A good guidepost to these rulings is the position taken by the United States Chamber of Commerce, which bills itself as the “voice of business.” Roberts’s record? In the past five years he’s sided with the Chamber 70% of the time. In close cases he’s sided with the Chamber a stunning 90% of the time. As an umpire, it turns out that if you’re filing a case against the business community Roberts has declared a strike zone only a few inches wide.
And Roberts isn’t alone. Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia also sided with the Chamber over 70% of the time. (Alito sided with the Chamber a stunning 100% of the time in close cases.) Clarence Thomas took their side 68% of the time. And “centrist” Anthony Kennedy? He clocked in around 66%.
Missing from either the original source or from Drum’s analysis is a critical aspect of analysis: whether or not the justices’ opinions were Constitutionally sound.
While cases taken up by the Supreme Court are not the frivolities that a lesser court might be burdened with, but neither is there any reason to assume that they will be decided on a 50/50 split. Deciding cases evenly is a far different matter than deciding them fairly. Since the Court chooses which cases it hears, we know the sample can not be expected to be representative of a 50/50 split.
Nor is it necessarily fair to categorically label these justices pro-business, in as much as their opinions may be consistent with a wider Constitutional law philosophy that these cases exposed. The Chamber of Commerce’s legal arm regularly offers briefs in cases of corporations against government, so a philisophical animus against overreaching government (Thomas, Scalia), for example, would likely cause a >50% finding in favor of the Chamber, while an expansive view of government power (Ginsberg, Stevens) would suggest a >50% finding in favor of the government — at least in cases dealing with the Chamber fighting state, federal, or local regulations it finds intrusive.
I would assume that Drum would expect justices to side in favor of free speech >50% of the time. Why would he think this to be different?
May 13 (Bloomberg) — Elena Kagan said as a U.S. Supreme Court law clerk in 1987 that she was “not sympathetic” toward a man who contended that his constitutional rights were violated when he was convicted for carrying an unlicensed pistol.
Kagan, whom President Barack Obama nominated to the high court this week, made the comment to Justice Thurgood Marshall, urging him in a one-paragraph memo to vote against hearing the District of Columbia man’s appeal.
The man’s “sole contention is that the District of Columbia’s firearms statutes violate his constitutional right to ‘keep and bear arms,’” Kagan wrote. “I’m not sympathetic.”
But, in 1987, a similar challenge to the same law suffered a much different fate:
The lower court ruling in the 1987 case, issued by the District of Columbia’s highest court, said the Second Amendment protects only the rights of states to raise militias, and not individual gun rights. The ruling upheld Lee Sandidge’s conviction for carrying a pistol without a license, possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition.
The high court refused to hear the case, known as Sandidge v. United States. The memo to Marshall, found in his papers at the Library of Congress, includes a handwritten “D,” indicating that he was among those who voted to deny review.
White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said the position taken in the memo to Marshall reflected the prevailing view of the law at the time.
That is, of course, absolutely correct. Prior to Heller, the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment, though slim, was decidedly against the idea that the amendment protected an individual surprise. Thus, it’s not all that surprising to me as an attorney that a 27 year-old law clerk working for one of the most liberal Justices on the Court at the time would produce a memo arguing that the appeal should be denied.
The question, then, isn’t what Kagan thought twenty years ago when the law was different, but what she thinks now, and she gave at least some clue to that during her confirmation hearings to become Solicitor General:
As a nominee to be solicitor general last year, Kagan told lawmakers that she accepted that 5-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller as a precedent of the court.
“There is no question, after Heller, that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to keep and bear arms and that this right, like others in the Constitution, provides strong although not unlimited protection against governmental regulation,” she said.
Kagan should clearly be questioned on her views about the Second Amendment and the Heller decision, but rather than focusing on something she wrote 20 years ago, I would hope that the Senators focus on what she believes today.
WASHINGTON — Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, the leader of the liberals on the Supreme Court, announced on Friday that he will retire at the end of this term, setting up a confirmation battle over his replacement that could dominate the political scene this summer.
In a brief letter to President Obama, whom he addressed as “my dear Mr. President,” Justice Stevens said he was announcing his retirement now because he had “concluded that it would be in the best interests of the Court to have my successor appointed and confirmed well in advance of the commencement of the Court’s next term” in October.
The retirement by Justice Stevens, 89, had been widely expected, because he did not hire the usual number of clerks for next year’s term.
The White House has been quietly evaluating potential nominees for months. Among those rumored to be in contention for the nomination are Solicitor General Elena Kagan and several appeals court judges, including Diane Wood and Merrick Garland.
A soft-spoken Republican and former antitrust lawyer from Chicago, Justice Stevens has been the leader of the liberal wing of a court that has become increasingly conservative. He was appointed by President Gerald Ford in December 1975 to succeed Justice William O. Douglas, who had retired the month before. He is the longest-serving current justice by more than a decade.
No doubt the Obama Administration has been considering replacements for Stevens for months now given all the speculation, but it’s worth noting that three weeks elapsed last year between Justice Souter’s retirement announcement and President Obama’s selection of Sonia Sotomayor to replace him. This time around, Obama has even more time to consider the nomination so we may have to wait awhile to see what they do.
As I’ve noted before, Justice Stevens is perhaps the most liberal member of the Court. Given that, it’s unlikely that whoever Obama appoints to replace him will have a significant impact on the ideological balance on the Court, except perhaps in close cases where a particularly persuasive Justice might be able to persuade a swing vote to accept his argument.
