Posts Tagged With: Law

How To Beat a Traffic Ticket

Speed Traps Are Another Form Of Highway Robbery.

The traffic law enforcement is not a justice system. It is an ‘injustice’ system. It is designed mostly for revenue and not so much for safety enforcement.

What To Do If You Are Stopped.

(NOTE: This Blog is no substitute for expert legal advice, or the services of a licensed member of he Bar. It is not intended as a guarantee of success when you find yourself entrapped in the traffic court system. Look at this as more of  road map to help you to see where you are, where you need to go, and how to try to get there procedurally in this virtual maze of traffic laws, rules, and procedures. The best advice is to hire a good lawyer, but you may be able to navigate within this system without one if you take not of and observe some of the helpful hints contained in this Blog.)

If you are stopped, do not panic. It can happen to the best of us. You may not know why the police officer has stopped you. One of your car’s head lights or a turn signals may not be working properly; or, your license plate renewal sticker may have expired. Your vehicle inspection sticker may be out of date. You may be a victim of racial profiling or a candidate for a random sobriety test.

 Or worse still, you may not have seen that STOP sign; or, you may have been exceeding the posted speed limit.

Whatever the reason, this can be a very tense and dangerous moment. Depending on who you are, where you are, and the temperament of the police officer approaching you, your life may even be in danger. As the cop approaches your car, s/he is watching every move that you make. Do not make any sudden moves, and keep your hands where they can be seen. Just remain calm and wait for the officer to approach you.

Be careful and respectful of the police officer. Place both hands on the steering wheel and lower the window about half-way.  Keep talking in a calm and relaxing manner. You want to put the police officer at rest. The officer at this moment is as much afraid of you and you may be of him. As he approaches your vehicle, this is the most dangerous moment of this routine. Some states have outlawed dark or tinted windows because so many police have been shot approaching cars for routine traffic law violations.

This is not the time to make any sudden moves. Do not reach for your wallet or sunglasses in the glove compartment. Do not reach to unbuckle your seat belt.

Once you have exchanged pleasantries or introductions, make this a social time. Smile. Be polite, kind, courteous, and respectful of the badge and uniform, if not the gun and camera pointing at you from the police car.

The officer will ask to see your driver’s license and automobile registration. Now you can reach for them but relax and do it slowly.

You want to keep him talking and not writing a ticket. Tell him about your sick relative in the hospital that you are on your way to see. Get him to talk about how his day has been. But, do not tell him anything about how you were driving. Do No Admit Guilt. Do not say anything that that will persuade him that you knowingly violated any traffic law or that can be used against you in court. Just talk. Laugh. Bag. Plead. Moan. Compliment him on his uniform. Take his mind off law enforcement and where his ticket book is. Once he starts writing a ticket, he must issue you a citation.

Many times you can talk your way out of this. If it was a minor infraction, he might let you off with a warning. If he thinks you are comical or cute and this is your first violation, he might give you a break.

Keep it low-keyed. You want this to be a forgettable incident. Do not say or do anything that makes you appear unusual or memorable. You do not want to give him anything unusual to jog his memory at trial. Keep a low profile.

Do not cop an attitude. Do not ask the cop if he knows who pays his salary. It would be unwise to try to use your acquaintance with another police officer or a politician as a means of bullying the officer. The street is not the time or the place to threaten or to debate the merits of your case. Try to show the cop what a nice person you are. You might get off with a warning.

This is not a criminal situation, so the policeman has no duty to read you your rights. You want to know what he is thinking. Try to find out his side of the story without telling him yours. This is fact gathering time for you. Where was he sitting when he first saw you? What distinguished you from all the other drivers on the road? Do not argue with him, but do not admit anything either. Do not admit guilt. You have the right to remain silent.

In a pleasant way the cop is going to try to get you to admit guilt. He will ask you some seemingly innocent questions: such as, do you know why I stopped you; or, do you know how fast you were going; or, did you see that light back there; or, did you have your seat belt on; and, did you know your license had been suspended?

Deny everything. No, I don’t know why you stopped me. Yes, I was driving the speed limit. Yes, I saw the light and it was green. Yes, I always wear my seat belt. No, my license is not suspended.

