Archive: November 2006

Abbott and Costello Go to Gitmo

The following Buchwaldian dialogue is entirely fictional (except where the quotes appear) and the procedures used in real life are different from those depicted here. But the gist of the conversation, and the information contained in it, is real (the satire is my own, of course). In early 2005, a federal judge issued an important terror law ruling that shed a focused beam of light upon how our government is handling the detainees down at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. And, twice this year, Seton Hall University studies have taken declassified military records of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals--the initial hearing given to detainees at Gitmo to determine their status--and revealed the sheer scope of the legal farce that has been sold to us as due process. What follows below is based upon that information. Prosecutor: Judge, we would like to try this detainee again because the first time we did...

By Andrew Cohen | November 28, 2006; 1:30 PM ET | Comments (7)

Thanksgiving 2006

What I am thankful for this year? For the pleasure of engaging in spirited but well-intended and polite debate at Bench Conference over some of the most important legal topics of our time. No, that's not it. How about... for the fasincation and appreciation of watching the law and justice evolve, each at their own pace, during this turbulent time of terror? Nope. That's not it. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia? I am only thankful for (and worried about) him when he goes duck hunting with the Vice President. No, my gratitude this year is reserved for less poetic and more gritty things. I am thankful for the many brave people, in and out of government, who risked their careers, and perhaps their liberty, to leak to the media information about the CIA's secret prisons, and the Administration's extrajudicial domestic surveillance program, and the Defense Department's "Talon" spy program that...

By Andrew Cohen | November 22, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Crime and Punishment in America, Part II

This morning I blogged about the horrible treatment given to Nathan Gillis, a prisoner in Wisconsin's state penal system. This afternoon, let's talk about another prisoner, Timothy Jo Souders, who died a miserable death in August at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan. Here is how The New York Times played the story: "Shackled to a concrete slab, Timothy Joe Souders spent the final days of his life naked and lying in his own urine, sweating through temperatures higher than 100 degrees in an isolated prison cell. Mr. Souders, 21, with a history of severe mental illness, died on Aug. 6 after four days in a segregation cell at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Jackson." On Monday, a federal trial judge declared that prison officials essentially "tortured" Souders and then did not go far enough to correct the problems that led to Souders' death. "You are not...

By Andrew Cohen | November 15, 2006; 2:45 PM ET | Comments (4)

Crime and Punishment in America

Let's have a conversation, you and I, over how we want our government, in our name, to treat our prisoners. But, first, read this federal appeals court ruling in a Wisconsin case involving a prisoner and the state's Supermax prison facility. It is only 13 pages long and I suspect that upon reading it you will have one of only two reactions: you will either be repulsed (like me) or you will be satisfied (finally) that our prisons are becoming the rat holes you have wanted them to be in the name of deterrence. Here is how 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Terence T. Evans began the court's unanimous ruling in favor of a prisoner named Nathan Gillis: "Stripped naked in a small prison cell with nothing except a toilet; forced to sleep on a concrete floor or slab; denied any human contact; fed nothing but 'nutri-loaf'; and...

By Andrew Cohen | November 15, 2006; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (6)

The Swing Justice Sits Mute

The man who almost certainly will determine the fate of Congress' latest effort to ban a type of late-term abortion procedure which its opponents call "partial-birth abortion" sat mute through two full oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday. He did not ask a question. He did not raise a point. He did not address the lawyers or his colleagues on the bench. In fact, if you weren't in Court (and I wasn't), you would not have been able to tell from the transcript that Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. was even present for the oral arguments in two of the biggest cases this term. His vote likely will determine whether the federal law banning the practice finally succeeds or fails again. Sure, some hopeful abortion rights advocates believe that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted in favor of a similar ban when the Court looked at this issue...

By Andrew Cohen | November 9, 2006; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (13)

Anti-Judge Measures Go Down in Flames

Turns out that the "anti-judge" movement in the American West, in places like Colorado and South Dakota, isn't as pronounced as some (like me) thought it was. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the South Dakota initiative that would have stripped judges of their legal immunity and made them vulnerable to lawsuits over unpopular decisions. The measure got just over 10 percent of the vote. In Colorado, voters by a smaller margin said no to a measure that would have forced appellate judges out of office via term limits. The results are good news for any number of reasons. But supporters of the measures say they will be back in 2008 for another round of fighting- and probably another whuppin'-- so take a few breaths over the next 18 months or so and then meet me back here for Stupid Ballot Initiatives, Part Deux....

By Andrew Cohen | November 8, 2006; 10:30 AM ET | Email a Comment

Top Ten Ways to Make Election 2008 Better

I'm quite sure that you are as delighted as I am that we are just a few hours away from the end of this latest cycle of collective madness called an "election." The older I get, the less tolerant I have become about the lies, and the liars who tell them, and the liars who go on television to talk about the liars who lie, etc. So in the interest of making America Great Again (copyright pending), here is my Top Ten List of things I would do to change the way we elect our politicians. 10. Prohibit political advertisements on television unless they are produced by the same people who make those awesome Super Bowl ads each year. The current attack ads aren't just shameless vessels to distort an opponent's record, they have become self-parodies of bad television. 9. Prohibit political operatives from appearing on television to discuss the...

By Andrew Cohen | November 7, 2006; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (9)

The Death of Frank Dunham

A great lawyer and a wonderful man died last week but only the terror-law junkies among you will recognize or remember his name. It was Frank W. Dunham, Jr., the man who first represented Zacarias Moussaoui (back when the government was pretending he was the 20th hijacker of 9/11) and who later convinced the Supreme Court to side with a U.S.-born Yemeni man, Yaser Esam Hamdi, over the Bush Administration in the first case brought and fought by a so-called "enemy combatant." The Post also reports that Dunham also once called former President Richard Nixon as a witness for, ironically enough, W. Mark Felt, the man who has since become known as Watergate's "Deep Throat." Another prominent and talented terror-law attorney, Edward B. McMahon, Jr., who also represented Moussaoui, said over the weekend that Dunahm's work on the Hamdi case was "one of the greatest accomplishments ever by an American...

By Andrew Cohen | November 6, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Email a Comment

Another Death Penalty Debacle

Jeffrey Leonard, known to his capital jurors as James Slaughter, must feel today like the patient whose doctor tells him that the surgery was a great success but that he soon will die. That's because a sharply-divided federal appeals court Wednesday refused to grant the brain-damaged murderer a new trial, or even a new sentencing hearing, despite the fact that they recognized that his constitutional rights were violated because his trial attorneys didn't know until after his trial that his name was Leonard, and not Slaughter, and thus were unable to mount a "mitigating factors" defense on his behalf. The stunning result out of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the 7-7 voting tie on appeal precludes Leonard from getting any relief, is yet another reason why the country's death penalty procedures are broken. Here's what Judge R. Guy Cole Jr. wrote on behalf of five dissenting judges:...

By Andrew Cohen | November 2, 2006; 9:00 AM ET | Comments (29)

 

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