Law and the courts

2008 01 11
All monotheists are equal, and above others

Via Eszter Hargittai, this report of a court decision that atheists cannot be adoptive parents in New Jersey. It’s now being appealed. The reasoning of the decision as described in that article is transparently loopy. For one thing, it suggests that the state would need take away the biological children of atheist parents, as well. Also [bitter semi-coherent rant about other nutso consequences of this judge’s theory redacted].

One of my students brought a related amazing fact to my attention this past semester. In Maryland, the original state constitution forbade atheists from holding public office. The clause (and similar ones in other state constitutions) were rendered ineffectual by a US Supreme Court decision in 1961, but the text remains in the state’s constitution. Here’s an explanation with details – scroll down to “religious discrimination in state constitutions” and then to “why these clauses are no longer valid”.

This kind of shit fills me with burning fiery anger. I don’t have anything funny to say about, maybe youse guys can come up with something.
(Also, isn’t it odd that fiery is spelled that way, rather than “firey”?)

Howls of outrage (14)

2007 10 31

Two quick points about Mukasey:

First, the Senate must vote against confirmation. A vote to confirm a liar who is clearly unwilling to enforce the country’s laws and international commitments guarantees more of the same rotten behaviour that got the U.S. in the trouble it’s in today. No deal the Democrats cut now and no private assurances that they’re given will change that.

Second, you just know that some Democrats will want to back down on this because they’re afraid of the way the issue will be framed: that they’re weak on national security. Let me just point out that there is nothing weaker than constantly fretting about the perception of weakness. Republicans will try to frame the issue this way no matter what, so the way to respond is not to capitulate again and again and again, but rather to loudly insist on reframing the issue. How about: “We’ll confirm the first candidate Bush nominates who is actually willing to enforce U.S. law.” How about: “Mukasey is clearly lying, and experience has taught us that we can’t have a proper working relationship with an A.G. who lies to Congress.” Let Bush nominate someone else. I’m sure that person might be worse than Mukasey. Reject that person too. Make clear that candidates for A.G. will be rejected – every fucking last one of them – until Bush proposes someone willing to enforce the laws of the country. That’s how you win a fight and reframe an issue.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 05 16
Culinary patents

I’m reading through Book XII of Athenaeus’s Deipnosophists, which is devoted to the theme of luxury and pleasure. (In spite of being a very silly book, it preserves some valuable philosophical material on the topic that would be otherwise lost.) Anyway, the author goes on at considerable length about the luxurious habits of the Sybarites, and then this:

Again, if any caterer or cook invented a dish of his own which was especially choice, it was his privilege that no one else but the inventor himself should adopt the use of it before the lapse of a year, in order that the first man to invent a dish might possess the right of manufacture during that period, so as to encourage others to excel in eager competition with similar inventions.

A footnote in the Loeb edition to the work claims – whether correctly or not I have no idea – that this is the earliest known patent-law.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 02 08
Good news for renters

Posted by in: Law and the courts


If you’ve ever been in housing court — even if you won your case — your name might be on a blacklist that makes it hard to get a new apartment. That happened to Brooklyn resident Adam White, and the class-action lawsuit he brought is poised to help thousands of blackballed renters.

The settlement between White and the company that maintains the records — a must-check for city landlords — is pending court approval. But if it goes through in its present form, it could:

-make it easier for renters to have their records cleared if they can document the case was meritless or brought in error;

-require a notice on their reports if their cases have been dormant for 12 months but not officially settled;

-and provide certain renters with $100 from a $1.9 million settlement provided by the firm that maintains the list.

“Blacklisting has the effect of eliminating a tenant’s ability to enforce their right for fear of becoming blacklisted,” said White’s lawyer, James Fishman.

The outcome was hailed by tenant advocates, who say the move would resolve a longstanding unfairness.

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2006 01 31
NOT Auspicious

I swore I wasn’t going to watch the SOTU tonight. I might not. But I’ve got NBC on right now, and Brian Williams just had a doozy. [Paraphrase:]

And there we have the newly minted Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Alito…Many say that, second maybe only to declaring war, appointing members to the Supreme Court, one of the great powers of the presidency.


