Saturday, December 26, 2009

State Rep. Steve Palazzo wants something unconstitutional done to fight unconstitutional healthcare reform

Here's something rather, umm, odd, from WLOX.  State Rep. Steven Palazzo thinks that the version of health care reform passed by the United States Senate on Christmas Eve is unconstitutional, and he wants AG Jim Hood to "take legal action."  He, of course, doesn't explain what he thinks is unconstitutional, nor does he tell us exactly what legal action he would have Hood take.  I'm pretty sure he fails to explain it because he simply doesn't know what would be unconstitutional about it, nor does he know what action Hood could take.  In fact, Palazzo's the one who is seeking something unconstitutional.

I assume most readers of this blog are familiar with the concept of ripeness and the prohibition of advisory opinions.  For those who are not, the doctrine of ripeness says that there has to actually be a controversy before a court can hear a case.  In essence, you can't have a lawsuit over something that may or may not happen in the future.  With respect to health care reform, no law has been passed.  (Surely Palazzo would understand how a bill becomes a law since he's in the legislature and all.)  In addition to ripeness, our U.S. Constitution prohibits advisory opinions by our federal courts.  Since no health care reform package has been enacted into law, any opinion by a federal court in this matter would be merely advisory.  So, what Palazzo is asking Hood to seek is, in fact, unconstitutional.  Oh, the irony.

But that's not all.  Palazzo goes on to say "We've all seen several Senators get paid off for their votes in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars."  Really?  I must have missed that episode of Glen Beck.  Now, what I find truly interesting about that statement is that Palazzo's largest contributor (aside from himself and his family), is the Mississippi State Medical Association.  (The campaign finance reports with their contributions can be found here and here.)  In all, Mississippi State Medical has donated $6,000 to Palazzo, with $5,000 of that coming during the month leading up to the special election in 2006 in which Palazzo first won his seat.  Why is that important?  Well, Mississippi State Medical has been staunchly opposed to health care reform, and even recently decided to "de-unify" from the American Medical Association over that issue.

And Mississippi Republicans wonder why they can't gain a majority in either house of our state legislature, despite their overwhelming majority in statewide elections.  The bench apparently just ain't that deep.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mississippi: In The Top 10, for Once?

The blog Live Science posted the news that a new scientific study ranking the States in terms of the "happiness" of their residents lists Mississippi sixth.

The study was conducted by Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in England and Stephen Wu, an economist at Hamilton College in New York. Oswald and Wu sought to connect the subjective perception of "happiness" to more objective indicia.

The happiest states:

1. Louisiana
2. Hawaii
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Arizona
6. Mississippi
7. Montana
8. South Carolina
9. Alabama
10. Maine

Live Science reports:

[The] results come from a comparison of two data sets of happiness levels in each state, one that relied on participants' self-reported well-being and the other an objective measure that took into account a state's weather, home prices and other factors that are known reasons to frown (or smile).

The self-reported information came from 1.3 million U.S. citizens who took part in a survey between 2005 and 2008.

"We wanted to study whether people's feelings of satisfaction with their own lives are reliable, that is, whether they match up to reality — of sunshine hours, congestion, air quality, etc — in their own state," Oswald said.

The results showed the two measures matched up. "We were stunned when it first came up on our screens, because no one has ever managed to produce a clear validation before of subjective well-being, or happiness, data," Oswald said.
Live Science noted:

In addition to rating the smile factor of U.S. states, the research also proved for the first time that a person's self-reported happiness matches up with objective measures of well-being.

Essentially, if an individual says they're happy, they are.

"When human beings give you an answer on a numerical scale about how satisfied they are with their lives, it is best to pay attention. Their answers are reliable," said Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in England. "This suggests that life-satisfaction survey data might be very useful for governments to use in the design of economic and social policies," Oswald said.
The study does have something of a flaw, however. The subjective reporting data, which placed Louisiana at the top of the "Happy States" list, was collected before Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Radley Balko pokes around Gov. Barbour's pardons

Radley Balko's got a piece in Slate entitled "Haley Barbour's Bizarre Pardon Record."  I don't have the time to delve into it here, with it being the holiday season and the reopening of the King Edward, but I highly recommend the read, and I want your thoughts on it.  Especially interesting to me is the apparent abrupt change in Gov. Barbour's policy on never giving pardons.

Friday, December 11, 2009

YP: Paul Minor Appeal Decided

Y'all Politics reports that the Fifth Circuit has decided the appeal taken by Paul Minor, John Whitfield, and Wes Teel.

The seventy page opinion reverses all aspects of the convictions based on 18 USC Section 666, the "federal program bribery" statute. The Court found that there was no connection between the payments on behalf of Whitfield/Teel and the federal funding of non-judicial aspects of the state Administrative Office of the Courts. All three defendants' cases have been remanded for resentencing.

The Court of Appeals denied the Appellants' request that the resentencing be transferred to a different judge. The Fifth Circuit specifically held that "we are convinced that [Chief District] Judge Wingate conducted the trial in a fair and impartial manner."

Reeves Barbour does the impossible: 2 holes-in-one in the same round

Oxford publication The Local Voice has a story coming out soon detailing an incredible round of golf by Gov. Haley Barbour's son, Reeves.  The younger Barbour was playing in a tournament at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Manassas, VA, when he aced two holes in the same round.  According to the story:

The tournament headed to the par 3 174-yard ninth hole where Barbour took a 7-iron out of his back and proceeded to one-hop the ball into the hole. Barbour said the caddies and other players in the group congratulated him and gave him high-fives before calling the pro shop so they could remove the flag for a keepsake. The group moved onto the 10th where Barbour scored a four, good enough for par.

Then the walk to the 11th hole, a Par 3 161-yard hollow.

"I hit an 8-iron that flew directly in the hole, kind of like a slam-dunk," he said. "It sounded like a 22-caliber rifle went off when the ball hit the pin."
Vice President Joe Biden was at the golf club when this happened, and is currently trying to find a clear spot on his schedule for a round with Reeves.  Here's a link to a video interview with Barbour the Younger.  Major congratulations, Reeves!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Liberal Endorsement: Senator Sherrod Brown on the Senate's Health Care Proposal

Here is the statement issued today by Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, one of the most liberal Democrats in the Senate, in favor of the consensus health care reform proposal announced by the Senate Democratic leadership earlier this week. If Senator Brown is for the package, we can rest assured that it is the best possible proposal for expanding health care coverage to all Americans.

Senator Brown writes:

When I was first elected to serve in the House of Representatives, I made a promise to Ohioans that I would not accept the Congressional health insurance plan until all Americans had affordable health insurance. Even though I'm serving in the United States Senate now, I'm keeping that promise because I am more committed than ever to fixing our tragically broken system.

I've led the fight for a strong public option in the Senate. I co-authored the public option language adopted by the Senate's Health Committee, and I have been using every opportunity since then to make the case for it.

As you know, some of my Senate Democratic colleagues remain unpersuaded, so Majority Leader Harry Reid asked me and nine other Senators to try to reach an agreement that all 60 Democratic Senators could support. I am pleased that our so-called 'Gang of 10' negotiations produced a framework that is every bit as good as the legislation that Senator Reid brought to the Senate floor.

At this point, nothing is final. I am going to continue to fight for the core principles I need to see in a reform bill to earn my vote -- cutting costs, expanding coverage to as many Americans as possible, and keeping insurance companies honest (it's clear they can't do that on their own).
Our framework would provide every uninsured American with the same kind of health system that Members of Congress enjoy. No state could opt out. And even more importantly, it would let Americans who lack insurance from an employer buy coverage from Medicare when they reach 55.