Nonetheless, given the political climate, the fact that this is an election year, and the record we already have from the Sotomayor hearings last year, I think we can expect that this while be a very politically charged nomination process. Although I don’t think there’s been a Supreme Court nominee since Bork that wasn’t politically charged.
The brief order grants him the delay but does not ensure he will get such [DNA] testing. Perry had not decided on the delay.
In the order, the justices said they would put off the execution until they decide whether to review his case. If the court refuses the review, the reprieve is lifted, according to the order, and Skinner would become eligible for another execution date.
So it looks like the process is back at square one. If the court refuses the review and the reprieve is lifted, a new date will be set and Skinner’s life will be back in Gov. Rick Perry’s hands. Hopefully this case will generate even more attention than it already has and even more pressure will be placed on Perry and others to make sure the DNA testing takes place if SCOTUS doesn’t force the issue first.
There certainly are no guarantees other than the fact that Texas will not risk killing an innocent man on this day.
All seven members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles Death Panel voted earlier today to deny Hank Skinner’s request to have DNA samples tested. Unless Gov. Rick Perry or the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, Hank Skinner will be executed this Wednesday as scheduled. The courts have rejected Skinner’s requests for the DNA tests for over a decade; the rationale being that Skinner failed to request the tests during the original trial.
Supposing for a second that the courts have a valid point,* I would argue that there is more than one interest that is not being served other than Skinner’s. For one, if someone other than Skinner committed these murders, the courts are allowing this person to escape the justice the victims’ families so righteously deserve. If Skinner did kill these individuals, there will be lingering doubts by his supporters and he will become a martyr.
I think there is even a more fundamental question though: What is the true purpose of our criminal justice system? If the purpose is to determine the truth, then the interest of truth is also sacrificed in the process. If, however; the purpose is process – regardless of how absurd/the truth be damned as Alito, Roberts, and the seven members of the Texas Death Panel apparently believe, then I suppose the courts are working just as they should.
Where will Gov. Perry/ SCOTUS fall, on the side of truth or process?
For those of you who abhor the idea that an innocent man could be put to death in the name of process and would still like to try to influence the governor’s decision to grant a 30 day reprieve, here is the contact information one more time:
Texas callers: (800) 252-9600
Out of state callers and Austin residents: (512) 463-1782
Office of the Governor, Main Switchboard (from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST): (512) 463-2000
Office of the Governor Fax: (512) 463-1849
The Innocence Project also has an easy petition that only takes a few minutes to fill out.
If you cannot get through on the “Out of state” line, try the main switchboard. I tried both today; I had no success with the Out of state but actually talked to a real person immediately who said she “would pass my message on to the governor” when I called the switchboard (so don’t be rattled if someone actually answers). Be polite but get your point across.
With that, let me leave you with a closing thought from Dallas Morning News Editor Michael Landauer:
We have just posted our editorial set for tomorrow’s paper urging Gov. Rick Perry to do the right thing and delay Wednesday’s planned execution of Hank Skinner. Is he guilty? Honestly, I don’t know. I tend to think juries get things right most of the time, but in this case, there is a lot of evidence that needs to be DNA tested to be sure. I am hopeful Gov. Perry will do the right thing. There is no downside to ordering a 30-day reprieve. The upside is that he looks like someone interested in the truth and interested in the kind of certainty that the proper dispensation of the death penalty requires.
Point of Clarification (March 23, 2010 9:29 a.m. edit)
I mentioned in the post that the DNA evidence could implicate someone other than Skinner and by not testing the DNA, someone else would escape justice. I have since re-read an article that Radley Balko wrote just over a month ago which reminded me of a detail I had forgotten. According to the article, another man by the name of Robert Donnell could have committed the murders. Witnesses say that Donnell had harassed Skinner’s girlfriend (one of the murder victims) the night of the murders. Donnell allegedly raped her on another occasion and had been stalking her up to the day she was killed. If the DNA sample turns out to be that of Donnell’s rather than Skinner’s, Donnell will still have escaped the justice the victims’ families deserve because Donnell has since died.
WASHINGTON — The battle over health care is poised to move swiftly from Congress back to the country as Democrats, Republicans and a battery of interest groups race to define the legislation and dig in for long-term political and legal fights.
President Obama plans to open a new campaign this week to persuade skeptical Americans that the bill holds immediate benefits for them and addresses the nation’s shaky fiscal condition. Republicans said they would seek to repeal the measure, challenge its constitutionality and coordinate efforts in statehouses to block its implementation.
The politics of health care are fragile — and far from certain — in the eight-month midterm campaign that will determine which party will control Congress next year. But both sides steeled for a fight to extend well beyond November, involving state legislative battles, court challenges and, ultimately, the next presidential race.
Even before the final vote, Republicans began relentlessly assailing lawmakers who supported the legislation, suggesting Democrats are spendthrift and proponents of big government. Democrats said they would seek to capitalize on the momentum from their success and strive to move beyond the political arguments in hopes of demystifying the complicated legislation.
“We ought to focus on not the political stakes, but the stakes for the country,” David Plouffe, an adviser to Mr. Obama, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’re going to go out there and not just talk about what we’re for, but what the Republicans are voting against.”
The next chapter in the health care fight will play out not only in the midterm elections, but also in the courts.
Already three state Attorneys General have announced their intention to file suit as soon as the bill becomes a law.
ORLANDO, FL — Moments after Congress voted to approve President Obama’s health care legislation, Florida’s Attorney General announced he will file a lawsuit to declare the bill unconstitutional.
Bill McCollum will join Attorneys General from South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Washington, North Dakota and South Dakota to file a lawsuit against the federal government.
“The health care reform legislation passed by the U. S. House of Representatives this evening clearly violates the U.S. Constitution and infringes on each state’s sovereignty,” McCollum said in a statement distributed late Sunday night.
“If the President signs this bill into law, we will file a lawsuit to protect the rights and the interests of American citizens.”
Can Congress really require that every person purchase health insurance from a private company or face a penalty? The answer lies in the commerce clause of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power “to regulate commerce . . . among the several states.” Historically, insurance contracts were not considered commerce, which referred to trade and carriage of merchandise. That’s why insurance has traditionally been regulated by states. But the Supreme Court has long allowed Congress to regulate and prohibit all sorts of “economic” activities that are not, strictly speaking, commerce. The key is that those activities substantially affect interstate commerce, and that’s how the court would probably view the regulation of health insurance.
But the individual mandate extends the commerce clause’s power beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity. That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company. Regulating the auto industry or paying “cash for clunkers” is one thing; making everyone buy a Chevy is quite another. Even during World War II, the federal government did not mandate that individual citizens purchase war bonds.
If you choose to drive a car, then maybe you can be made to buy insurance against the possibility of inflicting harm on others. But making you buy insurance merely because you are alive is a claim of power from which many Americans instinctively shrink. Senate Republicans made this objection, and it was defeated on a party-line vote, but it will return.
As I’ve written before, this may be the one area of the health care bill that it most vulnerable to a Constitutional challenge. Neither the Commerce Clause, nor any other provision of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution would seem to be capable of being read in a reasonable manner so as to grant to Congress the power to force every American man, woman, and child to purchase a produce whether they wanted to or not.
The Constitution assigns only limited, enumerated powers to Congress and none, including the power to regulate interstate commerce or to impose taxes, would support a federal mandate requiring anyone who is otherwise without health insurance to buy it.
Although the Supreme Court has interpreted Congress’s commerce power expansively, this type of mandate would not pass muster even under the most aggressive commerce clause cases. In Wickard v. Filburn (1942), the court upheld a federal law regulating the national wheat markets. The law was drawn so broadly that wheat grown for consumption on individual farms also was regulated. Even though this rule reached purely local (rather than interstate) activity, the court reasoned that the consumption of homegrown wheat by individual farms would, in the aggregate, have a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce, and so was within Congress’s reach.
The court reaffirmed this rationale in 2005 in Gonzales v. Raich, when it validated Congress’s authority to regulate the home cultivation of marijuana for personal use. In doing so, however, the justices emphasized that — as in the wheat case — “the activities regulated by the [Controlled Substances Act] are quintessentially economic.” That simply would not be true with regard to an individual health insurance mandate.
The otherwise uninsured would be required to buy coverage, not because they were even tangentially engaged in the “production, distribution or consumption of commodities,” but for no other reason than that people without health insurance exist. The federal government does not have the power to regulate Americans simply because they are there. Significantly, in two key cases, United States v. Lopez (1995) and United States v. Morrison (2000), the Supreme Court specifically rejected the proposition that the commerce clause allowed Congress to regulate noneconomic activities merely because, through a chain of causal effects, they might have an economic impact. These decisions reflect judicial recognition that the commerce clause is not infinitely elastic and that, by enumerating its powers, the framers denied Congress the type of general police power that is freely exercised by the states.
So, this is as not nearly as much of a long-shot argument as it might have been twenty or thirty years ago.
Ultimately, there are three ways to think about whether a law is constitutional: Does it conflict with what the Constitution says? Does it conflict with what the Supreme Court has said? Will five justices accept a particular argument? Although the first three of the potential constitutional challenges to health-care reform have a sound basis in the text of the Constitution, and no Supreme Court precedents clearly bar their success, the smart money says there won’t be five votes to thwart the popular will to enact comprehensive health insurance reform.
But what if five justices think the legislation was carried bleeding across the finish line on a party-line vote over widespread bipartisan opposition? What if control of one or both houses of Congress flips parties while lawsuits are pending? Then there might just be five votes against regulating inactivity by compelling citizens to enter into a contract with a private company. This legislation won’t go into effect tomorrow. In the interim, it is far more vulnerable than if some citizens had already started to rely upon its benefits.
If this sounds far-fetched, consider another recent case in which the smart money doubted there were five votes to intervene in a politicized controversy involving technical procedures. A case in which five justices may have perceived that long-established rules were being gamed for purely partisan advantage.
You might have heard of it: Bush v. Gore.
In other worth, even if ObamaCare passes today, the political firestorm isn’t over, and the legal firestorm is just getting started.
Hank Skinner is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas on March 24th. Despite more than a decade of requests to have his DNA tested, Texas courts have denied him every step of the way. The Medill Innocence Project has even offered to pay for the testing to no avail. Skinner’s attorneys have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to force the issue before it’s too late. Given the recent ruling in Osborne, I’m not optimistic that Alito and Roberts would put their slavish allegiance to process aside long enough to allow the truth of Skinner’s guilt or innocence to see the light of day…at least until after Skinner is executed (maybe).
