Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Activist judges overturn decades old handgun ban

Posted in guns, Supreme Court by allisonkilkenny on June 28, 2010

Digby makes a super logical observation while discussing today’s SCOTUS decision to overturn a decades old handgun ban, which is that this ruling is obviously the work of pro-gun zealots.

Of course, this plainly obvious truth is obscured by a media that refuses to call right-wing legislating “activism,” but consistently labels center-to-left-wing judges and nominees as radical extremists, who should be feared and condemned.

I missed the Kagan hearings this morning, but from what I’m gathering it was pretty much a high tech lynching of Justice Thurgood Marshall. Seriously. Evidently, he was one of those “activist” judges (and a community organizer too, I’m sure)and I think we all know what he was agitating for, don’t we?

Meanwhile, she is an “out of the mainstream” elitist, weirdo (lesbian, NY Jew) who worked for a you-know-what and liked it. Ever since Beauregard Sessions ascended to the ranking Republican position on the Judiciary Committee whatever uhm … subtlety the Republican strategy once had has evaporated into crude dogwhistling.

Right. See, Marshall was a lunatic leftist extremist, but Scalia and Thomas are ideologically consistent.

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SCOTUS and Obama broadly define ‘material support’ of ‘terrorist organizations’

Posted in Barack Obama, Supreme Court, terrorism, United States, war crimes by allisonkilkenny on June 26, 2010

Jesus, take the wheel. SCOTUS recently handed down a decision — reenforcing an Obama administration policy — that is so dumb it rivals John Roberts’s “what is this ’email’ you speak of?” moment of shame.

The court, and Obama, broadly defined “material support” of so-called terrorist organizations.

While the relevant statute defines “material support” to include a long list of items that are clearly connected to the violent activities of terrorists, it also includes more ambiguous terms such as “any…service,…training, expert advice or assistance.”

Basically, this decision means peacekeepers like Jimmy Carter could be accused of offering “material support,” meaning any service, which could include counsel or mediation, to groups like the democratically elected Hamas.

Also, notice the term “terrorist group” is a completely arbitrary label. Hamas, though they came to power in a democratic election, is a terrorist group, while Israel, which receives billions of dollars in aid from the US, and uses illegal weapons like white phosphorous against a civilian population, and continues to exercise collective punishment unabated by western bystanders, is an “important ally.”

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US Supreme Court Says Passenger Can Be Frisked

Posted in police state, politics, privacy, Supreme Court by allisonkilkenny on January 26, 2009

Newsday

police-brutalityWASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers have leeway to frisk a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic violation even if nothing indicates the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so.

The court unanimously overruled an Arizona appeals court that threw out evidence found during such an encounter.

The case involved a 2002 pat-down search of an Eloy, Ariz., man by an Oro Valley police officer, who found a gun and marijuana.

The justices accepted Arizona’s argument that traffic stops are inherently dangerous for police and that pat-downs are permissible when an officer has a reasonable suspicion that the passenger may be armed and dangerous.

The pat-down is allowed if the police “harbor reasonable suspicion that a person subjected to the frisk is armed, and therefore dangerous to the safety of the police and public,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

  

The case is Arizona v. Johnson, 07-1122.


Uphold the Voting Rights Act

Posted in civil rights, politics, racism, Supreme Court, voter disenfranchisement by allisonkilkenny on January 25, 2009

New York Times

m319-150bSome people claim that Barack Obama’s election has ushered in a “postracial” America, but the truth is that race, and racial discrimination, are still very much with us. The Supreme Court should keep this reality in mind when it considers a challenge to an important part of the Voting Rights Act that it recently agreed to hear. The act is constitutional — and clearly still needed.

Section 5, often called the heart of the Voting Rights Act, requires some states and smaller jurisdictions to “preclear” new voting rules with the Justice Department or a federal court. When they do, they have to show that the proposed change does not have the purpose or effect of discriminating against minority voters.

When Congress enacted Section 5 in 1965, officials in the South were creating all kinds of rules to stop blacks from voting or being elected to office. Discrimination against minority voters may not be as blatant as it was then, but it still exists. District lines are drawn to prevent minorities from winning; polling places are located in places hard for minority voters to get to; voter ID requirements are imposed with the purpose of suppressing the minority vote.

After holding lengthy hearings to document why the Voting Rights Act was still needed, Congress reauthorized it in 2006 with votes of 98 to 0 in the Senate and 390 to 33 in the House. Now, a municipal utility district in Texas that is covered by Section 5 is arguing that it is unconstitutional, and that it imposes too many burdens on jurisdictions covered by it.

