Black Robes Speak!: April 2008
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Monday, April 28, 2008

BREAKING News: U. S. Supreme Court Agrees With Me, Finds That Voter Identification Cards Are NOT Like Poll Taxes.

Earlier on this blog, I had taken a different view from others who suggested that voter id cards were like poll taxes. Today a splintered 6 to 3 U. S. Supreme Court has agreed with me, finding that to be the case, as the Court has approved some states' -- like Indiana -- requirements that voters show registration ID cards before casting their votes.


The Court, "in affirming the Seventh Circuit declin[ation] to judge the law by the strict standard set for poll taxes in Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections, 383 U. S. 663," found that "even handed restrictions" protecting the "integrity and reliability of the electoral process itself" provided "[v]alid neutral justifications for a nondiscriminatory law, such as SEA 483 [the subject Indiana law], [which] should not be disregarded simply because partisan interests may have provided one motivation for the votes of individual legislators."

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

A RARE UNANIMOUS U. S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Issues A Very Important Fourth Amendment Decision.

The U. S. Supreme Court has just issued a very important case in the realm of the U. S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence.

In the case of Virginia V. Moore, 06-1082 (2008), the Court held that "The police did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they made an arrest that was based on probable cause but prohibited by state law, or when they performed a search incident to the arrest."

According to the opinion by Justice Scalia found that "the Fourth Amendment was [never] intended to incorporate [state] statutes, ... [but rather] on the one hand, the degree to which it intrudes upon an individual’s privacy and, on the other, the degree to which it is needed for the promotion of legitimate governmental interests."

Finding that "an arrest based on probable cause serves interests that justify seizure", the Court went on to conclude that "While States are free to require their officers to engage in nuanced determinations of the need for arrest as a matter of their own law, the Fourth Amendment should reflect administrable bright-line rules. Incorporating state arrest rules into the Constitution would make Fourth Amendment protections as complex as the underlying state law, and variable from place to place
and time to time."

I could NOT AGREE MORE with the Court on this one.

The ONLY proper Constitutional inquiry should be whether PROBABLE CAUSE existed for the initial stop and subsequent seizure (arrest). If it did EXIST, then the search INCIDENT TO THAT ARREST MUST be CONCLUDED, as a matter of law, to be REASON able!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The United States Supreme Court, In A Plurality (7 To 2) Majority Opinion, Upholds Kentucky's (And Other States') Lethal Injection Drug Protocol.

The United States Supreme Court has issued a fractured 7 to 2 opinion in Baze Vs. Rees, 07-5439, (2008), upholding Kentucky's method of executing its prisoners by lethal injection.

The 7 justices who formed the majority, notwithstanding their differing reasons for doing so, agreed with Kentucky Supreme Court's decision, and found that "petitioners [Ralph Baze and other condemned prisoners] have not carried their burden of showing that the risk of pain from maladministration of a concededly humane lethal injection protocol, and the failure to adopt untried and untested alternatives, constitute cruel and unusual punishment."

According to the Justices, "to constitute cruel and unusual punishment, an execution
method must present a 'substantial' or 'objectively intolerable' risk of serious harm."

The fractured decision suggests that the Justices are not yet clear amongst themselves on what the standard has to be.

For instance, Justices Thomas and Scalia, who joined in the majority, found that "the plurality’s formulation of the governing standard finds no support in the original understanding of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause ... ."

Justice Breyer, another majority participant, sounds like he joined the majority because he concluded that "there cannot be found, either in the record or in the readily available literature, sufficient grounds to believe that Kentucky’s lethal injection method creates a significant risk of unnecessary suffering" -- in effect suggesting that this case is more of a failure of proof for him than anything else, and he believes that such a time may come when that proof may become available.

Justice Stevens predicts as much when he states that "instead of ending the controversy, this case will generate debate not only about the constitutionality of
the three-drug protocol, and specifically about the justification for the use of pancuronium bromide, but also about the justification for the death penalty itself."

And so it goes. Kentucky and other states can now commence with executing inmates and Kentucky will have its next execution this year, predictably.

Update 4/21: The Court has now rejected the appeals of 11 death row inmates in 7 states.

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