On electing judges

One of the things that shocked me when I first came to the US was the practice of electing judges. While I can understand that appointing judges can lead to insider cronyism, it should be possible to find a way to ensure that competent and reasonably impartial people can be found to serve as judges without putting them through the inherently corrupting process of raising money for elections and then pandering to low-information voters.
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Update on same-sex marriage in Alabama

Confusion continues in Alabama as most judges refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following yesterday’s ruling by the US Supreme Court denying a stay of US District Court judge Callie Granade’s ruling on January 23, 2015 that the state’s ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional and that marriage licenses must be issued starting yesterday. About a dozen of the 67 county probate judges issued licenses, another dozen denied licenses to just same-sex couples, while about 40 stopped issuing all licenses.
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A clash of state and federal judicial systems on same-sex marriage

A US District Judge Callie Granade ruled on January 23rd that Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages violated the US constitution and ordered that marriage licenses be issued beginning today. That verdict was appealed by Alabama and last week a federal appeals court declined to issue a stay of the lower court judge’s ruling. In response Roy Moore, the chief justice of Alabama’s state supreme court and a vehement opponent of same-sex marriage, issued his own order late last night that said that until the US Supreme Court ruled on the issue, probate court judges were not obliged to issue licenses and he was ordering them not to do so.
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Why innocent people plead guilty

Jed S. Rakoff is a United States District Judge for the ­Southern District of New York and in a recent article in the New York Review of Books he discusses why so many innocent people plead guilty. He puts it down to the system that is peculiar to the US, that of plea bargains where, instead of going to trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys agree to have the defendant plead guilty to a lesser charge. So even though the defendant might be innocent, the prospect of being found guilty of very serious charges and facing very heavy punishment can persuade them that it is not worth the risk. This is why so few cases go to trial.
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Are these cases legally equivalent?

There were three recent court cases that tested the extent to which commercial establishments could refuse to serve certain customers because of their religious beliefs. The cases involved florists, bakers, and photographers who declined to provide their services to the weddings of same-sex couples because they disapproved of such marriages on religious grounds. All these cases are at various stages of litigation, though so far the rulings have tended to go against the businesses.
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Holder curbs federal role in civil asset forfeitures

In the waning days of his tenure in office, Attorney General Eric Holder has taken some actions that are praiseworthy. First he has criticized the trigger-happy behavior of many police departments, including the Cleveland one. Then he said that his office will defend the rights of same-sex couples to marry in the upcoming case before the US Supreme Court.
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Same-sex marriage showdown coming in the Supreme Court

After keeping observers guessing for a long time as to whether they will take on the issue of same-sex marriage during this term, the US Supreme Court in a notice yesterday finally decided to do so. There were many cases that had been appealed to them and what I found interesting was that they accepted for review the four cases that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided. This was the only Appeals Court circuit that back in November upheld bans on same-sex marriage and I strongly criticized its weird reasoning.
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Tabloid heaven: A story of sex, money, politics, famous people, and corruption

Yesterday I wrote about the case of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, a man well connected politically and socially, getting to agree to a sweetheart plea deal even though the crime that was alleged against him, (running what seemed like a sex slave ring that included underage girls to serve his influential set of friends) is a horrible crime. He was sentenced to just 18 months in prison (he was released after 13 months) and even then he was only required to report to the prison each night, providing us with yet another glaring example of our two-tiered justice system which throws the book at poor people for minor offenses but coddles the wealthy even when they commit major ones. He was also required to pay the legal costs and an undisclosed sum (reportedly around $150,000) to each of the defendants.
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Sex, royalty, and unequal justice

British newspapers are awash with the type of scandal that they revel in, a sex scandal involving the royal family. At issue is whether Prince Andrew, one of the many unemployed leeches in that corrupt and useless monarchy, and others had sex with underage girls that were provided for them by American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein himself seems to be a real creep who had an obsession with underage girls, threw lavish parties where he supplied them to his friends, and served some time in prison for it.
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