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2005 12 12
Cory Maye

Is getting a very raw deal. Spread the word.

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2005 10 27
So you mean she *is* willing to disagree with him?

Posted by in: Law and the courts

Miers’s withdrawal letter:

However, I am concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country.

Perhaps in the future we’ll be refering to the Miers Principle:

I have steadfastly maintained that the independence of the Executive Branch be preserved and its confidential documents and information not be released to further a confirmation process. I feel compelled to adhere to this position, especially related to my own nomination. Protection of the prerogatives of the Executive Branch and continued pursuit of my confirmation are in tension. I have decided that seeking my confirmation should yield.

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2005 10 24
Unfortunate Homonym Alert

Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: Senator Hutchison, do you think there’s a possibility the White House may pull Harriet Miers’ nomination?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, (R-TX): No, I do not, Tim. I think they have complete faith in her, as I do. I know her. They know her. She is totally qualified for the Supreme Court of the United States. Her legal background, her absolute leadership in the legal field when she was a practicing lawyer are unqualified.

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2005 10 13

Mrs. Waring believes she has found the single least convincing defense of the Harriet Miers nomination. I’ll bet she’s right. Can anyone come up with something better?

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2005 10 09
Kinsley on the “reticence fallacy”


Gosh, was it only a couple of weeks ago that Republicans were mocking attempts by Democratic senators to find out what John Roberts’s views might be on some of the big legal issues? What happened to all those lectures about how it would be “improper” to call on a future justice to “prejudge” matters that might come before the court?
[. . .]
The widely alleged principle that judicial nominees should not comment on specific cases is based on a fallacy familiar to journalists from our own battles over objectivity: that not expressing an opinion means that you don’t have one. In the case of judges, an absence of opinions is not just improbable — it is undesirable. Anyone worthy of sitting on the Supreme Court ought to have thought about all the big issues and ought to have reached some kind of conclusion about them.

The anathema on “prejudging” also has a comically wide loophole: It doesn’t apply to sitting justices. A few years from now, the views of Justice Roberts and potential Justice Miers will be known on a wide variety of important legal issues, just as the views of the other seven justices are known now. No one suggests that this fact disqualifies sitting justices from ruling on the same subjects in the future.

The current process seems only to succeed in filtering out anyone who is willing to give an honest statement of his or her views on substantive legal questions. I’m not sure how to get around that, though, and this is a thoroughly bipartisan problem.

Perhaps, as Kinsley suggests, bipartisan discomfort over Miers might be strong enough to result in an insistence that she answer some damn questions. If Senators can grow up just a bit, we might just have a precedent here, whether she’s confirmed or not.

Howls of outrage (3)

2005 10 04
Good discussion of the Miers Pick…

Posted by in: Law and the courts

…is here.

Add to the discussion the high probability that she is, at least to some degree, anti-choice, and you’ve got a damn cogent rationale for the pick. Oh, and then there’s the fact that Bush hearts her.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2005 09 10
Rehnquist, drug addict

Gosh. I did not know that.

And this desperately needed saying, so thanks to Jack Shafer for saying it:

The Rehnquist story deserves a third airing today if only to illustrate the ugly double standards that excuse extreme drug use by the powerful, especially if their connection is a prescribing doctor, and condemns to draconian prison terms the guy who purchases his drugs on the street. Reviewing Rehnquist’s tale one more time also demonstrates the reluctance of the Senate�and some members of the press�to grade the mental competency of judges and judicial nominees.

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2005 08 17
Roberts’s conflict of interest

Holy crap.

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2005 07 01
Supreme Court Watch

The News: Sandra Day O’Connor is retiring.

The learned commentary: Go somewhere else.

My take: Fuck, fuck, fuck. Double fucking fuck. And Rehnquist is, of course, set to keel over any day now too. Which means Bush will have plenty of time to fill (at least!) two empty places on the court. O’Connor’s has been hinting about retiring for a while now, so it’s not like this comes out of the blue, but I wondered if she just might stay on.

This is gonna be a huuuuuuuge fight.

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