Gerald (Jerry) Zezas

Home » Legal conundrums

Category Archives: Legal conundrums


Broad Sympathy

W.E.B DuBois used an expression when discussing what he referred to as “The Talented Tenth”, a term which he used when discussing the premise that one out of ten black men should become leaders of their race in the world, as that would be the way for the black man to rise out of slavery and oppression. He discussed these concepts in the 1890s.

In one speech he explained this much better:
“Men we shall have only as we make manhood the object of the work of the schools — intelligence, broad sympathy, knowledge of the world that was and is, and of the relation of men to it — this is the curriculum of that Higher Education which must underlie true life. On this foundation, we may build bread winning, skill of hand and quickness of brain, with never a fear lest the child and man mistake the means of living for the object of life.”

The operative phrase here, as far as this writer is concerned, is “broad sympathy”. It struck me when I first read it since, being such a simple phrase, it surprised me that I had never heard it or read ever before in my lifetime, especially given my extensive reading and research for my education and writing.
Upon reflection, I believe that the understanding of this phrase is critical to open-mindedness and the ability to understand someone whose opinions might vary greatly from yours. It does not describe sympathy in its most common usage, including feelings of sorrow for someone who has suffered a loss or pity for those less fortunate than one’s self.
I think that his use of the term speaks to what is required for intelligent thought and communication. An example of the use of broad sympathy is when communicating, with verbally or in writing, and understanding that what you’re thinking is not necessarily what the other person is thinking. This can manifest itself when someone speaks in pronouns rather than common or proper nouns. The excessive use of he, him, her, she, it etc., as if the listener knows who these people are without being reminded, can be very frustrating. The speaker assumes that you can see the people s/he is picturing in their head while speaking to you. They are not displaying broad sympathy since they are concentrating on their own thoughts and ignoring yours.
It can also mean knowing where a person with an opposing viewpoint is getting his logic from, and respecting it, even when disagreeing. This is the essence of any negotiation. Understanding the other person’s point of view is critical if you want to change their mind. And I don’t mean this in the platitudinous sense as we hear in so many Facebook memes about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and the like. It means understanding your opponent’s motivation and the rationale for his position even though you are trying to dissuade him of it.
Broad sympathy is what makes a good attorney a great attorney. Understanding the assumptions of the opposing attorney and the jury and dissuading them of their position, not by force or ridicule, but by using the logic of their own positions to sway them to yours.

An example of this is let’s say, two people arguing about the use of animals for medical testing. Your opponent says that the particular animal in question cannot feel pain from the testing done to him, and so this testing is justified since it causes no harm. If one has broad sympathy, one has determined that this is the basis for the opposing argument-lack of pain. This is what is apparently important to your opponent. So now, rather than argue a different point, if you can show a study that claims that this particular animal might feel pain, you are addressing the specific argument made by your opponent. Since he has already tacitly suggested that a lack of pain is justification for these animal experiments, it follows, by extension, and the presence of pain is the opposite and is cause to cease these tests. You have used your opponent’s argument against him, due to your ability to recognize what part of his argument is the most critical. At this point, he may move on to a different argument justifying the testing, but he has exposed himself to you since most people will lead off with their best argument and be forced to use less convincing one’s subsequently. My favorite way of expressing this is what I call the “your mother’s a whore”, tactic. When someone is not well prepared to make an argument or all of their arguments have been dispelled by logic, they revert to an ad hominem argument and say, “Well, I don’t care what you say anyway. And your mother’s a whore”. This tends to be the tactic used by Donald Trump quite often. When he runs out of defense of his position, he attacks his opponent personally, and smugly. It reveals more about him than his opponent. Donald Trump displays an utter lack of broad sympathy toward anyone who would oppose him.

This is true in other aspects of life as well. Although there are times when we simply can’t imagine where another person got their ideas, it is often a lack of broad sympathy on our part, not necessarily their ignorance of the subject. It helps to distinguish between those who have opinions with little or no substance, and those who have thoughtful, reasoned, defensible attitudes and are comfortable expressing them without personal attacks.


C-o-n-s-t-i-t-u-t-i-o-n and Other Favorite Repub Words

If I hear one more poorly-informed, Fox-watching Repub remark about how Barak Obama is “shredding the Constitution” or some other such synaptic bile…

I’m waiting for someone, anyone to suggest, even vaguely, what article (yes, the Constitution has more than just amendments), section or amendment is being violated or shredded by President Obama. Yet no one does. This problem occurs likely because reading about 4500 words on 4 pages is quite a lot for those accustomed to getting their news from Sean Hannity. And the amendments make up about another 3000 or so words, which is way more than they can read on the toilet. And it has no pictures, so I suspect that that’s why none of them has read past the Second Amendment before they get bored and switch to Guns and Ammo or Us Weekly.

