Monday, March 08, 2010

Justice On The Cheap

Some elements of the Republican Party continue to believe that the US Constitution is simply a quaint historical document, one that has no longer has any relevance in 2010. They'd much prefer the philosophy espoused during the last century by such people as Los Angeles Police Chief Ed Davis who, during a wave of airplane hijackings, suggested that the perpetrators be tried right there on the runway and then hanged. To his credit, the feisty lawman mellowed considerably after his retirement from the LAPD, and as a state legislator showed considerably more rationality and compassion. One wonders if the likes of William Kristol and Liz Cheney will take the same route or whether they will they follow in the footsteps of Sen. Joseph McCarty.

The New York Times editorial board wondered the same thing about the Republican Royalists.

In the McCarthy era, demagogues on the right smeared loyal Americans as disloyal and charged that the government was being undermined from within.

In this era, demagogues on the right are smearing loyal Americans as disloyal and charging that the government is being undermined from within.

These voices — often heard on Fox News — are going after Justice Department lawyers who represented Guantánamo detainees when they were in private practice. It is not nearly enough to say that these lawyers did nothing wrong. In fact, they upheld the highest standards of their profession and advanced the cause of democratic justice. The Justice Department is right to stand up to this ugly bullying. ...

It did not take long for the lawyers to become a conservative target, branded the “Gitmo 9” by a group called Keep America Safe, run by Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and William Kristol, a conservative activist (who wrote a Times Op-Ed column in 2008). The group released a video that asks, in sinister tones, “Whose values do they share?” ...

In order to attack the government lawyers, Ms. Cheney and other critics have to twist the role of lawyers in the justice system. In representing Guantánamo detainees, they were in no way advocating for terrorism. They were ensuring that deeply disliked individuals were able to make their case in court, even ones charged with heinous acts — and that the Constitution was defended.
[Emphasis added.]

While it may be more convenient and less expensive to administer Ed Davis's "runway justice," it is certainly not constitutional. All those charged with crimes, no matter how horrific those crimes, are entitled to a vigorous defense because all defendants are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It's one way to ensure justice. The government doesn't get to harass, incarcerate, or kill an unpopular defendant just because he is unpopular or holds unpopular beliefs.

Apparently Ms. Cheney and Mr. Kristol weren't paying attention during their junior high school civics class. Like the playground bully, each seems more bent on advancing an ideology which leads to tyranny, on establishing their bona fides, then in justice itself.

This time the NY Times got it right:

If lawyers who take on controversial causes are demonized with impunity, it will be difficult for unpopular people to get legal representation — and constitutional rights that protect all Americans will be weakened. That is a high price to pay for scoring cheap political points. [Emphasis added]

Exactly so.



Anonymous Jamie said...

I Hate to mention it, but many private schools don't have a civics class.

9:10 PM  

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