Time for a Legal Revolution

063Time for a Legal Revolution

Public defender system struggles under huge caseloads | McClatchy

Anyone who’s ever been arrested or watched a television cop show knows the fundamental right Gideon helped win for every American:

“If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you.”

But this month, the 50th anniversary of that landmark Supreme Court ruling, here in Gideon’s home state and elsewhere around the country, the criminal justice system continues to struggle to live up to the promise demanded by the Supreme Court in 1963.

“The truth is we clearly haven’t,” said Abe Krash, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who helped represent Gideon in his Supreme Court case. “In public defender offices, there are many extremely conscientious attorneys, but they are tremendously underfunded and overburdened.”

A 2011 report by the Justice Policy Institute found that most of the country’s public defender offices and systems lacked enough attorneys to meet nationally established caseload guidelines. Also, the report found that most defender offices did not have sufficient support staff, such as investigators and paralegals.

“When defenders do not have access to sufficient resources, they may be unable to interview key witnesses, collect or test physical evidence, or generally prepare and provide quality defense for their client, resulting in poorer outcomes for the client,” according to the institute’s report.

Public defender system struggles under huge caseloads | McClatchy


Enhanced by Zemanta

Citizens United and Political Corruption

Human Freedom
Human Freedom

Citizen’s United and Political Corruption

Josh Silver: Discovered: A Cure for Political Corruption

This is the strategic foundation of Represent.Us, the campaign in support of the American Anti-Corruption Act. The campaign was launched November, 2012 by the organization I run. Along with the voucher proposal, the Act would:

1) Prevent members of congress from soliciting and receiving contributions from any industry or entity they regulate;
2) Prohibit all fundraising during Congressional working hours;
3) Apply the existing $5,000 PAC contribution limit to superPACs based on the fact that they are coordinating with candidates in contradiction of the Court’s rationale (this is a potent solution to Citizens United-created spending);
4) Close the revolving door between Capitol Hill and the lobbying industry by extending the waiting period to 5 years for members and their senior staff;
5) Expand the definition of and register all lobbyists to prevent them from skirting the rules;
6) Limit the amount that lobbyists can contribute to $500, instead of the current $2,500;
7) Disclose all contribution “bundling”;
8) Strengthen the Federal Election Commission’s independence, as well as the congressional ethics enforcement process;
9) Clamp down on 501c organizations’ political spending; and 10) make all political spending fully transparent as proposed in the current DISCLOSE Act.

Why must the Act take on so many issues? This strategy recognizes that the influence of money in politics is endemic to our current system of government. We cannot fix this by patching the holes in democracy through which money seeps in. We are already flooded. We have to recognize that the influence of money has changed the way our lawmakers think about what is possible. It shapes institutions, limits expectations, and constrains the options for decision-makers. Real change must come with a comprehensive approach that reconfigures the incentives, the pressures, and the circumstances for public governance to reflect more directly the democratic interests of the people.

Josh Silver: Discovered: A Cure for Political Corruption

I think Josh Silver has some good ideas here. But whatever you think of these particular ideas, I suspect you will agree that the system is broken and no longer serves the public interest. The infusion of money, political speech according to a truly wacky Supreme Court, has drowned out the voices of the American people and left us as helpless political onlookers. It’s time for change.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, More of Dave:

The 2010 Citizens United decision opened the floodgates and allowed millions of dollars of corporate money to flow into campaign coffers. Costs for the 2012 presidential campaign were 6 billion dollars, up more than 7% over the 2008 election.

As far as I know, not a single banker or Wall St. financier has stood trial for his/her role in the 2008 financial crisis. When there are no consequences for bringing the world economy to its knees, we are already living in an oligarchy. That is why every person of every political persuasion has an interest in getting money out of politics as much as possible, and this begins by turning back the Citizens United decision. …

From the web site, Wendy Phillip’s Blog:

In its Opinion, the Court side-stepped the issue and refused to make a ruling on whether foreign corporations would be able to influence our political process by funding election ads.  Instead, the Court stated that there is no need to answer the question, and referred to the fact that 2 U.S.C 441(e) bans contributions and expenditures by foreign nationals. This may be true, but the operative word in 441e is “nationals”. How can this Court say that the question of whether foreign organizations can influence our Nation’s political process is best answered by 441e when 441e applies only to foreign nationals or individuals, and not corporations?  This creates a loophole for foreign corporations.  It will be interesting to see what foreign corporations will do to capitalize on this blunder by the Court.

