Legal Commentary - Barton Aronson Archive

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BARTON ARONSON

Barton Aronson is an Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, D.C., presently assigned to the felony trial section. Before he went to law school, he taught history at the high school level in Massachusetts. He attended the University of Chicago Law School. Following graduation, he clerked for the Hon. Douglas P. Woodlock on the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. He then served as an Assistant District Attorney in Norfolk County, Massachusetts. Before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office, he worked for the Washington, D.C. office of O'Melveny & Myers, LLP, specializing in complex and class action litigation. The views expressed in his column are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice or the United States Attorney.
 Columns by Barton Aronson  Most Recent | Page 2 | Page 1  

Was the Judge's Decision to Free Michael Jackson on $3 Million Bail the Right Call?
The Problems and Virtues of Bail

FindLaw columnist and attorney Barton Aronson discusses the history of bail, the Constitution's guarantee that bail must not be excessive; the modern purposes for which bail is used; and the factors a judge typically considers in deciding whether to grant bail and if bail is granted, how high it should be. In particular, Aronson considers the judge's decision to free Michael Jackson on $3 million bail, and what it will -- and will not -- accomplish.
Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2004

The Murder of an Assistant U.S. Attorney
Highlights the Unfairness of Intense Public Scrutiny of Crime Victims and their Families

FindLaw columnist and attorney Barton Aronson discusses the issue of how much public and press scrutiny is merited when it comes not to criminal defendants, but rather to crime victims and their families. In particular, Aronson critiques the media and public scrutiny of the life of murder victim Jonathan Luna, an Assistant U.S. Attorney who was recently murdered. Aronson argues that such scrutiny can go too far, and with victims, the less said, the better.
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2003

The Results of A Just-Released Study of California Parolees
An Indictment of the Parole System

FindLaw columnist and attorney Barton Aronson discusses the findings of California's Little Hoover Commission with respect to the effectiveness of the state's parole system. Aronson surveys the way parolees are treated, and considers what aspects of their treatment make sense, and which are harmful, particularly to public safety.
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2003

Do Police Need A Warrant In Order To Use Global Positioning System Technology?
A Recent Washington Court Said Yes, But It's Wrong

FindLaw columnist and attorney Barton Aronson takes issue with a recent Washington State Supreme Court ruling holding that police must have a warrant before they track a suspect by planting the Global Positioning System (GPS) in his vehicle. Aronson argues that the decision is based on a misapplication of traditional search-and-seizure law to this new technology.
Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2003

Why the Bid to Recall Governor Gray Davis Is the Wrong Response to California's Budget Crisis
FindLaw columnist and attorney Barton Aronson discusses some sobering facts surrounding the California recall -- and what they may mean for the State's ability to solve its fiscal crisis.  Aronson contends that just as Governor Gray Davis is not solely to blame for the crisis, it is also dubious that any new Governor would be able to singlehandedly solve it.   Aronson discusses the California political and legal realities that he argues will tend to tie any Governor's hands with respect to this issue.
Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2003

Why the Government's Decision to Prosecute Doctors Who Inform Patients of Marijuana's Medical Benefits Is A Blatant First Amendment Violation
FindLaw columnist and attorney Barton Aronson takes issue with a recent decision by the Department of Justice to attempt to take its defense of certain medical marijuana regulations all the way to the Supreme Court.  Aronson contends that the regulations, which prohibit doctors from recommending marijuana as a treatment to their patients, are a blatant First Amendment violation for three independent reasons.
Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2003

The Supreme Court Rightly Rejects a Free Speech Challenge In Virginia v. Hicks, Which Is, At Heart, a Simple Trespassing Case
FindLaw columnist and attorney Barton Aronson discusses the decision issued this week by the Supreme Court in Virginia v. Hicks -- a First Amendment challenge that, he argues, actually had little to do with free speech.  The case involved a public housing authority's practice of banning visitors from the public housing complex, including its private streets, based on prior behavior.
Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2003

Chief Moose's Memoir About the Beltway Sniper Case:
Good Book Idea, Bad Timing

FindLaw columnist and attorney Barton Aronson offers a fresh perspective on the controversy over the book being written by Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose about the Beltway sniper investigation.  Aronson defends Moose's right to write, but suggests that, as a matter of ethics and professionalism, he should wait to do so until after the trial.
Wednesday, May. 21, 2003

Are the Lawsuits Against Gun Makers Really the Best Way to Address the Huge Costs of Gun Violence?
FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson argues that gun makers are too remote, in the chain of causation, to be held responsible for crimes committed with their guns. Aronson points out that gun makers' transactions are virtually always entirely legal, and that they are not the ones who deliver guns into criminals' hands; rather, black and gray markets deserve a great deal of the blame.
Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2003

