PSA: ACLU, Other Groups File Suit Against Proposition 8

by matttbastard

ACLU/Lambda/NCLR press release:

Legal Groups File Lawsuit Challenging Proposition 8, Should It Pass (11/5/2008)

Legal Papers Claim Initiative Procedure Cannot Be Used To Undermine the Constitution’s Core Commitment To Equality For Everyone

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

SAN FRANCISCO – The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a writ petition before the California Supreme Court today urging the court to invalidate Proposition 8 if it passes. The petition charges that Proposition 8 is invalid because the initiative process was improperly used in an attempt to undo the constitution’s core commitment to equality for everyone by eliminating a fundamental right from just one group – lesbian and gay Californians. Proposition 8 also improperly attempts to prevent the courts from exercising their essential constitutional role of protecting the equal protection rights of minorities. According to the California Constitution, such radical changes to the organizing principles of state government cannot be made by simple majority vote through the initiative process, but instead must, at a minimum, go through the state legislature first.

The California Constitution itself sets out two ways to alter the document that sets the most basic rules about how state government works. Through the initiative process, voters can make relatively small changes to the constitution. But any measure that would change the underlying principles of the constitution must first be approved by the legislature before being submitted to the voters. That didn’t happen with Proposition 8, and that’s why it’s invalid.

“If the voters approved an initiative that took the right to free speech away from women, but not from men, everyone would agree that such a measure conflicts with the basic ideals of equality enshrined in our constitution. Proposition 8 suffers from the same flaw – it removes a protected constitutional right – here, the right to marry – not from all Californians, but just from one group of us,” said Jenny Pizer, a staff attorney with Lambda Legal. “That’s too big a change in the principles of our constitution to be made just by a bare majority of voters.”

“A major purpose of the constitution is to protect minorities from majorities. Because changing that principle is a fundamental change to the organizing principles of the constitution itself, only the legislature can initiate such revisions to the constitution,” added Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.

The groups filed the lawsuit today in the California Supreme Court on behalf of Equality California and 6 same-sex couples who did not marry before Tuesday’s election but would like to be able to marry now.

The groups filed a writ petition in the California Supreme Court before the elections presenting similar arguments because they believed the initiative should not have appeared on the ballot, but the court dismissed that petition without addressing its merits. That earlier order is not precedent here.

“Historically, courts are reluctant to get involved in disputes if they can avoid doing so,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of NCLR. “It is not uncommon for the court to wait to see what happens at the polls before considering these legal arguments. However, now that Proposition 8 may pass, the courts will have to weigh in and we believe they will agree that Proposition 8 should never have been on the ballot in the first place.”

This would not be the first time the court has struck down an improper voter initiative. In 1990, the court stuck down an initiative that would have added a provision to the California Constitution stating that the “Constitution shall not be construed by the courts to afford greater rights to criminal defendants than those afforded by the Constitution of the United States.” That measure was invalid because it improperly attempted to strip California’s courts of their role as independent interpreters of the state’s constitution.

In a statement issued earlier today, the groups stated their conviction, which is shared by the California Attorney General, that the state must continue to honor the marriages of the 18,000 lesbian and gay couples who have already married in California. A copy of the statement as well as the writ petition filed today is available at: www.aclu.org/lgbt, www.lambdalegal.org, and www.nclrights.org.

In addition to the ACLU, Lambda Legal and NCLR, the legal team bringing the writ also includes the Law Office of David C. Codell; Munger Tolles & Olson, LLP; and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP.

h/t DKos (by way of pale via IM).

More from Digby (h/t Paul the Spud) , Faith @ Shakesville, Ta-Nehisi Coates (h/t Sebastian) Amp, Mandolin, The Girl Detective, Jeff Fecke, Thomas @ Feministe, VivirLatino, Kyle @ Right Wing Watch, Bil Browning, Darkrose and Pam Spaulding

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Hamdan Guilty of ‘Material Support’, Acquitted of More Serious Conspiracy Charges

by matttbastard

Hey, it only took seven years, but justice has finally been perverted served:

Salim Hamdan was found guilty of providing material support for terrorism at a Guantanamo military commission today, but acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks and murder American soldiers. So let me get this straight: After seven years and numerous court challenges including two Supreme Court rulings, the Bush administration finally stumbled its way to its first conviction in a military commission for a crime that is routinely handled in federal courts. Is this is the best they can do?

Hamdan was Osama bin Laden’s driver, not Osama bin Laden. He never denied that he was bin Laden’s driver. It would have been an open and shut case of material support for terrorism in federal court. Hamdan could have been securely locked away years ago, but the Bush administration chose to pursue the risky path of an untested military commissions system.

Now, come on. I was under the impression Hamdan was a bloodthirsty terrorist (the worst of the worst!!1one) hell-bent on destroying the pillars of Western civilization. His conviction means the world is now a safer place, right?

The worst aspect of this whole episode is that the Bush administration has completely devalued the concept of a war criminal. War crimes should be reserved for the most serious offenses and war crimes trials are extraordinary. Charles Taylor is a war criminal. Radovan Karazdic is a war criminal. Salim Hamdan is a chauffer. He is clearly guilty of the crime of material support for terrorism. But now he has been elevated to the status of warrior, legitimizing al Qaeda terrorists’ belief that they are waging a holy war against the United States and our allies.

Well. I’m comfortable declaring this little long term experiment in post-9/11 homeland insecurity an unqualified success. Heck of a motherfucking job.

