federal judge

Apropos of Nothing: Truth, Justice, and the American Ouroboros

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

VIII. Adjustment.

This is just a question: Is anyone else enjoying the hell out of the fact that Judge Wood might well be the undoing of Donald Trump and, thereby, very possibly the great Republican swindle itself?

That the crushing blow comes through her court would be . . . pretty much the epic saga Americans have been wanting, and, well . . . yeah. There’s also that.

Furthermore, that we Americans could manage to do this to ourselves? How is that not one of the most fascinating questions history could possibly countenance?

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Something of an Obvious Question

Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 6, "An Aroma Sweet, a Heart Bitter...".

There is, of course, much we might say of an eighteen-year sentence for methamphetamine trafficking handed down in the case of a disgraced Montana Republican leader, but the report from Associated Press, and the federal judge who gave the sentence, note an important question:

Michael Lange, the Republican House majority leader during the 2007 Legislature, arranged deliveries of at least 20 and possibly up to 50 pounds (nine and possibly up to 23 kilograms) of meth from a source in California over a seven-month period in 2016, prosecutors said. It was sold through a network of approximately 15 to 20 dealers in Montana and Wyoming, according to federal prosecutors and an FBI drug task-force officer.

Lange pleaded guilty in September to drug conspiracy and distribution charges. He apologized at his sentencing but drew a sharp rebuke from U.S. District Judge Susan Watters after Lange appeared to minimize his involvement in the trafficking ring and claimed the truth of what happened had never been revealed.

“You don’t get it, Mr. Lange,” Watters said. “For you to tell me in your letter of acceptance that it was never your intention for this methamphetamine to get out into the community is completely incredible to me. … What did you think was going to happen?”

There is a lot of never-meant in the world, and, to be certain, any number of points we might raise in the question of who never meant which and what that is worth in jurisprudence; but it is very nearly instinct that revolts, because every now and then, at least, we find ourselves wondering what other outcome one might have expected or intended.

Or, try it this way …—

Actually, no, don’t. Fifty pounds of meth? Oh, fine, let’s go with twenty, then, because even still. What attorney gave this client what advice?

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Image note: Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, episode 6, “An Aroma Sweet, a Heart Bitter…”.

Brown, Matthew. “Former Montana lawmaker gets 18 years for drug trafficking”. Associated Press. 17 January 2018.

Required Reading (Slouching Luxury)

Detail of cartoon by Mr. Fish, 30 November 2014, via Clowncrack.

The headline for Jemar Tisby, at the Washington Post, is pretty straightforward: “Why a racially insensitive photo of Southern Baptist seminary professors matters”.

Officials from the seminary requested that the post be removed, and David Allen, one of the men in the picture and dean of SWBTS’s School of Preaching, tweeted an apology: “I apologize for a recent image I posted which was offensive. Context is immaterial. @swbts stance on race is clear as is mine.”

It’s odd for a preaching professor to suggest “context is immaterial,” because seminary professors usually teach their students that context is everything. The SWBTS “Mission, Vision, & Values” page states that their global “strategy includes the training of persons from every national, ethnic and cultural background for a variety of ministries.” But when it comes to understanding this particular photo, understanding a larger Southern Baptist and evangelical context is key.

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Death and the Natural State

VIII. Adjustment.

This is the setup: The state of Arkansas wishes to execute eight people over the course of ten days in four doubleheaders of death overseen by a prisons regime that has never executed anyone at all, using drugs the state has never used before and have shown grotesquely problematic in neighboring Oklahoma, are about to expire, and, according to the manufacturers, do not appear to have been acquired legitimately. Rachel Maddow offered a six and a half minute overview last week.

That would have been Thursday evening. Friday and Saturday saw the whole plan come apart, with one execution stayed at least temporarily, and then a temporary restraining order against one of the intended execution drugs, compelling a federal court to halt all eight executions. This is Arkansas, though; NBC News brings the latest:

Lawyers for the Arkansas attorney general’s office worked feverishly on Saturday in an attempt to dismantle road blocks in the way of a historic spate of executions temporarily halted by court rulings.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson had ordered the execution of eight men over 10 days because one of the state’s lethal injection drugs was set to expire at the end of the month, but a series of court rulings Friday and early Saturday put that schedule in jeopardy.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge made it clear the state was unwilling to concede.

The former Land of Opportunity, naturally, is very much distressed that the courts should meddle with its opportunity excuse for homicidal spectacle.

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A Toast for Trump

#Justice | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Imraan Siddiqi (@imraansiddiqi): "Everybody, please thank Rudy Giuliani for helping make the #MuslimBan illegal." [via Twitter, 15 March 2017]

The Donald Trump Show (Boffo)

Donald Trump awaits his introduction at the 2005 launch of Trump University. (Detail of photo by Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press.)

Again we hear the refrain wondering whether presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has finally gone too far. The answer, of course, is invested in who marks the threshold, and in the end voters have the final word, or so to speak. GOP consultant and fierce Trump critic Rick Wilson appears quite correct when he says a leaked conference call tells us the Trump Univesity lawsuit “really bothers” his party’s apparent nominee. And while Wilson’s critique that “there is no campaign” actually sounds about right under the circumstances―hint: more than the conference call, perhaps the msnbc article with the straightforward title, “Donald Trump does not have a campaign”, explains the problem better― NYT deputy Washington editor Jon Weisman is even more blunt: “The leaks in this boffo @bpolitics piece,” he tweets, “show @RealDonaldTrump doesn’t understand he’s playing in the majors now.”

And boffo fits well enough; the Bloomberg Politics piece describes a Monday conference call between Mr. Trump and prominent supporters:

An embattled Donald Trump urgently rallied his most visible supporters to defend his attacks on a federal judge’s Mexican ancestry during a conference call on Monday in which he ordered them to question the judge’s credibility and impugn reporters as racists.

