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Tag: supreme court decisions

When Will Americans Push Back Against Tyranny Of The Minority?

In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Even so, I’m willing to go on record as saying people predicting an impending civil war or the imminent breakup of the United States are quite mistaken.

For all the turmoil and bad feeling abroad in the land, not to mention on the Internet, the things that bind Americans together as a people are far stronger than the things that divide us. Which is the main reason I believe that a partisan Supreme Court’s efforts to impose what amounts to a “tyranny of the minority” upon the nation as a whole are destined to fail.

One way or another, people just aren’t going to have it.

Now my own sense of patriotism may differ from yours. If I never again hear that dreadful, chest-beating Lee Greenwood song, it will be too soon. I’ve come to dislike the unholy racket of July Fourth celebrations almost as much as my poor terrified dogs. (Even Martin, my orange tabby sleeping companion, came running in around midnight, slinking about two inches off the floor.) The infernal noise went on for another hour.

It doesn’t help that here in Arkansas the temperature’s always somewhere between 95 and 100 on Independence Day — the absolute worst time of year.

So, when do I experience patriotic zeal? Well, March Madness, the opening weekend of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, never fails to inspire me with Woody Guthrie-style emotion. All those striving teams from all those far-flung American places. What a wonderful country!

It’s been a while, but I used to drive every summer from Arkansas to an old friend’s ranch outside Livingston, Montana— 26 hours each way, intoxicated by the beauty of the unfolding landscape. Nothing made me happier than stopping for a greasy truck-stop breakfast somewhere in western Nebraska. Have you seen the remote beauty of the Sand Hills? You should.

Having grown up in overcrowded New Jersey, I’ve always loved wide open spaces. Accompanied by a couple of slumbering basset hounds, I’d be singing to myself all the way:

This land is your land, this land is my land.

From California to the New York island.

This land was made for you and me.

One year, I rented a cassette tape of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove from a bookstore in Cody, Wyoming for the drive home. Pulling into Little Rock two days later with a couple of hours remaining, I was tempted to roll on to Memphis just to learn how the story ended.

But here’s the problem: The seven states I drove through--Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana—have a combined 14 U.S. Senators: thirteen conservative Republicans, and Montana Democrat Jon Tester.

Their combined populations add up to roughly 12 million, give or take.

California and New York alone have around 60 million citizens between them, and just four U.S. Senators, all Democrats.

The Founding Fathers couldn’t have anticipated that any more than they could AR-15 assault rifles. There are small states that lean Democratic, yes. But the power imbalance between what H.L. Mencken called “The Cow States” and the nation’s urban population has created sustained partisan gridlock in Washington. Add the undemocratic filibuster, and it becomes increasingly difficult to get anything useful done.

Hence the tyranny of the minority.”

“Our current system,” writes Jamelle Bouie in the New York Times, “favors geography over people and the interests of the minority over those of the majority.” The January 6 insurrection along with “the partisan lawmaking of the Supreme Court have thrown those counter-majoritarian features of the American system into sharp relief.”

By overturning Roe v. Wade, the court has created a crisis of legitimacy, Bouie adds, where “the fundamental rights of hundreds of millions of Americans are functionally overturned by an unelected tribunal whose pivotal members owe their seats to a president who won office through the mechanism of the Electoral College, having lost the majority of voters in both of his election campaigns.”

As I write, several Cow State Republican governors have found themselves unable to answer reporters’ questions about whether a ten-year-old girl in Ohio should be forced to deliver her rapist’s child. Children having children.

The tyranny of the minority, indeed.

Actually, there’s no real constituency anywhere in America for such a grotesque policy. But it’s amazing none of these politicians had thought up a sensible answer. They haven’t had to, partly because the Supreme Court’s Roe ruling was written by partisan hothouse flowers with little experience of the outside world.

So now the Supreme Court has announced its intention to delve into what’s called the “independent state legislature theory,” according to which GOP-dominated legislatures could override their own states’ voters in presidential elections—pretty much what soon-to-be-disbarred Trump lawyer John Eastman tried to pull off in 2020.

One way or another, the American people won’t let that happen.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Constitutional Right To Abortion

Washington (AFP) - The US Supreme Court on Friday ended the right to abortion in a seismic ruling that shreds half a century of constitutional protections on one of the most divisive and bitterly fought issues in American political life.

