In my personal life, I am a huge fan of taking time to relax with family and friends, especially if that includes a good conversation and some tender cut of smoked meat to ingest. I’d like to think I’d feel the same way even if I wasn’t raised in Texas.
And, as I have come to expect when I spend time with family/friends, I am invariably asked what strange/funny/just-plain-crazy legal stories I have heard or been involved in lately. I have come to suspect that some of the people close to me want to hear about someone doing something so ridiculous or unhinged just so that they don’t feel so ridiculous or unhinged about the things going on in their lives. I don’t blame them. It’s all relative.
At the risk of giving away my secrets and making myself obsolete in the story-telling business, I figured I’d write a post about some of my sources for good legal stories. Blawgs. Ha-ha. Get it?
1. The Smoking Gun, www.thesmokinggun.com: The Smoking Gun is a great page full of bizarre criminal cases and investigative journalism. TSG posts everything from funny mugshot photos to wild drug stories to in-depth investigations, updating frequently and with a good dose of sarcasm. Definitely worth a click for the laughs.
2. SCOTUS Blog, www.scotusblog.com: Supreme Court of the United States Blog does a fantastic job of breaking down what goes on in the nation’s highest court, from the round-up of cases headed up on appeal as well as explanations of laws the Court will soon address, summaries of arguments made on cases before the Court, in-depth looks at the Petition of the Day, and, of course, knowledgeable analysis of the rulings handed down by the Supreme Court, which include the status of current and past cases from the appeals level up to Supreme Court decisions. The blog includes ‘symposiums’ with law-review style articles getting into the details (warning: serious legal mumbo-jumbo there) but also has a section for ‘Plain English’ explanations of decisions. Not as much of the ‘crazy’ available here, but a great look into the institution that tells us what we can and can’t do under the law.
3. Lower The Bar, loweringthebar.net: Kevin Underhill is an attorney in San Francisco who writes the best legal blog on the interwebs. He peruses the world for legal stories, then adds his sharp and extremely funny 2 cents worth, to devastating effect. Whether he’s discussing Michael Jackson’s ghost testifying, worker’s comp fraud in drag, or a lawyer’s advertisement for DWI defense popping up next to his mugshot for a DWI arrest, Underhill gets into the ridiculousness of the legal world with great writing and a skillful ability to break down these stories into understandable analysis. The blog has won a Peabody, among other prestigious awards. Now I know that O.J. is innocent, what I can’t drive on the highways, that I should skip the Eagles, and what exactly that guy in the next lane is trying to say. And this is lawyering at its best.
4. Grits For Breakfast, gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com: Grits is written by Scott Hensen, a former journalist and researcher, and has become widely regarded as maybe the best example of a single-state legal and political blog in the country. Grits tackles death penalty cases (which are unavoidable in Texas), bad cop stories, as well as various civil rights issues, and how they intertwine with politics in Texas. I specifically suggest you read his coverage of the Michael Morton wrongful-conviction case and the disgrace that is former Williamson County Judge Ken Anderson and District Attorney John Bradley, who withheld evidence that, 23 years later, exonerated the man convicted in 1987 of murdering his wife.
5. Slate’s Crime Blog, www.slate.com/blogs/crime.html: Slate, an online news magazine that addresses politics, health, news, economics, and other topics, has a crime blog curated by Justin Peters. In particular, he has a specific section dealing with dumb criminals that is worth reading, just for the laughs.
Obviously, not all these are funny. But when you look through them, you get a good idea of the often strange, funny, and infuriating world lawyers live in, and they are a source for good information and great stories to provide an answer to, “So, what’s going on in the legal world?”