If the Supreme Court — which is expected to hear arguments in the case this spring — strikes down Section 5, it would be breaking radically with its own precedents. The court has repeatedly upheld the Voting Rights Act against challenges, and as recently as 2006 it ruled that complying with Section 5 is a compelling state interest. It would also be an extreme case of conservative judicial activism, since the 14th and 15th Amendments expressly authorize Congress to enact laws of this sort to prevent discrimination in voting.

A perennial criticism of Section 5 is that it covers jurisdictions it should not, or fails to cover ones it should. There is no way to construct a perfect list, but Congress has done a reasonable job of drawing up the criteria, and it has built flexibility into the act. Jurisdictions are allowed to “bail out” if they can show that they no longer need to be covered, and courts can add new jurisdictions if they need to be covered.

In last fall’s election, despite his strong national margin of victory — and hefty campaign chest — Mr. Obama got only about one in five white votes in the Southern states wholly or partly covered by Section 5. And there is every reason to believe that minority voters will continue to face obstacles at the polls.

If Section 5 is struck down, states and localities would have far more freedom to erect barriers for minority voters — and there is little doubt that some would do just that. We have not arrived at the day when special protections like the Voting Rights Act are not needed.

Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Voting Rights Act

Posted in Barack Obama, politics, racism, Supreme Court, voter disenfranchisement by allisonkilkenny on January 11, 2009

Note from Allison: Great news, everyone! Racism is OVER!

USA Today

mlkThe Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear a challenge to the landmark 1965 voting rights act, paving the way for a major decision this term on federal power to oversee state election laws.

In the backdrop is the recent election of Barack Obama and the question of whether America still needs an expansive law protecting against discrimination in voting now that a black man has won the presidency.

A decision in the case from Texas, to be heard in April, could impact the U.S. government’s authority to ensure that racial minorities — who were subjected to literacy tests and other devices to keep them from the polls for most of the 20th Century — continue to have as much of a chance as whites to elect candidates of their choice.

In dispute is the 2006 renewal of the Voting Rights Act, which Congress passed overwhelmingly and President Bush signed.

Richard Hasen, an election-law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the dispute “has the potential to be the most important election case since Bush v. Gore.” That 2000 decision cut off Florida ballot recounts and ensured Bush the White House.

“The court has repeatedly upheld the constitutionality (of the disputed provision),” Hasen noted. “The question is whether the role of race in American politics has so changed in the last decade or two that remedies that were once constitutional are now considered impingements on state sovereignty.”

A Texas utility district says the provision known as Section 5, which gives the U.S. government authority to oversee state electoral-law changes, is no longer needed and is unconstitutional. The utility district uses the election of the first black president as evidence.

“The America that has elected Barack Obama as its first African-American president is far different than when Section 5 was first enacted in 1965,” say lawyers for the utility district.

Section 5 covers nine states and several counties and municipalities where, as Justice Department lawyers note, race discrimination “has been most flagrant.” Texas utility district lawyer Gregory Coleman says the continued use of that section attaches a “badge of shame … based on old data” and should be lifted.

Civil rights activists, backing the Justice Department’s defense of the renewed Voting Rights Act, have stressed that parts of the nation continue to vote along racial lines and argue that the law that opened the door to widespread black voting four decades ago is still needed.

“Obama’s election reflects an enormous advancement in race relations in the United States,” says Laughlin McDonald of the American Civil Liberties Union. “But voting, particularly in the southern states covered by the oversight provision, remains significantly polarized along racial lines.”

Exit polls from the Nov. 4 presidential election showed that whites in many southern states heavily favored John McCain to Obama. In Texas, 73% of whites favored McCain; in Georgia, 76%, and in Alabama, 88%. Nationally, the percentage of whites for McCain was 55%, exit poll data show.

Last May, a special lower court unanimously upheld the provision. U.S. Appeals Court Judge David Tatel wrote, “(G)iven the extensive legislative record documenting contemporary racial discrimination in voting in covered jurisdictions, Congress’s decision to extend Section 5 for another twenty-five years was rational and therefore constitutional.”

States covered by jurisdictions cannot make any changes to their electoral laws without getting approval from the Department of Justice or a federal district court in Washington. The requirement is designed to ensure that a local government does not draw new voting-district boundaries or enact rules that would dilute the votes of blacks or other minorities.

The law passed the Senate unanimously and the House by 390-33 in 2006.

U.S. Solicitor General Gregory Garre had emphasized in his filing to the court all the evidence Congress reviewed when it reauthorized the law, including “several instances of minority voters’ being threatened with arrest or prosecution for voting.” He said that significant gaps in registration rates between minorities and white citizens continue to exist and that the threat of Section 5 is a significant deterrent in states and municipalities where white majorities might want to adopt electoral plans that dilute the power of black voters.

The utility district, which conducts elections to select its board of directors, says its policies should not be subject to regular DOJ review. Coleman says federal law has sufficient protections for any voter racial bias that occurs.

The case is Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Mukasey.

Amnesty International Decries U.S. Supreme Court Decision to Deny Troy Davis Petition

Posted in racism, Supreme Court by allisonkilkenny on October 14, 2008

Amnesty International Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, October 14, 2008        

Amnesty International Decries U.S. Supreme Court Decision
to Deny Troy Davis Petition
—-
Failure to Consider the Evidence Is “Shocking,” Says Human Rights Organization

Contact:  Wende Gozan at (212) 633-4247 or Jared Feuer at (404) 876-5561 x14

(Washington, D.C.) –Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) decried today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to deny a new hearing for Georgia death-row inmate Troy Anthony Davis.  The Court had granted Davis a stay of execution just hours before he was scheduled to be put to death while it decided whether to hear the case.  In denying Davis’ petition for a writ of certiorari, the Court has effectively ended a longstanding battle to have new evidence in Davis’ favor heard in a court of law.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is truly shocking, given that significant evidence of Davis’ innocence will never have a chance to be examined,” said Larry Cox, executive director for AIUSA.  “Faulty eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions, and the hallmark of Davis’ case.  This was an opportunity for the Court to clarify the constitutionality of putting the innocent to death – and in Davis’ case, his innocence could only be determined with a new hearing or trial.”

“It is disgraceful that the highest court in the land could sink so low when doubts surrounding Davis’ guilt are so high,” Cox added.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Davis’ petition for writ of certiorari that was submitted on constitutional grounds of due process and cruel and unusual punishment violations if an individual is put to death despite significant claims to innocence.   Davis’ attorneys filed the petition after the Georgia Supreme Court’s narrow 4-3 ruling to deny Davis an evidentiary hearing last March; the ruling was based on technicalities rather than basic questions of guilt and innocence.

Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing Savannah police officer Mark Allen MacPhail.  Authorities failed to produce a murder weapon or any physical evidence tying Davis to the crime.  In addition, seven of the nine original state witnesses have since recanted or changed their initial testimonies in sworn affidavits.  One of the remaining witnesses is alleged to be the actual perpetrator.

Since the launch of its February 2007 report, Where Is the Justice for Me? The Case of Troy Davis, Facing Execution in Georgia, Amnesty International has campaigned intensively for a new evidentiary hearing or trial and clemency for Davis, collecting well over 200,000 clemency petition signatures and letters from across the United States and around the world.  To date, internationally known figures such as Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter have all joined the call for clemency, as well as lawmakers from within and outside of Georgia.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers who campaign for universal human rights from more than 150 countries. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

# # #

For more information about the Troy Davis case, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org/troydavis.

Our Civilized Murders

Posted in racism, Supreme Court by allisonkilkenny on September 24, 2008

Two hours before Troy Davis was scheduled to die, the U.S. Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution.

Davis is an African-American man, who was convicted of the 1989 killing of a white police officer, Mark Allen McPhail. However, since his conviction, seven of the nine witnesses to the crime have recanted their testimonies, and now claim they were intimidated into making their initial statements against Davis.

There is no physical evidence tying Davis to the scene. There is no murder weapon. Three witnesses now claim they overheard another man confessing to the crime.

The whole case stinks of fraud, deception, and racism. Martina Correia, Davis’s sister, claimed in an interview that the Georgia parole board is the only entity, non-judicial, that’s able to act in secrecy. There are no transcripts. There are no recordings. There is no media presence.

So, people in the world were not able to hear the witnesses come forward one by one and talk about how they were fifteen and sixteen years old, and guns were put in front of them in interrogation rooms, and they were told that, you know, not only that Troy killed the police officer or they had something to do with it, and, you know, how the prosecutor would tell people that if you change your story, I will charge you with perjury. And it’s amazing that the parole board can sit and listen to that over and over, witness after witness, and still ignore it.

Correia believes the Davis case is being handled by the state of Georgia under a shroud of secrecy because the state has already experienced a string of embarrassing death row exonerations.

If they expose it, then you would have another exoneration yet from the same county. In that county, there’s been two out of the five death row exonerations for the state under the same prosecutor (Spencer Lawton,) who’s run unopposed for almost thirty years.

Diverse voices such as President Jimmy Carter, Congress member John Lewis, and the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu have all called for a Davis retrial. Many advocates have condemned the Georgia death penalty system, where the average odds of receiving a death sentence among all indicted cases were 4.3 times higher in cases with white victims, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

This is yet another opportunity for the U.S. court system and the American people to reexamine the archaic system of institutionalized murder.

