BULLETIN
#13 Fall 1993

l TAFOL PLANS ESSAY CONTEST FOR LAW STUDENTS
l SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO HEAR APPEAL OF DECISION UPHOLDING
     MANDATORY COMMUNITY SERVICE FOR PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
l ACTIVITIES OF DIRECTORS AND OFFICERS

#13 Fall 1993 Page 1

TAFOL PLANS ESSAY CONTEST FOR LAW STUDENTS

TAFOL is planning to institute an annual essay contest for law students beginning with the 1994-95 academic year. The purpose of the contest is to promote awareness of Ayn Rand's political philosophy among law students. Students will be asked to write an essay concerning the application of Ayn Rand's philosophy to legal issues that the students might face in law school. Cash prizes will be awarded. Further details will be announced in this Bulletin.

TAFOL welcomes donations for the cash prizes and operating expenses, which will include substantial sums for printing and mailing. TAFOL has § 501(c)(3) public charity status, and thus the Internal Revenue Service recognizes all donations as tax deductible.


SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO HEAR APPEAL OF DECISION UPHOLDING MANDATORY COMMUNITY SERVICE FOR PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

The United States Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals' decision upholding a program compelling public high school students to perform community service. The Supreme Court, as is normal in such cases, gave no reasons for its refusal to grant certiorari. Out of hundreds of cases that had accumulated on the Supreme Court's docket over the summer recess, only seven appeals were accepted.

The Third Circuit issued its opinion in Steirer v. Bethlehem Area School District on March 15, 1993. As reported in previous issues of its bulletin, TAFOL had filed an amicus curiae brief in the case to provide additional support for the plaintiffs' attempt to have the program ruled unconstitutional. The plaintiffs were students and parents who objected to a program that denies a high school diploma to any student who refuses to render 60 hours of unpaid
community service.

The petition to the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari was filed by a public interest law firm called the Institute for Justice, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to the Supreme Court's denial of certiorari, TAFOL had made contact with lawyers handling the case, and arrangements were in place for TAFOL to have filed an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court had the case gone forward.


ACTIVITIES OF DIRECTORS AND OFFICERS

Steve Plafker, Arline Mann, and Tom Bowden will deliver a four-hour course entitled "Rights and the Courts" at the upcoming "Ideas for the Rational Mind" conference, sponsored by Second Renaissance Conferences. The two-week conference will be held at the Meadowlands Hilton in Secaucus, New Jersey, July 16 through July 31, 1994. Tom's lecture will explain how the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade has become the battleground on which the future of natural law jurisprudence in America will probably be decided. Arline will discuss the method by which concepts of rights are developed, case by case, in the legal system, using the texts of actual court decisions as examples. Steve will focus on how the criminal law secures rights substantively (by convicting criminals) and procedurally (by protecting the rights of the accused). For a brochure describing the lectures planned in philosophy, economics, history, art, and music, write to: SR Conferences, [OMITTED - SEE LINK TO THE AYN RAND INSTITUTE].

* * *

TAFOL's presentation at The Jefferson School last summer in San Francisco was a dramatized court presentation of

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two cases. Most TJS attendees turned out for the evening presentation, in which attorneys (Steve Plafker and Arline Mann) examined witnesses (Michael Berliner, Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Andrew Lewis), while the judge (TJS lecturer Andrew Bernstein) and the bailiff (Anne Moroney) kept the "trial" moving. The audience acted as jury members to deliberate on the two cases through open discussion.

The first case, a criminal proceeding, raised issues concerning the proper limitations on one's right to defend one's property and one's self. The defendant was charged with manslaughter. He testified that just after purchasing groceries and leaving a store, he was pushed to the ground by a thief, who grabbed the groceries and ran away. The defendant ran after the thief but could not catch him, so the defendant pulled out his gun (for which he had a license), aimed at the thief's arm, but tripped before firing the gun and killing the robber. The jury convicted the defendant after an animated discussion concerning, among other things, whether the privilege of defense for one's property is more limited than the privilege for defense of one's person, and whether the privilege can be properly exercised only at the moment of the threat to person or property. The defendant was sentenced by Judge Bernstein to participation in the Ph.D program in philosophy at Harvard.

The second case, a civil proceeding, dealt with the rights of convicted criminals. The plaintiff, a prison inmate, claimed damages based on the warden's improper conduct. The witness was the warden, who testified that he had confiscated from the prisoner a magazine that contained both sexually explicit material and an editorial critical of prison policies. When the inmate complained, the warden punched him. The warden explained that he had confiscated the magazine because the type of sexual and editorial material it contained were believed by prison authorities to incite violence in prisons. The jury decided that the magazine should not have been confiscated and that the warden should not have punched the prisoner. Although there was sharp disagreement as to the correct boundary of the warden's powers, most jury members concluded that inmates retain certain rights.

Following the verdict in each case, the TAFOL members discussed with the audience the current state of the law on the issues raised.

* * *

A Texas State appellate court has held that the trial court committed error when it dismissed on jurisdictional grounds a suit to establish a state-wide program of mandatory pro bono service for lawyers. The trial court had ruled that only the Supreme Court of Texas has jurisdiction to award the relief sought by the plaintiffs. The appellate court held that the trial court has jurisdiction to hear the plaintiffs' case. The case was originally filed in 1991 by several indigents against the Texas State Bar Association, alleging that each member of the bar has a duty to provide free legal services to the poor.

The State Bar of Texas has appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court. The appeal asks that the decision of the court of appeals be reversed and that the case be dismissed, consistent with the decision of the trial court. A ruling could take six to nine months, according to Michael Mazzone, who is a party to the case and expects to present further arguments against mandatory pro bono, when and if a court eventually hears the merits of the case.

* * *

Steve Plafker gave an interview scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of Atlantis magazine.
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Copyright © 1993 The Association for Objective Law. All rights reserved.
The Association for Objective Law is a Missouri non-profit corporation whose
purpose is to advance Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, as the basis of a proper legal system.