Lawyer's Association Asks New California Attorney General To Drop Its Abusive Prosecution Of Backpage

from the Kamala-Harris'-legacy-isn't-worth-protecting,-much-less-continuing dept

The First Amendment Lawyer's Association (FALA) is hoping to end the California Attorney General's crusade against Backpage. The website has already ceded ground in the face of constant criticism, investigations, and legal threats. Earlier this year, it shuttered its adult ads rather than continue to bleed money and time defending itself against bogus prosecutions and investigations.

Former California Attorney General Kamala Harris -- who blew off court decisions against her office to continue to prosecute Backpage -- has now moved on to the US Senate. But just because Harris has moved on doesn't mean the local AG's office isn't going to continue with Harris' unfinished business.

The letter from FALA is covered (but not published[?]) by Elizabeth Nolan Brown at Reason.

On March 14, FALA—a nonprofit membership association launched in the late '60s that has boasted some of the country's top constitutional lawyers—sent a letter to Becerra condemning "the abusive prosecution of individuals associated with the online classified advertising website Backpage.com, and also the use of expansive search warrants seeking vast amounts of constitutionally-protected material, including personally identifiable information about all of the website's users." In the letter, FALA President Marc Randazza says he can identify "no theory under the First Amendment that would countenance such an abusive use of prosecutorial discretion or such a dragnet demand for information."

The letter points out the flaws of the AG's case against Backpage. Not only does it do damage to protected speech, but it ignores Section 230 protections in the ongoing quest to punish the site's owners for the actions of its users.

On top of that, there's the overbreadth of prosecutors' demands for info from the site. Not content to steamroll the First Amendment, the office also made a mockery of the term "investigation." From the letter:

We have learned that a subpoena was served on Backpage.com that calls for the production of massive amounts of information for a several-year period, including copies of all advertisements posted (in all content categories), all billing records, the identities of all of the website's users and their account histories, all internal communications, and even the source code for the operation of the website.

As FALA points out, this sounds a whole lot like the colonial-era "general warrants" -- the same ones our government sought to eliminate with the Fourth Amendment.

On the plus side, the new California Attorney General has pledged to protect civil liberties. FALA's hoping that pledge extends to Kamala Harris' unfinished business.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2017 @ 8:43pm

    Sue for rights abuse

    Harris needs to be sued and held personally responsible for the abuse of power and waste of everyone's time. The rights that have been trampled, for literally no justifiable reason, need to be recognized. She needs to step down now before she embarrasses her state more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 12:57am

    We pause to reflect

    Senator Kamala Harris is not, in my opinion, one bit stupid. That's not to say the persecution of publications isn't stupid, because it is. No, what her actions as AG did was to prime the pump for her climb to power, and that was pretty smart. After all, if you stand up for "a prostitution rag, a on line pimp", then obviously you are lacking in moral fiber.

    No, the real stupid that happened here were her constituents that vaulted her to the halls of power instead of showing her to the door reserved for crooked politicians. It pains me to say that, since I am very much not a Republican or conservative, but honesty compels me to call stupid by it's proper name.

    America is sex crazed. No where else but in state theocracies do we see the amount of control freakery that goes on over something as natural as going to the bathroom or breathing.

    It's a rather adolescent fixation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 20 Mar 2017 @ 8:33am

      Re: We pause to reflect

      I'm conservative, but I agree. The relentless moralising control freakery on one side feeds the other WTF-ness that makes me cringe. It's what happens in a country where you're obliged to take one side against the other or risk being called a traitor to either. I'm not playing.

      What annoys me is that Harris is, as you say, so perfectly aware of this that she's able to take full advantage of it while the rabid right cheers her on, oblivious to the facts that in the long run they will be the ones who suffer. Their mistake is in thinking that it only applies to "the bad guys." No, censorship applies to everyone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 3:25am

    Criminal justice reform is essential.

    This kind of official harassment needs to end. Prosecutoral immunity and preferential treatment when these... people.. repeatedly violate citizens' rights even and especially when the courts tell them to stop needs to have criminal consequences. Send these people to the very prisons they've been sending people to for years would be a significant deterrent against these gross violations.

