Going off of last week’s post concerning low-income tenant exploitation, a question that naturally arises is should a tenant who fall below a certain income threshold be entitled to low-cost or free legal representation? The first objection, of course, is who is going to pay for it? While some attorneys are willing to volunteer their time, either directly or through a legal aid society, such measures are few and far between. Moreover, landlords—and their attorneys—have a crucial advantage right off the bat, namely aggregation.
How legally exploitable are lower-class tenants in Michigan? It’s an empirical question, and one that has not been thoroughly researched (as far as my scan of Google Scholar can tell). Even so, it’s not difficult to imagine how landlords, in concert with unscrupulous attorneys, could shake down tenants for extra cash even if they are not substantially behind on their rent.
Before taking to Twitter yesterday to issue a rather controversial message to North Korea regarding nuclear weapons, United States President Donald Trump issued this curious tweet:
Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news – it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
As discussed in part one of this series, strict liability crimes—criminal offenses which do not require the prosecution to prove intent (mens rea)—arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in response to urbanization and industrialization. These laws, often referred to as public welfare offenses, were typically directed at the sale of alcohol, foodstuffs, and narcotics, along with pollution and public nuisance offenses. For better or worse, the list of strict liability offenses grew throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, leading judges, lawyers, and legal academics to question not only their fairness, but their constitutionality. Despite calls to curtail the promulgation of strict liability crimes, many states continue to pass them, including Michigan. A number of state legislators have, however, taken steps to pass intent statutes which require the presence of general intent for most crimes, regardless of statutory language. Michigan is not one of them.
Electronic Arts (EA), one of the largest videogame developers in the world, has come under fire from lawmakers in Hawaii and Belgium for allegedly promoting online gambling directed at children with their latest title, Star Wars: Battlefront 2. Battlefront 2, like numerous other titles, uses a loot-crate system whereby players can acquire certain goods in the game by opening digital “crates” containing unknown items. In a number of games, these crates contain cosmetic items unrelated to game progression. For instance, in the World War I-based multiplayer game Battlefield 1, crates contain items allowing players to modify the appearance of weapons, uniforms, and vehicles. Battlefront 2, on the other hand, links loot crates directly to game progression, meaning that without the items contained in the crates, there is no way for players to advance the quality and abilities of the character(s) they play in the game.
In Morrissette vs. United States, 342 U.S. 246 (1952), Justice Robert Jackson, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, affirmed the longstanding principle of common-law crimes that for an individual to be held guilty, they must have both committed the act (actus reus) and possess the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused (mens rea). However, in that case, the Court also recognized a class of public welfare or strict liability offenses that do not require mens rea. In other words, an individual may be convicted for having committed the proscribed act alone, regardless of knowledge or intention.