Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hey, Rocky! Watch Me Pull A Convict Outta My Hat

I’ve given notice at the daily newspaper where I’ve worked since 2008, after finally accepting what should’ve been obvious months ago – my working 80 or 90 hours a week, every week, simply can’t continue.

So I’ve been extra-busy these past several days, tying up loose ends before I leave, but when I paused long enough to take a news break I saw that Obama has nominated Elena Kagan to fill the upcoming vacancy John Paul Stevens will leave on the Supreme Court. The president said of Ms. Kagan: “While we can’t presume to replace Justice Stevens’ wisdom or experience, I have selected a nominee who I believe embodies that same excellence, independence, integrity and passion for the law, and who can ultimately provide that same kind of leadership on the court.”

Most of the debate surrounding Kagan involves her judicial experience or lack thereof, but I don’t care that she’s never served on the bench before; I care that in Pottawatomie vs. McGhee, Kagan argued that prosecutors should not be subject to lawsuits if they manufacture fake evidence which results in innocent people going to jail.

Let me reiterate that: Elena Kagan believes prosecutors who lie in court to convict innocent people should not be penalized for their actions. Elena Kagan believes perjury is a crime only for ordinary citizens, not for officers of the court. And Obama wants “that same kind of leadership” on the Supreme Court.

In the Pottawatomie case, the crime in question was murder. Not only did innocent men spend a ridiculously long time in prison, the actual murderer went free. Did he go on to murder other people? We don’t know, because we don't know who he is, because prosecutors were too busy railroading innocent people to find the actual guilty party. And Kagan is fine with that, and Obama praises her “integrity” and “passion for the law.”

In other news, the economy still sucks and every level of American government – federal, state and local – is broke. So in honor of Elena Kagan, Barack Obama and their firm commitment to justice for all, I’d like to offer a modest proposal to cut government costs: let’s abolish the criminal court system altogether, and replace it with a big red-white-and-blue top hat of the sort Uncle Sam wears in patriotic posters. Next time a crime is committed, we’ll collect the names of all minority men in the area (and a few especially unpopular white people), dump their names in the hat and then pick a name or two out at random. Whichever name we pick will thus be dubbed “the guilty party” and locked in prison for however long the crime they never committed warrants.

Why not? If the American court system is fine with imprisoning innocent people, why force prosecutors to waste time and money creating a frame job first? Let’s just cut out the middlemen and put the innocent directly in jail. And Kagan can file an amicus brief explaining why this is just fine, and Obama can praise her for her integrity, excellence and passion for the law.

18 Comments:

Blogger Scotticus Finch said...

Great post, Jennifer. Convictions are the fuel in the machine that manufactures elected leaders from lawyers. Exploitation of that machine is inevitable, but to actively shield actors from the consequences of their abuse is abhorrent.

Amazingly, I have seen coverage of at least two different pictures of Kagan as a -- gasp! -- softball jock, yet not one mention of Pottawatomie until now.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Ugh. So far as I'm concerned, Scotticus, Pottawatomie is all anybody needs to know about Kagan. Anyone who would argue that prosecutors who use the judicial system to frame the innocent should not face consequences has no damned business being given legal authority over any lifeform more advanced than mold in a toilet bowl.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous the innominate one said...

"Elena Kagan believes prosecutors who lie in court to convict innocent people should not be penalized for their actions."

I'm not sure we do know that, Jennifer. She argued that position in her role as solicitor general. Apparently, that's the administration's position on that issue, which means we know that that is what Obama thinks.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

She was willing to argue it, TIO, and I don't buy "I was just following orders" as a justification for evil. Frankly, if she found the notion appalling but still argued in favor of it that makes her the worst kind of whore, one who will sell out her principles for money and throw the very notion of justice under the bus. So fuck her, and fuck Obama too.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Preferably with a pine cone saturated with the blood of an AIDS patient.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous the innominate one said...

Sure, ideally she should have resigned rather than argued the case if she disagreed with it, but I'm pretty sure no one lives up to their own ideals and principles every moment of every day. You might even be right that she believes what you state she believes. There's no way to tell from the evidence at hand.

Obama apparently does believe it, though, so he can take the pine cone twice, for all I care.

Kagan certainly doesn't need to be on SCOTUS.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Sure, ideally she should have resigned rather than argued the case if she disagreed with it, but I'm pretty sure no one lives up to their own ideals and principles every moment of every day

Not every moment of every day, no. But which principles one is willing to toss overboard matter, too. Yeah, my byline has gone on articles I disagreed with -- hell, my editor has put my byline on goddamnable articles I never even WROTE -- but I don't actually lose sleep over the fact that I betrayed my principles by writing some bullshit advertorials for products I personally don't use. I would, however, lose sleep if my work resulted in men I know to be innocent rotting in a goddamn prison.

THAT is the sort of principle Kagan is willing to abandon. Or perhaps she truly believes it. Either way, it means she doesn't belong in the Supreme Court.

I would, however, support her appointment to Supreme Court janitor -- I've already said she can indeed be trusted with authority over toilet-bowl mold. Just not over any lifeforms more advanced than that.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Jennifer, you're getting so worked up over this. I'm worried you are going to blow a blood vessel in your forehead with all this anger.

Of course she supports protections for prostituters... er... prosecutors. Politicos of all stripes firmly agree on at least one thing. NEVER send one of your own to the big house if you can help it. No matter party affiliation. Because once you send one guy up their buddies will start hunting for a reason to send one of yours up. And since no one in DC is honest there's a WHOLE lot of up to go.

Principles? Are you still 5 or something? Politicos don't have principles. They have taglines and sound bites. They have positions that you can't hold them to. But principles? Naw, they don't even know how to spell it.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Caveman, by the time we're old we might not even be allowed to express disapproval anymore. So I'm building a backlog of fond memories about which I can wax nostalgic in my old age. "Yeah, things were better in the old days, you young'uns don't know how good we had it," I'll say. The young'uns will of course be enthralled.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Scotticus Finch said...

The young'uns will of course be enthralled.

Nah, they'll be too busy with their Nintendo 3Ds and their Huey Lewis Jr music.

5:13 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

You don't want to cut out middleman.

Middlemen maintain efficiency, find better ways of doing things, and prevent bureaucracy from settling in.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Yeah, let's keep the middlemen so we can find better and more efficient ways for prosecutors to fabricate evidence sending innocent men to prison for murder while the actual murderers get off scot-free.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

"in Pottawatomie vs. McGhee, Kagan argued that prosecutors should not be subject to lawsuits."

Can we have a citation, please? I can't find her name in the transcript of the oral arguments before the Supreme Court.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

She was the solicitor general, not "Elena Kagan," Okie.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Caveman Lawyer said...

Welcome to America, where you get all the justice you can pay for.

7:00 PM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

The Mike Munger podcast on middlemen is entertaining, here.

All the Munger podcasts are entertaining. None lack an interesting paradox that gets at a truth nicely.

A column idea in each one.

Britain especially could stand the information.

12:02 PM  
Blogger King of Ireland said...

This is right on! Watch "American Violet" and it will make you sick to realize that 90 some percent of people in jail are there for a drug crime, pleaded because they were threatened with crazy federal sentences, and are black. This is all mostly in former Jim Crow states. What is the first thing they lose? That's right the right to vote!!!!!!!!!!!

8:25 AM  
Blogger Charles Pergiel said...

Rave on dudette! I'm pretty sure people in bureaucracies make their bones by throwing other people under the bus.

There are two kinds of loyalty: one is to principles, and the other is to individuals. Loyalty to principles is slipping. Loyalty to individuals pays better. Long live the kleptocracy.

11:42 AM  

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