Category Archives: Courts

No Bill. Just No.

This tweet was posted by Bill Cosby shortly after he left prison and returned to his home. IMHO, never has a bigger piece of BS been posted on the Internet. For those in the audience who are even older than I am, IMHO means, In My Humble Opinion. These acronyms abound in the world of social media but it is becoming more and more important that I remind readers that this blog represents my opinion. This is because now that Chief Justice John Roberts has achieve his lifelong goal of nullifying the Voting Rights Act and eviscerating the Fifteenth Amendment along with it, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas are taking aim at the First and the Sullivan exemption for critics of public figures may not be long for this world. That’s a subject for another day.

Today we have Bill Cosby. I have managed to avoid writing about Cosby for years. But this tweet, posted just hours after the comedian who was put on trial for sexual assault, convicted by a jury, and sentenced to spend 3-10 years in jail was released from prison, was the last straw.

No, William Henry Cosby, Jr., your release has nothing to do with innocence. It does not make you innocent. And your victory dance is both unseemly and unsightly for a man who remains, in my opinion, both a disgrace and a profound disappointment.

A disappointment, because I still remember my first serious date. The year was 1968. I had my new driver’s license. I had convinced my mother to let me borrow her car. I had convinced a very nice high school classmate to join me on this expedition. And she had convinced her father to trust me with his daughter on a Saturday night trip to downtown Chicago for a grownup dinner and then a show.

That show was at the Auditorium Theater, a newly restored nearly four thousand seat turn of the century venue. The performance consisted of Bill Cosby, alone, with a stool, a microphone, and a follow spot. And he had the packed house rolling in the aisles laughing our heads off for 90 intermission free minutes. This was the year Martin Luther King was assassinated. The year Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. The year of riots in many major cities at the height of the Civil Rights movement, the woman’s rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. I’m a lot older now but I can’t remember another year like that. It seemed to me as if the country was about to explode. But Cosby brought people together, young and old, black and white, it was an amazingly diverse audience. He told stories we could all relate to. He never used a profane word. It was a great first adult date and I talked about it for years.

But my disappointment with the guy once known to millions as “America’s Dad” is nothing. Cosby’s disgrace comes from the actions of his “other” persona. The persona he kept hidden from me and almost everyone else. For the man once defined by the character of Cliff Huxtable and Jell-O commercials is now defined as the man accused by some sixty woman of sexual assault. I know, it’s my opinion again. But you can’t ignore the accusations from so many, all basically telling the same story of a sexual predator who used drugs to have his way with women who could not defend themselves.

Cosby didn’t deny the events, he maintained they were consensual. He admitted to giving drugs to women in a sworn deposition in a civil lawsuit against him. The Fifth Amendment says you can’t be forced to testify against yourself. To force Cosby’s testimony in that case, the local district attorney promised Cosby would not face a criminal indictment. That district attorney left office and his successors broke the agreement.

Cosby was tried twice on criminal charges. The first criminal court proceeding against him ended in a mistrial, but the second jury concluded Cosby had drugged and assaulted Temple University employee Andrea Constand in 2004. He is not now and never will be, at he states in his tweet, innocent.

Which is why I most painfully concur with the decision to release Cosby from prison. It is because Cosby does get one thing right in his tweet when he gives “thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for upholding the rule of law.”

The decision runs 79 pages but it boils down to one question. Did prosecutors break an agreement with Cosby? The answer is yes. The deposition testimony from the civil case cannot be used against him in a criminal trial. Justice and the rule of law are two separate matters. In this case, the cause of justice was not served. But the rule of law was upheld.

#####

Ban the Damn Guns

America today is suffering a plague of gun violence.

It wasn’t always this way. Americans used to own guns without engaging in daily massacres. As a Chicago native, I learned as a child about the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, when members of one Chicago gang set up and killed seven members of a rival gang. It was so shocking it led to legislation that prohibited automatic weapons in the U.S.

That ban was extended with restrictions on “semiautomatic assault weapons,” as well as magazines that met the criteria for what it defined as a “large capacity ammunition feeding device,” in 1989 after 34 children and a teacher were shot and five children killed in Stockton, California with a semi-automatic Kalashnikov rifle. A pull of the trigger is required for each shot of a semi-automatic. An automatic fires continuously.

The Federal Assault Weapons ban went into effect in 1994 after a 52-48 vote in the Senate. President Bill Clinton signed it into law the same day. But times have changed. The ban expired after ten years and attempts to renew it have repeatedly failed. In 2018, another Valentine’s Day shooting, this one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 children and wounded 17 others. This time, then-President Donald Trump called for arming teachers, and the Republican-dominated Florida legislature rejected a bill that would have limited some high-capacity guns.

Fast forward to today. Our acceptance of violence npw stands in striking contrast to Americans’ horror at the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre. I’ve done the legal arguments before, most notably here in a column which includes Chief Justice Warren Berger’s declaration that the conservative reading of the Second Amendment is a “fraud.”

