Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Target: the 9th Circuit (The Republican war on the judiciary continues)

From the December issue of The Progressive, Ruth Conniff's "The Progressive Interview: Bernie Sanders:"

[Bernie Sanders]: In my view this happens to be one of the most dangerous moments in American history. These guys are not just reactionaries. They are changing the rules of the game so they will stay in power for the indefinite futere. We see this abuse of power on the floor of the House. They kept the voting rolls open for three hours to pass the Medicare prescription drug bill. I had an amendment, which won, on the Patriot Act. They kept the voting open twenty minutes longer to defeat it. They break the rules. It's like having a football game go into the fifth quareter because you don't like the results at the end of the fourth quarter. We know what DeLay did in Texas. They have taken chairmen -- yanked them out -- because they defy the leadership of the House. They are now attempting to destroy the judiciary system, which will have profound implications for the future of this country.

Note Sanders' last sentence, "They are now attempting to destroy the judiciary system, which will have profound implications for the future of this country." (The article's from the latest issue of the magazine and it's not available online at present.) Why note the last sentence? Zachary Coile's "A quiet move in House to split the 9th Circuit" (San Francisco Chronicle):

A little-noticed provision in the massive House budget bill would fulfill the longtime goal of conservatives to split the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, creating a new 12th circuit appellate court and allowing President Bush to name a slate of new federal judges.
Conservatives long have claimed that the Ninth Circuit is too liberal, and that reputation was reinforced by the court's 2002 ruling that reciting the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
But legal observers say the outcome of such a split is likely to be a more liberal court making decisions for California, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and a more conservative court serving seven other Western states now part of the Ninth Circuit -- Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona.

In the article, Reagan appointee Judge Alex Kozinski is noted as testifying before the Senate last month:

Dividing a circuit should only take place when: one, there is demonstrated proof that a circuit is not operating effectively, and two, there is a consensus among the bench and bar and public that it serves that division is the appropriate remedy. Neither of those conditions exists today.

The article also notes that: "Of the 28 active judges on Ninth Circuit, only three have expressed support for splitting the court."

Though Diane Feinstein opposes the plan, Bully Boy has signed on to it.

And who would pack the newly created circuit? (You know the answer.) It's thought that one of the states effected would be Oregon. (We have several members in Oregon.) Oregon has
been very active with measures that Bully Boy's Justice Department has opposed. For instance,
Oregon's physician-assisted suicide. From CNN's "Federal judge upholds Oregon assisted-suicide law" (April 17, 2002):

In his ruling, Judge Robert E. Jones criticized U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft for seeking to nullify the state law, saying he "fired the first shot in the battle" and had sought to "stifle" a debate on the matter through a Nov. 6 directive.
Jones ordered the federal government to halt any efforts to prosecute Oregon physicians, pharmacists and other health-care providers who participate in assisted suicide of terminally ill patients under Oregon's law.

How bothered is the Bully Boy's Justice Department over this law? When the Ninth Circuit upheld Oregon's law, the Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court. The case that began as Ashcroft v. Oregon became Gonzales v. Oregon and the Court heard testimony on it in October. (Oral arguments before the Court can be found here.)

The article in the Chronicle focuses on the effects to California. This would impact much more than California. Bully Boy's Justice Department has often proved successful in circuit shopping their cases.

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[Note: Typos pointed out by Betty have been corrected.]