Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

Category: Constitution

California's chief justice: 'Life without means life without'

Death penalty Cantil-Sakauye Kirk McKoy Los Angeles Times

Does Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye oppose the death penalty? That's the way some observers on both sides of the debate took her statement in a Dec. 24 Los Angeles Times story by staff writer Maura Dolan. But no, the chief justice told The Times' editorial board on Friday, she has no position on whether it ought to be the law in California. And she was surprised by some of the reaction.

There's nothing wrong with a debate. It's been done. And people bring great expertise to this area. So we shouldn't be afraid of having that exchange.

This is the second post on Cantil-Sakauye's discussion with the editorial board, including audio recordings of a portion of the discussion and partial transcripts. Read Monday's post here, and return each day this week for discussions of the courts' financial crisis and the independence of the state's judicial branch.

What was the reaction to the chief justice's statement in The Times regarding the death penalty?

Listen: What was the reaction to comments about the death penalty? 

I have had mixed reaction, as you might imagine. I thought it was a fairly -- my statement was a fairly objective one. There's nothing wrong with debate. There's nothing wrong with discourse. That's what moves us forward. That's what may bring about change, may initiate change.

So of course I received some very heated, emotional letters -- that I don't disagree with the emotion behind -- but that was not my point or focus.

And then I've also received, interesting enough, just as many if not more letters of support for courage, for encouraging a debate, for realizing and having a perspective that the state's resources have to be reconsidered. We are in a different place than we were in '78 and the ensuing years. There's nothing wrong with a debate. It's been done. And people bring great expertise to this area. So we shouldn't be afraid of having that exchange.

What is your personal position on the death penalty?

Listen: Position on the death penalty

As any law, whether it be CEQA or MICRA, I don't have a position personally about it. I've been a judge for a number of years. To see the law come down, [I] may or may not have feelings about it. But [I] realize it's either the will of the people or will of the Legislature, signed by the governor ... which is derivative of the will of the people. So I don't have a position.

But I think that if more people were informed not only about resources but about time and about effectiveness -- and now we know from 1978 that life without [parole] means life without -- that we might be better informed to take another look....

We are reexamining old assumptions. Certainly that's what I'm trying to do at the judicial branch. But we're trying to do it in a careful, cautious fashion that doesn't take, as has been said, a meat ax to the system.

If California keeps the death penalty, what is the fix for the backlog? Is it additional money, or is it changes in the structure of death penalty sentences and appeals?

Listen: Fixing the execution backlog

You can do both. For example I've received letters from, or had meetings set up or trying to set up meetings with, different legal organizations that represent [defendants] on capital appeals and habeas corpus. And they tell me, and they're the experts, that more resources are needed in order to fully investigate these cases in the state system. Because when they go to the federal system and they're not completely or fully or adequately -- and I realize those are subjective terms -- investigated, they come back to the state court system on those exhaustion petitions. And we end up redoing.

So I think -- it wouldn't surprise me that the fix is definitely resources and definitely structural change....

Would it erase the backlog if death penalty appeals were to go to the intermediate appellate courts instead of exclusively to the state Supreme Court?

Listen: Farming appeals to the intermediate courts

In my short year we've had those kinds of brief discussions, but we recognize the inherent problem is [that] before any farming [out to the Court of Appeal] can be done we need resources. Because the same issues that plague the Supreme Court, in terms of processing -- that is, lack of qualified counsel and investigation expenses and complaints -- will plague the Court of Appeal.  So at least until those kinds of issues are resolved, there's no sense at this time in talking about transferring it anywhere else. It would just move the problem.

Tomorrow: Insurgent trial judges and a bill to strip the Judicial Council of power

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Death penalty, by the numbers

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The chief justice, the death penalty and the "worst possible option"

--Robert Greene

Photo: California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye speaks with the Los Angeles Times editorial board on Jan. 6. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

The chief justice, the death penalty and the 'worst possible option'

Tani Cantil-Sakauye death penalty

Keeping California's dysfunctional status quo on the death penalty is the "worst possible option," California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told The Times' editorial board last Friday. "And for the most part in terms of structural change, that is what we’ve done."

