By Charles F. Otey, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Who said a CLE program dealing with the controversial issue of “Stop & Frisk” has to be dull? Legalistic? Stuffed with stultifying legalese?
All such “precedents” were abandoned when the Kings Nathan R. Sobel American Inn of Court delved into the timely issue with real-life re-enactments that even introduced some members to the seductive, yet illustrative, world of Hip-Hop! Even Rap!
Employing a program suggested by the American Inns of Court, the panel, headed by chairs Appellate Division Justice Sylvia Hinds-Radix, Judge Joanne Quinones and Larry DiGiovanna, evoked provocative language and concepts by borrowing from an article by South-western Law School Professor Caleb Mason. Claiming a heritage based on “99 Problems” by Jay-Z, the professor’s theme was adapted by the Inns’ leaders and styled as “Stop & Frisk: From Jay-Z to Judge Scheindlin.”
One veteran barrister, clearly uninformed regarding Jay-Z’s experience and erudition, quietly quipped: “Who’s Jay-Z?”
Another sniffed, with just a hint of sarcasm, “This stuff really belongs in a serious law program?!”
Once the “show” started, however, previously dubious Inn members were pleasantly surprised. They realized that they were truly learning an entirely different perspective on law enforcement, especially “Stop & Frisk.”
Chair DiGiovanna patiently explained that Professor Mason had closely followed the arrest, over a decade ago, of the notorious Jay-Z. The professor honed in on a rap poem the artist wrote detailing his thoughts and actions during a police chase and the ultimate “Stop & Frisk.”
Quoting from Professor Mason: “‘99 Problems’ is a song by Jay-Z. It’s a good song. It was a big hit in 2004. I’m writing about it now because it’s time we added it to the canon of criminal procedure pedagogy.”
At this point, one Inn member, who would later reverse his opinion, shrugged and grimaced, quietly muttering, “No way!”
Then, the panel, which included Andrea Bonina (resident IT specialist), Harriet Wong, Anthony Vaughn, Jeff Miller, BBA Director Avery Okin (looking cool in shades!), Justice Betty Williams and the Hon. Joy Thompson, offered skits and comments demonstrating that Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” was more than just another pop hit — much more. Here are the lyrics from the rap’s second verse:
“The year is ’94 and in my trunk is raw / In my rearview mirror is the mother(xxxx) law / I got two choices, y’all — pull over the car, or / Bounce on the double, put the pedal to the floor / Now I ain’t trying to see no highway chase with Jake / Plus, I got a few dollars, I can fight the case / So, I pull over to the side of the road / And I heard, ‘Son, do you know what I’m stopping you for?’ / Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low? / Do I look like a minder reader, sir? I don’t know / Am I under arrest, or should I guess some more? / ‘Well you was doing fifty-five in a fifty-four / License and registration and step out of the car / Are you carrying a weapon on you? I know lot of you are’ / I ain’t stepping out of (xxxx), all my paper’s legit. / ‘Do you mind if I look around the car for a bit?’ / Well, my glove compartment is locked — so is the trunk and the back / And I know my rights, so you gon’ need a warrant for that / ‘Aren’t you sharp as a tack, some type of lawyer or something? / Or somebody important or something?’ / Well, I ain’t passed the bar, but I know a little bit / Enough that you won’t illegally search my (xxxx)!’”
Many there, this writer included, had never heard or read “Verse 2” before. Many eyes were opened knowing we just received the kind of gift described in a Robert Burns work: Give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us.