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September 2005
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Jay Sekulow: Flying Private Jets for Jesus

Tony Mauro has a must-read article about some, shall we say, innovative ways to hide how much Jay Sekulow is paid.  There aren't any surprises to those of you who know how most "non-profit" corporations operate.  But it is always interesting to read about the lavish lifestyles lived by those so willing to ask for the widow's mite

There's no question that Jay Sekulow is a great appellate lawyer, and that great appellate lawyers are entitled to charge a lot of money for their work.  What bothers me is when people who come in the name of God (or, as in the case of John Edwards, "public justice") ask so much from people who can afford so little.  I wonder who many hungry mouths Sekulow could feed by selling one of his homes.

I know the price of Sekulow's life.  I grew up in poverty.  Yet my mother, duped by these snake oil salesmen, would send money to the 700 Club and ACLJ.  As a child I wondered: "What kind of person would accept money from people as poor as my mother, and then spend that money on fancy cars and mansions?"  As an adult I learned the answer - scoundrels.

Sekulow should continue to receive respect for his legal skills, but I hope no one is blind enough to admire his morals.  People like him live lavish lifestyles at the expense of the poor.

When A Coin In The Coffer Rings ...

Papal indulgences scandalized early modern Europe. For a price, the Pope would forgive just about anything. "When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul to heaven springs," quipped reformation wits.

In Connecticut today plenty of coins were ringing in Church coffers. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford just agreed to a $22 million settlement of some 43 claims of sexual abuse of parishioners by priests. Two years ago, the Bridgeport Archdiocese settled claims worth about $20 million. Good thing the church is tax exempt, how else could it afford to muster funds to pay for the extracurricular passions of its prelates? Preying in Church

Shockingly, the Church settled the dispute but could not, or would not, say where all the wayward priests now were. Several are dead, but what of the others? Are they still fiddling about? No one knows.

I can think of no other institution which could survive such systemic corruption, and such systemic complicity in the corruption. I suppose there is no accounting for the mysterious relation of God and man.

But, wait! ... What's that I hear? I new taunt. Reformation words turned to modern use. Can it be? Yes, why listen, and you, too, can hear it: "When a coin from the coffer springs, a priest to a child clings."

I say tax the church. That's what Nevada does its bordellos.

More Federal Courtspeak

Criminal defense attorneys should not double-check the prosecution's scientific evidence, nor should judges provide poor people with experts to do the same even in cases where, as here, it's likely that an innocent man was convicted because of faulty scientific evidence.  Here is the translated text:

[T]here is reason for concern that... defense attorneys will read today's opinion as embracing ... a presumption that they must spend precious time and money on constitutionally required double checks of most prosecution science experts .... So too is there reason to fear that trial judges will read this opinion as constraining their discretion in deciding, in the case of indigent defendants, whether and when to expend limited public funds on court-appointed defense experts for purposes of double-checking the prosecution.

"S.Cotus" has more...

Court Grants Cert. in Two Crawford-Related Cases

Today the Court agreed to hear two cases involving the application of Crawford v. Washington to 911 phone calls and excited utterances.  Leonard Post has this interesting article in the National Law Journal discussing the issues.  I'll blog about these cases ad nauseum, but quickly, I think that 911 statements should not be subject to Crawford, while excited utterances should be.  When someone makes a 911 call, he is asking for help.  ("Please hurry!  This is an emergency!") When someone makes an excited utterance, she is "telling" on someone.  ("That no-good-SOB did ...")  Asking for help generally doesn't make one an "accuser," where as telling on someone generally does.

It's a Beautiful Morning

One nice aspect of being in the Pacific time zone is that I often get to wake up to exciting news.  I don't have to bite my nails while awaiting exciting announcements - like you East Coasters do.  The nomination of Judge Samuel Alito is thrilling.  When I heard the news, I wanted to pick flowers.  Anyhow, I'm now wondering ... Has there ever been a Supreme Court so filled with intellectual heavyweights? 

Once you drop Souter, everyone on the Court is an intellectual powerhouse.  I don't care for Breyer's judicial philosophy or his paternalism (more on this later), but he's an undeniable genius on regulatory issues.  Justice Stevens is a powerful analytical thinker, and Ginsburg is everyone's favorite federal courts and gender rights wonk. 

Justice Kennedy gets a lot of flack from conservatives, but I think the quasi-humanist element of his jurisprudence is unique, interesting, and needed.  Love them or hate them, but there's no rational argument that Scalia and Thomas lack intellectual prowess.  Roberts, if he's half as good a justice as he was an advocate, will be remembered as one of the greatest Supreme Court justices of all time.

And now they're going to add Alito!  These are very good days to be alive.

Et Tu, "Scalito?"

CNN reports that Samuel A. Alito, Jr., will be the president's next pick for the United States Supreme Court. Does that mean it is time to go nuclear?  According to The New York Times, the nuclear option was chosen before the Alito nomination was even made public. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nebraska, is on the front page of this morning's paper offering anticipatory woe and mayhem over Alito.

Alito now sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, to which he was apponted by the president's father in 1990. Before that, he kicked around Washington, wasting a Yale Law School education pimping for Attorney General Edwin Meese from 1985 to 1987; he served four years as assistant to the solicitor general before that. He is no Harriet Miers. He has an intellectual pulse; he has a record; and he even has an intellectual forebear on the Court -- Antonin Scalia.

He wrote a dissenting opinion in the Third Circuit's decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, opining that husbands ought to be informed before their wives seek abortions. After all, "some married women are intially inclined to obtain an abortion without their husband's knowledge because of perceived problems -- such as economic contraints, future plans, or the husband's previously expressed opposition -- that may be obviated by discussion prior to abortion." Alito did not go on to opine whether spousal notification was a good idea because husbands might want to demand an abortion. The door swings one way for Alito -- no choice.

Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist dissented in the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision striking down spousal notification, citing Alito's dissent with approval.

So the administration comes full circle. Dad's appellate judge becomes the son's Supreme Court justice. And we get the ghost of Rehnquist inhabiting the philosophic zoot suit of Antonin Scalia. Go nuclear? You bet. I'm heading for a bomb shelter. This is the candidate conservatives have been hoping for, and I predict that they'll have enough votes to see this nominee confirmed.

The Libby Indictment

The White Collar Crime Prof Blawg will almost certainly be the best source for legal analysis of the Libby indictment.  They don't yet have a category for all their Libby indictment-related posts (I hope they create one), but good starting points are here (the indictment generally); here (asking whether Libbly charged with perjury or something else?); and here (explaining the obstruction charge and looking at potential defenses).