And the Winner is . . . Equality for All!!!

Now that the Supreme Court has spoken on the issue of “same sex marriage”, hopefully the furor over this can now end. This issue has clearly illustrated the divide both on the court itself and in the two major political parties. The dissenters on the Supreme Court spoke about “human dignity” and that the government cannot give it or take it away. What nonsense! How can one state say same sex marriage is legal in their state, and a neighboring state prohibits it? Does this not take away human dignity by governmental action or inaction? If someone is convicted of a crime and imprisoned, does not the government act to take away the criminal’s dignity?

With millions of people affected by this case, it is gratifying that the rule of law has triumphed over religion. One can believe whatever they want, and they are free to do so. Their interpretation of the Bible cannot and should not be used as a prohibition to those who do not feel the same way. To usurp a person’s freedom because their beliefs do not coincide with yours is simply wrong. While we are on the subject of the Bible, does it not say that God is the ultimate judge? If this is the case, then let God be the judge, not your interpretation.

This decision will provide ample basis to show the differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. The Republicans are a faith-based, evangelical party now. It will not be surprising if no Republican candidate will embrace this decision. No doubt this will be a new version of the Mitt Romney comment of 47% like him, 47% of the electorate hate him and the remaining 6% will decide the election. In this case, a perpetuation of the 6% going away from the Republicans is a virtual lock. The real question then becomes, can the Republicans do anything to get back a majority of the electorate and win the Presidential election? The Supreme Court decision was on a 5-4 vote. The conservative wing of the Court was in lock step against the gay marriage case. This was hardly surprising. I find it amazing how judges can condone any type of discrimination. The Court has held that marriage is a fundamental right. Then how can you attempt to foreclose access to this right because of a religious interpretation?

Did the court get it right? Wrong? Indifferent? Many of the landmark cases in our system were decided on slim margins of victory for one side. Over time, this case should fall back into history with the question of “what is the big hub bub?”

What say you, the court of public opinion?

Supreme Court: States Must License Same-Sex Marriage

Today, the Court came out on a special day to give a historic opinion on same-sex marriage.  Normally, the Court only gives opinions on Monday and Thursday at the end of the Supreme Court session.  The Court acted different today due to the momentous nature of this opinion.  The Supreme Court said today that all states throughout the country must issue a license to marry to same-sex couples and all states must recognize valid marriage licenses for same-sex couples issued by other states.  This decision is a full and final validation of the right of homosexual couples to marry throughout the United States.

The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges stated that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees marriage rights for same-sex couples through two different legal theories.  First, the Court said that since marriage is a fundamental liberty that must be extended to “certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs.”  In other words, the Court could no longer see a reason to deny a gay person the right to marry the person s/he loved.

In addition, the Court found that banning same-sex marriage is a violation of 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause.  The Court said that to continue to deny marriage to same-sex couples while allowing it for opposite-sex couples only “serves to disrespect and subordinate [homosexuals].”  By saying that same-sex marriage is covered under the Equal Protection Clause the Court has said that homosexuals are a protected class and they ensured that encroachment on their right to marry will get the strictest scrutiny.

The Court’s decision today represents a dramatic shift in the Court’s attitude towards homosexuality.  This shift is as dramatic as the shift in public opinion over the same period.  In 1986, while the country was still in the midst of calling AIDS the “gay plague” and President Reagan would not even speak about the disease, the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick.  In Bowers, the Supreme Court ruled that laws against sodomy were still constitutional.

Nearly 20 years later, the Supreme Court had an opportunity to review its decision in Bowers in Lawrence v. TXs in 2003.  A lot of time had passed since Bowers and the country was changing in the way we saw homosexuals.  There were prominent gay characters on television in the show Will & Grace and Ellen along with more and more open discussion about what it meant to be homosexual.  The Court reflected this change when it ruled that laws against sodomy were as unconstitutional as laws against condoms.  The Court said once for all that government has no place in the bedroom.

The Court continued to evolve towards justice on this issue as we have seen in the past three years.  In 2013, two major marriage opinions came from the Supreme Court with Perry v. Hollingsworth and Windsor v. United States.  In Perry, the Court determined for a variety of reasons that an initiative in California banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.  This decision was further bolstered by Windsor where the Court found that the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act violated the constitution when it prevented same-sex marriages from being recognized in states other than ones that issued the marriage license.

Those two cases prefaced the dramatic opinion that came out today.  Our society will look back at today as historic as some of the other major Court Opinions in the area of civil rights, such as Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia and Roe v. Wade.  The Court has joined, society at the place where differences in sexual identity are up to the individual and not the state.

Government: The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same?!

It has been said that one who does not understand history is bound to repeat the mistakes previously done. This is the current situation awaiting us now.

The president has made mention that the US need to send in “advisors” and “trainers” to assist the Iraqi Army. Doe s this have a familiar sound of Vietnam? The US in that conflict used the same categories prior to its full militarization in that country. This comes as a rather surprising development given the fact that the president had indicated that he was in favor of withdrawing all US troops out of the country on a permanent basis. Is that a realization of a failed US policy, is it a realization that the Iraqi army is incapable of securing their own country? Should we fight ISIS now or in the future? Are the Iraqis willing to let the representatives of the ‘Great Satan” (the USA) spill their blood and money to defeat ISIS? How much of threat is ISIS to the USA and its allies? Is the current policy that the USA has reminiscent of the containment policy that the USA had toward the USSR and Communism in general in the 1950’s and 60’s?

