In Borden v. US, Justices Gorsuch And Thomas Indicate They View The Law As Taking Precedence Over Ideology

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Good. That’s two: maybe there are more.

So- called “three strikes” laws are a conservative invention to bind the hands of liberal judges inclined to give too-lenient sentences to repeat offenders because of superfluous factors like a tough childhood. As a result, liberal justices generally detest the device, arguing that it takes the judgment out of judging.

In Borden v. US, a case that asks if a conviction for a violent felony based on recklessness or negligence rather than malice should count as a “strike,” the three bedrock progressives on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, voted predictably, against the application of a “three strikes” law. If all six conservative justices showed similar fealty to their biases, the petitioner, Charles Borden, Jr., would face an enhanced sentence after pleading guilty to possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, because he had three previous convictions for “violent felonies” according to Tennessee. Confounding the Supreme Court politicizers who don’t believe judges are capable of being ethical—which requires putting aside personal biases and loyalties to do the right thing—Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch voted with the liberals. They did so because they were following the letter of the law, and that is the Supreme Court’s job.

In Borden, prosecutors argued for the mandatory 15-year sentence based on three earlier convictions that included on for “reckless assault.” Borden argued that such a conviction was not a “strike’ according to the wording of the law, and in law, words are supposed to matter. His claims were rejected in the lower courts, and Borden was sentenced as a “career-criminal.”

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Justice Neil Gorsuch

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“It is time—past time—to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.”

That is the final line of  Justice Gorsuch’s concurring opinion to the SCOTUS majority’s per curiam ruling, released last night,  in favor of New York Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish groups that sued over the state’s limited religious service attendance rules in response to the Wuhan virus.

The majority’s ruling concludes in part,

Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic,the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.

The emerging new Left no longer regards religious liberty as a big deal—ironic, since today we celebrate the group of religious expatriates who helped found our nation to escape religious persecution. The entire opinion, the concurring opinions of Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, and the dissenting opinions of Chief Justice Roberts, Sotomayor and Breyer (Roberts argues that the case is moot) can be read here.

There can no longer be any reasonable doubt that President Trump’s Supreme Court nominations have provided the nation and its citizens with crucial protection  from a furious assault on its core rights by the suddenly “ends justify the means” obsessed Left. State and city government resorting to arbitrary edicts during the pandemic is but a preface to what is coming over the next four years.

If for nothing else, Americans who cherish the liberty that makes the nation unique and the hope of the world should give thanks this day for President Trump, and the Supreme Court he has left as his legacy.

 

 

The Supreme Court Holds The U.S. To A Promise

“On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise. Forced to leave their ancestral lands in Georgia and Alabama, the Creek Nation received assurances that their new lands in the West would be secure forever…Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.”

Thus did Justice Neil Gorsuch begin and end his historic 42-page majority opinion this month in McGirt v. Oklahoma, as the Supreme Court ruled  in a 5-4 decision that the Creek reservation in eastern Oklahoma had never been “disestablished” by Congress, and thus the promise made in a series of 18th Century treaties ensured that the territory remains an Indian reservation for the purposes of federal criminal law, and quite probably in other areas as well.

The decision was overshadowed by more politically debated decisions this month, but it may be the most overtly ethical of the Supreme Court’s recent holdings. Among other virtues, it rejects the false logic of Rationalization #52. The Underwood Maneuver, or “That’s in the past.” That one holds that time erases accountability, an attitude  useful to the habitually unethical, because “moving on” gives them  an opportunity to repeat their unethical and harmful conduct, or worse.

The Underwood Maneuver manipulates the victim of wrongful conduct into forgiving and forgetting without the essential contributions a truly reformed wrongdoer must make to the equation: admission of harm , acceptance of responsibility, remorse and regret, amends and compensation, and good reason to believe that the unethical conduct won’t be repeated.  By emphasizing that wrongdoing was in the past, this rationalization all but assures that it is also lurking in the near future.