If the cop insists on issuing you a ticket despite your best efforts to persuade him otherwise, you must prepare to fight the ticket. The first thing you need to do is to gather as many details about the incident as possible. You need ammunition for question that you will ask the police officer at trial. Anything that you ask him and he cannot remember will weaken his case and destroy his credibility. You have to raise reasonable doubt. You will test the officer’s memory at trial. In order to be sure of your facts, you need to start taking notes now. And take some pictures. The camera does not forget and the camera never lies. Details are important.

If you go to court you will have a chance to ask the police officer questions under oath on the witness stand. The officer writes a lot of tickets. He will rely upon any notes he made on the face of the ticket to refresh his memory at trial. He will not remember you or what you looked like unless you did something to make a memorable impression upon him. So, again, keep a low profile and gather as many details as you can. Take notes; draw a diagram of the area with traffic lanes, speed lanes, car pool lanes, and intersections, and, take pictures. Lots of pictures. The more the better.

Here are some things you want to record for use at trial. Who said what to whom? Who said it first?  What was the distance between where the violation occurred and where you were stopped? What other people were around that may have witnessed the incident? Were there road construction workers around, or grocery store employees on a coffee break? Did the officer call for a back-up officer in another car with a video-camera to observe and assist? What was the weather like? How much visibility did you have? Was the street clean, and dry and in good repair? Were there skid marks on the pavement? Were there other vehicles, like big trucks, passing you, or going in the opposite direction, that could have affected the readings of the speed radar? Were there passengers in your car? What were you wearing? A shirt and a tie? A coat? A hat? What was the color of your shirt? What was distinctive or unusual about your car; such as, mag wheels, a roll bar, 2-door or 4-door, tinted windows, political bumper stickers, a big dent, and other such things?

Was there anything unusual about the behavior of the officer? Was he more interested in you than your car? Did his breath smell of alcohol or garlic? What was the color of his uniform? What was his name as recorded on his name tag? What was the number of the police vehicle he was driving? What was the license number? Was it old or new? Did it have a collision bumper? Was there a computer in the front seat? What type or model of speed detection device was in the car? You might want to ask him, at trial, about the model number of the device and when it was last calibrated? Or when he was last given training in its operation? Was he certified to used that type of equipment, and at trial, ask to view his certification card.   It is important to record details like these. These will be extremely important at trial. They may save you. The more details you record at the time of the incident, the more accurate your memory and your testimony will be; and, the less accurate the testimony of the officer will appear. When the testimony comes down to your word against his, as it always does, the judge will be inclined to see the ability to recall more accurate details as a test of credibility.

Finally, if you were not able to persuade the officer to let you off with a warning, you are given a ticket, a traffic citation. This is not the end of the world. Remain calm. Do not get your blood pressure up. Relax. Get on with your life. In the days that follow you will probably think about the incident in a much calmer frame of mind. If something comes to your mind that you think is important, write it down. Put it with your other notes.

Some people are so angry that they even rip the ticket up and throw it away. Some even throw it into the cop’s face. That is a big no no. He will surely remember you. He might even make you stay put, sit in your car, while he get’s on the radio and the computer and checks every county in the State to see if you have other outstanding traffic citations, or outstanding warrants, or whether you are a U. S. citizen and whether you are in the country illegally.

The correct thing to do is to relax, take a deep breath, and put the ticket in a safe place. It is your friend. It is evidence. It is chiseled in stone. It cannot be changed without giving you written notice. You can make sure it has not been changed, if you take time to review the court’s copy at the time of trial. You can compare the ticket you received on the street and the one presented to the judge at trial, if you did not tare it up or loose it.

The ticket will have the time and place for your trial appearance listed on it. This is the only notice you will receive. The government will not send you a reminder. It you miss the court date for any reason, you have admitted guilt and the government gets a default judgement against you. All your preparation has been in vain. You lose.

The same goes for the cop. If he does not show up at trial, you win. Sometimes it happens that the ticketing officer does not show up, for whatever reason. That is a good day for you, and it happens more often than people realize.

A few days after the incident, when you are able to think more clearly, you will have to evaluate your options. Do I want to fight this ticket in court? Would it be easier and more simple to just pay the fine? I make good money and the fine plus court costs will not hurt me financially. So what if my automobile insurance rates go up. I am too busy to take a day off from work and go to traffic court. Even going to “driving school” after hours and on weekends would not be so bad. I can afford a few more “points‘ on my driving record at DMV.

