Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Constitution & Government Agencies

I've been trolling a scary and stupid FB site called Humane Watch. They claim to be a "watchdog" of the United States Humane Society (the group that makes many rescues and almost all local animal shelters possible). What they really are a bunch of ignorami, who don't get the Constitution, and don't understand that what they hate are administrative agencies. So, here are the very bare bone basics, I don't have desire or interest this evening to get into the depths, but I will do so at some other time.

We have three distinct branches of the US (and most state) government(s): executive, legislative and judiciary. From the legislative branch, we get administrative agencies that are created by acts of Congress to carry out specific legislative purposes and goals. Examples of these include the EPA, the SSA, the VA, and so on. This is the basic purpose of agencies.

More later.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

What kind of country is the US?

This should be an easy answer question. Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense, "For in absolute countries, the king is the law, so in free countries the law should be king and there ought to be none other." Even now, young lawyers are sworn in with the pledge that they will not be judged according to anything but the law which is so honorable, and extraordinary that they must serve the document in nothing but the most honorable manner. Our country is one of laws.
But what does this mean in translation? Does it mean that every law that comes through a state legislature, or the federal legislative branch or is an idea of Facebook is one that needs to be? I fervently believe that we have an overabundance of laws that help a small minority, and a lack of laws that would actually serve the People.
The best examples of this are in the criminal realm. If you are charged at the federal level in a drug trafficking scheme, regardless your role, you are subject to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. These look at the kind of crime you are accused of (here, worse case scenario, methamphetamine transporting), what/if any crime you have ever been accused of at any level of the judiciary, and whether some probation officer who usually has little or no understanding of criminal thinking thinks you should go to the slammer.

So, in this scenario, you're a single mom with two kids at home, and you take time to take care of your ex's mother because he's drunk and high. You go to school part time, and work part time as a nurse's aide. You can barely pay the rent. So, the guy you rent from offers you a deal: you take a package from his apartment to an address five blocks away. He pays half your rent for that month. This continues until you're delivering packages on a daily basis, and you know not to ask too many questions. It's paying the rent, and your grades are up, your kids are happier, and your mother-in-law needs more help.
It's evening, and summer, and you're just coming back from a drop. Out of nowhere, two guys in black pop out of one of the buildings you pass at least six time a day. Before you know it, you're on the ground, and these two guys are screaming at you. One is screaming your Miranda rights in your ear. The other is screaming "who else is in this?" You have no idea what going on. But, they still throw you up against a car, and frisk you. You have a bit of cash in your pocket, and your house and car keys in the other. And, then, you're arrested for transporting methamphetamine, a controlled substance under state and federal law. You cry that your kids and your mother in law need you now. They tell you to shut the hell up. And, your landlord is going to beat you senseless.
They don't tell you that he was picked up earlier, and your kids were already in state custody. Your mother-in-law will fall in the morning and some neighbor will call the cops, and they'll interrogate her, too. Then, some social worker will help find her a home somewhere else.

You're nothing in this game. You're the mule. You're landlord is the dealer. Wherever you are dropping off, they're the addicts. You're the pawn, and you're going to go to federal prison for a while. No matter you have no priors, no matter you didn't know what you were carrying, no matter that you have two beautiful children who will have been adopted by the time you are released. Both your ex-husband and your mother-in law are dead. The United States just deprived you of 60 months of your life.

What did you learn in prison? How to avoid being raped. How to avoid being knifed. How to be the only light brown person in a sea of dark brown faces. How to avoid sitting at the wrong table on the wrong day. How to avoid the prison guard who impregnated one of your "friends."

What didn't you learn? How to recover from prison. How to expunge your record. How to find an employer. How to find your children. How to use a computer. How to read past the 8th grade level you had when you dropped out of school pregnant. How the Constitution works to protect you.

There's the problem. We have a prison system based in the 18th century, shown to cause recidivism, not helping anybody be safer, or being less criminally minded. Laws with mandatory sentencing, and affecting kids are defeating their purpose. Instead of turning people with low grade drug crimes into more productive and capable members of society, these laws turn them into full-time criminals. When this happens with children, which is happening right now with a young boy in Pennsylvania, you guarantee we the People are going to have a full time felon who can never be released from prison.