My Big Fat Class Action:
Why The Lawsuit Against McDonald's Is Not a Good Candidate for Class Action Treatment

FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson argues that the plaintiffs in the "big fat" class action should not be granted class certification. Individual eating patterns, heath histories, and family medical histories, he argues, are far too individualized for it to make sense to have a "Big Fat Class Action," and any broader purposes of the litigation do not change that legal conclusion.
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2003

The Brady Bill and Beyond:
A Review of a New Book on the Effectiveness of Gun Control

FindLaw columnist and book reviewer Barton Aronson reviews James Jacobs's new book Can Gun Control Work? Jacobs asks this provocative question: How can gun control work, given that Americans don't favor giving up guns, and that so far, banning only some guns, and regulating only some gun sales, hasn't worked very well? Jacobs has some suggestions, and so does Aronson.
Friday, Feb. 07, 2003

WHY EARLY RELEASE PROGRAMS, ESPECIALLY FOR ELDERLY AND INFIRM PRISONERS, ARE A GOOD WAY FOR KENTUCKY AND OTHER STATES TO ADDRESS BUDGET SHORTAGES
FindLaw columinst and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson discusses the recent move by Kentucky and other states toward early release programs for prisoners, as a way for the state to absorb budget cuts. Aronson contends that it is safer for states who opt for early release to release the elderly and infirm, whatever their crimes, than to simply release non-violent offenders of every age.
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2003

WHY THE SO-CALLED "MORAL" ARGUMENTS AGAINST WAR WITH IRAQ ARE ACTUALLY IMMORAL
FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson takes to task those who have made moral arguments against going to war with Iraq. Aronson contends that such arguments are flawed because, among other problems, they tend to ignore the moral obligation to oppose the atrocities perpetrated by the Iraqi regime.
Thursday, Dec. 19, 2002

SENTENCING REPEAT OFFENDERS:
"THREE STRIKES" LAWS LEAD TO INJUSTICE, BUT WHAT IS THE BEST ALTERNATIVE?

FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson takes on the question of how society should punish recidivists who commit crime after crime with no sign of stopping. If the Supreme Court holds Three Strikes laws like California's unconstitutional, as it may do this Term, what should that state -- and others -- do instead to address the problem of repeat offenders?
Thursday, Nov. 21, 2002

TWO RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN TOBACCO AND ASBESTOS CASES SHOW HOW MASS TORT LITIGATION SHOULD, AND SHOULD NOT, BE DONE
FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson discusses two examples of mass tort litigation -- one of the most difficult kinds of proceedings ever to face U.S. courts. One is a Florida litigation based on allegations that nonsmoking flight attendants were harmed by secondhand smoke; the other is a behemoth West Virginia case relating to asbestos's harms in a broad variety of contexts. Aronson shows how the Florida and West Virginia cases demonstrate the apex and nadir, respectively, of how well mass tort litigation can function.
Thursday, Sep. 19, 2002

SHOULD UNDERCOVER POLICE OFFICERS BE ALLOWED TO TESTIFY ANONYMOUSLY?
A NEW YORK JUDGE SAYS NO, BUT A CASE-BY-CASE APPROACH MAY WORK BEST

FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson discusses a recent decision by a New York judge to refuse to allow the testimony of an undercover police officer who would not give his name. ÝThe Sixth Amendment grants the right to a public trial, and the right to confront witnesses by, among other things, cross-examining them. ÝThese rights, Aronson explains, can be overriden when the police have good reason to seek a closed courtroom or anonymous testimony, but that, he contends, is more likely to occur in an organized crime case than in a drug buy-and-bust case such as the one in New York.
Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2002

THE SUPREME COURT'S END-OF-TERM RULING ON CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENTS:
A BAD DECISION THAT IN ANY CASE, DOESN'T MEAN WHAT IT SAYS

FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson critiques the logic of the Supreme Court's end-of-term decision in Devlin v. Scardelletti, and finds it wanting. Devlin held that an unnamed class member who has never formally intervened in a class action may nonetheless appeal a judge's decision to approve a class action settlement. Aronson discusses the basic purposes of class actions, and explains why the decision in Devlin may not serve them -- and may have far narrower consequences than the opinion's language suggests.
Thursday, Jul. 18, 2002

MORE ON THE CALIFORNIA DOG-MAULING TRIAL:
THE JUDGE'S DECISION TO THROW OUT THE JURY'S GUILTY VERDICT ON THE MURDER CHARGE

