WASHINGTON, DC — The drug midazolam may or may not be effective in preventing death row inmates from experiencing the excruciating pain caused by the other drugs Oklahoma wants to use to execute three inmates. This pain, which Justice Elena Kagan likens to the sensation of being burnt alive, would violate the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment under any plausible interpretation of the Eighth Amendment. The issue in Glossip v. Gross, which the justices heard on Wednesday, is whether very high doses of midazolam dull the pain of execution sufficiently to render Oklahoma’s methods constitutional.
Early on in the argument, Justice Sonia Sotomayor cites the case of Joseph Rudolph Wood, an Arizona inmate who spent two hours in apparent agony during a botched execution that began with a massive dose of midazolam. Almost immediately, however, the most conservative justices question whether anyone can really know that Wood suffered because midazolam is not effective. What if the execution was not “properly conducted,” Justice Antonin Scalia asks, a concern echoed by Chief Justice John Roberts who suggests that Wood may have suffered because of a problem with his “veins.”
Justice Samuel Alito, in an early sign that this argument is about to take an extraordinarily ghoulish turn, suggests that not enough inmates have suffered Wood’s fate for anyone to be able to determine whether midazolam is effective for use as an execution painkiller. After asking how many executions have made use of this drug — the answer is 15 — Alito tells Robin Konrad, the attorney arguing against using midazolam, that she is only “talking about one” execution. Later in the argument, Alito claims that the question of whether midazolam is a sufficiently effective painkiller may be unknowable, since the high doses Oklahoma wants to use in its executions are toxic. “If it is a lethal dose,” Alito asks, “how are you going to do a study” on whether high doses of midazolam dull the pain of an execution?
In an 8-1 decision in the case of Heien v. North Carolina, SCOTUS ruled that a violation of the 4th amendment is perfectly acceptable if the violation results from a “reasonable mistake about the law” on the part of police.
What constitutes a reasonable mistake? Whatever the police say constitutes a reasonable mistake.
If cops want to look through your car, or seize your property, they can: They just have to make up a fake traffic law and then claim you were breaking it. Were they wrong? Oh well~!
If cops want to kill you, they can. They just have to claim you made a sudden move. Video evidence to the contrary? Oh well~!
What can’t a police officer do and get away with it?
Read more over at If You Only News
It’s going to take decades to fix the damage that Bush and the GOP have done to this country, its laws, and even its culture.
The Hobby Lobby decision by SCOTUS may end up biting corporations in the ass.
Corporations were created to separate the people owning the company from the negative results of their decisions. “Corporation: n - An Ingenious device to obtain individual profit while avoiding individual responsibility,” as Ambrose Bierce noted.
Thanks to the Hobby Lobby decision that separation is now gone.
These people never seem to think things through, do they?
This is a (sometimes NSFW) webcomic on the Escapist Magazine site called Critical Miss. The focus is usually on games, but they dib-&-dab in social issues sometimes. Like today: Flat Earth Birth Control
From the first panel:
So, the supreme court has has decided that companies can use religious grounds to avoid paying health insurance claims for contraceptives.
Will this effect you?
No, because you’re mutants who will never experience human intimacy.
Not so fast, SCOTUS also ruled that Government (i.e. Taxpayers) should pay for everything that Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to include.
A group that lost its U.S. Supreme Court case over prayer at public meetings said recent comments by a Virginia elected official illustrate the risk of allowing such sectarian invocations.
“The freedom of religion doesn’t mean that every religion has to be heard,” said Al Bedrosian, who sits on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. “If we allow everything, where do you draw the line?”
The Republican said Monday, after the high court ruled 5-4 that legislative prayer did not violate the constitutional prohibition on government establishment of religion, that he would not vote to allow non-Christians to deliver invocations.
“I think America, pretty much from Founding Fathers on, I think we have to say more or less that we’re a Christian nation with Christian ideology,” Bedrosian said. “If we’re a Christian nation, then I would say that we need to move toward our Christian heritage.”
Those remarks echoed statements he made several years ago in an editorial published in the Roanoke Times, where he described freedom of religion as a “hoax” and claimed “the global warming crowd worships the environment as god, the abortionist has the death of unborn babies as their god, and the homosexuals have sexual freedom as their god.”
“The real battle is keeping the name of Jesus as Lord,” Bedrosian wrote in 2007. “The name Jesus is what makes us a Christian people and a Christian nation. This is why we must continue our heritage as a Christian nation and remove all other gods.”
That’s what Bedrosian intends to do in his position as county supervisor, saying he would reject any request by any non-Christian adherent to deliver a religious or secular invocation.
“I would say no,” Bedrosian said. “That does not infringe on their freedom of religion. The truth is you’re trying to infringe on my right, because I don’t believe that.”
What a Pandora’s box the SCOTUS has opened.
I think the issue deserves it’s time in court, the highest court of the land. Saying this policy cannot be challenged in court flies in the face of the spirit and intent of our civil protections.
Now we must depend on a legislative relief. I like the Sensenbrenner / Leahy bill.
In its briefs, EPIC claimed that all calling records cannot be relevant to an investigation.
“The ongoing collection of the domestic telephone records of millions of Americans by the NSA, untethered to any particular investigation, is beyond the authority granted by Congress to the FISC …” according to EPIC’s petition.
The government has said that the spying program has been ongoing since at least 2006, and has repeatedly been authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. “As of October 1, 2013, fourteen different judges of the FISC, on thirty-four separate occasions, have approved Section 1861 orders directing telecommunications service providers to produce records in connection with the Telephony Records Program,” the government told the justices in its filing while urging the court to reject the case.
The government told a New York federal judge presiding over a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that the wholesale vacuuming up of all phone-call metadata in the United States is in the “public interest,” does not breach the constitutional rights of Americans and cannot be challenged in a court of law.
In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving theNational Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.
The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions.
The judges have also had to intervene repeatedly when private Internet and phone companies, which provide much of the data to the N.S.A., have raised concerns that the government is overreaching in its demands for records or when the government itself reports that it has inadvertently collected more data than was authorized, the officials said. In such cases, the court has repeatedly ordered the N.S.A. to destroy the Internet or phone data that was improperly collected, the officials said.
If the NSA doesn’t have “direct access” to the private Internet and phone companies servers, or some other very intrusive access, how then does the NSA collect “more data than it was authorized”?
Then it seems that, at least in some cases, our guarantee to Constitutional Rights are left to the private Internet and phone companies when they challenge the NSA. The same agency who uses secret laws to enforce these searches and the challenge must be made to a secret court that does ‘t even seem to allow them to present it directly. Let me guess, each time they protest they have to “nail them” to the FISA Court house door?
The officials said one central concept connects a number of the court’s opinions. The judges have concluded that the mere collection of enormous volumes of “metadata” — facts like the time of phone calls and the numbers dialed, but not the content of conversations — does not violate the Fourth Amendment, as long as the government establishes a valid reason under national security regulations before taking the next step of actually examining the contents of an American’s communications.
This concept is rooted partly in the “special needs” provision the court has embraced. “The basic idea is that it’s O.K. to create this huge pond of data,” a third official said, “but you have to establish a reason to stick your pole in the water and start fishing.”
Under the new procedures passed by Congress in 2008 in the FISA Amendments Act, even the collection of metadata must be considered “relevant” to a terrorism investigation or other intelligence activities.
The court has indicated that while individual pieces of data may not appear “relevant” to a terrorism investigation, the total picture that the bits of data create may in fact be relevant, according to the officials with knowledge of the decisions.
Last month, a former National Security Agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden, leaked a classified order from the FISA court, which authorized the collection of all phone-tracing data from Verizon business customers. But the court’s still-secret decisions go far beyond any single surveillance order, the officials said.
The government has created a “vast pond” of information about us that they can “stick [their] pole[s] in and start fishing” but first they have to “establish a reason” for it. Let’s just get this straight, a database that could last forever (some reports say that the data is “only” saved for 5 years but it is unclear if that limit applies to the Metadata) but the restrictions are based upon the law, at that time?
“The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.
We’ve seen a growing body of law from the court,” a former intelligence official said. “What you have is a common law that develops where the court is issuing orders involving particular types of surveillance, particular types of targets.”