Potentially half of Oklahoma will be affected by McGirt. The issue was whether the state of Oklahoma could prosecute Indians accused of major crimes in Indian Country, or if, under an 1885 federal statute known as the Major Crimes Act, such offenses were within federal jurisdiction. The case hinged upon whether the Creek Reservation had been withdrawn or disestablished, by Congress in the lead-up to Oklahoma’s admission to the Union in 1907, thus causing Hugh Jackman to sing.

This is 3 million acres in and around Tulsa we’re talking about here.

With the Court holding that the Creek reservation was never disestablished, four other tribes— the Seminole, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations in eastern Oklahoma— may benefit from similar rulings. Those tribes’ total territory covers  19 million acres where 1.8 million Americans now live, relatively few of whom are Native Americans. Continue reading

To Be Fair, Some Conservatives ARE Hysterical Over The SCOTUS Decision in Bostock….

… which is sad. Gerald Bostock, Aimee Stephens and Donald Zarda, the appellants in the three cases decided yesterday, were discriminated against by their employers for no other reason than what they were, or had decided to be.  In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court decided that this breached  the landmark 1964  civil rights legislation which banned discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, religion, and gender, or what the law called “sex.”

This morning I criticized the Times for a cut line  in its print edition that read “A Trump justice delivers an LGBT ruling that demoralizes the Right” as a gross exaggeration and “psychic news” —how does the Times know that conservatives are “demoralized”? However, I did recently encounter an article in The Federalist by a conservative who not only was apparently demoralized by the decision, but driven to the edge of madness. In all fairness, I thought I should mention it.

Joy Pullman, the author, is a Hillsdale College grad and an executive editor of the Federalist, which will lead me to be a bit more careful using the magazine as a source in the future.

As a preface, I note that Pullman isn’t a lawyer, and I see nothing in her background that suggests qualifications to analyze a Supreme Court decision. Indeed, I see nothing in the article that suggests that she read the majority opinion and the dissents. I’m guessing that she read a news article about the decision, or maybe a critical blog post. Well, a non-lawyer can only criticize a SCOTUS ruling according to his or her policy and ideological preferences. I don’t know why the Federalist would entrust an essay about the decision to someone like Pullman, though she is an executive editor.

Hear are some extreme and irresponsible statements from the piece, which has an extreme and irresponsible title that kindly warns us of the hysteria to come: “SCOTUS’s Transgender Ruling Firebombs The Constitution”: Continue reading

In A 6-3 Vote, SCOTUS Holds That Workplace Discrimination Against Gay and Transgender Employees Violates Existing Federal Law

Back in October I wrote about these cases, including the case involving whether businesses requiring employees to dress in traditional gender-specific garb discriminated against transgender workers without violating federal civil rights law.  Solicitor General Noel Francisco and other Justice Department attorneys argued just that , claiming that Congress didn’t intend to include transgender status when it passed Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (I think that’s obvious), so the law’s ban on discrimination because of “sex” referred only to unequal treatment of men and women in the workplace.  In  R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Justice Department opposed the position of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the firing of  former funeral home director Aimee Stephens after she announced she would transition from male to female violated the Act, arguing that redefining sex discrimination was a job for Congress, not the courts. I wrote at the time,

It seems clear that giving LGBTQ Americans the same protection against discrimination as other minorities is the ethical course. This seems to be a technical dispute over whether the Courts or Congress should  fix the problem. That argument is worth having, and I would not be shocked in a SCOTUS majority said that the omission in the law was unjust, but it was not the Court’s job to fix it. In the long run, it will be illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens in the workplace, as it should be. The only question is how drawn out, angry and divisive the process will be to get there.

Well, we have our answer. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Senator Chuck Schumer [CORRECTED]

“I want to tell you [Justice] Kavanaugh, I want to tell you [Justice] Gorsuch: You have unleashed a whirlwind, and you will pay the price.You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions!”

