Patterico's Pontifications


My Application for the Position of Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Is on File

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,General,Judiciary,Law,Race — Patterico @ 8:21 pm

There’s a reason for that smug smile I have on my face. I just read the Supreme Court’s decision in the forced integration cases, and I’m feeling like Carnac once again. Earlier this week, I told you:

The smart money says that it will be 5-4 rejecting the race-based assignment plans, with Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority. Anything else will come as a shock. The interesting thing will be to see how the majority characterizes the holding of Brown v. Board of Education.

In my post from December 2006, written the day of the oral arguments in this case, I described my view of these cases — and of the proper way of viewing the holding in Brown — as follows:

[N]obody is saying that government may once again institute forced segregation of schools as a matter of state policy. The issue is whether government may institute forced integration of schools as a matter of state policy. If not done to remedy a specific and demonstrated past history of discrimination, this would arguably violate the very idea behind Brown: that the state may not assign pupils to different schools on the basis of race, even if the schools are arguably similar in quality.

Now let’s read from Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion, paying special attention to the parts I have bolded (and comparing them to the bolded quote immediately above):

As counsel who appeared before this Court for the plaintiffs in Brown put it: “We have one fundamental contention which we will seek to develop in the course of this argument, and that contention is that no State has any authority under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to use race as a factor in affording educational opportunities among its citizens.” Tr. of Oral Arg. in Brown I, p.7 (Robert L. Carter, Dec. 9, 1952). There is no ambiguity in that statement. And it was that position that prevailed in this Court, which emphasized in its remedial opinion that what was “[a]t stake is the personal interest of the plaintiffs in admission to public schools as soon as practicable on a nondiscriminatory basis,” and what was required was “determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis.” Brown II, supra, at 300–301 (emphasis added). What do the racial classifications do in these cases, if not determine admission to a public school on a racial basis?

Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again — even for very different reasons. For schools that never segregated on the basis of race, such as Seattle, or that have removed the vestiges of past segregation, such as Jefferson County, the way “to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,” Brown II, 349 U.S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.

That sounds a lot like saying: “If not done to remedy a specific and demonstrated past history of discrimination, [forced integration] would arguably violate the very idea behind Brown: that the state may not assign pupils to different schools on the basis of race, even if the schools are arguably similar in quality.”

So, as I say in the post title, I’m available if a Supreme Court spot opens up. Only problem is, that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. Do you think Hillary will consider appointing me?

P.S. If you’re interested in this issue, I insist that you watch this fascinating Nightline segment with Jan Crawford Greenburg, which is supplemented by this article by her and Howard Rosenberg.

P.P.S. I should make clear that the quoted language is from a portion of the opinion that is only a plurality. The commendable principles articulated above do not enjoy the support of the eternally squishy Anthony Kennedy.

The Incrementalism of the Roberts Court

Filed under: Court Decisions,General,Judiciary — Patterico @ 5:30 pm

It’s Greenburg vs. Greenhouse.

God Himself Appears in Human Form

Filed under: Crime,General,Media Bias,Morons — Patterico @ 5:59 am

You non-religious types must be feeling pretty stupid right about now. Because if you believe this AFP article, it appears that God Himself has reappeared in the world in human form — and it turns out that He is a statistics professor at Northwestern University.

US juries get verdict wrong in one of six cases: study

So much for US justice: juries get the verdict wrong in one out of six criminal cases and judges don’t do much better, a new study has found.

And when they make those mistakes, both judges and juries are far more likely to send an innocent person to jail than to let a guilty person go free, according to an upcoming study out of Northwestern University.

“Those are really shocking numbers,” said Jack Heinz, a law professor at Northwestern who reviewed the research of his colleague Bruce Spencer, a professor in the statistics department.

The shocking part to me is why we rely on the criminal justice system to settle factual disputes to begin with, when all the answers are already known by Northwestern statistics professor Bruce Spencer.

Also known as “God Himself.”

Think of the waste involved. In any given trial, at least 12 people (and usually two alternates) listen to evidence for days, and spend hours (often days) deliberating over a verdict. When they could have simply asked someone who knows the answer, with total, scientific certainty: Northwestern statistics professor Bruce Spencer.

Let’s review his “shocking” findings, as related by this completely unquestioning AFP article:

The study, which looked at 290 non-capital criminal cases in four major cities from 2000 to 2001, is the first to examine the accuracy of modern juries and judges in the United States.

It found that judges were mistaken in their verdicts in 12 percent of the cases while juries were wrong 17 percent of the time.

More troubling was that juries sent 25 percent of innocent people to jail while the innocent had a 37 percent chance of being wrongfully convicted by a judge.

And just how does some statistics professor sitting in his office know whether the people in these cases were truly guilty or innocent?

Spencer’s study does not examine why the mistakes were made or which cases ought to be overturned.

Instead, he determined the probability that a mistake was made by looking at how often judges disagreed with the jury’s verdict.

“If they disagree they can’t both be right,” he explained.

Spencer found an agreement rate of just 77 percent, which means a lot of mistakes were being made.

Oooookayyyy . . . I understand that if a judge disagrees with the jury’s verdict, the judge and jury can’t both be right. But just how, exactly, does this professor determine who was right, in order to come up with the “shocking” statistics mentioned above?

The unquestioning functionary who wrote this story seems to have no interest in exploring that question, or showing any of that vaunted journalistic skepticism we hear so much about. The conclusion fits the journalist’s preferred storyline. File it under “Too Good to Check.”

Don’t try to tell me that maybe the professor had some objective criteria to go on — like in each of the cases there were DNA results to show who did it. Even if that’s true, it merely shows that the sample is not reflective of criminal trials as a whole.

I haven’t seen the study itself, but I’m calling bullshit. There is, quite simply, no way that some statistics professor sitting in his office can know the true guilt or innocence of 290 criminal defendants. That’s why we have a system, pal — because there is no way for any one self-appointed individual to be the Sole Arbiter of who’s guilty and who’s not.

Unless, of course, Bruce Spencer really is God Himself, returned to Earth in human form. But if that’s really the case, then the End of the World is nigh — meaning we have a lot more to worry about than the accuracy of our criminal justice system.

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