Category: Court Decisions

On Being Primed For Worse

| November 25, 2014 | Reply
On Being Primed For Worse

Haven’t we been gearing up for some kind of O.K. Corral showdown pretty much since the announcement that there would be a grand jury? Haven’t we been gearing up for some kind of O.K. Corral showdown pretty much since the announcement that there would be a grand jury? Sure looked like we expected what we got. [More . . . ]

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Chris Hedges on the NDAA

| May 29, 2014 | 1 Reply

From Truthdig:

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to refuse to hear our case concerning Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which permits the military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers without due process, means that this provision will continue to be law. It means the nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power—one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights. It means that the consent of the governed—a poll by OpenCongress.com showed that this provision had a 98 percent disapproval rating—is a cruel joke. And it means that if we do not rapidly build militant mass movements to overthrow corporate tyranny, including breaking the back of the two-party duopoly that is the mask of corporate power, we will lose our liberty.

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Retired Justice Stevens: Add five words to the Second Amendment

| April 12, 2014 | 1 Reply

In recent years, court decisions concerning the Second Amendment have lost any attachment to the “militia,” making the mention of “militia” in the amendment superfluous. Justice Stevens, who retired from the United States Supreme Court in 2010 recommends that we reestablish that connection by adding five words to the Amendment:

As a result of the rulings in Heller and McDonald, the Second Amendment, which was adopted to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were “well regulated,” has given federal judges the ultimate power to determine the validity of state regulations of both civilian and militia-related uses of arms. That anomalous result can be avoided by adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment to make it unambiguously conform to the original intent of its draftsmen. As so amended, it would read:

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

Emotional claims that the right to possess deadly weapons is so important that it is protected by the federal Constitution distort intelligent debate about the wisdom of particular aspects of proposed legislation designed to minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands. Those emotional arguments would be nullified by the adoption of my proposed amendment. The amendment certainly would not silence the powerful voice of the gun lobby; it would merely eliminate its ability to advance one mistaken argument.

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Formula for Predicting case outcomes at the United States Supreme Court

| April 8, 2014 | 1 Reply

At Truthout, Mike Lofgren concludes that the formula for predicting future case outcomes of the United States Supreme Court is simple and that references to the Constitution are merely smokescreen. Roberts is well aware of this bait and switch: “Roberts is wise enough to know that and is wise enough to conceal his hand with occasional strategic references to the free speech or free exercise clauses in the First Amendment.” Instead of really upholding constitutional rights, the Roberts court Lofgren states that the cases are results oriented; they are about upholding the superior political privileges of rich interests in society. The unspoken basis is “freedom of contract notion (without government restrictions), from which many subsequent pro-corporation decisions have flowed, the court’s majority was basing its decision on economic ideology rather than constitutional interpretation.”

The Court’s recent ultra-narrow definition of “corruption” is a case in point. [More . . . ]

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Colorado Supreme Court agrees to hear case involving paraplegic man who was fired for using medical marijuana.

| January 29, 2014 | Reply

There is some good news for Brandon Coats. He is a paraplegic man who had excellent job reviews as a customer service at DISH Network in Denver. He was a properly registered user of medical marijuana, which provided relief from the considerable pain he suffered. His employer fired him following a random drug testing, finding THC in his blood. He never used marijuana on the job and he was never under the influence on the job. Colorado attorney Michael Evans has represented Brandon Coats throughout this litigation. John Campbell and I (of Campbell Law, LLC) assisted Mr. Evans in the drafting the Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Colorado Supreme Court. Two days ago, we were happy to learn that the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear this case. We will be assisting with writing the brief in the coming weeks.  Here is the Colorado Supreme Court’s  January 27, 2014 ruling.

In our Petition, we had asserted:

After prolonged treatment with various conventional, prescribed medications failed, a licensed Colorado physician recommended that Mr. Coats medically use marijuana. Mr. Coats registered and received state-approval for medical marijuana use. Thereafter, he used marijuana only in the privacy of his own home and after working hours, in compliance with Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14. . . . Despite satisfactory job performance, an absence of work place accommodation, and lack of impairment, DISH fired Mr. Coats solely based on an unknown amount of THC found in his body, the presence of which was the result of his exclusive use of medical marijuana in the privacy of his own home after work. Colorado’s Lawful Activity Statute prohibits employers from discriminating against or terminating employees for engaging in legal off-duty conduct. Both Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14 and § 16 permit the use of marijuana for Colorado residents like Mr. Coats.

In its recent Order, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to consider the following two issues:

Whether the Lawful Activities Statute, C.R.S. section 24-34-402.5, protects employees from discretionary discharge for lawful use of medical marijuana outside the job where the use does not affect job performance.

Whether the Medical Marijuana Amendment makes the use of medical marijuana “lawful” and confers a right to use medical marijuana to persons lawfully registered with the state.

For more information about this compelling case, see this article from the Denver Post.

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The lesson of the sentence Bradley Manning is about to receive

| July 31, 2013 | Reply

Michael Moore sets the stage. Here’s the beginning of his long list:

Manning now faces a potential maximum sentence of 136 years in jail. When his sentence is announced tomorrow, we’ll all get a good idea of how seriously the U.S. military takes different crimes. When you hear about how long Manning – now 25 years old – will be in prison, compare it to sentences received by other soldiers:

Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the senior military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib and the senior officer present the night of the murder of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi, received no jail time. But he was reprimanded and fined $8,000. (Pappas was heard to say about al-Jamadi, “I’m not going down for this alone.”)

Sgt. Sabrina Harman, the woman famously seen giving a thumbs-up next to al-Jamadi’s body and in another photo smiling next to naked, hooded Iraqis stacked on each other in Abu Ghraib, was sentenced to six months for maltreating detainees…

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The scourge of patent trolls

| July 17, 2013 | Reply
The scourge of patent trolls

Electronic Frontier Foundation reports:

Thanks to trolls like IPNav, the Times explains, U.S. companies are forced to spend upwards of $30 billion every year on patent litigation. Most of that money goes to troll profits and legal expenses, with less than 25 percent flowing to inventors. Even Spangenberg concedes that his business uses “the courts as a marketplace, and the courts are horribly inefficient and horribly expensive as a market.” Patent trolls like IPNav are a symptom of a fundamentally broken system.

According to the NYT:

There is debate about the definition of patent trolls, but the term broadly refers to people who sue companies for infringement, often using patents of dubious value or questionable relevance, and then hold on like a terrier until they get license fees. In recent years, patent trolls — they prefer “patent assertion entities,” or P.A.E.’s — have gone from low-profile corporate migraine to mainstream scourge. This is partly because the number of patent infringement suits has more than doubled in recent years, to 4,731 cases in 2012 from 2,304 in 2009, according to that RPX report. The cost to businesses, which pass along the expense to consumers, is immense. One study found that United States companies — most of them small or medium-sized — spent $29 billion in 2011 on patent assertion cases.

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How to get your case heard

| July 11, 2013 | Reply

What I just learned from Harper’s Index from the August 2013 issue of Harpers: The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear only 1% of all Petitions for Certiorari filed over the past three years. But, if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce files an amicus brief, there is a 32% chance that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear that case.

Those attorneys for the Chamber must be excellent brief writers . . .

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A Supreme Court Opinion to heed

| July 10, 2013 | Reply
A Supreme Court Opinion to heed

Back in 1971, Justice Hugo Black issued an extremely well-reasoned concurring opinion in the case of New York Times v United States. Many things have changed since 1971, but this clear-headed opinion addresses many aspects of the current controversy involving Edward Snowden. Back in 1971, The NYT had begun publishing installments of the then-classified Pentagon Papers, which indicated that America’s war efforts were a sham, and that America had little to no hope of success in the conflict. This was sharply at odds with what U.S. politicians had be telling the public. In response to the initial publication installments, President Richard Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, filed an injunction action seeking to prevent publication of further installments. The injunction was granted, and the case quickly rose up for review by the United States Supreme Court. There was no majority opinion, but the divided court did vote 6-3 to reverse the trial court and to allow the NYT to continue publication. The following excerpts are from Justice Black’s concurrence:

“[T]he injunction against the New York Times should have been vacated without oral argument when the cases were first presented … . [E]very moment’s continuance of the injunctions … amounts to a flagrant, indefensible, and continuing violation of the First Amendment. … When the Constitution was adopted, many people strongly opposed it because the document contained no Bill of Rights … . In response to an overwhelming public clamor, James Madison offered a series of amendments to satisfy citizens that these great liberties would remain safe … . In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. … [W]e are asked to hold that … the Executive Branch, the Congress, and the Judiciary can make laws … abridging freedom of the press in the name of ‘national security.’ … To find that the President has ‘inherent power’ to halt the publication of news … would wipe out the First Amendment and destroy the fundamental liberty and security of the very people the Government hopes to make ‘secure.’ … The word ‘security’ is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment. The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security … . The Framers of the First Amendment, fully aware of both the need to defend a new nation and the abuses of the English and Colonial governments, sought to give this new society strength and security by providing that freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly should not be abridged.

The government had based its case on the Espionage Act of 1917. I’m reprinting an excerpt from the Act immediately below. One can immediately see how vague (arguably constitutionally defectively vague) and broad (arguably constitutionally overbroad) at least this portion of the Act is, something to keep in mind when considering that this is the law the government is supposedly enforcing in modern times to punish whistle-blowers, including Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.

Section 793(e) of the act (a section that Snowden was apparently charged under) makes it a criminal offense to do the following:

Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it.

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