Ten years ago, I joined Senator Ted Kennedy and others in introducing legislation that would make Medicare available to everyone 55 years of age and older. I am thrilled we may soon make that legislation a reality. At the same time, we will make health care available to millions of low-income Americans, and provide financial help to millions more middle-class Americans so they can afford to purchase health insurance.

Remember when Republicans said they would make health insurance reform President Obama's "Waterloo"? They said they would "break him" if we moved forward, and have been working hard at every turn to obstruct the process, distort what our reform bill would do, and deceive Ohioans with scare tactics and fear mongering. Even today, powerful interest groups are rallying their members to try to stop the expansion of Medicare.

It hasn't worked. Americans are demanding reform, the Senate is responding, and we're going to get this done. Since Harry Truman was in office, Democratic Presidents have been trying to get America's health care system on par with the rest of the developed world. For a long time, reform seemed like a dream -- a great idea always just out of reach.

Today, we're about to make our dreams a reality and finally make good on what we owe our constituents -- a health insurance system that works as well for the middle class and less privileged as it does for the big insurance and pharmaceutical companies. We're working hard to finish this work as soon as possible so we can move on to the many challenges still facing this Congress.

TPM: GOP Flip-Flopping on Medicare . . . Again

The blog TPM (Talking Points Memo) has an excellent post this morning about the latest Republican flip-flop on Medicare.

As you may know by now, the latest consensus plan on health care presented by the Senate Democratic leadership includes an innovative means of providing an alternative option to the uninsured, without the full-blown "public option" that has attracted so much GOP fire. As The Christian Science Monitor explains:

With a breakthrough in negotiations announced Tuesday night, Senate Democrats are closing in on a historic overhaul of US healthcare – even if no Republicans join them.

The agreement dropped plans for a big government role in the health insurance market (aka, the public option), which had been a deal-breaker for a handful of centrist Democrats, but in exchange for that compromise it expands access to healthcare through Medicare to workers as young as 55.

* * * *

The deal proposes, in place of a government-run insurance program, mandating private, nonprofit companies to administer low-cost national insurance policies, along the lines of the health plans offered to members of Congress and federal workers. The federal Office of Personnel Management would set up the new national plan but nonprofit private companies would run it.

You'd think the GOP would cheer this new approach. But of course, they don't. Which leads to TPM's report:

For decades, the Republican party has been the scourge of Medicare, hostile to it as a wasteful government program, and happy to see it, in the words of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, "wither and die on the vine." Over the past several months, as Democrats propose paying for health care reform with savings wrung from waste in Medicare, Republicans have tried to position themselves as Medicare saviors. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) took to the Senate floor recently to warn that health care reform will make seniors "die sooner."

Now, though, Democrats are pondering a Medicare expansion of sorts. They want to let people between the ages of 55 and 64 buy insurance through Medicare. And suddenly, Republicans are stuck in a booby-trapped rhetorical space, defending Medicare from all attackers--real and perceived--and also lashing out at the idea of letting more people benefit from it.
TPM revealed the Democrats' attack on the Republicans' inconsistency (top of page).

I guess the Republicans were against Medicare before they were for it; and oops, now they're against it again . . .

It'd be funny, except for the desperate need to provide health care to all Americans.

Say WHAT, Senator Wicker? Maybe the Taliban are Better than Karzai?

I read this morning on Y'all Politics an interesting story from the Washington Independent. According to The Independent, our own Senator Wicker posed this question in committee sessions with our military leaders:

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) asks a brave and inconvenient question: As much as the Taliban may be hated, don’t some Afghans prefer their severity over “the endless process of having to grease the palms of endless government bureaucrats”? Better an uncorrupt religious fanatic than a corrupt secular government?
My head is spinning. Can you imagine the fallout if, say, Senator Kerry had asked, during the Bush Administration, "as much as Saddam may be hated, don't some Iraqis prefer his severity to the endless process of having to grease the palms of endless government bureaucrats?" It would have been at least as valid a question as the one posed by Sen. Wicker.

Let's DO remember, that unlike Saddam, the Taliban DID give al-Queda the bases they needed to plan the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the United States. Maybe, if President Bush had focused on Afghanistan rather than Iraq, we'd have a supportable government in Kabul by now.

It just goes to show how low some Republicans will stoop to try to oppose President Obama. Shame on you, Senator Wicker.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pickering Lawyer: Divorce Has Been Settled

Buried at the end of the Clarion-Ledger's afternoon story about the Chip Pickering-Chris Hester saga, the newspaper breaks this news:

“All the divorce issues have been resolved,” Chip Pickering’s attorney, Mike Malouf, said Wednesday. He said the judge has not yet signed the divorce decree.
Should we assume that this also means that Leisha Pickering's lawsuit against Elizabeth Creekmore-Byrd is also on its way to settlement? Inquiring minds want to know . . .

Chip Pickering arrested for simple assault

And, there it is:

Also arrested was the soccer coach in this mess, Chris Hester:

According to the Clarion-Ledger:

Madison Municipal Judge Dale Danks issued arrest warrants for the two today, and both men turned themselves in voluntarily, according to Master Sgt. Robert Sanders of the Madison Police Department.  Both men posted bond, which was set at $500, and a trial date was set for Jan. 14.
 Perhaps Chip should be the one wearing the neck brace.  It's been quite a fall from grace.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chip Pickering responds to the assault allegation

WAPT has former Rep. Chip Pickering's response to the assault allegation involving a Madison soccer coach:

In a statement released Monday, Pickering said the coach verbally abused and physically intimidated Pickering's 11-year-old son to the point where he was crying uncontrollably.

"I approached the coach, who was sitting in his vehicle, and asked him to not address my son in such a manner again. I did not say anything further to him, nor did I threaten him," Pickering said. "The coach then opened his car door, removed his seat belt and exited the vehicle, attacking and assaulting me, and I was forced to defend myself by restraining him."


Pickering said he is also filing a complaint against the coach with the Mississippi State Soccer Association and is asking for his immediate suspension.

"Even though I acted only to protect my son and then in necessary self-defense, I very much regret the adverse impact such incident might have on the children participating in such a worthwhile event," Pickering said.

Hmmmmm. Like I said before, there are likely tons of witnesses to this. We'll see how this unfolds.

h/t Will in comments

TBA: Gen. Petraeus Supports the President's Plan

On "Thus Blogged Anderson," there is a pithy post that quotes Gen. Petraeus responding to another blogger who asked his assessment of the Afghan/al-Queda strategy outlined in President Obama's West Point speech. Read the whole post -- but I will quote the most important sentence in the General's statement:

"The President's policy establishes a clear mission (on which Secretary Gates will elaborate in his testimony) and provides the resources to accomplish it."

I fully endorse Anderson's commentary:

"Now, all the Republicans who acted like it was a Constitutional duty to defer to Petraeus will ... um ... completely ignore this."

As the three of you who listened to Kamikaze and me on MPB's "A Closer Look" know, I think the President has made a wise decision to resume the important (and long-neglected during the Bush Administration's second term) fight against al-Queda in Afghanistan. It's not "another Vietnam" to try to disable an organization that has successfully launched attacks on American soil. It has a horrible cost, but I don't see how we can just walk away.

Before the West Point speech, the Economist ran an excellent article on Pakistan which noted:

"Underpinning the [Pakistani] army’s reluctance to go after the Afghan Taliban, whose leaders are said to reside in Pakistan’s city of Quetta, has been its belief that America and NATO will fail in Afghanistan. . . . . Pakistani security officials in Islamabad, well-versed in Mr Obama’s dithering over troop levels and the wavering of his European allies, think the alliance could quit Afghanistan in a year or two. The army must feel vindicated."

That's exactly why I don't think we should give any timetable for withdrawal. It undermines our attempts to convince Pakistan (and those elements of the Taliban who are willing to listen) that al-Queda will not win by running out the clock.

