The Immigrant, The Idiot, and The Judgement

Look, Donald Trump is an idiot. We all know that. It’s not so much that he’s ignorant, he is arrogantly ignorant. He personifies the worst-case Dunning-Kruger effect. Previously the most perfect example of this was uttered a mere 40 days or so into his presidency as he announced (again) his intention to repeal Obamacare:

Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.

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I Couldn’t Be More Disappointed In SCOTUS

This morning a decision was released in Gill v Whitford (and a parallel case out of Maryland, Benisek v. Lamone). It is, to my mind, among the worst possible decisions. Rather than taking up the case and deciding it wrongly, they have remanded the case back to a lower court with orders to consider the question of whether or not the plaintiffs have suffered an individual injury to their voting rights.

Gill v Whitford is a case arising out of Wisconsin, where egregious gerrymandering occurred after the 2010 census. The census, for those who don’t know, is primarily done – or at least was primarily intended by the framers – to determine the number of representatives in the House and the number of presidential electors awarded to each state. Since these numbers can change, and because even when they don’t the distribution of population within a state can change, every decade after the census each state redraws their electoral districts to keep the total population in each district similar.

In Wisconsin redistricting is a legislative function (in some states it is performed by an independent, non-partisan commission), and in 2010 Republicans held a majority in the state’s Assembly and Senate. They used this majority to redraw electoral maps not merely to keep populations similar, but to put as many democrats as possible in as few districts as possible so that the remaining democrats spread throughout the majority of districts would be unable to successfully contest most republican nominees.

Now, if the Republicans had done this based explicitly on race, it would have been profoundly illegal and SCOTUS would never have gotten involved. Precedent here is sufficient that lower courts would have slapped down the Wisconsin republicans and there would be no sufficient legal question to interest SCOTUS. However, the Republicans went out of their way to say that they were disadvantaging Democrats as a party, not any voter on the basis of race.

Of course, Democrats as a party are much more non-white than Wisconsin voters as a whole. So there is a racial asymmetry here, and Republicans were acutely aware of that asymmetry, but the cover story of ratfucking Democrats while really, deeply not giving a shit about hurting people of color is every bit as believable as actively wanting to hurt people with darker skin for the sin of being born non-caucasian. So the courts have generally accepted that this is political discrimination and not racial discrimination (along the way throwing out a hard-won understanding of disparate impact developed in areas of law other than voting rights and in voting rights law itself).

So what did the court do here? Well, it ignored past precedent that held that an injury to an individual occurs when districts are racially gerrymandered to the detriment of the value of that individual’s vote. On the presumption that no injury to individual voters had occurred, the court vacated the previous judgement that a new electoral map was needed and instead remanded the case to the lower court to ask the plaintiffs how they’ve actually been injured. Only if the plaintiffs have been actually injured should the lower court then take up the legal questions about whether the actions causing the injury were illegal and if so whether any remedy is justified.

It’s difficult to see how to resolve this infirmity of standing, at least to me, since in deciding that the plaintiffs had given no evidence of individual injury SCOTUS necessarily decided that statewide gerrymandering does not injure individual voters.

To be clear, SCOTUS distinguished statewide gerrymandering from living in a gerrymandered district. The idea, from SCOTUS’ point of view, is that a state could gerrymander some districts without gerrymandering others. However, the mathematical analysis of the Wisconsin gerrymander actually provided evidence that the packing of large numbers of democrats into a few districts and the cracking of the rest into isolated remnants insufficient to contest (most of) the remaining districts was actually a systemic strategy. Though I haven’t looked at each of the plaintiff’s district of residence, a good many districts were called out as specific examples in the analysis. The idea that none of the plaintiffs lived in one of the districts seems a bit of a stretch to me, though I suppose it’s possible.

The danger here is that if any democrat lived in any district that was specifically discussed, then a careful reader of the trial court record will find that and be able to argue quite reasonably that SCOTUS believes that evidence of political gerrymanders is not evidence of an individual voter’s injury. In a decision ordering remand for lack of standing without ensuring that they examined every voter’s district of residence and the trial court record for indications that none of the voters lived in a district specifically discussed, SCOTUS has come dangerously close to asserting that no voter is injured when legislators gerrymander electoral districts on the basis of anything other than race.

If SCOTUS had accepted the standing of the plaintiffs and ruled against them, it would hardly approach the danger of SCOTUS asserting that there is no injury to voting rights at all.

This is an unmitigated disaster, and quite likely caused by sheer cowardice.

Loving Day

Well, I missed it by two days, but let’s do this anyway: Fifty-one years ago on Tuesday, a mere 99 years, 11 months and 3 days after we passed a constitutional amendment requiring states to stop with the racial discrimination already, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that yes, Virginia, there are limits to constitutional violations and stop Freuding persecuting the Lovings already, okay?

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I Dare You To Read The Comments They Don’t Allow!

Wonkette is in fine form today. In addition to Five Dollar Feminist summarizing the news from a court case in which a professional calligraphy corporation in Phoenix decided that they did not want to produce

Happy Buttfuckin’!

place cards for a super-gay wedding, the commenters have gone gloriously nutso with pet pictures I can’t even begin to describe for fear my tears of laughter will entirely short circuit my laptop.