In the last 35 years, 129 innocent people have been released from death row. Five of the exonerees are from Georgia.

Sometimes cases are tainted by police misconduct. Other times, important evidence is withheld from the court. Eye-witness testimony, which has sent many prisoners to the death chamber, has proven itself to be prodigiously unreliable. More than 75 percent of the 205 people exonerated by post-conviction DNA evidence in the United States were imprisoned because of mistaken eyewitness identification.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s justices are scheduled to meet Monday. It is then that they will decide whether to hear Davis’ appeal and they will become witness to the incredible racism and corruption that has been a trademark of the U.S. law system.

In the lone dissenting opinion, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears wrote: “If recantation testimony, either alone or supported by other evidence, shows convincingly that prior trial testimony was false, it simply defies all logic and morality to hold that it must be disregarded categorically.”

But the entire death penalty system inherently “defies logic and morality.”

The death penalty was originally created to preserve a system of rewards and punishments. Good behavior guaranteed individuals their freedom, while bad behavior garnered the severest of punishments — death.

Except, this “perfect system” harbors corrupting variables: tainted or lack of evidence and human error and prejudice. The risks are too great to claim that the death penalty is a necessary crime deterrent. If just one innocent prisoner is executed, then the entire “cleansing system” comes crumbling down.

Countries where the death penalty is still legal include Iran, North Korea, and Iraq, the very same countries over which the U.S. claims moral superiority.

The U.S. cannot masquerade as a shining beacon of civility when we execute our own citizens, some of whom are later exonerated of any wrong-doing.

The Return of Habeas Corpus!

Posted in Supreme Court by allisonkilkenny on June 14, 2008

I am so very, very happy about this ruling. Here are some of the most informative articles I’ve found concerning it:

  • Newsweek: What Next at Gitmo? — An interview with Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer who coordinated over 20 amicus briefs for this case, about the effects this decision will have.
  • Time: What the Gitmo Ruling Means — Summarizes the main points made by both the majority and minority opinions of the Court, particularly the objections of Roberts and Scalia.

Full text of the Supreme Court decision and opinions

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[If anybody finds a graphic with Supreme Court justices dancing, Lady Liberty crashing a party, or habeas corpus returning, zombie-like, from the dead … those are what I imagine as appropriate pics for this news. :^D]

Court-sanctioned voter suppression in Indiana

Posted in Supreme Court by allisonkilkenny on May 7, 2008

Thanks to Sarah Lane at EENR for supplying the links in this entry.


When the Supreme (Kangaroo) Court upheld an unconstitutional poll tax last week that was passed in the form of a voter suppression law in Indiana, some people (like Injustice Antonin Scalia) were quick to dismiss the horrendous effects. But as that state held its primary yesterday, reports about voters being turned away because they did not have the poll tax began coming out.

Twelve elderly nuns–NUNS, for crying out loud–were told they could not vote because they didn’t have the required state or federal ID card. They are all in their eighties and nineties. Vietnam and Gulf War I veteran Russell Baughman was denied his right to vote, because his identification wasn’t considered good enough.

People unable to obtain the draconian Indiana poll tax ID–nuns, veterans, the disabled, students, and poor folk–are being denied their right to vote. Denied because they cannot meet the requirements to obtain state-issued identification. Bradblog reports that in order to obtain the necessary items to get a state-issued identification card (a state-issued copy of one’s birth certificate), a state-issued identification card is needed. It’s a vicious and ultimately dangerous catch-22, making it impossible for the disenfranchised to meet the poll tax requirement. Bradblog also reports that at least 43,000 Indiana residents have been prevented from exercising their right to vote in this fashion.

This is what the Supremes upheld, ladies and gentlemen. Twenty states, including Ohio, have mandatory ID laws designed to suppress the votes of minorities, the elderly, students, veterans, and the poor (an economic situation that affects all the other categories of disenfranchised to one degree or another). Although the Buckeye State was able to counter this in part by allowing fewer restrictions on absentee voting, others–including Indiana–enjoy no such protections. This is what America has come to: another banana republic, another dictatorship, that suppresses the rights of its citizens and engages in sham elections.

Supreme Court says states can demand photo ID for voting

Posted in Supreme Court by allisonkilkenny on April 28, 2008

So here’s the deal, in every national election, there are a handful of people who try to illegally vote. However, this law will disenfranchise WAY more voters than the number of people that try to illegally vote every four years. This law will affect elderly people, who are usually black or hispanic that have never had the need to possess a picture ID because they don’t drive, and they stay close to their homes.