At the same time -- and just as the President himself has stressed -- in the final analysis, the police action on the Afghan-Pakistani border must be the tail; the dog is an international effort to achieve consensus among all -- including the Pashtuns on both sides of that border and yes, the Taliban -- that international terrorism cannot be harbored and protected.

And while Pakistan's military and intelligence community is skeptical of a US-led military victory, they believe that an internationalist diplomatic strategy can succeed. Again, The Economist:

"Pakistan is urging America to accept what it sincerely believes: that NATO’s strategy in Afghanistan, even if reinforced by the 40,000 extra troops requested of Mr Obama, will fail. Instead, Pakistani generals and diplomats argue with increasing confidence, America must seek a high-level political settlement with its Taliban enemies. And Pakistan wants a hand in this, thereby reasserting its influence over Afghanistan’s affairs, to India’s cost. According to a senior Pakistani official in Islamabad, some steps have already been taken. 'We’ve already been talking to the Taliban,' he said. 'If the US helps the process, some arrangements can be worked out for political reconciliation.'"

That is exactly why President Obama can succeed where President Bush failed: we now have a foreign/military strategy that has an international, instead of a unilateral, focus. For all our sakes, let's hope he does so.

The Urban University: Merge JSU and Hinds CC

Like many of you, I've been pondering the trial balloons that Governor Barbour floated when he submitted his proposals for the State's FY 2011 budget. While a lot of folks consider these proposals DOA, maybe we shouldn't move so fast. This is an opportunity for some "outside-the-box" thinking about how to reorganize state government to provide better services to our people.

In my view, being a liberal is not synonymous with "let everyone with a government job keep it, and pay them more each year." That's far from the point. Rather, liberals believe that government should play a major role in bettering the common welfare (which is why each of the governments of Massachusetts, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia is referred to as "the Commonwealth" instead of "the State"). If Government is NOT effectively improving the "commonwealth," it should be changed, and let the chips fall where they may.

So here is one of my suggestions for making Mississippi government more sensible: merge JSU and Hinds Community College into "The University of Mississippi at Jackson." Jackson State University defines itself as:

The vision of Jackson State University is to be a model urban learning community for highly motivated students from diverse backgrounds, where original research and experiential learning are integrated into rigorous and internationally prominent teaching, research and service learning programs.

Hinds Community College has six campuses ringing the City of Jackson: over 12,000 students are educated there. Many of the courses that one would take in the first two years at a four-year institution like JSU are offered there.

Jackson State's strategic planning includes an emphasis on increasing "third year" admissions -- something that would come naturally to students who were progressing from the "outer ring" (the Hinds campuses) where first and second year classes were held, to the "inner ring" (the current 250 acre main campus of JSU) where they would complete their baccalaureate education (if they so chose).

It would then be natural for the medical, dental, and nursing schools now affiliated with UM to be operated under the aegis of the new UM-J.

In one broad stroke, we would eliminate duplication of resources, desegregate college education, and create a powerhouse academic institution in the Capital City.

Just a thought. And one small example of how Governor Barbour's proposals can be used as a springboard for a real discussion of how to bring our 19th Century State Government structure into the 21st Century.

Chip Pickering's alleged assault victim wearing a neck brace at the time of the scuffle?

The Sun-Herald reached Chris Hester, the alleged victim of an assault by Chip Pickering. Here's what they add to this story:

Coach Chris Hester says he was preparing to leave the field when Pickering started yelling at him. Hester coaches the team that played Pickering's son's team. Hester says Pickering pulled him from his vehicle and spectators had to separate the two.
I guess this should all be easy enough to prove, considering the number of likely witnesses....


The Sun-Herald has updated their AP article. Here's some of what they have:
Hester told The Associated Press he didn't know who Pickering was when the politician approached his vehicle. Hester also said he was wearing a neck brace because of a recent surgery when Pickering pulled him from his Nissan Armada. They had to pulled apart by spectators, he said.
"I tried to explain to him, 'Sir, I don't know who you are. I don't know who your son is.' He just blew up," Hester said. "He proceeds to start threatening and yelling at me. It scared the crap out of the kids in my car."
Sanders said Hester was in the neck brace when he spoke with police Sunday.

Edited to add formatting.

Judge Pickering, for the love of all that is holy, have a talk with your son

First, we have the whole revelation about former Congressman Chip Pickering's (R-MS) extramarital affair.  Last night, WLBT reported that Chip's being "that guy" at his son's soccer game:

According to Madison Police, former Republican U.S. Representative Chip Pickering and Coach Chris Hester have signed affidavits against each other for simple assault.  Officers were called to Liberty Park's soccer fields around 4:30 this afternoon after reports of an altercation. Police say a disagreement between the teams two coaches led to Pickering approaching Hester about the treatment of his son who plays for the opposite team.
Oh how the mighty have fallen.... Court appearances today for the both of them before Madison City Court Judge Dale Danks.  Both have been charged with simple assault.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bengals - WTF??

I saw that after the Bengals won today, they gathered in their locker room and chanted, "Who Dat? Who Dat? Who Dat say they gonna beat them Bengals?"

Bad karma's coming your way, pussycats. You heard it here first.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dear Hardy Collaboration Architecture

It is my understanding that you are responsible for the design of the new Federal Courthouse in Jackson.  That being said...

Am I missing something?  Is there some symbolic meaning in this asymmetric, God-awful, eye-stinging building you have created in the heart of our city?

I honestly hope so.

(For those of you unfamiliar with this monstrosity, here's a link to the project's page:  I'll take photos soon and upload them.

Jeopardy: Monday Night Football for $500, Alec!

Answer: Not the Patriots!!

"Performance Based Budgeting" is a Non Sequitur

I see that the "Commission for a New Mississippi" wants a "performance based" budgeting structure. Presumably, the head of the Commission, Lieut. Gov. Bryant, hopes to use this "feel good" idea to run for Governor in 2011.

But how, exactly, does it work? If drug-related crime goes UP, has the Bureau of Narcotics failed to perform? Does its budget get cut the next year? If the teen pregnancy rate goes UP, has the Department of Health failed to perform? Does its budget get cut?

Obviously not, in both cases: the statistics would show that those agencies needed more resources, not less, to address the problems under their charge. They may need better strategies, but not less funding.

The basic problem is that the performance of government services is difficult, if not impossible, to assess by objective criteria. Only by the judicious use of discretion -- the type held by the Legislature -- can the value judgments be made in my examples and in many other similar scenarios.

So the Legislature is structured to give committee chairs absolute power over their fiefdoms? And this makes it difficult to hold agencies accountable? Fix THAT problem by requiring committees to meet at regular times set by the Speaker and LtGov, and by allowing committee members to insist on bills being considered.
Otherwise, all the budgeting tricks in the world won't help.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NFL - WTF?!?

What is up with the NFL broadcast rules?  The Giants are driving down the field against Atlanta in OT.  The NFC East, South, and the wild-card playoff spots are all implicated. 

BUT, because the NFL requires the networks to switch at 3:15 Central, they pull the coverage.

And to add insult to injury, Fox didn't even switch to another game.  They cut to commercials and then their studio show.

Arghhhhh . . .

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I've added a blog to our blog list

Radley Balko's been a friend for awhile now, and I have no idea why I didn't add his blog, The Agitator, before now.  But there it is, over there on the right.  For those of you who don't know who Radley is, he's an investigative reporter for Reason Magazine, which is a libertarian-leaning publication.  He has worked extensively on cases involving perceived prosecutorial misconduct and flawed forensic science. 

More and more people want to be lawyers, I guess

According to TaxProf Blog, there was a 19.8% increase in the number of people taking the October LSAT.  It will be interesting to see how the numbers move as the economy begins its recovery.

h/t Radley Balko

An awfully, awfully belated congratulations on a wonderful career

Going back through the archives of this site and its predecessor, I ran across a comment to an early post of mine that deserves mention.  Somehow, I missed it back then, and I apologize profusely for that.

Chip Reynolds, longtime state GOP operative, Clinton High School supporter and general raconteur, had commented to congratulate me on joining the blog, and then he dropped the bomb:  His wife, Judi Reynolds, retired at the end of last school year after 39 years at Clinton High.  Mrs. Reynolds was one of my all-time favorite teachers, and was tremendously talented at making English interesting to her students.  I wanted to take a moment to thank her for what her dedication meant, not only to me, but to the countless students that learned at her feet.  I hope she enjoys her well-earned retirement!

Trick play: Is Governor Barbour's university consolidation proposal a tactical ploy?

I’m wondering if consolidation of universities (and maybe even school districts) is a tactical ploy by the Governor. He can then say, “Rep. Jones, if you don’t want [name of university with heavy representation in Jones’ district] consolidated, then you need to support deep cuts in other agencies.” Then, when Rep. Jones caves on budget cuts, he can say, “at least I saved Hometown U. (or Hometown High School) from consolidation.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Corey Maye's conviction is REVERSED!

First off, CONGRATULATIONS BOB EVANS!!!!!!!!!!!  Bob Evans is a friend, a respected legislator, and one hell of a lawyer.  Second, congrats, Covington & Burling, who lent lawyers to the case.  Finally, thanks to Radley Balko and Reason Magazine.  They covered this matter from the get-go.  They even produced a spot on about this matter, "Mississippi Drug War Blues: The Case of Cory Maye".  The Radley Balko article on Cory Maye is here, and it's a very good read.

Background after the jump, and analysis in a later post, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hey Gov.....

I noticed a mistake on page 17 of your budget recommendations:
 While all areas must find efficiencies, we cannot shortchange the state judicial system and its mission to help law enforcement entities put criminals behind bars.
I know that judges run for office in this state by saying they're going to put away the bad guys.  But you know that's not really what their job is, right?  Right???

Barbour: Merge the HBCUs; consolidate the W into State

At his 2:15 p.m. press conference, Gov. Barbour announced his plan to save money in higher education.  He wants to 1) merge Alcorn and Valley into JSU, and 2) merge the W into MSU.  He says that under his plan none of the campuses would close.  But I've got to wonder: if these mergers happen, how long will the campuses in Lorman, Itta Bena, and Columbus be funded?


(By the way, I'm a fan of consolidating all of our eight public universities into one Jackson-based school that wins the BCS championship every single year.  But maybe that's just because I like winning.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Judge Malcolm Harrison denies motion to recuse, but prospectively recuses in some cases

At the hearing mentioned below, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Malcolm Harrison denied the motion to recuse filed by the defense in State v. Alicia Hanner.  The State offered no argument, but did make a record that they had provided the Court with a copy of the Jenkins case prior to the hearing.  Judge Harrison then told the parties that the County Attorney did not handle cases transferred from Jackson Municipal Court to Hinds County Court, and that this was one of those cases, despite the County Court file itself listing Judge Harrison as counsel for the State.  Frank Jones, an Assistant District Attorney, handled the preliminary hearing in County Court.  In a nutshell, Harrison found as follows:
  1. The cases he reviewed in preparation for the hearing all required active participation by the judge when he was prosecutor.
  2. The matter of State v. Alicia Hanner was transferred from Jackson Municipal Court to Hinds County Court for preliminary hearing.
  3. As a result of the transfer, the County Attorney was not involved in the prosecution of the case, therefore, no recusal warranted in this case.
  4. Recusal will occur in any cases in which prosecutors from the County Attorney's Office appeared in court.
Judge Harrison handled the matter well.  He didn't appear to be upset by the motion.  I disagree with him on the "actively participate" issue, as I think Jenkins is directly on-point on this case.  We'll see where this goes.  

Recusal issue to be heard this afternoon

While Bobby DeLaughter is being sentenced in Aberdeen, his replacement, Judge Malcolm Harrison, will be hearing argument on the recusal issue mentioned here a few weeks ago.  It's my understanding that the State will have no response to the defense motion to recuse.  It's also my understanding that Judge Harrison has indicated privately that he feels he has no conflict, and will not recuse. 

There's a case directly on point here.  In Jenkins v. State, the trial judge had been county prosecuting attorney at the time of the defendant's indictment.  570 So.2d 1191 (Miss. 1990).  Even though the prosecutor/judge stated that he had no recollection of any involvement in Jenkins' preliminary hearing or in the presentation of the matter to the grand jury, the MSSC held that recusal was mandatory.  Citing an opinion reversing a case in which a grand juror went on to become a petit juror, the MSSC said:
We do not think it right and now condemn any practice whereby the accuser may also be the trier of fact. Jenkins at 1192, citing Hood v. State, 523 So.2d 302, 311 (Miss.1988). (Emphasis original to the Jenkins opinion.)
Our state follows an objective test to determine whether or not a judge should recuse himself, and that test is whether "a reasonable person, knowing all the circumstances, would harbor doubts about his impartiality." Rutland v. Pridgen, 493 So.2d 952, 954 (Miss.1986). See also, In Re Moffett, 556 So.2d 723, 725 (Miss.1990), and Jenkins v. Forrest County General Hospital, 542 So.2d 1180, 1181 (Miss.1988).  Applying the objective test to the issue at hand, I don't see how recusal isn't mandated.  We'll see this afternoon whether or not Judge Harrison agrees with me.

You probably already knew this, but...

the "In Your Voice" comments section below each online Clarion-Ledger story is often home to the most vile, ignorant, depressing, hate-spewing invective found anywhere on the web outside of  And if the comments aren't dripping with the aforementioned filth, they're generally so lacking in grammar, spelling and punctuation as to be quite funny.  I'm going to start collecting the most outstanding examples here.  If you spot a special one, paste it into comments on a relevant post or email it to me.  I'll start with one from today's Jerry Mitchell piece on the DeLaughter sentencing:

Ed Peters could not stand Delaughter@all whatsoever. Ed Peters had lots of things against Delaughter. Ed Peters back-stabbed Delaughter in the back. Delaughter is having to pay for it because of Peters. I hope Peters has nightmares & gets Haunted by Medger Evers [Paranormal Activity][Ghost] on Peters. Peters deserves to be in Prison like The Scruggs Scandal. End of Story.......But Peters acts like He stole a Part of the Movie Ghosts of Mississippi from the 1960's laws. But anyways Ed Peters will be sought because as of right now Ed Peters is being followed by Investigators and has his Phones Wiretapped and all Phone Records/Text Messages is being Subpoenaed [Not Twitter] lol Ed Peters is the most meanest Man I have ever met in My Life. So will Trent Lott will get indicted by Jury too. So "What Comes Around Goes Around"! Delaughter should have slapped Ed Peters with his hand and lawsuit4Defamation.

Now, don't misunderstand me.  I certainly agree with the author of this post about Ed Peters. But there are three things that stand out and make this one worth cataloging:
  1. "Ed Peters back-stabbed Delaughter in the back." (You mean he didn't back-stab him in the front?!?)
  2. "Haunted by Medger Evers [Paranormal Activity][Ghost] on Peters." (Thank God she cleared that up.  I had no idea what she meant by "haunted.")
  3. "all Phone Records/Text Messages is being Subpoenaed [Not Twitter] lol...." (To be fair, I laughed out loud, too.) 
There are already 8 pages of comments on the story, so there's plenty of fodder for this.  Oh, and yeah: DeLaughter's getting sentenced today at 1:30 p.m. in Aberdeen.  Follow it at NMC's site.  I will be.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Breaking News: Mississippi Supreme Court Requires Arbitration in Jones v. Scruggs Katrina Group Lawsuit

What a difference a year (or more) makes. Today, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the Circuit Court of Lafayette County, and ordered the lawsuit filed by Jones, Funderburk, Sessums, Peterson and Lee, LLC against the Scruggs Katrina Group sent to arbitration.