I’m not an advocate for Hank Skinner. I’m an advocate for the truth. If DNA tests could remove the uncertainty about Skinner’s guilt — one way or the other — there’s not a good reason in the world not to do it […]
It is cases like Skinner’s that ended my lifelong support for the death penalty. Any system driven by the decisions of human beings will produce mistakes. This is true even when everyone — judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys — is acting in good faith and working as hard as he or she can to get it right.
From there Millsap gets personal and explains why he, acting in good faith, may have been responsible for prosecuting an innocent man who was executed in 1993.
Why the change of heart? Millsap explained that one of his star witnesses against Ruben Cantu recanted his testimony 20 years later. Millsap said he believes the witness’s latest version of the events because the witness had nothing to gain from changing his testimony “except a whole lot of trouble.”
Beyond Cantu, Millsap also believes Texas has executed at least two other men he says “were almost certainly innocent”: Carlos DeLuna, executed in 1989 and Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in 2004.
Millsap is by no means the only individual inside the Texas criminal justice system who recognizes inherent flaws in the system which kills more people every year than any other state. State District Judge Kevin Fine recently granted a pretrial motion declaring the death penalty unconstitutional due to his belief that innocent people have been executed in Texas and elsewhere:
“Based on the moratorium (on the death penalty) in Illinois, the Innocence Project and more than 200 people being exonerated nationwide, it can only be concluded that innocent people have been executed,” state District Judge Kevin Fine said. “It’s safe to assume we execute innocent people.”
Fine said trial level judges are gatekeepers of society’s standard for decency and fairness.
“Are you willing to have your brother, your father, your mother be the sacrificial lamb, to be the innocent person executed so that we can have a death penalty so that we can execute those who are deserving of the death penalty?” he said. “I don’t think society’s mindset is that way now.”
The article goes on to point out that Judge Fine’s ruling will likely be overturned on appeal and is more symbolic than anything else (i.e. a way to force people to discuss the issue of the death penalty). Fine is taking quite the career risk in a very pro-death penalty state which elects its judges. His critics, who like to point out that Judge Fine is a former cocaine addict, argue that his ruling has no basis in the law.*
And maybe Judge Fine’s critics are technically right** about his “judicial activism,” but can anyone really argue with the judge’s logic? Is it possible for sates to execute only guilty individuals 100% of the time when states have admitted to wrongfully convicting others for lesser charges? If not, what is the acceptable margin of error when we are talking about allowing the government to kill?
These are the kinds of questions which I hope keep Gov. Perry up at night with the scheduled execution of Hank Skinner and those who will undoubtedly follow.
“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said. “Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”
In the video, Justice Samuel Alito can be seen visibly disagreeing with this sentiment. First, I’m glad someone can stand up against a President who respects the independence of the judiciary so little that he calls them out in the State of the Union. Such moves reek of political hackery that should be far beneath the President. Second, Obama’s assertion is flatly wrong.
Obama contends that the floodgates have been suddenly opened for corporations to have undue influence over candidates and politicians simply because campaign spending limits have been lifted. How, in a country where a single mother can be ordered to pay $1.92 million for sharing music because of a law bought and paid for by the recording industry, can it be claimed that the influence of corporate interests is at all inhibited?
In the recent health care debates, WalMart was on the front lines of the cheering, hoping that they could dupe Democrats into using the law to skewer their smaller competitors. In the same debate, the SEIU managed to secure a sweetheart deal for unions where the “Cadillac” tax would not be borne if the gold-plated health care plan was a result of collective bargaining (read: union strong-arming).
The history of the last half-century in Washington is one where incumbents and party-anointed successors enter into perpetual quid pro quo relationships with special interests. Legislators get things from special interests in return for political and legislative favors. We all know that this is the way things work. We all hope that when we send “our guy” to Washington that he’ll be the one to change it.
In real life, there is no Mr. Smith. Even when someone like Jeff Flake comes to Washington and tries to fight for the people he is rebuffed. The self-styled ruling class in Washington depends on having a monopoly on the influence of big business and special interests.
It is not the thought of special interests influencing politics that scares the ruling class. It is the thought of special interests influencing politics without them that does.
Influence peddling and vote buying are expected in the halls of power. Interests are allowed nearly unlimited access as long as they come in as supplicants to the ruling class. Once the same interests attempt to take their message from K Street to Main Street, the law is brought down upon them as they are accused of trying to corrupt the political process.
With that in mind, let’s look at what the President really meant behind the doublespeak:
“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to speak directly to the people,” Obama said. “Well I don’t think that the course of American politics should be interfered with by the American people. It should be decided by the ruling class in cooperation with America’s most powerful interests, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”
The Supreme Court had the temerity to undercut the system of influence carefully constructed by the Republicratic ruling class over the last century. Obama is leading the charge to restore the power that the Supreme Court, and the Constitution, has denied them.
May more Americans have the courage to challenge Obama and the ruling class on this.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that corporations may spend as freely as they like to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on business efforts to influence federal campaigns.
By a 5-4 vote, the court overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said companies can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.
The justices also struck down part of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill that barred union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of election campaigns.
As I’ve said many times before, the only campaign finance regulation that we need is full and complete disclosure.
Every candidate for Federal office should be required to disclose all contributions and disbursements and a regular basis (possibly even more frequently than the quarterly reports that are now the law), and that information should be easily available to the public so that people can know where a candidate’s money comes from and where it goes. After all, isn’t that what the First Amendment is really all about — let the information out and let the public decide what to think about it ?