The chief justice was summing up a 2008 report on capital punishment in California, and expanding on remarks she made in a Dec. 24 story by Times staff writer Maura Dolan. Cantil-Sakauye noted the cost and the fact that only 13 people have been executed in the state since it reinstated the death penalty in 1978, yet there remain some 700 condemned prisoners on death row.

Opinion L.A. will this week roll out audio clips and partial transcripts of Cantil-Sakauye's discussion on the death penalty; tension between the Judicial Council, which she leads, and its antagonists in trial courts and the Legislature; and the budget crisis facing the state's judicial branch. Listen and read below. See link regarding the death penalty in California and the chief justice's references to reports at the bottom of this post, and returnTuesday for more from our visit.

Listen: The chief justice discusses the death penalty

The ability to improve the process, if that is the will of the people and continues to be the will of the people, really requires a debate about the costs, effectiveness, the timeliness;  the investment of not only cost but human resources in the process.

And we should have a debate about that -- whether it's effective and this is what the voters truly want California to proceed to do, given our limited resources. And if that's the case we, need to sort of put our money where our will is.

In 2008 when …former Atty. Gen. [John] Van de Kamp and professor [Gerald] Uelman came up with a report that was contributed to by many learned people and experienced people in the penalty process, in the habeas corpus process, they came up with a number of suggestions, some of which have been implemented.

But they basically also said that if we do nothing, it is the worst possible option. And for the most part in terms of structural change, that is what we've done.

I understand it's an emotional issue. And I don't take that away. But I do think that we …  having experience since 1978 ought to be able to try to have, among those of us who are involved, a merit-based discussion about cost-effective structure and change.

Cantil-Sakauye referred to a 2008 report by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice. The section on the death penalty begins on Page 111.

For administration of the death penalty to become effective, the 2008 report said, funding is needed so that California can provide condemned prisoners with constitutionally required attorneys and investigators. The three alternatives:

1. Make a new investment of $95 million a year, added to the current $137 million spent annually on administering the death penalty, that would come to $232.7 million.

2. Narrow the list of special circumstances that make a defendant eligible for the death penalty; that would reduce the annual cost to $130 million.

3. Eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole; that would reduce the annual cost of trying and punishing such defendants to $11.5 million.

Cantil-Sakauye stressed costs, budget cuts and backlogs rather than philosophical concerns about capital punishment. Look for audio clips and partial transcripts on Opinion L.A. on Tuesday.

--Robert Greene

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Death penalty, by the numbers

What if an innocent is executed?

Donald Heller, death-penalty advocate no more

Photo: California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye speaks with the Los Angeles Times editorial board on  Jan. 6. At right is Curtis L. Child, director of the Office of Governmental Affairs for the Administrative Office of the Courts. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Should the crosses at Camp Pendleton come down? [Most commented]

Cross Camp Pendleton
The crosses at Camp Pendleton erected to memorialize fallen Marines are a sensitive issue. On the one hand, the religious symbols are a way to honor people who scarified their lives for our country. On the other, there's the constitutional issue of separation of church and state.

The editorial board weighs in on this issue in Wednesday's pages, putting it bluntly:

The military, like any other government agency, cannot allow people to install large religious symbols wherever they want on public property. Once in place for any length of time, those symbols (and usually that means a cross) tend to be seen as established markers, and proposals to remove them are wrongly viewed as anti-religion and, specifically, anti-Christian.

But the board also offers a compromise:

One course of action that would allow the new crosses to remain would be to invite Marines of other religious beliefs to add their own symbols to the hill. That would ensure the separation of church and state while also being sensitive to the sense of loss suffered by those in the armed services. It would create a place where all people in uniform can remember the sacrifices made by so many.

The majority of readers debating on our discussion board are less flexible. In between commenters calling The Times a communist newspaper and The L.A. Slimes, there are passionate arguments that share a range of perspectives. Some respond directly to the editorial, while others are responding to the debate generally. Here's a selection of comments.