But, on the other hand, you might not be guilty. It is the principle of the thing. And, besides the cop was a jerk. It’s just not fair. Why should I be singled out? There are millions of other people speeding all the time and they will continue to do so. Also, the cop made so many mistakes; I can beat this. I don’t need to hire a lawyer. The Government has the burden of proof, and it must prove its case against me. I am presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is America. I want my day in court.

In America, everyone has a right to plead“Not Guilty“. It does not mean that you did not do it. It simply means that you believe the Government cannot prove that you did it. You might have been driving 95 mile an hour in a 45 mile zone, or you might have run a red light 10 second after it turned red because you were sending a text message to a friend and not paying attention. You still have a right to plead “Not Guilty”.

Pleading “Not Guilty” is a good decision. It often is the “best” decision. After all, no one is going to jail here. Having a trial is better than not having one. Being prepared is good, but even if you are not, it is not the end of the world.

You have two trial options. You can appear in court or you can appear by Declaration. To “Appear By Declaration” simply means that you have written a letter to the Judge or Clerk of The Court stating your position and including any photos or diagrams that you wish the Judge to consider before he renders his decision. It is a good idea to send it “Registered Mail, Return Receipt Requested” so you have written confirmation when it was received and who signed for it. You want to be sure it arrived prior to the date of the Hearing.

If you have prepared your case and you are ready, going to court can be fun. You may be surprised to see how justice is dispensed and who are the ‘usual suspects‘. A casual glance around the court room will give you a new view of “equal justice under law”. Notice the demographic differences between the defendants (poorly dressed, ethnically diverse), the lawyers (with briefcases, joking with the police), the prosecutors (fresh out of law school and nervous in J C Penny suits), the bailiffs (cocky with the guns), the court clerks (young, female, nicely dressed), and the judge (in the black robe).

What To Do If You Go To Court.

Beg. Plead. Moan. Cry. Do not plead the 5th.

There is lots of “due process” but very little justice in the traffic law enforce system

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Why Was Webster Smith Court-martialed?

U.S. Supreme Court building.

U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why was Cadet 1st Class Webster Smith investigated, charged, tried, and convicted? Why did he not find any justice in the military justice system? How could his case go through the entire appeal’s process and end up at the United States Supreme Court without being granted any relief?

At this point in history when America had come far enough to elect a Black President why was this shining example of the best and the brightest of the African Americans of his generation denied the equal protection of the law? Why was he relegated to the second rail of military justice? On the second rail one receives “almost equal protection“.  Like much else in the law, equal protection is a myth for America’s citizens of color. The myth gives one the illusion of fairness.

Could the answer have anything to do with the nature of the criminal justice system or the definition of crime?  Crime is a legal concept, and the law creates the crimes it punishes. But, what creates the criminal law?  Behind the law, above it, and surrounding it is our society. Before the law made certain behavior a crime, some aspect of social reality transformed certain behavior into a crime.

Justice is blind in the abstract. It cannot see or act on its own. It cannot create its own morals, principles and rules. That depends on society. Behind every legal determination of “guilty” lies a more powerful and more basic social and societal judgement, a judgement that this type of behavior is not acceptable. This type of behavior deserves to be prohibited and punished. Our society has long chosen to prohibit and punish interracial sex.

After society makes a social judgement that certain behavior, acts, or conduct is wrong, the criminal justice system goes to work. It refines and transforms the list of prohibited acts and behavior. It interprets the list of acts, and does whatever is necessary to catch, convict and punish the lawbreakers.

Bias is inevitable. Crime and punishment are highly charged, emotional, and political subjects. There is no way to wring prejudice, attitude, or race out of the system.

Is Justice truly blind? Is our Constitution color-blind? Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan thought so. In 1896 he wrote “Our Constitution is color-blind”. He was the lone dissenter in the Case of Plessy v. Ferguson arguing that separate but equal facilities are inherently discriminatory. Justice Harlan was a voice crying in the wilderness that our Constitution neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.

The Webster Smith Case was a litmus test for military justice. Now, we know that Justice is not blind; The Constitution of the United States is not color-blind; and the Supreme Court is not color-blind. Justice peeks past the blindfold to see who stands before the Bar of Justice. And Justices of the Supreme Court peek to see who stands before the Bench. History has shown us that it does make a difference in the outcome of a case, whether the party who seeks relief is white or Black, male or female, rich or poor, educated or uneducated. Like most constitutional and justice “myths”, the claim of impartiality is truly a myth.

v.

