Archive for May 20th, 2010

“Supreme Court Continues to Impose Morality on States” by Ken Klukowski

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Monday’s Supreme Court decision holding that sentencing an underage person to life in prison is unconstitutional is yet another disturbing example of judicial activism. More than simply another run-of-the-mill activist decision, the Court has reached a new level of usurping the powers the Constitution entrusts to our elected leaders in the states.

On May 17, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Graham v. Florida. In this case, a 16 year-old habitual criminal named Terrance Graham had served time for armed burglary and assault. When he was released on probation, he was then arrested again for robbing a woman in her home at gunpoint. During questioning, he admitted to other felonies he had recently committed as well. Found to be a felon who could not be rehabilitated, he was sentenced to life in prison under Florida law.

When that conviction was upheld on appeal in Florida, the Supreme Court took the case to consider whether sentencing a minor to life in prison without parole violates the Eighth Amendment, which forbids cruel and unusual punishments.

As Justice Clarence Thomas explained in dissent, the Eighth Amendment only prohibits methods of punishment and interrogation that are cruel and unusual, as that term was understood when the Bill of Rights was adopted in 1791. That’s to say, the Eighth Amendment outlaws torturing people to get confessions, or punishments such as maiming, branding, disfigurements, or other such agonizing or debilitating punishments.

In recent decades (the last half of the 1900s), the Supreme Court added the rule that the Eighth Amendment requires punishments be “proportional” to the crime. This proportionality requirement increasingly became a factor in federal courts being able to strike down state criminal laws.

Then the Supreme Court decided Roper v. Simmons in 2005. In an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court held that the death penalty was unconstitutional if the criminal was under age 18 at the moment he committed the crime, even if he killed someone.

In Graham, five justices formed a majority, whereby the Court extended the Eighth Amendment to cover life in prison as well (at least where no one died as a result of the crime). The Court held that even though most states allow this punishment for minors, the fact that it was rarely imposed somehow means that there’s a “national consensus” against it, which in turn means that the our society’s “evolving standards of decency” do not permit this punishment.

In a strong dissent, Justice Thomas (joined by Justice Scalia, and in part by Justice Alito) objected that the Court is substituting its own moral judgment for that of the people of Florida. Thomas points out that the Court seemed to make an exception for the death penalty because death is the ultimate punishment, different from any other. Now, Thomas explains, the Court reserves the right to ban the second most-severe punishment. “No reliable limiting principle remains to prevent the Court from immunizing any class of offenders, from the law’s third, fourth, fifth, or fiftieth most severe penalties as well.”

As Justice Thomas explains, this means that the Court is now making “moral judgments,” and imposing those judgments on the American people. “I am unwilling to assume that we, as members of this Court, are any more capable of making such moral judgments than our fellow citizens. Nothing in our training as judges qualifies us for that task, and nothing in Article III [of the Constitution] gives us that authority.”

Read the complete article here.

L.A. Mayor Dismisses Warning That Arizona Could Cut Off Power Over Boycott

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday defiantly rejected a warning by a top Arizona utilities official that the state could cut off power to Los Angeles should the city proceed with its boycott of all things Arizona.

Spokesman David Beltran told Fox News that the message didn’t even warrant a response.

“We’re not going to respond to threats from a state which has isolated itself from the America that values freedom, liberty and basic human rights,” Beltran said.

That was after Gary Pierce, a commissioner on the five-member Arizona Corporation Commission, wrote a letter to Villaraigosa slamming his City Council’s decision to boycott the Grand Canyon State — in protest of its immigration law — by suspending official travel there and ending future contracts with state businesses.

Noting that a quarter of Los Angeles’ electricity comes from Arizona power plants, Pierce threatened to pull the plug if the City Council does not reconsider.

“Doggone it — if you’re going to boycott this candy store … then don’t come in for any of it,” Pierce told FoxNews.com.

In the letter, he ridiculed Villaraigosa for saying that the point of the boycott was to “send a message” by severing the “resources and ties” they share.

“I received your message; please receive mine. As a statewide elected member of the Arizona Corporation Commission overseeing Arizona’s electric and water utilities, I too am keenly aware of the ‘resources and ties’ we share with the city of Los Angeles,” Pierce wrote.

“If an economic
boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation.”

Appearing to tap into local frustration in Arizona over the raft of boycotts and threatened boycotts from cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Pierce warned that Arizona companies are willing and ready to fight boycott with boycott.

“I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands,” Pierce wrote. “If, however, you find that the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy.”

Pierce told FoxNews.com that he was speaking for himself, not the entire commission, though he has the support of at least one other member. But Arizona has some serious leverage over Los Angeles, as well as the rest of California. The state and city get electricity from a nuclear power plant outside Phoenix, as well as from coal-fired power plants in northern Arizona and two giant hydroelectric power generators along the Colorado River.

Despite that, the Los Angeles City Council voted overwhelmingly last week to ban future business
with Arizona — a decision that could cost Arizona millions of dollars in lost contracts.

Los Angeles officials were furious with the Arizona immigration law passed last month and joined local officials in cities across the country in pushing boycotts to register their dismay. Critics say the law will lead to racial profiling and civil rights abuses.

Arizona officials have defended the law, saying the state needed to take its illegal immigration problem into its own hands. Pierce said he’s “supportive” of the state’s efforts to control the border.

The law requires local law enforcement to try to verify the immigration status of anyone they have contact with whom they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. It empowers them to turn over verified illegal immigrants to federal custody. The legislation explicitly prohibits screening people based solely on race or national origin.

Original Link.