A note from a Marine

You know, I hear a lot of whining and complaining from outsiders who will never see this memorial on the base. We Marines fight to protect American freedoms -- which includes the freedom of religion. You decry these individuals who have gone out on their own time with their own resources to honor the fallen in their own way. Instead of complaining, then step up to establish other memorials, but do not ask others to conform to your views. I and my brother/sister Marines fight to protect the rights of ALL Americans, not just a vocal minority that want it all their own way instead of learning how to live with others and respect the fact that there are many divergent views in this country.

-- an old Marine

The casualties overwhelmingly borne by Christians

The casualties in these latest wars are overwhelmingly being borne by Christians -- active or nominal. The Jewish weekly 'Forward' did a profile of all the Jewish casualties they could find, there were something like 35 -- less than three quarters of one percent of casualties.  I suspect similar figures for Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, etc. If there are to be other religions represented, then the proportionality of casualties should be represented also.

--JohnDrakeSloat

Soldiers' rights

Since when do soldiers have the right to set up personal monuments on military bases?  It seems to me that it is more of a military discipline issue than a Constitutional issue ...

-- Songquo

A mission to destroy our Constitutional government

God please save us from Christians. They will not rest until they destroy our Constitutional government and replace it with a religious-fascist state.

--GaryRath

In favor of equal access

I don't recall anything in the Constitution that specifically addresses such things as Miranda rights, bi-racial marriage or segregation in the schools, but every one of these were Constitutional issues that were decide by the Supreme Court.

But personally, I say just allow others to erect memorials using their respective religious symbols and presto; equal access and no Constitutional issue!

-- HiVeloCT

*For clarity purposes, spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.

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Camp Pendleton's other big cross

Dispute over cross casts light on four fallen Marines

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Scott Radetski, 49, a retired Navy chaplain, staff Sgt. Justin Rettenberger, 31, and gunnery Sgt. Josue Magana, 32, both Marines, erect a cross on top of a mountain on Veterans Day that overlooks both the Pacific Ocean and the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Newt Gingrich throws the book at federal judges

Gingrich
Is it possible that Newt Gingrich could win the Republican nomination without being able to win "Jeopardy!"?

"I’ll take Checks and Balances for a thousand, Alex."

 This branch of government trumps all the others.

"Alex, what is, 'Any branch I’m in charge of?' "

 BZZZZZT.

Gingrich has been saying on various news venues, that when a judge is "aggressively anti-American, aggressively anti-free speech and aggressively anti-religious -- that judge ought to not be on the bench." He’s advocating presidents ignore Supreme Court rulings if they think they interfere with their authority, arguing for Congress to subpoena judges to explain their rulings, and if need be, enlist federal marshals to force them to show up. If judges were acting "radically anti-American," he’d shut them down.

Whose idea of radical? Of un-American? Was Brown v. Board of Education radical and un-American because many Americans then thought otherwise?

On CBS' "Face the Nation," he’s invoked the "two out of three" playground rule -- if two branches of government don’t like it, the third branch had better suck it up.

The Constitution is a document that famously protects minority rights -- unless, as Gingrich would have it, that minority is the federal courts acting constitutionally to protect minority rights, against the tyranny of voters or a congressional majority.

If you think confirmation hearings are a spectacle now, wait until the senators and members of Congress of the majority party of the moment can summon federal judges via subpoena to account for themselves: the Republicans want the C-SPAN cameras going while hammering the justices to justify Roe v. Wade, the Democrats are ready for their closeups about Bush v. Gore and Citizens United.

That is the kind of spectacle for reality shows and banana republics, not for a constitutional democracy.

On Fox, Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales, two George W. Bush attorneys general  -- even two Bush attorneys general, some of you might be thinking --  deplored this as unsettling, and perhaps a "dishonest" use of Congress’ subpoena power, to use Mukasey’s word.

So what are the conclusions we have to choose from about Gingrich’s flaming federal judges?

Option one-- Does he know better and is cynically pandering to the anti-judiciary crowd, chumming for votes among the grandchildren of the people who drove around with "Impeach Earl Warren" bumper stickers on their Oldsmobiles?