WEBSTER M. SMITH, CADET, U.S. COAST GUARD

FILED UNDER SEAL[*]

MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION FINDINGS OF FACT

During the summer training program at the start of their first class year, Cadet Smith and Cadet [SR] were both assigned to patrol boats that moored at Station Little Creek. Both lived in barracks rooms at the Station…she went on to state that on October 19th….she agreed to pose for a picture with him in which both of them were nude, and later that night allowed him to perform cunnilingus on her then she performed fellatio on him.

___________________________________

…. the Government’s objection that this evidence is inadmissible in accordance with M.R.E. 413 [sic] is SUSTAINED.

EFFECTIVE DATE

This order was effective on 26 May 2006.

Done at Washington, DC,

/s/

Brian Judge

Captain, U.S. Coast Guard

Military Judge

The Webster Smith case was a litmus test for justice in America. Every once in a while a case comes along that puts our humanity as a people, and as Americans, on trial. Everything that we profess to stand for as Americans was on trial. Our sense of justice in America and particularly in the U.S. Military was on trial. This was no ordinary trial. Our humanity was on trial. Our system of justice was on trial. This case dissolved the deceptive façade and exposed certain moral deficiencies in our system of justice. This case alone puts the legitimacy of the entire military justice system at risk.

This was not a sexual assault case. Webster Smith did not sexually assault anyone. What he did was engage in an act of consensual love making with a friend. He was charged and tried; his partner was not. Why not? They both violated the Coast Guard Academy Cadet Regulations by engaging in sexual activities in Chase Hall, the cadet barracks.

An article published in the New London DAY newspaper on 20 February 2008 entitled “Service Academies faulted in GAO report,”  stated: “In the summer of 2006, former cadet Webster Smith became the first student court-martialed at the Coast Guard Academy. He was acquitted of rape but convicted of extortion, sodomy and indecent assault.”

One might conclude that he was convicted of three of four charges. That is not correct. The truth is that of the 10 charges referred to the general court martial, Webster Smith was acquitted of one charge of rape, one count of extortion, one count of sodomy, one count of indecent assault and one charge of assault (five of 10 charges). All findings of guilty cited in the article related to one female.

That is only part of the story. The incidents related to Webster Smith were publicly announced as 16 pending charges in mid-February 2006. These charges concerned five women. In early 2006 the Coast Guard Investigative Service  (CGIS) began an investigation related to yet another woman (SR) and Webster Smith. This resulted in six additional charges, filed in March 2006. An Article 32 Investigation resulted in dismissal of 12 of the 22 charges.

This means, 17 of 22 charged allegations were dismissed prior to trial (12 dismissals; five acquittals).(Merle J. Smith Jr.,Esquire, Individual Military Attorney for Webster Smith.

Waterford, CT.)

One Judge on the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals found that former cadet Webster Smith was denied a fair trial and that the case should have been sent back to the trial court for a new trial. He found that the Case of United States vs Webster Smith should have been returned to the Convening Authority for a new trial.

The Judge found so many discretionary errors in the court-martial proceedings that he had no choice but to rule that Webster Smith had been denied a fair trial.

It was a classic case of “he-said, she-said”. The trial came down to simply a credibility issue. The big question was who was telling the truth and who was not.

This was a question for the jury to decide. It was a fact question. The jury is the trier of facts. The court-martial judge (CAPT Brian Judge) went to extraordinary lengths to keep the question out of the hands of the jury. He took it upon himself to decide the issue of credibility. That is why Webster Smith was convicted.

The jury had no idea what the real issue was. They were kept in the dark. They were not given proper instructions. The judge decided who was the more credible witness. The judge abused his discretion.

The judge went beyond the authority and power delegated to him under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and the Federal Rules of Evidence. Webster Smith was denied his Sixth Amendment Rights.

One does not have to read the Appeals Court decision to know that an accused at a court-martial has a right to cross-examine the witnesses against him. Anyone who has watched Perry Mason or Tom Cruise in the movie “A Few Good Men”, would come away with an appreciation for the fact that the jury has the responsibility to decide what the facts are and who is not telling the truth.

