That subpoena in your in-box may be bogus

Be wary of e-mailed federal grand-jury subpoenas, the U.S. Judiciary warns.

People have reported receiving bogus subpoenas in their computer in-boxes, purportedly from the U.S. District Court for Southern California, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts says. These phony summonses might contain harmful links, the office warned on its Web site and in an e-mail of its own.

One dead giveaway that the summonses are fake: They were sent from a “uscourts.com” address, the suffix for commercial Web sites. The federal judiciary, an arm of government, uses “uscourts.gov,” the office says.

“Recipients are warned not to open any links or download any information relating to this e-mail notice,” the office says. “Law-enforcement authorities have been notified of this.”

STEVE LASH, Legal Affairs Writer

Westboro to picket the pope

pope.jpgDuring Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to the United States, which begins this afternoon when he touches down at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County, the global leader of the Roman Catholic Church will be greeted by top government officials, tens of thousands of American adherents, and local television outlets which have promised blanket coverage.

Starting tomorrow, the pope can also count on daily protests (PDF) of his public appearances by members of the Westboro Baptist Church, the Topeka, Kans.-based group that rails against the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality and against the Catholic Church for, among other things, its problem with pedophilic priests.

(Westboro also has no particular affinity for Maryland, where a federal jury decided in November that it was liable to the father of a U.S. marine whose funeral it picketed in March 2006. A $5 million judgment in the case is pending appeal.)

How are the Westboro picketers spending this afternoon, with no papal public appearances to attend? According to the schedule posted on their Web site, they’ll be protesting a marine’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.

BRENDAN KEARNEY, Legal Affairs Writer

Waterboarding as a motivational tool

When it comes to humor, there is a fine line between funny and tasteless. There’s also a fine line between being topical and yesterday’s news. The lines intersect at different points, creating enough angles to exhaust a protractor.

That said, I present this story from Sunday’s Washington Post about a lawsuit in Utah. It begins:

No one really disputes that Chad Hudgens was waterboarded outside a Provo office park last May 29, right before lunch, by his boss.

That’s right – as part of a teambuilding exercise, Hudgens was held down by co-workers while supervisor Joshua Christopherson “poured water from a gallon jug over [Hudgens’] nose and mouth,” according to the story.

“You saw how hard Chad fought for air right there,” Christopherson reportedly told his sales reps. “I want you to go back inside and fight that hard to make sales.”

Christopherson’s actions netted him a two-week suspension, WaPo said.

Hudgens said he’d volunteered because “the last time we did a team-building exercise outside, we did an egg toss,” according to the story.

Putting aside the obvious questions (What would happen if you forgot Christopherson’s birthday? What if you took the last Sharpie out of the supply closet?), I leave you with quotes from the firm’s general counsel and its president:

  • “I don’t know if this would even be an issue if it weren’t for Guantanamo Bay.”
  •     “How many times did the CIA even do waterboarding? Three times?”
  • “But look at the damage it did to America’s reputation. And it’s going to hurt our image.”

I still can’t decide if those sound bites create obtuse or acute angles according to my humor geometry, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t right.

Danny Jacobs, Legal Affairs Writer