Patterico's Pontifications

11/19/2010

Breaking: Federal Judge Grants Injunction to Miller Campaign (Update: Analysis of the Ruling)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 6:13 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; send your tips here.]

Now, I always say that when you are reading about legal issues in the news, you should take it all with a grain of salt.  Very often reporters understand so little about the law, they have no idea what is really going on.  I don’t mean there is an ideological bent, necessarily, but they literally lack the expertise to talk about it.  It would be like a Teetotaler opining about the benefits of Alcohol mixed with Caffeine.  Crazy, I know…

But according to the Anchorage Daily News, Joe Miller is being granted a very unusual injunction.  Here, let me let them explain:

An Alaska federal judge ruled Friday that Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller’s challenge to the counting of write-in ballots raises “serious” legal issues but is a matter for a state, not federal, court to decide.

Yet in deferring to an Alaska state court for a final decision, U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline said he would grant a temporary injunction to halt official certification of the Nov. 2 election — an action Miller is seeking — so long as Miller takes his case to the state court by Monday.

Beistline’s unusual action was intended to “ensure that these serious state law issues are resolved prior to certification of the election,” the ruling said.

As they say read the whole thing.  I will wait until I can see the actual ruling before commenting, but stay tuned.

And in the meantime, Katrina Trinko makes a compelling case that the results in the election are questionable.

Update: I have found the ruling, here via newsminer, whatever the hell that is.

The short version is that the federal judge has decided to put the federal element of the case on hold.  He has required the Miller campaign to file in state court, and seek relief there, starting Monday.  The federal judge felt uncomfortable interpreting state law on the issue of perfect spelling that Patterico has discussed several times (here and here), so he figured this was the best way to let the state courts have the first crack at the interpretation of state law.  Since the federal case is merely stayed, if there is a serious federal question raised by the results of those state court decisions, then the federal judge can step right back in.

It’s interesting, because it is literally the mirror opposite of what happened in the Oklahoma anti-Sharia amendment case I wrote about last week.  There, the district court took it upon itself to expansively interpret the Oklahoma amendment in a manner that I didn’t believe to be warranted by its plain text, and then having interpreted it so broadly, then proceeded to declare that this interpretation was unconstitutional.  As I wrote there:

another problem… is that this federal court is seeking to interpret a proposed provision of the state constitution.  Shouldn’t the courts just let the state courts figure out what the amendment means, first, and then let people challenge whether that amendment, as interpreted, is unconstitutional?  In other words, the plaintiff belongs in state court, not federal court.

So this decision in the Miller case strikes me as the right approach.  The state courts are experts in their state legal cultures, and thus more likely to be interpret state laws (or constitutions) correctly.  And yet it still reserves both parties’ ability to preserve their rights under federal law, by a federal court, all while putting the state courts on notice that the federal court is keeping an eye on things.

It is worth noting also that consistent with a prior ruling he still hasn’t stopped the count, but has only enjoined the certification, which Patterico (and I) found troubling.

As for the ultimate issue, there are some who have argued that this language in Alaska’s statutes…

A vote for a write-in candidate, other than a write-in vote for governor and lieutenant governor, shall be counted if the oval is filled in for that candidate and if the name, as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided.

…does imply that the full name has to be spelled correctly but, the argument goes, it also implies that you can write the last name with imperfect spelling and so long as voter intent is clear, it would still count.  There is some grammatical support because the structure of the sentence does suggest that the phrase “as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy” only modifies the term “name” but not “last name.”

But honestly I don’t think that is a correct interpretation.  I mean by that approach, if a person writes “Murkowsky” that becomes a vote for Murkowski.  But if they write “Lisa Murkowsky” suddenly it doesn’t count?  That is an absurd rule, and one very important principle in statutory interpretation is that the courts will generally try to avoid absurd results.  I mean they won’t take that principle too far—if a statute is clearly written in an absurd fashion, the court will let it apply absurdly (presuming there is no constitutional problem).  But I believe here, this canon of interpretation would work in Miller’s favor.

Anyway, an interesting development on a Friday night, and we will surely keep track of this as it develops.

Update (II): Misidentified the newspaper.  Thanks AD.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

(Stupid) TSA Story of the Day

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 1:47 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

Whatever one thinks of the TSA, it’s really hard to defend this first hand account at Red State just on a basic principle of intelligence.  Some soldiers were returning to America from Afghanistan.  They had to stop over in Ireland and deplane.  The author, a soldier himself, explains a key detail:

It’s probably important to mention that we were ALL carrying weapons. Everyone was carrying an M4 Carbine (rifle) and some, like me, were also carrying an M9 pistol. Oh, and our gunners had M-240B machine guns. Of course, the weapons weren’t loaded. And we had been cleared of all ammo well before we even got to customs at Baghram, then AGAIN at customs.

For reference purposes, this is what a M-240B looks like, according to wikipedia:

So they go to get back on the plane, and complete stupidity breaks out.

So we’re in line, going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they’re going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy: You can’t take those on the plane.

Soldier: What? I’ve had them since we left country.

TSA Guy: You’re not suppose to have them.

Soldier: Why?

TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I’m allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy: Yeah but you can’t use it to take over the plane. You don’t have bullets.

Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Me: Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers so we can get the f**k out of here. I’ll buy you a new set.

Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security]

Gosh those government guys are soooo smart, let’s have them run healthcare!

Update: In  Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal, a game involving ridiculous weapons and lots of humor, at one point, they go to a spaceport and hear this on the PA system: “Welcome to the Zeldrin Starport. Please note that Thermonuclear weapons, and nail clippers are now prohibited on all flights.”  Which proves it is very hard to parody airport security.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Sockpuppet Friday–the Award Winning Edition!!!

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 8:46 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.]

As usual, you are positively encouraged to engage in sock puppetry in this thread.  The usual rules apply.

Please, be sure to switch back to your regular handle when commenting on other threads.  I have made that mistake myself, alot.

And remember: the worst sin you can commit on this thread is not being funny.

And I thought I would share with you the time when my sock puppetry actually won an award.  A few months back IMAO ran a contest asking readers to identify “Fred’s Best Line”—meaning Fred Thompson.  If you came up with the best line, you got a signed copy of his new book:

Contest runs 3 days, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. You put in the comments what you think is Fred’s best line. 3 winners are selected from all submissions posted before Midnight on Friday. Winners announced Monday. Prizes are awarded to said winners (assuming they had the foresight to include a working email with their comment and I can get ahold of them to get a mailing address).

“Fred’s best line” means any quote, from any of Fred’s TV shows, movies, his radio show, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter, etc. that you think totally rocks.

But, they explained, contestants really didn’t have to come up with real quotes:

Now, IMAO is not some sort of fact-stickler news organization like CNN or MSNBC, so it’s not like anybody’s going to actually check your quote to see if it’s real. So if you just completely make something up that kinda sounds like something Fred would say, like “If these Democrats don’t stop passing these ridiculous spending bills, I’m gonna grab a copy of the Constitution and beat ‘em sensible with it,” who am I to question its truthiness?

And as the contest went on, they announced that Thompson himself would be picking the winners.  And here is where they announced the winners.  And what do you know, who was listed?  “A.W.” which is the online name I used to use all the time (and still sporadically use out of sheer laziness) before I came out with my real name during the Everyone Draw Mohammed controversy.  The winning “truthy” quote had Thompson saying:

So let me get this straight. You want me to play essentially myself, a man with a thick Tennessee accent and real conservative values — not the moderately liberal values that passes for ‘conservative’ in New York — and you want this character to be the elected D.A. of New York City?

Of course I offered a way to make all of these technically real Fred Thompson quotes:

Also I will point out that even if a quote is made up, if Fred Thompson reads the quote out loud then technically you CAN say he said it. So… loophole!

Sadly, there is no prize for good sockpuppetry on this thread, except the warm feeling of knowing you made someone laugh.  Or cry.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing, the award winning sock puppeteer!]

House Ethics Committee Recommends a Very Severe Slap on the Wrist for Rangel

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 6:27 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; send your tips here.]

Via The Hill we learn that:

The House ethics committee recommended on Thursday by a vote of 9-1 that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) be formally censured by the full House for 11 counts of violating ethics rules.

The panel also ordered Rangel to pay restitution of any unpaid taxes.

Mmm, yeah, so basically a very firm talking to.  There might even be a wagging of the finger involved.  Color me unimpressed.  Of course just like when Bill Clinton was censured, the press tries to pretend this is a big, big deal:

Short of expulsion, censure is the most serious sanction the ethics panel can recommend. Only 22 House members have been censured in the history of the chamber.

Really, that is the only two choices we have?  Throwing him out or giving him a really stern talking to?  I mean, sure, a sufficiently stern talking to might work if the person is capable of shame…  Still, why can’t they come up with some medium level of punishment?  You know, like a pay cut.  Or a crappier office.  Or crappier committee assignments.  Something.  Why can’t that be added to the arsenal of punishments, so the choice isn’t simply either 1) invalidate the will of the people of his district (they did elect him after all), or 2) letting him off with virtually nothing.

Of course the Hill article literally doesn’t mention what he did wrong until the very end, and then weirdly puts the charges in order from least offensive to most offensive:

(more…)


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