In Los Angeles, the Chief of Police has lost tremendous credibility in the death of the recent shooting and killing of an unarmed black male. The Chief (to no one’s surprise) found the shooting within LAPD policy. In an unusual move, the Los Angeles Police Commission found the shooting and the actions of the officer were outside of LAPD policy. How then is the public (and in particular the Black and Latino communities) supposed to believe anything that Chief Beck has to say? The hot potato political decision to charge the officers or not now will rest with the Los Angeles District Attorneys office. However, the DA must be careful to keep any potential trial in LA County. Remember the Rodney King trial that was transferred to police officer loving Ventura County?

This is the illustration of the ancient Chinese curse, may you live in interesting times!

What say you?

The Slimy Side of Criminal Law: Prosecutors & Lies

 

The press has been filled in the past year with infamous examples of police misconduct whether we are to talk about the deaths Freddie Gray, Michael Brown or of Los Angeles resident Ezell Ford in August 2014.  But what if a court found deep-seated corruption within an entire County Prosecutor’s Office . . . is not that something that the public should be discussing?  What does learning that a District Attorney’s Office and the police who support it have been systematically depriving thousands of defendants of their Constitutional rights say about our society?

Well now we need to answer that question because in March of this year, Orange County Judge Timothy Goethals disqualified District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and all 250 Assistant District Attorneys in Orange County from prosecuting a murder trial.  The newest allegations of corruption began on October 12, 2011 when Scott Dekraai killed 8 people at a beauty salon in Seal Beach, committing the worst mass-murder in Orange County history.  This should have been an easy case – there were over a dozen eyewitnesses that identified Dekraai, he was found a few blocks from the scene of the crime in Kevlar and other body armor and he admitted to committing the shooting.  Yet Judge Goethals has learned that over the course of the discovery in this case that county prosecutors and Sheriff’s deputies placed Dekraai in a cell with an informant in order to elicit an illegal confession.

Judge Goethals learned through the course of his investigation into these allegations, that the Orange County Sheriff’s Department has maintained system of computerized records of in-custody defendants (known as “TRED”).  TRED has allowed Sheriff’s deputies in coordination with the County District Attorney’s office to place high-value, in-custody defendants with informants in order to have the informant obtain an illegal confession from the defendant.  In addition, the county prosecutors have failed to provide exculpatory evidence (evidence that tends to prove that the defendant is innocent) to the Defendant and the Court in dozens, possibly hundreds or thousands of cases.  In California, the law requires that the prosecution turn over this evidence to the defendant.

The Orange County District Attorney’s office and Sheriff’s Department’s may have been conducting these illegal acts for decades as the “TRED” system has been in place since the late 1980’s. The potential magnitude of the corruption in the Orange County DA’s office is staggering.  The violations committed by the District Attorney could lead to the release of dozens of high-profile defendants, such as the murderer of 8-month pregnant Jeanette Espeleta.  Even more worrying though is that the conduct of the County prosecutors may lead to mass disbarment of the attorneys in that office, which could leave Orange County without a functioning District Attorney’s Office.

The evidence against Orange County District Attorney’s Office continues to mount.  At the moment, California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris is appealing Judge Goethals’ disqualification of all of Orange County’s prosecutors. To date, the California State government and the Feds have not begun investigating the allegations about the DA’s Office.  We should expect some continuing dramatic developments though as Criminal Defense Attorneys begin to tear into the truth about these allegations and try to get their clients released from jail.

Yet before then should not we as a society (whether we live in Orange County, CA or not) begin to look into the criminal justice system in America?  Cleveland, Ohio has recently been the subject of a major U.S. Justice Department investigation for how its police treats African-American suspects.  The US DOJ found that Cleveland’s police regularly brutalized suspects.  With this scandal in Orange County, we have another example of systematic abuse of people by the criminal justice system.  Perhaps, it is time we as a country reexamine whether the criminal justice system that we have put in place is doing its job well?

What do you think?

Gay Marriage – Should Judges Interpret The law or Superimpose “God’s Law” ?

It has recently come to attention that the Chief Justice of the “enlightened” State of Alabama Supreme Court has issued orders not to allow same sex marriages in his state.

His reason for this? In his opinion, same sex marriages violate “God’s law”.

Before the question posed above can be responded to, it must be ascertained, what is the function of the judiciary? As we all know, our government is a system of checks and balances. In this case, no other branch of government has operated to act upon or interpret “God’s law.” Should the people of the state have the power to draft and approve laws that may or may not be in accord with “God’s law”? What is “God’s law”? Who get to interpret God’s law? What is their remedy if there is a difference of opinion as the interpretation of God’s law?

It makes no sense to have one person act as judge, jury and executioner for any issue attention the public at large.  Yet, this is what this jurist is doing. He is acting as an arm of the state and superimposing his view of the world on all persons in the State. This goes against democracy. If the people wish to have this interpretation on this issue, let them vote on it or pass laws through the legislature. Then the courts may be called upon to interpret the law. To allow this nonsensical course of action to stand makes a mockery of our entire system of government. The Chief Justice is a public servant. By definition, his job is to serve the public, not dictate his views of what he thinks society (and the Bible) means and/or needs.

Our system works best when all three branches or government work the way they were designed to. When one oversteps it boundaries, the entire system suffers.  One person should not be able to dictate policy for an entire society, unless we have a dictatorship. This system of government does not exist in the State of Alabama, or anywhere else in America. The secondary question is should it?

What say you?? 

 

This is part two of our first post on the subject: