Thursday, June 29, 2006

Court Slaps Down Gitmo Tribunals

From the Washington Post:
The Supreme Court today delivered a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration over its plans to try Guantanamo detainees before military commissions, ruling that the commissions violate U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of war prisoners.

In a 5-3 decision, the court said the trials were not authorized by any act of Congress and that their structure and procedures violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Judge Orders Missouri Executions Halted

From STLtoday:
A federal judge halted all executions in Missouri on Monday after finding that the state's execution procedure - largely in the hands of a dyslexic doctor - could cause "unconstitutional pain and suffering."

U.S. Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. gave the Missouri Department of Corrections until July 15 to come up with a new lethal injection procedure. A department spokesman initially declined to comment, saying officials had not yet had time to study the ruling.

The order to halt executions came as Gaitan amended his ruling in the case of a condemned Kansas City man who faces execution for murdering a 15-year-old girl in 1989. The inmate, Michael A. Taylor, appealed his sentence, arguing that Missouri's method of execution could force him to suffer unconstitutionally cruel pain and suffering.

Judge: Tactic Unconstitutional

From The New York Times:
A federal judge ruled yesterday that a tactic used by prosecutors to crack down on corporate misconduct violated the constitutional rights of employees, a decision that may change the way the government pursues white-collar cases.

The ruling, by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of United States District Court in Manhattan, who is overseeing the trial of former employees of the accounting firm KPMG, is the first major criticism from the bench of tactics that federal prosecutors have adopted since a wave of corporate scandals erupted after the collapse of Enron.

The issue addressed by Judge Kaplan concerns the advancing of legal fees to employees caught up in criminal investigations. Companies have traditionally paid such costs, and some states' laws and a number of companies' bylaws require it. But an influential 2003 Justice Department document known as the Thompson memorandum has been interpreted by many lawyers to mean that companies under investigation can gain favor with prosecutors if they cut off legal fees.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Regiional Recalls Upheld

Consumer Affairs reports:
A federal appeals court has upheld the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration policy that allows automakers to limit some vehicle recalls by region.

Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety had challenged the NHTSA policy as an attempt to change federal law without public comment.

Appeals court Judge Harry Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote the "guidelines are nothing more than general policy statements with no legal force."
Rest of article

CA court expands police authority

Here's another reason not to drink and drive in California, especially if you have made someone angry with you:
SAN FRANCISCO - Law enforcement may stop and detain drivers based
on anonymous and uncorroborated tips that they were driving while
intoxicated, the California Supreme Court decided.

Court to rule on climate

From the Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court entered the debate over global warming Monday, agreeing at the urging of environmentalists to rule on whether emissions from new cars, trucks and power plants must be further regulated to slow climate change.

The court's action gave a surprising, if tentative, boost to 12 states, including California, and a coalition of environmentalists who say the federal government must restrict the exhaust fumes that contribute to global warming. Their appeal accused the Environmental Protection Agency of having "squandered nearly a decade" by failing to act.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Kansas Death Penalty Stays

In a split vote, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined the Kansas death penalty is constituional.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Scalia Incorrectly Cites Author

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia "twisted my main argument to reach a conclusion the exact opposite of what I spelled out in this and other studies," says the author of the work cited in a court decision, Samuel Walker.

Walker is professor emeritus of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, has written 13 books on policing and civil liberties, and he served as a consultant to the Justice Department.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Walker says:
Scalia's opinion suggests that the results I highlighted have sufficiently removed the need for an exclusionary rule to act as a judicial-branch watchdog over the police. I have never said or even suggested such a thing. To the contrary, I have argued that the results reinforce the Supreme Court's continuing importance in defining constitutional protections for individual rights and requiring the appropriate remedies for violations, including the exclusion of evidence.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Police Can Stop, Search Parolees at Will

The U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed a California law that permits police to stop and search parolees without cause.
"California's ability to conduct suspicionless searches of parolees serves its interest in reducing recidivism, in a manner that aids, rather than hinders the re-integration of parolees into productive society," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that requiring police to show they reasonably suspected wrongdoing is a shield "to guard against the evils of arbitrary action, caprice, and harassment." Stevens said that the majority merely paid "lip service" to the Constitution and branded the California law "an unprecedented curtailment of liberty."