Our Christian and Patriotic Truths, Justice and Our Real Freedom

On July 4th of each year the citizens of the U.S. “we the people” commemorate our nation’s birth with a patriotic holiday. We call it Independence Day. We celebrate that our country chose to shake off the shackles of oppression and to establish a government that believed in the importance of liberty and a different kind of freedom.

Independence Day like many summer holidays, gets overshadowed by things like parties, family gatherings, picnics, and day off from work. Yet, at the heart of these pursuits is the desire to freely enjoy our lives, and our individual way of thinking.

Throughout our U.S. history millions have flocked to our shores seeking a life with this promise “The American Dream” as most call it. Our country has grown tremendously in wealth and influence precisely because we accepted these people. They are not always welcomed with open arms because racism and bigotry have always been around. But the diversity of our population is one of our greatest assets. Too often we think it is the source of our problems. Our mindset is that it was alright for our ancestors to find America’s shores, but we’re reluctant about today’s new arrivals, usually out of fear that will take our piece of American pie.

Today it is easy to criticize what we find wrong with our country, our political, and our legal system. The lack of equality when it comes to the freedom to pursue “life, liberty and our pursuit of happiness”. It is our right and a duty of each citizen to protest injustice. That was exactly what was happening back in 1776 when the colonists were fed up with the imposition of unfair taxation, representation, and repression they felt from “Mother England”.

Before we can prophetically speak on the issues of societal freedom I think we must first look at our individual freedom. We cannot separate the two and be fair, and we can’t demand changes in the system unless we first look closely at our own situations and face up to the freedoms we have that come with our patriotic responsibility as a citizen, and Christian beliefs.

If you are currently living with an income that meets your basic needs of food and shelter, and you have the freedom to worship as you please. If you have done some “inside work” to discover how much you live from your false self (the one that always wants to get your own way – even with good intentions) and the opportunity to live from your true self (the one that is in union with God and our fellow man), then you must face up to the responsibility of being a freedom fighter for God’s kingdom and this great country.

Before you pick up your picket sign and go marching off to war for social justice, just take a moment to look at what Jesus did in his situation in Palestine. He didn’t go around demanding that Rome leave the occupied Holy land. He didn’t tell his disciples or the people that He spoke to that they are the only ones who get God’s grace. But He did remark about the many that were persecuted, prosecuted, and those who were not in favor with the current government and Jewish hierarchy. If you are intrigued by these comments you could go read this for yourself, the messages are there in the four Gospels of the New Testament.

Jesus gave us an invitation to follow Him in the way of real truth, real justice and real freedom. He told us that when we receive others we are receiving Him, and following the commandments that our Father in heaven asks us to do. He gathered the small children in His arms and instructed grownups to be innocent and trusting like children. He also told us the world would not understand this, and we would face persecution, and possibly prosecution when we choose to follow this path.

The struggle for each of us face is to be honest with where we are with these teachings in our daily lives. This takes a daily assessment and reckoning. We cannot be completely faithful unless we are spending more time looking at ourselves, our faults, our shortcomings, and the blessings that we receive, than we are at pointing out the faults of others, or envying the blessings that others receive.

The teachings of Jesus in the Four Gospels give us clear cut directions on how to do this. I know I can’t begin to honestly assess my faults and blessings without this help in the Four Gospels and also with the strength we receive from our Father in heaven.

It All Starts With You

It has to start with each of us; the freedom to choose the way of love, or hate. The individual freedoms we have cannot be separated from the societal freedom we should all share. Here is why community is necessary. Community must include everybody! If it only includes those we like or want to be with, then we just create little cliques and gather power, then we are in the role of oppressor (even when we don’t think so).

The followers of Christianity, who are true believers in the equal spreading of God’s Word and His blessings, are the real “Freedom Fighters” in this world. We can do this from a position of humility and service to our Father. We can be passionate and compassionate to one and all. If we can truly see Jesus in others and ourselves; we can rejoice that God hasn’t reserved His love only for the righteous, but for all.