From the web site, Citizens for Truth:

To give proper deference to legislatures, the Court could have ruled on a narrow issue. In Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party (2008), the Court had emphasized judicial restraint by stating that courts should not “formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts to which it is to be applied.” However, without regard for judicial restraint, the Court in this decision “operates with a sledge hammer rather than a scalpel when it strikes down one of Congress’ most significant efforts to regulate the role that corporations and unions play in electoral politics. It compounds the offense by implicitly striking down a great many state laws as well.”

This ruling will “cripple the ability of ….. Congress and the States to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process.” Justice Stevens quotes Burroughs v. United States (1934), “To say that Congress is without power to pass appropriate legislation to safeguard … an election from the improper use of money to influence the result is to deny to the nation in a vital particular the power of self protection.” Therefore, both federal and state legislatures should be allowed to pass laws that regulate corporate political spending.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Police Theory, Manoje Nath

Police Theory, Manoje Nath
Police Theory, Manoje Nath
Police Theory, Manoje Nath

Musings, the web site of Manoje Nath:

What Law? Whose order?

Law and order is a tricky business and the best of us are sometimes tested and found wanting largely because of the ambivalence of the mandate of police. Law is codified, made formal in various acts-the IPC, CrPC, evidence, etc. But what is order? Is there a permanent, ordained, immutable order? A preferred order? An ideal state of order? The construction of the meaning of order is exclusively the area of police expertise.

The law obligates a police officer of appropriate rank present on the scene of trouble to do everything within his legal means to prevent trouble and disperse the mob. It is a responsibility, not a privilege and powers to discharge this responsibility inhere in him; he does not enjoy it during the pleasure of somebody. Now the DGP says it was on his orders that the police force did not react. That says it all. Law must take a bow before the dictates of order


I have great respect for the thinking of my colleague and friend, Manoje Nath. We in America should pay more attention to the ideas and philosophy of criminal justice. Surely, the experiences of policing in a nation of 1.4 billion people have have some valuable lessons.

The short excerpt above does not do justice to the article. It is constructed in a carefully designed pattern, very fine writing. So, I recommend you go read the article in its entirety. In addition, I couldn’t help but notice that his remarks were published in a good number of Indian publications.

James Pilant

P.S. This may seem off the pattern of business ethics but I also teach criminal justice courses and justice is a critical element in ethical analysis.  (JP)

From around the web –

From the the Recommendations of the Malimath Committee on reforms of Criminal Justice System: (This is a very small piece of a very large set of recommendations.)

1. Need for Reforms
It is the duty of the State to protect fundamental rights of the citizens as well as the right to property. The State has constituted the criminal justice system to protect the rights of the innocent and punish the guilty. The system, devised more than a century back, has become ineffective; a large number of guilty go unpunished in a large number of cases; the system takes years to bring the guilty to justice; and has ceased to deter criminals. Crime is increasing rapidly everyday and types of crimes are proliferating.

The citizens live in constant fear. It is therefore that the Govt of India, Ministry of Home Affairs constituted the Committee on reforms of Criminal Justice System to make a comprehensive examination of all the functionaries of the Criminal Justice System, the fundamental principles and the relevant laws. The Committee, having given its utmost consideration to the grave problems facing the country, has made its recommendations in its final report, the salient features of which are given below: …

From the web site, Daily News and Analysis, from an article by Rakesh Bhatnagar.

Way back in 1604, House of Lords Judge Sir Edward Coke ruled that “the house of everyone is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence as for his repose.” There was serious concern for the privacy of a living a being as the contested and universally acceptable verdict says “The midnight knock by the police bully breaking into the peace of the citizen’s home is outrageous in law’. Agreeing with him, Justice Douglas explained that the Free State offers what a police state denies – the privacy of the home, the dignity and peace of mind of the individual.

“That precious right to be left alone is violated once the police enter our conversations,’’ the two thinking judges said as they unwittingly laid the foundation of the hope for a nation “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…”

It’s a pleasant surprise that Lord Coke’s concern was echoed recently by Indian Supreme Court judges AK Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar as they examined the significance of the Right to Information Act.

And finally from the web site, a PDF file, MEASURES FOR CRIME VICTIMS IN THE INDIAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM by Kumaravelu Chockalingam: (This is a very brief section from a 13 page paper. jp)

India derived its criminal justice system from the British model. There is a clear demarcation of the role
and powers and functions of the Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary. The judiciary is independent and there
is a free press. The penal philosophy in India has accepted the concepts of prevention of crime and treatment
and rehabilitation of criminals, which have been reiterated by many judgments of the Supreme Court.
Victims have no rights under the criminal justice system, and the state undertakes the full responsibility to
prosecute and punish the offenders by treating the victims as mere witnesses.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Justice Scalia Trivializes “Citizens United”

Please read the article below for more explanation of Justice Scalia’s statement.