I won’t repeat those arguments. What I do want to do is call your attention to the latest judicial idiocy, California has had its own ban in assault weapons for thirty years. Six other states plus the District of Columbia have similar bans. You would think even if the Second Amendment restricts the Federal government on gun control, language putting the right to bear arms in the context of a “well-regulated militia” would allow the states, which at the time the Bill of Rights was written controlled the militia, to pass reasonable legislation to regulate firearms.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California now says he knows better than Berger and the state of California. He must figure the words “well-regulated” and “militia” were just thrown in because the Framers had some extra ink they wanted to use up. In a 94-page opinion Benitez declared unconstitutional the California statute. Benitez, appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, comes out swinging with his opening paragraph:

Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and United States v Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR 15 type rifle. Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.

Miller v Bonta, 19-cv-1537-BEN (JLB)

The Law and Crime blog has a detailed set of quotes from the decision. I’ll dwell on just a few. Judge Benitez writes, “The assault weapons ban has had no effect. California’s experiment is a failure.” This conclusion follows an analysis that claims the rate at which assault weapons were used in mass killings in California during the years the weapons ban has been in effect has not changed. Benitez also writes that mass killings are “rare events.” He also states, “A Californian is three times more likely to be murdered by an attacker’s bare hands, fists, or feet, than by his rifle.”

The New York Times ran a partial list of recent mass shootings in the United States.

Politifact earlier this year found that 10 of 11 mass shootings were done with AR-15 weapons. Newsweek says they were used in 26 of the last 80 mass shootings. As to his other conclusion, I have to wonder if he’d like to stand up for a duel. He gets the Swiss Army knife while his challenger gets the AR-15.

The hypocrisy of the conservatives is clearly on display here. If it is the place of judges only to “say what the law is,” Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), Judge Benitez’s judgments on failure and the frequency of events is way out of the base path. If you believe in a state’s right to regulate its own militia, Benitez is also out of bounds.

Voters generally support an assault weapons ban. They support a large magazine ban. They support enhanced background checks. They support closing the gun show loophole. They might support amending the Second Amendment itself to clear up the poor punctuation that the gun lobby and their supporters in Congress and on the bench have used in the last few decades to prevent reasonable regulation. The United States has many more deaths by guns than other western developed countries. The United States has the weakest gun control laws in that group.

Do the math.

#####

The Handmaid already has blood on her hands

The Daily Mail produced the wonderful graphic above to go with a story published October 3, 2020. The photo was taken on September 26 and shows the crowd gathered in the White House Rose Garden as Donald Trump introduced Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, filling the seat which became vacant upon the death on September 18 of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In its October 3 story the Mail reported that nine of the people who attended this event had, at that point, tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. As the picture demonstrates, few of the 100 or so people who attended wore face masks, and all were sitting close together. On October 9, Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, labeled this as a “Superspreader event.”

An October 5 poll report said more than 9 out of 10 Americans wear a face mask when they leave home. But that clearly does not include Donald Trump, our Covid denying superspreader-in-chief. Nor apparently does it include Amy Coney Barrett, whose nomination was rammed through the Senate on a strict partisan vote and who took her seat on October 27. America’s newest associate justice wants to be sure you can attend superspreader events too.

Read more

the notorious supreme court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Before we get to the travesty that is the Republican’s 30 day sprint to ram a right-wing ideologue judge down our throats, let us take a minute to take note of the last occupant of the seat she is filling.

I can’t get over the picture above. At least 1000 people, maybe more, gathered in front of the Supreme Court building in the evening of September 18th to mourn the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They were peaceful, quiet, many cried, some carried candles, all in their own way feeling a great sense of loss. They continued to come through the weekend, bringing flowers, newspaper front pages and pictures of Ginsburg.

Read more

Trump’s gestapo comes to portland

Hard to believe but the fears I raised in my last column have now been realized and the situation is far worse.

The headlines exploded around the world on the morning of July 15th, summed up best by this Oregon PBS report, “Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles to Grab Protestors Off Portland Streets.”

It is positively frightening. And it can happen to you. It can happen to me. It can happen to any one of us.

Read more

A Clear and Present Danger

I’ve been avoiding this issue for months. I just got tired about writing about Donald J. Trump. Somewhere in the back of my mind was the thought that he simply could not keep up the pace. He could not commit, every single day of his administration, a bigger travesty than the one he had committed the day before.

I was wrong.

So here is the first of what will be a long stretch of blogs on Trump and the nation. The Trump reaction to a week of protests is just the latest manifestation. The groundwork had already been laid and was in the open for everyone to see. Take a look at April 17, 2020, the day a sitting President of these United States incited violent revolution. Here were Trump’s tweets:

Three calls to arms, to “LIBERATE,” one invoking the 2nd Amendment on gun ownership, all directed at states with popularly elected Democratic governors, who just happened to offend Trump in one way or another.

Read more

The Justices Take a Landmark Step. Unwillingly.

Mark your calendar. Beginning May 4 and ending May 13, the Supreme Court of the United States will make history. It took the coronavirus pandemic to do it, but over six dates the Court will hear oral arguments on ten cases, and the people of the United States will be able for the first time to hear those arguments as they happen.

This is happening because the Court, like most of us, is practicing Covid-19 social distancing protocols, with the justices and staff working mostly from their homes. The Court first delayed these arguments, then decided to hold the hearings via teleconference.

Read more
« Older Entries