Sunday, July 10, 2005

Ordure in the Court 

A brace of disquieting items flagged by our eminent colleague Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque:

1.) From WaPo, "Stop This Bill":
Both chambers of the national legislature are quietly moving a particularly ugly piece of legislation designed to gut the legal means by which prisoners prove their innocence . . . . [t]he so-called Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005 takes the evisceration of habeas review, particularly in capital cases, to a whole new level. It should not become law.

For a great many capital cases, the bill would eliminate federal review entirely. Federal courts would be unable to review almost all capital convictions from states certified by the Justice Department as providing competent counsel to convicts to challenge their convictions under state procedures. Although the bill, versions of which differ slightly between the chambers, provides a purported exception for cases in which new evidence completely undermines a conviction, this is drawn so narrowly that it is likely to be useless -- even in identifying cases of actual innocence.

It gets worse. The bill, pushed by Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Calif.) in the House and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in the Senate, would impose onerous new procedural hurdles on inmates seeking federal review -- those, that is, whom it doesn't bar from court altogether. It would bar the courts from considering key issues raised by those cases and insulate most capital sentencing from federal scrutiny. It also would dictate arbitrary timetables for federal appeals courts to resolve habeas cases. This would be a dramatic change in federal law -- and entirely for the worse.
2.) From Tim Grieve of Salon's War Room, "Bush judges to decide Guantánamo case":
When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit takes up the question of the rights of foreign nationals being held at Guantánamo Bay, two of the three judges who decide the case will be just-confirmed nominees of George W. Bush . . . .

The two cases are before the D.C. Circuit now, and as
SCOTUSblog notes today, the court has just announced the names on the three-judge panel that will hear them: Judith Rogers, Thomas Griffith and Janice Rogers Brown. Rogers has been on the court since 1994, but Griffith and Brown have been there less than a month, having been confirmed by the Senate in the wake of the nuclear option-averting compromise struck by the "Gang of 14."

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