True freedom is the freedom to let go of past hurts and resentments, to let go of future ambitions and trust that our Father in heaven will take care of us. It is the freedom to truly accept others. It is freedom to be a giver and not just a taker. It is this powerful freedom that oddly springs from our acceptance that we are, powerless without our Fathers grace, mercy, and blessings that He gives each of us through His love, and being blessed by in living in this great country.

Digital Evidence and Legal Proceedings

When it comes to submitting digital evidence for use in a trial, the same levels of care need to be applied as with non-digital evidence.

Crime is a part of human life and, for a crime to be resolved, investigators have to reconstruct the crime scene and analyse the actions of both the suspect and the victim so that any evidence can be identified and used to support and legal proceedings.

As technology has evolved, criminals are now able to use new methods to commit traditional crimes and develop new types of crimes. Crimes committed through the use of technology still require the same principles of investigation, though the scene can now be a virtual environment that must be secured and examined as digital evidence.

Digital evidence is information or data of an evidential value that is stored on or transmitted by a computer or digital device and can be defined as follows:

‘Any data stored or transmitted using a computer that support or refute a theory of how an offense occurred or that address critical elements of the offense such as intent or alibi’ (Casey, E., Dunne, R. (2004) Digital Evidence and Computer Crime Forensic Science, Computers and the Internet. St. Louis: Academic Press).

A wider array of devices are capable of holding larger amounts of data and digital evidence can be found on an increasing number of types of storage media, including, computer hard drives, mobile phones and removable media such as memory cards.

As an expert witness and Digital Forensic Consultant I am finding that digital evidence is becoming more prevalent within a wider range of both criminal and civil cases including murder, unlawful images, child care cases, commercial and employment disputes. These cases can require the examination of evidence to determine whether it had been used to commit or facilitate a crime as well as to identify supportive material for either side of a legal case.

In order for digital evidence to be admissible in court a number of criteria must be met, including, ensuring that the evidence has not been altered and that an auditable trail has been kept relating to the storage and investigation of the evidential device or media. The key points of the handling and investigation of digital evidence is provided as follows:

Actions taken to secure and collect digital evidence should not affect the integrity of that evidence;
Persons conducting an examination of digital evidence should be trained for that purpose;
Activity relating to the seizure, examination, storage, or transfer of digital evidence should be documented, preserved, and available for review.

(U.S. Department of Justice (2004) Forensic Examination of Digital Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement, Washington).

The nature of digital devices therefore makes them particularly susceptible to damage or corruption. Due to the constant requirement for devices to be physically smaller in size yet bigger in capacity, the components become ever smaller and more delicate, therefore, even storing the devices in an unsuitable environment can cause the corruption and loss of some or all of the data present.

Therefore, to ensure its integrity, a ‘chain of custody’ relating to the evidence should be established. This usually amounts to a paper trail detailing the whereabouts of all evidential sources during custody, along with the details of individuals having access to it, when and any actions taken with it. This, along with a comparison and review of the digital media itself should allow for the acceptance by an independent examiner that a given item of media has not been corrupted or compromised following seizure.

As the level of understanding of the operation of computers and mobile phones has developed within legal cases, those investigating cases involving digital evidence have a better awareness of the methods of seizure and handling. Previously it was not uncommon to find cases where the digital evidence had been switched on and operated by a ‘curious’ investigating officer to ‘see what was there’.

Thankfully, far greater emphasis is now placed on audit trails and storing the evidence correctly and, today, such activity by untrained individuals is now rare. The adherence to computer evidence guidelines is crucial to ensuring that the evidence considered is all that was available and basing an examination on flawed evidence that is only partially complete.

As a forensic investigator, I was recently involved in a case that highlights the importance of ensuring the completeness of digital evidence. The case involved an unemployed middle-aged man who lived on his own and kept himself to himself, though, used his computer to talk to other people within chat rooms.

