Lawsuits Against EPA Continue Cascading in- This Time from Madigan

Per Chicago Tonight’s Alex Ruppenthal, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is joining 12 other states in filing lawsuits towards the EPA over recently dismissed director Scott Pruitt’s final order suspending a 2016 regulation limiting the number of highly polluting trucks allowed to be on the road. A few weeks ago in a separate lawsuit, a District Court judge ruled that the EPA violated clean air standards in multiple states, including Illinois. This blog covered the issue here. It has been a deservedly bad last few months for Pruitt. On July 6th he resigned after it became clear that he was failing to enforce conflict of interest laws along with evidence of unethical spending on travel and security. His whole tenure was defined by scandals and lies, like the administration who appointed him. In his creepy resignation letter, it was very clear who Pruitt thought he was there to serve- Donald Trump. This is generally not the way positions like the director of the Environmental Protection Agency are supposed to work. Ideally they would serve the people’s interest in limiting the damages businesses do to the environment, but unfortunately Pruitt was more likely to make the EPA a business partner to polluting industries rather than an actual barrier against them. This is historically how the EPA has operated even before Trump and Pruitt took office. Industries have largely been given free reign in doing damage to the environment wherever and whenever they want, draining valuable resources from the world. The Independent just posted an article today where ecology experts claim that humanity used up a years worth of the earth’s resources in just seven months, 1.7 times faster than the planet’s ecosystem can regenerate according to those experts. America is not the only one contributing to the damage, but they are clearly a very big culprit. The point is that we are in an increasingly dire environmental situation, and it’s only being compounded by men like Scott Pruitt and Donald Trump.

As to the details of this particular lawsuit, the EPA just can’t get out of its own way or maybe it just doesn’t want to. They announced on Pruitt’s final day in office that they wouldn’t even bother enforcing the 2016 Glider rule, a rule the EPA itself created. According to Ruppenthal, the “Glider rule mandates that most engines installed in gliders meet the same emissions standards applicable to newly manufactured engines, which create significantly less pollution. It also caps the number of gliders a company can manufacturer each year at 300. The rule is meant to limit the excessive amounts of smog and lung-damaging particulate matter emitted by outdated truck engines, which have been described as “super polluting.”(Ruppenthal) As the article mentions, this is the not the first time Madigan has sued the EPA, the details of which Ruppenthal helpfully links. Madigan’s office claims that the trucks Pruitt suspended this rule to allow the sale for, will emit up to 55 times as much air pollution as trucks structured with more modern emission standards outlined by the Glider rule. As Ruppenthal notes, this pollution has been tied to various illnesses such as asthma and cancer. On Friday, Madigan declared in a statement that “If left unchallenged, this outrageous special interest giveaway will cause widespread harm to the environment. Allowing these highly polluting trucks to circumvent necessary clean air safeguards is unlawful.” Madigan is a career politician and an extremely skilled one at that so it’s hard to buy that there is much idealism in this decision. But that really doesn’t matter in the current climate, as any politician willing to make the faintest stand for the environment is valuable. It’s also nice to see that these lawsuits are serving as a sort of unifying force for multiples states who have had enough of the EPA’s corruption, and the coalition seems to be gaining strength. We can only hope that politicians like Madigan don’t forget about environmental issues when their political value decreases.

The Law of Office Birthday Parties

By: Tim Black

Whole Crew

The Law of Office Birthday Parties is clear – have one every chance you get!  I could swear there’s a statute to back that up, but our team of legal researchers is among the best in the business (according to our moms), and they can’t find it anywhere.  If there isn’t a statute, any casual reader of the LauraLaw blog could tell you that we here at the Law Offices of Laura J. Morask certainly stand for the codification of the “have an Office Birthday Party every chance you get” rule of law.  And as luck would have it, we had the chance to throw an Office Birthday Party for our beloved Maddy this week – and it was all the rage.  We had clowns, we had elephants, we had waterslides, and we had a bouncy castle.

Sadly, none of that is true except for the party part – we couldn’t get the right permits.  So, Olivia and I waited until Maddy left the office on Tuesday evening, and spent hours filling the room with balloons, streamers, and CONFETTI (so much confetti) to surprise Maddy when she walked in on Wednesday.  Boy, was she surprised!  If only we had captured the look on her face when she found the surprise, it would probably be our new LauraLaw logo.

