U.S. Judiciary: Chief Justice John Roberts Issues 2016 Year-End Report

John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States, issued a 2016 year-end report on the judiciary. The Chief Justice in his annual report focused on the work of federal district court judges (federal trial court judges).

The Chief Justice noted that district judges work hard, in obscurity and subject to certain criticism for the sake of public service. (On this note, there are many other civil servants that toil anonymously, also (for far less than $205,100 (see chart below)).)


Author’s note: I have discussed federal lower court judges in discussing the profound injustice, which occurred in the employment discrimination case facing the Federal Reserve Board–Artis v. Greenspan Bernanke Yellen. The length, circuitous route, and incredible cost of time (18 years), effort and money that the plaintiffs have had to endure in this case to resolve this claim is offensive to the conscience. Such conditions show that the court system is also broken.

The district court judge, Emmet Sullivan (and others, perhaps) did their work, case management, and so on, discussed by the Chief Justice in his report. However, it is that same work that produced an expensive injustice for the plaintiffs involved in this case–the legal system was used as a weapon against financially poor litigants (case concluded, cert denied October 3, 2016). I cannot laud any district court judge for such treatment.

Moreover, The adversarial system must go in civil cases; it is unfair to mete out “justice” on the basis of a party’s financial status.


Notably, the Chief Justice did not mention of the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in the report.

[Note 1: Judicial pay has increased for 2017. See Executive Order __, schedule 7) (https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/pay-executive-order-2017-adjustments-of-certain-rates-of-pay.pdf).

 

Position Pay in 2014 (in dollars) Pay in 2015 (in dollars) Pay in 2016 (in dollars) Pay in 2017 (in dollars)
Chief Justice of the United States 255,500 255,500 260,700 263,300
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court 244,400 244,400 249,300 251,800
Circuit Judges 211,200 211,200 215,400 217,600
District Judges 199,100 199,100 203,100 205,100
Judges of the Court of International Trade 199,100 199,100 203,100 205,100

]

In the appendix to the report, the Chief Justice provides and explanation of the workload of the judiciary. I will focus on the Supreme Court’s workload. Twelve per curiam decisions were issued during this term in cases that were not argued.

  2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Filings 8521 8857 8241 7738 8159 7857 7713 7509 7376 7033 6475
In forma pauperis 6846 7132 6627 6142 6576 6299 6160 6005 5808 5488 4926
Paid docket 1671 1723 1614 1596 1583 1558 1553 1504 1568 1545 1549
Cases:                      
argued 87 78 75 87 82 86 79 77 79 75 82
disposed 82 74 72 83 77 83 73 76 77 75 70
signed opinions 69 67 67 74 73 75 64 73 67 66 62

“Colorblindness”: It’s Heartbreaking when Black Children Have to Plead for the Lives of their Parents; Supreme Court Cases, Graham v. Connor and Tennessee v. Garner Need to be Revisited

Human life is ultimately a intricate network. Tragic deaths as a result of police involved shootings, just like any other murders, causes significant damage to a family. Because of the unique nature of police-involved shootings however, where the person killing has the authority of the state to kill and bears little to no responsibility, the pain of loss is magnified exponentially.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, at a city council meeting, a nine-year old, Zianna Oliphant, begs the council members to protect the lives of the black parents (and ultimately of all black people).

It is a poignant statement. A statement no minor child should ever have to make.

The Futility of “Colorblindness”: GOP Representative Robert Pittenger’s Comments On BBC Program Expressed True Belief of Republicans Against Black People and the Vulnerable Members of U.S. Society

The Republican party (GOP) has an authoritarian backbone: The party worships the rich, like GOP nominee for U.S. President, Donald J. Trump (who received $885 million in real estate-related tax breaks), and disparages the vulnerable (otherwise known as the 99%).

The focus of GOP action is the removal of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s programs to assist the vulnerable (and give all support to the 1% (who provide “campaign contributions”). In addition, the government bailed out the financial industry after the 2008 financial crisis. One result of that is that the Federal Reserve Board has a balance sheet of $4.5 trillion (as of the date of this post).