Enjoy!

 

Kid Gets 5 Years For Friend’s Gun, Being Black

A teenager who was 15 years old when he ran off with some sneakers being sold on Facebook after trying them on, Dayonn Davis (who is 18 now) was tried as an adult and sentenced to 5 years in prison and 10 more on probation because the friend who accompanied him on this try-and-run shoe theft pulled a gun to cover Davis’ retreat. From CBS News:

Defense attorney Susan Henderson told Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters her client just wants to put the whole thing behind him and move on, the Ledger-Enquirer reported.

“He’s been extremely remorseful,” she said. “He’s got his life on track now.”

She insisted Davis didn’t know the other person would pull a gun. But the judge says that makes little difference in the eyes of the law.

If he wanted to commit non-violent violent crime as a “youth” and get away with less than 5 years, he should have joined the Stanford swim team. Not that there’s, y’know, anything significant about a Black kid getting 5 years in prison for running off with shoes while a juvenile when a white adult serves 90 days for rape. Just another day in the post-racial USA.

The Real Victim in the Brock Turner Rape Case: Aaron Persky

Aaron Persky, the judge who gave Stanford athlete Brock Turner 6 months after Turner was convicted of rape in a trial before Persky’s court, is facing a recall election today. As someone who cares deeply about the rule of law, I hope to fuck California voters throw him the hell off the bench. And while he deserved to be removed for his behavior from the bench, behavior dating back years, I couldn’t wait to comment until after the election because of the new interview in which he paints himself as the victim of uninformed masses who advocate mob rule in place of justice, starting with his own recall.

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Lycée Arago Arrests Reminiscent of Rampant Illegality in Trump Inauguration Arrests & Prosecutions

Nearing a year and a half ago now protestors in DC demonstrating against Trump’s inauguration were subjected to mass arrest, in many cases without probable cause. The treatment they received was shameful and illegal (though it is unlikely that any court will ever punish the officers involved), and the prosecutions that followed have been worse. The occupation of a high school in Paris, France on the 22nd of May (coincident with a larger protest march nearby) is now granting the French legal establishment to fuck things up just as badly as we have in the US.

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Autism = Violence in England Gay Bar Threat? Why not? asks Associated Press

A number of news outlets are carrying a brief Associated Press story on the sentencing of a man arrested in connection with a terrorism threat against the gay community in the smaller Brit town Barrow-in-Furness. You can read it here, if you like.  The story is mostly uninteresting. The man arrested, Ethan Stables, never got the chance to make the spectacular “kill all the gays” attack he’d been threatening, and when time came for his sentencing, the judge assigned him an indefinite term in a psychiatric facility.

What’s odd here, however, is that you don’t go to a psych hospital instead of jail if there’s no psychological or psychiatric problem that led to your crime. Now, it may be that you had a condition from which you’ve since recovered, but you had to have had a condition at the time. So when the Associated Press’ description of Stables lists precisely zero conditions known to have a mechanism that can cause violence but does list “autism spectrum disorder” readers not aware of the state of psychological research might assume, wrongly, that autism spectrum disorder is associated with an increased risk of violence.

This description of Stables originally came from the defense, but we should not allow that to grant the Associated Press a free pass here. In order to prevent crazy-blaming, the AP has a responsibility to avoid dropping any disorder into a story in this context unless they are certain that the disorder has a known correlation with an increase in violence and a plausible explanation of how that disorder might have played a causal role in the behavior at issue. It may be that the records of any court ordered psych examination are sealed, but in that case the AP should not mention any particular disorder, whatever the defense contends. It may also be that the court believed that autism spectrum disorder could explain Stables’ threats of terrorism, but in that case the AP should clearly report that this is contrary to the best scientific evidence we have to date, and absent an explanation of how aspects of autism spectrum disorder played a role in a unique causal chain, the court’s judgement should be clearly labeled questionable. The AP took neither tack. The relevant part is entirely contained in this quote:

Defence lawyers said the 20-year-old, who has an autism spectrum disorder, had been brainwashed by right-wing extremists. But he was convicted in February of preparing an act of terrorism.

Journalism of this recklessness should always be called out for criticism.

Churches Complicate Everything

So Oregon has a new case that, while pretty much terrible for all concerned, is very interesting from a law geek’s perspective.

As someone who participated in law-drafting exercises while in law school with adjunct professors who took back the class’ collective work to the provincial legislative assembly, I’ve had about the most minimal input into drafting law that could still be truthfully, if technically, called input at all. Nonetheless, even if my input was minimal, my work with these two professors was significant and they have spent their entire careers drafting legislation. It’s a topic I took to eagerly and (if they weren’t just puffing me up) well. And, it turns out, I know just enough to know that I’d be in way over my head trying to address a recent issue that came up with respect to non-discrimination law in Oregon.

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Fuck Yeah, She’s Worth $1 Billion.

NPR has the story of Hope Cheston who was raped by an employee of Crime Prevention Agency Inc.

No shit.

The employee who raped her, Brandon Lamar Zachary, was not qualified to be an armed security guard and did not have proper licensing. Nevertheless, CPA gave him a gun and the job of patrolling Cheston’s apartment building. Then, when Cheston was only 14 years old, Zachary raped her.

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