Basically, this law will keep a few hundred people from illegally voting, but it will disenfranchise THOUSANDS of legal residents, who have every right to vote, but who do not have a picture ID.

By MARK SHERMAN – 3 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — States can require voters to produce photo identification, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, upholding a Republican-inspired law that Democrats say will keep some poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots.

Twenty-five states require some form of ID, and the court’s 6-3 decision rejecting a challenge to Indiana’s strict voter ID law could encourage others to adopt their own measures. Oklahoma legislators said the decision should help them get a version approved.

The ruling means the ID requirement will be in effect for next week’s presidential primary in Indiana, where a significant number of new voters are expected to turn out for the Democratic contest between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

The results could say something about the effect of the law, either because a large number of voters will lack identification and be forced to cast provisional ballots or because the number turns out to be small.

Supporters of the law say it’s all about preventing fraud.

Indiana has a “valid interest in protecting ‘the integrity and reliability of the electoral process,'” said Justice John Paul Stevens in an opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Stevens said that Indiana’s desire to prevent fraud and to inspire voter confidence in the election system are important even though there have been no reports of the kind of fraud the law was designed to combat. Evidence of voters being inconvenienced by the law’s requirements also is scant. For the overwhelming majority of voters, an Indiana driver’s license serves as the identification.

The law does not apply to absentee balloting, where election experts agree the threat of fraud is higher.

The Indiana law was passed in 2005. Democrats and civil rights groups opposed it as unconstitutional and called it a thinly veiled effort to discourage groups of voters who tend to prefer Democrats.

It was in effect during the 2006 elections when Democrats picked up three congressional seats in Indiana and won control of the state House of Representatives.

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed with the outcome Monday, but wrote separately in favor of a broader defense of voter ID laws.

“The universally applicable requirements of Indiana’s voter-identification law are eminently reasonable. The burden of acquiring, possessing and showing a free photo identification is simply not severe, because it does not ‘even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting,'” Scalia said.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented.

Indiana’s voter ID law “threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting rights of tens of thousands of the state’s citizens,” Souter said.

The targets of the law, he said, are “voters who are poor and old.”

Yet Stevens wrote that the law does not single out groups of voters for different treatment. “We cannot conclude that the statute imposes ‘excessively burdensome requirements’ on any class of voters,” he said. That opinion suggested the outcome could be different in a state where voters could provide evidence that their rights had been impaired.

Indiana provides IDs free of charge to people without driver’s licenses. It also allows voters who lack photo ID’s to cast a provisional ballot and then show up within 10 days at their county courthouse to produce identification or otherwise attest to their identity.

Stevens said these provisions also help reduce the burden on people who lack driver’s licenses.

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a Republican, praised the decision. “This says to the voter you can have confidence again in the elections because we’re doing some of the things the guy at the video store does when you go and rent a video,” Rokita said.

Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said the court was willing to burden “tens of thousands of eligible voters who lack a government-issued identification while accepting at face value Indiana’s unsubstantiated claim of voter fraud.” The ACLU brought the case on behalf of Indiana voters.

The proliferation of voter ID laws followed the enactment in 2002 of the federal Help America Vote Act. The law was designed in response to the disputed 2000 presidential election. The law’s voter ID provisions apply to first-time voters and do not mandate photo identification.

Many Democrats criticized the ruling Monday. It places “an unnecessary burden on elderly and low-income voters, not to mention other voters of disparate racial and ethnic backgrounds,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Mary Wilson, president of the League of Women Voters, said her group has never found a problem with in-person voter fraud. “We’d be the first ones out there to prevent voter fraud, if there really was a problem,” she said.

Several critics pointed to a footnote in Stevens’ opinion to show how far back he went — 140 years — to describe the corrosive effects of widespread fraud at polling places, a reference to Boss Tweed’s influence in New York’s municipal elections in 1868.

Republicans, meanwhile, praised the decision for recognizing the threat of voter fraud. “Today’s ruling rightfully allows states to safeguard against such destructive abuse,” said House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio.

In Oklahoma, Republican legislators said the ruling should help them pass a less-stringent voter ID bill. The Oklahoma House has approved legislation to require voters to present some form of identification — including a utility bill or bank statement. The measure faces a final vote by the state Senate.

Monday’s case was the court’s first significant foray into election law since the Bush v. Gore dispute that sealed the 2000 election for George W. Bush. The voter ID ruling, with no majority opinion and four of the nine justices writing, lacked the conservative-liberal split that marked the 2000 case.

The consolidated cases are Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 07-21, and Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita, 07-25.