“This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged ‘actual innocence’ is constitutionally cognizable.” – From the dissenting opinion by Justices Scalia and Thomas on the question of whether death row inmate Troy Davis should receive a new trial after 7 eye witnesses against him recanted their testimonies against Davis.
So as long as the defendant has received a ‘fair trial’ and found guilty, actual innocence does not matter and the state can kill an innocent person according to Scalia and Thomas?
And these are who conservatives and some libertarians consider the ‘good guys’ on the Supreme Court? They certainly aren’t on this issue.
Enrollment in U.S. higher education, by institution type: 1967–97
Until 1960 or so, the percentage of people getting college degrees was relatively low. There was plenty of work for people who had ‘merely’ graduated from high school, and a high school graduate could support a family.
Then came the Vietnam War, where the United States government would happily enslave high-school graduates, but not students in college. The number of students entering college zoomed upward, and the number of colleges proliferated.
Yet, despite this pressure, the number of people entering college continued to increase. Why? Quite simply because it started to become difficult for a high school graduate to find a job. An increasing number of companies started demanding a college degree for jobs that clearly don’t require anything more than the education that could be acquired at a half-way decent high school.
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer –
(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
At the time this law was passed employers routinely classified prospective employees via pre-employment testing. This testing was used to determine things like knowledge, technical aptitude, personality compatibility and, yes, the race of applicants. At the time the law was being debated, its opponents raised the objection that this law could outlaw non-racist testing alongside racist testing. To which the proponents of the bill replied:
There is no requirement in Title VII that employers abandon bona fide qualification tests where, because of differences in background and educations, members of some groups are able to perform better on these tests than members of other groups. An employer may set his qualification as high as he likes, he may test to determine which applicants have these qualifications, and he may hire, assign, and promote on the basis of test performance.
A test where members of one race performed more poorly than members of another race – demonstrating a “disparate” performance – was assumed to be discriminatory with respect to race, even if that was not the intention of the test.
Tests with disparate results are illegal unless the test has a direct business necessity.
Since, most businesses weren’t interested in wasting money on tests that were not necessary to screening out unfit employees or identifying the most fit employees, they were stunned. The Supreme Court had a very complicated definition of what constituted “Direct Business Necessity”, one that was difficult to meet and gave considerable deference to the employee of the Equal Opportunity Commission who was deciding whether or not to accuse a company of illegal discrimination. Only the simplest tests, such as requiring a prospective driver to pass a driving test could reasonably pass muster. Other tests, which businessmen clearly felt were useful to reducing the risk of hiring the wrong person for the job, now could get them sued.
Companies began casting about for a way to screen out the-incompetent or unfit in a way that would not result in them being sued. The simplest solution is to demand a college degree. Any racial discrimination demonstrated in the pool of degreed people would be the colleges’ liability, and the business could get on with the business of hiring new employees without being worried about lawsuits.
It has taken thirty years for this unfortunate unintended consequence to play out;
People entering the workforce have been kept idle for four years unnecessarily.
People entering the workforce are saddled with debts that are difficult to pay off.
Colleges have gotten away with lowering educational standards because their graduates are in such high demand.
When summed across the millions of people who have entered the workforce in the last two decades, the economic costs imposed by this well-intended but horrendously misguided effort are staggering. They include
Almost 100 million man-years’ lost productivity.
An additional 10 million man-years spent paying off college loans
Increased pressure on children to engage in organized activities designed to win the child a scholarship at the expense of their personal development.
Had the proponents of the Civil Rights Act limited their aim at racial discrimination by the government, they would have been crafting a very socially beneficial law. But by seeking to use the law to force people not to racially discriminate, they wreaked massive damage on the economy. Ironically, this damage disproportionately affects minorities who are far more likely to be at the mercy of awful government schools than other ethnic/racial groups.
It seems that most of the time the U.S. Supreme Court is divided 5-4 on what should be very basic Constitutional principles (such was the case I wrote about in my most recent post). But once in awhile, SCOTUS does the unthinkable and actually upholds the Constitution. In Safford Unified School District #1 et. al. v. Redding, the court ruled 8-1 that the school district had violated then 13 year-old Savana Redding’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches.
“Because there were no reasons to suspect the drugs presented a danger or were concealed in her underwear, we hold that the search did violate the Constitution,” Justice David Souter wrote for the court majority.
The school’s policy prohibits the use, possession or sale of any drug on school grounds, including prescription and over-the-counter medications. A week before the search, a student became sick after taking pills from a classmate and said certain students were bringing drugs to school.
Following an assistant principal’s orders, a school nurse had Redding remove her clothes, move her bra to the side and pull her underwear out, exposing her breasts and pelvic area, to see if she was hiding any ibuprofen pills.
Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the part of the ruling that Redding’s privacy rights had been violated.
Thomas said the ruling “grants judges sweeping authority to second-guess the measures that these officials take to maintain discipline in their schools and ensure the health and safety of the students in their charge.”
While the court agreed that the school district violated Redding’s privacy rights, only Justices Ginsburg and Stevens believed the school administrators should be held liable; the remaining Justices believed that prior to this ruling, the law had not been clearly established.