If there was, in fact, some, any, even an inkling of a violation, does anyone doubt that the same party which impeached Bill Clinton for lying about a blowjob wouldn’t jump at the chance to do the same to a Constitution shredder like Obama? The Repubs control the House and the Senate. They could bring articles of impeachment up tomorrow and the trial could start within a month; lots of time to toss out this Commie, Socialist, Muslim-sympathizing Kenyan before his term ends! Why haven’t they done so? Could it be that they’re simply talking out a particular lower-body orifice which is usually kept from sunlight? Could it be that they’re so proud of themselves for pronouncing a word with more than three syllables that it doesn’t matter whether they’re telling the truth or not? Or could it be, as I suspect, that they simply repeat their memorised talking points whenever they are assigned by their Dear Leader, Roger Ailes? Do they really like sounding so stunningly stupid?

Facts are facts. And none has been brought forth. And none will. The reason is that there has been no “shredding of the Constitution”. The legal guardian of that Constitution, the Supreme Court, still exists in all its glory, even with a conservative majority. They’ll be sure to let us know if, let’s say, the latest challenge to Obamacare stands up or not. And if by some chance they make the ill-informed decision to rule against Obamacare, then it will NO LONGER BE THE LAW, just like the Constitution says it should be. No shredding necessary.

But, since conservatives jump on every chance they can find to say words bigger than Benghazi, I’m sure they’ll continue to make this vacuous claim and, when called out on it, will just slake their embarrassment by turning on O’Reilly.

Ink Up for Gun Rights!- A reprint of my blog from August 2013

I’ve been noticing that there are some militant gun owners who’ve chosen to get tattoos of the Second Amendment. This curious trend made me want to research exactly what these people thought they were accomplishing by doing so. On it’s face, it appears that they believe that, having read one sentence out of The Constitution, their brilliant legal minds were instantly able to deduce that all one needs to know are these 27 simple words regarding gun rights. As is quite typical of those who perform these simplistic and reductive acts, they should have read juuuuust a little further along, since there’s quite a bit more to the story.


Second Amendment: A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The “well-regulated militia” part is the subject of great debate, with some asserting that it limits the right to bear arms only to a militia. We will not address that issue here because it is, admittedly, vague. I will assume that this amendment gives everyone the same rights, militia or not.

The second part, which says that the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed, is the part that appears to be quite black and white,(aka Tattoo-worthy) with some believing that it settles the argument about gun rights. That would be true until you remember that the Constitution is not limited to the Second Amendment. There’s a few other words in there as well…


Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This amendment quite simply states that if the Constitution does not address an issue, then the states may do so. It is often ignored by those who are biased toward the Second Amendment, since it doesn’t serve their purposes. What a shocker.I guess it also doesn’t look as good scrawled across one’s back on a drawing that looks like aged parchment.

So, by simply reading just one more of the Amendments, we should understand why any state can pass laws to modify the Constitution, within the limits of the Tenth Amendment.

Below you will find the language of the State Constitutions of 8 states, which do, in fact, modify the Second Amendment to make it mean something quite different. This list is not comprehensive, only a sampling of the states that have chosen to modify the right to bear arms in their respective states.

I picked out these specific states because there are many, like Michigan and Alaska, among others, which do not modify the Second Amendment at all. In those states, there is no infringement whatsoever on your right to bear arms. In the states I’ve list below, however,(some will surprise you), there are quite specific, legal limitations on your right to bear arms.

On a side note, if anyone doubts the veracity of what is printed below, I got it directly from the NRA’s web site at We all know that the NRA would never lie, so we’ll use their data to make our point.

Florida: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law.” (This basically says you can, unless we say you can’t).

Georgia: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but the General Assembly shall have power to prescribe the manner in which arms may be borne.” (Same restrictions as Florida. Yes you can, unless we change our minds).

Kentucky: “All men are by nature, free and equal, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned: … 7) the right to bear arms in defense of themselves and of the state, subject to the power of the general assembly to enact laws to prevent persons from carrying concealed weapons.” (If they can regulate concealed weapons, they can regulate all weapons).

Missouri: “That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned; but this shall not justify the wearing of concealed weapons.” (Same as Kentucky).

