shed their brains at the schoolhouse gate, and most students know dumb advocacy when they see it. The notion that the message on this banner would actually persuade either the average student or even the dumbest one to change his or her behavior is most implausible. That the Court believes such a silly message can be proscribed as advocacy underscores the novelty of its position, and suggests that the principle it articulates has no stopping point. Even if advocacy could somehow be wedged into Frederick’’s obtuse reference to marijuana, that advocacy was at best subtle and ambiguous. … If this were a close —case, the tie would have to go to Frederick’’s speech, not to the principal’’s strained reading of his quixotic message.

The linguistic analysis of the judgment finds the minority opinion more convincing. Bill Poser says:

That an ill-formed or incomplete utterance might have no semantic interpretation is of course completely uncontroversial. Thus, from a linguistic point of view, it is perfectly possible that the words on the banner might have meant nothing at all. Frederick’s explanation of his motivation for displaying the banner provides a plausible account of his use of words that did not mean anything.

It is a silly message. It is deliberately courting controversy by mingling marijuana use with the name Jesus. Nevertheless, if I were a Christian, I suspect I would find it offensive. As a non-Christian, I simply find it ridiculous and childish. But as far as I can see, “Bong HiTS 4 Jesus” has no clear meaning, and makes no more sense than my sister’s and my phrase “carrots that eat milk”.

I can’t help noticing the irony that Frederick’s message (whatever it means) has gotten far more exposure than it otherwise might have done if the school had just told him off and dismissed it as a attention-seeking prank. It reminds me a little of the tantrums thrown my toddler. The maternal health nurse recommends that I ignore the tantrums, because the object is to get attention, and any attention, even bad attention is better than none. Given that the object of the prank was to seek attention and controversy, Fredericks would have been better off rewarded with no attention whatsoever.

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Filed under blasphemy, christianity, courts, drugs, education, freedom of speech, human rights, law, religion, USA

Drugs and the law

Craziness! A top barrister has been admitted to hospital. He collapsed in a hotel, allegedly after a prostitute administered drugs to him. It is not clear at this point what the drug was or whether it was administered with the barrister’s consent.

Another top barrister has said lawyers should be drug tested because of drug use in the legal profession. The head of the Victorian bar has said that this is nonsense.

It has to be admitted that about 10 years ago, Legal Eagle heard rumours of rampant cocaine abuse amongst some groups of solicitors and barristers. Some lawyers purportedly held cocaine parties, where all tabletops and cupboard tops were covered with cocaine.

Legal Eagle has actually tried cocaine herself. What?! When was this, I hear you ask?

Sorry to disappoint. It was under medical supervision during an operation. I broke my nose as a child, and had to get it straightened out again, because I was getting constant sinus infections. Anaesthetists administer cocaine during this operation as it stops bleeding and dulls pain. I wouldn’t recommend it as a way of trying cocaine. It did feel good for about 15 minutes after the operation, but then it wore off and my poor schnozzle hurt like hell. I had a nose like a strawberry for two weeks. My husband had to get a sinus operation, and was hoping he would get to try cocaine too, just once, but either he didn’t get given it or it had worn off by the time he came to. He was most disappointed.

Anyway, that’s the only time I’ve come across cocaine in my legal career. I’ve never seen or heard of any drug use by lawyers of my acquaintance. Obviously, I just move in the “wrong” circles? Or perhaps all those rumours are false?

I know that they do have drug tests at some companies already (eg, mining companies). Perhaps that’s the way of the future. I was thinking of the prospect. I would be pretty offended if someone wanted to test me for drugs. I spent years (a) cramming knowledge into this brain and (b) getting myself into a happy state. I’m not the kind of person to mess with that by taking drugs. So on a personal level, I’d hate it if they introduced drug tests for lawyers. But on a more abstract level, it would be interesting to see what the results would be if they did introduce drug tests amongst lawyers…?

Update

Peter Faris QC has prepared a fiery open letter to Michael Shand QC, Chairman of the Victorian Bar regarding cocaine use at the bar.

Update 2

Vale Peter Hayes QC, who died today. As I have said in a comment below, one of the problems with drug and alcohol use in the legal community is the devastating impact it can have on the physical and mental health of users.

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Filed under barristers, drugs, law, law firms, solicitors