The mandate of the Mississippi Supreme Court grants the same relief that the Defendants in United States of America v. Scruggs, et al., were trying to achieve. As David Rossmiller blogged at the time of the indictment:

Supposedly, Scruggs and a small group of colleagues decided to bribe a state court judge in the fee dispute case -- not for a final disposition of the case in their favor, but to obtain an order compelling the plaintiff, Johnny Jones, to arbitrate rather than sue in court.
With deference to our friend Alan Lange, "Kings of Tort"? More like Kings of Tragedy.

Today's opinion is here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hitting the Legal Version of a 7-10 Split

My blogmate, Matt Eichelberger, scored an impressive win this week. According to the Clarion-Ledger, Matt obtained a finding that his client, Tina Funderburk, was incompetent to stand trial. Ms. Funderburk, a 33 year old woman from New York, is accused of either abandoning or smothering her three year old daughter while travelling through Jackson.

A finding of incompetency to stand trial is NOT the same as a finding of insanity. Just last Thursday, the Mississippi Supreme Court explained its caselaw on this question in Jay v. State, 2009 WL 3465745, Para. 25 (Miss. 2009):

In order to be deemed competent to stand trial, a defendant must be one:

(1) who is able to perceive and understand the nature of the proceedings; (2) who is able to rationally communicate with his attorney about the case; (3) who is able to recall relevant facts; (4) who is able to testify in his own defense if appropriate; and (5) whose ability to satisfy the foregoing criteria is commensurate with the severity of the case.

Ms. Funderburk's case clearly meets these criteria. The Clarion-Ledger story tells us this about the hearing:

A Ridgeland psychiatrist testified Monday at Funderburk's competency hearing in Hinds County Circuit Court that she suffers from schizophrenia and hears voices.

"She is taking two schizophrenia medications, and that's a lot," Dr. Mark Webb testified. "She is better than she was six years ago, but she still thinks her daughter is alive. She is still being controlled by illusions. It is my professional opinion that she is incompetent to stand trial."

Webb said Funderburk hallucinates and believes her pillow and radio and television programs talk to her.

Despite this proof, it's rare for a Circuit Judge to find a defendant -- especially one in a case with horrific facts -- incompetent to stand trial.

Great job in this one, Matt! I hope Ms. Funderburk is able to achieve some peace of mind at Whitfield.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thoughts on Judge Harrison and the recusal issue

I'd typed this up in response to Andre's comment to a previous post, but thought it'd be better as an independent post:

To begin with, I concur in the  praise of the appointment of Judge Harrison. I've always enjoyed working with Judge Harrison and his assistant county prosecutors in the past.

Canon 3E(1)(b) of the Code of Judicial Conduct would be applicable here. A plain reading of it would lean towards disqualification. Attorney General's Opinion 2006-00651 dealt with a similar situation. In that opinion, a former ADA had been elected circuit judge. The new judge wanted to preside over criminal cases in the 4 counties in which, as ADA, he did not handle cases. The AG's Opinion held that there was no absolute disqualification for the criminal cases in those 4 counties.

The difference here is that Judge Harrison was the lead county prosecutor in a single county judicial district. I think he's got to wait until new criminal cases start being indicted. In all honesty, that will probably only take a month or two.

Memo to the President: Check Out Gov. Arnold's Idea of a Veto Message

I can't say I agree with everything done by the Governor of my home state, Arnold Swartzenegger. But there's something about his way of vetoing legislation that, I must admit, I admire. Read the first letter of each line of this message and you'll see what I mean (thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle for the story. )
The message is apparently Mr. Schwartzenegger's response to Tom Ammiano, who called the governor a liar and shouted from the audience to "kiss my gay ass" when Schwarzenegger unexpectedly showed up at a Democratic Party dinner in San Francisco on Oct. 7. Ammiano was the author of the bill vetoed by the Governor's acrostically enhanced message.
Ammiano, a comedian by trade (no, I mean in addition to being a politician) took it all in stride, telling the Chronicle, "I think it was very creative, and it's time to bury the hatchet. I'm not interested in prolonging it."
I will pass on the opportunity to spin puns off that quote. But don't you think the Governator's style is something that the President should consider if Rep. "You Lie" Wilson ever gets lucky enough to have a bill passed and sent to him for approval?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Clarion-Ledger Poll on the Death Penalty

Any chance you could take a minute to vote Yes - to do away with the death penalty in Mississippi - in the next hour or two at ?



Heave-Hoh: Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out . . .

Perhaps you have read that Foreign Service Officer Matthew Hoh, assigned to Afghanistan, has resigned in protest over the continued U.S. presence there.

But Hoh didn't just quit. Instead, he made a concerted effort to embarrass the President and call attention to himself, by writing a four-page letter to the State Department's personnel chief, which was then leaked to the press. As reported by the Washington Post, the letter said, among other things:

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," [Hoh] wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department's head of personnel. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."
The full letter is here:

Hoh Resignation Letter

Sorry, Mr. Hoh, I'm not buying what you're selling. Perhaps we can target our resources in Afghanistan, as suggested by Vice President Biden, more directly at Al-Queda forces there.

But we can't just leave Afghanistan. The prior vacuum in that country allowed al-Queda to organize bases that served as the launchpad for attacks on the United States. It is simply unthinkable to allow that to happen again.

Yes, it's been a long campaign. But that, in part, was due to the Iraq diversion. And BECAUSE we've been there a long time is exactly WHY we need to be sure the forces of al-Queda are stamped out before we leave.

So give our Foreign Service Officer the old Heave-Hoh out the door. No gold watch for him.

A recusal nightmare brewing in Hinds County?

With the announcement that Malcolm Harrison has been appointed to replace Bobby DeLaughter on the Hinds County Circuit bench, concerns are being raised that newly-minted Judge Harrison will be disqualified from presiding over many, if not most, of the criminal cases currently pending on the docket.  In his capacity as County Attorney, Judge Harrison was responsible for prosecuting most of the felony crimes charged in Hinds County during his term as county attorney.  I'd bet that most of the criminal cases currently assigned to the DeLaughter/Harrison docket will be reassigned quickly.  If not, there will likely be a flood of motions for recusal in the coming weeks.

Multiple credible sources both inside and outside of the Hinds County Courthouse are saying...

that Gov. Haley Barbour has chosen Malcolm Harrison, County Attorney for Hinds County, to be the newest Hinds County Circuit Court Judge, replacing Bobby DeLaughter.  I anticipate an announcement very soon. 

Future Hall-of-Famers (of Law)

During last Sunday's game between Minnesota and Pittsburgh, I was struck by the fact that I was watching at least two sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterbacks: Brett Favre and Ben Roethlisberger -- not to mention Adrian Peterson. What a fantastic time to be following the NFL -- like watching Bart Starr or Jim Brown in their prime.

On Thursday evening, November 5, Mississippians Educating for Smart Justice will be celebrating their first annual dinner. Andre' deGruy, director of the Mississippi Office of Capital Defense Counsel, will be honored with the first-ever Kenneth J. Rose Award for Compassionate Advocacy. And Ken Rose himself will be on hand to present the award.

Both Andre' and Ken are sure-fire Hall of Famers. Andre' has set the standard for meticulous preparation and passionate trial advocacy in death penalty cases. The term "compassionate" also applies to his constant focus on his clients, their families, and the victims of crime as individuals who need to be treated with dignity and respect.

