Waiting For The Black Helicopters

 Congress, Constitution, Politics, Presidency, The Courts  Comments Off on Waiting For The Black Helicopters
Sep 302006
 

Since I’ve been blogging about the abuses, lies and failures of the Bush administration, a former co-worker and good friend used joke with me to, “watch my back,” and that I could expect to find black helicopters hoovering over my house any day now. Others have given me advice, “These people are capable of anything. Stay off small planes, make sure you aren’t being followed.”

I always laughed and shook my head whenever I heard this stuff. Extreme paranoia wrapped in the tinfoil of conspiracy, I thought. This is still America, and these Bush fools will soon pass into history, I thought. I am a citizen, and the First Amendment hasn’t yet been red-lined, I thought.

Matters are different now.

It seems, perhaps, that the people who warned me were not so paranoid. It seems, perhaps, that I was not paranoid enough. Legislation passed by the Republican House and Senate, legislation now marching up to the Republican White House for signature, has shattered a number of bedrock legal protections for suspects, prisoners, and pretty much anyone else George W. Bush deems to be an enemy.

So much of this legislation is wretched on the surface. Habeas corpus has been suspended for detainees suspected of terrorism or of aiding terrorism, so the Magna Carta-era rule that a person can face his accusers is now gone. Once a suspect has been thrown into prison, he does not have the right to a trial by his peers. Suspects cannot even stand in representation of themselves, another ancient protection, but must accept a military lawyer as their defender.

Illegally-obtained evidence can be used against suspects, whether that illegal evidence was gathered abroad or right here at home. To my way of thinking, this pretty much eradicates our security in persons, houses, papers, and effects, as stated in the Fourth Amendment, against illegal searches and seizures.

“Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable – already a contradiction in terms – and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.”      Continue reading »

Supreme Court Justice Scalia Flips Finger in Church

 Politics, Religion, The Courts  Comments Off on Supreme Court Justice Scalia Flips Finger in Church
Mar 272006
 

From a report on UPI:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia startled reporters in Boston just minutes after attending a mass, by flipping a middle finger to his critics.

A Boston Herald reporter asked the 70-year-old conservative Roman Catholic if he faces much questioning over impartiality when it comes to issues separating church and state.

“You know what I say to those people?” Scalia replied, making the obscene gesture and explaining “That’s Sicilian.”

The 20-year veteran of the high court was caught making the gesture by a photographer with The Pilot, the Archdiocese of Boston’s newspaper.

“Don’t publish that,” Scalia told the photographer, the Herald said.

He was attending a special mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and afterward was the keynote speaker at the Catholic Lawyers’ Guild luncheon.

Scalia owes every Christian an apology. If a “gay activist” had done this, it would be the headlines around the world and the gay community would be apologizing for it for the next 20 years.

And remember, this is the Justice that Bush most admires.

Alito Faces Questions from the Senate

 Corruption, Politics, The Courts  Comments Off on Alito Faces Questions from the Senate
Nov 102005
 

This guy fits right in with the current crop of Republicans. During his 1990 nomination as an appeals court judge, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito promised to recuse himself, to avoid potential conflicts of interest, in cases "involving Vanguard, in which he owned mutual fund shares; Smith Barney, his brokerage firm; First Federal Savings & Loan of Rochester, N.Y., which held his home mortgage; and his sister’s law firm." But in cases involving three of the four companies, senators on the Judiciary Committee question whether Alito has truly attempted to avoid ethical conflicts. In a 2002 case, Alito ruled in Vanguard’s favor, even though the judge owned between $390,000 and $975,000 in mutual fund shares from Vanguard. He later withdrew from further involvement in the case only after the protests of the other party. Alito also ruled in a 1996 case involving Smith Barney and in 1995, Alito failed to recuse himself from a case involving his sister’s law firm.

Alito's America A Scary Place

 Politics, Right Wingnuts, The Courts  Comments Off on Alito's America A Scary Place
Oct 312005
 

I might as well get a post about Bush’s Supreme Court Nominee out of the way. In bowing to the religious fanatics on the right, he’s pretty much sealed the fate of our Constitutional rights to be left alone by the government.

The right wing demanded the withdrawal of Harriet Miers so she could be replaced with a judge who met their rigid, ideological litmus test. This morning, the conservatives got what they wanted. President Bush will nominate Third Circuite Appeal Court Judge Samuel Alito as the replacement for swing-voter Sandra Day O’Connor. (In contrast, John Roberts replaced the very conservative William Rehnquist.) On NBC’s Today Show, law professor Jonathan Turley said there "will be no one to the right of Sam Alito" on the Supreme Court. Alito’s record supports Turley’s view. His history of right-wing judicial activism will be a key issue during his hearings.