Representative Paul Ryan delivered his belief in blaming the poor. Given his Irish ancestry, a New York Times columnist, Timothy Egan, reminded Ryan that the English had the same idea toward his ancestors in Ireland.

In North Carolina, there has been another police-involved shooting, which has left a citizen dead. While the officer is black, the situation is the same all previous police-involved shootings where the officer involved claims his life was in danger and the authorities sanction the resultant killing as justified (under Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor).

With this situation as background, a North Carolina GOP member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Robert Pittenger (under investigation by the FBI and the IRS), had an interview of BBC’s Newsnight program, with the BBC’s James O’Brien. During the interview, Mr. Pittenger saw fit to disparage the protestors as

  • not following the example of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King (who was assassinated) and
  • haters of white people because of their presumed success.

His critique was framed by the GOP’s continued disparagement of the vulnerable members of society, just like Ryan and the rest of the GOP. Mr. Pittenger simply ignored all of the history and ill effects of policies based on “colorblind” white hegemony.

His subsequent explanations do not alter his (or the GOP’s) beliefs that he expressed openly during the BBC interview.

Unsurprisingly, also in the BBC interview, Mr. Pittenger refused to apply the example of Rev. King’s actions (which he applied to protestors) to the present-day campaign of Donald J. Trump who has insulted many groups in his statements.

Federal Reserve Board: Paper by Jordan Haedtler, Andrew Levin, and Valerie Wilson Propose Reform to Fed Structure; Diversity Important to Foster Well-Considered Monetary Policy

Haedtler, Jordan; Levin, Andrew; and Wilson, Valerie (2016), “Making the Federal Reserve Fully Public: Why and How,” paper, August.

This paper outlined current issues presented by the current operations of the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Banks (collectively, the Fed). The authors present several ideas for thinking about reforms (that would not affect the Fed’s political independence (a long-used diversionary tactic against any reform, see Auerbach, Robert D. (2008), Deception and Abuse at the Fed: Henry B. Gonzalez Battles Alan Greenspan’s Bank, Austin: University of Texas Press.”).


The graphic (below) shows the potential obstinacy the authors are up against with the Fed; persistence is key and absolutely necessary in this case. The Fed is a public agency; it is way past time for the organization to accept it.

2014-03-04-auerbach
Sheila Clark’s letter to the EEOC (printed in the Aurebach book, page 123).

 

I will review topics in the paper that caught my attention in this post. (Again, the full paper is located here.)


Related blog posts–

https://alexwdc.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/federal-reserve-board-democratic-members-of-congress-write-letter-to-board-lack-of-diversity-adversely-affects-policymaking/

https://alexwdc.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/federal-reserve-board-andrew-levin-and-fed-up-propose-recommendations-to-ensure-that-the-board-consider-the-views-of-all-people-in-the-united-states/


 

While the paper is necessarily technical (especially, the composition of the boards of the Federal Reserve Banks), the observation of the ill effects of the current structure of the Fed is extremely important. The ultimate goal of the Fed must be to work for the entire population of the United States of America.

First, the authors noted that the lack of diversity, in terms of race, gender, and profession, as well as sectoral diversity leads to perspectives of many segments of the population being left out in monetary policy discussion. For example, the paper explained that the effect of monetary policy was not discussed in the following areas:

  • African Americans suffer disproportionately from labor market downturns and benefit markedly from economic recoveries. However, this issue was little mentioned in the Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, meetings.
  • A focus on inflation, the authors continued, rather than on full employment reflected the make-up of the people in the room–multimillionaire chief executive officers and other major corporate figures. People with this wealth or income have different perspectives than small business owners, debtors, students, middle- and low-income workers, and those seeking credit.

