Tagged: Supreme Court

Court forces UK government to admit illegal spying

A UK court vindicated Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing…by ruling that the secrecy surrounding one of the programs he exposed was, in fact, illegal. The decision is more evidence that not only were the Snowden revelations necessary and justified, but are also slowly forcing changes in both US and UK, even as both governments fiercely resist.

In a stunning ruling, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) – which oversees (and usually rubber stamps) Britain’s spy agencies – declared that the intelligence-sharing rules between the NSA and GCHQ (Britain’s NSA equivalent and partner-in-crime) governing their mass surveillance program violated UK human rights laws because they were kept secret for so long.

The IPT is one of Britain’s most secretive and deferential courts, which makes this ruling so particularly stinging. And the only reason the surveillance program is currently lawful is because the plaintiffs – Privacy International and a coalition of other groups – forced GCHQ to reveal more of their alleged rules to the public in the course of the case, which itself all stems from the reporting on the Snowden documents…

The complicit British media (with only a few exceptions) refused to cover the GCHQ story at all unless they were called in to act as public relations agencies for the government by printing fear-mongering stories claiming that anyone reporting on the issue of privacy was just helping terrorists and pedophiles…

Yes, the British Press is even slimier than their corporate cousins in the United States.

This case also calls for a re-examination of the British government’s deplorable actions against those who have merely reported on the Snowden stories. They’ve forced the Guardian to destroy a hard drive full of Snowden documents, outrageously detained Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda under the Terrorism Act and threatened Guardian reporters with prosecution for doing their jobs. Until now, the UK government has used vague excuses related to “terrorism” for their authoritarian actions – but now their motives should now be clear to all: they were trying to cover up an illegal program.

It remains to be seen how the court will react, if at all, to future cases. But this should be a warning for both the UK government and the media: the law and even the most obsequious of courts are not on your side. Your citizens aren’t either.

From this side of the pond, I think we only get to recognize small differences. Independence in a few centers of hard-copy journalism are not as self-limiting as the Brits. But, then, we haven’t an Official Secrets Act to deal with. Yet. Butt-kissers in Congress have proposed passing similar laws in the United States now that the pimps for oppressive government are in charge of both wings of congress.

Anyone confident the White House crew will stand up against a rebirth of official McCarthyism?

Just as the political correctness of the Right has generally been obeyed by the respectable Left in Congress, in the American Press – the same is true of policies counter to our Constitution. It took decades and a Supreme Court wholly unlike the sycophants of surveillance-as-safety currently in place atop our court system. And it only took a couple of Republican presidents and cowardly Democrats in Congress to remove principle from the oversight of politics once again.

Canada Supreme Court strikes down ban on doctor-assisted suicide

kay carter
Kay Carter

The Supreme Court of Canada shifted the goalposts Friday on one of the most fundamental of human laws.

In a charter precedent that will go down in the history books as Carter vs. Canada, the court unanimously struck down the ban on providing a doctor-assisted death to mentally competent but suffering and “irremediable” patients.

The emphatic, unanimous ruling prompted tears of joy and frustration on both sides of the debate, reverberated through provincial health ministries and doctor’s offices across Canada, and left skittish federal parliamentarians groping for time to digest the implications.

“The prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes on the right to life, liberty and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice,” the nine justices flatly asserted.

Cripes. Difficult to imagine what opportunities for progressive law and justice we might have in the United States if we didn’t have a Supreme Court half-populated with reactionary lawyers who lied to Congress to cop the gig. And conservatives and lame liberals in Congress knew damned well they were lying.

The judgment — left unsigned to reflect the unanimous institutional weight of the court — gives Parliament a year to draft new legislation that recognizes the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to seek medical help in ending their lives.

It does not limit physician-assisted death to those suffering a terminal illness.

And to put an exclamation mark on the ruling, the court awarded special costs against the government of Canada for the entire five-year course of the litigation, less 10 per cent to be paid by the government of British Columbia.

The court suspended its judgment for 12 months, during which the current law continues to apply, placing enormous pressure on Parliament to act in what is an election year…

The political toxicity of the issue was immediately apparent Friday: Not a single MP asked the government a question about the decision during question period, despite the presence of Justice Minister Peter MacKay in the House…

Cowards.

