Thursday, June 29, 2006

Supreme Court Giveth; Supreme Court Taketh Away

Demon Princess avoids blogging about Supreme Court cases (especially ones produced by this Court, because every dissenter seems to have to write a separate dissenting opinion of interest largely to themselves), just as she avoids blogging about economics, but for different reasons--by way of explaining why it’s taken her so long to get around to it, besides having more fun things to do, y’understand.

Parsing & explaining legal issues brings back really unpleasant memories of law school & being forced to read mind-boggling amounts of dense, dry, ancient, convoluted & impossibly florid-prosed case law every night—well, at least for the 1st & most of the 2nd years. She used to joke she needed a jackhammer & a ballpeen hammer to crack & extract salient points from those dusty tomes.

And that is why, kids, law school costs so much to attend. You do all the work & your professors are paid to torment—not gently guide—you. If you want the latter, more humane method of learning the law, attend law school in Europe.

Advice about the torments & hazing rituals we that we in America call law school aside, I’ve come to terms with my aversion to Supreme Court cases (never let it be said that your Demon Princess is not a brave girl) long enough to share a quick ‘n dirty rundown, Demon Princess style, of the rash of Supreme Court cases that, if not exactly fun or funny, are interesting as well as relevant & lately in the news.

Supreme Court Sez: Charge & try them, you can’t keep them detained forever.

I have to admit that I was buoyed in this project by news this morning that the Supreme Court, with so many rabid right-wingers on it now, handed Bushco their asses on the subject of trials for detainees—yeah, you know it—all those wicked “enemy combatants” we were holding just because, so the Bushco propaganda goes, “They might commit crimes against us.” Lessee, we’ve had some of them derailed & tortured for what—4 years?—and we still don’t have the evidence we need to convict them of anything? Maybe because they haven’t done anything but look Middle Eastern? Oh, but one drove a car for bin Laden, he whose fate was at issue in the case.

I dare opine that Bush thought miltary tribunals (run by us & for us) would be more likely to return verdicts justifying the war on terror, but the Supremes, divided & fractured—as seems they will be ‘til the end of time—say by this decision that Bush has to go to Congress for authority before setting up a legal means to deal with detainees, because his current tribunals violate the Geneva Conventions & our own Military Code of Justice.

What will those crazy Supremes do next? Relax, Bushfans, Neocon Roberts had to recuse (English translation—excuse) himself because a conflict of interest was created by the fact that he previously sat on a lower court that considered the case, as was appropriate, though we note that Scalia has never, in the past, let fuddy-duddy rules about recusal stop him from treating us all to his contributions to posterity.

And Clarence Thomas vigorously dissented, reading his dissent aloud for the fortunate few in attendance:

“Thomas wrote that the majority opinion ‘flouts our well- established duty to respect the executive's judgment in matters of military operations and foreign affairs.’”

Oh yeah—whatever the Man says. Rah rah.

“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President George W. Bush lacks authority to try Guantanamo Bay inmates before military tribunals, a blow to the administration's anti-terrorism strategy that scales back presidential wartime powers.

“The justices, voting 5-3, said Congress hadn't expressly authorized the military commissions. The justices also said the structure and procedures of the tribunals violate both the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“The ruling is a major political and legal setback for Bush, scuttling plans to try three dozen Guantanamo inmates before tribunals. The ruling also boosts suits challenging the incarceration of hundreds of other detainees.

``In undertaking to try Hamdan and subject him to criminal punishment, the executive is bound to comply with the rule of law that prevails in this jurisdiction,'' Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court.
* * *
“The ruling, a rebuke to the administration and its aggressive anti-terror policies, was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, who said the proposed trials were illegal under U.S. law and Geneva conventions.”

Supreme Court Sez: Texas Belongs to the Republicons Now

Texas goes to the GOP even if the redistricting was excessively partisan

Tom DeLay’s infamous jerrymandering stunt is legal—you know, the one where the Democrats twice left the state to thwart a quorum, & therefore a valid vote, on the issue. They ultimately had to return, & Tom’s jerrymandering plan increased the GOP seats in the Texas legislature from 17 to to 21.

Before we get too far into this, Demon Princess has to note, in good conscience, that electoral districting is a matter decided by state legislatures. So it’s the unusual case that will be heard by the Supreme Court-–one that involves alleged violations of federal law. Here, apparently, Democrats tried to argue a violation of the Equal Protection Act (fitting one person-one vote rubric under it), and the federal Voting Rights Act. They did succeed under the latter.

The recent decision says that there is nothing inherently wrong with states redistricting “on demand”—that is, whenever they so decide. Conventionally, redistricting takes place every ten years, as districting has to do how many people live in a given area of a given state & how to fairly divide them into districts.

There has been a lot of arguing over the years about the one-person one-vote system since it seems to promise an easy answer--in an ideal world, districts would be strictly by population numbers alone & without reference to party affiliations, race, or other factors. To me, that’s what one-person-one vote means. But apparently here, in the most eggregious, blatant case of jerrymandering recently, it doesn’t “rise,”as lawyers say, to the level of a federal offense. So, long story short, folks: look to your state legislatures to enact laws to that effect. And be mindful of the fact that wholesale population shifts from rural to urban have affected the redistricting mess problem greatly. It is an imperfect process, has always been an imperfect process, but please, this is ridiculous.

Upshot seems to be that courts once again prove that they can do little very constructive by inserting themselves into the mix where elections are concerned, & sometimes do more damage than good: remember Bush v. Gore?


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