While President Obama and his intelligence advisers have spoken of the surveillance programs leaked by Mr. Snowden mainly in terms of combating terrorism, the court has also interpreted the law in ways that extend into other national security concerns.
In the past, that probably would have required a court warrant because the suspicious e-mail involved American communications.
“The definition of ‘foreign intelligence’ is very broad,” another former intelligence official said in an interview. “An espionage target, a nuclear proliferation target, that all falls within FISA, and the court has signed off on that.”
“It seems like a legal stretch,” William C. Banks, a national security law expert at Syracuse University, said in response to a description of the decision. “It’s another way of tilting the scales toward the government in its access to all this data.”
So, under the Obama Administration the Courts powers have vastley expanded, many times due to the efforts of the administration.
The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.
The law has created a secret court that “has become almost a parallel Supreme Court”. Good thing that it operates in accordance with the long traditions of US Jurisprudence.
Created by Congress in 1978 as a check against wiretapping abuses by the government, the court meets in a secure, nondescript room in the federal courthouse in Washington. All of the current 11 judges, who serve seven-year terms, were appointed to the special court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and 10 of them were nominated to the bench by Republican presidents. Most hail from districts outside the capital and come in rotating shifts to hear surveillance applications; a single judge signs most surveillance orders, which totaled nearly 1,800 last year. None of the requests from the intelligence agencies was denied, according to the court.
Unlike the Supreme Court, the FISA court hears from only one side in the case — the government — and its findings are almost never made public.
Geoffrey R. Stone, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago, said he was troubled by the idea that the court is creating a significant body of law without hearing from anyone outside the government, forgoing the adversarial system that is a staple of the American justice system. “That whole notion is missing in this process,” he said.
The FISA judges have bristled at criticism that they are a rubber stamp for the government, occasionally speaking out to say they apply rigor in their scrutiny of government requests. Most of the surveillance operations involve the N.S.A., an eavesdropping behemoth that has listening posts around the world. Its role in gathering intelligence within the United States has grown enormously since the Sept. 11 attacks.
So, the FISA Court, a secret court whose Judges are appointed by Chief Justice Roberts and 10 of the 11 judges are Republican appointees. Sounds like this could still be ripe for abuse. I bet the appeals process is designed in such a way as to act as an effective balance to protect our civil liberties.
A Court of Review is empaneled to hear appeals, but that is known to have happened only a handful of times in the court’s history, and no case has ever been taken to the Supreme Court. In fact, it is not clear in all circumstances whether Internet and phone companies that are turning over the reams of data even have the right to appear before the FISA court.
The judges of the Court of Review are district or appellate federal judges, appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States for seven year terms.
In August 2008, the Court of Review affirmed the constitutionality of the Protect America Act of 2007 in a heavily redacted opinion, In re Directives [redacted text] Pursuant to Section 105B of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, released on January 15, 2009.
So let’s sumerize the whole article. A Domestic Intelligence Agency, who acts on the behalf of President Obama, has been set up so that it cannot effectively be reviewed by the normal judicial process. But it is controlled by a Secret Court whose members are appointed by Cheif Justice Roberts, and who are all mostly Republican Appointees. People individuals and companies that must abide by that law cannot get a hearing at that court as the only ones allowed to present anything to that court is the Government, President Obama.
And, if the people governed by that law ever knew enough about the secret findings of that secrect court and wanted to repeal it, they would do so at an appeals court whose judges are also appointed by Justice Roberts.
While he “joins the judgment of the court,” Scalia wrote, he won’t sign on to “Part I-A and some portions of the rest of the opinion going into fine details of molecular biology.” Why? Because he can’t “affirm those details on [his] own knowledge or even [his] own belief.”
So what is Part I-A? Sounds like some pretty out-there stuff. It begins: “Genes form the basis for hereditary traits in living organisms.” It holds that genes are “encoded as DNA, which takes the shape of the familiar ‘double helix,’” and describes the chemical structures of DNA. It tells, in basic terms, what DNA is and how it works, ending with: “the study of genetics can lead to valuable medical breakthroughs.” It literally makes no other claims—it is a dry recitation of genetic science. High-school-level stuff.
Scalia can’t fully join his fellow justices because he doesn’t believe in genes.