The conservative-dominated court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that enshrined a woman's right to an abortion, saying that individual states can now permit or restrict the procedure themselves.

"The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives," the court said.

In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said "abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.

"The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion," he said.

Dissenting were the three liberals on the court.

The ruling will likely set into motion a cavalcade of new laws in roughly half of the 50 US states that will severely restrict or outright ban and criminalize abortions, forcing women to travel long distances to states that still permit the procedure.

The opinion shredded the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by the nation's highest court that said women had the right to abortion based on the constitutional right to privacy over their own bodies.

Alito's opinion largely mirrors his draft opinion that was the subject of an extraordinary leak in early May, sparking demonstrations around the country and tightened security at the court in downtown Washington.

Barricades have been erected around the court to keep back the protesters gathered outside -- after an armed man was arrested on June 8 near the home of conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The court's ruling goes against an international trend of easing abortion laws, including in such countries as Ireland, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia where the Catholic Church continues to wield considerable influence.

Victory For Religious Right

It represents a victory of 50 years of struggle against abortion by the religious right but the anti-abortion camp is expected to continue to push for an outright nationwide ban.

The ruling was made possible by the nomination of three conservative justices to the court by former Republican president Donald Trump -- Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

The case before the court was a Mississippi law that would restrict abortion to 15 weeks but during the hearing of the case in December several justices indicated they were prepared to go further.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 13 states have adopted so-called "trigger laws" that will ban abortion following the move by the Supreme Court.

Ten others have pre-1973 laws that could go into force or legislation that would ban abortion after six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

Women living in states with strict anti-abortion laws will either have to continue with their pregnancy, undergo a clandestine abortion or obtain abortion pills, or travel to another state where the procedure remains legal.

Several Democratic-ruled states, anticipating an influx, have taken steps to facilitate abortion and clinics have also shifted their resources.

Travel is expensive, however, and abortion rights groups say abortion restrictions will severely impact poor women, many of whom are Black or Hispanic.

The 'Great Cuckold' Who Inspired Alito's Contemptuous Opinion

Think about it this way: If Justice Samuel Alito gets his way, and the Trumpist Supreme Court majority voids Roe vs. Wade, many states will be forced to begin criminal investigations of women who suffer miscarriages. Don’t give me that crying act, sweetheart. In this state, abortion is murder.

After all, it’s not as if the police have anything better to do.

Exactly how the authorities are supposed to know who’s pregnant to begin with is a tricky question. Maybe doctors will be required to turn them in. Call them “mandatory reporters,” like teachers who encounter child abuse.

And what about those home pregnancy tests? Maybe they’ll need to be taken under official supervision. Perhaps pharmacists can be deputized.

Hippocratic Oath be damned.

In the spirit of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Republican state legislators are considering prosecuting women who travel, say, from Missouri to Illinois for legal abortions. Can we expect Texas to administer pregnancy tests at the Mexican border—going and coming? Otherwise, there could be as many gynecologists as cut-rate dentists in Juarez.

Look, if all this sounds like a bad joke, I wish it were. Most Americans believe that there’s a right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution. The very austere Justice Alito, however, assures us that’s not so. His draft opinion overturning Roe vs. Wade, the 50-year-old Supreme Court precedent granting American women reproductive freedom, astringently points out that the word “abortion” does not appear in the text.

Of course, neither do the words “cellphone” or “woman.” Women participated in the Constitution’s, pardon the expression, gestation not at all. They played no role in 18th century American political life—one of the many reasons Constitutional “originalism” makes so little sense. Slavery too.

The overall tone of Alito’s draft opinion was best described by Adam Serwer in The Atlantic: "Alito’s writing reflects the current tone of right-wing discourse: grandiose and contemptuous, disingenuous and self-contradictory, with the necessary undertone of self-pity as justification."

In my view, turning government over to law school all-stars was never a good idea. Rationalizing the irrational is what they do. Indeed, I suspect Alito himself is as good a suspect as any for who leaked the fool thing to the media, placing maximum pressure on his colleagues to affirm it.

And speaking of irrationality, Alito’s 92-page opinion relies for much of its historical analysis on 17th century English jurist Matthew Hale, who pronounced the abortion of a “quick child” a “great crime.” (A “quick child” is a fetus whose mother can feel its movements, that is, five or six months along.) Polls show most Americans would agree, but more about that to come.