For the families of Gloria Taylor and Kay Carter, two now-deceased women who originally sought a B.C. court’s help to end their suffering, it was an unqualified victory.

Lee Carter, who accompanied her 89-year-old mother to Switzerland to legally end a life ravaged by debilitating disease, raised a bouquet of flowers to the heavens in the Supreme Court lobby as she tearfully recalled her mother’s legacy.

“Justice, dignity and compassion were the defining qualities of my mother,” Carter, flanked by her family, told a crush of reporters.

“We just felt that it was a fundamental right for Canadians that they should have this choice…”

The decision reverses the top court’s 1993 ruling in the case of Sue Rodriguez, a fact the decision attributes to changing jurisprudence and an altered social landscape.

Drop something like this in our Congress’ lap and they would try to defend a ruling from 1793.

Meanwhile, I wonder if you would be required to be a citizen, merely resident to utilize the ruling or if visiting – as in Switzerland – would be sufficient. I have no plans or need for this, right now; but, I might have to ring up my kin and put things in motion for dual citizenship.

SCOTUS won’t review Arizona’s unconstitutional abortion law – DOA

The Supreme Court declined Monday to revive an Arizona law that prohibited most abortions after a pregnancy had reached 20 weeks.

The court, as is its custom, gave no reason for declining to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that the law was unconstitutional because it violated standards established by the justices 40 years ago in Roe v. Wade.

About a dozen other states have passed laws similar to Arizona’s, hoping they would provide a way to challenge the court’s ruling that abortion must be generally available to women before a fetus reaches viability, which is generally considered to be around 24 weeks. Pregnancies last about 40 weeks.

It is the third time this term that the court has decided not to review a lower court decision that struck down a restrictive state abortion law. The other two came from Oklahoma, where new rules would have practically eliminated drug-induced abortions and required what opponents said would be unnecessary ultrasound tests…

About the only critter dumber than a fundamentalist politician committed to the War on Women – is the equally committed voter who doesn’t mind wasting taxpayer dollars on defending patently unconstitutional laws restricting women’s reproductive rights. Guess they’d rather spend money on 18th Century bible beliefs instead of education for their kids.

Come to think of it – the last thing they want is educated children.

“The Supreme Court soundly declined to review the Ninth Circuit’s sound decision that Arizona’s abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing precedent,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “. . . But women should not be forced to run to court, year after year, in state after state, to protect their constitutional rights and access to critical health care…”

Not all of the state laws imposing the 20-week limit have been challenged, because the procedure is so uncommon, she said. But laws in Georgia and Idaho have been blocked.

Canada strikes down national criminal prostitution laws


Nikki Thomas/director Sex Professionals of Canada, Terri-Jean Bedford, Valerie Scott

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Canada has unanimously struck down as unconstitutional the main scheme of criminal laws against the buying and selling of sex by prostitutes, saying it endangers the lives and security of vulnerable sex workers.

However, the country’s top court has given Parliament a one-year grace period to redraft a legislative scheme that could pass constitutional muster.

That means if, 12 months from today, the federal government has not redrawn the laws to address the court’s concern that they are too arbitrary, overbroad and “grossly disproportionate,” then prostitutes will be allowed to legally practice their trade, hire drivers, bodyguards, accountants and screen their clients freely.

In the meantime, the Criminal Code ban on brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating for the purposes of prostitution remain in full effect…

The stunning judgment that the country’s main prostitution laws breach fundamental Charter rights was a unanimous conclusion reached by all nine judges, including the retiring Justice Morris Fish. The court flatly rejected calls by the federal government’s lawyers to defer to Parliament on the contentious matter.

The appeal, known as Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, Lebovitch and Scott was brought by Toronto-based dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, former prostitute Valerie Scott, and downtown eastside Vancouver’s Amy Lebovitch. All three were on hand in Ottawa, and rejoiced loudly.

If you haven’t been following the case, the article is long, detailed and informative. Frankly, it’s worth reading because it should nudge your own thought processes. The questions raised ain’t easy.