Second, the paper makes note of the need of an independent office of the inspector general. While the Board has an Inspector General, the office is not independent because the office depends on the Board for his or her position as well as for the budget to operate the office. As noted in a previous post

The Board’s [Inspector General] IG is not truly independent, rather it is an arm of the Board’s Chair. The Board’s Chair appoints the IG. (See Auerbach, Robert D. (2008), Deception and Abuse at the Fed: Henry B. Gonzalez Battles Alan Greenspan’s Bank, Austin: University of Texas Press, pages 113-115 (esp. first full paragraph on page 114).) In addition, the Board funds the operations of the IG (see, for example, Board Annual Report, 2013, page 314 (paragraph 3)).

In addition, that authors mention a recommendation of an audit by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO. It is unclear what type of audit the authors are seeking–financial or performance. It seems to be a mixture of the two. But performance audits must be carefully monitored and examined. I have discussed the weakness of the performance audit previously in the blog.

Third, the authors briefly discuss the Board’s semiannual Monetary Policy Report. Presently, the MPR is mostly historical (previous six-month period) at the time it is distributed to members of Congress. The MPR tends to be wordy, filled with distracting graphical material, and difficult to discern the points the Board is seeking to present. I think a more focused and clear report is necessary for the Board to fulfill its obligations to the public.

The authors’ proposal should be included with proposals from former Board Vice Chair Donald Kohn (presented previously in the blog).

It will be interesting to see which reforms occur as a result of this well-written paper.

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Ryan Lochte: When Wealth, Athletic Ability, Nationality, Race, and Gender Blurs Accountability–His Story of Armed Robbery Collapsed; Teammates Held in Brazil to Provide Statements, while Lochte Is in the United States

Ryan Lochte, 32, competed as a swimmer in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After completing his events, however, he became involved in an incident outside of the Olympic Village.

On Sunday August 14, 2016, Lochte stated that he had property taken at gunpoint in an interview with NBC’s Billy Bush. Present with Lochte were U.S. Olympic teammates Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger, and James Feigen. Lochte continued his account, with some changed details, in an interview with Matt Lauer on August 18 (http://www.today.com/news/ryan-lochte-defends-rio-robbery-account-matt-lauer-we-wouldn-t101973).

Lochte also posted a statement on his Instagram account.

Brazilian authorities conducted an investigation and found that the facts did not accord with Lochte’s version of events. (In addition, Brazilian police recommended that the prosecutor file charges against Lochte and Feigen (the elder men of the four) for filing a false police report of a crime.)


[Update (August 19, 2016): Ryan Lochte offers a so-called apology second explanation for the incident in Brazil. (Media in the United States are far too lenient (yet also way too inclusive) with the word “apology.” It’s shameful. Lochte said he was robbed of his property at gunpoint with NBC’s Billy Bush on Sunday August 14, 2016. This so-called statement is unacceptable.)

Separately, as reported in the Washington Post, James Feigen will make a payment of $10,800 to a Brazilian charity, Instituto Reação (in Portuguese), and will then be free to leave Brazil.]


Seeming to want to refocus attention on the Olympic Games, a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, Mario Andrada, asked for people to consider the event an occurrence of error.

“These kids tried to have fun, they tried to represent their country to the best of their abilities,” Andrada said. “They competed under gigantic pressure. Let’s give these kids a break. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”

Kids? It is necessary to mention the ages of the adult athletes involved:

Name Age Net Worth
Ryan Lochte 32 (3-Aug-84) (estimated net worth of $3 million)
Gunnar Bentz 20 (3-Jan-96)
Jack Conger 21 (26-Sept-94)
James Feigen 26 (26-Sept-89)

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The swimmers involved are young adults, not children. In addition, the statement gives a broad latitude to excuse  misbehavior by athletes. That Lochte left his teammates to carry the weight of this situation shows his unwillingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions and failure to support his friends/fellow teammates. (Also, one must consider whether an equivalent light hand would be offered to nonwhite athletes (or athletes from non-wealthy nations).)

All is not lost if Lochte sorts out and repairs this unfortunate event, including paying for damages to the gasoline station and making amends with the authorities of the Olympic host city of Rio de Janeiro. If not, then Lochte has lost my respect.

[Author’s Note: The other three seem to have been caught up in this cover-up situation and left to fend for themselves. I do believe that a second chance is merited (for these 3). If only this mercy were universally provided to all human beings who make mistakes, the world would be a much better place.)]