Among historians and legal scholars, Matthew Hale is notorious for having also decreed that a man can’t rape his wife, as a woman cedes property rights to her womb at marriage. He also presided over one of England’s most notorious witchcraft trials in 1662, sentencing two elderly widows to be hanged.

Some learned authority, no?

Hale's 17th century biographer John Aubrey wrote that the eminent jurist’s first wife “made a great cuckold of him,” but that’s neither here nor there, and I’m ashamed of myself for mentioning it. For whatever cause, he definitely had an attitude about women.

The main reason Americans think there’s a right to privacy is the Fourth Amendment, which affirms that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

Think about it: What could possibly be a person’s own damn business more than the decision of whether or not to bear a child? Do you really want the government to monitor your neighbor's intimate life? Your own? If you’re like most Americans, no, you pretty much don’t.

So often in the forefront, Oklahoma has already imprisoned a woman who had a miscarriage after taking illegal drugs—a Native American woman, naturally. It’s hard to imagine them investigating debutantes.

Regardless, polls have shown that the great majority agrees with Bill Clinton’s formulation that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” More than two-thirds of respondents told a 2018 Gallup poll that they wouldn’t like to see Roe v. Wade reversed. Most favor little or no restriction on first trimester abortion, but feel quite differently about late term procedures—pretty much the standard courts have established in the decades since 1973.

Now minority leader Mitch McConnell tells reporters that a post-Alito Republican Senate “certainly could legislate in that area.” Which can only mean, Michael Tomasky deduces in The New Republic, “that Republicans are contemplating a federal law to make abortion illegal—everywhere.”

New York, California, everywhere.

And what then? President Biden vetoes it, the 2024 presidential turns on it, and the USA ruins a lot of women’s lives and tears itself to pieces.

Prosecutor Robbed Lucio Of The Most Compelling Evidence To Defend Her Life

This is the seventh column in a series about Melissa Lucio and the State of Texas’ capital case against her. Read the first column here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, and the sixth here.

I didn’t know she was 13, but I did it,” Ronald Skipper testified in his own defense with candor.

The State of South Carolina was trying Skipper for the rape and murder of Maryanne Wray, a 23 year old woman he had been seen kissing before she turned up dead underneath an abandonded beach house in Garden City, South Carolina.

Skipper took the stand during the penalty phase to provide evidence that he lived an unproblematic life in correctional custody and could be trusted to serve a life sentence without posing a danger to anyone. South Carolina 15th Circuit Solicitor Jim Dunn had asked him about a prior crime, a 1978 conviction for raping a 13 year old girl. It was one of Skipper’s three prior convictions for sexual crimes.

To offset the prior bad acts and to bolster Skipper’s testimony, his attorney, Richard Dusenbery, wanted to elicit testimony from two jail guards and a regular visitor to show the absence of problematic behavior while in prison and therefore, the appropriateness of a life sentence. Citing the reason that such evidence was irrelevant, the court disallowed these witnesses. On June 28, 1983, a jury sentenced Skipper to death in approximately 90 minutes.

In oral argument before the country’s highest court, Skipper’s appellate counsel, David I. Bruck, warned that, without the ability to demonstrate good conduct as evidence of both character and likelihood to behave:

the jury will answer the question in an artificially created blackout of information, as happened in this case, where the most reliable evidence of what was likely to happen if we spared this man’s life, the testimony of his jailers, the people that had had him and could see him day to day and could form a judgment of how he would likely do…

The Supreme Court of the United States saved Skipper’s life by relying on recently developed precedent to hold that preventing testimony about Skipper’s good conduct in jail violated his Eighth and 14th amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and to due process, respectively.

The Court vacated Skipper’s death sentence and quoted Supreme Court precedent, insisting in the opinion of Skipper v. South Carolina: "'the sentencer . . . not be precluded from considering, as a mitigating factor, any aspect of a defendant's character or record and any of the circumstances of the offense that the defendant proffers as a basis for a sentence less than death.'" Defense attorneys can use pretty much anything that can sway a jury not to condemn a defendant. Skipper’s alive today in Perry Correctional Institution in Pelzer, South Carolina, because the Supreme Court recognized that; the state was free to pursue the death penalty again but didn’t.