On one hand, any sort of libertarian outlook says, let folks earn a living however they wish if they aren’t producing permanent harm to individuals and society. That last word brings in all the religions and philosophers. Not me. Individual freedoms are pretty hard to celebrate to a level that harms a nation.

The only concern from my side is the opportunity for criminals enterprise to profit from and control the lives of sex workers. And history tells us that is easier under criminalization than without. As alcohol prohibition has taught us, as our wonderful war on drugs illustrates on a daily basis.

Worth thinking about, folks – even if the opportunity to visit the question in your own country isn’t likely.

Same-sex marriage ruled constitutional by the NM Supreme Court

“We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law” – Justice Chavez, New Mexico Supreme Court, December 19, 2013

This news just broke: The New Mexico Supreme Court affirms that our state constitution affirms the right to marry for same-sex couples!

Every progressive organization in New Mexico, everyone who fights for constitutional protection, economic freedom and protections under the law for every citizen in New Mexico is out on the streets celebrating. My emailbox is filled with folks who worked to press this case. The chimes of freedom ring throughout New Mexico even if the churches of official New Mexico are silent.

Folks who support freedom in New Mexico are fortunate in that many of our elected officials supported this struggle. With the exception of the sole Republican in New Mexico’s delegation to Congress support has been solid. Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham will be at celebrations throughout the state tonight. They’re posting congratulations at various social media sites and I for one will be spending a bit of time, this afternoon, wending my way through to “liking” each one of them.

Here’s a link to the official proclamation from the State Supreme Court.

India’s gay community is in shock over Supreme Court support for colonial-era ignorance


Reaching for freedom in India

There’s been widespread outrage in India’s gay community, which is in shock after the country’s top court reversed a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that had decriminalised homosexual acts.

The court has now left it to parliament to legislate on Section 377, a 153-year-old colonial law, under which a same-sex relationship is an “unnatural offence” and punishable by a 10-year jail term.

Opposition to the 2009 ruling had come from more than a dozen political, social and religious groups and petitioners.

They put up an array of arguments, many of them bizarre and, some might say, disingenuous.

One petitioner was a TV astrologer who told the court the ruling “compromises national defence since soldiers will start having sex with each other”…Perhaps most bizarrely, a spokesman for a popular yoga guru opposed the change, telling the court that he could “cure homosexuality through yoga”…

Ranged against this were some four main groups who filed petitions supporting the Delhi court decision.

They included parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people with stories of how the colonial-era law had caused trauma to them and harmed their family lives; a group of more than a dozen psychiatrists and psychologists who treat LGBT “patients”; and some distinguished academics and leading Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal…

The 2009 judgement came as a shot in the arm for India’s gay community. More and more of its members had begun to come out. “The verdict is a severe blow to them,” journalist and activist Vikram Doctor tells me. “Once people come out of the closet, they just cannot go back.”

I don’t know why I ever presumed India had left behind all the trappings of British Imperialism. Out-of-date and disfunctional, 19th Century policies are only honored by the truly backwards. Usually on the basis of religion or bigotry.

I had presumed that legal structures at least at the top of law’s pyramid in India would be self-limiting to those individuals genuinely qualified. Wrong, obviously.

Northeastern states ask EPA to crack down on Midwest polluters

Dirty-Business

Eight Northeastern and mid-Atlantic governors on Monday petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require “upwind” states in the Midwest and South to curb ozone-forming pollution from their power plants, which they say travels downwind and poses health risks to their citizens.

They want the EPA to force nine states – Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia – to regulate the emissions that cross into their borders through prevailing winds and contribute to higher ozone levels to the north and east of the upwind states.

The move comes just ahead of a closely watched Supreme Court review of an earlier appeals court rejection of the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

The governors, led by Delaware governor Jack Markell, said the upwind states had failed for decades to install the technology needed to contain emissions of organic compounds and nitrogen oxides which cause asthma and other respiratory diseases and contribute to as much as 98 percent of the ozone air pollution problems in their own states.

