Category Archives: News

Former judge’s PI fraud trial starts today

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth over jury selection, the federal criminal trial of former Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Michael Joyce gets under way in earnest today with opening statements and presentation of evidence. Joyce is charged with two counts of mail fraud and six counts of money laundering, all felonies, arising from his collecting $440,000 from two auto insurers for injuries he allegedly sustained in a low impact rear end motor vehicle collision.

I previously discussed the case here. Still unaddressed and uninvestigated is the question that absolutely screams for an answer: why did a couple of hardball motor vehicle insurers like State Farm and Erie cough up almost half a million dollars in record time on an injury claim that was virtually undocumented? Probable answer: the insurance companies were bribing someone who at the time was in a position to do them huge favors in future cases. We’ll never know for sure, though, because the powers that be aren’t interested in answering a question that could make the insurance industry look as bad as it actually is.

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Nottingham to Quit

Edward Nottingham, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado and all-around lunatic horndoggy, is resigning this week. Some of Judge Nottingham’s prior travails are discussed here. His sordid history is chronicled in detail here courtesy of Know Your Courts.

Nottingham, a Bush the First appointee, has been on the bench since 1989. According to the Rocky Mountain News article linked above:

The most recent complaint became public Thursday in a 9News report.

A former prostitute said Nottingham asked her to lie to investigators and tell them he didn’t pay her for sex, the station reported.

The woman, whom 9News did not identify, worked for the former escort service Bada Bing Denver. She claimed Nottingham paid her $250 to $300 per hour for sex once a week between February 2003 and November 2004.

Nottingham’s decision to hang up the gavel came after “a closed-door judicial misconduct hearing that didn’t go well,” according to the article.

Update (10/17/08): The waiting is the hardest part, so says Tom Petty, and we’re still waiting on official word of Judge Nottingham’s alleged resignation. His honor hasn’t been to the courthouse since Tuesday, and his case work is getting dumped in the laps of other judges. However, we still lack a formal resignation.

Protocol for resignation of a federal judge involves a phone call to White House. The Denver Post has been trying without success to discovery whether Judge Nottingham or anyone acting on his behalf has made such a call.

Update (10/22/08): Judge Nottingham made it official yesterday afternoon, resigning his commission as a federal judge effective 10/29.

Pigs v. People

Cheye Calvo, the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, came home on July 29 to find a package addressed to his wife sitting on the front porch. Unbeknownst to the mayor, the package contained thirty-two pounds of marijuana. Turns out that various police agencies had tracked the package across the country when a drug sniffing dog in Arizona first noticed it several days earlier. Pigs decided to let the package complete its journey and bust the addressee, who happened to be the mayor’s wife.

Indeed, it was a pig posing as a deliveryman who left the package on the porch to begin with. When he knocked on the door, the mayor’s mother-in-law answered and refused to sign for the package.

Mayor Calvo, having no idea what the package contained, brought it into the house, set it on a table and headed upstairs to change clothes. Within moments a bunch of sociopathic pigs from the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department busted down down the door without knocking and entered with guns blazing. As is standard nowadays for pigs conducting drug raids, their first acts upon entering the home were blowing away the mayor’s two pet dogs, black labs, one of which was running away from the pig who shot him.

Bravo, pigs, bravo. It takes takes a rough, tough, big-nutted, monster-cocked, manly MAN to shoot a housepet that’s scared shitless and running away.

Naturally, the official pig party line is that they “felt threatened” by the dogs and were thus obliged to kill them. The sheer number of cops-shoot-dog stories that arise in similar contexts belie that claim completely. You might as well stop telling that lie, pussies. We all know that it’s SPP (standard pig procedure) to shoot any and all dogs you see upon entering a private residence on a drug raid.

And it gets better. They found the mayor upstairs in his underwear and made him back down the steps with this hands on his head to the first floor. There they handcuffed the mayor and his mother-in-law (the mayor’s wife wasn’t home) and forced them to lie on the floor just a few feet away from one of the slaughtered dogs. You stay classy, ya fucking pig pussies.

Law-and-order types are no doubt asking “Is the wife guilty?”, as if committing a drug offense justifies dog butchery and executing warrants without knocking and announcing. The answer, of course, is no. Yesterday the pigs arrested two guys for running an extensive marijuana smuggling operation that involved mailing the product to unsuspecting recipients. Mayor Calvo’s wife, Trinity Tomsic, was a victim.

As if the above weren’t sufficient, the pigs originally lied and claimed that a judge had given them a “no-knock” warrant allowing them to enter the residence without warning. A Maryland state law authorizes judges to issue such warrants if the pigs establish to the judge’s satisfaction a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing would endanger the officers’ safety or lead to the destruction of evidence. Turns out that the pigs never even requested a no-knock warrant, much less received one.

The pigs’ new story is that they were justified in breaking in without knocking because the mother-in-law saw them approaching and started screaming. That, say the pigs, justified immediate entry because the occupants could have been gathering weapons and/or destroying evidence. The pigs have absolutely no credibility on any issue in this case, so I’m entirely confident in calling this new “justification” a big fat lie.

Disgustingly enough, state statutes authorizing no-knock warrants are all the rage nowadays thanks to the 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision Hudson v. Michigan, in which a narrow majority concluded that the exclusionary rule didn’t apply to violations of the common law knock-and-announce rule, which the Court long ago incorporated into Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. Justice Scalia assured us that the harsh sanction of excluding illegally obtained evidence was inappropriate in this context because of the “increasing professionalism of police forces[.]”

Professionalism such as that exhibited by the pigs of the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department.

The mayor and his spouse gave a press conference today, and footage is available here. I wish this wouldn’t have happened at all, but perhaps the fact that it happened to prominent white couple will draw some much needed attention to the piggish behavior of the pigs and spur us on to start dismantling the police state in which we’ve acquiesced for so long.

So, then, we need some new rules. I suggest that one of them be no snitching. Rat out your fellow man to the pigs in only the most extreme and emergent circumstances. If the situation isn’t life-and-death now, it certainly will be when the heavily armed sociopaths clothed with the state’s imprimatur show up.

On a related note, do not help the pigs. This applies universally, but especially where the pigs are looking for information on a crime. In this lengthy video a law professor explains the dangers of an “I haven’t done anything wrong and thus have nothing to worry about” mindset.

Further, never under any circumstances assume that a pig will treat you or a loved one any way other than brutally and unlawfully. Such behavior is all too common as is, and will only get worse as more and more law enforcement functions are privatized.

CBS fraudulently covers up McCain’s appalling ignorance

John “Walnuts” McCain wants to be our next president based largely on his claim of being the right man to handle the Iraq war. Never mind that doesn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Forget his recent reference to the nonexistent Iraq-Pakistan border. (The “Iraq-Pakistan border”, if you want to call it that, is a whole country known as Iran.) He’s the right guy. He’s a foreign policy expert. Just ask him.

And with major “news organizations” like CBS committing outright fraud to back him up, how can McCain fail to get the message across? The Keith Olbermann video of the fraud is available here.

Katie Couric was questioning McCain about “the surge” and Barack Obama’s views thereon. Couric asked:

Senator McCain, Senator Obama says, while the increased number of US troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What’s your response to that?

McCain answered:

I don’t know how you respond to something that is as — such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane [phonetic] was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening.

Absolutely wrong. The so-called Anbar Awakening began in the summer of 2006, long before the infamous “surge.”

But McCain’s spectacular ignorance is no impediment when you have friends like CBS. Here’s the answer they showed their viewers:

Senator Obama has indicated by his failure to acknowledge the success of the surge that he would rather loss a war then loss a campaign.

Which is a vacuous Rebitchlifuck blabbering point clipped from an entirely different part of the interview.

Couric took over as anchor of the CBS Evening News after Dan Rather left in disgrace over a story on George W. Bush’s horrifically dubious National Guard record. The story was accurate enough, but relied in part on documents of dubious authenticity. Turns out that CBS never tried to authenticate the documents, its public statements to the contrary notwithstanding. The right wing machine screamed bloody murder, calling the documents forgeries (never established) and demanding Rather’s head on a platter.

Surely our conservative brethren will give Couric the same treatment for this far more egregious breach of journalistic ethics, right?

Hypocrites defend traditional marriage

The oft-proposed, always-failed Federal Marriage Amendment is back in the form of Senate Joint Resolution 43, introduced on June 25:

110th CONGRESS

2d Session

S. J. RES. 43

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

June 25, 2008

Mr. WICKER (for himself, Mr. VITTER, Mr. CRAIG, Mr. ROBERTS, Mr. INHOFE, Mr. BROWNBACK, Mr. ALLARD, Mr. THUNE, and Mr. SHELBY) introduced the following joint resolution; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


JOINT RESOLUTION

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage.

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission by the Congress:

`Article —

    `Section 1. This article may be cited as the `Marriage Protection Amendment’.
    `Section 2. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.’.

Note that our intrepid defenders of traditional man-and-woman, weiner-in-cooter marriage include an admitted whore fucker and reputed diaper fetishist — David Vitter (R-LA) — and (at least) one real, live, self-loathing homosexual — Larry “A Clumsy and Unremarkable Fuck” Craig (R-ID). With friends like that, does traditional marriage really need enemies?

H/T – SquareState

Moar Boy Scouts Welfare Queenage

Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 600 (2000) is one of my top ten all time favorite U.S. Supreme Court cases. The Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that a New Jersey statute prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination violated the BSA’s First Amendment right of expressive association by forcing it to accept gays as scoutmasters. The result isn’t especially enthralling, but the method is revealing as hell. Chief Justice Rehnquist’s majority opinion is a superb example of how alleged “conservative” practitioners of “judicial restraint” will do damn near anything, up to and including violating the canons of judicial conduct, to reach a desired result. To see how it works, check out the majority opinion, then read Justice Stevens’ dissent to find out how the majority ignores, distorts and flat-out lies about the record evidence in the case.

Perhaps the most odious bit of nonsense regarding the Boy Scouts is the notion that they’re a purely private organization and for that reasons shouldn’t be subject to nondiscrimination laws applicable to public entities. In truth, the Boy Scouts have enjoyed and benefited from a lengthy, close and exceptionally profitable relationship with the federal government.

Chris Rodda reports on the latest Congressional give-away to the Boy Scouts here. The current bit of largess comes in the form of House Bill 5872 (pdf, 8 pages). The bill’s purpose is “[t]o require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the centennial of the Boy Scouts of America, and for other purposes.”

Commemorative coin issuance is hardly a big deal in and of itself. That’s been going on since 1892. The intriguing part is the “other purposes” statement. Just what are those “other purposes” anyway?

Check out Section 7 of the bill, which mandates that “[a]ll sales of coins issued under this Act shall include a surcharge of $10 per coin” and directs that the Secretary pay all surcharges collected to the National Boy Scouts of America Foundation. Rodda calculates that bill could result in a windfall of up to $3.5 million for the Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts themselves tout their status as a de facto religion here. A few highlights:

Q. Can an individual who states that he does not believe in God be a volunteer Scout leader or member?

A. No. The Scout Oath represents the basic values of Scouting, and it addresses the issue of “duty to God” before duty to country, others, and self.

. . .

Q. What allows the Boy Scouts of America to exclude atheists and agnostics from membership?

A. The Boy Scouts of America is a private membership group. As with any private organization, Boy Scouts’ retains the constitutional right to establish and maintain standards for membership. Anyone who supports the values of Scouting and meets these standards is welcome to join the organization.

Naturally, the Scouts’ focus on YHWH and the need to be “morally straight” dictates exclusion of gays as well as atheists and agnostics:

Q. Don’t Boy Scouts discriminate against gays and atheists?

A. Boy Scouts of America is one of the most diverse youth groups in the country, serving boys of every ethnicity, religion, and economic circumstance and having programs for older teens of both sexes. That Boy Scouts also has traditional values, like requiring youth to do their “duty to God” and be “morally straight” is nothing to be ashamed of and should not be controversial. No court case has ever held that Boy Scouts discriminates unlawfully, and it is unfortunate here that anyone would characterized Boy Scouts’ constitutionally protected right to hold traditional values as “discriminatory.” That is just name-calling.

Q. May an individual who openly declares himself to be a homosexual be a volunteer Scout leader?

A. No. The Boy Scouts of America is a private membership organization; leadership in Boy Scouting is a privilege and not a right. Boy Scouts believes that homosexual conduct is not compatible with the aims and purposes of Scouting and that a known or avowed homosexual does not present a desirable role model for the youth in the Scouting program. Boy Scouts will continue to select only those who meet Boy Scout standards and qualifications for membership.

The Scout are, of course, correct about their right to practice mindless troglodytic bigotry. I’m fine with that. I don’t want to make the Aryan Nation admit African-Americans or require the American Nazi Party to admit Jews either.

The problem lies in using the U.S. government as a fund raising tool for what amounts to an uberconservative church. Once again we harken back to the words of Justice Hugo Black, the strict constructionist’s strict constructionist:

The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between Church and State.”

Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 15-16 (1947).