    Justice system reform at both the criminal and civil levels cannot come soon enough when people's rights are violated routinely and daily by government officials. This is but one example. Our way of life cannot continue when the government holds all the cards to harass people holding dissenting opinions and behavior at odds to the majority but not harmful to society otherwise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sok Puppette, 18 Mar 2017 @ 5:47am

    No, the real stupid that happened here were her constituents that vaulted her to the halls of power instead of showing her to the door reserved for crooked politicians. It pains me to say that, since I am very much not a Republican or conservative, but honesty compels me to call stupid by it's proper name.

    Actually, the alternative to Harris would have been Loretta Sanchez, who was running to the left of her. The final ballot was Harris vs. Sanchez. There was no serious Republican candidate for that seat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 18 Mar 2017 @ 8:00am

      Re:

      That's why EVERY election needs an entry for "none of the above", and if it gets more than the candidates on the ballot, said candidates cannot run for the office until the next term and all new candidates must be presented.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Quint, 18 Mar 2017 @ 9:06am

        "none of the above"

        `

        ... "none of the above" is a good start, but also need requirement for a "Majority Vote of the Electorate" for any person to assume any elected office.

        > "Senator" Kamala Harris just took office by only receiving 36% of the vote of the California people (electorate)... she "took" office as a "minority" candidate... thus, 64% of Californians DID NOT vote for their Senator Kamala Harris.

        Is that fair & just majority rule ?
        Is that Democracy ?

        > 99.9% of elected officials in America (including US Presidents) take office with only a minority vote (of VEP) -- the current electoral system is fundamentally corrupt -- but works quite nicely for politicians and their lapdogs in the corporate media.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 1:29pm

          Re: "none of the above"

          i concur. this needs to change, or else. we go down the drain like roman empire did.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 6:31pm

            Re: Re: "none of the above"

            We are already well along the same road the Rome took.

            Bread and Circuses is a prime enemy or any Republic and the
            US populace knows more about and cares more about who who won the Super Bowl and entertainment and celebrities than about how the country fairs.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 1:30pm

          Re: "none of the above"

          It also needs some means of getting people who will at least listen to the electorate to stand for office, and given the stink that comes from existing office holders, that is a difficult task.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2017 @ 5:55pm

      Re:

      Actually, the alternative to Harris would have been Loretta Sanchez

      I agree those were the names on the ballot. However, the most insidious of rot is why better alternatives were not on the ballot.

      I know at least partly why that is. For example, you couldn't get me to run for public office for any amount of sense of duty. The rip and tear of partisan politics, the false moral panic, the average intelligence of the electorate, and the ideology proctors would drive me to homicide very quickly. Or more simply, someone better than I am should run.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 18 Mar 2017 @ 8:19am

    Election choice between horrible and worse

    Watch the clips of the Harris - Sanchez debates. Harris was actually the better choice, and I think that she isn't suitable for any office.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Brad (profile), 18 Mar 2017 @ 9:50am

    I'm sure Marc Randazza will email you a copy of the letter if you ask, but I doubt it's anywhere near as awesome as what he writes on his own behalf.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 10:59am

    Someone needs to make a webpage with sexy adult ads, whose sole purpose ISN'T to make money directly, but to profit off 1st amendment violations when the government tries to censor them.

    Could make 100s of millions REALLY easily......

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 18 Mar 2017 @ 11:38am

    Ummm

    ISNT THERE A law against this??
    Isnt the state responsible for this person(S)..
    And that means, ?? WHO can sue the state..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 Mar 2017 @ 1:26pm

    The problem isn't the AG's.
    The problem is the public.
    Easily goaded into the fantasy that 1 trillion 10 yr olds are being trafficked on BackPage and the only way to stop it is to not question the rights of those bad people being trampled.
    They can not think outside of their little bubble, because it hasn't screwed them yet.
    They get angry at courts for following the actual law and complain about all the money wasted by the court not doing the 'right' thing they were told they should support.
    Meanwhile millions vanish in a poof, to make the targets whole. Money spent to claw their way up the ladder to governmental success, people blindly cheering & paying the price for witch hunts.

    Yes there are some people forced into sex work, but not as many as they want you to think.
    Rather than just admit that paying for sex between 2 consenting adults shouldn't be a huge concern, we pretend it has to be forced and icky. (Pity how many in the government who say that publicly but use escorts themselves.)
    If we gave up on these idiotic victorian ideals, finding bad actors would be so much easier.
    Look at Colorado, they have thousands of robberies driven by people trying to get pot.... oh wait. They are making millions in taxes & can focus on actual crimes not imaginary have 2 oz's and you need 25 years in prison.

