unconstitutional conditions, freedom from majority, stare decisis,
due process, state action
freedom to travel
torts and constitutional
medical privacy (e.g., right-to-die, physician-assisted suicide,
surveillance by government
Employment law for professionals
About Dr. Standler
I earned a Ph.D. in physics in 1977, then worked in electrical engineering
research and consulting until 1995.
I am licensed to practice law in Massachusetts since Dec 1998 and
I am admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in Massachusetts,
as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.
I can easily travel to towns in northeastern Massachusetts,
or to the Boston area, including Cambridge, MA.
Essays on this website are provided only to provide general information
and to communicate my personal comments on interesting topics in
law, technology, and society. Essays on this website are neither
legal advice nor legal opinion. Accessing this website or reading
documents on this website does not create an attorney-client
relationship. See my disclaimer
Each essay at this website is protected by copyright.
I have posted my Terms Of Service
for printing, copying, and distributing my essays
at this website.
I am an attorney only in Massachusetts, so I can not provide
legal advice to people in other states of the USA, unless they have been
injured or sued in Massachusetts, or unless your local attorney hires me as a consultant.
However, I have posted the following hints for
how to find an attorney.
1. General Law
An attempt to define and concisely explain
including products liability, res ipsa loquitur, and fraud.
People often confuse criminal law with civil law (e.g., torts and contracts),
which leads to misunderstandings about legal rights. I have prepared a
brief essay that compares and contrasts
criminal and civil law.
My essay on the effect of inflation
on fixed amounts of dollars specified in statutes and long-term contracts,
and how to automatically adjust such amounts.
My essay on statutes requiring
silver nitrate prophylaxis
in eyes of newborns, as an example of how not to write a statute.
In tort law, a judge can find a new duty and then
retroactively apply the new duty to a defendant in a case.
This means that a defendant can behave reasonably
according to the standard at the time of his/her act or failure to act, but
later be found liable for a tort.
I briefly sketch the rules in criminal law, and contrast
those criminal rules with the rules in tort cases.
I emphasize that this is a very obscure detail in law, which few judges
want to consider.
2. U.S. Constitutional Law
A. freedom of speech
As an attorney interested in First Amendment law, I am concerned about
the possible poisoning of the jury pool by legal commentary programs
on television, which could interfere with a fair trial.
My essay, Pretrial Publicity Prevents a Fair Trial in the USA,
examines the conflict between a free press and the right of accused
to a fair trial by impartial jurors,
and how trial judges should avoid biased jurors.
This essay also explains why admonitions to the jury are ineffective,
and discusses gag orders, professional responsibility rules for attorneys,
and Bar-Press guidelines.
I have posted a separate document that contains
long quotations from opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court and
the U.S. Courts of Appeals about pretrial publicity.
As a resource for journalism students and law students,
I have posted examples of prejudicial pretrial publicity in newspapers for both
(1) the 1954 trial of
Sam Sheppard and
(2) the arrest in 2004 of
who kidnapped, raped, and murdered a girl in Florida. These two cases
illustrate the problem of pre-trial publicity.
My essay on
freedom of speech for
government employees in the USA discusses the opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court
in the landmark cases of Pickering and Connick v. Myers,
and other Supreme Court cases in this area.
My essay on freedom of speech for employees of corporations
discusses essentially nonexistent legal rights in the USA.
My essay on heckler's veto,
a detail in the interpretation of the First Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution that prevents the government from silencing
speakers because of the threat of violent reaction. This essay
ends with a discussion of the metaphor "marketplace of ideas",
a justification for freedom of speech.
B. information torts
My essay on infotorts cites cases nationwide
in the emerging family of torts in which information caused harm, usually
either as (1) errors in nonfiction books/magazines/newspapers,
or (2) violent crimes that were inspired by movies or videogames.
Information torts conflict with freedom of speech in the First Amendment.
I have also posted an essay on
in information torts.
C. other constitutional issues
My essay, Doctrine of Unconstitutional Conditions,
explains when a government in the USA can demand the waiver
of a constitutional right as a condition of receiving some benefit
(e.g., employment, contract, right, privilege, etc.) from the government.
I have posted a discussion of the
Christian burial speech in Brewer v. Williams, 430 U.S. 387 (1977).
I quote the relevant facts given in four different judicial opinions,
and pose a list of questions, as an exercise for students in legal reasoning.
As explained in my little essay, the courts overlooked some important facts.
I have posted a technical essay that discusses
due process rights of students
at state colleges who are accused of some disciplinary offense.
A companion essay discusses finding state action
at private colleges.
Legal Aspects of Searches of Airline Passengers in the USA,
cites and discusses federal cases on searches of passengers at airports,
legal justification for border searches,
importance of the Fourth Amendment, the legal right to travel inside the USA,
and, finally, argues that choosing to travel by air does not
automatically give the traveler's consent to a search.
History of Nomination/Confirmation of Justices
I have posted essays on the history of the nomination and confirmation of
to the U.S. Supreme Court.
I posted a brief essay, How to
Select a Justice
for the U.S. Supreme Court,
that reviews some history and gives my opinion.
All of the essays in this paragraph are at my personal website,
because they contain some of my personal political opinions.
3. Privacy Law
Privacy law in the USA has two branches:
protection in tort law for private facts about a person, and
constitutional privacy law, which limits government intrusion into personal life.
While there are landmark cases in federal and state courts that establish some rights of privacy,
damages awarded by courts for breaches of privacy tend to be small,
and thus violations of privacy are not deterred by possible litigation.
I suspect that most people believe that they have more rights to privacy
than the law in the USA actually recognizes, which means that we should be more active
in requesting legislatures to enact statutes in this area.