—–Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, sounding like Sonny Corleone, in front of the Supreme Court.

How many ways was this demagoguery wrong, as in spectacularly unethical? Let’s see:

  • Schumer  threatened Supreme Court justices, by name. What does “pay the price” mean, if not, “Just you wait, you’re gonna regret this!”

There is no possible justification for such ominous rhetoric

  • It is an attempt at intimidation as well as  encouragement to others to follow through on Schumer’s threat. This prompted Chief Justice Roberts into a making an unprecedented protest, as he wrote, “Statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”

Perfect.

Even addled Larry Tribe, the former Harvard Law School icon turned mad anti-Trump tweeter and conspiracy-monger, called Schumer’s outburst intolerable, tweeting,

These remarks by @SenSchumer were inexcusable. Chief Justice Roberts was right to call him on his comments. I hope the Senator, whom I’ve long admired and consider a friend, apologizes and takes back his implicit threat. It’s beneath him and his office.

Prof. Jonathan Turley joined the chorus and wrote, Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch

“The real problem here is the increasingly common practice of trial courts ordering relief that transcends the cases before them. Whether framed as injunctions of ‘nationwide,’ ‘universal,’ or ‘cosmic’ scope, these orders share the same basic flaw—they direct how the defendant must act toward persons who are not parties to the case….

“Equitable remedies, like remedies in general, are meant to redress the injuries sustained by a particular plaintiff in a particular lawsuit. When a district court orders the government not to enforce a rule against the plaintiffs in the case before it, the court redresses the injury that gives rise to its jurisdiction in the first place. But when a court goes further than that, ordering the government to take (or not take) some action with respect to those who are strangers to the suit, it is hard to see how the court could still be acting in the judicial role of resolving cases and controversies. Injunctions like these thus raise serious questions about the scope of courts’ equitable powers under Article III”…

It has become increasingly apparent that this Court must, at some point, confront these important objections to this increasingly widespread practice. As the brief and furious history of the regulation before us illustrates, the routine issuance of universal injunctions is patently unworkable, sowing chaos for litigants, the government, courts, and all those affected by these conflicting decisions…

“If a single successful challenge is enough to stay the challenged rule across the country, the government’s hope of implementing any new policy could face the long odds of a straight sweep, parlaying a 94- to-0 win in the district courts into a 12-to-0 victory in the courts of appeal. A single loss and the policy goes on ice— possibly for good, or just as possibly for some indeterminate period of time until another court jumps in to grant a stay. And all that can repeat, ad infinitum, until either one side gives up or this Court grants certiorari.”

——Justice Neil Gorsuch, concurring in the grant of the stay of a nationwide injunction imposed by a district judge in New York against the implementation  of the Trump administration’s new immigration standards.

The new rules impose additional criteria for determining which potential immigrants  are likely to be dependent on the U.S. government for benefits  and therefore ineligible for green cards and eventual U.S. citizenship. These were proposed in October, 2019, but have been blocked by Democratic judges until today’s decision. Continue reading

Ethics Round-Up, 12/18/2019: The Day Before An Invasive Procedure Edition [UPDATED]

Yuck.

Even the satisfaction of knowing that the President reads Ethics Alarms, or at least thinks like I do…wait, that came out wrong. Anyway, today I expect to be uncomfortable, hungry and distracted, so who knows what might appear here today?

You were warned.

1. The Ethics Quote of the Day comes from ex-Marine and TV talk show host Montel Williams (who was very nice to me when I was on his show), on the “scandal” of some cadets flashing the dreaded “OK” sign during the Army-Navy Game:

 

“Both West Point and Annapolis are investigating, and it strikes me as defamatory that some in the media have branded these young people as racists without a shred of evidence. I understand that a handful of racists (perhaps living in their parents’ basements) attempted to co-opt the ‘OK’ sign as a symbol of white power … but that is not evidence that these kids were motivated by racial animus. We owe these young people, who had the courage to sign up to be part of the 1% who defend this democracy, better than this,”

I would say that we owe them better than even investigating such trivia. A ambiguous gestures are ambiguous, and no student, in a military academy or anywhere else  should have to defend or explain them. The students are entitled to the benefit of the doubt.  As with the “It’s OK to be White,” flyers, the rational, responsible approach by administrators is to ignore them, rather than to make a scandal out of nothing.