The ACLU attorney Adam Wolf who represented Redding was also quoted in the article saying: “Today’s ruling affirms that schools are not constitutional dead zones. Savana … is pleased that other students will not have to go through the trauma that she experienced.”
I think we sometimes forget that public school teachers and administrators are actually agents of the government. At times, schools have become “constitutional dead zones” but we should always remember that government agents of all kinds should be expected to respect legitimate rights of students. If the school administrators had good reason to believe that Redding had contraband, they could apply for a search warrant and allow the proper authorities to conduct the search.
This inconsistency is not exactly encouraging, but even if Sotomayor chooses sides by flipping a coin she might still turn out better (or at least no worse) than David Souter, and Obama easily could have chosen someone more consistently bad.
I don’t expect much good from Sotomayor, or would have from anyone Obama had selected. Obama does not have an interpretation of the Constitution that I support, and thus I would expect his judicial appointees to consider the limits the Constitution places on government just as “pliable” as he does.
So if she turns out to be better than I expect — an understandably low bar to be set — I’ll take it.
Last week in District Attorney’s Office for the Third Judicial District et. al. v. Osborne the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that convicts have no Constitutional right to DNA testing even if such testing would conclusively determine the guilt or innocence of the convict. In this particular case, William Osborne was willing to pay for the DNA test at his own expense but the DA’s office refused to allow Osborne to have access to the sample. Roberts, writing for the court’s majority joined by Thomas, and Scalia, ruled against Osborne because of lack of legal precedents and that Osborne did not avail himself of the available evidence and technological advances at the time of trial. Alito with Kennedy joining wrote a concurring opinion in which Alito worried that allowing Osborne to have access to his DNA sample would flood the criminal justice system with demands that more DNA evidence be preserved. Both opinions stressed that the domain for making guidelines for DNA preservation and testing would better be handled by state legislatures rather than the federal courts.
First, some excerpts from Justice Roberts:
A criminal defendant proved guilty after a fair trial does not have the same liberty interests as a free man. At trial, the defendant is presumed innocent and may demand that the government prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. But “[o]nce a defendant has been afforded a fair trial and convicted of the offense for which he was charged, the presumption of innocence disappears.” Herrera v. Collins, 506 U. S. 390, 399 (1993). “Given a valid conviction, the criminal defendant has been constitutionally deprived of his liberty.” Dumschat, supra, at 464 (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). (p. 15)
Osborne seeks access to state evidence so that he can apply new DNA-testing technology that might prove him innocent. There is no long history of such a right, and “[t]he mere novelty of such a claim is reason enough to doubt that ‘substantive due process’ sustains it.” Reno v. Flores, 507 U. S. 292, 303 (1993). (p. 19)
Establishing a freestanding right to access DNA evidence for testing would force us to act as policy makers, and our substantive-due-process rulemaking authority would not only have to cover the right of access but a myriad of other issues. We would soon have to decide if there is a constitutional obligation to preserve forensic evidence that might later be tested. Cf. Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U. S. 51, 56–58 (1988). If so, for how long? Would it be different for different types of evidence? Would the State also have some obligation to gather such evidence in the first place? How much, and when? No doubt there would be a miscellany of other minor directives. See, e.g., Harvey v. Horan, 285 F. 3d 298, 300–301 (CA4 2002) (Wilkinson, C. J., concurring in denial of rehearing).
In this case, the evidence has already been gathered and preserved, but if we extend substantive due process to this area, these questions would be before us in short order, and it is hard to imagine what tools federal courts would use to answer them. At the end of the day, there is no reason to suppose that their answers to these questions would be any better than those of state courts and legislatures, and good reason to suspect the opposite. See Collins, supra, at 125; Glucksberg, supra, at 720.” (p. 20 & 21)
I think Roberts is making this issue more complicated than necessary. As he points out, the evidence has been preserved. There is no need to get into “policy making” to say that the DA must allow Osborne access to the sample that the DA physically possesses. And even if the presumption of innocence disappears and the burden of proof falls on Osborne to prove his innocence, how can he possibly attempt to do so without having the sample?
Now an except from Alito:
Respondent was convicted for a brutal sexual assault. At trial, the defense declined to have DNA testing done on a semen sample found at the scene of the crime. Defense counsel explained that this decision was made based on fear that the testing would provide further evidence of respondent’s guilt. After conviction, in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain parole, respondent confessed in detail to the crime. Now, respondent claims that he has a federal constitutional right to test the sample and that he can go directly to federal court to obtain this relief without giving the Alaska courts a full opportunity to consider his claim […]
[E]ven though respondent did not exhaust his state remedies, his claim may be rejected on the merits, see §2254(b)(2), because a defendant who declines the opportunity to perform DNA testing at trial for tactical reasons has no constitutional right to perform such testing after conviction.” (p. 1 & 2)
Stevens in his dissent (joined by Ginsburg and Breyer; Souter filed a concurring opinion) responded to the majority opinion as follows:
The State of Alaska possesses physical evidence that, if tested, will conclusively establish whether respondent William Osborne committed rape and attempted murder. If he did, justice has been served by his conviction and sentence. If not, Osborne has needlessly spent decades behind bars while the true culprit has not been brought to justice. The DNA test Osborne seeks is a simple one, its cost modest, and its results uniquely precise. Yet for reasons the State has been unable or unwilling to articulate, it refuses to allow Osborne to test the evidence at his own expense and to thereby ascertain the truth once and for all. (p. 1)
The liberty protected by the Due Process Clause is not a creation of the Bill of Rights. Indeed, our Nation has long recognized that the liberty safeguarded by the Constitution has far deeper roots. See Declaration of Independence¶2 (holding it self-evident that “all men are. . . endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” among which are “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”);see also Meachum v. Fano, 427 U. S. 215, 230 (1976) (STEVENS, J., dissenting). The “most elemental” of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause is “the interest in being free from physical detention by one’s own government.” Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U. S. 507, 529 (2004) (plurality opinion); see Foucha v. Louisiana, 504 U. S. 71, 80 (1992) (“Freedom from bodily restraint has always been at the core of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause”).