I am an advocate for increased privacy rights for individuals, less paternalism,
and less government interference with private choices.
A. Constitutional Privacy Law and Privacy Torts
My main essay on privacy law in the USA
includes a terse review of federal statutes, constitutional law,
and the common law of torts, and also discusses searches of
people's garbage and invasions of privacy by journalists.
My annotated list of U.S. Supreme Court cases on
fundamental rights under privacy
shows the thin scope of constitutional privacy rights in the USA.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the confidentiality or privacy of information
is destroyed by disclosure to a third party. In practice, this rule of law means
that there is no privacy interest in bank account records (e.g., checks, deposit slips,
monthly statements), no privacy interest in a list of telephone numbers dialed from
a home telephone, and no privacy for letters or e-mail after they have been read by the recipient.
I explain the origin of this rule of law about
and criticize this rule of law.
This topic has implications for anonymity of screen names and
privacy of search queries on the Internet, freedom from electronic surveillance, and
privacy of library or bookshop records.
Privacy Violations During Divorce in the USA discusses
privacy torts for wiretapping a spouse, videotaping a spouse in the bedroom or bathroom,
reading a spouse's e-mail or computer files,
or installing a keystroke logger on a computer used by a spouse.
I also discuss the concept of reasonable expectation of privacy
during a marriage and during divorce.
B. Medical Privacy
The law in the USA recognizes a legal right for all mentally competent adults to
refuse medical treatment,
even if that refusal would hasten their death.
My essay traces the history in the USA of the right to
refuse medical treatment and cites many cases.
This right was mostly ignored by lawyers until the 1960s,
when lawyers for hospitals began seeking judicial orders to compel Jehovah's
Witnesses to have a blood transfusion, against their sincere religious belief.
Beginning in the 1970s, the right to refuse medical treatment was applied in
My long essay
Annotated Legal Cases Involving Right-to-Die in the USA,
quotes from the major cases involving disconnection of life-support
machinery (e.g., ventilator, feeding tube) from patients in a hospital.
This essay include long quotations from major
judicial opinions, so readers can see how the law evolved.
I wrote this essay in April 2005 during the legal debacle about
Terri Schiavo in Florida.
My long essay,
Annotated Legal Cases on Physician-Assisted Suicide in the USA.
This essay include long quotations from major
judicial opinions, so readers can see how the law evolved.
After discussing cases, I conclude that the conventional name
"physician-assisted suicide" was poorly chosen,
because assisting a suicide is a crime in the USA.
The annotated list of all of my
has links to my other webpages on law and medicine. My essay on
legal rights of medical patients
in Massachusetts — including mental patients — contains
quotations from Massachusetts statutes, citations to Massachusetts cases,
and some commentary.
C. Surveillance by U.S. Government
A history of National Security Letters
(NSLs) in the USA, a type of administrative subpoena, including quotations and links.
I explain why some NSLs are unconstitutional.
My essay on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
which allows the U.S. government to conduct electronic surveillance on U.S. citizens
inside the USA without a warrant from a regular court.
I discuss in detail the legal issues:
whether lawful FISA surveillance can be done if the sole purpose, "primary purpose",
or "a substantial purpose" is the collection of foreign intelligence information.
whether the secret FISA court issues "warrants" that comply with the Fourth Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution.
whether the approval by the secret FISA court of nearly all applications for a surveillance order
during 1979-2002 constitutes meaningless, automatic, and unconstitutional
"rubber stamp" approvals.
My essay on FISA concludes with my personal criticisms of this statute.
I have posted some related essays at my
because they contain my personal political opinions and because these essays are
more about history than law. For example:
In the security hysteria after 11 Sep 2001, the U.S. Government
increased its surveillance of people in the USA.
My terse history of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001,
explains why Congress hastily passed this unconstitutional Act in Oct 2001,
including quotations from senators and newspapers to capture the mood at that time.
A history of attempts to modify
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act after July 2007,
including the hasty "Protect America Act of 2007" and the
"FISA Amendments Act of 2008".
This essay chronicles how Americans lost some privacy rights.
Seeking Financial Sponsor for My Research
Of the seven most-popular essays at this website in May 2011, four were
on privacy law. Despite the popularity of my privacy law essays
and despite many requests for free advice since 1998,
I have never had a paying client in privacy law and I have
never had a financial sponsor for my scholarly work in privacy law.
As a self-employed attorney and consultant, I can not subsidize
people's need for free legal research and analysis.
For that reason, my existing essays on privacy law will rarely be updated,
and I am discouraged from beginning any new essays on privacy law.
4. Employment Law for Professionals
My essay on academic freedom for professors
argues that this "freedom" is not a fundamental right recognized by
law in the USA, but is a contract right granted by colleges and universities.
My essay on professional ethics & wrongful discharge
discusses cases in the USA in which a learned professional
(e.g., attorney, physician, nurse, engineer, or scientist)
upheld principles of professional ethics, despite
his/her manager's desires, and the professional's employment was terminated.
With the conventional doctrine of at-will employment in the USA,
the employer has the absolute right to dismiss an employee for
any reason, including a "morally repugnant" reason.
I have a separate essay on the
history of at-will employment
that includes criticism of the doctrine of at-will employment
and a brief sketch of the history of attempts to modify this doctrine.
5. Family Law
I have written ten essays on topics in family law
in the USA, especially including prenuptial and postnuptial contracts,
parents' financial support of adult children in college,
distribution of marital assets at divorce, and alimony.
I do not personally practice family law,
but I do accept legal research projects from licensed attorneys who represent clients
undergoing divorce or other areas of family law.
Copyright 2009-2012 by Ronald B. Standler
This document at http://www.rbs2.com/imisc.htm
first posted 14 Jan 2009, revised 18 Aug 2012