Option two-- Has he in fact quaffed the "activist judges" Flavor-Aid? [I know Kool-Aid has become the trope, but it was Flavor-Aid that was served up as the mass-suicide cocktail at Jonestown; a reporter friend who covered the event brought back an empty Flavor-Aid packet with him.]

Option three -- Has Gingrich gone "imperial presidency" on us, after spending a little too much time in the Speaker’s chair and believing he can propose and dispose of the Constitution as he pleases?

Here’s your chance to vote. Maybe your last chance. Because if Gingrich keeps this up, you won’t be getting a chance to vote on him in any other venue -- like a ballot.

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-- Patt Morrison

Photo: Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign stop at Global Security Services in Davenport, Iowa, on Dec. 19. Credit: Chris Carlson / Associated Press

News flash: Romney takes a stand, and sticks to it

Mitt Romney with Bob Garon

It's time someone stood up for Mitt Romney.  And I'm just the Democrat to do it.

No, I won't be voting for Romney, should he earn the Republican presidential nomination.  (Then again, I won't be voting for Newt Gingrich. Although I confess, a race between him and President Obama would be entertaining.)

But I think Romney deserves a small pat on the back for something that happened Monday on the campaign trail.  Basically, he was wrong -- but he was right.

Chatting with potential voters at a breakfast spot in Manchester, N.H., Romney was asked by Vietnam veteran Bob Garon, 63, for his views on the proposed repeal of New Hampshire's law permitting gay marriage. (Oh, and Garon is married -- to a man.)

"I've have a question for you,” Garon said, cutting off the former Massachusetts governor's attempt at chit-chat. "New Hampshire has some legislation kicking around about the repeal of same-sex marriage [law]… All I need is a yes or a no."

Romney crisply told Garon that because of his view that "marriage is between a man and woman," he supported efforts to repeal the law.

OK, there you go.  Yes or no?  Romney says no.

Garon, though, really didn't want a yes or no answer.  He clearly favors the same-sex marriage law, and he went on to debate the issue with Romney.  Soon, Romney's aides sought to usher the candidate away.

"I guess the question was too hot," Garon said to the candidate.

"No," Romney replied, "I gave you the answer. You said you had a yes or no (question), I gave you the answer."

And Romney's right.  No, not about the same-sex marriage law. But in defending himself. 

He stood up for what he believes.  Just because Garon didn't like the answer, that's no reason to criticize Romney.

Probably many Americans don't like that answer.  But that's what candidates should do: Let us know what they believe, and stick to it.

Romney's been criticized for blowing with the political winds. But at least in this one small incident on a very long campaign trail, he showed backbone. 

I don't agree with his stance, but I respect him for taking one.

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Fact check: Would Mitt Romney have won his $10,000 bet?

--Paul Whitefield

Photo: Vietnam veteran Bob Garon challenged Mitt Romney on his views on same-sex marriage at a diner in Manchester, N.H. on Monday. Credit: Brian Snyder / Reuters

Is police monitoring via GPS constitutional? [Most commented]

Supreme Court
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether police who attached an electronic tracking device to a suspect's car without a warrant and followed him for a month were in violation of the 4th Amendment.  In our editorial board’s opinion, unlimited surveillance is creepy.  The justices were also uncomfortable with 24/7 surveillance, but Deputy Solicitor Gen. Michael Dreeben saw it differently.  In his argument, he wanted the court:

"[…] to treat GPS tracking the same way it treats visual observation of a suspect on a public street. "What a person seeks to preserve as private in the enclave of his own home or in a private letter or inside of his vehicle when he is traveling is a subject of 4th Amendment protection," Dreeben said. "But what he reveals to the world, such as his movements in a car on a public roadway, is not."

Although that succinctly explains the government's argument, it does not consider the scope of police GPS tracking.  With it, officers may follow as many people as they want indefinitely.  And though it's true that police could follow suspects day and night in person, it's rarely done. 