When a judge does not allow the jury to do its job, he commits reversible error. When a judge confuses his duties with the duties assigned to the jury, then he has abused his discretion and that constitutes reversible error.

The prosecution was allowed to ask Webster Smith questions that were like bombshells that would cave in the sides of a Sherman Tank, but on cross-examination of the principal witness, the Defense lawyers were reduced to tip-toeing through the tulips. The uncorroborated testimony of the principal witness (SR) was a roadside bomb to Webster Smith’s defense.

If the jury had only been allowed to follow the Yellow Brick Road and to resolve the credibility issue itself, then, at least, the trial of Webster Smith would have had some semblance of a fair trial. The trial judge, CAPT Brian Judge, was not taking any chances. He took matters into his own hands. He jumped onto the Scales of Justice and pulled them way down on the side of the Prosecution.

In a case where the principal witness was allowed to hide behind the military judge for protection from thorough cross-examination; and where facts and perceptions may have been dispositive of the ultimate issue, Truth can be elusive. In a case where a convincing and charming fabricator of facts can sway a jury that has not been fully informed, and where the jury has only been given some of the relevant facts, the judge left a lot of room for mischief on the part of a sneaky prosecutor. The judge left a lot of room for the imagination of the jury to run wild when he allowed the Prosecutor to introduce just enough evidence to put Webster Smith in a compromising position; but he denied the Defense lawyers an opportunity to explain the contradictions by cross-examining the principal witness. Then the judge left it to the jury to “connect the dots”. This was terribly unfair to the accused, Webster Smith.

Webster Smith was reduced to “a bug under a glass jar” for inspection, and the principal witness was kept as snug as a bug in a rug. Eventually all of this discretionary “hokus-pokus” became so egregious as to eliminate any possibility of a fair trial for Webster Smith. Finding the Truth became next to impossible. This case should have been remanded for a new trial. To send the case back to the Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, the Convening Authority, for a new trial was the only fair way to remedy the errors that were committed in the court-martial of Webster Smith.

The Founding Fathers and the framers of the U S Constitution provided procedural safeguards for criminal defendents facing the awesome powers on the Federal Government. They gave him; among other rights, the right to remain silent, the right to trial by jury, and the right to confront and to cross-examine the witnesses against him. These rights are inalienable. These rights cannot be taken away; not by the Government, and certainly not by a part-time trial judge.

One judge on the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals saw clearly how the legal system, the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, and the Military Rules of Evidence were misused to deny Webster Smith a fair trial.

I believe a great travesty of justice was committed. A gross miscarriage of justice was done at the Coast Guard Academy.The entire process was flawed.
The only evidence was the word of a couple of incredible females. There was no physical evidence whatsoever.
Webster Smith has apologized for his behavior. Confession is good for the soul. It is the first step toward true rehabilitation. No one else involved in the entire episode showed such strength of character. The Academy is a character building institution.

 Cadet Webster Smith was a victim of jealousy, racial discrimination, a violation of the 14th Amendment Equal Protection clause, and last but not the least, a victim of a double standard.
He was one of the most loved and respected cadets on campus. But he had two things going against him. One, he had dated the first female Regimental Commander, and the Dean of Admissions’ daughter. Both were white. Since they were white and Cadet Smith was Black, it did not sit well with the Commandant of Cadets.
Racial Prejudice is still very much alive at the Academy.

 America’s fighting men have come in many guises, shapes and sizes. They have had to fight all of America’s enemies, both foreign and domestic. Cadet Webster Smith had to fight his own senior officers, friends, and mentors. In the end he was proud. He had fought the good fight. Even TIME magazine carried the quote of the first cadet in Coast Guard history to be tried by a General Court-martial.

http://www.time.com/time/quotes/0,26174,1209244,00.html

Less than 60 days after the verdict was rendered in the Webster Smith case, I predicted that the case would make it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court justices are not elected. They are appointed with the advice and consent of the Congress. The Nine Justices of the Supreme Court are the least democratic branch of the federal government. They have no constituency. They do not have to conform to the biases of the majority. They are the Court of Last Resort; so, they are infallible. With few exceptions, they have dealt with evenhandedly with all of America’s citizens.