Which sounds about right, all things considered, except that’s when things start to go off the rails:

When former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer interrupted the discussion to inform Trump that his own campaign had asked surrogates to stop talking about the lawsuit in an e-mail on Sunday, Trump repeatedly demanded to know who sent the memo, and immediately overruled his staff.

“Take that order and throw it the hell out,” Trump said.

Told the memo was sent by Erica Freeman, a staffer who circulates information to surrogates, Trump said he didn’t know her. He openly questioned how the campaign could defend itself if supporters weren’t allowed to talk.

“Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?” Trump said. “That’s one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”

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A Rumor of Judicial Infamy

Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC04), chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi Conspiracy Theories. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP).

“For politicians, the life of a federal judge isn’t viewed as being as attractive as it used to be. The confirmation process is excruciating and caseloads are up. Members realize that it’s just lore these days that the bench is a form of easy living, and besides they can make much more money becoming lobbyists.”

Russell Wheeler

This is not a random question: Can you imagine how contentious would be the filibuster of and confirmation hearing for federal judicial nominee Trey Gowdy?

No, really, just stop and think about that for a moment. U.S. District Court Judge Trey Gowdy.

Perhaps the question might occur to wonder why we might propose consideration of such an infamy visited upon the proposition of American justice. David Hawkings of Roll Call offers some thoughts at the intersection of Benghazi Select Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC04) and Justice.

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Image note: Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC04), chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi Conspiracy Theories. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP).

Benen, Steve. “When even ‘definitive’ isn’t good enough for the House GOP”. 25 November 2014.

Hawkings, David. “House Conservative Favorite Eyes Unusual Career Switch”. Hawkings Here. Roll Call. 15 November 2015.

A Political Win for the Very Idea of Justice

Contemplation of Justice

The question of Michael Boggs’ nomination to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Virginia has been something of a curious political football for President Obama; while Republicans have fought tooth and nail to oppose judicial nominees, it was Democrats and liberals who opposed Boggs’ nomination. With a nominee facing criticism of being overly political from his bench and supporting bigoted causes (e.g., racism, misogyny, homophobia), one might wonder why this president would even bother with such a nomination in the first place. And the answer, of course, is the arcane “blue slip” process, by which a president does not nominate a federal judge without the agreement of U.S. Senators from the state where that judge will preside.

Michael Boggs became the nominee because that is who Georgia Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chamblis wanted on the bench.

Democrats have succeeded in blocking the nomination. Jennifer Bendery brings the update for Huffington Post:

Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson (R) and Saxby Chambliss (R) said late Tuesday night that President Barack Obama won’t renominate Boggs next year for a lifetime post on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The news is a major victory for progressives who have fought Boggs’ nomination all year.

“It is with regret that we announce that the President will not re-nominate Judge Michael Boggs to the United States District Court for a third time. We were informed of the President’s decision by Denis McDonough, the President’s chief of staff, prior to Thanksgiving. We regret the President’s decision, as we have supported Judge Boggs throughout this process and remain steadfast in our support,” the senators said in a statement.

They continued, “Throughout the process, Judge Boggs has exhibited enormous restraint and the temperament expected of a jurist. These traits will serve him well for the opportunities we are confident the future holds for Judge Boggs. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the people of Georgia.”

A White House spokesman confirmed that Obama won’t renominate Boggs, but offered no additional comment.

Those who follow American politics closely already know why progressive and liberal groups are celebrating. For everyone else, it is simply enough to bear in mind that the President Obama held to the tradition and nominated the judge recommended by the senators, and that there is a difference between the Senate not being able to scrape up enough votes to confirm a nominee with a record of bigotry, to the one, and a U.S. Senator deciding to pull his blue slip because a judge happens to be gay. In the history of advice and consent, the loss of Boggs’ nomination is much more according to what we expect of the process. Which, in turn, is much different from whatever it is Republicans think they are doing.

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Bendery, Jennifer. “It’s Official: Obama Won’t Renominate Michael Boggs”. The Huffington Post. 31 December 2014.

Alvarez, Lizette. “Rubio Withdraws Support for Gay Black Judge’s Nomination to the Federal Bench”. The New York Times. 23 September 2013.

Follow-up … Clean-up … Something-up

The Rachel Maddow Show, 6 October 2014

Rachel Maddow’s nearly giddy segment on msnbc last night noted that when the full effect of yesterday’s Supreme Court rejection of appeals against marriage equality reaches the states, the roster will equal thirty states. And she looked forward to decisions expected from the Sixth and Ninth.

Today, the hammer dropped in the Ninth; Dale Carpenter quips:

I haven’t read the Ninth Circuit opinion yet. I have to teach now, so it would be nice if the courts would stop issuing gay-marriage decisions for an hour or so.

The estimable Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog explains what happened in the Ninth:

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling was made up of three parts.

First, all three judges on the panel joined in an opinion by Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt finding that the Idaho and Nevada bans violate the constitutional guarantee of same-sex couples to be treated the same legally as opposite-sex couples. Second, Judge Reinhardt issued a separate opinion, for himself only, saying he would also strike down those bans under the Constitution’s Due Process Clause, arguing that the right to marry is a fundamental guarantee and that gays and lesbians have a right to share in that right. Third, Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon, in a separate opinion only for herself, said she would have also struck down the bans on the premise that they discriminate on the basis of gender.

The third member, Circuit Judge Ronald M. Gould, joined only the main opinion on the equal protection principle.

This ruling was perhaps the least surprising among four federal courts of appeals decisions striking down state prohibitions on same-sex couples marrying, and already-married couples gaining official state recognition of those unions, performed elsewhere.

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