Monthly Archives: July 2009

U.S. Judiciary: House and Senate Appropriations Committees Issue Reports–House Encourages Increased Outreach to Minority Law Students for Clerkships; Senate Bill Provides COLA

The Congress has issued reports on Appropriations legislation. I will focus on a portion of the bills that apply to the judicial branch. For full details on the reports for the other bills, see the Library of Congress.

The House Financial Services and General Government subcommittee of the Appropriations committee issued a report for the judiciary, as well as other government agencies within its jurisdiction and the District of Columbia. For the judiciary, the subcommittee stated that the goal of its bill “is to provide sufficient resources for the Federal Courts to perform their functions of dispensing equal justice under law in a fair, careful, and efficient manner.” Among several other items, the subcommittee encourages the judicial branch to examine ways to increase outreach to minority law students to increase their participation in law clerk jobs.

The Senate Financial Services and General Government subcommittee of the Appropriations committee also issued a report which included the judicial branch. The subcommittee stated that its funding levels “support the Federal judiciary’s role of providing equal justice under the law and include sufficient funds to support this critical mission.” Unlike the House Bill, the Senate Bill provides for a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, for the Supreme Court Justices and the judges in the judicial branch.

The language of the Senate’s COLA provision is:  “Sec. 307. Pursuant to section 140 of Public Law 97-92, and from funds appropriated in this Act, Justices and judges of the United States are authorized during fiscal year 2010, to receive a salary adjustment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. 461.”

Presumably, the differences in bill language will be resolved in the conference committee.

For more information

Public Law 97-92, sec. 140. (CRS Report)

H. 3170

House Report 111-202

S. 1432

Senate Report 111-43

Driving: Automobile Drivers’ Seats Becoming a Mobile Sofa; Public Transit Agencies Strenuously Emphasize Attention to Vehicle Operation

Driving is described as a complex activity requiring, “quick thinking and reactions, good perceptual abilities, and split-second decision-making.” Interestingly, the source for this statement is written for deciding when an person Alzheimer’s disease should stop driving. However, a similar analysis should occur in determining whether automobiles have too many distractions obfuscating a driver’s responsibility to other people using the public highways.  Similarly, the analysis should also include a study of the effects of electronic gadgetry on pedestrians and bicyclists.

An article in the New York Times seems to describe a situation that the driver’s seat is increasingly becoming a mobile sofa. The complexity of driving is de-emphasized in favor of spontaneous communication.

According to the New York Times, a driver was killed at an intersection in Oklahoma when another driver failed to obey a red traffic signal. The errant driver proceeded through the intersection at 45 miles per hour. The driver who struck the driver in the right of way was discussing an item of furniture found at a retail store with a neighbor on a cellphone.

The tenor of the New York Times article was sympathetic to the driver who ran the red traffic signal. The driver is described as an young, earnest, polite, law-abiding, and respectable person who just happened to cause a death through mere inattention to traffic conditions on the public highway.

The driver pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of negligent homicide (OK Code section 47-11-903), and was sentenced, in part, to 240 hours of community service.

In distinct contrast, some categories of drivers are required to respect the need for complete attention while operating a motor vehicle. In the Washington, DC area public transit agency, WMATA, a “zero tolerance policy” against cellphone or personal digital assistant use while operating WMATA buses or subway trains is being implemented. The rule came after a YouTube video showed a Metrorail operator using a cellphone while the train was in motion (before the Metrorail accident that occurred on June 22, 2009).

In truth, all users of the public highways and operators of public transit vehicles should be expected to focus total attention on the road for the safety of all.

U.S. Foreign Policy: Summary of July 7, 2009, President Barack Obama’s Speech at the New Economic School in Russia

In his speech at the New Economic School in Russia, President Barack Obama addressed similar themes that he spoke about in Egypt—reversing the spread of nuclear weapons and preventing their use, isolating and defeating violent extremists, explaining the United States’ interest in democratic governments that protect the rights of their people.

In describing the interest of the United States in democracy, the President mentioned some qualities that he viewed as important for a democratic government to possess:  freedom of speech and assembly, rule of law and equal administration of justice, independent media [Note: problems with the media in the United States was not mentioned.], and competitive elections.

At the New Economic School, the President discussed his views on Russia, and described his position on the issue of global prosperity and sovereignty.

Russia

The President stated his desire to see a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia.

Global Prosperity

Moreover, the President discussed the interest of the United States in the prosperity of the world. The President stated that no nation can serve as the sole engine of global growth. The President asserted that a properly regulated free market system is the greatest force for creating and distributing wealth. [In the United States, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a select few.]

The President noted that economic success depends on the rule of law and that people should not have to pay a bribe to do business or to get an education.

Sovereignty

The President noted that state sovereignty is the cornerstone of international order. The President explained that states have the right to choose their leaders, set secure borders, and establish their own foreign policy. The President asserted that these principles should apply to Georgia and Ukraine.