There was a buzz throughout the office as we worked through the morning, knowing that we couldn’t sing “Happy Birthday” until all of our work was done.  So we all sat at our desks, typing away and making phone calls to clients until the clock struck 2:30.  That’s when the lights went dark, the candles illuminated Maddy’s cookie cake, and our voices joined in perfect harmony to celebrate the anniversary of Maddy’s introduction to the world.  (Side note about the cookie cake – sometimes we affectionately call Maddy ‘Matilda,’ which is not her name, and we asked the bakery to write ‘Happy Birthday Matilda’ on the cookie cake, but when the candles were blown out, we realized it said ‘Happy Birthday Malilda.’ Let that be a lesson to always cross your “t”s and dot your “i”s.)  After Maddy blew out the candles (all in one breath, defying the science of aging), we snacked on a delicious cookie cake while the birthday girl opened her gifts.  Everyone had a smile on his or her face, and it was a great opportunity to put on a party hat, let loose, and spend some time together in the middle of a hectic week.

It’s important to Laura, and to all of us, that we follow the Law of Office Birthday Parties every chance we get because it helps us grow closer as a team and reflect on how thankful we are to have such a wonderful crew of people working at our office.  So, if you see Maddy this month (yes, she gets a whole birthday month), wish her a happy birthday.  If any of your coworkers or colleagues are having a birthday any time soon, throw a party!  It’s the law (well, it should be the law).

Riverside County(California) Facing Lawsuit for Oppressive Law Enforcement Towards Students

I’m going to widen the scope of this blog a little bit to cover a story in California that I found equal parts absurd and infuriating, but it is related to issues covered regularly here. Per Carimah Townes of the Appeal, Riverside County is being sued by four plaintiffs claiming that the county is annually funneling an estimated 400 students per year into the Youth Accountability probation program under such labels as “pre delinquent” and “delinquent” for extremely vague accusations of misconduct which ends up having huge negative effects on the kids targeted. Unsurprisingly there is also a discriminatory aspect to this funneling as Towne notes. “According to the lawsuit, YAT probation skirts due process, leads to unreasonable searches and seizures under California law, violates the right to freedom of expressive association, and adversely impacts Black and Latino students like Andrew.” (Townes) The Andrew mentioned(one of the plaintiffs) was a 13 year old goofing around with his friends at school during lunch when he accidentally kicked an orange in the direction of a Moreno Valley officer stationed in the area. Unfortunately the officer decided to arrest him on grounds that I am really having an impossible time figuring out. An officer putting cuffs on a 13 year for kicking an orange paints a terrifying image that seems to summarize the state of policing in this country, and their relationships to marginalized people. The officer used the arrest as justification to search in Andrews backpack in which he found, gasp, Marijuana. Andrew then was forced to discuss probation at the Police station and was basically coerced into joining the Youth Accountability probation program in exchange for avoiding Juvenile court.

Here’s what Andrew had to deal with after signing the contract to join the program. “He(Andrew) had to attend school, earn good grades, abide by an 8 p.m. curfew, participate in 25 hours of community service, meet with a probation officer regularly, follow all YAT instructions, go to counseling, go to weekly programs facilitated by the Moreno Valley Police Department, and visit a correctional facility. Any violation could result in a referral to the Riverside County district attorney’s office for possible prosecution. Upon signing, Andrew was repeatedly forced to leave class to talk to YAT officers, who also conducted house visits. On one occasion, he was pulled out of class to fill out a YAT survey, even though it meant he would miss a Spanish quiz. Even after sticking to these strict conditions, Andrew was still summoned to Superior Court less than two weeks after signing. He ultimately pleaded guilty to the marijuana possession charge and received a sentence of 10 community service hours, an agreement to complete a drug test, and a fine.” (Towne) Basically, a student that gets funneled into the program is forced to live like they’re in a police state and can have this stuff used against them by the district attorney if they don’t cooperate. Notice how terrifyingly vague those standards for delinquency are. Good grades? Are you fucking kidding me? Under this program, law enforcement can force a student with bad grades into a situation where they can find themselves being prosecuted! Even more horrifying was the mention of a student being sent to the program after school staff complained that he “pulled the race card on them.” I can only imagine this scene as a student rightly pointing out the schools racist behavior and as usual racists are the biggest cowards imaginable so they respond viciously by jeopardizing the students future. Even if the student was doing what they accused him of doing, their actions are still discriminatory and absurd but sadly they’re not uncommon. Black students were 2.5 times more likely to be targets for the program and Latino students 1.5 times.