Although a valid criminal conviction justifies punitive detention, it does not entirely eliminate the liberty interests of convicted persons. For while a prisoner’s “rights may be diminished by the needs and exigencies of the institutional environment[,] . . . [t]here is no iron curtain drawn between the Constitution and the prisons of this country.” Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U. S. 539, 555–556 (1974); Shaw v. Murphy, 532 U. S. 223, 228–229 (2001) (“[I]ncarceration does not divest prisoners of all constitutional protections”). Our cases have recognized protected interests in a variety of post conviction contexts, extending substantive constitutional protections to state prisoners on the premise that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires States to respect certain fundamental liberties in the post conviction context. See, e.g., Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U. S. 401, 407 (p. 7 & 8)
Wow, if I didn’t know any better, I would think Stevens was of a libertarian or Lockean ideology because I think he is spot on in this case. There are times whenever “judicial activism” is necessary whenever state legislatures fail to uphold due process and other Constitutional protections.
The fact that nearly all the States have now recognized some post conviction right to DNA evidence makes it more, not less, appropriate to recognize a limited federal right to such evidence in cases where litigants are unfairly barred from obtaining relief in state court. (p. 9)
Throughout the course of state and federal litigation, the State has failed to provide any concrete reason for denying Osborne the DNA testing he seeks, and none is apparent. Because Osborne has offered to pay for the tests, cost is not a factor. And as the State now concedes, there is no reason to doubt that such testing would provide conclusive confirmation of Osborne’s guilt or revelation of his innocence.7 In the courts below, the State refused to provide an explanation for its refusal to permit testing of the evidence, see Brief for Respondent 33, and in this Court, its explanation has been, at best, unclear. Insofar as the State has articulated any reason at all, it appears to be a generalized interest in protecting the finality of the judgment of conviction from any possible future attacks. See Brief for Petitioners 18, 50.8 (p. 11)
In other words, if the state properly convicted the right person, what is the state so afraid of?
It seems to me obvious that if a wrongly convicted person were to produce proof of his actual innocence, no state interest would be sufficient to justify his continued punitive detention. If such proof can be readily obtained without imposing a significant burden on the State, a refusal to provide access to such evidence is wholly unjustified. (p. 13)
It’s really is too bad that Stevens’ opinion did not carry the day. It’s also too bad that Osborne was the test case for this very important issue (Osborne is not what most might consider a sympathetic person; even if he was proven innocent of these charges, he faces other charges unrelated to this case). It doesn’t seem right that the Supreme Court would allow the state to withhold exculpatory evidence which would lead to the truth. Isn’t getting to the truth the point of our criminal justice system?
This article in The Boston Globe about Sonia Sotomayor ought to delight “tough on crime” conservatives and cause great concern for civil libertarians of all stripes. Prosecutors and law enforcement organizations give her high marks for her “aggressiveness” both as a prosecutor and as a judge.
“[Sotomayor] certainly doesn’t seem to have a pro-criminal bias and, if anything, because of her history, may have a pro-state bias.” – Law Professor and Sentencing Expert Doug Berman
I take exception to the “pro-criminal” part of the quote because in our system (at least in theory), individuals are innocent until proven guilty. Beyond this, I am troubled that a nominee for the Supreme Court would show a detectable bias toward either toward the prosecution or the defense. The only bias a judge should have should be toward the Constitution (the Bill of Rights in-particular).
This is one bias Judge Sotomayor appears not to have.
A U.S. Supreme Court justice on Monday granted a request to put on hold the sale of bankrupt automaker Chrysler LLC to a group led by Italian carmaker Fiat SpA.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a one-sentence order, said the orders of the bankruptcy judge allowing the sale “are stayed pending further order of the undersigned or of the court.”
This, of course, was prompted by some of the senior creditors — Indiana state worker pension funds — complaining about the raw deal they were getting in favor of the UAW, the government, and Fiat. I spoke on that here.
I’m pretty busy today, so I’ll leave this one to the commenters… This is a pretty good time for an open thread too, as a “one-sentence order” doesn’t give a lot of evidence for serious analysis… What does this mean, and what will the fall-out be? Are we headed to a Supreme Court rebuke of the Administration?
Those who are of the badge worshipping and law enforcement bootlicking persuasion might assume that Judge Sonia Sotomayor may not have much to offer them as a Supreme Court Justice until they take a look at her record on the 2nd Circuit. As it turns out, Sotomayor has quite an authoritarian streak. It seems that when the powers that be are challenged by an ordinary individual, Sotomayor’s empathy seems to be with those who are employed by the government (and the facts of the circumstance be damned!).
The case which concerns Bazelon following her warning in Jocks v. Tavernier illustrates Sotomayor’s badge worshipping tendencies.