In Part Two of a two-part series on the California dog-mauling trial, FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson considers whether the judge who threw out the murder verdict did the right thing. In the course of arguing that he may not have, Aronson discusses a number of strange features of the case -- from the rarity of a murder conviction for a killing by a pet, to California's "thirteenth juror" standard for when a judge may overturn a jury verdict in a criminal case, to the possible double jeopardy problems that may ensue if the judge now chooses to impose a sentence for the remaining manslaughter conviction.
Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2002

THE CALIFORNIA DOG-MAULING TRIAL:
WHY THE COMMUNITY'S OPINION PROPERLY PLAYED A ROLE

In Part One of a two-part series on the dog-mauling trial, FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson takes issue with criticisms of the grand jury and prosecutors who, respectively, indicted Marjorie Knoller for second degree murder and brought Knoller to trial on the charge. Aronson contends that even though the prosecutors did not initially urge the grand jury to indict for second degree murder, it was entirely within its rights and duties to do so. Aronson also points to strong evidence supporting the murder charge and ultimate murder verdict.
Thursday, Jun. 20, 2002

A RECENT NEW YORK CASE SHOWS WHY THE "EXTREME EMOTIONAL DISTURBANCE" DEFENSE SHOULD BE ABOLISHED
FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson discusses a recent New York case concerning the defense of "extreme emotional disturbance." Aronson explains the way in which the defense is a hybrid -- borrowing elements from the insanity defense, and elements from self-defense -- and he questions the logic of this blend. Aronson also contends that the evidence in the New York case, in which a husband stabbed his common-law wife, shows nothing more than a contentious marriage, and not the grounds for an "extreme emotional disturbance" defense.
Thursday, May. 16, 2002

THE SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN A "VIRTUAL" CHILD PORN LAW, BUT OTHER LEGAL CONSTRAINTS ON CHILD PORN AND OBSCENITY REMAIN STRICT
FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson puts this week's Supreme Court decision on "virtual" child pornography into historical and legal context. Aronson explains how the law of obscenity and "indecency" developed over the Court's history, notes the current Court's opposition to legislation that attempts to restrict speech on the Internet, and discusses the different, contrasting speech rules that apply when the FCC regulates television.
Thursday, Apr. 18, 2002

WHY STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS FOR CHILD ABUSE SHOULD BE EXTENDED, AS PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATORS HAVE PROPOSED
In the wake of a spate of allegations of clergy child abuse, FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson discusses the case for extending statute of limitations for criminal charges of child abuse. Aronson explains why statutes of limitations generally make sense in criminal cases, but why they might make far less sense in child abuse cases in particular.
Thursday, Mar. 21, 2002

A NEW SUPREME COURT CASE WILL TEST ALASKA'S MEGAN'S LAW
FindLaw columnist Barton Aronson discusses an important case that the Supreme Court recently decided to review, concerning Alaska's version of Megan's Law. In the case, two men whose convictions predate the law's passage contend that applying the law to them violates the Constitution's Ex Post Facto clause -- which prohibits the state from retroactively increasing the possible punishment for an act.
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2002

THE ENRON COLLAPSE AND AUDITOR INDEPENDENCE:
WHY THE SEC SHOULD GO FURTHER IN REGULATING ACCOUNTING FIRMS

FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson provides a wide-ranging and thorough explanation of the broader context of the Enron collapse. Aronson surveys successful and unsuccesful regulatory proposals for the accounting industry from recent decades, assesses the actions of the previous and current SEC heads; explains the dangers of allowing accountants to also be consultants, and makes the case for auditors with genuine independence from the firms that are their clients.
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2002

AN IMPORTANT SUPREME COURT OPINION HELPS DEFINE THE RIGHTS OF THOSE ON PROBATION
FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson discusses a recent Supreme Court decision, U.S. v. Knights, that held that a person who is on probation can legally be subjected to a warrantless search. Aronson argues that the decision is correct, in part because probation is itself a variety of punishment and thus probationers, like jailed convicts, can properly have their rights, including Fourth Amendment rights, abridged in some instances.
Thursday, Dec. 27, 2001

A RARE ACCOUNT OF A JURY'S INNER WORKINGS:
A REVIEW OF D. GRAHAM BURNETT'S A TRIAL BY JURY

FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Bart Aronson reviews a recent book about one foreman's jury service on a murder case. Aronson explains why accounts of jury deliberation are now so rare, and explains the insights and limitations to be found in this one.
Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2001

SAFETY FIRST, PART ONE:
THE LAW GOVERNING OUR BORDERS AND SKIES

In Part One of a two-part series, FindLaw columnist and federal prosecutor Barton Aronson discusses the law governing our borders and skies. Aronson considers measures such as facial recognition technology, increasing INS tracking and enforcement, improving inter-agency coordination, instituting a government takeover of airport security, and using air marshals.
Thursday, Sep. 27, 2001

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