He had been in contact with one of his online friends via a chat room for eight months before they asked for him to do them a favour and cash a cheque that their elderly mother was unable to do. His expenses were to be covered and he saw no problem with then transferring the money to the mother’s account. Unfortunately, he did not even think that the cheque could be fraudulent until he found himself in a police station and being interviewed on suspicion of attempting to cash a fraudulent cheque.

He provided police with his version of events; fortunately, they had also seized his home computer. They examined the computer and found evidence to indicate that the defendant had been in contact with the individual, yet found no evidence to support the origins of the cheque or the story behind it. He was subsequently charged with fraud and was due to appear for trial at Crown Court.

Given the partial evidence identified by the police, the defendant’s solicitors understood the situation sufficiently to know that a second opinion should be conducted of the computer hard drive to determine whether the evidence of any chat logs could be found on the computer.

It was only after a careful review of the deleted areas of the hard drive, along with the use of data recovery software that chat log activity was identified that supported the defendant’s version of events. The log proved that the defendant and his friend had conversed on a number of occasions and it also confirmed the origins of the cheque. After months of investigation, after the identification of this evidence, the case was dropped on the morning of the trial.

Had the computer evidence not been sufficiently protected and secured following seizure and the data present altered in any way, whether it be by use of the hard drive or improper handling of the drive, the relatively small piece of crucial evidence may have been lost and the defendant’s version of events could not have been supported.

During the examination process of digital evidence it is standard procedure for the evidence to be connected to a suitable system using write protecting hardware so that no alteration or access to the original device is possible.

Due to the volatility of digital evidence it is best practise to take a forensic ‘image’ of the hard drive or storage device that consists of an exact byte-by-byte copy of all data and space, both live files and deleted information, which is present on the device. This forensic image then forms the basis of the investigation and analysis and the original exhibit can then be securely stored.

At the start of the forensic copying process, the device is assigned an acquisition hash value (most commonly an MD5 hash value). Once the evidence has been forensically acquired (imaged, similar to copied) the evidence is assigned a verification hash value.

Currently, it is believed that the hash value mechanism indicates that the acquired evidence is a complete and accurate copy of the data contained on the original device and that if the acquisition and verification hash values match then no alteration of the evidence can have taken place.

Various types of hash value exist, including, HAVAL, MD5 and SHA. The forensic arena has adopted the MD5 hash as a method of proving that one file is identical to another or an item of digital evidence has not been altered since its original acquisition. The MD5 hash value was developed from 1991 by Professor Ronald L. Rivest.

As the MD5 algorithm is based on a 128-byte data block, it would appear that there is the possibility that the data on an item of digital media could be manipulated, yet the MD5 hash value not be altered. Given this, I am currently undertaking research to attempt to verify whether an item of digital evidence can be altered without changing its MD5 hash value.

This will enable the adoption of a technique to allow for the alteration of digital evidence without changes to the assigned hash value. The result of this research may be that it is possible to alter an item of digital evidence sufficiently to make the current hashing techniques unreliable in court.

Proverbs 28 – Riches, Justice and Judgment

No one who conceals transgressions will prosper,
but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
~Proverbs 28:13 (NRSV).

Contracts and caveats are full of legal-speak and they spell out blow by blow for proponents the ‘lay of the land’ and all sense of permeations regarding default. In much the same way, Proverbs 28 gets into some of the pertinent items of note regarding riches, justice, and ultimately God’s judgment through Wisdom – which is the way life generally always works out.

This chapter also sees the return of the contrastive proverb, and with much fanfare. In fact, eighteen of the 28 proverbs are “but” proverbs showing us the sweeping differences in life that are accorded of our various acts.

Approaches to Wealth

Riches and all manner of ways of getting there or not are a commanding theme here. Firstly, it’s better to be poor but blameless than to be rich and perverse (verse 6). Getting rich at the expense of others is a slippery wealth – it will not be retained (verse 8). Some rich people attempt to put over ‘their wisdom’ on others, but even a poor person with insight sees through the ruse (verse 11).