    The public needs to stop believing the hype and learn there is a world outside their comfortable little bubble, and if they keep rooting for stupid things like this to happen they hasten their own bubble ending up burst as their rights & the law are ignored for a crusade.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 2:50pm

      Response to: That Anonymous Coward on Mar 18th, 2017 @ 1:26pm

      The reality us that prostitution is illegal.

      Would you feel any different uf they were selling fully automatic weapons or hitman services? Do yiu think it would be okay to sell chuldren for marriage or openly deal meth?

      The real question is why being part of a criminal act and prifitting from it should get a pass.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        ANONYMOUS WOMAN, 18 Mar 2017 @ 3:35pm

        Re: Response to: That Anonymous Coward on Mar 18th, 2017 @ 1:26pm

        EXCUSE ME? SOME PEOPLE HAVE NO OTHER OPTION OK? I AM NOT FINDING ANOTHER DAMN MAN TO GET MARRIED TO AGAIN SO I CAN BE TREATED BAD OR TOLD WHAT TO DO.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 5:03pm

        Re: Response to: That Anonymous Coward on Mar 18th, 2017 @ 1:26pm

        Would you feel any different uf [sic] they were selling fully automatic weapons or hitman services?

        Sex rarely kills people, and automatic weapons are not as natural as going to the bathroom or breathing. Also, those weapons are legal to own (given a class III firearms license in the case of fully automatic weapons) though hitmen are not. There is no reason a weapons dealer could not advertise on Back Page if they wished to do so.

        Really, a false analogy comparing a hitman with selling sex is beneath your intelligence and is insulting to others.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 6:11pm

          Re: Re: Response to: That Anonymous Coward on Mar 18th, 2017 @ 1:26pm

          Why?

          Many of the women and girls in the sex trade are not there willingly. This creates harm without a doubt. Its not unreasonable to assume that some of them will die,be kiled, overdose on drugs, or commit suicide.

          Prostitution is not without victims and not without fatal results. It is also clearly illegal in most parts of the US.

          Can you name any other clearly illegal act that should and is openly advertised?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 18 Mar 2017 @ 7:45pm

            Re: Re: Re: Response to: That Anonymous Coward on Mar 18th, 2017 @ 1:26pm

            You know, there is at least one way to help stem the tide of forced prostitution and such: Legalise and regulate sex work as if it were any other service industry. That approach would not stop all forced prostitution (and I would be a fool to believe otherwise), but it could help create conditions that favor voluntary sex work and better safety for sex workers. If an adult legitimately wants to become a sex worker, would you prefer they do it somewhere that can vouch for their general safety and well-being (i.e., a legalised brothel), or would you prefer they do it on a street corner where no one can vouch for their safety?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Wendy Cockcroft, 20 Mar 2017 @ 8:38am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Response to: That Anonymous Coward on Mar 18th, 2017 @ 1:26pm

              I have reluctantly come to the same conclusion as yourself due to my social conservatism. Like it or not, it's a demand-side issue and only regulation can address it effectively. It won't end the abuses (see Holland for details) but it will significantly reduce harm by providing a legal outlet for consenting adults on both sides. The winner of the argument asked me whether continuing or stepping up prohibition had done anything at all to reduce harm. When the answer is no, you have to concede. I gave in; legalise, tax, and regulate.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 8:32pm

            Re: Re: Re: Response to: That Anonymous Coward on Mar 18th, 2017 @ 1:26pm

            Can you name any other clearly illegal act that should and is openly advertised?

            Selling pot.

            Grocery delivery if it contains meat, fish, fowl, or alcohol.

            Giving away live stock.

            Giving charity to the homeless at the intersection.

            Free WiFi run by government (cities, counties, state parks, airports) when there are commercial rate billed wifi available in that geographic area (even if it isn't available in a specific spot.)

            Buying more than 1 carton of cigarettes in a duty free area (Native American enclaves)

            Buy more than one fifth of a gallon of spirits in a duty free area

            Buying, selling, transporting, consuming California Champagne or other protected region of production products such a parmigiana cheese or Bordeaux wine

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            trollificus (profile), 19 Mar 2017 @ 6:11am

            Re: Re: Re: Response to: That Anonymous Coward on Mar 18th, 2017 @ 1:26pm

            "Many of the women and girls in the sex trade are not there willingly."

