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Monday, September 12, 2011


1) “Do the world a favor and go kill yourself. P.S. Have a nice day.” That is just one of 8,000 Twitter messages sent anonymously by William Lawrence Cassidy to Alyce Zeoli, a Buddhist leader based in Maryland. Cassidy is being prosecuted in federal court for cyberstalking, based on the federal cyberstalking statute, which you can read here. The First Amendment distinction that a Maryland federal court must now decide is the following: is posting a public message on Twitter akin to speaking from an old-fashioned soapbox, or can it also be regarded as a means of direct personal communication, like a threatening letter or phone call?

2) "[We are just trying to ensure]...that taxpayer money isn't subsidizing somebody's drug habit." The words of a spokesman for Florida Governor Rick Scott on a state law requiring drug testing for welfare recipients. The ACLU has challenged the law, arguing it constitutes an unconstitutional use of search and seizure. Courts addressing this issue in the past have agreed with the ACLU's argument. Back in 1999, Michigan had a random drug testing policy for those applying for welfare, but it was ruled unconstitutional in a federal appeals court.

3) “Now you can have a shooting gallery in your backyard.” Shelley Vana, a Palm Beach County commissioner, speaking to the New York Times in a story you can read here. She is referring to a new Florida state law that will fine any county or municipality that enforces its own gun ordinance. Many localities in the state have ordinances that prevent guns from being carried into parks or libraries or shot into the air to celebrate. These will now have to be removed. Towns that enforce such ordinances risk a $100,000 fine. The motivation for banning local ordinances is to make it easier for people to navigate the state without having to determine what they can and cannot do from one locality to the next.

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