News Scan

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Protesters Plot for Trump Inauguration: Anti-Trump protesters have been reportedly planning to interrupt travel to the upcoming presidential inauguration by blocking traffic into the DC metro line, a potentially terrorist act with possible criminal implications. Adan Salazar at Info Wars reports that multiple groups of protesters are organizing to interrupt any and all traffic into the upcoming inauguration. The plan to form a series of blockades... "where we are going to try to blockade all the major ingress points in the city." holds to the potential to be considered a federal offense for participants under 18 USC 1992,according to Investigative journalist James O'Keefe. In addition, there have been reports of protest leaders encouraging the participants to engage in acts of violence against Trump supporters at the inauguration.  The scope of the planned protests are reported in this USA Today story.

Parolee Sweep Arrests 30: A sweep of active parolees was made Tuesday in Desert Springs CA, the results of which lead 30 parolees to be returned to incarceration for reasons ranging from possession of contraband, to criminal warrants, to  non-compliance with the terms of their parole. According to Patrick Edgell at CBS, the sweep began around 6:30 am and concluded at 2:30 pm, during which 30 individuals were "flash incarcerated" for a series of reasons. Chief Dale Mondary says "were doing with them flash incarceration, where they're sent back to state prison to remind them that if they fall out of compliance they're going back to prison," The Desert Springs police department is happy with the results of Tuesday's sweep and hopes to continue to make sweeps of this kind at their own discretion in the future.

Texas Police Officer Fatally Shot: A Little Elm Texas police officer was shot Tuesday after responding to reports of a man carrying a firearm in a residential area. Staff at USA today report that officers responded to the report around 3 pm on Tuesday where they encountered the gunman. Following an order to drop the weapon from police officers, the gunman opened fire and one officer was shot. Detective Jerry Walker lost his life in the exchange as did the gunman several hours later in a separate shootout with pursuing officers.


Treason? Not a Problem!

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Among the most astonishing and damaging security breaches in decades took place when then-Sergeant Bradley Manning (who now calls himself/herself "Chelsea") released massive amounts of classified national security information to Wikileaks. But, hey, we gotta have second chances!  Thus, the Hill reports:

President Obama on Tuesday commuted the prison sentence of former Army soldier Chelsea Manning, according to the White House. 

Manning was convicted in 2013 of leaking classified information about U.S. national security activities that were later disclosed by WikiLeaks.  The 35-year sentence Manning received was the longest ever imposed for a leak conviction. Manning has already served seven years of her sentence and will now be released on May 17, 2017. 

She was originally set to be released be released in 2045. 

Yup, getting your sentence chopped by 80% for grossly compromising national security while you're serving in the armed forces is just what the doctor ordered.

By any sane reckoning, this is a scandal that exponentially dwarfs the Marc Rich affair.  No wonder Obama waited until until about 70 hours before he exits the White House.

UPDATE:  I was quoted on this commutation in the up-to-the-minute journal, Lifezette, here.



News Scan

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Chicago: 39 Shootings Over MLK Weekend:  CBS Chicago reports that over this year's Martin Luther King weekend 10 people were killed and 29 were wounded in shootings across the city.  Most of the murders occurred in the west Chicago neighborhoods of Austin and Lawndale.  All of the murder victims were males.  Last year there were 32 shootings over the MLK weekend in Chicago resulting in 5 murders. 

Little Data to Support DOJ Report Slamming Chicago PD:   A widely publicized Department of Justice report released last Friday has accused the Chicago Police Department of exhibiting a "pattern of practice" of exercising unconstitutional excessive force.  The DOJ announced that it would investigate the Chicago PD following the 2015 release of a dashcam video of black teenager Laquan McDonald being shot and killed by a white police officer.  The problem with the DOJ report, according to Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald, is that it cites no data to support its findings.  "The reader never learns how many incidents of allegedly unconstitutional behavior the Justice Department found, nor how those incidents compare with the universe of police-civilian contacts conducted by the Chicago Police Department."  The piece also notes that just two years ago, academics were praising the Department as a model for others to emulate.     

Possible Brief Outages This Week

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C&C's host is moving us to a new server, which should result in better performance.  They have advised us to expect periods of downtime of 15-20 minutes this week as they make the transition.  These outages should occur after 4:00 p.m. EST.

News Scan

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Proposed Bill May Promote Deportation: A law has been proposed to institute penalties to countries that refuse to "take back" illegal immigrants who are captured in the U.S. and cleared for deportation back to their home countries. Malia Zimmerman at Fox News reports that a proposal by Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, the Criminal Alien Deportation Enforcement Act, would force such countries to take back their citizens or risk losing foreign aid and travel visa privileges. The proposed law was introduced in response to cases such as the 2015 murder of Casey Chadwick by Jean Jacques, an illegal Haitian immigrant ordered to be deported, who was released after his home country refused accept him.

Murderer Challenges Nebraska Death Penalty: The man convicted of the murder of the transgender individual who inspired the film "Boys Don't Cry" has joined in a suit with another death-row inmate to challenge the procedure or the Nebraska death penalty. According to Elizabeth Elizalde at the New York Daily News, A three-judge panel in 1996 sentenced John Lotter, now 45, to death for the 1993 murder of 21-year-old Teena Brandon and two others at a Nebraska farm. The transgender victim was raped by two men and murdered for reporting the sexual assault. Lotter's attorney argues that the defendants' fate should be decided by a jury and not by a panel of three judges, which is the current process for Nebraska capital cases.

Inauguration Security on High Alert for Lone-Wolf Terrorism: Law enforcement assigned to the upcoming presidential inauguration as well as other related events, are preparing themselves for the possibility of what is being called "Lone-wolf terrorism". Chris Strohm at Bloomberg reports  that due to the controversial nature of this election cycle, enforcement officials are having to prepare themselves for the possibility of "self-radicalized" individuals that may pose a threat to the Trump family as well as those that attend the inauguration. While to-date, no credible threats have been made to the inauguration or related events, security personnel are on high alert given the openness of the event and the plethora of safety concerns that it entails. 


DOJ Inspector General to Investigate Comey

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JIm Comey, a friend and former colleague of mine from the US Attorney's Office, will be investigated by the Justice Department's Inspector General.

Comey was in an impossible position in this election.  The very worthwhile tradition in the Department and the FBI is not to influence a campaign  --  something a free country must honor.  But, as Paul Mirengoff describes here, Comey was damned no matter what he did.

Comey would have conferred a big advantage on Trump if he had decided to recommend prosecuting Clinton -- a decision that, in my view, would easily have been defensible.

Comey would have conferred a big advantage on Clinton if, having decided against prosecuting her, he had declined to explain the basis of his decision to the American people and to Congress, and then refused to meet his promise to advise Congress if the FBI re-opened its investigation. A refusal to explain would have created the false impression that Clinton had not acted with great carelessness.

By taking a middle course -- not prosecuting but being transparent -- Comey probably came as close as he could have to not tilting the election in favor of either candidate. This doesn't mean he acted properly. It does suggest that, if one recognizes the full context of Comey's actions and the complexity of the situation, they are not really inconsistent with the "don't help or hurt a candidate" tradition he is accused of violating.

The U.S. Supreme Court held its conference today and took up 16 cases, 4 of which are criminal or habeas corpus cases.

Weaver v. Massachusetts, No. 16-240:  The defendant claims his lawyer was ineffective for failing to object to a closure of the courtroom during empanelment of the jury.  Violation of the right to a public trial, when considered directly, is a "structural" error that is reversible without a showing that it actually prejudiced the defendant, but an ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claim requires a showing of prejudice under Strickland v. Washington.  Does IAC require a showing of prejudice when the underlying error is "structural"?  I believe Strickland is clear enough that the answer is "yes," but there is enough of a circuit split for the high court to take it up.

Maslenjak v. United States, No. 16-309, involves a question of whether revocation of naturalized citizenship in a criminal proceeding for a false statement during naturalization requires a showing of materiality.

McWilliams v. Dunn, No. 16-5294, involves a question regarding the degree of independence needed for appointed mental health experts under Ake v. Oklahoma.

Davila v. Davis, No. 16-6219, involves the continuing fallout from Martinez v. Ryan and Trevino v. Thaler.  In Coleman v. Thompson in1992, the Supreme Court limited the damage from ineffective assistance claims to prevent a never-ending spiral of every lawyer to take up a case claiming that he should be allowed to raise a new issue because the previous lawyer was ineffective in not raising it.  Coleman drew the line at direct appeal.  Ineffective assistance at trial or on direct appeal could be "cause" for raising an issue defaulted in those proceedings, but from state collateral review onward a claim would be defaulted if not raised in the proper proceeding regardless of counsel's performance.  As with other procedural default rules, a strong showing of actual innocence was an exception.

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Georgia DA Seeks Death for Alleged Cop Killer: In Byron county GA, the district attorney intends to seek the death penalty for the suspected murderer of two Georgia police officers. Fox News reports that District Attorney David Cooke announced Thursday that his office will seek the death penalty against 57-year-old Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr. A grand jury indicted Elrod this week on the charges of aggravated assault and murder of Deputy Daryl Smallwood,39, and Sgt. Patrick Sondron, 41. The officers were reportedly responding to a call about the suspect making threats with a rifle when the officers were shot.

Indiana Murderer May Have Forfeited Review:  The Indiana Supreme Court is set to consider if a murderer's refusal to sign court documents for post-conviction relief will end further review of his case. Dan Carden at the NWI Times reports that Kevin Isom, 51, was convicted of the 2007 murders of his wife and two stepchildren and was given the death penalty for the crimes. After the state Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence on direct review, Isom refused to sign the required documents for post conviction (habeas corpus) review until he was given an attorney he likes.  The Superior Court ruled that if Isom would not sign, his right to further review was forfeited.  Isom's attorneys, apparently without his permission, have appealed that holding. The state's brief in the case is here

Parolee Charged With Murder After an Car Accident:  A parolee in Indio, CA. has being charged with murder for gunning down a man who ran into his SUV.  As reported by CBS news James "Chip" Milton Nathaniel, 30, in addition to being charged with murder, he also faces charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm.  Nathaniel was released from prison on parole 2014 for shooting a man in 2005.  Nathaniel is now facing trial for murder for reportedly firing multiple rounds into the 35-year-old victim following a collision between the vehicles of the two men in 2015. 

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Mass Murderer Dislikes Confinement:  Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian neo-nazi who murdered 77 people, most of them teenagers at a summer camp, told judges Thursday that his confinement in prison is damaging him.  The Associated Press reports that since 2012, Breivik has been in solitary confinement in a high security prison as he serves a 21-year prison sentence for the 2011 murders.  The murderer is housed in a three room suite with television and video games with coffee and newspapers served to him each morning.  While he is allowed visits from family and friends, nobody has visited since his mother died.  Last year he sued the government arguing that his solitary confinement violated his human rights and an Oslo court accepted his claim.  That holding is now under appellate review.  And US prison inmates think they've got it tough.

Illegal Suspected of Assaulting Child:  Southern California police are searching for an illegal immigrant from El Salvador suspected of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl.  Fox News reports that 30-year-old Rigoberto Arevalo Cubias is suspected of  engaging in sexual intercourse and sodomy of the child in December.  Police believe that Cubias may have a fake California Driver's license.  Cubias also has a $50,000 warrant for his arrest for a 2014 DUI, and uses four different aliases.  According to the San Jose Mercury News, California has issued 800,000 driver's licenses to illegal aliens over the past two years.  Two of the state's largest cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco, have designated themselves as "sanctuary cities."

Sex Trafficker Charged With Murder:  After a four-hour standoff on Tuesday, police in Lubbock, Texas arrested Dimitrise Lyghts on sex-trafficking charges.  After Lyghts was taken into custody,. evidence was obtained implicating him in the murder last Sunday of 32-year-old Gabriel Salazar, and the additional charge of murder was filed against him.  NBC11 reports that  police have information connecting Lyghts and three others to the stabbing, shooting and baseball bat murder of Salazer, whose dead body was found at a local inn Sunday morning.  Three suspects have been arrested so far.  Police are still searching for a fourth suspect.

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Chicago Murder Numbers Higher Than We Thought: The record-setting violence in Chicago last year is even worse than previously believed as new data show that an additional fifty homicides took place in the city. Sean Kennedy at AMI News reports that per the records of the Cook County Medical Examiners office, the city of Chicago reported 812 homicides for the year of 2016. The majority of these homicides in gun-controlled Chicago are gun-related with some 725 of the victims receiving at least one gunshot wound. We see a discrepancy in the numbers due to the fact that the medical examiners office only reports on homicides which is the loss of life of an individual at the hands of another.  This can include killings self defense and police killings of criminal suspects. The city's police agencies count murder as an event where human life is lost in a way that is subject to criminal prosecution.

Roofs Death Penalty Marks Upward Trend: The pending capital case on Dylan Roof for his murder of 9 people in a Charleston church is marking what some are calling a "national departure from the downward trend in capital punishment cases." According to Rick Jervis at USA Today, the overall number of capital cases across the nation has been declining over the past few decades, often attributed to the fortification of capital defense counsel and the growing budgetary concerns that are inherent to capital cases.  In Roof's case, he defended himself, admitted guilt, and alluded to the intention of killing again.  He should be formally sentenced on Wednesday.

Police say BLM Complicates the Job: Police officers throughout the nation believe that the hysteria and controversy surrounding high-profile shootings, such as the Mike Brown and Eric Gardner cases, has made their ability to enforce the law much more difficult.  According to Thomas Tracy at the New York Daily News, nine out of ten police officers say that they are more concerned for their own safety in the current era of the Black Lives Matter movement.  Fully 72% of these officers have reported that they are less wiling to stop a suspicious looking individual for questioning due to the current scrutiny and escalating danger currently associated with policing. The statistics cited in the story were taken from a survey of eight-thousand police officers across the country.

Ft. Lauderdale Shooter a Radical Islamist?:  According to new information, the man who committed a mass shooting in the Fort Lauderdale Airport has been a follower of radical Islam. Judicial Watch reports that the shooter was a Muslim convert who, years before joining the U.S. military, took on an Islamic name (Aashiq Hammad), downloaded terrorist propaganda, and recorded Islamic religious music online. Judicial Watch notes that this information is largely unreported in traditional news outlets, although it is mentioned in one ABC story.  That story reports that while the FBI is claiming no evidence of any ties to terrorism, "according to John Cohen, an ABC News consultant and former acting undersecretary for intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security, in these instances, 'investigators aren't asking the right questions.' "
The FBI issued this press release yesterday on its Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report.

All of the offenses in the violent crime category--murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape (revised definition), rape (legacy definition), aggravated assault, and robbery--showed increases when data from the first six months of 2016 were compared with data from the first six months of 2015. The number of aggravated assaults increased 6.5 percent, murders increased 5.2 percent, rapes (legacy definition) increased 4.4 percent, rapes (revised definition) rose 3.5 percent, and robbery offenses were up 3.2 percent.
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In the property crime category, offenses dropped 0.6 percent. Burglaries were down 3.4 percent, and larceny-thefts declined 0.8 percent. However, motor vehicle thefts increased 6.6 percent.

We at CJLF will be looking at the data more closely and will report what we find on this blog.

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2016 Deadliest Year for Suicide Attacks:  A study by the Institute for National Security Studies indicates that more people were killed in suicide attacks last year than in any year on record.  Vonat Friling of FoxNews reports that 5,650 were killed in such attacks worldwide and in 70% of the cases the Islamic State was responsible.  While most of the attacks were in Iran and Syria, several very deadly Isis inspired attacks also occurred in Western Europe and the United States.  The study also found an increase in attacks carried out by women.  

Manhunt Continues for Florida Cop Killer:  Hundreds of officers are searching for Markeith Loyd, the suspect in the December 13 murder of his pregnant girlfriend and wounding of her brother, and the January 9 murder of Orlando Police Sergent Debra Clayton, when she confronted him in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  Rene Stuzman and Stephanie Allen of the Orlando Sentinel report that  Loyd was a habitual felon who had served 10 years in prison for the non-violent, low level offense of drug dealing.  Shortly after shooting Sgt. Clayton, Loyd was spotted at an apartment complex parking lot where he fired at a deputy, then carjacked a vehicle and fled.  Several schools in the area were on lockdown until police confirmed that Loyd was no longer nearby.

CA Murder Gets Sex Reassignment Surgery:  A 57 year-old transgender serving a life term in prison for murder has recently received sex reassignment surgery in a San Francisco hospital at taxpayer's expense.  The Associated Press reports that Shiloh Heavenly Quine is the first U.S. inmate to receive a state-funded procedure of this kind.  Quine will be transferred to a women's prison after recovery from the surgery which was estimated to cost $100,000.  In 1980 the then-named Rodney Quine kidnapped, robbed and shot to death 33-year-old Shahid Ali Baig, the father of three, in downtown Los Angeles.  When asked about the surgery for her father's murderer,  daughter Farida told reporters "my dad begged for his life.  It just makes me dizzy and sick . I'm helping to pay for his surgery; I live in California. It's kind of a slap in the face."


News Scan

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Sharpton Promises Civil Disobedience:  Reverend Al Sharpton has promised a "season of civil disobedience" in response to the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General in the coming Trump administration. According to Nicholas Ballasy at PJ Media, Sharpton stated, while hosting MSNBC, that activists have planned a March in Washington on February 14th during the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend to protest the nomination of Sen. Sessions. In addition, Sharpton has stated that activists will be making some "house calls" to senators to make sure they are "held accountable" for voting to confirm Sessions as Attorney General.

Repeat Parolee Charged With Murder: In Rochester New York, a grand jury has charged a man with the murder of his wife and daughter during the Thanksgiving holiday. David Andreatta of NBC2 reports that Patrick D. Brooks, 37, is being charged with two counts of second degree murder following the deaths of Christie and Victoria Brooks. Brooks had reportedly been in and out of prison on multiple occasions and a repeat customer to the Parole system. Victoria, his 18-year-old daughter, was a freshmen in college home on break for the holiday.

Two Officers Die in Search for Murderer: An Orlando police officer was gunned down today while searching for a murder suspect.  While looking for the officer's shooter, a sheriffs deputy also lost his life. CNN's Kate Connerly reports that the officer was attempting to make contact with a murder suspect at a Walmart around 7:17 am. A few minutes after the encounter, the police received a report of an officer involved shooting which lead to the death of Officer Debra Clayton. When the suspect in the shooting was identified as Markeith Loyd, the Orange County sheriffs office began its pursuit. A Sheriff's deputy was killed in a traffic accident during the manhunt.

The Culture of Hate

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Video of the torture of a white disabled man by four young blacks in Chicago has been all over the news over the past several days.  Pundits and politicians on both sides of the isle have condemned those involved in the incident and the suspects have been charged with hate crimes.  But the larger question is what has induced the level of hatred between the races exhibited in this incident, and numerous others reported over the past two years involving black thugs sucker punching non-blacks, wilding incidents where groups of mostly young blacks have randomly attacked non-blacks, and the now weekly reports of police officers shot, sometimes in ambush, by black suspects.  Heather MacDonald has this piece in the City Journal which focuses on an urban culture that breeds racial hatred.  I should note here that the strong influence that culture has on criminal activity has been exhaustively documented in Professor Barry Latzer's excellent book "The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America."   

Sessions AG Hearing Tuesday

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The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.  So far, the only live broadcast link I have found is audio at Capitol Hearings, a service of C-SPAN.

Update:  The hearing will be shown live online at C-SPAN 3.

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POTUS Continues to Free Terrorists: With the recent release of 4 Yemen-originated terrorists from Guantanamo bay, President Obama seems dead set on continuing to free individuals who have been incarcerated for acts of terror against the United States. Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon reports that over the course of Obama's presidency, the population of Guantanamo Bay has been reduced by nearly 75% according to statistics published by the pentagon. Since 2015, the recidivism rates of Gitmo detainees has doubled and yet this trend is expected to continue as Obama's administration has voiced it intentions to release even more Gitmo prisoners prior to the inauguration of President Elect Donald Trump.

Fort Wayne Seeks Death Penalty: Following the gruesome murder of 3 adults and one infant, Fort Wayne Indiana is seeking the death penalty for the man who has been charged with the crime. Wane.com reports that Marcus Dansby, 21, will be facing four counts of murder and  one count of attempted murder in response to the brutal killings. The police reportedly responded to a call around 4 am on September 11th of 2016 where they found the bodies of the four victims with an assortment of gunshot and stab wounds. They found Dansby covered in blood in possession of a blood soaked knife with a broken handle. Dansby is being held until February 27th when his trial will commence.

Florida High Court Jumped the Shark?: In a puzzling move Wednesday, the Florida State Supreme Court in a 5-2 decision, forbade the imposition of capital punishment in pending prosecutions only to withdraw the decision shortly after. Gary Fineout of the AP reports that shortly after the 5-2 decision, the high court withdrew the decision to forbid the death penalty claiming that the decision was "prematurely issued". This opens up a slew of questions in the legal community of Florida as to the future of capital punishment in the sunshine state. 

How to Confirm Justice Kethledge

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Or Justice Sykes or Justice Pryor or Justice Gorsuch, etc.

It has become reasonably clear that the Democrats will filibuster anyone Mr. Trump nominates.  They will do this by declaring such a person "outside the mainstream," which means simply outside the sort of "mainstream" that embraces a Constitution that meanders with the fashion of the day.  And we all know the fashion of the day gets dictated by the same groups that now support [Ed. note:  I first said "bring us"] Black Lives Matter, expansive drug legalization, and the narrative of America as a callous and racist cauldron.

In other words, there will be a filibuster against anyone Trump will, or should, nominate.

Is there an effective strategy, short of the nuclear option (i.e., eliminating the filibuster) to get a sensible, mainstream conservative confirmed?

Yes, there is.  I'll call it the Middle Way.
Veteran Supreme Court reporter Tony Mauro reports for NLJ that the Court's bar is warming up to the possibility that George Conway of  Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz may be the next Solicitor General.  His abilities are being praised by many, and the fact that he has only argued one case in the high court is virtually irrelevant.

The fact that Conway has only argued once at the Supreme Court is not rare or disqualifying, according to Yale Law School scholar Lincoln Caplan, author of "The Tenth Justice," a 1997 book about the solicitor general's office. The newest justice, Elena Kagan, had never appeared in an appellate court before, and other 20th century SGs, including Robert Bork and Archibald Cox, had limited prior Supreme Court litigation experience.

The expectation that a new SG should be a veteran at the Supreme Court lectern, Caplan said, is the result of the "reconstitution" of the specialized Supreme Court bar. Decades ago, academics were often selected for the job, and "there was an expectation of intellectual capacity," not that they be able to argue a case on Day One. "You could be a great solicitor general and not argue a single case," leaving that chore to deputies in the office, Caplan said.
As I have noted before, oral argument is vastly overrated.  Justice Breyer says it is 2% of the Court's work, which sounds about right.

I had the pleasure of working with George on an amicus brief in the Second Circuit almost twelve years ago.  The question was whether the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits felon disenfranchisement laws so that even a convicted murderer in prison for life can vote from the slammer.  We prevailed (see Hayden v. Pataki, 449 F.3d 305), but the pro-murderer-voting crowd surprisingly got 5 votes on the 13-judge en banc court.