They do not have to sit for re-election. They are appointed for life. They are totally isolated from busy bodies on the Right or Left Side of the political spectrum. With one stroke of the pen, they may act to curb injustices, correct unsavory attitudes, and breathe new life into a living Constitution.

Historically we have looked to them to solve our most vexing social problems. They are America’s ultimate arbiters of justice; and, that includes military justice.

Aside from the Webster Smith Case, I cannot think of any case or incident in Coast Guard history that affected more directly the hearts, minds, and daily lives of all members of the United States Coast Guard.

The U.S. Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals had to review the Webster Smith case. It had no choice. Article 66 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, requires the Coast Guard Criminal appeals Court to review all cases of trial by court-martial in which the sentence as approved by the Convening Authority extends to dismissal of a cadet from the Coast Guard, and/or a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge, unless the accused waives appellate review. Webster Smith did not waive appellate review. He appealed his conviction. Oral arguments in the Case of The Appeal of the Court-martial Conviction of Cadet Webster Smith was scheduled for January 16, 2008 in Arlington, Virginia.

A legal brief filed by his lawyers claimed the convictions should have been thrown out because the defense team was not allowed to fully cross-examine one of his accusers during Smith’s court martial. They said that meant the jury didn’t hear testimony that the accuser, a female cadet, Shelly Roddenbush, had once had consensual sex with a Coast Guard enlisted man and then called it sexual assault. If she lied once, she very well could have lied again.

The Coast Guard Court of of Criminal Appeals is made up of Coast Guard Officers. It has the power to decide matter of both fact and law. Decisions of the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals may be appealed to the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces (CAAF). It is made up of five civilian judges, appointed to 15 year terms. It decides only issues of law. Its decisions may be appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court. The Webster Smith Case followed this long and winding path all the way to the Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of Webster Smith. The justices declined to hear the case without comment.

Webster Smith was proud of his decision to fight the good fight all the way to the end of the road. See TIME magazine June 29, 2006.

http://www.time.com/time/quotes/0,26174,1209244,00.html

https://www.amazon.com/author/cgachall.blogspot.com

 

Friends of Webster

Raised in the house, but field certified.    (http://www.friendsofwebster.com/?p=464)

Well this is interesting. Below is an excerpt from Judge London Steverson’s Book.

I agree with his purpose but I can’t say that I agree with his tone and portrayal. To this day, I don’t blame my peers. In a sense, we were all pawns. And if the tables were turned, I probably one have done the same thing to protect my career. Sad but true.

The Webster Smith Story is an American tragedy. It is not just the story of a Black Coast Guard Academy cadet; it is the story of an American family. It is the story of his mother, Belinda; and his father, Cleon; his wife, Lindsey and their daughter; and of his sister and brothers. It is the story of the friends of Webster Smith. They have all been harmed by the violence directed at their son, brother, husband, father and friend.

At the Coast Guard Academy, Webster Smith was a member of the Eclipse, Track Team, Football team, Regimental Staff, and a Swab summer Staff. He represented the Coast Guard in Washington DC concerning fitness and nutrition programs. He received numerous silver stars and never received a demerit prior the incident and investigation in 2005 that led to his court-martial.

To his classmates, teachers, and coaches Webster Smith appeared to be a magnetic, charming and gifted man, who had risen above his circumstances. Yet, in a moment, as if in the twinkling of an eye, a swift series of events diminished his popularity, vilified his name, and assailed his honor. His image was converted by senior Coast Guard officers from a popular athlete and nice guy to that of a sexual predator and public enemy number one at the Coast Guard Academy.

Webster Smith had dared to dream some big dreams. Like Alex Haley he had dared to believe that he could rise in the USCG to the highest level to which his talents and initiative could take him.

His parents were middle class African Americans. His father, Cleon Smith, was a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy in the Class of 1978 along with Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown.

His mother, Belinda Ingram Smith, believed in God and a good education. After attending college at WSSU for four years she went on to become the first Black female Crime Scene Investigator in the history of the Winston-Salem police Department.

This unbelievable turn about in what had been a Black success story is a singularly American tragedy.

That a cadet so deeply respected and loved by his coaches and classmates could evoke such an outpouring of hate and anger from the senior officers at the Coast Guard Academy is a Coast Guard tragedy and an American tragedy.

All of the female cadets involved with and associated with Webster Smith escaped clean without any consequences for their actions or their behavior. Mother Nature was the only one who exacted a penalty. Natural Law resulted in a pregnancy for his girlfriend. An abortion followed.

If women are equal, they should be treated as equal. Not a single woman was disciplined under the UCMJ or the cadet regulations. All of the female cadets involved in the Webster Smith case graduated and were commissioned as Coast Guard officers. Their testimony at the court-martial painted a picture of female cadets who were untrustworthy, arrogant, and certainly not ladies. Their conduct was unbecoming an officer and a lady. (Read more at http://judgelondonsteverson.com)

These women were witnesses at a public trial yet they were accorded the equivalent of rape shield protection. This was not a rape case. Not one of the women had been raped. There was testimony of consensual sex acts. Some of the consensual sex acts were unlawful because, among other things, they occurred in Chase Hall, or at Academy functions. How could unlawful consensual sex acts result in charges against only one of the participants? It takes two to tango.

Is it wrong for Black people to ask if there is a double standard? Would that amount to paranoia on the part of Black people? Or would that be considered playing the race card simply to inquire? Is it absurd to believe that anything more than pure chance resulted in the court-martial of Webster Smith? The fact that he was court-martialed speaks to a social reality that African-Americans are acutely aware of in America. Race is not a card to be dealt, but it determines whom the dealer is and who gets dealt a losing hand.

According to a 2008 General Accounting Office Report, from 2003 to 2006 there were NO sexual-harassment complaints at the Coast Guard Academy, but there were 12 incidents of sexual assault reported to the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS), with one incident in 2003, one in 2004, “NONE” in 2005 and 10 in 2006. It is hard to conceive of the facts relied upon by, Captain Douglas Wisniewski, the Commandant Of Cadets when he asserted in 2005 that there was a climate of fear of sexual assault in Chase Hall.

The 10 incidents reported in 2006 would appear to have occurred after the Webster Smith court-martial. Webster Smith was removed from Chase Hall in 2005. Who was doing all of the sexual assaulting in 2006? Why were none of these people brought to justice? They could have been tried along with Webster Smith.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Webster Smith. The justices declined to hear the case without comment. The decision of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) became the final decision in the case.

Thirteen female cadets and 11 males at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (CGA) reported anonymously in an April 2008 survey that they experienced “unwanted sexual contact,” ranging from touching to forced sexual acts, during the 2007-08 school year.

More than three-quarters said that alcohol or drugs were involved and that the offender was a fellow cadet.
None of the women sought professional help and only 7 percent discussed the incident with authorities.

When Alexander Hamilton organized the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790 it was established in the Department of the Treasury. Later it became known as the Coast Guard. In 1966 it was placed in the Department of Transportation. Today it is the nucleus of the Department of Homeland Security. Webster Smith’s case is currently being reviewed for clemency by the Secretary of the Department of Home Land Security, Janet Napolitano.

Webster Smith would have made an excellent military officer. It is Webster Smith and people like him that I want on the wall as our last line of defense for our American way of life protecting us from the great unwashed horde that is coming. Secretary Napolitano who do you want on that wall?
(Read more at http://judgelondonsteverson.com)

CONDUCT UNBECOMING an Officer and a Lady: A Case That Will Live In Infamy. The Conviction of Webster Smith. by Judge London Steverson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Webster Smith Story is an American tragedy. It is not just the story of a Black Coast Guard Academy cadet; it is the story of an American family. To his classmates, teachers, and coaches at the Coast Guard Academy Webster Smith appeared to be a magnetic, charming and gifted man, who had risen above his circumstances. Yet, in a moment, as if in the twinkling of an eye, a swift series of events diminished his popularity, vilified his name, and assailed his honor. His image was converted by senior Coast Guard officers from a popular athlete and nice guy to that of a sexual predator and public enemy number one at the Coast Guard Academy.The Webster Smith case was a litmus test for justice in America. Every once in a while a case comes along that puts our humanity as a people on trial. Everything that we profess to stand for as Americans was on trial. I am ashamed of our justice system. This was a tragedy and a travesty.

I wanted to know why Webster Smith was court-martialed? Now I know. This book is the full story.

AND THEN AN AMAZON LINK: Amazon.com
Tell me how it is. I am too focused to remember yesterday.

