Stephen L. Pevar, author of The Rights of Indians and Tribes.

Stephen L. Pevar, author of The Rights of Indians and Tribes.

Today I share some news about an upcoming event that touches on Indian law.

The author of a book that explains the complexities of federal Indian law and tribes’ and their members’ relationships with each other and with non-Indians will speak on current legal issues facing Native peoples Aug. 7 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

Stephen L. Pevar, the author of the 2012 book The Rights of Indians and Tribes, will speak at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7, in the Monte Vista Room at the museum, 2301 N. Central Ave. Pevar will sign copies of his book, available at $25 per copy following his presentation. Since Aug. 7 is First Friday, evening (6 to 10 p.m.) general admission to the museum—and to Pevar’s talk—is free; a $5 gate fee will be charged to visitors wishing to attend the exhibit Super Heroes: Art! Action! Adventure!

Stephen L Pevar Rights of Indians and Tribes book coverFederal Indian law continues to be a complex subject for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. In his presentation at the Heard, Pevar will touch on several topics discussed in the book, which include the powers of Indian tribes; civil and criminal jurisdiction on Indian reservations; Indian hunting, fishing and water rights; taxation in Indian country; the Indian Civil Rights Act; the Indian Child Welfare Act; and tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians.

Pevar is senior staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. He taught a course in federal Indian law at the University of Denver School of Law for 16 years and has lectured extensively on the subject. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Virginia School of Law. He had served for three years as staff attorney for South Dakota Legal Services on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. Since 1976, he has been a national staff counsel for the ACLU.

Pevar has litigated some 200 federal cases involving constitutional rights, including one case in the U.S. Supreme Court. His areas of specialty include free speech, Indian rights, prisoners’ rights and the separation of church and state.

This morning, I am staring at a dollar bill on my desk, trying to decipher what it “says.”

Legally speaking, it’s quite likely that it’s saying something, since the U.S. Supreme Court held that in the campaign-contribution context, that dollar is speech.

So if a greenback can talk up a storm, how is it possible that a Facebook “Like” holds no communicative value?

That was the ruling at a federal district court that had to determine whether employees were fired for exercising their free-speech rights. As the Washington Post tells the tale: 

“Daniel Ray Carter Jr. logged on to Facebook and did what millions do each day: He ‘liked’ a page by clicking the site’s thumbs up icon. The problem was that the page was for a candidate who was challenging his boss, the sheriff of Hampton, Va.

“That simple mouse click, Carter says, caused the sheriff to fire him from his job as a deputy and put him at the center of an emerging First Amendment debate over the ubiquitous digital seal of approval: Is liking something on Facebook protected free speech?”

Read the whole article here.

Risky behavior, certainly, especially given how tetchy elected sheriffs can be. But the court ruled that a simple click of “Like,” without commenting, is not speech.

The sheriff’s office is likely ecstatic. But the ruling puts that office in a strange conceptual box: The office fired people for taking a speech position contrary to the top official’s position. And the court sustained that employment decision because there was no speech involved.

Confused yet?

Oddly enough, would the court have had to rule otherwise if the employees had dropped dollar bills off at the opponent’s campaign headquarters without a note attached, rather than signal support via a digital thumbs-up?

Now, of course, the appeals roll in. As this article explains, Facebook, the ACLU and a number of amici have briefed the issue of how a Like certainly is speech.

It all makes me wonder how much the court understands social media. I wrote on Friday about a promising survey that shows judges are growing warmer to social media. But anyone who has ever worked hard for a “Like” for their business’s Facebook page understands inherently that a Like is speech. And among all the difficult-to-grasp concepts in technology, “Like” is just what it sounds.

Feel free to Like this post; I’ll know it means something.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice logo 2014This morning I posted some photos from a recent phenomenal criminal justice conference. It was held in New York City (and I mentioned it here and here).

The conference was aimed at members of the media who cover law and policy. The idea of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Guggenheim Foundation was to bring great sources to us, all in one place. Great idea.

Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker writer and CNN analyst, Jan. 31, 2011

Some of the highlights from the two-day event:

  • A keynote by Judge Jonathan Lippman, New York State’s Chief Judge
  • A panel moderated by Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker writer and CNN Analyst, which included ACLU President Susan Herman and Hon. Sue Bell Cobb, the Alabama Chief Justice
  • Panelists on challenges faced by the courts, which included Judge Robert Russell, whose visit to the State Bar of Arizona we covered before (here and here)
  • Speakers on criminal justice trends
  • Reports from the nation’s prisons
  • Special presentations on gun violence and cybercrime

Susan N. Herman, ACLU President

As part of my invitation to attend and be named a John Jay/Guggenheim Fellow, I committed to write a story on some element covered by the conference. A brief story on an Arizona criminal sentencing debate appears in our April issue (available in hard copy now and online April 1). A longer story on sentencing will appear in an upcoming issue.

More photos are available on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.