The absurd punishments in the US legal system

Remember the case of the teenager who was jailed for not doing her homework? After ProPublica publicized the case leading to calls for her release, the judge still refused to do so. But now an appeals court has overruled the judge and ordered her immediate release after spending 78 days in custody.

A Michigan teenager who has been detained since mid-May after not doing her online schoolwork was set free on Friday, after the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered her immediate release from a juvenile facility in suburban Detroit.

Grace, a high school sophomore, spent 78 days at the Children’s Village after an Oakland County family court judge found she had violated her probation on earlier charges of assault and theft. Friday’s decision comes a week after that judge denied her lawyer’s request to set her free. The lawyer then asked the appellate court to release her.

Within two hours of the court order, shortly after 5 p.m., Grace left the facility after her mother arrived to get her. She “had her bags ready to go, they jumped in the car and they were gone,” said one of Grace’s attorneys, Saima Khalil. “They were definitely emotional and happy.”

The case involving Grace, who is Black, was detailed in a ProPublica Illinois investigation this month and has drawn national scrutiny over concerns about the juvenile justice system, systemic racism and holding a teenager accountable for schoolwork during the pandemic.

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Fighting the new forms of the poll tax

The history of suppressing the vote in the US is a long one. Initially these measures were aimed at preventing poor people from voting (since slaves could not vote anyway) but after emancipation, the Civil War, and the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870 that said simply “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”, the ruling class tried to find other ways to prevent poor people and now blacks from voting. Women were of course barred from voting in the US until 1920.
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How and why the Mississippi flag got removed

Every state in the US has its own flag. The flag of Mississippi, adopted in 1894, was the only one that incorporated the confederate battle flag within it, in the top left. This has been a source of contention with many attempts to remove it, all meeting with failure. Mississippi is a deeply conservative Republican state. That party currently has supermajorities in both its house of representatives and the senate plus the governor is a Republican, all of whom strongly opposed any attempt to remove the confederate symbol. The people of Mississippi voted in a referendum 2001 to keep the flag as it was and the current governor Tate Reeves said that the only way to change it would be through another referendum. So proud were they of their confederate association that in just April of this year, the governor Tate Reeves proclaimed it as Confederate Heritage Month.
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More on the government kidnapping squads

In his blatant attempt to ramp up the ‘law and order’ issue for the election, Trump has sent in federal security forces to trigger confrontations with protestors. These forces, who wear camouflage outfits that make it almost impossible to identify which government agency the belong to or who they are, have been driving around in unmarked vehicles, picking up people on the street and taking them to undisclosed locations and refusing, when asked, to say which agency they are from. This has started in Portland, OR and Trump said that he wants to send in forces to other cities like Chicago and Albuquerque, claiming that the Democratic mayors of those cities are not doing enough to stop violence and crime.
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A minor jailed for not doing her homework

The US loves putting people in jail and in prisons, doing so for all manner of offenses that are non-violent and quite minor, such as inability to post bail or pay fines. This explains why the number of people incarcerated is far greater than in any other country. What is worse is that it also jails minors and ProPublica describes a particularly egregious case.
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Bail denied for Ghislaine Maxwell

The associate of serial sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein appeared in a New York City court today and pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against her. The judge denied her request for bail after prosecutors disputed her defense team’s claim that she was not a flight risk. Prosecutors said that her French citizenship (a country that does not extradite its citizens) and her extensive financial resources would make it highly likely that she would flee. The mystery is why she had not already done so before her arrest because she must have known she was under investigation, especially since Epstein’s death elevated her to the main living perpetrator of the abuse.
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Interesting scenario of presidential succession

The US has an inordinately long time interval between the presidential election, held the day after the first Monday in November of quadrennial years, and January 20 of the following year when the new president is sworn in. This is a ridiculously long transition time, allowing for all manner of shenanigans by the outgoing president. In most parliamentary democracies, like the UK for example, the transition is made the very next day and seems to go pretty smoothly. James Robenalt argues that if Trump loses in November, he should resign immediately and have Joe Biden become president.
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Supreme Court rules on Trump’s tax returns

The US Supreme Court on Thursday issued its last opinions for the term and much attention has focused on the two 7-2 opinions concerning Trump’s tax returns. In one case in which Congress sought Trump’s tax returns, the court returned the case to the lower court saying that the judge should consider the separation of powers question. In the other case, the court said that documents pertaining to Trump’s financial records that were being held by his banks and accountants were not immune from grand jury investigations.
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Big win for Native American sovereignty

The history of the US is that of its government making promises to Native Americans and then breaking them whenever they felt like it, usually because they wanted to grab land and resources. Given this long history of betrayals, yesterday’s US Supreme Court 5-4 decision that the US government had to honor its treaty commitments to Native Americans came as a big surprise. In this case, the court ruled that as far as federal criminal law is concerned, about half of the state of Oklahoma had to be considered as part of the Creek Nation reservation. (You can read the opinion here.)
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