In California, Maryland and Oklahoma, the governors can over-rule parole boards' decisions to free prisoners serving life sentences. In all three states this has evolved to the point where very few prisoners get released.
Host Ira Glass describes a recent terrorism case in Newburgh, N.Y., in which four men were arrested after planting bombs in front of a synagogue and Jewish community center. Ira discusses the case with Aziz Huq, assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School and co-author of Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror. Huq says the Newburgh case isn't what it seems, because without the help of a government informant, the four men probably wouldn't have been able to organize an act of terrorism.
Hemant Lakhani, an Indian-born British citizen, had been a salesman all his life. Clothing, rice, oil...it didn't matter to him what, as long as he could spin a deal.
Our story about Hemant Lakhani's case continues, through the sting and the trial.
Ira talks to Aziz Huq about whether cases like Lahkani's will continue to be pursued under the Obama administration, and why that's problematic.
David Rakoff tells the story of a contract between a son and his visiting mother. David Rakoff is the author of several books including Don't Get Too Comfortable.
Ira goes to one of the nation's great manufacturers of fine print: The U.S.Congress. He reports on a recent House subcommittee hearing on a practice in the health insurance industry—buried in that industry's own fine print—called rescission.
Susan Burton rereads her parents' divorce papers—the fine print that changed her life forever.
Host Ira Glass describes the scene at a courthouse resource center in lower Manhattan where people learn how to represent themselves in civil court. Attorney Ruth Sharfman, who assists at the center, tells Ira that some of the pro se litigants are more prepared for the job than others.
From London, TAL contributor Jon Ronson tells the story of a man who has spent more than a decade trying to convince doctors that he's not mentally ill. But the more he argues his case, the less they believe him.
Earlier this year, admitted drug user Jorge Cruz decided to act as his own lawyer in an Albany, New York criminal court. Impossibly, he won.
Planet Money's Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson talk to Ira about the lawsuit phase of the economic crisis, and the ongoing search to find someone to take the blame. So far at least 196 lawsuits are simply banks suing other banks.
Ira tells the story of the 1953 U.S. Supreme Court case that formed the basis for the controversial state secret privilege—the precedent that allows the United States government to stop lawsuits by claiming that national security secrets might be revealed in court.
Host Ira Glass talks with Michael Perrino, a law professor at St Johns University School of Law in New York, who wrote a book about Ferdinand Pecora called The Hellhound of Wall Street. Pecora was the lead attorney in the Senate Banking Committee hearings in the 1930s looking into wrongdoing in the banking industry.
There's a town in Florida where if you shoplift, and get caught, a judge will send you back to the scene of your crime to stand in front of the store, with a large sign that reads "I stole from this store." Ira and producer Lisa Pollak talk to one such teenager who was caught stealing from a convenience store, the supervisor overseeing her punishment, and the judge who sends her there.
Mike Birbiglia recalls being in a car accident with a hit and run drunk driver. In the weeks that follow, Mike's brush with death turns into a full blown nightmare when the police report is so poorly filled out that somehow Mike winds up owing the drunk driver 12 thousand dollars…not because it's fair, but because he can't get anyone to listen to him.
Barack Obama's transition team made it clear this week that the incoming president plans to order the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp on his first full day in office. It's also likely that he'll immediately suspend the military commissions held there—the special courts the military set up in Guantanamo that have been widely criticized as unfair to the detainees. This American Life Producer Sarah Koenig talked to one of the military lawyers currently defending a Guantanamo detainee about all this—what's going on there, and what should happen next.
Host Ira Glass recalls the case of the so-called Detroit Sleeper Cell—four men, arrested in the weeks after 9/11, accused of plotting terrorist attacks. Ira explains that the entire program will be devoted to the story of the man who prosecuted the case...an up-and-coming prosecutor in the Department of Justice, Richard G.
Reporter Petra Bartosiewicz tells the first half of Rick Convertino's story. The Detroit Sleeper case was one of the earliest Justice Department victories in the war on terror.
Reporter Petra Bartosiewicz's story continues. Tensions between Rick and his bosses at the Justice Department escalate: They demote him, he sues them, they put him on trial for criminal misconduct, in the very same federal court house where we won the Sleeper Cell case.
Host Ira Glass talks with Yale law professor Jack Balkin about what he calls the Bush Administration's "lawyering style," a tendency to fight as hard as it can, on all fronts, to get what it wants. Ira also plays tape from a news conference with New York Senator Charles Schumer, in which he takes the Justice Department to task for refusing to pay death benefits to the families of two auxiliary policemen who were killed in the line of duty, even though federal law grants those benefits.
Ira Glass tells the story of a little-known treaty dispute with far-reaching ramifications for our understanding of executive power. The dispute is between the President and one of his appointees...to the International Boundary Commission with Canada.
This American Life contributor Jack Hitt uncovers a strange practice within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
Ira Glass interviews Charlie Savage, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Boston Globe, who's written a book called Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy about the ways the Bush Administration claims executive powers that other presidents haven't claimed. Charlie talks with Ira about the current candidates for President and their views on the scope of executive power.