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Archive for May 11th, 2014

A GOP judge that doesn’t believe in the law

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Ian Millhiser reports on an amazing judge in Wisconsin:

Last Tuesday, a Republican federal judge named Rudolph Randa handed down an unusual order cutting off a criminal investigation alleging illegal coordination between several political campaigns — including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) 2012 recall campaign — and conservative groups such as the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Randa speckled his order with uncharacteristic rhetoric for a judge tasked with being a neutral and impartial arbiter of the law. At one point, he labels the criminal probe “a long-running investigation of all things Walker-related.” At another point, he compares efforts to reign in excessive campaign spending to “the Guillotine and the Gulag.”

One day after Randa ordered this investigation halted, even requiring prosecutors to return or destroy documents that provided evidence that illegal coordination took place, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a brief order holding that Randa had no business deciding this case in the first place — as the case was already on appeal. “[O]nce a litigant files a notice of appeal,” the Seventh Circuit explained, “a district court may not take any further action in the suit unless it certifies that the appeal is frivolous. The district court failed to follow that rule when, despite the notice of appeal filed by several defendants, it entered a preliminary injunction.” Not to be outdone, Randa responded on Thursday by saying that the appeal was, indeed, frivolous. A position that at least one legal scholar disagreed with, saying that Randa’s original ruling was “extraordinary.”

Extraordinary or not, Randa’s actions in this case do fit a pattern of ideological decisions in politically charged cases:

  • Wrongful Conviction: Probably the most analogous case to the criminal probe he recently halted was the trial of former Wisconsin state purchasing supervisor Georgia L. Thompson, who was convicted of allegedly steering a state contract to a firm connected to the state’s Democratic governor. When a Democrat was at the center of a scandal, however, Randa handled the case very differently. Although Randa sentenced Thompson to eighteen months in federal prison, she served less than four months because the Seventh Circuit ordered her released. One Seventh Circuit judge said at oral argument that the evidence against Thompson was “beyond thin.”
  • Protecting Sexually Abusive Priests: In 2007, then-Archbishop of Milwaukee Timothy Dolan penned a letter to the Vatican explaining that, by transferring approximately $57 million in church funds to a separate trust set up to maintain church cemeteries, he’d achieved “an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” Six years later, Randa held that, by engaging in this accounting trick, the Milwaukee Archdiocese did indeed shield these funds from lawsuits — brought by victims of clergy sex abuse. Indeed, Randa held that the Catholic Church had a constitutional right to insulate this money from lawsuits brought by the victims of priestly sex abuse.
  • Blocking Access To Women’s Health Clinics: In 1994, several individuals blockaded the entrance to a women’s health clinic in Milwaukee by wedging a car into the clinic’s front entryway to prevent people from entering or leaving. Three of them even welded themselves into the car while it was being used to block the clinic. The were charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. Randa responded to this incident by declaring this act unconstitutional. The Seventh Circuit reversed Randa, explaining that he “went beyond [his] own authority as defined by the Supreme Court.”

Beyond whatever ideological lens Randa brings to his courtroom, as George Zornick points out, he also has an unusually personal connection to the criminal probe that he shut down. Randa’s judicial assistant is married to a top lawyer for the Walker campaign. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, Randa is also a board member of the Milwaukee Federalist Society, a prominent conservative legal group.

Written by Leisureguy

11 May 2014 at 8:44 am

Posted in GOP, Law

Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State Just Proved That Voter ID Laws Are Unnecessary

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Even members of the GOP have admitted that voter ID laws are in fact passed simply to bar voters likely to vote Democratic. The GOP really doesn’t much like democracy: they simply want to run things, whether validly elected or not (cf. Koch brothers). Josh Israel reports at ThnkProgress:

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), one of the nation’s most enthusiastic voter suppressors, released a report on Thursday outlining the results a two-year investigation into possible voter fraud, conducted by the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at his request. But while Schultz has frequently scared Iowa voters with allegations of thousands of possible non-citizens voting in the state and living people showing up at the polls to cast ballots in the name of dead voters, the investigation revealed found an infinitesimal number of illegal votes cast and zero cases of impersonation at the polls.

Since his election in 2010, Schultz has been a staunch advocate for a strict voter ID law in Iowa, though his efforts to require one have stalled in the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate. Last year he told supporters that in order to get conservative policies on “abortion, gay marriage, a whole lot of social issues that we care deeply about,” they must “start caring about voter ID and election integrity as well.” Without voter ID, he told them, “you’ll never be able to make a difference in any other issue you care about. Never. Because they will cheat! They’ll cheat.”

In 2012, Schultz attempted to launch an illegal voter purge to remove up to 3,582 foreign nationals he suspected of being illegally registered to vote in the state. He proposed a system in which those suspected non-citizens would have just two weeks to prove their citizenship or they would lose their voting rights. When that was blocked by the courts, he committed hundreds of thousands of public dollars for the DCI investigation.

Nearly two years and $250,000 later, Schultz said that 238 total cases of suspected election misconduct were investigated. Investigators “found evidence of election misconduct in 117 cases that cancelled out the votes of legitimate Iowa voters,” he notes, and 17 more cases are still being investigated. One of those cases resulted in a not-guilty verdict and four cases were dismissed. Combined, that means at most 134 instances of fraudulent voting were found in Iowa over several elections, compared with 1,589,951 votes cast in the 2012 general elections alone. That means, at most, the investigation found a 0.008427933% [8/1000 of 1% – LG] rate of voter fraud.

But notably, that total includes more than just non-citizen voting. Sixty eight of the 238 investigated cases involved convicted felons who allegedly were registered to vote and/or voted despite not having had their voting rights restored. And of the 147 registered voters suspected of being non-citizens even after thorough review of the 3,582 people initially flagged, 70 of those turned out to also be citizens (more than 47 percent).

The report also notes that 23 cases examined “potential election misconduct” by people other than non-citizens and felons without restored voting rights. According to the AP, these cases involved people who had cast votes in more than one state — possibly by absentee in one and in person in the other. There was not a single identified case of impersonation fraud at the polls — people showing up and pretending to be another voter — meaning that Schultz’s own investigation found no cases at all that would have been prevented with his proposed voter identification law.

A spokesman for Schultz did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress request for comment, but Schultz told the AP the investigation was worth the money: “There are people who voted who weren’t supposed to, and this is a situation where we tried to do something about it. I think it was the right thing to do and I stand by that.”

Written by Leisureguy

11 May 2014 at 7:45 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Tips for life

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Some good ideas, along with some that are more iffy.

Written by Leisureguy

11 May 2014 at 7:35 am

Posted in Daily life

What is the evolutionary benefit of having menstrual periods?

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Fascinating answer at the top.

Written by Leisureguy

11 May 2014 at 7:34 am

Posted in Evolution, Science

Using a foreign language changes moral decisions

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A surprise. The blurb:

Would you sacrifice one person to save five? Such moral choices could depend on whether you are using a foreign language or your native tongue. A new study from psychologists finds that people using a foreign language take a relatively utilitarian approach to moral dilemmas, making decisions based on assessments of what’s best for the common good.

Follow-up question: Given the finding, should a foreign language be taught in Sunday school? (I would suggest Esperanto, not only because it is easy to learn but also for its propaedeutic value.

Written by Leisureguy

11 May 2014 at 7:17 am

Posted in Science

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