Ken Rose, a native of New Orleans, moved to Jackson in the 1980s, where he began representing death sentenced prisoners and teaching others to do so. His concept of "Team Defense" and his insistence that each of his clients were not "killers" but rather individuals -- whose life could not be reduced to their worst act -- inspired and taught those of us who represent death sentenced prisoners today.

Andre' deGruy's style of "compassionate advocacy" mirrors perfectly the early work of Ken Rose -- so the MESJ Board thought this award was a no-brainer.

The invitation for this event is below. Please attend if you can (but RSVP first!) The Knights of Columbus will be catering the event and they are "Hall of Famers" in their own right.

Please join us!

MESJ Dinner Invite

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Conference Week

Serious courthouse junkies across the state know that this week is a "conference week" for judges, court administrators, public defenders, court reporters, and prosecutors.  As a result, I'll be away from posting until this weekend at the earliest.

Safe travels to everyone as they head to their respective conferences.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Jackson Chamber of Commerce endorses examination of the Two Lakes plan UPDATED

Yesterday, the Jackson Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution in support of a study of the Two Lakes plan. I'm trying to get a copy of the resolution uploaded now.


I've got the PDF of the resolution up now.  Here's a link.

Here's what I know

I know that we live in a state facing momentous challenges.

I know that we continually lack the educational and industrial infrastructure that could help us overcome our adversities.

I know that, after spending well over 100 years in last place in every category that matters, we suffered the effects of a storm unmatched in its ferocity and its devastation, raking from our shores many of the homes, businesses, and people that we loved and depended upon.

I know that, to many, Mississippi is the forgotten ashbin of America.

I know that within those ashes, embers burn.

I know that, throughout the history of our species, the few have been the catalyst for the progress of many, and that every generation has its opportunity to mold the world in its image. 

I know that I am fortunate enough to live amongst a generation of Mississippians unmatched in their creativity, dedication, and ingenuity.

I know there is no challenge greater than our ability.

I know that twenty years from now, no one will doubt this.

I know that the lights are on again in Downtown Jackson.

I know that Tunica is no longer Sugar Ditch.

I know that nature is no match for the resolve of our Coast.

I know that success of this state is the metric by which our generation of Mississippians will be measured.  It is an intellectual, spiritual, and moral challenge.

And I know that we will succeed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Taken alone, without any damage having occurred in Louisiana or elsewhere, Katrina's toll on the Mississippi Coast would constitute the greatest natural disaster in American history."

Stan Tiner of the Sun-Herald has an editorial about President Obama's decision to skip the Mississippi Gulf Coast on his recent Katrina swing.  I'm a fan of President Obama, but I'll have to admit that it stings a little bit for him to go only to New Orleans when making a Katrina trip.  The nation's conscious seems to have a blind spot when it comes to Katrina's affect on Mississippi, and his refusal to come here only enlarges it.  I'm aware of the administration's assertions that it has sent more of its Cabinet-level personnel to the Gulf Coast than to any other portion of the country.  I'm also aware of what Stan Tiner wrote:
"Taken alone, without any damage having occurred in Louisiana or elsewhere, Katrina's toll on the Mississippi Coast would constitute the greatest natural disaster in American history."
A visit by President Obama would go a long way towards reminding our fellow Americans (especially Republicans in Congress who try to kill funding bills) that we are still in need of their prayers and support.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Public Citizen suggests that Barbour, Pickering, and Vitter PAC officials would lie under oath

Jackson Free Press investigative reporter has an article up this afternoon entitled "Dirty Laundry," in which he explores the Chip Pickering - Haley Barbour - David Vitter campaign contribution relay we've discussed here.  Lynch got in touch with Craig Holman of Public Citizen, who made a rather bold claim:

Getting answers would require the FEC to conduct a hard investigation that includes the subpoenaing of the treasurers of both PACs to completely prove the case.

"They have to, under oath, discover if there was any kind of direct or indirect agreement to funnel the money to Vitter," Holman said, adding that PAC treasurers are well capable of lying under oath.

James Gill of the Times-Picayune on Chip Pickering; me on the coming crisis in the GOP

James Gill's piece in the Times-Picayune begins:

Let me explain why U.S. Sen. David Vitter might hate to be publicly associated with Chip Pickering, who did not seek re-election as a Mississippi congressman last time around.
Hold onto your hats, now. If it is possible to draw distinctions between the fornicating phonies of the GOP, Pickering must be rated creepier than Vitter.
Gill goes on to focus a bit on the $5,000 campaign contribution shell game played by the PACs for Vitter, Pickering, and Gov. Barbour, but the most pointed parts of the article are barbs reserved solely for Pickering:

Philanderers don't come more unctuous than Pickering, who denounced evil at every turn, received a perfect rating from Focus on the Family and urged then-President George W. Bush to declare 2008 the year of the Bible.

Even a congressman who has embraced hookers in private while embracing the Lord in public might not wish to be dragged down to Pickering's level.
All of this brings to mind the most important part of the Pickering scandal for Mississippi Republicans, and the C Street scandals for the national GOP.

Gov. Barbour to call special session around Halloween...

I've received word that Gov. Barbour will call a special session of the legislature later this month.  I'm not certain how much more I'm allowed to say at this point, but it's for a good purpose, it appears.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Not Even the Rams Deserve Rush

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports has a great column out today about Rush Limbaugh's attempt to purchase an interest in the St. Louis Rams. It seems that there are enough owners out there who are willing to veto the Big-Bellied Bully from NFL-dom.

As Yahoo! Sports reported earlier in the day, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has rung the death knell on Rush's bid:

“I’ve said many times before, we’re all held to a high standard here and I think divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about,” Goodell said of Limbaugh’s history for controversial remarks during the league’s annual fall meetings. “I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL, absolutely not.”
Wetzel's analysis is on target:

So a group of almost exclusively white, almost exclusively conservative men – many of whom no doubt share Limbaugh’s political views and even listen to his radio program – are turning their back on the host.

He and his supporters can cry about bias and political correctness run amok. They can scream about the Constitution. They can bemoan double standards.

The fact is you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Limbaugh made his money through his words. Now those words are denying him a business opportunity in a league that prides itself on inclusion.

* * * *

The NFL is a private organization and, as some of Limbaugh’s followers would surely agree, they mostly have the right to choose who they do or don’t allow to join the club.
Indeed. Would any business that depends on African-American consumer support want to have a partner who said this:

I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark.

You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray [the confessed assassin of Martin Luther King]. We miss you, James. Godspeed.
And best of all:

Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.
Look, let me put it to YOU this way: Rush Limbough all too often looks like a mean-spirited, fat bigot. There, I said it.

Not even the Rams deserve this loser. Good riddance.

An observation about my blogmate's post on the Pickering v. Pickering hearing last week

When word came down earlier this year that Leisha Pickering had switched lawyers, many people (most of them GOP folks looking for a way to defend Chip) engaged in speculation that Leisha must be a difficult client, or that she had some other fault that led to her having issues maintaining consistent representation.

Now that Chip's switched lawyers, I fully expect y'all to say the same things about him.  (I'm not holding my breath, though.)

Back from vacation odds and ends...

I'm back from vacation, and am trying to catch up on a few things.  Here's what's on my radar blog-wise:

1.  Casey Ann mentioned a problem with the button used to write Jim and I a message.  I tested it, and it's not working for me either.  I'll try to figure that out ASAP.

