Gavel Grab

1/16/08 – Two Possible Judicial Corruption Cases, Iowa Back in the Judicial Spotlight with Same-Sex Marriage, More Opinions on WI Reform, Surprise! SCOTUS Still Doesn't Do TVs

Fischer: Let Iowa judges do jobs, decide same-sex marriage cases Iowa View – The Des Moinse Register
A Des Moines lawyer argues that Iowans should let their courts do their job and provide a fair and impartial ruling on same-sex marriage.

Ed Garvey: Appointing our Supreme Court is a terrible idea – The Capital Times – WI
The political activist and lawyer responds to Sunday’s editorial on merit selection by arguing that the solution that is really needed is publicly funded campaigns.

Prosecutors: Scruggs and associates tried to influence Mississippi judge – The Associated Press
Mississippi attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs bribed state court judges with federal bench appointments in order to win favorable decisions.

Massey executive, W.Va. justice linked: Another justice asks court’s administrator to save evidence – The Associated Press
European vacation photos surface showing Massey Energy Co. head Don Blankenship with Chief Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard in Monaco. Maynard recently voted in the majority of a 3-2 decision reversing a $76.3 million judgment against Massey Energy.

The Supreme Court Club – The New York Times – Editorial
The Supreme Court heard a controversial voting rights case last week, which like all other cases they hear, was not televised. Important cases like this one highlight the issue of openness in the countries highest court.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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JAS Daily News Monitor 12/10/07

Supreme Court to Review Courts’ Wartime Reach – The New York Times
The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Munaf v. Geren and Secretary of the Army v. Omar, both examining the U.S. federal courts role in preventing military officers from turing over U.S. citizens to Iraqi officials.

Republican lawmaker cries foul as Supreme Court drafts a redistricting plan – The Wisconsin State Journal
As Wisconsin considers rewriting legislative voting districts, conflicts arise between the state Supreme Court, the Republican-led Assembly and the Democratic-led Senate.

Is just one race out of 37 doing justice? – The O.C. Register
Approximately one third of Orange County’s judicial seats are up for election in 2008 but only one is being considered a real race.

Judge Wulle censured by commission – The Columbian
Washington state’s Clark County Superior Court Judge John Wulle was censured Friday for “demeaning, offensive and shocking” behavior at a training conference last year.

Ariz. Immigration Law Challenge Tossed – The Associated Press
U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake throws out a lawsuit seeking to stop a new immigration law from going into effect on January 1.

Illinois Supreme Court to post oral arguments on Web – The Associated Press
The Illinois Supreme Court announces they plan to broadcast oral arguments on their website starting next month.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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JAS Daily News Monitor 12/7/07

Panel OKs bill to televise open Supreme Court sessions – CNN Washington Bureau
The Senate Judiciary Committee approves a bipartisan bill that would put television cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill is not going unopposed by some Supreme Court Justices.

Task force to keep judge races in check – The Capital Times, Madison, WI
In the wake of recent highly politicized Supreme Court elections, State Bar President Tom Bastings has announced a new task force designed to monitor campaigns and help restore justice and integrity in the election process.

Commentary: The Supreme Court Must Rebuke Some of Louisiana’s Errant Prosecutors – and Start in Jena – Black America Web
As the U.S. Supreme Court hears Louisiana case on racial bias in the justice system, Judge Greg Mathis argues that greater Supreme Court intervention is needed to dismantle racial prejudices especially in the Jena six case.

Getting to know judges – The Kansas City Community News
The newly formed Kansas Commission on Judicial Performance will help inform voters on the judicial candidates and provide judges with evaluations designed to improve performance.

Click here for more news on fair and impartial courts issues from the Brennan Center for Justice E-lerts.

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An End to Radio Silence

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Today’s Washington Post includes an editorial about the U.S. Supreme Court. Not surprising, considering the Court heard what is widely regarded as one of the most important cases of the decade yesterday. Invoking the word “travesty”, however, Post editorial writers were not taking aim at the fate of the Gitmo detainees, but instead argued for TV cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The United States Supreme Court seats about 400 people, including media, and as the Post also notes, anyone who wants one of those prized seats almost invariably has to line up many hours in advance. Those who don’t make the cut can either join the car wash line (where a visitor is ushered through and gets a quick glimpse of ongoing proceedings before being escorted along to the gift shop) or go home. If they choose the latter, they can’t turn on the TV and see what they are missing.

Most members of the Supreme Court believe they need televised oral arguments like they need a hole in the head. But there’s a new round of Congressional pressure to put cameras in federal court rooms. “Over my dead body,” Justice Souter has warned, and many of his colleagues agree. But judges who reject good-government transparency arguments ought to revisit the issue—in the long view, they may need television to save their skins.

Televised proceedings would show judges off as the most dignified public servants in the business, and highlight how really interesting and important the work of the courts can be. Perhaps most importantly, and with apologies to my many friends in the media, cameras in the nation’s highest court would dethrone journalists as gatekeepers.

This isn’t because the high court press corps isn’t up to the task. Rather, just as C-SPAN has created a legion of Congressional junkies and White House watchers, cameras in the courtroom could help create what the courts currently lack: a constituency, a core of citizens who will object when Congress tries to strip courts of their powers or when the confirmation process runs amok. Opinion research shows that the more Americans understand the courts, the more likely they are to respect them. Shouldn’t that be reason enough to consider trying it?

Update: The Senate Judiciary Committee has now voted to allow U.S. Supreme Court proceedings to be televised.

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