The Supreme Court has reversed the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in a police shooting case where a police officer who fired six times at the car of a fleeing arrestee. The Court found that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity in a civil suit. The ruling comes as prosecutors filed charges against two Louisiana officers in the Fifth Circuit in the shooting death of a 6-year-old autistic boy. Thirty-two-year-old Derrick Stafford of Mansura and 23-year-old Norris Greenhouse Jr., of Marksville each is charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. Bond has been set at $1 million for each officer. The father has not been told that his son was killed.
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
An outrageous statement, if proven to be true, was made by embattled Pierce County Washington Prosecutor Mark Lindquist following the assassination of four Lakewood Police Officers in 2009.
These four officers were murdered while at a local coffee shop in Parkland. Their deaths were marked by great mourning in the law enforcement community and among Washington State’s citizens.
Showing almost sociopathic indifference, Prosecutor Mark Lindquist was quoted by his former Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Mary Robnett (who is now an Assistant Attorney General) as saying he,
“was going to have to run for re-election and would get $100K of free publicity from the murders.”
Of course, publically he was right there to show his great “remorse” for the officers and their families. His statement was confirmed by other witnesses.
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Kentucky was faced with another case of drama and failure to perform statutory duties and the federal courts. The Casey County Clerk announced that he would refuse to issue marriage licenses to couples who’s marriage he objects to.
The clerk, in a bit of irony, is named Casey Davis.
Davis insists that he has a duty to himself to violate state law but oddly he feels the Commonwealth should pay for an attorney to represent him.
By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor
“Smith relegated our national commitment to the free exercise of religion to the sub-basement of constitutional values.”
-Michael P. Farris and Jordan W. Lorence, “Employment Division v. Smith and the Need for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” 6 Regent U.L.Rev. 65, 66 (1995)
Several years following the ratification of the Constitution, a man named Jonas Phillips was subpoenaed to testify on behalf of a defendant in a criminal case in Pennsylvania. The problem was that the trial was scheduled for a Saturday and Mr. Phillips was a devout Jew. He refused to be sworn on the Jewish Sabbath and was subsequently held in contempt and fined ten pounds, despite invoking the protection of the Pennsylvania constitution, which provided that “no human authority can in any case whatsoever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience. . . .” Stansbury v. Marks, 2 Dall. 213 (Pa. 1793). Fortunately, the defendant waived Mr. Phillips’ appearance and the fine was discharged.
Jonas Phillips’ “rights of conscience” were deemed subordinate to the orderly administration of the judicial system in a state which boasted one of the most religiously tolerant constitutions in the young nation. Therefore, when the Supreme Court held in 1878 that rights of conscience likewise could not be raised as a defense to a charge of bigamy, the ruling was hardly earthshattering. Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878). And the decision over one hundred years later in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), appeared to confirm a principle that had largely guided free exercise jurisprudence since the nation’s founding: the Religion Clauses do not mandate religious exemptions from valid laws intended to be binding upon all of us. Yet the Smith decision produced a harsh political and academic reaction, resulting in legislation that has radically altered the free exercise landscape. How did that happen?
By Darren Smith Weekend Contributor
After the Rowan County Kentucky Clerk, Democrat Kim Davis, defied a court order to issue gay couples marriage licenses, and was subsequently arrested by the U.S. Marshal’s Service and jailed, her husband stated that she chose to remain in jail rather than compromise her religious beliefs by performing her statutory duty. Her contempt of court ruling will stand until she resumes issuing such licenses and thus in jail she shall remain.
And so it should.
The issue is not the content of her religious beliefs that are on trial. It is that of failure to perform her duty and denial of a civil right as mandated by the Supreme Court. For this reason she has two choices: being in contempt indefinitely; or resigning her position. For the near term it is as simple as that. If she continues her defiance, a third party must step up, show some leadership, and make the decision for her by ejecting her from office.
Below is my column today in the Washington Post on the ruling in Obergefell on the basis for the Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. Due to limitations on space, I could not go into great depth in the opinion which primarily dealt with the notion of the “right to dignity.” The Court did not pursue an equal protection analysis beyond the following highly generalized statement:
The right of same-sex couples to marry that is part of the liberty promised by the Fourteenth Amendment is derived, too, from that Amendment’s guarantee of the equal protection of the laws. The Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause are connected in a profound way, though they set forth independent principles. Rights implicit in liberty and rights secured by equal protection may rest on different precepts and are not always coextensive, yet in some instances each may be instructive as to the meaning and reach of the other. In any particular case one Clause may be thought to capture the essence of the right in a more accurate and comprehensive way,even as the two Clauses may converge in the identification and definition of the right.
Since the Court did not substantially address whether homosexuals are a protected class or the other Equal Protection line of cases, the opinion appears to craft a right around the inherent right of self-expression and dignity in intimate affairs. That is very appealing to many in the expansion of due process concepts, but the column explores what it portends for future rights.
Here is the Sunday column:
I am doing some coverage at CNN but, in addition to the predictable rejection of the lethal injection challenge, the Court handed down two major decisions. In Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Court ruled 5-4 that states could effectively take away redistricting decisions from state legislatures — a key move to try to end the scourge of gerrymandering. In Michigan v. EPA, the Court again split 5-4 in ruling that the EPA must consider the costs to industry in setting environmental limitations — in the case involving arsenic emissions — under the Clean Air Act.