According to Townes the YAT program was established in 2001 under the ostensible purpose of identifying at risk youth so they can help get them in a different, better direction. But the program isn’t really being used in this way as the lawsuit alleges, but rather it’s used as a punishing tool and a convenient way for law enforcement to skirt around a students civil rights. Hannah Comstock of the ACLU, who is helping represent the plaintiffs, accurately states that “It’s kind of like this expedited version of the school-to-prison pipeline by having this extrajudicial system operating exclusively through the school.” By operating exclusively through the school, Law enforcement is able to coerce students who don’t have full knowledge of their rights and no legal counsel present. The program allows law enforcement to build up extensive profiles of their targets which are then accessible down the line for future prosecution. The attitude of the program is summed up in this passage of the article, “In a YAT presentation recounted in the book Psyche-Soul-ology: An Inspirational Approach to Appreciating and Understanding Troubled Kids, Debbie Waddell, a former senior probation officer, was quoted as saying that YAT is used to “get them into the system by fingerprinting and photographing them. We can search their homes any time we want and work to obtain evidence against them so that when we can get ’em, we can really get ’em!” Former Deputy District Attorney Anthony Villalobos, who participated in the same presentation, also explained, “We can do all kinds of surveillance, including wiretaps on phones, without having to get permission from a judge.”(Townes) Those quotes made me honestly want to throw up. These people are so happy over being granted the power to screw over students lives, it is sadistic. When the rightwing evokes “law and order” as a core part of what they believe the country should like, this is what is being advocated. Debbie Waddell gleefully exclaiming “We can search their homes any time we want and work to obtain evidence against them so that when we can get ’em, we can really get ’em!”

There is even more to the program that damages these students futures. If a person who had completed the YAT program has to show up in court for a low level offense, they are no longer eligible for diversion. If they fail the YAT program, that failure can be used against them in their prosecution. Over 10,000 students have had to deal with this shit, and about 25% are for non criminal offenses.  This is all under the guise of a mentorship program supposedly to help these kids futures! But they’re using it to create a pipeline to prison and a cycle of suffering for the students involved. As Corey Jackson of the Sigma Beta Xi mentorship program (one of the plaintiffs) asserts, “It’s being sold to these school districts as a mentoring program. There is nothing in the program that has anything to do with mentoring, based upon best practices and national standards.” The plaintiffs are specifically asking to prohibit the signing of coercive contracts without fully explaining to the student their rights. They also want to end the searches of students homes, the build up of their profiles for future use, and the discrimination that infests the program. I really hope they succeed because I just can’t get over how evil this is. People who defend law enforcement’s every action will of course defend this one, and I just don’t get it. What about this is right? What about this is good service to the community? We’ve so valorized anyone that wears a uniform that for many, they can do no wrong. Well nobody is a hero for putting on a uniform, they’re heroes for doing the right thing and helping others, which this very much isn’t. When marginalized people assert that they face harshness in policing that others don’t, how can anyone read this story and not believe them? I’m not saying the police are evil or someone is evil for joining the police but i’m tired of them being able to get away with so much, with so little accountability. They are supposed to serve the people, not the prosecution, and not the prison industrial system. The DA too should be ashamed of themselves, but that is nothing new. DA’s in the United States are overzealous to the extreme and are partly responsible for the racial discrimination rife in sentencing. I’m sorry for the sanctimonious rambling but it’s upsetting to see kids being set up for failure by people who are supposed to be there to protect them. 

 

Opinions are Jake Morask’s not Law offices

Federal Judge rules EPA Administrator failed to enforce conflict of interest regulations in Illinois

Per Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune, District Court Judge Christopher R. Cooper has ruled that Donald Trump’s former EPA director Scott Pruitt(recently resigned) violated the Clean Air act by “by allowing Illinois, Alabama and Mississippi to omit ethical standards from each state’s federally mandated plans to reduce lung-damaging smog and soot pollution.”(Hawthorne) The ruling is intended to force Illinois to adopt those ethical standards. The problem doesn’t start and end with Pruitt though, as the article dives into. Illinois has long had trouble enforcing conflict of interest laws because of largely the incompetence and corruption of the state EPA. Top officials at the state EPA use their position not for its ostensible purpose- to regulate business damages to the environment and just in general to you know protect the environment- but rather they use the position to protect Industries that they either are apart of or will profit from helping. United States environmental protection agencies, both federal and state, have long put the profit interests of businesses over the health of the environment. With a president who couldn’t give less of a fuck about the environment, that type of attitude is only going to become more and more common. I mean, he already pulled the country out of the Paris Climate conference, with much of the world laughing at America’s ignorance. But as mentioned with Pruitt before, the problem doesn’t start or end with Trump. Unfortunately it is a pretty fundamental tenet of Capitalism to put the profit interests of industry over the health of the environment and the health of the people who depend on a healthy environment. The Country’s early history is full of environmental destruction in the name of the god like free market, usually at the expense of First Nation peoples as well.

I bring this history up because this type of stuff is still happening. It is still largely how the country deals with the environment and government agencies designed superficially to stop Industries from doing damage are more likely to work with those businesses in doing damage than stopping them. (And First Nation peoples and communities with large minority populations are still the ones being especially fucked over by it, check out the case of Standing Rock) So, It’s nearly impossible to expect businesses themselves to limit their environmental damage if there is profit lost by doing it. There needs to be accountability somehow, something the government continually fails at. That’s why cases like these are important. According to the article, three major environmental groups brought this lawsuit against the state EPA. Those groups are the Center for Biological Diversity, The Center for Environmental Health, and the Sierra Club. Jack Darin, the director of Illinois’ Sierra Club Chapter stated, “The people making these decisions should be putting our health and environment first.” Obviously he is right and it is great that the Judge agreed and made Illinois adopt ethics standards for its environmental regulators that include conflict of interest rules. The top target of these groups symbolizes the corruption and greed that infests these agencies. Alec Massina led a Industry trade group before he was chosen by Bruce Rauner to head the states EPA in 2015, a position he has of course used to help Industries he is tied with. The Tribune detailed a story in 2016 in which Massina apparently had been “working behind the scenes since at least November 2016 on a plan intended to benefit one of his former clients: Dynegy Inc., a Houston-based energy company that owns eight financially struggling coal plants in central and southern Illinois. Drafted with extensive input from the company’s Chicago-based attorneys, the proposed changes would allow Dynegy’s fleet to emit substantially more lung-damaging pollution than the coal plants did during 2015 or 2016, according to a Tribune analysis of federal pollution data.” That is pretty damning, and when pressed by reporters in 2016 about how Massina was making decisions about water pollution, the state EPA drafted a memo that barred the director from being involved in those types of decisions for two years. But as the article notes, absurdly that restriction is only on water pollution conflict of interest decisions, not air. The guy still easily won confirmation from the Illinois senate. A spokeswoman for the Illinois EPA claimed that Massina had to only comply with two state laws to satisfy federal requirements, to which environmental groups rightly responded that conflict of interest laws are important and there to hold jackasses like Alec Massina accountable. Though I mentioned this is good news, even with this ruling, it is hard to be optimistic about the direction the state(and country) is going in its relationship with the environment. If the EPA operates more like a business partner than a regulation agency, than what is really going to change? They’ll still find ways to skirt around regulations to help out business partners. It’s been happening forever and will continue to happen unless there’s a drastic revaluation of the relationship between Industry, government, and the environment. 

Illinois’ Terrible Eavesdropping laws threatening to ruin 13 year olds life

 Per Austin Berg of The Times, a 13 year old boy named Paul Boron is being charged with Felony Eavesdropping of his school principal at Manteno Middle School. According to Berg, “On Feb. 16, 2018, Boron was called to the principal’s office at Manteno Middle School after failing to attend a number of detentions. Before meeting Principal David Conrad and Assistant Principal Nathan Short, he began recording audio on his cellphone. Boron said he argued with Conrad and Short for approximately 10 minutes in the reception area of the school secretary’s office, with the door open to the hallway. When Boron told Conrad and Short he was recording, Conrad told Boron he was committing a felony and promptly ended the conversation, Boron says.”
Boron’s action is absurdly a felony because Illinois is an all party consent state when it comes to recording people. This means that a person can’t record another person/persons without all parties consent or they’re committing a felony. The Illinois Supreme Court rightly ruled that this was a violation of First Amendment rights in 2014, but Berg notes that during a legislative session in December of that same year the Illinois General Assembly slipped in the vague clause that a person can’t be recorded if they have a reasonable right to privacy. But as Berg also notes, it is extremely hard to know what that line is making it ripe for being taken advantage of by overzealous DA’s and police departments. Because what all party consent laws are for is clear: They are meant to protect people in power from accountability to the general public. There is no reason people in power should be afraid of being recorded especially in interactions with the public, unless they’re saying stuff that can imply they abuse their power which many many people in authority positions clearly do. It is also insultingly hypocritical that the government/police love to constantly try and extend their surveillance powers over the public, but when the public wants to hold people in power accountable by recording them then all of a sudden privacy becomes the most important issue ever. People in positions of authority can always dish it out, but they can never take it. And it is not hypocritical to support keeping people in power accountable while also being against government/police surveillance. While the overlapping issue of privacy shows the government’s double standards, there is also a fundamental difference between recording people to hold them accountable to the public rather than surveilling people to control them and extend power over them. One method is fundamentally democratic, the other is oppressive. I sincerely hope the prosecution gets a clue in this case and stops trying to severely damage Paul’s future. If a felony conviction gets on his record and he’s forced into the Juvenile justice system, that could be devastating. But hoping for logic and compassion from people in positions of power has gotten harder and harder these days. Paul should be free and with his family, along with every person who has suffered from Eavesdropping laws. People in positions of power should stop being cowards and open themselves up to being recorded by the Illinois public, like a decent amount of other states. If they’re too scared that they’ll come off as corrupt, well then the recording will be fulfilling its purpose.

Medical Cannabis approved as Opioid Substitute

Medical Cannabis ruled as ok substitute for opioids by Illinois legislature, Governor approval awaits.


Per the Chicago Tribune’s Robert McCoppin, the Illinois legislature has approved a measure that will allow patients who have opioid prescriptions to use medical cannabis as a substitute. Maybe just as importantly, they have also eliminated requirements that forced patients to submit to time costly fingerprinting and criminal background checks. Under the measure, doctor’s orders would be the basis of a patient’s ability to purchase medical marijuana from a licensed provider rather than approval from the department of health. As McCoppin implies, this will take a lot of the programs management out of bureaucratic hands, which is good news. I’ve stated this in other blogs when this issue has come up, but bureaucracies are inhumane institutions that really don’t care about people’s well being in the slightest. The department of health floundered as people in pain desperately tried to get medical marijuana licenses but found themselves unable to because of red tape. When I checked into how the program was doing a few months ago, things were pretty bleak. Despite a goal of 100,000 licenses being approved, and more than enough demand, the department was only able to approve 37,000 licenses. So, any measure that can take some of the decision making process out of their hands is a positive. Requiring criminal background checks is also something that seems pretty discriminatory and as mentioned before, incredibly time wasting. Nobody is buying a firearm here, they’re acquiring a legitimate medical item. There are so many stupid victimless things people have criminal records over, and not allowing them access to a medical item because of it is pretty atrocious. You could tell how badly this was all going for the department based on the amount of bipartisan support for the measure, a rare thing in these days. Don Harmon, a Democrat for Oak Park, was the main sponsor for the bill. He cited some hearings in Springfield from people who had tried to use marijuana to lower their opioid use, as providing a big impression on him. He made an accurate assertion that despite his lack of knowledge over marijuana’s medical utility, he knows there have been no overdose deaths that have stemmed from it. Unlike opioids, which have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. He is right, we don’t know totally what kind of medical utility cannabis has. McCoppin writes, “In general, the National Academies of Sciences has reported there is substantial evidence indicating marijuana is effective in treating chronic pain, nausea from chemotherapy, and muscle spasticity from multiple sclerosis. The Food and Drug Administration remains skeptical, and has approved synthetic versions of THC, the component that gets users high, but has not approved the plant as medicine.” So, it seems apparent that it does have some medical utility, but I don’t think it is perfect or without negatives. There is no need to glorify it, obsess over it, or legislate it out of existence. People should not be going to jail, paying fines, or being harassed by law enforcement because of it. People in pain who feel like it helps, should be listened to. They should have access to it regardless of a criminal background, or socioeconomic status. On another slightly related note, I think it’s pretty rich that the FDA acts as some ultimate credible institution on that matter. This is the institution that was basically ok letting people with Aids suffer and die while not doing really anything on the matter. They are still an extremely flawed institution, rife with racism and homophobia. They care more about protecting the profit margins of Pharmaceutical companies than they do protecting consumer interests. So, to be completely frank, I don’t really care whatever the hell the FDA has to say. This measure still needs to be approved by Rauner however, who has never seemed like much of an advocate for the Medical Cannabis program. He has resisted efforts to legalize, but as McCoppin writes, he may use this type of measure as a middle ground in the upcoming campaign. Rauner’s opponents Pritzker has stated before that he is pro legalization and pro extension of medical Cannabis access. I think Rauner would be incredibly foolish to reject this bipartisan approved measure.

Bruce Rauner’s Death Penalty/Gun Control Compromise

 

– A little over a week ago, Bruce Rauner used his amendatory veto powers on a gun control bill(focused on lengthening waiting periods for rifles and shotguns) to add not only further restrictions on gun access but also to add in a Capital punishment provision for mass killers and those who gun down police officers. The legislature can use a 3/5ths majority to amend the bill to its original version or just try to throw it out all together. I should preface this by stating that I am very firmly against the death penalty and that is the framework through which I will argue against this bill. There are many reasons to be against the death penalty. One is that I and many others believe the intrinsic value of life is sacred, not on a religious level, but because it is the only one we get. I find the idea of our government- supposedly the representative of the most liberal freedom loving country in the world- snuffing that out to not just be deeply disturbing on a personal ethical level but also completely contrary to what America professes to be and what it should try to be. Our government already kills an absurd amount of people even without the death penalty, sanctioning even more death will just add to its increasing moral decay. Another big reason is that the government condemns innocent people all the time. There’s likely a very sizable amount of prisoners right now on death row in death penalty states like California that are innocent but are going to die anyway. Check out the story of Kevin Cooper in the New York Times from Nicholas Kristof with help from Jessia Ma and Stuart A. Thompson. Despite a large amount of evidence to the contrary, multiple judges and current/former law enforcement denouncements, and the completely haphazard handling of the case by the San Bernardino police department, Cooper is still on death row and likely to die. Kristof notes that statistics from the death penalty information center indicate that at least 162 people originally sentenced to death have been exonerated since 1973. And according to a peer reviewed study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, around 4.1% of people condemned to death in the United States are innocent. Kristoff calculates that that would mean around 30 people currently on death row in California are innocent but still likely to die anyway. That number should send shivers down anyone’s spine. If one innocent person is killed by the government, let alone 30, then how the hell can we take this justice system seriously? Who are really the criminals here? Oh and let us not forget how the Chicago Police accountability task force described Chicago’s policing over the last decade or so: Woefully inadequate, persistent problem, Justified lack of trust. Racism and classism pervades the whole history of Chicago policing. So we’re really going to just implicitly trust that the Chicago police and the rest of the Illinois government will carry out this policy responsibly? Screw that.

One of the most frustrating things about the bill to me is that it actually has some admirable measures that Rauner added on, like banning bump stocks. But is this then just a method of holding gun control hostage in exchange for a death penalty provision? Do we really have to have one or the other? Thankfully there is protests towards the bill from some state democrats and other notable death penalty critics, written about here by John O’Connor of the AP. The article ends on an important point from journalist Rob Warden: “Rob Warden, who has spent years exposing wrongful convictions as a journalist and academic, told lawmakers that even a “limited” death penalty is ripe for lawmakers’ expansion. When Illinois restored capital punishment in 1977, there were six “aggravating factors,” or legal determinations that, if met, could warrant a death sentence, Warden said. When it was abolished, there were 20.” (O’Connor) Give the Illinois government an inch and they will take a mile. Another thing that needs to be added to this debate is that these killings are ritualized ceremonies. What does that say about our society? What do we want our reaction to crime to be? Violent ceremonial revenge against unarmed prisoners? Because that’s what we’re advocating and teaching kids. Revenge is not a societal good and it is not something that we should continue to pass down to future generations. The focus should be on seeking humane justice. To sum up: Life is sacred and the state should not kill people, we should not influence future generations to continue seeking revenge, too many innocent people have already been condemned to death, and the Illinois government has a history of incompetence and corruption. On top of all that, according to the vast majority of law enforcement officials surveyed by the ACLU, the death penalty does absolutely nothing to deter violent crime. So what are we getting out of this? I understand the pain of the victims family must be excruciating but that does not mean the state has any right to murder people. Would we consider vigilante justice from the victims family right? Of course not, so we shouldn’t consider it right when the state does it either. One more thing I frequently hear from people arguing for the death penalty is the question about what you would want if it was the murderer of someone close to you? I am lucky to say I haven’t suffered through a tragedy such as that, and I can’t predict how I’d react, but I’d like to believe I’d still be vehemently against that persons death and know 100% that it would be wrong.

-Here are the links to both the original bill, and its amended version: HB1468 SB2580

Opinions are Jake Morask’s and not representative of Laura Law office as a whole.

A Tale of Two Heroes

This year’s  Memorial Day post to honor our servicemen is from a very personal perspective-A Tale of Two Heroes. Two men who outwardly could not have been more different. One Living in Budapest attending gymnasium (the Hungarian equivalent of high school)  and looking forward to a future as an architect. One who served as a survivor of the death/work camp known as Malthausen,  taken prisoner by the invading German army into Hungary at the age of 19. The other lived in California, not yet sure of his life’s path other than to know one thing-he wanted badly to enlist  in the army and serve at the ripe age of 16 and was eventually deployed overseas in 1947 -his unit’s mission ; to help the Allied restoration of the vast amount of refugees and removal of  the  Concentration camps after the waning days of World War 2.  The first man was Jewish, the second, Catholic. Born half a world apart, these two men  could not know their lives would intersect 50 years later.

The first man, was  captured in the Nazi takeover of Hungary and ripped apart from his family. He  had no idea whether they lived or died during his years of captivity. He  was young,  healthy and smart- thus the Nazis considered him an asset which undoubtedly saved his life as he was sent to Malthausen on the “work” side of the camp and ultimately conscripted as the “personal servant “ (read-slave) to The Commandant. For years he subsisted on scraps of what the Nazis considered enough to keep the workers alive.  Years later he would describe in the rare times he spoke of such, of eating literally scraps. Week old pieces of horse-meat was considered a treat as were spoiled rotten shreds of mutton. Most days he  was  lucky to get old crusts of moldy bread if anything.

The second man was also young, smart and healthy which earned him an enlistment at age 16. When the second man was sent with his unit overseas in 1947 as part of the Allied army of occupation, he saw indescribable horrors and he too endured months of  living conditions that most of us could never imagine.

When the Allies prevailed, the prisoners in the camps were liberated and the first man,  like many others cried tears of joy when the Allies swung open the gates of hell and the first man, like many others literally walked out with  scraps of clothes on his back, and no shoes.  He walked the unending miles from Austria back to Budapest, not knowing what he would find. He walked miles, hungry, exhausted but free. He would describe 50 years later the story of finally reaching Budapest and turning down the tiny street where his family had lived in a second floor apartment that had a tiny balcony. His grandmother would sit out for hours on the balcony sunning herself,   hooking her cane over it’s rail. When he turned down onto their street the sun broke through the clouds, it’s rays beaming down for a moment directly onto his family’s balcony. And there he saw his grandmother’s cane hooked as always over the railing. He ran the rest of the way and discovered his entire family still alive and intact.

The second man would come to describe years later the looks on those in the refugee camps, many skeletal  concentration camp survivors when his unit came in to help the restoration efforts.  I imagine the displaced refugees who flung themselves into soldiers arms with their skeletal bodies  weeping tears of absolute joy. This man had no words to describe the ultimate swaths of  devastation he saw  wreaked  by the Nazis.

The first man ended up being sponsored for a Hillel scholarship by a  man whom he had never met but who  would become his lifelong best friend. The first man came over on  the  boat in 1947; destination Ellis Island. He was  sick to his stomach the entire trip, having lifelong seasickness. But it mattered not as he was free. He spoke no English. The scholarship was to a small school in Ohio where his sponsor was on the Hillel Foundation-Miami University of Ohio. But the travails before being allowed to even get there were numerous as entire shiploads of refugees were held at Ellis Island until cleared for “entry.” He was finally cleared and released onto the streets of New York City with 10.00 in his pocket and his sponsor’s name and address. Somehow he got to the University where he obtained his undergraduate  and architecture degree while teaching himself English and working. This man’s sponsor by the end of college was now living in Chicago and urged his  friend to come to Chicago. The first man took a job out of architecture school at the world famous Skidmore, Owings & Merrill where he was offered a job at the “bottom” as a junior apprentice draftsman.

The second man, after the war, also ended up in Chicago where he applied to the Chicago Police Department, also with a sponsor who  became a dear friend.  After passing the Chicago Police Department tests, and the academy, he too  started at the bottom; walking a foot post in the 41st District of Rogers Park.

The first man worked his way up through Skidmore eventually becoming managing  partner of this high profile international architecture firm. The first man would go on to be the chief design partner for the John Hancock building and many other world renowned structures.  Along the path his sponsor, now his best friend, made him go on a double date  to be set up with one of his best friend’s wife’s two best friends. Midway through the date, the two couples being set up switched as each had a connection with the other’s date. The first man got married a year later and after the birth of their first son and daughter,  moved to Highland Park where his best friend lived.

They had another son six years later and were married for 22 years when his wife died of cancer at age 42 leaving him a widow with three devastated children. Four years later on another fix up, he married his second wife who was actually friends of their family as were her two kids. They were married 40 years. The first man retired  in 1988 and eventually  built his dream house on the Florida gulf coast where he could be surrounded by all his kids and grandkids during vacations.

The second man met the love of his life in 1952 in front of a pool hall  in Chicago, a few short miles north  from where  the first man and his wife lived. The second man  married this  woman of his dreams in 1954, the year the first man’s first son was born. He and his wife  raised two boys in the Belmont-Oriole  neighborhood in Chicago. The second  man worked his way up the ranks of the Chicago Police Department becoming an Area Detective-sergeant handling many high profile killers, cases, and criminals along the way. He was the primary detective on one of the biggest cases of its time-the murder of two police officers in the 70’s near Cabrini Green. He retired in 1990, after 33 years of decorated  service to the city having received numerous commendations. He and his wife will celebrate 64 years of marriage.

Little did these two men know that fifty years after the war, the first man’s daughter would meet the second man’s son in 1985 and their paths finally crossed when the son brought the daughter home  to meet the family. Four years later, they married and the families were forever intertwined.

The first man is my father -Robert Diamant, whose story I have often told but in my opinion cannot be told too many times-a heroic man whose tale is that of a true  self made man climbing from the abyss  of horror to go on to emigrate to the United States and years later  build one of the world’s most famous buildings. But true to character , his proudest moment was passing the citizenship test and being able to sponsor and bring his parents to emigrate to the United States, and ultimately settle and take care of them  a few blocks from our family home.

The second man is my father in law, Richard Morask,  whose story is equally heroic-it is the story of the  Everyman, our true heroes, who served his country in war ravaged Europe  and then his city for years,  risking his life on a daily basis; his family at home never knowing if he would make it home -always dreading the “phone call”. Dick is a man who also instinctively and empathetically is always there for  not just his immediate family but any of the numerous aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces or friends needing help.

Both of these heroes lived their lives without seeking public acclaim, fame, credit or fortune. Each was and is a self made man who cared more about family than fame, who instinctively were leaders of men and always there for friends and family in any emergency. It is incredible to me that each were part of this war in such different ways and each served and made such vast contributions, sacrifices and service to our country.

The parallels in their lives is eerie-my father and father in law share the same birthday-April 2nd. My father came to America in 1947 after briefly attending the Hungarian Polytechnic Institute before winning the Hillel scholarship.  My father in law got stationed in Germany in 1947; ships passing in the night.  My mother and step mother shared the same birthday-July 3rd. My in laws had two sons three years apart in age. I have two sons three years apart in age. My father and mother had my oldest brother and I three years apart. My father retired in 1988  two years earlier than my father in law, in 1990. Each of these unsung  heroes were survivors of the hardest “knocks” a life can have but without fail got back up, and showed up to fight another day.

These two men, the unsung heroes, became fast friends. They immensely enjoyed each other. Even living miles apart after my father retired in Florida and Dick retired in Niles, at every family gathering the two would be found deep in conversation sharing a cocktail discussing either the events of the day, or their shared passion for golf. My father is gone now. He passed away in January, 2015. My father in law with whom I am fortunate to have a great relationship, has been like  a second father to me. When pregnant with my second  son, my father and step mother had flown in from Florida for the birth but were downtown when I suddenly had to get to Northwestern Hospital from Park Ridge. My husband was in mid closing argument at 26th and California. My father in law was at my house within three minutes of calling, rushed me down, and delivered me intact to the Labor and Delivery floor where my father and husband were waiting to thank him  profusely.

My father was my rock and anchor for  60 years, extricating me from sticky situations-flying at a moments notice across the country for emergencies and joining to  commemorate  our  family milestones and celebrations. We would talk every week late into the  night about life, family, politics, and the legal thrillers and TV shows we both loved. He loved to hear about my legal cases and offered sage advice and strategy.  He always  put family first.

So too  my father in law. Cut  from the same mettle, he is a steadfast source of strength.  He has shared countless hours of help, advice and just being there. Too many times to mention,  he has whipped into his car to get one of the kids to the doctor in those growing up emergencies young boys have when both parents are miles away downtown. He  too always puts   family first.

So this Memorial Day, I dedicate to these two men,  who while born continents apart into vastly different worlds  would come to  intersect 50 years later. Men  who quietly and enduringly  touched  and  changed countless lives  far and near-a Tale of Two Heroes.

Illinois Senate Approves Access to Medical Marijuana for Kids at School

By: Jake Morask

caduceus-2789653_960_720State legislators have taken a step toward giving access to medical marijuana for kids at school. Per Robert McCoppin of the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois Senate has overwhelmingly voted to approve Ashley’s Law, which will allow students who use medical marijuana for treatment to be able to consume it on school premises. The law is named after a young girl named Ashley Surin who uses medical marijuana to treat the epilepsy that she developed from undergoing chemo treatment for her Leukemia. “Ashley wears a patch and uses lotion containing cannabidiol, or CBD oil, with a small amount of THC, the psychoactive element in cannabis . . . . It does not get her high, but has eliminated her seizures, her parents said.” (McCoppin). The law passed in the Senate 50-2 and was sponsored by Elgin Democrat Christina Castro. Now the law will be sent to Rauner where he will decide whether or not to sign it into effect, which seems like what pretty much everybody wants (minus the two “no” voters). Apparently parents, guardians, or caregivers can administer the treatment so school employees don’t have to do so and face possible discomfort. I would have liked for the article to mention whether or not the kids themselves can administer their treatment without a guardian (which would make sense to me) but it’s kind of hard to tell.

Either way this is a good law and a bit of uplifting news in a currently depressing political climate. Putting the needs of children in pain ahead of whatever bullshit usually pops up in these debates is admirable and a good template for other political issues. Laws that try to prevent access to medical marijuana for people in pain are cruel and imply that the patient or parents of the patient are somehow irresponsible or worse, that their pain isn’t truly legitimate. It’s good the law passed so easily, indicating that this is something both sides can mostly agree on.

Within the last two months in Illinois there have been great strides in Marijuana policy. Patients who would otherwise get an Opiate prescription are now able to possibly substitute that for Medical Marijuana access, and in April the Illinois House voted to allow people charged with small weed possession or paraphernalia to petition for expungement. These are but small steps toward a time when hopefully there’s not a single person sitting in jail for a Marijuana offense, or a single person suffering from pain who might see relief using medical marijuana but can’t get it. Also, looking at the program’s website, I hope these prices for applications come down or are done away with in general. I don’t see why someone should have to pay $100 for a one year  registration period. Is it a crazy amount of money? No, but for people who struggle everyday to put food on the table for them and their families, this amount could legitimately turn them away. If one single person finds that they can’t get access to this program because of their economic condition, then I think the program is a failure.