EIGHT MEMBER SUPREME COURT FINISHES A TINY SLICE OF UNFINISHED BUSINESS
MUCH MORE TO GO BUT KUDOS FOR THE SMALL STUFF
The eight member Supreme Court of the United States – which, if Republicans get their way, will remain so with the vacancy that resulted from the death of Antonin Scalia until a Republican is elected President – bravely waded into the State’s Rights controversy regarding states of the United States’ right to outlaw adoptions. Well, okay, that’s an exaggeration. But as is the case with the 29 states who permit businesses to discriminate against gay men and woman because: Religion or Bible or Low Intellectual Capability – many states do not recognize adoptions by gay men and women granted in those states who do support family values. (Not, of course, the Conservative, Tea Bagger version of “Family Values” as exemplified by the American Family Association, an organization tagged by Southern Poverty Law Center as a “Hate Organization,” but those real, honest Family Values folks, you know, those practiced by us normal folks who don’t see prejudice, bigotry and hate as the highest expression of good parenting.)
Yesterday, the eight members of the Supreme Court overturned an Alabama State Supreme Court ruling that denied recognition of a lesbian mother’s rights when the court ruled that the Georgia adoption of three children was invalid in Alabama. In VL vs. EL, the Supreme Court had previously granted a stay to Alabama’s ruling so that the mother could visit her adopted children. (Score one for real Family Values.) The Alabama court’s reasoning went thusly when they denied visitation rights:
“Georgia courts violated their own state laws in granting the adoptions of the children VL shared with her former partner, and thus she did not deserve custody or even visitation with the children.”
I guess the super intelligent Alabama judges don’t have a high opinion of Georgia’s judges nor do they appear to have a belief that the state of Georgia might be able to interpret and apply their own laws without asking neighboring Alabama for judicial input. In a fairly strongly worded slapdown of Alabama, the Supreme Court said:
“The Georgia judgment appears on its face to have been issued by a court with jurisdiction, and there is no established Georgia law to the contrary.”
In other words, they basically told Alabama to mind their own business.
And this time it all turned out well.
Said V.L. following the Supreme court ruling:
“When the Alabama Court said my adoption was invalid and I wasn’t their mother, I didn’t think I could go on. The Supreme Court has done what’s right for my family.”
So is it that the eight member Supreme Court might turn out to be more sympathetic to real, honest “Family Values” than they have been in the past with the full nine member complement? We shall see.
In another ruling that reeks of sensible real world practicalities related to our fairly fucked up judicial processes, the Court overturned the death sentence of a man who had been on Louisiana’s death row since his conviction for murder in 1998. Michael Wearry was convicted of killing a 16 year old youth who was delivering a pizza in a rural area near Baton Rouge. There was no physical evidence linking Wearry to the killing and the case was built on the testimony of others, none of whom witnessed the crime. The Supreme Court termed the prosecution’s case “a house of cards.” (Damn! Tell it like it is!)
Evidence that would have cast doubt on the witnesses testimony – personal grudges, medical records – was withheld from the case by the state prosecutors and six of the Supreme Court’s judges ruled that this was a fundamental Constitutional flaw which served as the basis for their reversal.
This “prosecutors not turning over evidence” seems to be a pretty common practice among District Attorney these days. Perhaps this is not a new phenomenon but one that – like police killings of unarmed Black men – is one that has recently emerged from the dark bowels of our judicial system to be scrutinized in public. The Wearry v. Cain case was a six to two ruling with Justices Alito and Thomas dissenting. (I have no doubt that “everyman Justice” Scalia would have joined Alito and Thomas.) Here’s their reasoning:
“There is no question that prosecutors should have turned over the evidence but whether the information was sufficient to warrant reversing petitioner’s conviction is another matter.”
Really? Correct me here if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the job of a jury? And when known, relevant evidence is withheld from that jury, wouldn’t this “prejudice” the jury since they are instructed to come to a conclusion based on the “preponderance of the evidence” but don’t have ALL the evidence? Now I’m not an attorney and, therefore, do not have the unique capability of convincing a jury that black is white when they all know that snow is white (maybe Louisianans aren’t familiar with this truism since the state doesn’t get a whole lot of snow) nor do I possess the labyrinthian metal processes that attorneys have to travel from point “A” to point “B” via Mars yet convince a jury that this, indeed, is the shortest route between points "A" and "B." But come on Justices Alito and Thomas, a man’s life is at stake here. We aren’t talking about some kid robbing a neighborhood 7-11 or smoking pot on the Capitol Grounds.
Or maybe it’s just that Justices Alito and Thomas (I’ll throw in the late, departed Scalia here just for good measure) don’t place as much value on human life as their compatriots on the bench do.
Or as the rest of us do for that matter.
Have a good lawful day!