Scalia would lead us to believe that the massive influx of corporate dollars allowed into the system by the Supreme Court Decision, Citizens United, will simply be neutralized by people turning off the television.

I had to take a minute to absorb the full implications of his statement, in fact, at first, I thought I had misread the article but after re-reading it, it still said the same thing.

Let me explore this, I can probably come up with a few hundred dollars to give in a campaign cycle. However, a corporation can give hundreds of millions of dollars or even billions of dollars. But it will all be “even steven” if people turn off the television sets?

Won’t the hundreds of millions of dollars also buy billboards, internet pop-ups, endless stacks of mailings and radio ads?

And since televisions watching is believed to be addicting with millions of Americans watching on average 4-6 hours a night, how likely is it that millions of them will turn off the set and go to bed? – or read a book? – or take up ceramics?

The Supreme Court Justice who helped turn the United States into one of the most oligarchic nations in the world with one decision, is trying to tell me that my concerns are trivial and there is really nothing to worry about.

No, the decision seriously damaged the prospect of a government for the people by the people. His sad attempt at trivialization is not surprising. His contempt for democracy was demonstrated by the decision making George Bush, the President of the United States.

I do not believe representative government is in anyway important to him.

That his decision making descends to such pitiful generalizations is not a sign of a Supreme Court that deserves our respect. It is a sign of a Supreme Court that no longer relies on any thing but class interest to make its decisions. It’s time for something new.

James Pilant

photograph of the justices, cropped to show Ju...

Image via Wikipedia

Justice Scalia On Unlimited Political Ads: Turn Off The TV

U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia has a simple solution for people who don’t like all the political advertisements unleashed by the court’s decision two years ago that ended limits on corporate contributions in political campaigns – change the channel or turn off the TV.

Scalia was asked about the decision during a presentation before the South Carolina Bar on Saturday, exactly two years after the court handed down the 5-4 decision in the case that led to the rise of Super PACs. They are outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidate.

“I don’t care who is doing the speech – the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

Justice Scalia On Unlimited Political Ads: Turn Off The TV

Enhanced by Zemanta

Super PACs Worry Even Republicans

The United States Supreme Court.

Image via Wikipedia


Super PAC Disclosure Requirements Hot Topic Of Conversation Among GOP Candidates

“What is happening now is what I predicted,” McCain told CBS. “The United States Supreme Court — in what I think is one of the worst decisions in history — struck down the restrictions in the so-called McCain-Feingold Law, and a lot of people don’t agree with that, but I predicted when the United States Supreme Court, with their absolute ignorance of what happens in politics, struck down that law, that there would be a flood of money into campaigns, not transparent, unaccounted for, and this is exactly what is happening.”

Super PAC Disclosure Requirements Hot Topic Of Conversation Among GOP Candidates

There is probably an advantage for many Republicans in the lack of limits of corporate campaign contribution. However, with the destruction of Newt Gringrich in the Iowa caucuses after a pummeling by a Super PAC sympathetic to Romney, there is some concern in the ranks of the party, as you can see from the article linked to above.

That we should at least know who is funding these Monster Super PACs would seem to be simple intelligence. Otherwise, we have licensed the wealthy to do advertising hit jobs on any candidate they wish with no accountability whatever. Of course, our Supreme Court composed of members whose connection with the 99% is tenuous at best, may find political hit jobs to be a legitimate form of political speech since that is one way in which corporations and the rich like to communicate.

James Pilant

Enhanced by Zemanta

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (via Gooseberry Bush)

These are my favorite lines from the post.

Wow! That’s interesting. So, apparently, Walmart has no responsibility for looking at these skewed numbers and wondering just why, exactly, that far more men than women are “qualified” to be managers. No one in their human resources department ever once questioned these statistics? Are we really saying as a country that we believe that men are innately more “qualified” to management 67% of the time? That’s not sexist. Of course not.

Those are also my thoughts. This decision is a travesty, a disaster.

Please read the article.

James Pilant

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back Two stories have made the news lately that involve women’s rights. The one step forward is Saudi Arabian women driving despite that country’s ban on women drivers. Despite the fact that there is not one civil, written law prohibiting women from driving, Saudi women who drive are jailed because of the ruling of conservative Muslim clerics. Some 40 women with int … Read More

via Gooseberry Bush