Archive for the ‘Alabama News’ category

News Dump

February 22, 2007

Lots of interesting stuff in the news today, but nothing  inspired me to write a detailed post. So here’s a summary.

Alabama’s circuit judges – the folks who actually hear cases – support Constitutional reform. Darn liberals.

You recall the story about Troy King asking Roy Johnson – a person Troy King’s office was investigating – about grants for a victim’s advocacy group King supports? Well, the head of the group testified before a grand jury yesterday. Make of that what you will.

You remember that couple from high school or college that was always breaking up and then getting together again? Everyone but them realized they were no good for each other, and they’d fight like crazy, but then come Friday night, there they were. That’s kind of what the whole Jefferson County Commission-BJCC expansion thing reminds me of. It looks like they’re together again. For now.

This story is too depressing to read.

I’m as strict a separationist as you are ever likely to meet, at least in Alabama. But if we’re going to incorporate religious beliefs into our laws, how about the concept of indulgences? At least suspend for Mardi Gras all laws concerning alcohol use, indecent exposure, and disorderly conduct.

We all want to lock ’em up, but no-one wants to pay the bill.

And finally, Jeff Sessions is working to send more money to Alabama’s schools. I often slam ‘ol Beauregard, but I’ll give him credit for this one. Truly, this is self-sacrificing public service at it’s finest, as one more person who can read is one less person who will vote for Jeff Sessions.

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School Integration Cases

December 5, 2006

The question presented to the court is, basically, whether in order to integrate a public school, school officials can select students based in part on the student’s race. Thus far, it looks like the smart money is on the Seattle and Louisville school districts losing. So it will soon not only be unconstitutional to segregate students on the basis of race but also unconstitutional to do anything about existing segregation. Interesting.

Local reactions:

Three local systems, Decatur and Lawrence and Limestone counties, are under federal desegregation orders. Each works under plans aimed at making their schools more diverse.

Decatur Superintendent Sam Houston said the difference in Louisville and Seattle cases and the local cases are those two cities achieved “unitary status,” a term showing that they no longer operate under a federal court order.

“I’m not a lawyer,” Houston said. “But on the surface, it doesn’t appear our situations are the same.”

He’s probably right, for now. The new rule should not apply to districts that have yet to remedy their own historical de jure segregation. But what the cases will mean is that when the school achieves unitary status, it will probably have to stop doing everything it did to achieve that status. That is the situation in the Louisville system. What they are doing now is what they did when they were under a consent decree. But there is no more decree. So Scotus is about to tell them to quit what they are doing. Of course, what that holding will mean for Louisville and for the Alabama districts is an immediate return to the status quo ante: segregated schools.

In addition to the fascinating substance and odd impact, the case provides a test for orginalists:

The problem is that it’s almost impossible to justify striking down affirmative action programs in “originalist” terms, and the Supreme Court’s purportedly “originalist” judges have never bothered to try. If you look at the relevant jurisprudence of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, you’ll see ahistorical assertions that the language of the 14th Amendment prohibits all racial classifications along with powerful policy arguments  against the practice, but no attempt to prove that the 14th Amendment was understood at the time of its ratification to proscribe racial classifications intended to alleviate past discrimination. And the reason for this is obvious: it is implausible in the extreme to argue that, at the time of the Reconstruction Congress, the equal protection clause was generally understood to prohibit all racial classifications.

While it’s not strictly accurate to say that you can’t defend the Thomas/Scalia position on state racial classifications in “originalist” terms, you can do so only by defining constitutional principles at such a high level of abstraction that “originalism” is essentially devoid of content. If this is what originalism means, then William Brennan can be considered an originalist, Roe v. Wade is perfectly defensible in originalist terms, etc. etc.

What? You mean Scalia and Thomas are nothing more than results oriented hacks? Those are fighting words! Publius at Legal Fiction calls this “Originalism’s Ladder.”

Plenty Of Legal News This Morning

October 3, 2006

Scrushelman’s trial is almost finished, all that’s left is a ruling on their allegations of juror misconduct.

Yet another conviction of a JeffCo sewer official for corruption and bribery. But it’s the EPA’s fault my sewer bill is more than my electric bill. Can you say “privitize?”

Two new judicial questionnaires are out today. I’ll have more on these later.

Finally, this isn’t legal but it is interesting. Apparently Shelby County residents are beginning to realize that unbridled development has a lot of unpleasant consequences. In particular, studies show that CR 41 through Dunnavant valley will soon be forced to serve about five times the amount of traffic it can reasonably handle.