An eagerness to grow rich in life without the willingness to collect that spoil of hard knocks is faithlessness; it will not be rewarded in the end (verse 20). The blameworthy person who brandishes perversity will fall ultimately (verse 18).

It really doesn’t pay to greedily hoard material wealth, doing so irresponsibly.

Opposite Sides of Justice

Greedy people cannot live at harmony, for peace is always somewhere ‘over there,’ in places called “envy” and “comparison” (verse 25). These live at odds with even themselves, as they’re constantly peering over the fence into others’ worlds.

Those eager to get ahead financially, and certainly against the needs of the needy, will not go without punishment in the end (verses 20 and 27). Heaven only help a nation ruled by a wicked person; they will leave nothing behind and people will scurry for cover (verses 3, 12 and 28).

The alternative route, which is one relatively few take, is the right-sized life so far as balance and equity is concerned. The wiser person is not trusting in their own resources, but in Wisdom’s (verse 26; cf. Proverbs 3:5-6). They receive for their faith a good and fair inheritance (verse 10).

It is important to note that Wisdom speaks kindly to the latter person but tersely to the former; justice abides to both according to the fruit of their attitudes and actions.

The Law and Judgment

Like many chapters and subsections in Proverbs there are catch-words and word-plays everywhere. The one of note here is the word “law,” but it is used in different ways than we’d typically find in say Psalm 119.

Continuing the theme of just and wicked rulership, the “law” proverbs give some insight into God’s justice via the hand of Wisdom – which is the way life works out, generally.

The just will resist the hand of the wicked, for they uphold the law at any cost (verse 4). A country with frail leadership will, in fact, have many leaders and they’ll pull against each other (verse 2). Those flailing the law or compromising justice will be shameful to their parents (verse 7). Further, God despises the prayers of those who are deaf to the needs and requirements of the law (verse 9).

An Overall Message

The key theme to this chapter, and it probably fits with the entire Bible, is sewn up in verse 13, which is profiled at top. Whoever is honest in life will thrive. The dishonest will fall. Seeing that we’re all found dishonest, or at least mistaken, so great is God that we have the item of penitence to fall back on.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
~Matthew 4:17b (NRSV).

Copyright (c) 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Legal Jobs: How to Become a Legal Researcher

Many people think of the law as a field for judges and lawyers only. But the legal profession is full of interesting types of jobs, many of which are challenging and interesting, and many of which pay well, too. The job of legal researcher is just such a job.

A legal researcher is someone who researches past cases, legal precedents and legal statutes for a lawyer or a law firm. The information a researcher gathers will become an important part of a lawyer’s presentation to a jury, or to motions that a lawyer files. Legal researchers used to spend hours toiling away in law libraries, poring over documents and pawing through thick law books. The Internet has changed this profession, however, as it’s changed so many professions. Now, much of a legal researcher’s work is performed online. Still, the job requires careful work, patience, and persistence. You might be searching for one obscure case among thousands of cases. Sometimes, you might not even know precisely what you’re searching for, only that you’ll know it when you find it. You also have to be someone who is an independent worker, and someone who is self-motivated and able to follow instructions well, because oftentimes you will simply receive a complicated set of instructions and be left unsupervised to complete them. Legal researchers also prepare legal documents and memos in many cases.

To become a legal researcher, you need to be an accredited paralegal (a paralegal is a legal assistant). That means you’ll have to have at least an associate’s degree, although more often nowadays legal assistants will need at least a bachelor’s degree in order to secure a good job. It wouldn’t hurt to have an advanced degree, either.

