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By JGillman, Section News
The question of whether or not to 'allow' marriage to persons who identify based on their activities is absurd.
Is that not what the supreme court is being asked to validate? In the case before our Nation's highest court, the justices are being asked to determine whether California's 2008 Proposition 8 as enacted by voters is constitutional. They are being asked to either affirm or deny the decision of United States District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, who overturned it on August 4, 2010; his argument being a violation of both the Due Process clause, and Equal Protections clause of the 14th amendment.
A inaccurate understanding of the 14th amendment if ever there was one.
Due Process guarantees a process under which something might be taken. It allows the imposed upon person or class to prepare a defense or answer to actions being used to deprive an individual, or group, a particular thing. It also requires law to be sufficiently understandable or substantive.
Continued below the fold ~
(1065 words in story) Full Story
By The Wizard of Laws, Section News
Cross-posted in The Wizard of Laws.
The debate over the O'Brien vs. Markey race for the third GOP Supreme Court nomination has, for the most part, been respectful. Oh sure, there are the usual hysterics because 20 years ago someone bought a ticket to a colleague's fundraiser, but these are minor and safely ignored. I like to think of the pro-Markey crowd as best represented by Kevin Rex Heine, who at least does his homework. [Someday, I'd like to meet Kevin and shake his hand.] That doesn't mean I agree with him, however. In fact, the more I study Markey's decisions, the more uncomfortable I am with the thought of her on the high court.
(3 comments, 836 words in story) Full Story
Moroun, 84, and Stamper, 62, were sent to jail Thursday as punishment for their company being found in contempt of court. Judge Prentis Edwards said Detroit International Bridge Co. repeatedly failed to follow his orders to work with the state of Michigan and get the Gateway Project done.
have anything to do with THIS?
The son of a Detroit judge who is set to impose contempt of court penalties against Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has been appointed to the bench by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Somebody has some splainin to do.
It likely won't be Mr Moroun.
For the sake of integrity in the bench, perhaps in the executive branch in Lansing, I want to see a really good reason. I am really seriously shaken by this if it is true.
I know one fan of this site whom I hope would take a look at this. I pray there is no quid pro quo, but for the life of me I cannot get over what would have to be the crappiest coincidence in Michigan political history.
(55 comments) Comments >>
One of the most confusing parts of the election cycle is the selection of Judges. Who is conservative, who is not? What experience, and what level of confidence do we have they will apply the rule of law vs. applying their will to law? Will they follow the constitution even at the local levels?
I will be talking about some of those in my own area soon, and would welcome insight and or others talking about their own areas.
Hope to get some participation.
(1 comment) Comments >>
Cross-posted on The Wizard of Laws.
Today was an unusual day in court, because I was able to compare how two different judges dealt with the exact same motion under the exact same set of circumstances with the exact same defendant and the exact same defense attorney. Not surprisingly, they rendered wildly different decisions.
First, a little background. In civil cases, the parties engage in a process known as "discovery," in which they attempt to ascertain all of the pertinent facts and documents. Written requests for information are known as interrogatories, and requests for documents are known as, well, document requests. After these requests are submitted to a party, the party has 28 days to respond. If they do not respond or do so inadequately, the next step is for the requesting party to file a motion to compel the responses. There is also a specific court rule that says, if the court grants a motion to compel discovery, the court "shall" require the party who did not answer the discovery to "pay to the moving party the reasonable expenses incurred in obtaining the order, including attorney fees[.]"
I have two cases in which I represent two different clients suing the same defendant. The cases are assigned to two different judges. I submitted interrogatories and document requests to the defendant's attorney in each case in March. These were never answered. At the end of April, I wrote the other attorney two letters (again, one in each case) about his failure to respond. No answer. So, I filed motions to compel discovery; again, a separate motion for each case. No response. The hearings on these motions took place today.
In the first case, even though the other lawyer told me that he could answer my discovery requests within 14 days, the judge gave him another 30 days to answer and denied my request for the costs and attorney fees that, under the Court Rules, are mandatory.
In contrast, the judge in the second case gave the other attorney only 14 days to answer the discovery requests, and she ordered his client to pay my client $500 for having to file and argue the motion.
The second judge followed the rules. The first judge ignored them, apparently believing that in the phrase "the Court Rules," the word "Rules" is a verb. The problem is that there is no recourse for the first judge's blatant ignorance of the rules or his refusal to follow them. The cost of appealing is prohibitive, even if there was any prospect the Court of Appeals would agree to hear the case (it wouldn't), and a motion for reconsideration goes right back to the same judge, who will deny it, either without comment or by saying simply, "I've already decided this issue and I see nothing new here," or words to that effect.
So, two judges + same motion + same facts + same attorneys = two irreconcilable rulings. I know there is no IQ test to sit on the bench, and many of the judges I appear before are smart and/or they try to do the best they can, but it is extremely frustrating to appear before a judge who doesn't apply the rules correctly and doesn't care.
When the first judge denied my request for costs and attorney fees (without giving any reason, by the way), I asked if we could simply take the request under advisement pending the other side's compliance with the order requiring them to answer my requests within 30 days. In other words, no decision now on costs and attorney fees but, if the defendant doesn't comply, the judge can impose sanctions at that time. This is an unbelievably reasonable request on my part, so of course it was quickly denied without any explanation.
I have been practicing law for over 26 years. This experience today was, unfortunately, nothing new, but the fact that I had two identical motions pending before two different judges was unusual, giving me a control ruling, if you will, against which to judge the aberrant decision. Rarely is the contrast between competence and incompetence so glaringly obvious.
It is impossible for voters to be aware of the hundreds or thousands of rulings judges make that affect the course of litigation pending before them, so judicial campaigns devolve into contests of who-can-put-up-more-signs and who can pretend to be tougher on crime, all against the backdrop of name recognition and incumbency. No, the ballot box rarely improves the bench. The key point is to make sure that we elect a governor and a president who will make wise appointments, since these appointed judges then carry the power of incumbency.
Regrettably, our current governor and president will make and have made poor choices. When we see what they have done to our economy, we should not be surprised when they screw up our judiciary.
U.S. Supreme Court decisions are issued throughout the year, from October to June, so rarely are two decisions issued on the same day that so clearly illustrate the vast judicial philosophy gulf separating conservative from liberal judges. This rare event occurred today, however, with the Court's decisions in Kansas v Ventris and Dean v U.S. Fortunately, the majority opinions were authored by Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Roberts. Both were 7-2 decisions, with Justice Stevens in dissent in both cases.
In the Ventris case, Donnie Ray Ventris and his girlfriend, Rhonda Theel, shot and killed one Ernest Hicks with a .38-caliber revolver, and then drove off in Hicks's truck with approximately $300 of his money and his cell phone. On a tip from the "friends" who drove Ventris and Theel to Hicks's home, officers arrested Ventris and Theel and charged them with various crimes, chief among them murder and aggravated robbery. The State dropped the murder charge against Theel in exchange for her guilty plea to the robbery charge and her testimony identifying Ventris as the shooter. Prior to trial, officers planted an informant in Ventris's holding cell, instructing him to "keep [his] ear open and listen" for incriminating statements. According to the informant, in response to his statement that Ventris appeared to have "something more serious weighing in on his mind," Ventris divulged that "[h]e'd shot this man in his head and in his chest" and taken "his keys, his wallet, about $350.00, and ... a vehicle."
At trial, Ventris took the stand and blamed everything on Theel (who says chivalry is dead?). The prosecutor then asked to call the jail cell informant to impeach Ventris's testimony. The trial court let the testimony in and Ventris was convicted. The Kansas Supreme Court reversed the conviction, holding that allowing the informant to testify violated Ventris's Sixth Amendment right to counsel during all custodial interrogation. The US Supreme Court then reversed and reinstated the conviction, finding that the Sixth Amendment would prohibit the prosecution from using the informant's testimony as part of its case in chief, but once Ventris testified, the informant could be used to impeach him. As the prosecution put it at trial, the Sixth Amendment "doesn't give the Defendant ... a license to just get on the stand and lie."
In the Dean case, Christopher Michael Dean, wearing a mask, entered a bank, waved a gun, and yelled at everyone to get down. He then walked behind the teller counter and started removing money from the teller stations. He grabbed bills with his left hand, holding the gun in his right. At one point, he reached over a teller to remove money from her drawer. As he was collecting the money, the gun discharged, leaving a bullet hole in the partition between two stations. The robber cursed and dashed out of the bank. Witnesses later testified that he seemed surprised that the gun had gone off. Fortunately, no one was hurt. At trial, Dean admitted the robbery and was convicted.
Federal law imposes additional, mandatory sentences on defendants for using firearms during crimes -- 5 years for carrying one, 7 years "if the firearm is brandished" and 10 years "if the firearm is discharged." Dean appealed the additional 10-year sentence he got because the gun went off, claiming that it was an accident. The Supreme Court affirmed the added sentence, finding no requirement that the defendant intend for the gun to discharge. In part of his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts quoted from one of history's greatest legal writers, on whom much of our common law relies:
Justice Stevens dissented in both cases, finding on behalf of the criminal each time, despite the fact that there was no doubt about guilt in either case. He described the Ventris decision as "another occasion in which the Court has privileged the prosecution at the expense of the Constitution," despite the fact that, as Justice Scalia observed, "we have multiple times rejected the argument that this "speculative possibility" [that police will use informants solely to gain impeachment material for the unlikely event that the defendant will testify] can trump the costs of allowing perjurious statements to go unchallenged. * We have held in every other context that tainted evidence--evidence whose very introduction does not constitute the constitutional violation, but whose obtaining was constitutionally invalid--is admissible for impeachment."
In Dean, Justice Stevens found that an intent to discharge the weapon must be found, despite the absence of any statutory requirement for intent. This conclusion is so obviously inconsistent with his decision in Ventris that the only way it can be reconciled is to observe that, in both cases, Stevens would have ruled for the guilty defendant instead of the prosecution.
Stevens would exclude the informant's testimony in Ventris, despite the fact that it was being used to impeach perjury by the defendant, and regardless of the intention of law enforcement. On the other hand, in Dean, Stevens would protect a criminal who takes a loaded gun to a bank robbery by requiring that the prosecution prove that, if the gun went off, the criminal intended for the gun to go off.
Thus, in Dean, where the criminal is concerned, intent is everything, while in Ventris, where the focus is on the prosecution's conduct, intent is irrelevant.
We expect this kind of flip-flopping inconsistency from our politicians. Are we now relegated to getting it from our judges also? And, what's worse, we're getting it from our Supreme Court justices, who have the highest responsibility of all -- defining, defending, and applying our magnificent Constitution.
(4 comments) Comments >>
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