The decision upholding Skipper’s constitutional rights was the first time a court recognized that the behavior after a crime was potentially mitigating evidence.

In extreme pathos, the inequities and outrages in Lucio’s situation compound themselves: a corrupt prosecutor motivated to compensate for letting a man convicted of murder to slip away, abysmal — even nonexistent — legal representation; courts that wouldn’t order a transcript of her alleged confession to be entered into the record to show that she denied abusing her daughter over 100 times to police; abuse priming her throughout her life to make her amenable to coercion; poverty so severe that she had to move 26 times between 1994 and 2007 because she couldn’t pay her utilities; a deceased child, Mariah, who died accidentally but whose passing landed her mother in jail, awaiting state-sanctioned murder.

But there’s an even deeper sadness in denying Melissa Lucio the opportunity to present evidence of her conduct in jail. Not only did false notions about her conduct appear before the jury but so did the same “blackout of information” experienced by Skipper’s jury. No one knew that Lucio managed herself quite well with guards who can be capricious and cruel and fellow inmates who can get out of control.

The absence of a disciplinary record was one of the few positives Lucio could have presented to the jury because trauma and poverty consumed so many opportunities for her. Although she had a steady job as a janitor when she was arrested, she had no significant work history to speak of. She had completed only the 11th grade. Much of the evidence that weighed in her favor proved that others had abandoned, beaten, and manipulated her. That she walked the line in jail was to her credit.

Then-Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos prevented her from illuminating that success. There’s a reason why a spotless discipline record appears in defense of people facing capital punishment: It’s not easily achieved, especially for female detainees who are taken to task two to three times more frequently than their male counterparts.

To be clear, it’s not only Villalobos’ fault that the jury worked with a completely false depiction of Lucio’s character. Lucio’s defense attorneys never examined her record either to see if such an argument was viable.

The larger question here is whether the pretrial disciplinary records of defendants are valuable evidence at all. The outcomes of these disciplinary systems are so specious that they hardly support any sentence, much less one of eternal slumber.

And, as Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. noted in a concurrence in the decision to reverse Skipper’s death sentence, capital defendants may behave themselves to generate some record of compliance, only to offend later. To wit, Skipper’s public record shows a number of rule violations since 2010. He unsuccessfully sued the South Carolina Department of Corrections for violating his due process rights when the department disciplined him for possession of marijuana.

Exploring the reasons why a person disobeys rules or laws is often necessary, but why someone behaves well doesn’t really deserve inquiry. It demonstrates a capacity to abide and that’s basically what prosecutors argue is absent in defendants they want to sentence to death. If lawbreaking is to be rebuked, then law abiding merits equal and opposite respect — especially if it can keep someone alive.

I can’t and I won’t impute Ronald Skipper’s propensity to break rules to Melissa Lucio. Her role in the history of violence in her life was victim, not perpetrator. Skipper may deny raping and killing Maryanne Wray, but no one doubts Wray’s assault or murder and his three prior sex crime convictions are not in dispute. For Lucio, the event she’s scheduled to die for wasn’t even a crime, according to many experts.

It’s not just that the Cameron County, Texas district attorneys cheated to make Lucio look bad to seduce jurors into sentencing her to death. They robbed her of a chance to make the case for her own decency, to demonstrate that what she actually did could be righteous, to say “I did it” without shame and perhaps with a hint of accomplishment.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns will now appear regularly in The National Memo.

Supreme Court Spurns Religious Challenge To New York Vaccine Mandate

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to New York's refusal to allow religious exemptions to its mandate that certain healthcare workers in the state be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Acting in two cases, the justices denied emergency requests for an injunction requiring the state to allow religious exemptions while litigation over the mandate's legality continues in lower courts.

Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have granted the injunction.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

Why Chief Justice Roberts May Fail To Protect The 2020 Election

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

As election day approaches, voting-rights lawsuits are heating up across the country. In two separate federal cases in August, 20 states and the District of Columbia sued President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to reverse cutbacks to the postal system designed to undermine the agency's ability to deliver the expected upsurge in mail-in ballots this fall.

At the same time, the Trump administration has filed federal lawsuits to invalidate vote-by-mail procedures adopted in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and New Jersey. The administration alleges, without any supporting evidence, that easing the rules on mail-in balloting will lead to massive fraud.

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