2.  Judge Yerger sentenced Justin Larun Lomax to 75 years in prison yesterday for three counts of house burglary.  The maximum sentence for each count was 25 years, so he got the max on all three.  Mr. Lomax, 19, had entered an "open" plea, meaning he pled guilty without a recommendation from the DA with respect to sentencing.  Mr. Lomax also pled guilty to another house burglary and an aggravated assault.  He had also been charged with shooting into an occupied dwelling, possession of a stolen firearm, and possession of a stolen firearm while in the commission of a crime in connection with the house burglary and aggravated assault, but those three charges have been remanded.  Judge Hilburn will sentence Mr. Lomax tomorrow on the house burglary and aggravated assault.  Lomax pled open on those as well.  By my calculations, the 19 year-old Lomax will not be eligible for release until somewhere north of his 55th birthday.  Ouch.

3.  Alan Michael Rubenstein of Marrero, LA, was resentenced to life without parole after the Mississippi Supreme Court, in 2006, overturned a death penalty sentence handed down by a Pike County jury in 2000.  It was a heinous case, but the language of the statute altering the sentencing options on capital murder cases was fairly clear at the time.  The MSSC sent the case back for resentencing because the jury had not been given the option of life without parole, despite a 1994 amendment to the statute that clearly provided for that option, regardless of when the crime itself occurred.  Here's a link to the MSSC's opinion.  (Easley wrote the dissent, of course.)

4.  There's been no docket entry in Leisha Jane Pickering v. Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd since the deposition subpoenas were issued back on July 23, 2009. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Mississippi Supreme Court revises the Mississippi Electronic Courts Administrative Procedures

Last month, the Mississippi Supreme Court saw fit to restrict electronic access to certain types of court files in the Mississippi Electronic Courts system, known as "MEC".  Prior to the change, only sealed files were hidden from public view.  Now, the Court has altered its restricted access definition to include the following types of cases:
Debt Collection; Garnishment; Replevin; Child Custody/Visitation; Child Support; Divorce: Fault; Divorce: Irreconcilable Differences; Modification; Paternity; Termination of Parental Rights; Birth Certificate Correction; Conservatorship; Guardianship; Minor's Settlement; Protection from Domestic Abuse Law.
Under MEC, there are four types of "special" items.  Sealed files, sealed documents, documents submitted for in camera review, and restricted access files.  A sealed file may not be viewed at all on MEC.  All searches for a sealed file fail to produce any results whatsoever.  Only court personnel can even see that the case exists.  (Think the Pickering divorce case.)  Sealed documents and documents submitted for in camera review will be reflected with a docket entry that says either "sealed document" or "document submitted for in camera review," but, like sealed files, the documents themselves will only be viewable by court personnel.  (Think Chip Pickering's diary in the attendant alienation of affection suit.)  Restricted access files show up in search results, but the internet MEC user may only view the docket, not the pleadings themselves.  (Think your divorce or your neighbor's.)  In order to view the pleadings, a member of the public can go to a public terminal at the courthouse.

I have been told that the reason the above-listed types of cases were selected for restricted status is that identity thieves could have a field day with the large amount of personal information typically contained in these pleadings.  I understand the position, and agree that the redaction requirements would be rather burdensome.

What do y'all think?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pickering Hearing Report

The hearing in Pickering v Pickering ended a bit before 11.  There were no witnesses; the woman I saw with Mrs Pickering's group was one of two paralegal/investigator types who were with McRae.  They would not comment.

The records and hearings are still closed at this point. 

Update - Pickering Hearing

The courthouse hall buzz is that McRae, on behalf of Mrs Pickering is arguing a motion to recuse Judge Brewer.

More on Pickering Hearing

The buzz outside the courtroom is that Chip Pickering has fired Richard Roberts and hired Mike Malouf, and that McRae has subpoenaed Roberts. There is a 40-ish woman with short blonde hair who was with Mrs Pickering but left the courtroom.  Presumably she is a witness for Mrs Pickering.

Pickering Hearing

I am in Chancery Court in Madison County today, and I see that behind closed doors, there is a hearing going on in the Pickering divorce.  Mike Malouf for Mr Pickering, Chuck McRae for Mrs Pickering. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

See No Evil: Texas Governor Fires Commissioners Investigating Willingham Innocence Claim

The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) reports this interesting story:

On September 30, Texas Governor Rick Perry replaced the chairman and two members of a state commission that is investigating whether inaccurate evidence of arson was presented at the trial of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004. The state’s Forensic Science Commission was scheduled to conduct a public hearing in two days and receive testimony from Craig Beyler, a nationally known expert who called the Willingham investigation “slipshod,” and concluded that “almost all of the evidence presented [w]as based on junk science.” Beyler's report for the Commission concluded that “no credible evidence existed to believe that the fire, that killed three children, was caused by arson.”

Governor Perry denied Willingham’s request for a stay of execution five years ago that would have allowed the courts time to review new reports questioning the fire investigation. Perry has continued to discount forensic-expert Beyler’s conclusions and to argue that there is evidence of Willingham’s guilt. The governor said that the three commission members were all at the end of their terms and dismissing them was “pretty standard business as usual." The Commission's scheduled hearing has now been cancelled.
President Truman famously said, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!"

But when you're Governor of Texas, it's more like, "if you can't stand the heat, fire the cook!"

I guess "I've made up my mind, don't bother me with the facts" is a Texas executive prerogative.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Obomb-Bomb-Bomb, Bomb-Bomb Iran?

During the 2008 campaign, a video of Republican candidate Sen. John McCain singing "Bomb-Bomb-Bomb, Bomb-Bomb-Iran" (to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann") made the rounds. It was even discussed during one of the Presidential debates.

Now ABC News is reporting that the Obama Defense Department is seeking funds, through the emergency appropriations bill for the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts, to accelerate the development of "a gargantuan bunker-busting bomb called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). It's a 30,000-pound bomb designed to hit targets buried 200 feet below ground."

ABC continues:

The notification says simply, "The Department has an Urgent Operational Need (UON) for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high threat environments. The MOP is the weapon of choice to meet the requirements of the UON." It further states that the request is endorsed by Pacific Command (which has responsibility over North Korea) and Central Command (which has responsibility over Iran).

* * * *

The request was quietly approved. On Friday, McDonnell Douglas was awarded a $51.9 million contract to provide "Massive Penetrator Ordnance Integration" on B-2 aircraft.

This is not the kind of weapon that would be particularly useful in Iraq or Afghanistan, but it is ideally suited to hit deeply buried nuclear facilities such as Natanz or Qom in Iran.
My two cents: Bring It On, Mr. President. You can't enforce nuclear non-proliferation without this kind of weapon. Either the U.S. does this, or nobody does; and "nobody" is not an option.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Louisiana Democratic Party's Federal Elections Commission Complaint Against PACs for Vitter, Barbour, and Pickering

I got my hands on the Complaint filed by the Louisiana Democratic Party (LDP) mentioned earlier this morning. The respondents named in the complaint are CHIP PAC, Chip Pickering, Danna Lane (CHIP PAC Treasurer), Haley's PAC, Austin Barbour (Treasurer for Haley's PAC and Haley's nephew), David Vitter for U.S. Senate, and William Vanderbrook (Treasurer for David Vitter for U.S. Senate).  The complaint does not charge Haley Barbour or David Vitter, personally, with any wrongdoing.

The LDP alleges four violations of federal law:

1.  Making a Contribution in the Name of Another
2.  Permitting Your Name to be Used in a Conduit Scheme
3.  Accepting a Contribution in the Name of Another
4.  Individuals who Assisted in Making a Contribution in the Name of Another

They ask that the respondents be fined, and that the DOJ prosecute any willful violations.  Interesting....

Louisiana Democratic Party files FEC complaint against Haley Barbour, Chip Pickering, and David Vitter

Jonathan Allen at Politico just broke this:

The Louisiana Democratic Party plans to file a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission today, charging that Barbour’s PAC essentially filtered a $5,000 campaign donation from Pickering’s PAC to Louisiana Vitter’s 2010 re-election committee to make it look like the contribution didn’t come directly from Pickering.
You heard about the fundraiser, and the subsequent problematic campaign contributions here first.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

An inside look at the C Street "Family" that Chip Pickering was involved in...