May 13th, 2011 Posted by Lindsey | Dear Mr. President | no comments

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Categories: Coast Guard Cases | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Security Administration Refuses To Tell Claimants the Name of The Judge Who Will Hear Their Case

Social Security Administration Refuses To Tell Claimants The Name Of The Judge Who Will Hear Their Case
by London Steverson on Tuesday, January 1, 2013 at 9:27pm ·

Something rotten has been developing throughout 2012 in connection with assigning Social Security Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) to disability hearings. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has refused to inform the claimant and his or her representative of the identity of the judge who will be presiding at their hearing. In many SSA Hearing Offices across the USA the claimant is no longer being told the identity of the administrative law judge before the hearing. The Social Security Administration claims that certain representatives have been engaging in the clever practice of “judge shopping” or “forum shopping”.  It appears that most of the  “shopping” has taken place in the practice of video hearings. In a video hearing the claimant appears in a Hearing Room in a city near his home in front of a large television screen and the judge is in another city in another hearing room with his own television screen. The hearing is conducted by means of a video telephone conference. There is considerable speculation as to whether this practice actually constitutes due process of law. The claimant never sits in the same room with a real, living and breathing judge. Also, there has been must disagreement as to whether a judge can adequately determine the credibility and the demeanor of a witness over a television screen.

This is how “judge shopping” works.

(Read more at https://www.amazon.com/author/cgachall.blogspot.com)

When an attorney representative learns the name of the administrative law judge, he or she objects to the hearing by video if they want to get another judge assigned. Claimants try to avoid judges that have a record of denying the majority of their cases. On the other hand, they leap at the chance to try a case before a judge considered lenient. That means the judge has a reputation for granting benefits in most of his cases.

Whether you get paid early in the Social Security disability benefits process depends primarily on whether you get assigned the right ALJ. That’s right; it comes down to “the luck of the draw”. That is, unless your representative is skilled in the art of judge shopping. The most extreme types of ALJs occupy both ends of the spectrum. There are some who will reverse and grant benefits to 200 or more claimants a month without holding a hearing. They make what are called “on-the-record” decisions.

Then there are the ALJs who treat every case as a Dred Scott Decision. They over litigate the case. If they find any issue that was not disposed of by the State Disability Determination Service (DDS), they will declare that the case is not ripe for review and not ready for a hearing before an ALJ. Then they will remand the case to the DDS for a finding on that issue. Such a maneuver can add more than 6 months to the already long processing time. Or they might decide that the most recent medical examinations in the record are over one year old and order that you be examined again before scheduling a hearing. Both types of ALJs may even exist in the same hearing office.

While judge shopping is not technically something outside of the prerogatives of a claimant, the practice of shopping for the right ALJ has created havoc with the Social Security Administration’s ability to process its cases. The back log of cases waiting to be heard is long and is getting longer. Many claimants have to wait for an extended period, sometimes 5 years or more, just to sit down in front of an administrative law judge. In the past judge shopping only occurred with administrative law judges who had a low case approval rate, and attorneys and para-legal representatives tried to legally avoid them.

To fight this nuisance practice, the Social Security Administration has responded with a  “policy” of refusing to identify the ALJ until the day before or, in some cases, the day of the hearing. Some frustrated lawyers have used the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) to request the identity of the judge. The Social Security Administration has refused citing the Act’s exemption language, and specifically citing two exemptions. The exemptions deal with personal issues and criminal proceedings.

Since no one is seeking personal data on administrative law judges (date of birth, educational history, work history, etc), and typically, Social Security Disability hearings do not involve anything remotely criminal, the exemptions are likely misplaced. Until a ruling is made on the issue, though, the administrative law judge assignment remains a mystery and a bump in the road for the Social Security Disability claimant and his or her attorney representative.

(Read more at https://www.amazon.com/author/cgachall.blogspot.com)

From a game of “Musical Chairs” to “Guess Who’s Coming To Court”. First, the claimants started to shop for the “right” judge to hear their case; then the Social Security Administration started to withhold the identity of the judge assigned the case until the day of the hearing. This would almost be comical if the stakes were not so high. The Disability Determination Process should be transparent and adhere to the highest principles of fundamental legal due process that American citizens have a right to expect from their Government. The SSA should not play ‘cat-n-mouse’ with the name of the judge. Such childish behavior does not generate respect for the legal system or the disability process.

Categories: Social Security Benefits | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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