We get a lot of e-mails from people stating that they were the victim of governmental abuse, and asking us to cover their story at Crime & Federalism. Some e-mailers even have websites set up. Before sending an e-mail (and, in fact, if you followed these guidelines when seeking a lawyer to take your case, your odds of obtaining representation would increase greatly) please keep these two guidelines in mind:
1. Do NOT state that your rights were violated. We get to decide that. Norm and I are very well-versed in these issues. The odds are about a million-to-one that you know something about the law that we don't. Sending an e-mail wherein you state that your rights were violated (without telling us more) does not help us. And, quite frankly, it gives me a headache.
2. DO explain what happened to you. Give a short and simple statement of the facts: the who, what, where, and when (but not the why). E.g., you might write:
Last week I went to the Chicago police station to tell them a police officer pulled me over because I was black. When I went to complain, the officer on duty threatened to arrest me if I didn't leave. I left.
I was pulled over a month or so ago. When I asked the police officer why he pulled me over, he told me to get out of my car. He then beat me with a baton and arrested me. Since then I shake with fear every time I see a police officer.
It's as simple as that. I know you will want to add, "Therefore my constitutional rights were violated." Don't. Just the facts, please.
I want to be clear that I enjoy reader mail, and it's one of the things that makes blogging worthwhile. But I will not respond to any e-mails that purport to lecture me on the law. I made the mistake once of replying to such an e-mail, and my inbox was sooon so flooded with e-mails and large .pdf attachments that I lost track of a couple of important e-mails. Thanks, and please keep reading and sending those e-mails.