ALITO WOULD OVERTURN ROE V. WADE: In his dissenting opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito concurred with the majority in supporting the restrictive abortion-related measures passed by the Pennsylvania legislature in the late 1980s. Alito went further, however, saying the majority was wrong to strike down a requirement that women notify their spouses before having an abortion. The Supreme Court later rejected Alito’s view and also voted to reaffirm Roe v. Wade. [Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 1991]

ALITO WOULD ALLOW RACE-BASED DISCRIMINATION: Alito dissented from a decision in favor of a Marriott Hotel manager who said she had been discriminated against on the basis of race. The majority explained that Alito would have protected racist employers by “immuniz[ing] an employer from the reach of Title VII if the employer’s belief that it had selected the ‘best’ candidate was the result of conscious racial bias.” [Bray v. Marriott Hotels, 1997]

ALITO WOULD ALLOW DISABILITY-BASED DISCRIMINATION: In Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, the majority said the standard for proving disability-based discrimination articulated in Alito’s dissent was so restrictive that “few if any…cases would survive summary judgment.” Summary judgment allows a case to be dismissed before it goes to trial. [Nathanson v.Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1991]

ALITO WOULD STRIKE DOWN THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) "guarantees most workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a loved one." The 2003 Supreme Court ruling upholding FMLA [Nevada v. Hibbs, 2003] essentially reversed a 2000 decision by Alito which found that Congress exceeded its power in passing the law. [Chittister v. Department of Community and Economic Development, 2000]

ALITO SUPPORTS UNAUTHORIZED STRIP SEARCHES: In Doe v. Groody, Alito argued that police officers had not violated constitutional rights when they strip-searched a mother and her ten-year-old daughter while carrying out a search warrant that authorized only the search of a man and his home. [Doe v. Groody, 2004]

ALITO HOSTILE TOWARD IMMIGRANTS: In two cases involving the deportation of immigrants, the majority twice noted Alito’s disregard of settled law. In Dia v. Ashcroft, the majority opinion states that Alito’s dissent “guts the statutory standard” and “ignores our precedent.” In Ki Se Lee v. Ashcroft, the majority stated Alito’s opinion contradicted “well-recognized rules of statutory construction.” [Dia v. Ashcroft, 2003; Ki Se Lee v. Ashcroft, 2004]

The John Roberts' Hearings

 Politics, The Courts  Comments Off on The John Roberts' Hearings
Sep 162005
 

Well, I was prepared to give Roberts the benefit of the doubt, but his self-serving attitude about answering questions during his confirmation hearing make me issue a solid "thumbs down".

At one point, I heard him say that he’d been very forthcoming because he’d answered every question that was related to issues he did NOT expect to come before the court…well golly ghee whiz…I guess I’m supposed to think those are the really relevant and important ones. Sorry John, I think you owe us answers to your opinions on matters that will come before the damned court you are going to be running. Those just might have some importance.

Roberts repeatedly and emphatically refused to give answers to questions about his views on "specific cases." At one point Roberts said, "I do feel compelled to point out that I should not … agree or disagree with particular decisions. And I’m reluctant to do that. That’s one of the areas where I think prior nominees have drawn the line when it comes to, Do you agree with this case or do you agree with that case? And that’s something that I’m going to have to draw the line in the sand." Later, when it suited his purposes, Roberts gave his views on particular cases. Responding to question by Sen. Herb Kohl, Roberts said, "I agree with the Griswold court’s conclusion that marital privacy extends to contraception and availability of that." On multiple occasions Roberts "said that he believed Brown against Board of Education was correctly decided." (At one point he called the decision "genius.") But Roberts refused to answer questions about Roe v. Wade and related cases, like Casey. Roberts claims that the distinction is that Roe and other cases are "live with business." As Sen. Arlen Specter noted, there have been 38 cases where Roe has been taken up and had its core holding upheld but Roberts considers that case "live" and off-limits. There is no principle. Roberts talked about cases when it was politically convenient; when it wasn’t he clammed up.

Roberts and his staunch supports continually make reference — either explicitly or implicitly — to the so-called "Ginsburg precedent" to justify Roberts’ refusal to answer questions that he decided were related to specific cases. Roberts said, "My understanding, based on reading the transcripts not just of Justice Ginsburg’s hearing, but of the hearings for every one of the justices on the court, is that that was her approach; that she would generally decline to comment on whether she viewed particular cases as correctly decided or not." His understanding is wrong. As Sen. Joe Biden pointed out, Justice Ginsburg "commented specifically on 27 cases." Roberts also refused to respond to specific legal issues that Ginsburg had written on and answered questions about.

The White House "has refused to give the Senate memos that Roberts wrote when he was deputy solicitor general for the president’s father, President George H.W. Bush, from 1989 to 1993." Roberts dismissed the Reagan-era documents the White House agreed to disclose as out-of-date. Responding to a sharp line of questioning by Sen. Kohl, Roberts said, "I certainly wouldn’t write everything today as I wrote it back then, but I don’t think any of us would do things or write things today as we did when we were 25 and had all the answers."

Again, I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt on these. After all, he was an "employee" but, I think we have a right to see them.

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