Is that what our laws are supposed to do? No. They are to help us avoid foreign occupation. Help us avoid unjust and illegal persecution by the State. They are to protect regardless our sex, race or ethnicity or class. But that's not what we're getting. How do you fix this?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The purpose and being of law

After having spent the day pondering the workings of the U.S. constitution (remember I've only been an attorney through the dim years of Bush I, and two terms of Shrub destroying the Constitution), and despairing over the state of law enforcement in our beloved Idaho, I see what the problem is: we have forgotten what it means to be a colonialized people. Not that some of our citizens aren't colonized, many are: wrong color skin, too poor, too mentally ill, (NO, too rich does not apply here).
But here's the crux: the constitution belongs to ALL OF US. If you aren't a U.S. citizen, or don't want to be, that's O.K., but our constitution infected your leaders with something that made many of them reach higher and try harder. Our leaders got lazy, and stopped reading and living the constitution in 2001, and tried to dump it into a nasty slime hole. There's a serious problem with that.
I have high hopes that Mr. Obama will change this, and remind us that we are a constitutional people. We should require kids from grade 5 through 12 to read the constitution every day (who cares about the Pledge of Allegiance? It's not in the constitution, do you know what the 17th Amendment says? Why is that important? ). Scrap the SATs, can your college bound kid explain in writing (that is without the help of Wikipedia) why the Federalist Papers are so bloody important? Can s/he describe why the Federalist Papers and the men who wrote them had to have strong concepts of a republican political structure, and an understanding of the Greek theory of democracy, and an understanding of what government "by and for the people" meant?
Further, every educated adult in this society should be able to indulge in enlightened conversations about the constitution, and its founding documents over beer over coffee on any of the seven evenings of the week. . .

Monday, May 28, 2007

Tom Morello

So, here's the deal: Idaho is much, much more than Aryan Nations, and cows. It's Mexican gangs, and La Eme. Corrupt politicians, and too many Republicans. Horrible public schools at every level. Environmental disasters around every corner.

Today, my illustration will be drawn from the playing field I know best: LAW. I will be talking about personal experience with three of Idaho's very worst elected prosecutors: Phil Robinson in Bonner County (that would be Sandpoint area), Bill Douglas in Kootenai County (Coeur d'Alene), and Dave Young in Canyon County (Nampa, outside of Boise).

Phil Robinson runs an office where domestic violence victims are frequently charged with domestic violence when they defend themselves. I've sued his office, and won, and represented victims of domestic violence that have been wrongfully charged and won in front of juries every single time. He has a drunk deputy named Sarah Jayne Pollock, who turns every trial she touches into a dog and pony show. He loses credibility by handing cases to here, but at least she provides a cheap show for jurors.

Robinson's been disciplined by the Idaho State Bar many times, and yet because he has an (R) after his name, and has yet to be indicted for raping children, he has been consistently re-elected. Remember that Bonner County is where Mark Furman makes his home, and many other wealthy, extremely racist, extremely Republican Californians also make their homes there.

Bill Douglas' office refuses to recognize same-sex domestic battery. One of my clients was shot to death by her female domestic partner after her ex who had been charged by Coeur d'Alene City Police with Felony Domestic Battery with Traumatic Injury (including a broken nose, a broken wrist, and bruising from head to toe). Douglas' deputy, Reece Sterett, told me point blank that it was their POLICY "not to charge same-sex domestic violence as felonies." This is a violation of Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution (see my webpage, which is currently under construction, but has working links to the U.S. constitution). Her batterer's case was sent back to the city of Coeur d'Alene where it was passed to an utterly incompetent attorney named John Christiansen, who amended the charge without notifying my client, the VICTIM, to a misdemeanor disturbing the peace. She was never contacted about the offer, she was not notified when her batterer was in or out of custody, and she was not allowed to speak at her ex's sentence. All of these opportunities are provided for under Amendment 25 of the Idaho Constitution. Instead, she got two bullets to the back of her head.

The Idaho Court of Appeals has recently issued an opinion indicating that in overturning a case, it was doing so in light of it being "another in a long line or pattern of repetitious misconduct" by the Kootenai County prosecutor's office." John Christiansen was an adored deputy of Dave Young in Canyon County who apparently had a heart attack after I filed a bar complaint, and dragged him through a two day malpractice deposition, in my client's wrongful death case. I salute him for dying when he did.

Dave Young is a dictatorial prosecutor. He has absolutely no experience in criminal law, and has only settled one criminal trial (a misdemeanor DUI) at half time in his entire legal career. How he was elected boggles my mind. He uses battery as his management style. And, recently compromised the identity of a federally protected witness. He will not accept responsibility for his actions, nor will he apologize. He has cost Canyon County tax payers millions of dollars in wrongful death actions, prosecutorial misconduct actions, and very likely in this most recent conduct, yet because he has an (R) after his name, and has not yet been indicted for raping a child, he has been re-elected (though unlike Phil Robinson, he's not a likeable guy, and has been subject to a recall vote after a domestic violence victim was murdered by her batterer). Of course, it is important to note that his son, Mark, is also an employee of Canyon County and been on PAID administrative suspension, pending a federal indictment on child porn charges. How much is Mr. Young costing Canyon County, Idaho? What could that money be doing for our state? Protecting domestic violence victims? Preventing gang violence? Improving schools?