In August, 2008, I started writing for an online magazine, Suite101.com. My first venture into online writing was about deferring capital gains taxes. In September, 2008 I started doing short articles related to the criminal justice system. Among them was a piece about police searches of automobiles, involving search and seizure issues and the Bill of Rights’ 4th Amendment. From the comments, it became clear that many Americans did not have a deep understanding of their rights.
I began writing primarily on constitutional and legal issues, trying to convey the essence in a non-lawyerly way. I often used my mother as my editor (mom’s now 83). If I could make sense to her, it would make sense to others. As I wrote about the Constitution, comments I received demonstrated a desire for knowledge and the incompleteness of American education about the foundation of our government.
The readership grew to over 25,000 per month and spawned a Facebook group about the Constitution. Suite101 and the Facebook group led to Twitter. The Twitter following has grown to over 30,000. The interest started me thinking about a special site. In November of 2012, with the help of friend Javier Fuller of Fuller Online Solutions, thought became reality. The Suite, Facebook and Twitter experiences have provided some insight into what folks find interesting. The site has areas providing information and educational resources about our Constitution and legal system. I have included an area with things I find interesting, hoping a few readers will as well.
The series begins with Article I of the Constitution which is about the Congress. The series will cover every element of that document through Amendment XXVII. This past September 17th, I made a presentation at a local high school in honor of Constitution Day. The interest from the students was another element in the decision to develop this site. The study of the Constitution in our schools lacks depth, and many wish to learn on their own. I hope to help meet that desire for some. The site’s Constitution has links to articles addressing that part of the document.
The following is undeniably true of the Constitution: Behind the document’s every word is a story involving real people. There are struggles for freedom and equality. There are stories about families, like how a mom’s note made voting rights for women universal. There’s now the back story of the famous pencil written appeal to the US Supreme Court resulted in a universal right to counsel for indigent defendants. Constitutional studies typically involve the words and document’s word and Supreme Court opinions. The Constitution is so much more than just what the Supreme Court says it is. It is people. Here will be found stories of people who affected the document that affects our lives.
Many of my early articles dealt with taxes and real estate transactions. Those are areas of interest to many. Over time, I have also worked with estates, wills and trusts, and civil lawsuits. Most of these touch everyone at some point. My goal with civil law is to translate things from legalese to regular language (thanks Mom) providing readers with knowledge of what to expect when such issues arise. Knowledge can often lower stress in otherwise stressful situations.
I have spent much of my legal career involved in the criminal justice system, both as a prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney. It was there my interest in our Constitution blossomed. The Constitution is a daily element of criminal justice, from the well-known Miranda rights, the 8th Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment and more. The American jury is the strongest protection any of us have when the government seeks to impose penalties on someone that involves his property, liberty or life. Whether as a defendant, a victim of crime or a juror, all Americans should understand how and why the criminal justice system operates as it does.
There are often current legal matters that are not well covered by the regular media, yet with potential outcomes affecting many people. Periodically there will be stories about such cases. The lawsuit by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement challenging President Obama’s authority to “defer action” for certain classes of people in the country illegally and the challenges by religious institutions and businesses across the country of a Health and Human Services contraception mandate are examples. There is a challenge to the Voting Rights Act explained. Those cases may have far reaching consequences, yet receive little attention. Cases that may resolve constitutional questions will be the emphasis in this section.
This is a potpourri of writing and thought. Sometimes there’s a story I just want to tell. I shared the story about my Dad as a tribute to him. As I thought about that experience, it seemed there might be others who may not have thought deeply about the nature of their own parents. Sharing this story might motivate them to do so. It’s good to have one’s own site.
Through my life I have met many interesting people who have shared thoughts with me, and I have invited a few to share their thoughts with others. I am honored that Sam Sewell agreed to be the first. He has since been joined by Jack Tyman (former President of Westinghouse), Byron Donalds, 2012 Candidate for United States Congress in Florida’s Nineteenth District and Barrett Abney.
I hope readers find something of value here. To share an understanding of the things that make the United States of America special, tell the stories of some of the people that contributed to America’s unique nature, and provoke thought and discussion are the goals.
If there’s a subject you would like to see covered, or some thought on making the site better, please drop me a note via the contact page. I would love to hear from you.
If you find something you enjoy or think worthwhile, don’t hesitate to use those great little sharing buttons at the end of every page or subscribe to the RSS feed for notice when there’s a new post. Like most writers, I share the desire to be read.
Dave Shestokas, December, 2012
 That’s only to say it’s often a challenge for an attorney to write like a non-lawyer. The law like any other line of work has its own special language. I need a common language translation when a mechanic describes issues with my car. I bet all of us could communicate better if we envisioned our Mom as the audience in explaining our work. A mom will tell you that what you wrote wasn’t clear. Most other folks won’t and likely will just stop reading.
 The Philadelphia Constitutional Convention completed its work and the delegates agreeing to the document signed it on September 17, 1787.