Ward Tishler, a retired professor from the University of Montevallo, moved to Mt Laurel five years ago. He is president of Friends of Dunnavant Valley, a group dedicated to preserving the valley’s beauty and reducing reliance on automobiles for every errand.

Tishler’s group has worked for several years with county planners and EBSCO officials to plan the Dunnavant Valley Greenway. Eventually, he said, the greenway will connect the Soccer Blast, Mt. Laurel Elementary School and the Town of Mt Laurel. Residents can walk it, bike it or traverse it in a golf cart.

For Tishler and his neighbors in the Mt Laurel community, a loaf of bread, a prescription or a pack of garden seeds is just a pleasant stroll away. The “traditional neighborhood development” clusters homes around small businesses so that every errand does not require a car.

I hate to slam this guy, because I respect his ideals, but if he really cared about “preserving the valley’s beauty and reducing reliance on automobiles for every errand” he never would have moved to the prefabricated pseudo-community of Mt. Laurel. You know what was there ten years ago? Nothing. What’s there now? Your stupid “town” and all its cars that have to drive at least ten miles to get to the grocery store. If you really want to live in a community while also preserving the natural beauty of the state, you ought to live in the already existing cities rather than bulldozing your way into and over the unspoiled parts of the country. Of course, that would mean living near black people.

The War On Poverty And The War On Terror

August 31, 2006

More than one in six Alabamians lives in poverty, a rate higher than all but seven other states. To help poor people, Lucy Baxley has proposed raising the minimum wage. If you oppose her idea, therefore, you hate poor people.

The White House – parrotted by Spencer Bachus – is employing similar logic. The world has lots of terrorists. To get rid of them, George Bush invaded Iraq. If you oppose the war in Iraq, therefore, you love terrorists.  

No one questions the goals. The issue is whether or not the means proposed will help us reach those goals. Throwing around irrelevant personal insults isn’t going to help resolve that issue.  

No Child Left In Handcuffs

August 8, 2006

Alabama’s schools are in the news today:

An impressive 87 percent of Alabama’s 1,364 public schools met state standards in reading and math, according to the latest progress reports of test results released Monday.

The local districts were no exception

More area schools met all of their academic goals this year, according to progress reports released Monday by the state Department of Education.

Jefferson County had 92 percent of its schools to meet all of their goals, up from 57 percent last year.

In Shelby County, 97 percent of the schools met their goals this year, up from 70 percent last year.

Birmingham this year had 80 percent of its schools to meet their goals, compared to 40 percent last year.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, schools must make adequate yearly progress, or AYP, each year on state assessments. Schools must meet state goals in reading, math and additional indicators. If any school fails to make AYP two years in a row in the same component, it enters school improvement status.

All three districts met AYP this year.

You can get commentary here, and here. My opinion? The results mean teachers have improved at feeding random facts to students, and students have improved at regurgitating them on standardized tests. Does that mean anyone is getting a better education now than they would have five years ago? Who knows.

Anyway, the real reason for this post is a case recently decided by the Eleventh Circuit.

Basically, during gym class at a Tuscaloosa school, nine (9) year old Laquarius Gray was not properly performing her jumping jacks. The teacher – Coach Williams – told her to go stand near a wall. She responded with something like “I bust you in the head.” Coach Williams and another coach, being  grown men, in no way felt threatened by the nine (9) year old’s empty words:

Neither Coach Horton nor Coach Williams was afraid of Gray or believed that Gray would actually carry out her threat. When asked whether he was “ever afraid that [Gray] would commit an act of violence towards [him] or Ms. Horton,” Coach Williams replied, “No, sir.” Similarly, Coach Horton replied “No,’ when asked if she was “ever afraid that Ms. Gray would physically assault you or another student?” When asked, “[W]hen Ms. Gray told Coach Williams that she was going to bust him in the head she’s not actually physically capable of doing that, is she,” Coach Horton agreed. Coach Horton planned to talk with Gray about the incident and give her a warning. Coach Horton testified that she would not have been required to write Gray up, give Gray detention, or send her to the principal’s office “because it wasn’t that major.”

So that was it right?  Wrong. Enter the school resource officer: Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputy Antonio Bostic. He decided to teach the nine (9) year old girl some respect:

Deputy Bostic told Gray to turn around, pulled her hands behind her back and put Gray in handcuffs. Deputy Bostic tightened the handcuffs to the point that they caused Gray pain. Deputy Bostic told Gray, “[T]his is how it feels when you break the law,” and “[T]his is how it feels to be in jail.” Gray began to cry. Gray stood with the handcuffs on for not less than five minutes, with Deputy Bostic standing behind her.