You want the benefits associated with being a private organization? Fine and goddamn dandy. But don’t you fucking dare expect the rest of us to pay for it.

The unconstitutionality of this horseshit seems obvious, but you’d never be able to tell from the goings-on in Congress. H.R. 5872 sailed through the House of Representatives and passed on a vote of 403-8. On May 19 the bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Senate proceedings figure to be equally smooth.

So, then, the next time some piggish Boy Scout muckity muck starts blabbering about how being “morally straight” requires belief in God and keeping one’s weiner away from the No-No Boxes of other men, heap some Reaganesque derision on him. Call the prick a welfare queen. The term fits like the proverbial glove.

Va. “partial birth infanticide” law still unconstitutional

Last year the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal law proscribing “partial birth abortion,” holding that the law was neither facially void for vagueness nor an “undue burden” on the right of choice recognized in Roe v. Wade and its progeny. Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. ____ (2007).

In light of Carhart, SCOTUS vacated the judgment of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond Medical Center for Women v. Hicks, 409 F.3d 619 (4th Cir. 2005), in which the court of appeals held that a Virginia state law criminalizing “partial birth infanticide” was unconstitutional because it contained no exception to allow for protecting the mother’s health. SCOTUS ordered the Fourth Circuit to reconsider its decision in light of Carhart.

The Fourth Circuit issued its ruling on remand yesterday, holding 2-1 that the Virgina statute is still unconstitutional despite Carhart. Richmond Medical Center for Women v. Hicks (pdf, 61 pages). Looks like good news for the constitutional right of choice, but appearances can and often are deceiving.

Carhart was based in large part on the Supreme Court’s finding that the federal “partial birth abortion” statute imposes criminal liability only where a doctor intentionally performs an “intact dilation and extraction” procedure. Thus, no liability attaches where the doctor intends to perform a “standard D&E” — the most common method of second-trimester abortions — that “accidentally” ends up becoming an intact D&E. That, said the Court, precluded a finding of facial unconstitutionality; the federal act did not impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose by placing doctors in fear of “accidental” criminal liability.

Yesterday’s decision in Hicks centered on whether the Virgina statute included the same sort of intent requirement as the federal law at issue in Carhart. The majority concluded that the Virginia statute contained no such requirement and thus imposed an undue burden via the threat of “accidental” criminal liability. The dissenting judge disagreed.

This is what the constitutional right recognized in Roe has come to: squabbling over scienter requirements and the grisly details of various medical procedures. That, of course, is likely what Justice Kennedy had in mind when he wrote the majority opinion in Carhart, one of the most paternalistic pieces of work ever to fall from a judge’s pen. You wimmins are all emotional and ill-informed, ya see, so Justice Kennedy tells you exactly what’s going to happen after you climb onto that gurney. After Carhart pretty much all challenges to restrictive abortion laws must be made on an as-applied basis, so what we saw in yesterday’s Fourth Circuit decision will be rule rather than the exception.

And it won’t be long before the Supreme Court starts talking about how “cumbersome” and “unworkable” Roe analysis has become. That’s the first step in doing away with Roe altogether, so please forgive me if I’m not all that pleased over yesterday’s developments.

California Supreme Court invalidates gay marriage ban

It’s a good day for civil rights, at least in California. Today that state’s high court ruled by a vote of 4-3 that California statutes limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the equal protection provision of the California Constitution. In re Marriage Cases (pdf, 172 pages). The majority consists of Chief Justice Ronald George (author of the majority opinion) and Justices Joyce Kennard, Kathryn Werdegar, and Carlos Moreno.

The court ruled as it did despite the fact that California has a comprehensive statutory domestic partnership scheme under which same-sex couples can obtain pretty much all the legal benefits that marriage confers upon opposite-sex couples. Thus:

[T]he legal issue we must resolve is not whether it would be constitutionally permissible under the California Constitution for the state to limit marriage only to opposite-sex couples while denying same-sex couples any opportunity to enter into an official relationship with all or virtually all of the same substantive attributes, but rather whether our state Constitution prohibits the state from establishing a statutory scheme in which both opposite-sex and same-sex couples are granted the right to enter into an officially recognized family relationship that affords all of the significant legal rights and obligations traditionally associated under state law with the institution of marriage, but under which the union of an opposite-sex couple is officially designated a “marriage” whereas the union of a same-sex couple is officially designated a “domestic partnership.”

The way the court phrased the issue strongly suggests a negative answer, but the actual answer was a resounding yes. Happily, the Court’s approach goes far beyond the “separate but equal” holding of the New Jersey Supreme Court a few years back.

Based on my thus far extremely cursory reading, it appears that the Court held: (1) marriage is a fundamental right for purposes of California equal protection analysis; (2) the right can’t limited by narrowly defining “marriage” to include just traditional marriage; (3) the “strict scrutiny” standard of review applies to the statute at issue because the disparate treatment the statute provides infringes on same-sex couples’ “fundamental interest in having their family relationship accorded the same respect and dignity enjoyed by an opposite-sex couple”; and (4) the statute fails strict scrutiny review because the asserted justification for the statutory classification — namely “the interest in retaining the traditional and well-established definition of marriage” — is not the sort of compelling state interest needed to preserve the statute from constitutional attack.

As to remedy, the court held that the statutory language “limiting the designation of marriage to a union ‘between a man and a woman’ is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples.”

I’ll post more once I’ve had a chance to digest the 172 pages of majority, concurring and dissenting opinions. A couple of quick, half-educated observations:

– Some sections of the majority opinion contain citations to a lot of federal court cases. That makes me wonder whether the California Supreme Court has fully insulated itself from SCOTUS review.

– The decision is based on the state constitution, so the obvious next step for gay rights opponents is a state constitutional amendment.

Adequate and Independent State Grounds:

I’m no longer especially concerned about the prospect of the U.S. Supreme Court hearing this case based on a finding that the California Supreme Court’s decision isn’t based on a genuinely “independent” state law ground. Yes, the majority opinion is laced throughout with citations to federal cases, but that shouldn’t make much of a difference here. The decision is based in part on the California Supreme Court’s holding that legislative classifications based on sexual orientation are “suspect” for purposes of the state constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. That holding is unprecedented, as far as I’m aware, and anyone who thinks such a holding has any support in federal equal protection case law simply hasn’t been paying attention for the last forty years or so.

Activist Judges:

The terms “judicial activism” and “activist judges” are mantras within the strange little world of the right wing scream apparatus. The terms are so overused that they’re pretty much bereft of any genuine meaning. “Activist judges” translates to “I’m a socially conservative knob and I really, really dislike that decision” nowadays.

But the terms do have their effect, even on judges. The majority opinion pretty much screams “we are not activists” from very early on. Such defensive legal writing is bound to have some effect on the content of court opinions.

Justice Corrigan begins her dissent, all in all a fine piece of work, by noting her personal preference for the result reached by the majority. That too says, “I am not an activist.” Justice Baxter’s dissent backhandedly calls the majority decision activist when he notes that “in ten, fifteen, or twenty years, an activist court might . . . rely on the majority’s analysis to conclude, on the basis of a perceived evolution in community values, that the laws prohibiting polygamous and incestuous marriages were no longer constitutionally justified[.]” (Baxter, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part, at 17.)

There was plenty of activism to go around here. An activist General Assembly twice voted to end the gay marriage ban legislatively. An activist governor twice nixed those efforts, thereby dumping the issue into the judiciary’s lap. Yesterday the Governator announced that he will abide by the decision and reiterated his position that he won’t support a constitutional amendment overturning the decision. At some level, then, Arnold understands the distinction between judges acting and judicial activism.

Effects of California’s Domestic Partner Legislation:

The California Supreme Court had a much more difficult job than the courts of other states. The majority describes the history of California’s domestic partner legislation on pages 36-47 of its opinion. From 1999 to 2007 the state legislature passed a series of domestic partner laws under which same sex couples have “the opportunity to enter into a domestic partnership and thereby obtain virtually all of the benefits and responsibilities afforded by California law to married opposite-sex couples.”

Contrast that with the laws of most other states, where gay couples are second class citizens by virtue of the facts that (1) they’re excluded from marriage and (2) only marriage can provide access to the goodie bag of couple-related legal benefits. Take, for instance, the Iowa gay marriage decision Varnum v. Brien, previously discussed here. The Iowa trial court judge was able to strike a blow for civil rights based largely on the fact that state law excludes gay couples from the legal benefits available to straight couples through marriage.

Here, though, California’s comprehensive domestic partner legislation pretty much precluded the plaintiffs from arguing availability of benefits. The Supreme Court determined that the domestic partner laws were directly relevant to determining the constitutionality of the statutes limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. The issue, in essence, was whether maintaining one system (marriage) for straight couples and a “separate but equal” system for gay couples (domestic partnership) offended the state constitution.

