Sunday, December 07, 2008

Justice Returning

It couldn't be more like that wonderful Greek drama image of 'rosy-fingered dawn' returning, to see that we have conscientious members of the legal profession ready for recreating an executive branch devoted to the public. The past eight years have been a wasteland for public interests, and justice is overdue.

While the rightwing 'think tanks' have been instituting welfare for the wealthy, the American Constitution Society has been working toward returning power to the country. We have a great deal that has been lost, that we must regain, as a society. It will take routing the criminals from government agencies. They have replacements waiting.

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy was founded seven years ago to counter a growing right-leaning legal philosophy that has reshaped the American legal landscape on issues from the reach of federal regulation to the separation of church and state.
ACS officials say their organization is modeled on the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group that has seeded Republican administrations and the federal bench with its members. The group has helped foster a network of conservative lawyers and judges while popularizing methods of legal analysis rooted in the idea that the Constitution has a fixed and knowable meaning, rather than an evolving meaning that should adapt to contemporary times. That view has given the federal courts a decidedly conservative tilt, ACS members argue -- something that Federalist Society officials call evidence of the strength of their ideas.

"I think ideas are often underrated in Washington," said Federalist Society President Eugene B. Meyer. "People think it's all about power, but at the end of the day, ideas are very important."

ACS members agree. And they would like nothing more than to duplicate the Federalist Society's influence. Last month, the organization published a series of policy briefs designed to be a legal road map for the next administration. Among its suggestions are that the Justice Department re-energize civil rights enforcement, try terrorism suspects in civilian courts and appoint federal judges who have a broader range of life experiences .

Cyrus Mehri, a partner in the District law firm Mehri & Skalet who has been supportive of ACS, pointed to a survey his firm conducted showing that no one with a background in public interest law has been appointed to the federal appeals courts since 1981. Also, the survey found, not one federal appeals court judge has substantial experience as an in-house counsel for a labor union. Meanwhile, 45 percent have previously worked as state or federal prosecutors or attorneys general.

Mehri, who specializes in labor law, argued that disparity skews what happens at trial: A study by two Cornell University Law School professors found that plaintiffs who brought job discrimination cases to district court won 15 percent of the time, compared with 51 percent for non-job-related cases. Even when they win, plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases are reversed on appeal 41 percent of the time, the study found, five times the rate of employer victories.

"That's not blind justice," Mehri said. "That is hostility toward the little guy."

The little guy has lost his case in the exiting maladministration. He has been the funder of government, but not the beneficiary of any of its service. The time just past - in 44 days - has proved what disasters are possible in every area, and the country is worse off and weaker because of them.

Welcome back, Justice. We missed you.


From The SideShow: Wouldn't it be nice if it turned out that the new administration signals an end to letting right-wing spin factories get the last word on how to look at the law?

How appropriate that Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki is appointed to return good public service to the Veterans' Administration on the anniversary of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

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