Oklahoma: “The right of a citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person, or property, or in aid of the civil power, when thereunto legally summoned, shall never be prohibited, but nothing herein contained shall prevent the legislature from regulating the carrying of weapons.” (The legislature can regulate, which is basically saying that the legislature can “infringe”).

Tennessee: That the citizens of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.” (Once again, if that “regulation” lessens anyone’s right, then it is “infringement” and is apparently legal in Tennessee of all places).


Texas: “Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime” (Who would have thought that Texas can decide when you can or can’t “wear” your arms).

Utah: The individual right of the people to keep and bear arms for security and defense of self, family, others, property, or the State as well as for other lawful purposes shall not be infringed; but nothing herein shall prevent the legislature from defining the lawful use of arms.” (Here they simply say that your rights will not be “infringed” but that the legislature gets to define just what “infringed” means).


Interpret this as you will, but there is not a lot of road between “regulating” and “infringing”. You can debate this all you like, but the fact that some states limit your Second Amendment rights, and have for quite some time, proves, via statutory as well as case law, that they can.

For this reason, if you don’t want to look like an imbecile, it would be advisable that you know what you’re doing before you put ink to skin.

Unless looking like an imbecile is just how you roll…


Your Own Private Idaho

Just came across an article today that compelled me to do some research regarding religion, abortion and children. And I found out something amazing…

In 6 states, Idaho being one of them, it is legal for a parent to refuse medical treatment for their child if the parents truly believe that prayer is the only method acceptable to heal their children of diseases. Yes, in these states, a parent can claim a right to let their child die if they don’t believe that god wants us to use medicine to “artificially” heal them. One such group is known as the Followers of Christ.

Yet, in Idaho and most of these other states, recent legislation has made it dramatically more difficult for a woman to have an abortion. in Idaho, specifically, the government refuses to allow public funds to pay for an abortion under most circumstances, and adds numerous restrictions to doing so even when legal.

Yes folks, you heard it here. In at least 6 states, Idaho being one of them, you cannot abort a fetus which has no chance of survival on its own without paying for it yourself (even if you have insurance) and adhering to various guidelines set by the state to “protect unborn children”. It would likely be completely illegal in these states if the Supreme Court had not deemed it legal in Roe v Wade.

Yet, friends and neighbors, after they are born, you can let them die a slow, painful death if you just happen to be stupid enough to think that god listens to prayers and specifically watches out for children. Yup, that’s perfectly OK as long as you put gods name on it.

It is estimated that over 150 children have been allowed to die this way since 1972 in Idaho alone…

Praise Jesus?

Attributive Shortcuts and Stand Your Ground

We are all racists.Some are just better at it than others. Just as we are all sexists and ageists (I’m pretty sure that’s actually a thing). The point is, we all tend to me more comfortable around those who are most like us, and tend to categorize those who aren’t. Seeing others through the filter of their race, sex or age is a cheap and simple way for us to assign attributive shortcuts to others, such as intelligence or willingness to work for a living, or some other made-up set of characteristics. It requires little cognitive ability. Its a trait that many smart people share with idiots.

These attributive shortcuts are however, purely subjective and are assigned by any and all of us to anyone we like at any time. When you hear of a shuffleboard game being playing in Florida, you think old people. When you hear of a gossip session over herbal tea you think women, when you hear of a bunch of kids walking around in a bad neighborhood, yeah, you think of black people. Oh yes you do.

These things are part of our nature and reinforce the premise that we are good at seeing patterns (we’re not as good as we think) and so enables us to believe that we’ve got the world figured out. Once again, what I referred to above as attributive shortcuts.

The Florida Stand Your Ground Law (what a horrible name that is) reads, in part:

“A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

The operative words in the above paragraph are “reasonably believes”. This is truly problematic since it relies on reasonableness rather than rationality. The problem is that it can’t be measured quantitatively. Assigning a degree of reasonableness to a decision is like assigning a specific degree of beauty to a poem or a specific degree of stupidity to an imbecile (Although god knows I try).

Reasonable belief lies solely within our consciousness and cannot be measured, nor can it be judged objectively. If an 85-year-old grandma who lives in an all white, gated community where the most difficult decision she makes all day is whether her pants matches her sweater has car trouble in a “bad neighborhood”, and is approached by 4 youths with their pants down around their asses (I’ll let your brain decide what race they are. Ready, ok, I’m sure you’re done), she will likely have visions of that overhyped “knockout game” that was so breathlessly reported by the conservative media a couple of months ago (I think it happened a total of about 5 times but was reported as rampant, especially in conservative media, kinda like they report shark attacks) and in all likelihood will “reasonably believe” that she is in danger and, according to that law, can pull out her legally concealed Glock 19 from the glovebox of her Caddy and go all wild west on them.