Prior to the allegations surrounding former U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering's marital life, I'd never heard of "The Family," and I'll bet you had not either.  Jeff Sharlett wrote a book on the organization, but frankly I've heard it's less about this odd organization than a critical history of American Evangelicalism.  Sharlett wrote a piece for Harper's that is quite long, but quite fascinating.  I highly recommend it.  Here's an excerpt that may help us understand why Pickering would have felt so comfortable conducting his affair at the Family's house, if the allegations in the lawsuit are true:

The answer, we discovered, was that King David had been “chosen.” To illustrate this point David Coe turned to Beau. “Beau, let's say I hear you raped three little girls. And now here you are at Ivanwald. What would I think of you, Beau?”
Beau shrank into the cushions. “Probably that I'm pretty bad?”
“No, Beau. I wouldn't. Because I'm not here to judge you. That's not my job. I'm here for only one thing.”
“Jesus?” Beau said. David smiled and winked.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Update: Supreme Court Will Review Second Amendment Again

Many times during her confirmation hearings, Justice Sonya Sotomayor was asked whether the Second Amendment applied to tge States by "incorporation" into the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Her refusal to unequivocally agree with that assertion was one of the main reasons given against her confirmation by, among others, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the Seventh Circuit decision which presents that exact issue. We discussed the case a few days ago.

Perhaps, as Senator Wicker suggests, the reliance on nineteenth-century precedent (notably, the Slaughter-House Cases, which we discussed in our earlier post) in deciding Bill of Rights cases should be overruled. It's not a bad idea. Why not, in the context of this case, decide that ALL of the Bill of Rights are enforceable against the States through the Fourteenth Amendment?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Go Get 'Em, Bill! Senate Committee Rejects "Public Option"

The Washington Post is breaking the news that the Senate Finance Committee has just rejected an amendment to the Baucus bill which would have included a "public option" recently championed by, of all people, Bill O'Reilly.

The Post reports:

The Senate Finance Committee voted down a government-run "public option" as part an overhaul of the nation's health-care system Tuesday, rejecting the first of two amendments offered by Democrats.

The panel's chairman, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and four other Democrats sided with Republicans in opposing a public-option amendment offered by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.). Baucus said he voted against the politically volatile provision because he feared that a bill including it would not get the 60 votes it would need to pass on the Senate floor. The committee voted 15 to 8 to reject the amendment.

* * * *

The debate came as the committee worked for a fifth day on an overall health-care reform bill authored by Baucus. His bill, which he says would cost nearly $900 billion over 10 years, contains no public option, favoring instead a system in which nonprofit cooperatives would offer health insurance to people who could not afford private companies' plans.

Other Democrats who favor a public option argued that polls show 65 percent of Americans support including it in health-insurance reform legislation. House committees have included such an option in their proposals, and President Obama has expressed support for a public option, while also indicating that this is not the most important consideration for him and leaving the way open for cooperatives.

Rockefeller said his proposal would save about $50 billion over 10 years. He denied that it represents "some kind of government takeover," insisting that enrollment in a public plan would be strictly optional.

Charging that private insurance companies have "failed to meet their obligations" to the public, Rockefeller said the firms are "determined to protect their profits and put their customers second." A public option, he said, would act as a "counterweight" to "rapacious" health-insurance companies, helping to reduce excessive growth in the cost of premiums.

* * * *

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican on the committee, acknowledged "shortcomings" in the U.S. health-care system and said he was "not arguing for the status quo." But he maintained that "a government-run plan is not the answer."

Such a plan, he said, "will ultimately force private insurers out of business" and lead to "single-payer health care" in which the federal government runs health insurance and the health-care system.

"The government is not a fair competitor," he said. "It's a predator."
I find it interesting that a United States Senator thinks the Government is "a predator." Recall that when Franklin Roosevelt was attacked for proposing Social Security, he had to respond to the same demagoguery:

"[They are guilty of more than deceit,” Roosevelt went on to say of his Social Security critics. When they promote the idea that the Social Security reserves will be stolen by some future Congress, “they attack the integrity of American government itself. Those who suggest that are already aliens to the spirit of American democracy.”
I hope Bill O gives the Senate Committee majority pure Hell in the next days . . . wouldn't THAT be fun?

Protest Now! TLC Sends "Dear Jon" Letter, Discriminating Against Playful Dads Everywhere

Well, it's finally happened. Jon Gosselin has been fired from "Jon and Kate Plus 8" by the TLC Network. People magazine reports:

“Given Jon’s recent antics, there was no way the show could continue to portray him as a doting Dad, not while all this other crap was going on,” a source close to Jon Gosselin tells PEOPLE.

“Jon will still be seen on the show from time to time,” the source adds.
TIME opines that "having Jon show up with another 'new mommy' every week would be too gross even for TLC."

My question: are Jon's antics really worse than those depicted in prime time on Two and a Half Men?

Or Desperate Housewives? Or How I Met Your Mother?

For shame, TLC. The Men's Liberation Movement will be protesting your show. In fact, my guess is that there will be an American Male boycott of "Kate Plus 8" -- assuming any men ever watched this show in the first place.

Will Wonders Never Cease? Bill O for the "Public Option"?

While Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, chair of the Republican Governor's Association and a frequently-named possible Presidential candidate, is leading the charge against Senator Baucus' compromise health care reform bill, it's interesting that another well-known conservative has come out in support of a part of the far more liberal plan advanced by top House Democrats.

Believe it or not, Bill O'Reilly told a Heritage Foundation scholar that he favored the "public option". O'Reilly said:

"If the government can cobble together a cheaper insurance policy that gives the same benefits, I see that as a plus."

See it for yourself:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Jim Hood Rides Into The Next Gun Rights Battle . . .

This coming Monday, October 5, the United States Supreme Court begins its October 2009 Term. As always, the Court will issue its largest set of rulings (called "grants of certiorari") which decide the cases it will hear in the coming months.

One of the most high-profile sets of cases involves the Second Amendment. The Heller case, in which the Court decided that the Second Amendment did secure an individual right to bear arms, invalidated an ordinance in the District of Columbia. But Heller does not necessarily mean that the State of Mississippi (or California, or New York) cannot pass strict gun control statutes.

That's because in the nineteenth-century Slaughter-House Cases, the Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment does not automatically impose all of the obligations of the Bill of Rights on the States. Instead, in each situation where one of the provisions of the Bill of Rights has been clarified or enforced, the Supreme Court eventually decided whether that particular right also limits State Governments under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (The concept is called Incorporation).

Back to the present. There are three cases pending before the Supreme Court asking the Court to decide whether the Second Amendment bars State, as well as Federal, laws on gun control.

The cases are:

NRA, et al. v. City of Chicago, No. 08-1497; McDonald, et al. v. City of Chicago, No. 08-1521.

Issue: Whether the Second Amendment is incorporated into the Due Process Clause or the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment so as to be applicable to the States, thereby invalidating ordinances prohibiting possession of handguns in the home.

Here is the Seventh Circuit's Opinion that it being appealed:

NRA 7th Circuit Op

Here is the NRA's Petition for Writ of Certiorari:
NRA 7th Cir Cert Pet

Here is the Brief of TEXAS (who else?) -- joined by many other States, including Mississippi (Jim Hood, no less) arguing in favor of the NRA

NRA 7th Cir AG Brief

So my red-meat eating, Red-State friends (not to be confused with my Red friends) can be happy with General Hood today, right? He rides into Little Big Horn with the rest of the posse. Yippee . . .