When will we see the first “It’s OK to make the OK sign” flyers? Heck, I may put some up myself…

2. Nah, there’s no progressive “war on Christmas,’ and there’s no mainstream media bias, either. And CNN’s Brian Stelter isn’t the most incompetent and absurd “media critic” since the term was coined! Imagine: Stelter asked on Twitter,

“Justice Neil Gorsuch is on “Fox & Friends” right now. The Q: How is it appropriate for a Supreme Court justice to try to goose sales of his three-month-old book by chatting on one of the most partisan shows on TV?”

More “Q’s”: Would it be appropriate for Gorsuch to chat on another network, like, say, CNN? Would “wtachdog” Stelter bitch about that? What does the level of partisanship of a show have to do with whether a Supreme Court Justice should appear there? Is there any rule or precedent holding that it is unethical for a sitting Justice to promote a book? (I’ll answer that one: no.)

Stelter’s whining wasn’t close to the most contrived objection to Gorsuch’s visit to the Fox and Friends couch, though. This was: Continue reading

Not Just Justice Gorsuch, Prof. Turley: The Entire Supreme Court Is Owed An Apology.

In an article yesterday in The Hill, Constitutional Law expert Professional Jonathan Turley proclaims that Justice Neil Gorsuch is  owed an apology by the Washington political establishment (meaning D.C. Democrats and progressives) which had labeled him a “rubber stamp” and a right wing ideologue in the course of its non-stop wailing about the loss of Obama nominee Merrick Garland, the victim of a ruthless bit of partisan maneuvering by Mitch McConnell. One would have thought that Gorsuch had conspired with “Cocaine Mitch.”

Turley (who testified on Gorsuch’s behalf, so his essay has more than a bit of a smug “I told you so!” ring), focuses particularly on yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling in U.S. v. Davis, in which Gorsuch joined to so-called liberal wing to strike  down an ambiguous law that allowed enhanced penalties for a “crime of violence.” Turley was impressed that Gorsuch squared off against Supreme Court rookie Bret Kavanaugh, whose dissent seemed to be based on a version of the “Everybody does it” rationalization, arguing that the statute was used in “tens of thousands of federal prosecutions” for over 30 years and calling it “surprising” that it should suddenly be ruled unconstitutional. Continue reading

SCOTUS: There is No Right To Be Executed Painlessly

Good.

Russell Bucklew’s   girlfriend broke up with him, so he threatened her. She ran to a neighbor’s house, but Bucklew chased her down. First he shot the neighbor dead. Then he beat his girlfriend and raped her. Police arrested him after a shootout, but Bucklew eventually escaped so he could attack his girlfriend’s mother with a hammer.

Bucklew was tried and convicted, then sentenced to death under Missouri law. Does this conduct, once proven in court, warrant the death penalty? Personally, I would prefer the bar to be set a bit higher, but I’m not disturbed, as a member of society, to be partially responsible for Bucklew’s demise. He made it clear that he has no intention of abiding by the social contract, and society has no obligation to let him keep breathing.

Two weeks before his schedule execution, Bucklew raised a medical condition as a unique barrier for the use on lethal injection on him, as described by the Court:

“Mr. Bucklew suffers from a disease called cavernous hemangioma, which causes vascular tumors— clumps of blood vessels—to grow in his head, neck, and throat. His complaint alleged that this condition could prevent the pentobarbital from circulating properly in his body; that the use of a chemical dye to flush the intrave- nous line could cause his blood pressure to spike and his tumors to rupture; and that pentobarbital could interact adversely with his other medications.”

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