Now, if those youths happen to be approaching to help her, well, we’ll probably never know, especially if she’s a good shot. The Glock 19 gives her 17 tries since that’s its magazine capacity, so taking out 4 kids shouldn’t be too hard.

Michael Dunn might have truly believed that he was in some sort of danger. After all, black kids playing “thug” music in an SUV fits right into our attributive shortcut. All us white folk know that the site of more than one of them at a time is almost always trouble (wink, wink). And because there are more of us than there are of them (white folk, that is) we get to use our majority status to determine the relative value of a group of people who we have deemed dangerous. The fact that we have the money to purchase a gun bestows upon us the power of life and death, simply because something scared us. Rational options like driving away or simply putting up with the loud music are apparently not valid options (I am 58 years old and quite specifically remember playing loud music in my car when I was 17, as do most adults. Somehow, though, my life was spared).

Although I don’t have any facts on this, I’d be willing to bet that Michael Dunn, at least once in his life, was in a car with other kids playing loud music. But it probably wasn’t “thug” music, so that makes it OK.

But, according to Michael Dunn and his apologists, my life and his are more valuable than that of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, the kid he killed.

Kinda like the old lady from the gated community in the broken down Caddy. According to Florida 776.013, every time one of us white folk gets scared, we get to kill at least one black kid.

Amanda Knox redux

Amanda Knox, the Seattle woman who was convicted, then acquitted of the murder of her British roommate, was once again convicted by an Italian court, yesterday, of that crime.

The question now is, once the conviction has been appealed, if the conviction is subsequently upheld, can she be extradited to Italy?

Amanda Knox is a US Citizen, living in the US, legally. She is protected by the Constitution as much as anyone. The Fifth Amendment to that Constitution reads:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”.

The premise being bandied about by the media that she could be forced to return to Italy ignores the fact that no foreign powers can force their laws (or lack of same) on an American who is living in America. The fact that the Italians may allow “double-jeopardy” does not alter the fact that we, in the US, do not.

Irrespective whether you believe she murdered her roommate or not, she cannot be convicted of the same crime twice.

Now, Italian vacations are probably not a good idea, but, you get my point.

Bless Me Father, For I Have Incorporated

The Supreme Court will, once again, take a shot at dismembering the ACA (Obamacare) when it reviews the suit by Hobby Lobby (and others) regarding whether the religious beliefs of a corporation should be considered when deciding if they should be forced to provide insurance that covers birth control.

Yes, as incredible as it may seem, there is actually a successful company as uncreatively named as “Hobby Lobby”, but I digress.

The CEO of this company, David Green, is convinced that his fundamentalist Christian beliefs should be imposed upon his 21,000 employees, even though no polling has been taken among them regarding this issue. He is trying to use the fact that corporations have been given First Amendment rights regarding free speech to expand that right to…I’ll say this slowly now..THE RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OF CORPORATIONS.

Yes brothers and sisters and children everywhere, corporations have religious beliefs!, They, collectively, believe in Christianity, Judaism or, potentially, Islam. I guess its all a matter of how they were raised by their corporate parents, you know, back when they were just little Sole Proprietorships in short pants.

Apparently the employees of these corporations have, unbeknownst to us,(or them) given over their personal religious beliefs to their corporate masters, fully trusting these isolated individuals to protect them from the evils of, err, ah, birth control.

Green has gone on the record as having said, “The Green family’s religious beliefs forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices”. Funny, I don’t remember any passage like that in the bible, such as “Thou shall not participate in, provide access to, pay for, train others to engage in…yada, yada, yada. That must be in the In Between Testament, or solely in the mind of David Green.

I’m just waiting for the company owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses to refuse their employees blood transfusions, or one run by Scientologists refusing psychiatric care, or some other wing-nut fundamentalist who doesn’t believe in medical Marijuana. The possibilities are endless.

Yes, apparently Mr Green, a small government advocate and right-wing nut job, doesn’t want the government controlling when a woman can or can’t give birth, but he’s perfectly happy if his $2.5 billion corporation does.

Praise Jesus and pass the scrapbooking kits, we is all gonna be saved!

%d bloggers like this: