Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Friday, 4/6/12, Public Square

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Filed under The Public Square

The Ultimate Punishment.

“Well your honor I do believe I’d be better off dead
So if you can take a man’s life for the thoughts that’s in his head
Then sit back in that chair and think it over judge one more time
And let `em shave off my hair and put me on that killin’ line”

Bruce Springsteen – “Johnny 99” – 1982 – from the album “Nebraska”

The death penalty, the ultimate punishment for a crime. To many, it is a thoroughly fitting punishment for murder. Many more are clamoring for new laws to shorten or eliminate some of the appeal process. There are some that want capital punishment to be extended to other crimes, beyond murder.

Vengeance. Deterrence. The cost of housing prisoners. Prison isn’t bad enough. Parole. Escape possibilities. Many, many more.

There are numerous reasons for capital punishment.

There are 138 + 8 reasons against it.

Since 1973 there have been 138 people released from Death Row after their innocence was proven. There have been eight men executed despite strong evidence that they were innocent. There have been many executed for crimes that did not fit the punishment.

I do not doubt the guilt of the Carr Brothers, Kleypus and Thurber, and I believe their crimes to be heinous, beyond human understanding. That having been said, I still can’t get past – 138 + 8.

My solution is not unique – life without the possibility of parole in a  super-maximum security prison.

In a super-maximum security facility, prisoners are confined to their cells 23 hours a day, with only a single hour for solitary exercise. They receive their meals in their cells. They take two showers per week, alone. They have a radio and a television, but the programming is limited to recreational, educational and religious, and the inmate can’t reach the electronics. Their reading materials and mail are censored and they have no contact with anyone except the guards. No one has ever escaped from a super-maximum security facility in the United States.

Super-max detention has been described by prisoners and prison officials as a “cleaner version of Hell.”

To me, I would opt for death before living like that.

These are my thoughts. What are yours?


William Stephenson Clark


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Filed under Crimes

Talking about whether we should be talking about Kagan’s sexual orientation

The suggestion that someone is gay is usually taken as a direct accusation of homosexuality. Only being gay is not automatically a disqualification for office anymore. Indeed, many places have laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and there are an increasing number of gay and lesbian officeholders at all levels of elected government. So why do we still think it’s bad to call someone a lesbian?  Linda Hirshman, who admits to knowing nothing about the sexual orientation of Kagan, wraps up her interesting op-ed piece by saying:

Finally, and here’s a real dirty little secret, President Obama appointing an openly gay candidate for the Supreme Court would be political genius. Think about the prospect of watching the married Senator Ensign—who is under investigation for allegedly seeking lobbying work for the husband of his mistress—arguing that the high court nominee is “sinful” or “lacking in personal morality,” as the Focus on the Family suggests. The polls are clear: Regardless of their views on same sex marriage, most Americans do not think gays and lesbians should be discriminated against, and the numbers for gays on all issues are sky high among young voters. The Republicans don’t want to be caught in a Pat Buchanan-style culture war just as the mid-term elections loom, just like enough of them wanted to avoid the anti-Hispanic trap to confirm Justice Sotomayor. It’s a no-lose nomination.

There is nothing wrong with being gay (or lesbian). What hurts is the assumption that it hurts.

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Filed under GLBT Rights, U. S. Supreme Court, Woman Power

Is this the law that might change Roe v. Wade dramatically?

Nebraska Law Sets Limits on Abortion

Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska signed a law on Tuesday banning most abortions 20 weeks after conception or later on the theory that a fetus, by that stage in pregnancy, has the capacity to feel pain. The law, which appears nearly certain to set off legal and scientific debates, is the first in the nation to restrict abortions on the basis of fetal pain.

The question of fetal pain, experts said, is one of intense, unresolved debate among researchers and among advocates on both sides of the abortion question.

Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation at National Right to Life, said that scientific evidence related to the capacity for pain had not been heard by the Supreme Court, and that it opened a new legal question.

“You need five votes,” Ms. Balch said. “I think there are five on the current Supreme Court who would give serious consideration to Nebraska’s claim.”

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Filed under abortion

Constitutional Convention

Government has become very corrupt, with our politicians owing their souls (and their reelection hopes) to monied special interests.  Even SCOTUS seems to now be affected as the Court decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C.—which permits unlimited independent corporate campaign expenditures illustrates.

The framers left open a path to amendment that doesn’t require the approval of Congress: a convention. Article V of the Constitution requires Congress to call a convention to propose amendments if 34 state legislatures demand it. Any proposed amendment would then have to be ratified by both houses of 38 state legislatures (three-fourths of the states). This entails 76 separate votes in the affirmative by two houses of 38 state legislatures. (Nebraska, with its unicameral legislature, would be an exception.)

Is this where we’re headed?  Odds are against it, but it is certainly possible.

Even if 34 states don’t call for a convention, history teaches that a real threat is often enough to get Congress to act. The only amendment in our history that changed the structure of Congress (the 17th, making the Senate an elected body) was proposed by Congress because the states were close (just one state short) to calling for a convention.

Read more here.

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Filed under Political Reform

Justice Clinton?

Last week, ABC News reported: “Lawyers for President Obama have been working behind the scenes to prepare for the possibility of one, and maybe two Supreme Court vacancies this spring. Court watchers believe two of the more liberal members of the court, Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, could decide to step aside for reasons of age and health. That would give the president his second and third chance to shape his legacy on the Supreme Court.”

Read more here.

If this became a reality, I would accept that President Obama had been a successful president even if he didn’t get heath care reformed!  Of course, with his other nomination I would prefer seeing someone younger.

fnord

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Filed under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U. S. Supreme Court

Justices of the U. S. Supreme Court

John Paul Stevens, 88
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 75
Antonin Scalia, 72
Anthony Kennedy, 72
Stephen Breyer, 70
Clarence Thomas, 60
Samuel Alito, 58
Sonia Sotomayor, 56
John Roberts (the chief justice), 53

Because of his age and length of service, Stevens is widely considered the most likely to step down, followed by Ginsburg. Both happen to be judicial liberals on a Court that has four liberals (Breyer and Sotomayor being the other two) and four judicial conservatives (Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts). The fickle Kennedy tends to provide the fifth vote in close cases, particularly those involving abortion, race, and religion.

The election of Obama over McCain last fall prevented a Republican goal (dating from the 1968 presidential campaign) of an unambiguously conservative majority on the Court. In this liberal nightmare, the relatively youthful majority would be busy whittling away at Roe v. Wade, eliminating race-based preferences in the public sector, strengthening the government’s hand in fighting terrorism, and facilitating a larger role for religion in public life–among many other bad, bad things.

I know most of you have these players, their stats and which team they play for memorized, but I don’t and always have to go looking for them.

This morning’s New York Times has an op-ed piece titled, “Discrimination on Trial, but Not on TV.” In a 5-4 decision that split the top judges along their political leanings, the Supreme Court barred the live broadcast of audio and video from a California court where rights activists are challenging a state ban on gay marriage.

I would like to know what you think of this decision made yesterday, and your thoughts of our nation’s high court in general.

fnord

11 Comments

Filed under GLBT Rights, U. S. Supreme Court