The petition asks the EPA to require the upwind states to join them in an “Ozone Transport Region,” which under the federal Clean Air Act would force actions to limit air pollution consistent with the efforts of the “downwind” states…

Besides Delaware the states petitioning for the controls are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont…

In a case being closely monitored by environmentalists and energy companies, the Supreme Court on Tuesday will consider the EPA rule that would have set limits on pollution from coal-fired power plants in 28 states, generally referred to as “upwind states,” that directly affect air quality in other states…

Vickie Patton, general counsel for environmental group Environmental Defense Fund, said it is also in the interest of the upwind states to install pollution controls…”Cleaning up this harmful power plant pollution will mean healthier, longer lives for children, families and communities across the Midwest and the millions of people afflicted in downwind states,” she said.

What is it with creeps who dedicate their lives to profiteering from power generation? I’ve been involved in struggles against these scumbags over half my life. Take it all the way back to acid rain.

The only thing that matters in their contemptible lives is profit-and-loss statements with all the emphasis on that first word. They couldn’t care less about families and individuals in their own state much less someone next door or downwind. They should be required to live in a guard shack immediately downwind of one of their crud-belching coal-fired power plants. A shorter lifespan might change their style.

Connecticut court must decide if horses are innately vicious

A US court is to hear a case that could result in horses being classified as a “vicious” species.

A boy’s parents sued a farm owner in the state of Connecticut after he was bitten by a horse named Scuppy in 2006.

A lower court said Scuppy belonged “to a species naturally inclined to do mischief and be vicious”. The state supreme court will now hear an appeal…If upheld, the lower court’s ruling could make horse ownership uninsurable, say equine industry figures.

The legal action began in 2006 after a boy tried to pet Scuppy at Glendale Farms in Milford…The animal reportedly bit the child on his right cheek, inflicting a serious injury.

The boy’s father, Anthony Vendrella, sued the farm’s owners, but lost in 2010 at a New Haven court.

That court ruled there was no evidence the farm’s owner knew of any previous incidents of aggression involving Scuppy.

But a Connecticut Appellate Court later overturned this verdict, finding that testimony suggested Scuppy’s species was “vicious” and that the boy’s injury had been foreseeable.

If upheld by the state’s supreme court, the verdict would be the first in the nation to classify horses as a vicious species, say analysts.

Could be about the dumbest legal precedent this side of the Dred Scott decision. If you can classify horses as a vicious species, you certainly could then apply the same definition to all dogs, maybe even rabbits. Cripes. Practically anything with four feet and teeth.

SCOTUS says coppers taking DNA samples the same as fingerprinting and photographing

Police may take DNA samples from people arrested in connection with serious crimes, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 5-to-4 decision.

The federal government and 28 states authorize the practice, and law enforcement officials say it is a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes. But the court said the testing was justified by a different reason: to identify the suspect in custody.

“When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority, “taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

Justice Antonin Scalia summarized his dissent from the bench…“Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” Justice Scalia said from the bench…

There’s a bit more blah, blah, blah from Scalia. He voices the paranoia already part of the DNA of jerkwater populists who can’t get their brains around the United States as a union, a whole nation, instead of a confederacy.

Monday’s ruling, Maryland v. King, No. 12-207, arose from the collection of DNA in 2009 from Alonzo Jay King Jr. after his arrest on assault charges in Wicomico County, Md. His DNA profile, obtained by swabbing his cheek, matched evidence from a 2003 rape case, and he was convicted of that crime…

Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that the “quick and painless” swabbing procedure was a search under the Fourth Amendment, meaning it had to be justified as reasonable under the circumstances. The search was reasonable, he said, given “the need for law enforcement officers in a safe and accurate way to process and identify the persons and possessions they must take into custody.”

Such identification, he said, “is no different than matching an arrestee’s face to a wanted poster of a previously unidentified suspect; or matching tattoos to known gang members to reveal a criminal affiliation; or matching the arrestee’s fingerprints to those recovered from a crime scene.”

An inevitable follow-on to this decision will be appeals and modifications to the law in the same vein as other nations ahead of the United States in considering and utilizing modern technology.

The UK high courts have ruled that DNA samples gathered as part of an arrest must be destroyed, the results expunged if the suspect is found not guilty of any offense at the time.