First Amendment Violation: Separation Of Church And State

 

In a recent Wall Street Journal article written by Jacob Gershman entitled: For Next Big Religion Case, High Court Goes to Greece, is reported that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to rule on a case whether an upstate New York town violated the Constitution by opening its public meetings with a Christian prayer.

The case centers on the Town of Greece, near Rochester, which had routinely invited Christian clergy to deliver prayers, most of which contained references to “Jesus Christ,” “Jesus,” “Your Son,” or the “Holy Spirit.”

Town residents claim the practice violated the separation of church and state of the First Amendment.

Constitutional scholar Carl Tobias, of the University of Richmond School of Law, said “It’s a very delicate and difficult issue”.

The outcome could have wider implications beyond legislative invocations, Mr. Tobias said. It could have an impact on everything from school prayer to what may be recited at funerals for state troopers.

Continue reading

Same-Sex Marriage Is Also Legalized In Rhode Island

In a recent Reuters article written by Edith Honan entitled: Rhode Island lawmakers pass gay marriage bill; governor signs it, is reported that on Thursday the smallest in area of the 50 U.S. states Rhode Island became the 10th U.S. state to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples and the last of the six New England states to do so.

Governor Lincoln Chafee, an independent, signed the bill yesterday shortly after its approval. The first wedding ceremonies will be possible on August 1, when the law will take effect.

“We would not be where we are today without the Rhode Islanders who for decades have fought for tolerance and freedom over discrimination and division,” said Chafee. “I am proud to say that now, at long last, you are free to marry the person you love.”

Later the governor together with the state’s main gay rights organization, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, celebrated their victory in the state capital Providence.

Continue reading

The Victims Speak Out Against Peter Madoff

       

On the day of Peter Madoff’s sentencing, it is only fitting that the victims be heard.  In a stark contrast to the image of the man portrayed by those who wrote in support of Peter Madoff, Document 298 filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on December 19, 2012 contains eleven additional victim impact statements that were presented to the Honorable Laura Taylor Swain.

Perhaps you have the impression that all of the Madoff Victims were either very wealthy individuals or institutional investors.  While it’s clear that many of the victims fit this profile, it was painful to read about the financial position that many of these folks now find themselves in.

The first Impact Statement was submitted by email to the U.S. Justice Department by Marcia Ellis on behalf of Victim Martin & Marcia Ellis.  The Ellis couple was comfortably retired and living in Maine when they learned from their daughter that they had lost all of their money in the Madoff Ponzi Scheme. Their losses extended to brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles. The Ellis Family filed amended tax returns with the IRS which were rejected.  An appeal, which took them more than two years, resulted in a a tax adjustment of only 75% of their actual losses.

Mrs. Ellis now describes her life as one of:

“discount stores and living as in expensively as we can. Will we be able to support ourselves in our golden years – we can not plea bargain that reality away”.

The second victim statement came from Jill and Nancy Miller and was filed in order to express their dissatisfaction with the sentencing extension that Peter Madoff received from the court in order to be able to file amended tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.  The victims reported that Mr. Madoff was not using his time to get his tax situation resolved but rather:

“he was out an about enjoying a leisurely lunch in an expensive upper east side restaurant where many of his victims would like to eat but can’t afford to. Yet miraculously he can. I saw him personally eating in this restaurant. He has nerve showing his face and flaunting his freedom (extra). I hope he savored the food cause that’s not what he will get in PRISON!”

Perhaps the most heart breaking Victim Impact Statement was iled by Morton J. Chalek, a World War II Veteran.  Mr. Chalek’s short statement made such an impact that it has been included in its entirety:

I welcome the opportunity to vent my spleen regarding the Madoff fiasco.

In the way of an introduction:

  1. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, I stood online overnight in order to enlist in the Air Force. I then flew 23 combat missions.
  2. After I was discharged, I worked hard, built a successful business and saved enough for a comfortable (well earned) retirement.
  3. Then my attorney introduced me to his golf partner, Bernie Madoff.

I am now 90 years old and bankrupt. I have been waiting hopelessly to recover the money Madoff stole from me. At the very least, I expected to receive some compensation from my SIPC insurance. Four years have passed and I have received nothing and, I see no help coming from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Mr. Picard and his clan seem to be thriving while my cause seems to be helpless.”

Morton J. Chalek

Victim Natalie, who signed her statement with the title: Direct Investor Sentenced to a Lifetime of Financial Ruin and Emotional Unrest provided perhaps the most interesting perspective for Judge Swain to consider when sentencing Peter Madoff today:

Peter Madoff was educated in the law. He was savvy enough to help create the computerized trading system. He worked closely with his brother for years. He aided and abetted his brother and helped the scheme to continue and thrive. He did a lot of damage over a long period of time. He ran the daily operations for the past 20 years and should be sentenced to the same amount of time. 20 years.

While the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are extremely complex, we would like to commend Natalie Erger for her wisdom and simplicity.  Moreover for her courage and those of all who have spoken out with respect to this financial disaster.  We express our sympathy for all of those who have had their lives impacted by the Madoff Ponzi Scheme and hope that the sentence imposed today on Peter Madoff by Judge Swain provides each and every one of them with some small measure of justice for their losses.