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Legal News Roundup: August 26th, 2016

by Missie Frandsen

on 26 August, 2016

Two Law Student Suicides

Recently, Above the Law reported on two law student suicides. As part of their regular series, about mental health, an anonymous student was brave enough to share their experience in dealing with suicide and the aftermath.

We’ve written about lawyers and depression before; law school is grueling, lawyers lead the nation in depression and rank fourth in occupational suicides. Dan Lukasik, the founder of Lawyers with Depression, argues that lawyers are particularly prone to depression and suicidal thoughts, but are too ashamed to speak out. “The stigma is huge with mental illness and depression. You’re supposed to be a problem solver, you’re supposed to be a superman or superwoman. You’re not supposed to have problems. The general public already has a problem with lawyers and when I started to talk about this problem they didn’t want to hear it. They thought, ‘a person who makes a lot of money and has this job should not be having this problem.”

Here at Filevine, we want you to know that you’re not alone. If you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, or unsure if you are, please reach out to a mental health professional immediately. Take advantage of the confidential Lawyer Assistance Programs in each state, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It takes a lot of strength to ask for help, but you deserve it.

DOJ Ends Private Prison Contracts

In a historic move, the Department of Justice announced it will end it’s use of private, or for-profit, prisons. The decision comes on the heels of years of, and a damning internal study by the Inspector General, which found private prisons to be less safe and poorly managed.

The privatization of prisons has a long and sordid history dating back to the American Revolution; Britain held prisoners on contracted ships instead of shipping them to colonies, states put inmates to work and split profits, textile manufacturers bought plantation owners bought convict leases to replace freed slaves, General James Estell forced prisoners to build bricks and allowed escapes en masse. The modernization of private prisons came in  the 1980’s, when the number of federal inmates increased eightfold. The Bureau of Prisons sought to ease overcrowding and decrease costs. According to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates,  “Private prisons served an important role during a difficult period, but time has shown that they compare poorly to our own bureau facilities, do not save substantially on costs”, and provide less rehabilitation services. Yate’s memo about the shift focuses on the dropping prison population, proving to be a gentler read than, say, “private prisons are horrific cesspools of corruption and human rights violations” or “we’re only doing this because you made us.”

Thirteen federal private prisons will be affected as the DOJ lets their contracts slide into oblivion, but the Bureau will maintain private contracts with hundreds of halfway houses across the country. State prisons and other law enforcement departments are encouraged, but not required, to follow suit. Already, California has announced that it will continue private contracting, and Homeland Security is considering cutting ties.

Starbucks Ice Lawsuit Crushed

True American hero and coffee enthusiast Alexander Forouzesh tried to make the world a better place by suing Starbucks for fraud, alleging that it purposefully adds too much ice to its beverages. Forouzesh argued that ice cubes take up precious coffee space, literally robbing you the fullness of your triple venti half sweet non-fat caramel macchiato, hold the whip.

Unfortunately, Judge Percy Anderson doesn’t agree. Starbucks has never claimed that drinks are pure liquid (what else would it be?), the cups are transparent, and that children understand basic physics, so why can’t you?

“…as young children learn, they can increase the amount of beverage they receive if they order “no ice.” If children have figured out that including ice in a cold beverage decreases the amount of liquid they will receive, the Court has no difficulty concluding that a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into thinking that when they order an iced tea, that the drink they receive will include both ice and tea and that for a given size cup, some portion of the drink will be ice rather than whatever liquid beverage the consumer ordered.”

So sorry, fellow connoisseurs, but Starbucks can do whatever the hell it wants. No ice, less ice, all of the ice, anything. There is no justice in this world.