Of note: Amini Fonua, swimmer and Olympic athlete from Tonga, posted a tweet in support of Feigen.

Futility of “Colorblindness”: David Clarke and the Absurdity of Using Black Skin as Cover for the “American Way”

David Clarke, a sheriff for Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, wrote an inflammatory op-ed for the Hill newspaper. In the column, Clarke attempts the impossible to–

  • offload police responsibility for killings of citizens (black, brown, and white) onto the group Black Lives Matter (BLM);
  • ignore the suffering of the deceased’s families, friends, and communities; and
  • discredit and condemn BLM (and Occupy Wall Street) as responsible for the war veterans that preyed upon police officers in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
david clarke and spouse
David Clarke, Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisc., and spouse

In short, the column was a masterpiece of deflection of the broken image of police officers–“Officer Friendly“; the social media video of the killings of Alton Sterling and the aftermath video of the shooting of Philando Castile (and the many instances of killings before them) put an end to that image for good. Image-conscious people do not like to be unmasked, and thus the response will be fierce.

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Most disturbing of all was Clarke’s attempt to deflect criticism by using his black skin color as cover for his apology for white supremacy and white superiority. It is the reason why white supremacists use Clarke and Larry Elder to continue the abuse of black people–to state it’s not white people doing it but a black (white) person. It’s quite unseemly and perverse for people who say they are black to turn around and attack black people (while simultaneously asking for exemption from the debasement that they argue for others). I have no respect for abusive and hate-filled people like Clarke and Elder.

The essence of the column is that the so-called American way is the status quo, including white supremacy, absolute respect for authority figures, and police killings of unarmed people. People who question this status quo are threats that must be quashed. The column is quite irresponsible for a law enforcement official to make, as it encourages ignoring the First Amendment of the Constitution, accepts white supremacy (and black exclusion) as a legitimate part of the culture of the United States, and encourages authoritarianism. All three are unacceptable.

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Virginia Slave Law, 1705

Part of the solution is clear:  The police departments must remove predatory police officers from their ranks immediately. For background information, read Babiak, Paul and Robert D. Hare (2006). “Snakes in Suits:  When Psychopaths Go to Work.”

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Futility of “Colorblindness”: Red Cross Poster Associated Negative Connotations to Nonwhite Characters; Mere “Apology” Insufficient

The Washington Post reported on the following story. A user of a pool looked at an American Red Cross poster and felt uncomfortable because the characters that displayed the so-called uncool pool behaviors were generally nonwhite. The posters were created by the American Red Cross and distributed. Seemingly, throughout the process, no one noticed this particular issue.

American Red Cross former pool safety poster; photo of poster taken by Margaret Sawyer

The response from the Red Cross was unsurprising, denying racial “intent” and promising to correct the situation. However, the situation is not overt discrimination but the formation of mental negative connotations and then representing those negative ideas with nonwhite characters or people.

A quote from Reverend Thomas Merton’s book, “Seeds of Destruction” (Letters to a White Liberal), page 19-20, demonstrates the weakness of reliance on claims of lack of “intent”:

We have been willing to grant the Negro rights on paper, even in the South. But the laws have been framed in such a way that in every case their execution has depended on the good will of white society, and the white man has not failed, when left to himself, to block, obstruct, or simply forget the necessary action without which the rights of the Negro cannot be enjoyed in fact. Hence, when laws have been passed, then contested, dragged through all of the courts, and finally upheld, the Negro is still in no position to benefit by them without, in each case, entering into further interminable lawsuits every time he wants to exercise a right guaranteed to him by law.

(Note: Emphasis, above (in bold), the blog author’s.)

A mere “apology” is insufficient to address this issue. The negative associations in the poster (and elsewhere in the culture of the United States) will have to be unearthed, raised to the sunlight, examined, and dealt with totally. As seen with Antonin Scalia (1936-2016), the United States’ cultural practices need much attention and correction in order to be truly inclusive of all people.

The work of Jane Elliott is a good start to begin the inquiry.

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