Thought of the day

I find it absolutely appropriate that Yahoo! News places its Supreme Court section under Politics.

A slice of humble pie

Cameron Ward is a civil rights lawyer in Canada. (He is also a pretty good goalie from Canada, playing for the Hurricanes. But that’s another guy.) In 2002 he was arrested on suspicion of plotting to throw a pie at the Prime Minister.

[P]olice – acting on an anonymous tip that someone was preparing to pie then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien at a nearby event – arrested Cameron Ward as he walked to work.

Ward, who did not have pie with him, was jailed for several hours, subjected to a partial strip search and had his car impounded.

He was released after Chretien’s event was over, and the prime minister — who had been pied at an East Coast event in 2000 — never did suffer a pie attack.

Ward then sued the Vancouver police for wrongful arrest. A court ruled in his favor, awarding him approximately $10,000. Vancouver then appealed the ruling, resulting in this a ruling from Canada’s Supreme Court:

The justices unanimously sided with Ward, however, although they struck down the C$100 he got for having his car impounded.

“He had a constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, which was violated in an egregious fashion,” wrote the court, ruling that the rights violation was great enough to warrant damages being paid.

This has taken 8 years to conclude. It has cost the city far more than the awarded 10 grand when the legal fees, time and energy, and embarrassment are all factored. But what could have solved the problem much, much, much more quickly? What could have saved everyone from this whole show? It turns out the answer is pretty simple. The courts and police just needed to fess up to their obvious error in judgement.

“All of this has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars needlessly because all I ever wanted was an apology,” Ward insisted.

The audacity.

Prof Mike Adams mocks CLS decision

The Supreme Court recently said a university is not required to give its student groups the same First Amendment protections a private group would receive so long as it is treating the groups equally. It’s akin to a private employer allowing its employees to form groups while putting the restriction on them that no employee may be excluded from any given group for any reason. It’s entirely reasonable.

Now a professor – Mike Adams – has a column I suspect is tongue-in-cheek.

I can’t stand atheists. And I plan to do something about them. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court has given me a powerful tool to use in my war against the godless. Earlier this week, the Court ruled that a public university may require all student organizations to admit any student as a voting member or officer. The decision applies even to a student who is openly hostile to the group’s fundamental beliefs.

It’s perplexing why Adams is focusing on atheists. The decision was based upon the Christian group suing a university. Atheists had nothing to do with it. But whatever. He’s right, students hostile to the message of a group may still join that group – provided the school has an all-comers policy. I’m not sure Adams’ university, UNC, has that policy. If it doesn’t, his whole rant doesn’t apply.

Another site that picked up on Adams has pointed out another flaw in this DIABOLICAL PLAN!

The court’s decision pointed out that student groups could still, for example, expel members who didn’t pay dues, or restrict officer positions to those who had been members for a year or more. If his “young Christian warriors” wanted to disrupt an atheist club, they’d have to sit and wait for a year, paying to promote atheism the whole time, before they’d get their chance. I doubt many Christians would be willing to do that. Or an atheist law students’ club could just forgo official recognition, exactly as the court emphasized that they could, and restrict their membership to professing nonbelievers.

The final point is the primary problem with what Adams is saying. As so many angry, bitter, legally doltish Christians seem to do, Adams is conflating what private groups must be allowed to do versus what university endorsed groups must be allowed to do. As the Supreme Court noted, a student group can forgo official recognition by the university, thus becoming just another private group, allowed to exclude a great many people. In other words, the court said universities do not have to endorse bigotry.

But Adams continues.

The Court acknowledges that such “accept all comers” policies may not in fact be desirable for maintaining robust debate on public college campuses. I concur. And I like it that way. I do not seek robust debate. I seek power over the godless heathen dissident.

The article is tongue-in-cheek and I don’t foresee Adams actually following through, but this makes sense. I mean, the arguments of atheists have long frustrated theists who are unable to give coherent responses. (And by “frustrated theists” I mean all theists who have ever bothered to think.) The only reason Christians and other theists are able to maintain any power is through sheer numbers, not rationality or reason.

But sure, Adams can go ahead and invade other groups if he really wants. He might even succeed in making sure universities do not adopt all-comers policies. But he’ll still be wrong about this Supreme Court decision. And all because he is unable to differentiate between protections for private groups under the constitution and protections for what private groups may do within their own internal structure. It’s sad and intellectually pathetic.

Jack gets it wrong again

In another bigoted tirade, Jack Hudson has said some genuinely stupid things. Specifically, he talks about the recent Supreme Court ruling against a bigoted Christian group.

It is notable that certain Christian beliefs would be contrary to the tenets of a gay advocacy group as well, and for such a group to exclude Christians who didn’t agree with the purpose would be exactly the same. Just as avowed Republicans could be excluded from a student Democrat group, or an avowed capitalist from the Young Communist League. Diversity on campus derives not from forcing every group to admit members who oppose the primary purpose of a group, but from allowing all sorts of groups to advocate on behalf of their own beliefs and interests. Forcing a Jewish organization to accept Neo-Nazi’s or a feminist group to be taken over by men is not to enhance ‘diversity’ but to subdue the messages and purposes of those groups. In the same way the policy of Hasting’s Law College abrogates the fundamental rights of CLS to express and advocate on behalf of a particular point of view – which incidentally is exactly the precedent held by previous Supreme Court rulings like Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston and Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. Both these decisions affirmed the right to association and its importance in preserving our 1st amendment rights.

This is all about making fine distinctions, something Jack and most Christians are unable to do, so I understand why he would make the mistakes he does.

This recent ruling was based upon Hasting Law school’s policy of non-discrimination. That policy said every group must allow everyone to join up if it wants funding and other school-based benefits. Jack points out that this could result in the message of any group being subdued by a bunch of individuals hostile to a particular group’s message joining up. This is true, it could. But that isn’t relevant. The Supreme Court wasn’t ruling on the effectiveness of Hasting Law’s policy, but whether it was constitutional or not.

Jack next points out that the school’s policy prevents the Christian group from expressing its views. This is blatantly false. The group can express its views all it wants, wherever it wants, for however long it wants. It just can’t get funding.

Finally, Jack points to two cases where the Supreme Court held that groups could exclude members who held contrary views. Again, with the lack of distinctions. Both of those cases dealt with private organizations. This recent case deals with forcing a public school to offer special treatment to a religious group. In other words, the conclusion of the first two cases is that the KKK can exclude black people all it wants. The conclusion of this recent case is that bigoted groups are allowed to organize, but a public institution is under no obligation to offer it funding or other benefits. But then people like Jack probably like the idea of funding bigoted, racist, or otherwise discriminatory groups because LIBERTY! LIBERTY! LIBERTY!

Supreme Court ruling on Christian group

The Supreme Court has made one of its seemingly rare decisions that isn’t a load of crap.

The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a San Francisco law school did not violate the First Amendment when it refused official recognition of a Christian student group that restricted its membership to those who shared a belief that homosexuality is immoral.

In a 5-to-4 decision, the high court said the University of California’s Hastings College of Law was under no constitutional obligation to recognize the Christian Legal Society (CLS) as an official student group.

Basically, every student group at this law school had to comply with a non-discrimination policy in order to receive any activity funds or other benefits from being an organized group. But, being arrogantly religious, the CLS group thought it ought to be exempt from this policy. One reason was to prevent those icky gays from obtaining leadership roles. Another was the forced promotion of the sexually immature position of abstaining from sex until marriage (students who didn’t adhere to that position were excluded from certain rules, possibly membership). Clearly not the brightest group.

This is a no-brainer. If a group wants funds, it needs to follow the same rules as everyone else; no special rules for religion. Don’t want to be remotely fair to someone because you’re sexually immature? Fine and dandy. But no funds.

Other analysts praised the high court decision. “Religious discrimination is wrong, and a public school should be able to take steps to eradicate it,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“Simply stated, the Christian Legal Society sought to ignore rules that every other group complied with,” he said. “The organization sought preferential treatment simply because it is religious. I am pleased that the court said no to that.”

The whole basis of the massive anti-science, anti-equality, anti-sexual maturity, anti-rationality, anti-common sense movement is the Christian religion. (Not that any religion is innocent in most of these matters.) Any steps which help to eradicate its corrosive ability is a good thing.

Supreme Court ruling on gun laws

The Supreme Court made a ruling today which orders a lower federal court to reconsider its previous ruling regarding Chicago’s ban on handguns. It’s likely that ban will fall.

I don’t so much have a problem with extending certain gun rights to more owners. My passion on the issue isn’t as strong as, say, that of kooks like John Lott, but it does bother me how the purely political right-wing justices have routinely been ruling on these issues. This is how the Second Amendment reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The spirit of the law is in the regulation of a militia, something relevant and needed in the time the amendment was written. The only way it should be applied today is insofar as there is a need for gun ownership. It can be argued that the Chicago ban on guns runs counter to a genuine need for protection, even outside the existence of a militia, but the purely political right-wing of the Supreme Court never argues that. They simply ignore the opening clause. Under their misunderstanding of both the spirit of the law and basic grammar, there should eventually be a right to keep and bear nuclear weapons for the average citizen under the constitution.

It’s often a problem that people think we ought to be beholden to the times and wishes of the framers, but in this case just the opposite is true. The purely political right-wing of the Supreme Court is ignoring the common sense of the framers while outright discarding the context of their times. The consequence of this obvious mistake may not be grave, but their argumentation is weak and embarrassing.

Supreme Court recognizes that people change

In a no-brainer, the Supreme Court has picked up on the fact that 17 year olds are likely to be different individuals when they get older.

By a 5-4 vote, the court said young people serving life prison terms must have “a meaningful opportunity to obtain release” if they haven’t killed their victims. The majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy extended the “children are different” rationale that drove his decision five years ago that outlawed the death penalty for killers under 18.

To no one’s surprise, Scalia and his puppet, Thomas, both dissented. Of course, they’re legal minds haven’t matured past the age of 11 year olds, so maybe they just aren’t aware of the obvious facts of life.

But even the average Joe can be an idiot. This is from the comment section on the Yahoo! article; I suspect it will turn out to be rather representative of the conservative criticism that will be dealt out to this piece of reason.

This is great. Once again the US Supreme Court is telling juveniles it is OK to disobey the laws of this country as long as you do it before 18.

Yes, that’s exactly it. Despite all the news reports, the quotes from the justices, and the actual written opinions, what has actually just happened is that the Supreme Court has ruled that there are no punishments for crimes committed as children. Rob a store at 17? You’re free. Snort cocaine and get busted at 16? No sweat. I mean, how else could someone possibly interpret such a heavy and complex ruling?!

Hate organization reaffirms hatred

A spokesman for Focus on the Family recently said the organization would not oppose an openly gay nominee to the Supreme Court.

“We agree with Senator Sessions,” Bruce Hausknecht, a spokesperson for Focus on the Family, which was founded by top religious right figure James Dobson, told me a few minutes ago. “The issue is not their sexual orientation. It’s whether they are a good judge or not.”

Their sexual orientation “should never come up,” he continued. “It’s not even pertinent to the equation.”

Surprise! Shock! Awe!


“It has been reported that we would not oppose any U.S. Supreme Court nominee over their ’sexual orientation.’ Our Judicial Analyst [Bruce Hausknecht] made a statement to this effect in an interview with The Plum Line. To be honest, this is one of those conversations we’d like to ‘do over.’ We can assure you that we recognize that homosexual behavior is a sin and does not reflect God’s created intent and desire for humanity. Further, we at Focus do affirm that character and moral rectitude should be key considerations in appointing members of the judiciary, especially in the case of the highest court in the land. Sexual behavior–be it heterosexual or homosexual–certainly lies at the heart of personal morality.”

And people whine about the application of the term “bigotry” to scumsacs like this?

Good Supreme Court news

Justice Stevens says he will retire during Obama’s current term.

His departure would give Obama his second nomination to the court, enabling him to ensure there would continue to be at least four liberal-leaning justices. The high court is often split 5 to 4 on major cases, with the vote of moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy often deciding which side prevails.

“I will surely do it while he’s still president,” Stevens told The Washington Post.

Hopefully Obama goes with yet another young candidate.

Justice Scalia has one of the worst legal minds in the nation

There is a case before the Supreme Court concerning Miranda rights

[Kevin] Powell was convicted of illegally possessing a firearm after telling police he bought the weapon “off the street” for $150 for his protection. Before his confession, Powell signed a Miranda statement that included the statements “You have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any of our questions. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed for you without cost and before any questioning. You have the right to use any of these rights at any time you want during this interview.”

The Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction on grounds the Tampa police didn’t adequately convey to Powell that he was allowed to have a lawyer with him during questioning.

According to the article, courts haven’t ruled too clearly on this. At the heart of the issue is that police were not clear enough in all their points. Justice Sotomayor makes the following observation.

“We’ve got a split of circuit courts and state courts on whether this reasonably conveys or not. Shouldn’t that be enough of an ambiguity for us to conclude it can’t reasonably convey, if there’s this many courts holding that it doesn’t?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.

That seems like a fair question. Clearly, Obama’s recent pick has some rationality about her.

But then there’s always that loser of a legal mind, Scalia.

Justice Scalia called Brueckheimer’s argument “angels dancing on the head of a pin.”

“You are saying, ‘Oh, if he had only known. Oh, if I knew that I could have an attorney present during the interview, well, that would have been a different kettle of fish and I would never have confessed,'” Scalia said. “I mean, doesn’t that seem to you quite fantastic?”

At issue is not whether this particular suspect would have exercised his rights or not. In fact, it is irrelevant if any suspect would have exercised such a right. The law does not turn on this crazy notion that rights are not important if people do not utilize them. Justice Scalia has just an awful, awful legal mind. I can’t recall the last time I heard him make a valid point about a case.