Related: Statement on the Hamdan decision from the Center for Constitutional Rights:

In response to the hand-picked military jury’s decision in the Military Commission against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Shayana Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, issued the following statement:

“Hamdan’s trial violated two of the most fundamental criminal justice principles accepted by all developed nations: the prohibition on the use of coerced evidence and the prohibition on retroactive criminal laws.

The trial will not create finality – the decision to keep these cases out of the ordinary criminal courts will produce years of appeals over novel legal issues raised by the untested military commissions system. Even after those appeals are finished, the process will never be seen as legitimate by the world. This case was the first trial run of the commissions system, and the decision proves nothing except that the system itself should be scrapped. Terrorism-related crimes should be tried in the time-tested domestic criminal justice system, a system whose rules have been designed over the centuries with one goal: to seek out the truth.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court. For more information or to read the amicus brief filed by CCR in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, click here.

and the ACLU:

After a trial filled with overwhelming constitutional and procedural flaws, a jury of military officers today found Salim Hamdan guilty of providing material support for terrorism. The American Civil Liberties Union has been at Guantánamo Bay observing the Hamdan proceedings, which lacked the fundamental legal safeguards found in traditional U.S. courts or military courts governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The following can be attributed to ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero:

“Any verdict resulting from such a flawed system is a betrayal of American values. The rules for the Guantánamo military commissions are so flawed that justice could never be served. From start to finish, this has been a monumental debacle of American justice. The judgment against Hamdan undoubtedly will be challenged in legitimate courts, but there is no appeal from the judgment of future generations. This system was devised to permit the prosecution of alleged wrongdoing by detainees, while continuing to cover up the wrongdoing by government interrogators. Trials that are shrouded in secrecy and tainted by coercion are the very antithesis of American justice.”

The following can be attributed to ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Ben Wizner, who observed the trial:

“In the strange world of Guantánamo justice, even if Hamdan had been acquitted on all charges, he would have been detained indefinitely. Nowhere else in the U.S. justice system can someone be held for life regardless of whether he is convicted or acquitted of a crime. Today’s outcome represents nothing more than an illusion of justice. It is time to shut down these commissions and put an end to this shameful chapter in American history.”

As part of its John Adams Project, a partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the ACLU is sponsoring expert civilian counsel to assist the under-resourced military defense counsel of some Guantánamo detainees.

More information on the John Adams Project is available online at: www.aclu.org/johnadams

(both statements h/t FDL).

Also see this trip down memory lane from Think Progress: “[t]oday marks seven years since the day President Bush received a President’s Daily Brief entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” (See the memo here.)”

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Obey: The Video

by matttbastard

Compare and constrast.

h/t pale via IM.

Update: r@d@r, bumped from comments:

i’m disturbed by a whole separate issue here, upon viewing the video – the shoppers that just walked by a woman lying on the floor near the entrance with a security guard over her, without slowing down or even turning to look.

what is wrong with these people? was the promise of the unbearable ecstasy of holiday shopping enough to drug them out of their basic human compassion and decency?

sometimes i wonder how our species will survive – and sometimes i wonder if it deserves to.

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Obey.

by matttbastard

Someone’s slip is showing:

It was Nov. 26 when 35-year-old Elizabeth Beeland of Ormond Beach stopped at the store to purchase a CD player for her father, she told The Daytona Beach News-Journal before refusing to speak more about the incident.

Beeland’s shopping trip ended up with a ride to the Volusia County Branch Jail, charged with two misdemeanors — one for disorderly conduct and the other for resisting a police officer without violence.

[…]

In a report police are required to prepare after deploying their Tasers, Officer Claudia Wright said she used her weapon on Beeland because the woman was “verbally profane, abusive, loud and irate.” Beeland pointed her finger “towards my face” and was waving her arms, the officer wrote.

But is that against the law? And is yelling at a cop considered enough resistance to merit the use of a Taser?

According to an American Civil Liberties Union representative in Orlando, yelling at a police officer and even cussing one out is constitutionally protected speech. And both the ACLU and Amnesty International USA say this incident likely could have been handled differently, adding that Taser use has become too casual and too common among police officers.

Police Chief Mike Chitwood said if a Taser had not been available, his officer likely would have used other weapons to subdue Beeland.

“I was never raised on Tasers,” the chief said. “I used nightsticks and slapjacks.”

[…]

Police Department policy states an officer can deploy his or her Taser “for the purpose of subduing a violent, noncompliant or combative subject.”

Another section titled “Use of Force,” says the Taser may be deployed when an officer believes the person presents a threat to the officer or to others “in the event that lesser force options are ineffective.” The Taser also should be deployed to prevent the escape of a “criminal suspect,” and when a “subject actively resists arrest or detention by violence or threat of violence.”

Beeland, although not compliant, was not acting violently, according to the officer’s report. However, Chitwood said his officer had been flagged down under the assumption Beeland may have stolen a credit card.

The fact Wright said Beeland refused to comply only further fueled the situation, Chitwood said.

“The fact that she (Beeland) was resisting and not following commands being given by a uniformed officer, that means that officer eventually was going to get hurt,” Chitwood said. “Claudia Wright did not wake up that morning and say, ‘I think I want to tase someone today.’

“The woman’s actions caused this to happen,” the chief said.

“I was never raised on Tasers… . I used nightsticks and slapjacks.”

“Beeland, although not compliant, was not acting violently

“The fact Wright said Beeland refused to comply only further fueled the situation”.

“The woman’s actions caused this to happen.”

Compliance, not safety.

h/t pale via IM.

Related: Here in Canada, journalists have also recently been expected to comply with demands for obedience from local law enforcement officials, else reap the consequences.

Compliance, not safety.

h/t Berlynn @ Bread and Roses

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