The President explained that the United States does not impose security arrangements on another country. The President stated that the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) imposes requirements for membership. The President noted that NATO should be seeking collaboration with Russia not confrontation. [Note:  Merely having NATO in close proximity to Russia could make trouble for Russia. Treaty signatories promise to “safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area.”]

U.S. Foreign Policy: Summary of June 4, 2009, President Barack Obama’s Speech in Egypt

The essential idea was that challenges are shared among countries; therefore, the responses to them are also shared. The White House published the text of the President’s speech here.

[The election for the Presidency of Iran, who serves under the Supreme Leader, was on June 12, 2009.]

President Obama addressed four main areas in the speech:  violent extemism, Israel and Palestine, nuclear weapons, and democracy. [President Obama also discussed the matters of religious freedom, women’s rights, and economic development and opportunity briefly towards the end of the speech.]

Violent Extremism

The President stated that Afghanistan demonstrated the common goal of addressing violent extremism—opposing the killing of innocents. The United States has partnered with a coalition of 46 countries, the President explained, to address this goal.

In an aside, The President also mentioned that the questioning or justifying the events surrounding 9/11 is not supported by the facts:  Al-Queda killed 3000 people, the victims were innocents, and Al-Queda claimed credit for the attacks and state its intention to kill on a massive scale. [Note: It is unclear which person or persons are being referred to here.]

On Iraq, The President said that the world is better without Saddam Hussein, but events surrounding his removal from power have reminded the United States to use diplomacy and build international consensus.

Israel and Palestine

The President stated that the strong bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable because of cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

He also asserted that six million Jews were killed by the Third Reich. He continued that denying this is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. [Note: At the G-8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, the group announced its condemnation of statements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denying the holocaust.]

The resolution of the problems between Israel and Palestine is two states with each population living in peace and security. [However, one has a full military and nuclear weaponry, the other does not.]

The President explained that the Palestinians must resist violence. He stated that shooting rockets at sleeping children or to blow up old women on a bus is neither a sign of courage nor power. [The damage created by Operation Cast Lead and other similar operations were not mentioned.]

The President attempted to compare the plight of the Palestinians with the struggles that Black Americans face. The President asserted that Black people won full and equal rights through the “peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.” This statement is not completely accurate because the history of Palestinans in their land has a different context from the story of Black people in America. [I critiqued former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a similar point. Perhaps it is best to avoid these type of comparisons]

In addition, the Palestinians must focus on what they can build, the President explained. The Palestinian Authority must develop the capacity to govern, Hamas must end violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Alternatively, the Israelis must acknowledge the Palestinian’s right to exist. The President noted that the United States does not have to accept the continued legitimacy of continued settlements. Israel, the President continued, has an obligation to ensure that the Palestinians can live and work and develop their society.

The Arab states were encouraged to do activities similar to what was being asked of the Palestinians.

Nuclear Weapons

On Iran, the President noted that the United States played a role in overthrowing a democratically elected Iranian government. He stated that Iran played a role in hostage taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.

The President explained that the United States is prepared to move forward without preconditions, except on the issue of nuclear weapons. The President explained that his purpose is to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. [However, one state already has nuclear weapons.]

The President acknowledged that some argue that some countries have nuclear weapons, while others do not. He stated that no one country should determine which nation has nuclear weapons. He also noted that Iran has the right to access peaceful nuclear power under the requirements of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (signatories).

Democracy

No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other. The President is committed to support governments that reflect the will of the people.

The characteristics of governance that the United States supports are the following—free speech, opportunity to choose government, rule of law, equal administration of justice, government that is transparent and does not steal from the people, and the freedom to live as you choose.

ACRI Ballot Initiative (Arizona): AZ Legislature Sends Initiative to the Secretary of State

The Arizona legislature has decided to send an initiative proposal from Ward Connerly to the Secretary of State.

The language of HCR 2019 is here. A previous move by Ward Connerly to get this proposal on the ballot through signatures failed.

It is unfortunate that a legislative item that can ill effect a portion of the population in Arizona is not fully researched and debated. Rather, it is placed on the ballot through a questionable strike all amendment process.

Post script:

Arizona Secretary of State

Ricci v. DeStefano: Court Determines Test Results Must Be Certified; Case Decided on Statutory Grounds, and Not on the Equal Protection Clause

This case’s result is not surprising. The pressure of having human expectations rejected was too strong to be ignored. The City of New Haven should have settled this case before reaching this point. After spending additional precious tax revenues to oppose the firefighters who brought the case, New Haven still has to certify the test results.

The Court ruled that it was impermissible for the city of New Haven, Connecticut, to refuse to certify the promotional test results without a strong basis in evidence that the test was deficient and that discarding the results is necessary to avoid violating the disparate impact provision of Title VII.

Post script:

A link to my previous post which explains the facts of the case when the case was at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals

A link to the slip opinion