When it comes time to find a job, you have to decide whether you want to work for government lawyers at a private law firm. Most legal researchers work in private offices-about seven in ten. This work can be more stressful and more demanding, but it also tends to pay significantly better. If you choose government employment, you can either work for the Justice Department (most public legal researchers work for the Justice Department) or work for a district attorney. You might even think about becoming a freelancer. It was once highly unusual for a legal researcher to work for himself or herself, but with the Internet it’s becoming much less rare. This kind of work would involve firms all over the country assigning you research projects and legal documents to prepare over the Internet, and you would work one project at a time. The beauty of legal freelancing is that you can set your own hours and be your own boss. The downside, of course, is that income is not steady and there might be times when you are between assignments and not receiving a paycheck. Still, if you are tenacious and self-motivated it’s likely you’ll find plenty of employment.

Separate Legal Personality of a Company

In Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Utopia’, the concept of a limited company is described, rather poetically:

“Some seven men form an Association (If possible, all Peers and Baronets), The start off with a public declaration To what extent they mean to pay their debts. That’s called their Capital; if they are wary They will not quote it at a sum immense. The figure’s immaterial–it may vary From eighteen million down to eighteenpence. I should put it rather low; The good sense of doing so Will be evident at once to any debtor. When it’s left to you to say What amount you mean to pay, Why, the lower you can put it at, the better…

They then proceed to trade with all who’ll trust ’em Quite irrespective of their capital (It’s shady, but it’s sanctified by custom); Bank, Railway, Loan, or Panama Canal. You can’t embark on trading too tremendous– It’s strictly fair, and based on common sense– If you succeed, your profits are stupendous– And if you fail, pop goes your eighteenpence”.

How does the concept of separate legal personality and limited liability give rise to the circumstances Gilbert and Sullivan describe? Does you think that the law goes far enough in disregarding, or avoiding the consequences of, separate legal personality, when justice requires it to do so? This article explains further.

An incorporated company, “united or combined into an organised body”, is recognised by law as a separate legal entity, or ‘legal person’ distinct from the separate personalities of the members of the body. The law treats it like “any other independent person” having rights and liabilities. A company, as a legal person, may enter into contracts, own property and even commit crimes. It is this concept of the Company being a fictitious person (then under the ‘Stock Company Act’ ) ‘Utopia’ ridicules, where Gilbert, in his libretto, toys with the idea that there could be a convergence of natural persons and legal entities.

Where a private company limited by shares owes money, and becomes insolvent, the law holds that since its creditors dealt with the Company – not its individual members – regardless of “the ideas or schemes of those who brought it into existence”, the extent of financial liability of its members is limited to the amount the members agree to pay for their shares: their “public declaration.. to what extent they mean to pay their debts”. Gilbert’s words satirize the consequences of this: if the Company becomes insolvent, the creditors do not get paid, regardless of the personal financial situations of its members. This can be contrasted with a partnership or sole proprietorship, where the owner would be held responsible for all debts of the corporation.

Conversely, where a company owns assets, those assets belong to the Company, not its members: in contrast with a partnership or sole proprietorship, where the owner(s) of the assets are the partners or the proprietor. Members cannot claim an interest as the assets were purchased by the Company, as legal owner which, as in Macaura can be to the detriment of the member.

On occasions, the law is prepared to circumvent the usual consequences of legal personality by ‘lifting’ or ‘piercing’ the veil of incorporation – for example, where a company’s shareholders are using the Company as a device to avoid their responsibilities. In Jones v Lipman, Lipman transferred a property to his company, to avoid having to transfer the property to Jones. The Court held the Company was a “device and a sham, a mask which [Lipman] holds before his face in an attempt to avoid recognition by the eye of equity”.

This does not mean that the Courts will always lift the corporate veil wherever justice requires it. The Courts have vigorously fought against any attempt to allow anyone, let alone themselves, “peer under the skirts of a company”. In Adams v Cape Industries, a company that marketed asbestos set up subsidiaries so that if a customer sued for asbestos-related claims, only the subsidiary would be liable. The bankruptcy of a subsidiary would not affect Cape. The Court held that Cape were entitled to “organise affairs.. so that it would have the… benefit of the group’s asbestos trade in the USA without the risks of tortuous liability”.

