Archive for the ‘The Supremes’ Category

Supremes Slap Down Bush on Gitmo Trials

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

Those “activist” judges strike again. The Supreme Court just told Bush, again, that he can’t make up the rules as he goes along.

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees.

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. [Oh no! He quoted international law!]

…Two years ago, the court rejected Bush’s claim to have the authority to seize and detain terrorism suspects and indefinitely deny them access to courts or lawyers. In this followup case, the justices focused solely on the issue of trials for some of the men.

The vote was 5-3; Roberts was excluded because he had backed the government in this case as an appeals court judge. So I guess it would have been 5-4 otherwise.

Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley is speculating on MSNBC that this decision might give the administration political cover for closing Guantanamo, which has become an international embarrassment. We’ll see.

Alito Breaks Tie, Upholds Kansas Death Penalty Law

Monday, June 26th, 2006

I don’t guess this should come as a surprise to anyone. The Kansas law in question, according to the Anniston Star article (subscription required),

says juries should impose death sentences if aggravating evidence of a crime’s brutality and mitigating factors explaining a defendant’s actions are equal in weight.

Justice David H. Souter, writing for the liberals, said the law was “morally absurd.”

But the five conservatives, including Alito, overturned a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found the law violated the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas disputed the claim by critics that the law created “a general presumption in favor of the death penalty in the state of Kansas.”

…Souter said that “in the face of evidence of the hazards of capital prosecution,” maintaining a system like the one in Kansas “is obtuse by any moral or social measure.”

The case in question involved two particularly heinous murders, but the Kansas Supreme Court had ruled that the jury should have been permitted to hear evidence that another person was involved in the killings. When attorneys challenge death penalty statutes, it’s rare that they have nice, sweet clients who’ve never been guilty of anything, much less murder, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try when the law appears to be unjust or improperly applied.

In Alabama, even the fairly conservative editorial staff at the Birmingham News called for a moratorium in order to re-evaluate our death penalty system. One of the huge problems here is that elected judges are allowed to override jury sentencing recommendations in death penalty cases. In a “law and order” state like Alabama, that almost certainly creates a general presumption in favor of the death penalty.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a separate opinion on Monday to defend the death penalty and the court’s ruling in the Kansas case.

“The American people have determined that the good to be derived from capital punishment — in deterrence, and perhaps most of all in the meting out of condign justice for horrible crimes — outweighs the risk of error. It is no proper part of the business of this court, or of its justices, to second-guess that judgment, much less to impugn it before the world …,” Scalia wrote.

Really? I guess it was no business of the court to second-guess public school segregation either. After all, most of the country supported segregated schools at the time. Most white people wanted to keep black people “in their place”. I doubt public opinion is much comfort to the family of a defendant who is wrongly convicted and executed, and it’s not much help to the family of the victim if the wrong person pays for the crime of another.

Supreme Court Upholds Sex Discrimination Ruling

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

At first glance, it appears the court’s reasoning will help protect all employees from retaliation if they file grievances. A female employee was put on a 37-day unpaid suspension (over Christmas, no less) after she filed a sexual harrassment suit. Justice Breyer opined that a month without a paycheck could be considered a hardship by any reasonable employee. I guess so. We’d be up a creek, and possibly out on the sidewalk, if Husband missed a month’s pay.

“Many reasonable employees would find a month without a paycheck to be a serious hardship,” Breyer wrote, adding that “an indefinite suspension without pay could well act as a deterrent, even if the suspended employee eventually received back pay.”