North Dakota Supreme Court overturns conviction on 20-year-old charge

The North Dakota Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a man who was tried last year on a 20-year-old drunken driving charge.

Jason Gale was arrested for drunken driving in 1995 in Grand Forks but wasn’t called to court until last July, when a jury found him guilty. Gale’s attorney, Scott Brand, argued to justices in December that the delay violated Gale’s right to a speedy trial.

“The government was clearly negligent. It’s 20 years, memories are going to fade and that was obvious at the trial,” Brand told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “The officer just memorized his report. He didn’t have any independent recollection as to what happened on that night…”

The opinion released late Tuesday said justices can’t presume that a 20-year-old case was “diligently prosecuted when there is no evidence of any prosecution at all” and that two decades is an unprecedented amount of time for a DUI case to remain idle.

“I have never seen a case like this in my life or even so much heard of one,” Brand said.

Wonder if we’ll see this show up in an episode of Fargo?

Scalia’s Dead — Dow Chemical figures it is cheaper to pay for their crimes than appeal

Scalia shoes

Dow Chemical Co. said it agreed to pay $835 million to settle an antitrust case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death reduced its chances of overturning a jury award.

Dow, the largest U.S. chemical maker by sales, said Friday the accord will resolve its challenges to a $1.06 billion award to purchasers of compounds for urethanes, chemicals used to make foam upholstery for furniture and plastic walls in refrigerators.

The Midland, Michigan-based company disputed a jury’s finding it had conspired with four other chemical makers to fix urethane prices and asked the Supreme Court to take the class-action case on appeal. Scalia, one of the court’s most conservative members, had voted to scale back the reach of such group suits.

“Growing political uncertainties due to recent events with the Supreme Court and increased likelihood for unfavorable outcomes for business involved in class-action suits have changed Dow’s risk assessment of the situation…”

Ain’t that such a polite way to say we lost one of corporate America’s truly dedicated pimps in government?

Texas attorney general told county clerks to ignore Supreme Court — may be disbarred

Delightfully smarmy booking photo courtesy of Reuters

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is being probed for ethics violations for telling county clerks that they could deny marriage licenses to same sex-couples, another potential setback for the state’s top lawyer, who is already facing felony charges.

The Texas Bar Association ordered its Board of Disciplinary Appeals this week to look into Paxton and his office, Houston attorney Eddie Rodriguez said on Thursday. If Paxton is found to have an ethics violation, he could be disbarred, which means he could no longer serve as attorney general…

Paxton’s office said in a statement:Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

In a separate case, Paxton, a Tea Party Republican, is facing three felony charges relating to securities fraud. If convicted of the most serious charge, he could face up to 99 years in prison.

Gotta love law’n order candidates who don’t care a rat’s ass about the law part.

Mexico’s Supreme Court says OK to grow your own, dude!

Mexican cannabis

The Mexican Supreme Court has opened the door to legalizing marijuana, delivering a pointed challenge to the nation’s strict substance abuse laws and adding its weight to the growing debate in Latin America over the costs and consequences of the war against drugs.

The vote by the court’s criminal chamber declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. While the ruling does not strike down current drug laws, it lays the groundwork for a wave of legal actions that could ultimately rewrite them…

The decision reflects a changing dynamic in Mexico, where for decades the American-backed antidrug campaign has produced much upheaval but few lasting victories. Today, the flow of drugs to the United States continues, along with the political corruption it fuels in Mexico. The country, dispirited by the ceaseless campaign against traffickers, remains engulfed in violence…

The marijuana case has ignited a debate about the effectiveness of imprisoning drug users in a country with some of the most conservative drug laws in Latin America. But across the region, a growing number of voices are questioning Washington’s strategy in the drug war. With little to show for tough-on-crime policies, the balance appears to be slowly shifting toward other approaches…

Although the rising production of higher-quality marijuana in the United States reduces demand for Mexican imports, experts say that Mexican gangs continue to account for an important percentage of the American supply…

The one thing that could significantly affect the cartels’ marijuana business is legislation in the United States. As marijuana growing for commercial purposes in America expands, demand for Mexican marijuana could eventually dry up.

