Patterico's Pontifications


DeLay’s Talk About Impeaching Judges Is Outrageous and Wrong

Filed under: Politics,Schiavo — Patterico @ 6:28 pm

Tom DeLay has crossed the line by talking about the possibility of impeaching judges who ruled against Terri Schiavo’s parents.

Congressman DeLay and others argue that the federal courts simply ignored Congress’s intent that there be a new evidentiary hearing. But after reading the numerous opinions issued in this case, my view is that this argument doesn’t fly. The law required the federal courts to determine whether Terri Schiavo had been deprived of any federal rights. Absent the violation of a federal right, the law didn’t require the federal courts to re-determine whether Florida had properly applied state law in adjudicating the Schiavo dispute.

DeLay and other appear to argue that the clear intent of the law was that the courts determine the entire case anew. But that wasn’t what the law said. Courts discern intent primarily from the plain language of the statute that is passed — and the plain language of this statute required a violation of Terri Schiavo’s federal rights before the federal courts could take any action.

I have argued (in the postscript to this post) that the limited nature of the law is what made it appropriate and constitutional. I would have had a very different opinion if I thought the law passed by Congress had required the federal courts to simply second-guess the Florida courts’ application of state law issues. But the law didn’t do that. Terri Schiavo’s federal rights were the only thing the federal courts were authorized to consider. Nothing more.

And the federal courts did exactly that, ruling that Schiavo’s federal rights were not violated.

These federal judges were not entitled to read the law in a manner different than it was written. Nor were they authorized to start making up Constitutional rights that don’t exist. As conservatives, we don’t want our judges to engage in that sort of behavior.

This doesn’t mean that I am comfortable with the federal courts’ decision in every respect. I had two specific and related problems with the way that the courts ruled: 1) the case was decided with an unseemly haste that would never pass muster in a death penalty appeal; and 2) I thought Judge Tjoflat (the dissenting judge in the denial of en banc review) articulated a plausible potential federal constitutional law violation: the failure of the state courts to properly apply a “clear and convincing” standard — a standard that may arguably be required under the federal Constitution.

But, ultimately, this is an argument that might well be a loser. The existence of the argument provides no support for the view that the federal courts’ decisions were so outrageous that the judges deserve to be impeached.

I had many problems with the way that the Schiavo case was decided in the Florida courts. I have articulated some specific problems with the judge’s factfinding. But ultimately, my problem is one of process: I simply don’t think that a life-or-death decision should be made by a single probate judge according to a “clear and convincing” standard. It should be made by a jury according to a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard — at least in the absence of a prior written directive, or agreement among the patient’s close family members concerning the patient’s wishes. The specific problems with the Florida courts’ handling of the case, to me, simply point up the need for these stricter procedures.

But my suggestions, while I think they are good ones, are apparently not required by the Constitution or the laws of the United States. And it is a painful truth, though one not widely understood, that not every good idea is constitutionally required.

What happened to Terri Schiavo today was wrong. The process for deciding cases like hers is flawed. So let’s work to pass a good law in this area that can benefit future people in Terri Schiavo’s position. But let’s shelve the talk about impeaching judges. That’s pure political opportunism. If Tom DeLay had any valid argument that he had acted on principle, that argument is now dead.

P.S. Not that I am surprised. I said previously that I don’t like DeLay — even as I defended him against the outrageous decision by the L.A. Times to print a front-page story about the death of DeLay’s father.

Next Time Tell Us What You Got Right — It’ll Take Less Time

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 5:23 pm

A correction in today’s L.A. Times:

Cal State Chico — An article in Tuesday’s California section about hazing at Cal State Chico mistakenly said that a pledge to a fraternity at nearby Butte Community College died of alcohol poisoning. He did not die but was hospitalized. The article also said Chico has a population of 35,000; according to the city, the population is 71,317. In addition, University President Paul Zingg was quoted saying the school would shut down its Greek system if problems with hazing did not abate. Zingg made his comments to a group of 850 students and others, and his remarks were quoted in the local media. He did not speak with The Times. Also, although the article characterized the school as being well-known for its basketball program, its winning baseball program may be best known outside campus.

Imagine how many mistakes there would have been if the article hadn’t been reviewed by experienced Times editors.

Terri Schiavo Dies

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 9:08 am

Terri Schiavo has died.

The controversy over her death will no doubt live on.

May she rest in peace.

LAPD Frees Officers to Contact Immigration Officials

Filed under: Immigration — Patterico @ 7:42 am

The Los Angeles Times reports that the LAPD is loosening restrictions on its officers’ ability to contact federal immigration officials, when officers suspect that felons have also committed immigration violations. This is a welcome move, which should empower LAPD to take more aggressive measures towards criminal street gangs filled with illegal immigrants.



Those Experienced Times Editors

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 10:16 pm

As I noted the other day, the L.A. Times‘s David Shaw recently had a silly article about bloggers. In that piece, he said:

When I or virtually any other mainstream journalist writes something, it goes through several filters before the reader sees it. At least four experienced Times editors will have examined this column, for example. They will have checked it for accuracy, fairness, grammar, taste and libel, among other things.

Remember that quote. I’ll probably be alluding to it several times throughout the course of this year.

In an unrelated point, I was perusing the corrections today when I noticed this gem:

Restaurant review — In last week’s Food section, the restaurant review listed Covina as an example of towns that are not in the San Gabriel Valley. Covina is in the San Gabriel Valley.

See, I’m just a blogger, but I could give you a million examples of towns that are not in the San Gabriel Valley — and I’d get them all right. Watch, as I list just five of them: San Francisco. Modesto. Sacramento. Eureka. San Diego.

I just did that without the benefit of four experienced Times editors. Impressed?

Instapundit on the Schiavo Case

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 9:00 pm

Instapundit says of the Schiavo case:

[T]his is one of those episodes that seems to bring out the worst in people. That’s why I didn’t really want to weigh in to begin with — I knew that I was unlikely to persuade anyone, because very few people seem to care about the facts, or about arguments.

(My emphasis.)

It does not seem to me a stretch to interpret this as saying: Those who disagree with me don’t care about the facts or rational argument.

I hope (and assume) that’s not what Glenn meant. After all, some of us do care about the facts and valid argumentation — we just disagree with Glenn on this issue.

UPDATE: Glenn e-mails to say that’s not what he meant. But it sounds like he is taking a lot of nasty abuse on this issue, which is unfortunate. I know full well that people on the right can be as nasty as those on the left when you disagree with them about an emotional issue.

UPDATE x2: Glenn has updated his post to clarify. He also gives an example of the sort of e-mail he has been getting. Some people have e-mailed him to say they hope that his wife suffers Terri Schiavo’s fate. Disgusting. It just goes to show you that there are totally classless people on both sides of the aisle.

Schiavo FAQ

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 7:37 pm

John Hawkins has a well-researched and balanced set of FAQ on the Schiavo case.

Another Legal Defeat for the Schindlers

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 6:42 pm

As you have probably heard, the 11th Circuit denied an en banc rehearing. You can read the order here.

I think Judge Tjoflat’s dissent is quite good, in particular where he notes that the appellate court could not possibly have conducted the necessary thorough review in the limited time available. Indeed, the 11th Circuit essentially admits that it didn’t even try, dragging out the old principle that “It is not the role of an appellate court to second-guess credibility determinations.” (It was arguably the role of the District Court in this case to do so, but that point isn’t really addressed.)

If courts were to behave this way in a death penalty appeal, there would be howls of outrage from the left from coast to coast — and rightly so. But as soon as the appellant raises claims that the left doesn’t like, many leftists are perfectly happy to have a court shrug off the analysis with the typical disdain appellate courts have for detailed factual analysis.

UPDATE: By the way, I feel the same way about the appellate courts’ ability to correct injustices in death penalty cases:

Innocents who have been released from Death Row have almost never gained their freedom through the orderly workings of the system. In many cases, the defendant’s innocence has been established due to the efforts of activists who have no official role in the criminal justice system. The fact that innocents have left Death Row is no tribute to the criminal justice system.

The simple fact is that the appellate process is not a great place for correcting incorrect factual findings by the trial court.

$100,000 Challenge

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 6:26 pm

Interesting challenge from CodeBlueBlog. He will show any neurologist 100 CAT scans of brains, and ask them to determine whether the patients in question are PVS. If they get at least 60 of 100 right, they will win $100,000.

To play, you need only put up $25,000.

All of you commenters who say Terri Schiavo’s CAT scan was conclusive proof that she is PVS — round up your neurologist and go play CodeBlueBlog’s game. If you’re right, it’s easy money.

(Via Xrlq.)

LAPD Shoots Man Armed with Nothing But a 2000-Pound Car

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 6:31 am

A headline in today’s L.A. Times reads: Police Shoot Unarmed Suspect. It’s another shooting of a guy who backed towards police in a car. So now we’ll have to hear about that issue again.

One lucky thing: the suspect apparently wasn’t black. Preliminary indications are that this suspect was Hispanic:

Jose de Leon, who lives down the block from Carter, said the sounds of four or five shots awakened him. Then he heard a voice from a helicopter loudspeaker.

“I heard a man’s voice saying in Spanish, ‘Get down with your hands on your head. Get out of the car,’ ” he said.

The guy LAPD killed in Santa Monica under similar circumstances, Nicholas Hans Killinger, was white. We never heard anything about his race; it was never offered as a reason officers shot him. In fact, you probably didn’t even know his name.

Devin Brown was black — and that’s all we heard about.

The fact that this suspect was apparently Hispanic means we’ll probably get some focus on his ethnicity. But — unlike the L.A. Times‘s treatment of the Devin Brown case — we probably won’t have story after story pounding the “racism” issue into our skulls over this incident.

Thank goodness for small favors, eh?

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