In discovery responses, Deputy Bostic averred that he detained and handcuffed Gray “to impress upon her the serious nature of committing crimes that can lead to arrest, detention or incarceration” and “to help persuade her to rid herself of her disrespectful attitude.” Deputy Bostic’s discovery responses also stated that he “did not feel the need to apologize to LaQuarius Gray for telling her that she committed a misdemeanor in my presence and showing her what would happen if a less generous officer than I were to arrest her for her actions.”

I am frigtened for all residents of Tuscaloosa County if Deputy Bostic is considered lenient. A nine year old girl – 9!! – smarts off to her teacher before she obeys his command. The remark is so innocuous that the teacher disregards it. Yet this guy slaps the cuffs on her and accuses her of criminal activity. Never mind his disregard of the Fourth Amendment, his actions show an extreme lack of good sense.

Thankfully, he is going to face a lawsuit for his irresponsible actions. The use of the cuffs violated the Fourth Amendment:

We likewise conclude that Deputy Bostic’s conduct in handcuffing Gray, a compliant, nine-year-old girl for the sole purpose of punishing her was an obvious violation of Gray’s Fourth Amendment rights. After making the comment, Gray had complied with her teachers’ and Deputy Bostic’s instructions. Indeed, one of the teachers had informed Deputy Bostic that she would handle the matter. In addition, Deputy Bostic’s purpose in handcuffing Gray was not to pursue an investigation to confirm or dispel his suspicions that Gray had committed a misdemeanor. Rather, Deputy Bostic’s purpose in handcuffing Gray was simply to punish her and teach her a lesson. Every reasonable officer would have known that handcuffing a compliant nine-year-old child for purely punitive purposes is unreasonable.

Here’s hoping that not only the reasonable officers, but officers like Deputy Bostic learn that lesson.

I Think I Prefer Cindy Sheehan’s Methods

August 8, 2006

He wasn’t desecrating the flag. Not intentionally, anyway:

A Hammondville man arrested for walking naked along a highway while waving an American flag said he did so to protest the war in Iraq.

Gerald Lynn Kelley, 52, who was charged with public lewdness in the July 30 incident, said he and his friends were watching a news broadcast about Iraq at his home and the conversation turned to the war, the Fort Payne Times-Journal reported in a story for Tuesday.

Kelley, who said he’s a Vietnam-era veteran, said that prompted a protest where he only wore a cowboy hat, boots and waved the American flag, the newspaper reported.

“My dad told me years ago if you’ve got a stubborn mule, you’ve got to hit him across the head with a 2-by-4 in order to get his attention,” Kelley said.

 

Overkill

July 26, 2006

Over two centuries ago, Sam Adams had this to say:

A standing Army, however necessary it may be at some times, is always dangerous to the Liberties of the People. Soldiers are apt to consider themselves as a Body distinct from the rest of the Citizens. They have their Arms always in their hands. Their Rules and their Discipline is severe. They soon become attachd to their officers and disposd to yeild implicit Obedience to their Commands. Such a Power should be watchd with a jealouse Eye.

I have a good Opinion of the principal officers of our Army. I esteem them as Patriots as well as Soldiers. But if this War continues, as it may for years yet to come, we know not who may succeed them. Men who have been long governd by military Laws, and inurd to military Customs and Habits, may lose the Spirit and Feeling of Citizens. And even Citizens, having been used to admire the Heroism which the Commanders of their own Armies have displayd, and to look up to them as their Saviours, may be prevaild upon to surrender to them those Rights, for the Protection of which against an Invader, they had employd & paid them.

For those reasons, this makes me nervous (H/T Radley Balko):

As the fighting continues overseas, some lessons from the Middle East conflict are hitting home right here in Alabama.  Members of the Montgomery Police Department SWAT team are in a five day counterterrorism school taught by a former Israeli servicemember. . . .

Montgomery officers say, if they can absorb the tactics of one of the world’s premier counterterrorism teams, they’ll learn to move faster and become smaller targets.  It’s an international lesson racing to the heart of Alabama crime fighters.  The Montgomery police say counterterrorism training has become essential for all law enforcement in the wake of 9-11. They say this school fills a real need in their department and the new techniques will be applied to everything they do.

For plenty of examples of SWAT teams destroying those rights ‘for the Protection of which against an Invader, [we] had employd & paid them’ check out this map of “isolated” incidents, as well as this report on the often tragic results of using para-military units to enforce the criminal law.