Marijuana is just one of many sources of income for the cartels, which smuggle narcotics across the border to the United States and run kidnapping and extortion rings at home. The criminal infrastructure will persist whether or not marijuana use is legal.

President Enrique Peña Nieto said his government would respect the Supreme Court’s decision, but his government, legislators and security and health officials all oppose legalization, as does the Roman Catholic Church.

Armando Santacruz is determined to change minds. Invoking the specter of Mexico’s most notorious drug kingpin, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, he likes to remind people: “Bad regulation is better than whatever regulation El Chapo and the narcos can provide.”

Gangsters will always find way to profit from a corrupt society. Reducing that corruption by modern means, enlightened remedies reduce the effectiveness of criminal elements, diminish the profitability of corruption. A lesson we should have learned decades ago.

The process of removing the whole effect of bad laws, incompetent understanding – like Nixon’s War on Drugs – will continue to be an uneven process. Like any social reform. Nevertheless, as victories roll out, progress will not be halted.

The US Is an “oligarchy with unlimited political bribery” says former president

Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”

Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.

HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy. … Your thoughts on that?

CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over. … The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.

Just in case you feel good about the snow job we get on a daily basis from the leaders of the two old parties in the White House and Congress. They fill the air with blather and bluster about our constitutional tradition, free speech in action, the benefits we enjoy as a free people.

It has as much legitimate content as the average infomercial on network TV sold as filler in between fictional cop shows, comedies about fools and so-called reality TV. If you believe any of it – you are the fool.

Jimmy Carter continues to get my vote as the leading ex-president over the last century. He has the courage to tell the truth about everything from our phony foreign policy to criminal behavior in Congress.

Mexico latest Latin nation to pass USA on legalizing same-sex marriage

Hiram Gonzalez married Severiano Chavez in ChihuahuaCheros/AC

His church turned him away, his family discouraged him from a public fight and the government of the state where he lives vowed it would never happen.

But it did. Hiram Gonzalez married his boyfriend, Severiano Chavez, last year in the northern state of Chihuahua, which, like most Mexican states, technically allows marriage only between a man and a woman.

Mr. Gonzalez and dozens of other gay couples in recent months have, however, found a powerful ally: Mexico’s Supreme Court.

In ruling after ruling, the court has said that state laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals are discriminatory. Though the decisions have been made to little public fanfare, they have had the effect of legalizing gay marriage in Mexico without enshrining it in law…

As the United States awaits a landmark decision on gay marriage by the Supreme Court, the Mexican court’s rulings have added the country to a slowly growing list of Latin American nations permitting same-sex unions.

Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil already allow same-sex marriage. Chile plans to recognize same-sex civil unions this year; Ecuador approved civil unions in April; and Colombia grants same-sex couples many of the same rights extended to heterosexual married couples…

The shift in Mexico, the second largest country in Latin America after Brazil, is the product of a legal strategy that advocates used to bypass state legislatures, which have shown little inclination, and often hostility, to legalizing gay marriage.

In 2009, Mexico City, a large liberal island in this socially conservative country, legalized gay marriage — a first in Latin America. There have been 5,297 same-sex weddings there since then, some of them couples coming to the city from other states…

The Supreme Court upheld Mexico City’s law in 2010, adding that other states had to recognize marriages performed there.

Alex Ali Mendez, the lawyer pressing these cases, said the next step in the legal process was compiling enough injunctions in each state to reach a threshold under which the court could formally order state legislatures to rewrite their laws.

But experts said that Mexico had already reached a watershed.

A similar watershed exists among ordinary American citizens. Meaningless to Congress.

There are a fair number of judges in Mexico who hold to the traditions of law aiding the progress of their nation. Completely at odds with the philosophy of American conservatives and their pet judges on the Supreme Court. Progress for our nation, our people, means nothing to their theocratic minds. Preserving a backwards view of the past, as distorted as that may be, is their cardinal waypoint.

With politicians as corrupt as any in the hemisphere, Americans see the only exceptions being political action in blue states and the majority of federal courts. Still, when you get to the ultimate federal court in the nation, progress is held hostage to liars, frauds appointed by reactionary and cowardly hacks under Republican administrations.

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…


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.