Interestingly enough, the majority disclaimed the idea that the existence of the domestic partner laws made the plaintiffs’ job more difficult:

If a comprehensive domestic partnership law had not been enacted in California, and if plaintiffs had brought a constitutional challenge to the California marriage statutes and our court had concluded that those statutes were unconstitutional because they did not afford same-sex couples rights and benefits equal to those available to opposite-sex couples under the marriage statutes, we might well have further concluded — as other state courts have determined in similar situations — that the appropriate disposition would be to direct the Legislature to provide equal treatment to same-sex couples, leaving to the Legislature, in the first instance, the decision whether to provide such treatment by a revision of the marriage statutes or by the enactment of a comprehensive domestic partnership or civil union law.

(Maj. Op. at 47, n.27.) Because of the domestic partner laws, the court didn’t have that option; it had to address the merits of the plaintiffs’ constitutional challenge. Id. (because of “domestic partnership . . . grant[ing] to same-sex couples virtually all of the substantive legal rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples, plaintiffs have been relieved of the burden of successfully prosecuting a constitutional challenge to obtain those substantive rights and benefits.”).

I find that rationale more than a little unconvincing. Prosecuting a constitutional challenge based solely on dignitary harms is invariably more difficult than prosecuting a constitutional challenge based on denial of substantive rights and benefits to a specific class of people. Of course, that only makes the plaintiffs’ win in this case all the more impressive.

Vexatious civil litigant extorts settlement; quasi-competent lawyer tapped to pick new federal judges

We all remember Robert Bork. President Reagan nominated the extremist loon to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987, but the nomination failed spectacularly in the U.S. Senate. There was much chest-thumping among various liberal groups over that development, but the person most directly responsible for the demise of Bork’s nomination was Republican Senator Arlen Specter, who meticulously and with surgical precision disemboweled Bork during his testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bork hates personal injury litigation. As discussed briefly here, he hates PI litigation so much that “originalism” flies right out the goddamn window when the topic turns to federal tort “reform” legislation.

On June 6, 2006, Bork was slated to give a speech at the hoity-toity Yale Club in New York City. While attempting to mount the dais, Bork fell backward and sustained injury to his left leg and head.

One might expect such a staunch tort “reformer” to cowboy up and deal with his injuries on his own, as God intended. But no! Bork filed a premises liability action against the Yale Club on June 6, 2007 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

I had no problem with Bork seeking redress through the civil justice system. Every injured person should have access to courts of law, even flaming hypocritical toilet bugs like Robert Bork. But the complaint — the document filed to initiate the lawsuit — was a whole ‘nother bundle of laundry.

Bork’s lead counsel was Randy M. Mastro, former NYC Deputy Mayor and now a partner at the silk stocking law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP. I’m sure Mr. Mastro does brilliant work when it comes to arranging multi-billion dollar deals for importation and exportation of silk top hats and monocles, but he doesn’t know shit from shinola when it comes to the nuts and bolts of drafting a premises liability complaint.

Tort “reform” advocate Ted Frank called the complaint “embarrassingly silly.” Eric Turkewitz, an attorney who handles personal injury cases in New York for a living, provided a detailed analysis of the many, many drafting and lawyering errors associated with Mr. Mastro’s complaint here. Especially hysterical were the demands for attorney fees and prejudgment interest, neither of which New York law allows. Mr. Turkewitz repeated the favor here when Mastro filed an amended complaint fixing some but by no means all the deficiencies.

But hey, Bork is a conservative icon and Mastro is a playa in the world of New York politics. It’s self-evidently true that such people warrant better treatment than you or I. Accordingly, the Yale Club’s insurer settled Bork’s lawsuit last week. The terms, including the settlement amount, are confidential.

And what of the lawyer who so buffoonishly bollixed things? He’s now a member of John “Walnuts” McCain’s “Justice Advisory Committee“. He’ll be helping select federal judges in the event Walnuts gets to be our next president.

Edwards to endorse Obama

CNN tells us that John Edwards, my first choice for Democratic presidential nominee, will endorse Barack Obama today during a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Personally, I welcome any happening that might bring us closer to the demise of Clinton’s candidacy. I’m still a bit disappointed that Edwards won’t be our next president, but he’d make a damn fine attorney general. *Nudge nudge, wink wink, say n’more say n’more*

Update: There’s video of the Edwards endorsement here courtesy of Crooks and Liars.