Similarly, in Ord and another v Belhaven Pubs Limited a defendant company that was not trading, transferred all of its assets to other companies in its group, and consequently claimants attempted to sue those other companies for the debt the defendant owed. The court dismissed the claim, stating that the transactions were overt and “conducted in accordance with the liberties conferred upon corporate entities by the Companies Act”.

In recent times, the approach would seem to be that the Court will go to any length to avoid any obvious penetration of the corporate veil. In Allen v Amalgamated Construction Co Ltd the European Court of Justice examined the workings of a company to investigate whether transfers between subsidiaries were capable of being a transfer under the TUPE regulations. Similarly, in Pirelli Cable Holding NV v IRC the Court, whilst denying that it was lifting the veil, “availed itself of a jolly good rummage around the internal workings” in order to examine certain facts.

The Courts have on occasion held directors personally liable for their actions. In C Evans & Sons Limited v Spritebrand Ltd, the Court held that, in every case it is necessary to examine with care what part the director played personally with regards to the act complained of. The Court declined the opportunity to formulate a comprehensive definition of circumstances that would always give rise to liability.

More recently, in MCA Records Inc, whilst not setting out general principles, the Court held that per CBS Songs Ltd and Unilever plc v Gilette (UK) Ltd, liability may arise where the individual ‘intends and procures and shares a common design that an infringement takes place’. Consequently, these cases establish that directors can sometimes be personally liable for torts for which the company is also liable. Still, the Courts have retained the principles of separate legal personality and limited liability, and defended the protection they offer. Whilst permitting some ‘rummaging’ under the veil to establish facts, they have severely limited any encroachment on those principles.

We have seen how the principles of separate legal personality and limited liability sometimes result in circumstances that may seem favourable to the Company’s shareholders and detrimental to its creditors. On one hand, there are good reasons for retaining these principles. The Courts feel that to subject individual shareholders or directors to onerous personal liabilities would discourage commercial enterprise. Additionally, whilst creditors are exposed to risk, they are fully aware of this risk: the Company’s Memorandum, a public document, freely states that the company is limited by shares, the liability of its members is limited, and by how much. So when the Company “proceed[s] to trade with all who’ll trust ’em”, the risk creditors take is easily calculable.

On the other hand, there are cases where, if it were not for company law, other principles would require the Courts find individual members liable for their debts and actions. Cases such as Adams v Cape Industries, where members have deliberately arranged their affairs to avoid liability if sued, are difficult to correlate with equitable principles of justice. The law is moving towards introducing provisions to prevent members abusing the principles to avoid liability for serious crimes and should go further to introduce provisions preventing the avoidance of liability for serious losses.

Materials referred to:

Payne, J, MA (1998) Lifting the Corporate Veil, Company Law Gilbert, W S – Utopia, Limited Halsbury’s Laws of England from LexisNexis – Corporations (Volume 9(2) (2006 Reissue) Halsbury’s Laws of England from LexisNexis – Companies (Volume 7(1) (2004 Reissue) Hill, C, Hubble, P, Longshaw, A, Morgan, T & Roberts, S (2007) W223 Company Law and Practice, Oxford University Press, Oxford New Law Journal from LexisNexis – von Wachter, V (13 July 2007) The Corporate Veil, 157 NLJ 990 New Law Journal from LexisNexis – Pedley, P (6 May 2005) Hints for hungry litigators, 155 NLJ 702

CASES:

Adams v Cape Industries (1990) Ch 433
Allen v Amalgamated Construction Co Ltd: C-234/98 [1999] ECR I-8643, [2000] All ER (EC) 97
Jones v Lipman (1962) 1 All ER 442
Macaura v Northern Assurance Co Ltd (1925) AC 619 Ord and another v Belhaven Pubs Limited (1998) BCC 607
Salomon v A Salmon and Co Ltd (1897) Ac 22 [1895-99] All ER Rep 33