lukegilman.com : High on the Hog Blog
Purveyor of Idle Observation

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

The Myth of ‘No Zoning’ in Houston

Econoblog Marginal Revolution notes a very interesting paper by Michael Lewyn, a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law, who has published widely on the law’s effect on municipal ‘sprawl’ and quality of life issues. From the abstract:
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Justice for All? Artists Reflect on the Death Penalty

The death penalty art show will be exhibited in Houston at M2 from February 10 – 18, 2007 with an opening night reception at 7 PM on the 10th. The gallery is located at 325 West 19th Street in Houston (Map). There will be a gallery talk Friday, Feb 16, at 7 PM with Mary Mikel Stump, Gallery Director of the JCM gallery at Texas State University.

Death Penalty Art Show

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Houston Police clash with Fans @ Walters on Washington

One of the blogs I’m involved with is Houston Metroblogging, a community-based site that’s part of a wider metroblogging network. For the most part it’s fairly mundane check-out-this-new-coffee-shop kind of faire, but every once in a while there’s a brush with real journalism. Case in point -

The preceeding video was one of three posted in Houston Police Officer Involved in ‘Melee’ with Concertgoers. Compare with the airbrushed version from the Houston Chronicle. The video clips are a bit too Rashomon for me to pronounce a verdict one way or the other, but in the past this kind of incident would be swept under the rug as if it never existed. Now that it lives on through the internet it will be interesting to see if it gets any momentum behind it. Just as the internet fosters a long tail in commerce, I perceive there is a latent outrage element at work.

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Introducing the Blawg

Starting May 30th, 2006 I’ll be a 1L in the evening program at the University of Houston Law Center in Houston, TX.

I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now with my own High on the Hog Blog and as a regular contributor to Metroblogging Houston so it only made sense that I would join the blawgosphere as well.

My plan is to post on the law school experience, specifically at the University of Houston, as well as relevant legal and community news. If you’re a blawger, particularly in and around Houston, please let me know and I’ll add a link to your site to my blawgroll. I’m also considering a separate website project that would aggregate the RSS feeds of law-related blogs in across Houston and possibly Texas as a whole.

Questions or feedback, I would love to hear from you. The comments are open or e-mail me.

Visit the Blawg

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Issues of self-determination in societal sub-cultures

This item in today’s Houston Chronicle – Texas Supreme Court to hear case of suit against pastor – caught my attention today because it dovetails with something I’ve been thinking about lately. A DFW woman is suing her pastor for defamation, which is not all that suprising given the details –

In 2000, Penley told Westbrook that she was divorcing her husband, and Westbrook recommended an attorney. She also resigned her church membership because its bylaws set forth procedures allowing the congregation to discipline her and others for inappropriate behavior.

However, Westbrook met with church elders and later distributed a letter about Penley’s decision to get a divorce. The letter said she was involved with another man, although it didn’t specify the nature of their relationship.

The letter urged church members to shun Penley as part of a “tough love” approach for her to see her errors.

Penley and her husband divorced in 2001, and she married the other man. She then sued, challenging Westbrook’s actions as a counselor under the Texas Licensed Professional Counselor Act.

Nothing like a good old fashioned shunning. More interesting than the details of the case are the legal implications of the interaction of two sets of ‘law’ – the authority the state takes in holds in regulating the actions of professional counselors, and the authority of the church in disciplining its members.

There are a lot of legal issues (most of them, actually) that I’m completely clueless about right now (Hopefully less so in three years) but I’ve been actively cultivating ideas about some areas of possible study.

First, the American legal structure tolerates a number of overlapping jurisdictions – state, federal, municipal courts and some specialized courts, which manage a rat’s nest of statutory, case and regulatory law some of which may have competing claims for jurisdiction over a particular case. In addition, there are informal bodies that perform quasi-legal roles, in this case a church which takes it upon itself to discipline its members for their actions. These quasi-legal roles are quite pervasive and accepted for the most part – parents, after all, spend a lot of time and energy evaluating the actions of their children, correcting and meting out punishment as they see fit. Employers set rules, sometimes quite arbitrary, which carry legal weight, within certain limits. Churches too have a long history of performing this role, much of it gradually abrogated over the last hundred years. A group action such as concerted shunning seems a lot more shocking now than it did in the early colonies when church rule was de facto indistinguishable from civil authority.

I think I’ll have more to say on this later, but I’ve just started listening to Jon Meacham’s American Gospel and want to think about it in light of the historical structure he lays out. His interview with Charlie Rose is available from Google video for 99 cents.

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America’s Ambivalence toward International Law

Nixon the environmentalist. Reagan an early mover to counteract ozone depletion. America’s invasion of Hawaii. It’s remarkable how a little time paves over the details in our perception of history. Brian Urquhart reviews of three recent books on international law, focusing on America’s ambivalence towards the rule of law and national autonomy.

Link: New York Review of Books, The Outlaw World

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The Mobile Homeless in America

Ian Urbina had a great article in the NY Times a few days ago. Consider this statistic.

Last year was the first year on record, according to an annual study conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, that a full-time worker at minimum wage could not afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country at average market rates.

From what I can tell, the NLIHC used 30% of income as the standard for housing affordability.

More disturbing, many municipalities have made it illegal to live in ones vehicle. “In 2001, officials in Lynnwood, Wash., a suburb of Seattle, passed an ordinance imposing penalties of 90 days in jail or fines of up to $1,000 against people caught living in their cars.” In light of this other fact – “Though the average duration of homelessness is four months, it tends to be shorter for the mobile homeless, experts say.” – Consider this perverse scenario:

A minimum wage-earner loses a job due to illness and is evicted from his/her apartment. According to the average, they may be back in a new home in under four months, unless of course, they get caught living in the interim and spent 3 months in jail, or deeper in debt.

Link: NY Times Keeping It Secret as the Family Car Becomes a Home

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