In interpreting the 4th Amendment's ban on illegal searches and seizures, the court must consider how the real world works. In that world, GPS tracking allows police a picture of a suspect's life that never would be generated by ordinary police methods. As Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. put it on Tuesday: "… you're talking about the difference between seeing the little tile and seeing a mosaic."

Here are some reader comments from our discussion board:

Next stop: police state

Why should the police have the right to track anyone without a warrant?  What probable cause do they have to do this?

There is an implied guarantee of privacy in the Constitution.  The Court has already ruled that there is.

What you're advocating is nothing more than an outright police state.  I don't think that is compatible with American ideals or the founders ideals at all...

It's actually just disgusting...

--affableman

The payoff from tracking is negligible

I disagree. 

GPS tracking is an excellent tool for law enforcement to possibly obtain valuable information and such use is not intrusive.  In the real world, the police don't generally investigate ordinary citizens who aren't under suspicion.  Tracking is little more than monitoring, an activity that may or may not provide any beneficial information.

When I'm in public, I'm aware that my presence may be recorded by a camera, or that someone may be watching my movements, whether it be private investigator, a cop, or any private citizen.  The police can follow me in my car all day long if they wish. 

A GPS simply tracks a car's movements.  It would be up to the cops or DA to prove who was actually driving the car.

On the world stage he United States is the furthest thing from a police state, so fears of a totalitarian state forming are irrational.

-- marmull1

How come it doesn't work the other way around?  

Curiously enough, if we asked lawmakers, who work for us, if it's ok to tape their calls and video their offices day and night they'd tell us no. Scandal, corruption, bribery and worse are making a disaster of our country but we cannot take these measures to ensure their honesty. However, you are under surveillance at McDonalds.

The real problem is, it starts with gps on a car but it never stops there. Give up freedom after freedom and one day you have none. I'm quite certain with prisons bursting to overcrowding that police seem to be making arrests just fine as they are.

Today, you lose the right to move around freely, tomorrow they redefine 'criminal' to include your particular minority. Open your eyes.

--sgreco

Dissolve political parties

They're working on killing the whole thing.  Except those parts that protect the 1%.  Those sections will be expanded.  In fact they already are, in practice.  They're letting the Constitution shrivel and die.

Everyone who ever fought or died for this country has been betrayed.  Their effort was meaningless unless we put a stop to this.  Happy Veteran's Day.  It's no different than if an alien invasion of pigs have taken over government to steal from everyone below the top 1%.  Even MULTI-millionaires are being screwed.  That's how bad it's gotten, and it's getting accelerating.

Obama and these scummy Republicans populating both parties in DC don't work FOR them, they ARE them.  The unemployment figures are cooked to keep us in the delusion things are not as bad as they really are.

The only way to stop it is to shed ourselves of party affiliation.  That's what keeps the scam going, seeing one side as the bad guys who have to be defeated by the other side.  They're both sides of one coin. 

Recruit and fund independents who pledge to undo every evil thing the 2-party cabal has done and is doing to us.  That's what's necessary, getting inside the building where the laws are written, which is also where the crimes of the police state have been and are being formulated.

--craigbhill

*Spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.

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SCOTUS: 'Nine oligarchs in robes'? [Most commented]

--Julia Gabrick

Photo: U.S. Supreme Court justices questioned whether police officers should have unbridled freedom to place GPS devices on cars to track criminal suspects. Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

A conservative's unlikely defense of the healthcare reform law

Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of ColumbiaOpponents of the healthcare reform law's individual mandate frequently warn that if the government can require the uninsured to buy coverage, it can require Americans to do just about anything. In other words, there's no limit to how far government could go.

That's been a particular rallying cry for conservatives and Republican judicial appointees, such as District Court Judge Roger Vinson of Florida. Finding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be unconstitutional, Vinson wrote, "If it has the power to compel an otherwise passive individual into a commercial transaction with a third party merely by asserting --- as was done in the act --- that compelling the actual transaction is itself 'commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce' [see Act § 1501(a)(1)], it is not hyperbolizing to suggest that Congress could do almost anything it wanted."

That's why it was so striking to see another conservative jurist -- Laurence H. Silberman, whom President Reagan appointed to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia -- declare, in essence, "Get over it." Silberman, who upheld the Affordable Care Act  on Tuesday, wrote that nothing in the Constitution's commerce clause or previous Supreme Court rulings bars Congress from regulating economic activity that hasn't happened yet. The uninsured might not be participating in the market for medical care today, Silberman conceded, but they almost certainly will at some point.

Because an individual's decision to buy insurance or obtain treatment is an economic activity that affects interstate commerce, the judge wrote, Congress would clearly have the power to require people to buy insurance when they show up at the hospital for care, "as rather useless as that would be." The Affordable Care Act, Silberman argued, "is merely imposing the mandate in reasonable anticipation of virtually inevitable future transactions in interstate commerce."

Wait -- how does one consumer's decision to buy or not buy coverage amount to interstate commerce?

Continue reading »

SCOTUS: 'Nine oligarchs in robes'? [Most commented]

Supreme Court

GOP candidates should stop bashing the Supreme Court justices, writes the editorial board in Tuesday's pages. Pointing to the recent onslaught, they write:

Gov. Rick Perry, for instance, favors term limits for federal judges. Rep. Michele Bachmann believes Congress should prevent the federal courts from involving themselves in the dispute over same-sex marriage. Former Sen. Rick Santorum wants to abolish the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (though its judges would have to be assigned elsewhere). Former Rep. Newt Gingrich believes that Congress should be able to summon Supreme Court justices to explain their opinions. Rep. Ron Paul would strip federal courts of their jurisdiction over cases involving religion, privacy, the right to marry and other matters. Only former Govs. Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. have refrained from the judge-bashing.

But, the board argues, federal courts are invaluable, and the board pleads with the Republican candidates not to pose restrictions that would "undermine a pillar of constitutional government." They continue:

Life tenure and independence from Congress insulate judges from political pressure and make it easier for them to render appropriate, if unpopular, decisions. Would the justices who ruled against segregated public schools in 1954 have survived a reelection campaign? Or those who ruled in 1989 that the 1st Amendment protected a protester who burned the American flag?

Here's what readers on our discussion board are saying about all the judge-bashing:

This is an attack against our democracy

There's more to this story than politics as usual. Sure, everyone is critical of certain judges, but what we have here is a concerted effort to discredit the entire judiciary, the third leg of our Constitution. In a nutshell, the current crop of GOP candidates, more t-bags than anything else, despise the independence of the judiciary, as much as they despise unions -- any entity that refuses to bow to their control.

Though, if ever there's been a judiciary on all levels of our country favorable to conservative forces, it's the current crop of judges, thanks to Bush who appointed poorly qualified candidates who are willing to be ideologues rather than judges.

Someone like Clarence Thomas is an embarrassment to the Bench; he votes as he's told by the Koch Machine and other reactionary elements.

In the history of the Supreme Court, we've seen countless times when the office shapes the judge, and they become great interpreters of the Constitution, as well as its defenders. While every President appoints judges who will be sympathetic to the sitting President, we have plenty of examples of wise Presidents appointing wise judges.

It's a system that has worked well, whatever flaws it may possess.

The current attack by the GOP on the judiciary may play well in the South, but it's an attack against the very fabric of our democracy, our freedom and the American Way of Life.

--castaway5555

Stop the contempt for our Constitution

The federal trial of the 2008 California anti-gay H8te Vote produced incontrovertible evidence that denying LGBT Americans the same ability to protect our spouses through legal marriage that mixed-sex couples take for granted violates the Constitution.  Anti-gays proved they can't find any flaws by making personal attacks on the judge himself rather than say just what of their opposition's proof in court was deficient or in what way the judge's decision is NOT firmly based in Constitutional law.

These GOP candidates who are courting their anti-gay base recognize the futility of their current efforts to hurt LGBT Americans and are looking for ways to thwart the inevitable US Supreme Court ruling establishing marriage equality.  Obviously, their plans would destroy the independence of the judiciary, even if these attacks are targeted specifically to hurting LGBT Americans.

It's really sad anti-gays, and their preferred GOP presidential candidates, have such obvious contempt for our Constitution.

--Carrot Cake Man

We need reliable judges

I hate to use a liberal buzzword, but the rhetoric of these candidates is indeed disingenuous.  While they are correct in noting that judges often take it upon themselves to create rights that do not exist and have no basis in fact or law, such as marriage between two people of the same sex and Constitutional protections for foreign enemies outside the U.S., the solution lies in electing a president and senators that will nominate and approve judges and justices that will uphold the Constitution, and not rewrite it. 

--TimBowman

Aren't liberals also to blame?

Democrats and liberals DO talk about removing judges from the bench.  For years, they have complained about Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Roberts.  Democrats in Congress have blocked judge appointments based on politics.  The liberals do the same thing as the conservatives, so stop the biased editorials.

--Tommy99

Why we need an independent judiciary

Democrats routinely attack judges they believe and Republicans and Republicans routinely attack judges they believe are Democrats. Simply put, both parties play this game. The idea that we have an independent judiciary is simply wishful thinking. Simply put, Republicans nominate people who they believe will take certain positions on issues and the Democrats nominate people who they believe will take certain positions. Simply put, both parties do not want independent judges but they want judges who they know how they vote before they are confirmed. 

--jeff1947

*For clarity purposes, spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.

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--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. The Supreme Court opened a new term on Oct. 3; it runs until the end of June. Credit: Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images

Immigration: Alabama's new state law has unintended consequences

65426579Alabama’s controversial immigration law will undoubtedly be decided by the courts. A federal judge and appeals court have already weighed in, blocking parts of the law, including provisions that would allow school officials to ask students about their immigration status.

Whether the law is ultimately found to be unconstitutional has yet to be determined. A trial is pending.

In the meantime, at least one state court has already been forced to wrestle with one part of the new law. This week, a judge in Jefferson County Alabama has cast doubt on the constitutionality of the state law.

The case involved two immigrants who sued a used car dealer alleging the seller failed to disclose the real condition of the cars -- salvage vehicles. The dealer asked the judge to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that the men are undocumented immigrants and under a new Alabama law any contract with those illegally in the country is prohibited from being enforced.

The judge refused to dismiss the case because the new Alabama law is at odds with the state constitution drafted in 1901. It bans state lawmakers from enacting laws that interfere with existing agreements.

It seems the Alabama law is already having all kinds of unintentional consequences.

What do you think?

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--Sandra Hernandez
PHOTO: A town hall meeting at Glen Iris Elementary School in Birmingham, Ala., on Oct. 13 focused on HB 56. Alabama's legislature has made children the chief victims of the nation's harshest anti-immigrant law. Credit: Tamika Moore / The Birmingham News / AP Photo

Herman Cain on abortion: He may be wrong but he's consistent

Hermancain
Give Herman Cain credit for consistency, and I'm not talking about his steadfast defense of "9-9-9."

On Sunday he outlined his position on abortion, though "outline" suggests a combination of elements, whereas Cain's points are one point: no abortion.

"I do not believe in abortion under any circumstances," he said on "Meet the Press." "Not for rape and incest." (He said rape and incest exceptions were unnecessary because the percentage of abortions in those situations was minuscule.)

The standard spiel of antiabortion politicians is to allow such exceptions in a post-Roe vs. Wade world. For example, Mitt Romney says, "I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother."

The Romney position is illogical. If one believes that an embryo is the moral equivalent of a living human being, abortion is homicide even when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. (Abortion to save the life of the woman is allowed even in this scheme because the doctor can save only one life.)

Politicians embrace the Romney position because even some antiabortion types are squeamish about forcing a woman to raise a child conceived in painful circumstances. But extend that solicitude for the woman to other sorts of hardships and you end up supporting abortion in plenty of "ordinary" situations.

Herman Cain seems to understand that.

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Photo: Herman Cain speaks with the media after an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" in Washington on Oct. 16. Credit: Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press

http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-cain-meet-press-20111016,0,812972.story
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