The story leading up to Jocks v. Tavernier begins in 1994 with truck driver Thomas Jocks’ truck breaking down on the Long Island Expressway. When the truck came to a stop, the end of his trailer was about 4 feet into the right lane. Trying to be a safe, responsible, and law abiding citizen, Jocks places safety flares as required to warn other drivers and walks nearly a mile to a gas station to find a pay phone* to call 911 about the unsafe situation. Upon arriving at the gas station, Jocks encounters Augusto Tavernier using the pay phone from inside his car.
Bazelon writes [emphasis mine]:
Jocks gave the following account of what happened next: He ran up and told Tavernier there was an emergency because his truck was jutting out onto the expressway. Tavernier told him to find another phone. Jocks repeated the emergency part of his story. Tavernier swore at him. Jocks knocked on his windshield and kept urging him to give him the phone. Finally, Jocks went into the phone stand and hung up on Tavernier’s call. At that point, Jocks said, Tavernier threw the receiver at him, tried to get out of his car, couldn’t because the phone stand was blocking his door, and drove forward. Jocks dialed 911. Tavernier charged him, yelling. Jocks yelled back. Tavernier said, “Why don’t I blow your fucking brains out?” and drew his gun. He pressed the gun into the back of Jocks’ head, and said, “Freeze, police”; and then an off-duty Nassau County police officer arrived, got the situation under control, and arrested Jocks.
Tavernier, too, proved to be an off-duty cop. After his arrest, Jocks was held for 24 hours and ended up having to make 28 court appearances before he was found not guilty of felony assault. He spent $20,000 on legal fees, lost his truck driving job, and had to give up full custody of his daughter, who went to live with her mother, his ex-wife. That dire, black moment on the LIE truly cost him.
Though Jocks was found not guilty of felony assault, much damage had been done. He still was out $20,000, his job, and custody of his daughter. Understandably, he wanted to be compensated for these very real damages. Jocks sued Tavernier and the detective who booked him for false arrest and malicious prosecution. The jury agreed and ordered Tavernier and the detective to pay damages of $600,000; the parties at fault successfully appealed to the 2nd Circuit.
Enter Judge Sotomayor – Bazelon continues:
The judges on the panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit were Sotomayor; Pierre Leval, a Clinton appointee; and John Walker Jr., appointed by President George Herbert Walker Bush […]
Walker wrote an opinion affirming the jury verdict, 2-1. But the drafting took a long time, and when a draft was finally circulated, Sotomayor responded to it by arguing that the grounds for a reasonable arrest are broad. As an off-duty cop who’d been hit in the face with a phone after an altercation, she argued, Tavernier was justified in making the arrest as a matter of law. That meant throwing out the jury verdict. Walker could not get her to change her mind. Instead, Leval decided he was persuaded by Sotomayor’s argument about how broad the grounds for making an arrest can be and switched sides. Finally, Walker gave up and switched, too. His written opinion throws one bone to Jocks by leaving open the possibility of a new trial based on one narrow argument (that he acted in self-defense when he threw the phone). But throwing out the $600,000-plus jury award was a huge blow to the plaintiff. The case was retried in 2007, and Jocks lost, based on the more constraining jury instructions that the trial judge gave because of the 2nd Circuit ruling.
Perhaps we could chalk up President Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s racially charged statement as a Bidenesque blunder if she had not made rulings as a judge which suggests that she does believe that some individuals are more equal than others. Ricci v. DeStefano is a case-in-point. Sotomayor joined the Second Circuit’s majority which concluded that Frank Ricci (a dyslexic white male) was not a victim of discrimination by the City of New Haven.
“We affirm, substantially for the reasons stated in the thorough, thoughtful, and well-reasoned opinion of the court below. In this case, the Civil Service Board found itself in the unfortunate position of having no good alternatives. We are not unsympathetic to the plaintiffs’ expression of frustration. Mr. Ricci, for example, who is dyslexic, made intensive efforts that appear to have resulted in his scoring highly on one of the exams, only to have it invalidated. But it simply does not follow that he has a viable Title VII claim. To the contrary, because the Board, in refusing to validate the exams, was simply trying to fulfill its obligations under Title VII when confronted with test results that had a disproportionate racial impact, its actions were protected.”
Dissenting Judge Jose A. Cabranes (appointed by President Bill Clinton for what its worth) criticized the majority for failing to address the complex legal issues surrounding racial quotas in a meaningful way stating that the issues raised by Ricci were “far from well-settled.”
So where does this leave Sotomayor on Obama’s empathy test? Where is her empathy for a man, Mr. Ricci, who overcame his disabilities to pass the test which others (who did not have a disability) failed? Might Sotomayor ruled differently if the races were reversed? These are questions which deserve serious answers.
Fortunately for Mr. Ricci, his case will be decided by a Supreme Court which does not include Sonia Sotomayor among the Justices.
I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.
Three problems with this:
1) Who is to say that the experiences I have, as a white male, aren’t rich?
2) Why do the proper adjudication of questions on law change based on the “richness of experience” of the judge?
3) What is a “better conclusion”? According to whom?
About the only way that such a statement makes sense is if you assume that the role of a judge is more “nuanced” than simply to apply the law dispassionately and predictably, but rather to enforce “social justice”. I am, of course, not surprised by such a conclusion from one of this administration’s nominees. But I’m a little surprised that it’s stated this blatantly.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the fights that Sotomayer will have with Clarence Thomas.