            Ah, a rigorous statistical analysis:"Many", eh? Read (in the most recent issue of REASON) about Cross X Country, the giant, multi-agency sting/raid/bust operation that netted "less than many" unwilling prostitutes, and "so less than many it was almost zero" UNDERAGE ones.

            Indicating the problem, while allowing that forcing little girls to have sex is bad m'kay?, is NOT a gigantic epidemic requiring a moral panic to deal with. Even less than alcohol was prior to Prohibition or drugs right after Prohibition ended.

            Put it this way...the conventional wisdom is that the "Red Scare" was a cynical attempt to increase gov't power by frightening the public. Yet there WERE more actual Russian agents/plants within the gov't than were found "underage forced prostitutes" in this recent massive (and expensive) undertaking.

            Keep saying "but it's illegal!" all you want, you still have to account for the actual size of the problem and the proportionality of the response.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 19 Mar 2017 @ 2:53pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Response to: That Anonymous Coward on Mar 18th, 2017 @ 1:26pm

              Ahh so by your logic anything less than mass murder isn't worth tge effort because it us statistically significant?

              That argument is weaker than average, some might say wirse than many.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Wendy Cockcroft, 20 Mar 2017 @ 8:40am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Response to: That Anonymous Coward on Mar 18th, 2017 @ 1:26pm

                Moral panicking doesn't solve problems. It doesn't address them, nor does it effectively describe or delineate them. It has no useful purpose. Let us make a sober estimate of what is going on and take appropriate measures as and when required.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Mar 2017 @ 6:06pm

        Re: Response to: That Anonymous Coward on Mar 18th, 2017 @ 1:26pm

        Yes, if Backpage was selling fully automatic weapons I would feel differently.

        They aren't.

        They also aren't "part of a criminal act."

        But feel free to keep making up facts to suit your moral crusade that doesn't actually help the victims you claim to care about.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ANONYMOUS WOMAN, 18 Mar 2017 @ 3:38pm

      Re:

      SEE MY ENTRIES BELOW. TY FOR YOUR COMMENT.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous woman, 18 Mar 2017 @ 3:32pm

    GUESS WHAT? I WORK ON BP. IT IS MY ONLY MEANS TO SURVIVE. I AM NOT A DAMN CHILD NOR DO I TRAFFIC KIDS. I AM NOT GIVING UP MY GD JOB. I AM 55 YRS OLD. I TRIED TO GET A REAL JOB BUT NO ONE WILL HIRE ME. I DONT HAVE TIME TO QUIT WHAT I AM DOING AND LOSE MY HOUSE OK? IF YOU DONT LIKE WHAT I DO THEN YOU PAY ALL OF MY BILLS, PUT GAS IN MY CAR , BUY MY BASIC NECESSITIES ETC AND PAY MY DAMN RENT AND THEN I WILL QUIT. OTHERWISE SHUT THE HELL UP AND QUIT WITH THIS GD BS. IM SICK OF HEARING IT AND I AM SICK OF YOU TRYING TO RUN MY FUCKING LIFE. I DO NOT DO DRUGS, I DO NOT SUCK DICK, I DO NOT TAKE IT UP THE A.., DONT DO GFE ETC. GROW UP AND GET A F... LIFE WILL YOU. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous woman, 18 Mar 2017 @ 3:45pm

    GUESS WHAT? I WORK ON BP. IT IS MY ONLY MEANS TO SURVIVE. I AM NOT A DAMN CHILD NOR DO I TRAFFIC KIDS. I AM NOT GIVING UP MY GD JOB. I AM 55 YRS OLD. I TRIED TO GET A REAL JOB BUT NO ONE WILL HIRE ME. I DONT HAVE TIME TO QUIT WHAT I AM DOING AND LOSE MY HOUSE OK? IF YOU DONT LIKE WHAT I DO THEN YOU PAY ALL OF MY BILLS, PUT GAS IN MY CAR , BUY MY BASIC NECESSITIES ETC AND PAY MY DAMN RENT AND THEN I WILL QUIT. OTHERWISE SHUT THE HELL UP AND QUIT WITH THIS GD BS. IM SICK OF HEARING IT AND I AM SICK OF YOU TRYING TO RUN MY FUCKING LIFE. I DO NOT DO DRUGS, I DO NOT SUCK DICK, I DO NOT TAKE IT UP THE A..,I DONT DO GFE ETC. GROW UP AND GET A F... LIFE WILL YOU. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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