News Scan

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Cop Killing Suspect Offered Plea Deal:  A member of the notorious prison gang Barrio Azteca, facing trial for killing a Texas police officer, has been offered a plea bargain reducing the murder charge to manslaughter.  Rudy Gutierrez of the El Paso Times reports that John Perry, is charged with intentional murder of a police officer for ramming a motorcycle officer at an El Paso stop light with his car.  Witnesses say that Perry was driving at high speed when he intentionally hit motorcycle officer David Ortiz as the officer waited at the stoplight.   Both vehicles burst into flames.  It took officer Ortiz four days to die from his injuries.  Under the plea deal the capital murder charge would be dropped if Perry pleads to manslaughter.  Due to Perry's previous conviction for stabbing and attempting to beat a man to death with a baseball bat, the normal 20 year prison sentence for manslaughter would increase to 45 years.    

Blocking Supreme Court Nominees

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"Where you stand depends on where you sit."  That is an old and very true adage in government, equally applicable to both parties.

Is it outrageous to block consideration of a Supreme Court nominee indefinitely and leave the ninth chair empty?  For nearly 10 months now we have heard that from our friends on the left side of the aisle.  Now we have a new statement from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, as Kristina Peterson reports in the WSJ.

Mr. Schumer told reporters Wednesday that if Mr. Trump were to send up a mainstream nominee, Democrats would "give them a very careful look." But if "they're out of the mainstream, we will fight them tooth and nail," he said.
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When asked if Democrats would be comfortable leaving the ninth seat open on the Supreme Court, Mr. Schumer said "absolutely."

So, it's only outrageous if the other side does it.  And how is "mainstream" defined?

Mr. Schumer declined to comment on the merits of the list of possible high-court justices that Mr. Trump released during his campaign. But the Democratic leader said on MSNBC Tuesday night that it was unlikely Democrats would embrace any Supreme Court nominee from Mr. Trump that Republicans could support.
How did we come to a situation where nominees unacceptable to one party include all of those acceptable to the other?

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Parolee Charged With Violent Crime Spree: A man on parole for gun charges is currently being charged with five robberies over the course of five days. The Chicago Tribune reports that Isaiah Scaife, 19, was arrested on Monday in connection with a string of armed robberies that took place in November of 2016 during which one victim was shot in the face, and another had their vehicle stolen. Scaife is being charged with attempted murder, aggravated vehicular hijacking, armed robbery, aggravated robbery and attempted armed robbery.

Parolee Admits to Shooting at Police from Stolen Car:
Michael Deshaun Hill, a recent parolee, has accepted a 20 year prison sentence on charges of armed robbery and attempted capital murder. According to John Lynch at Arkansas Online, following his parole for a 2013 conviction on charges of unlawful discharge of a firearm, Hill fled from police officers after stealing a vehicle at gunpoint. During the chase, Hill reportedly discharged several shots at the pursuing officers. Hill will serve twelve and a half years of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

California Hires Holder: The Democrat leaders in California's legislature announced that they have retained Eric Holder, the former U.S. Attorney General under President Obama, as their legal representation in any future conflicts with the Trump White House.  Adam Nagourney at the New York Times reports  that Kevin de Le'on, the leader in the senate, believes that this move provides California with firepower in predicted conflicts between California and the Trump White House. In several recent statements California's government and legislative leaders have expressed their intent to oppose policies of the incoming Trump Administration, particularly regarding immigration, sanctuary cities, health care and energy development. 

News Scan

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BLM Blamed for Chicago Murder Rate:  The former Chicago Police Superintendent told radio listeners Monday that the Black Lives Matter movement shares responsibility for that city's 762 murders of mostly black males in 2016.   Fox news reports that Garry McCarthy, who was fired in 2015 over the Laquan McDonald shooting, said that anti-police protesters have legitimized non-compliance.  "Chicago is probably the worst example of something that has happened across the  country," he said.   A Black Lives Matter leader responded saying that McCarthy bore more responsibility for the increased murders than the protesters. 

Maine's Drug Crisis Worsens:  In addition to an epidemic of heroin and fentanyl deaths last year, drug enforcement officers are also dealing with a sharp increase in methamphetamine labs..  David Sharp of the Associated Press reports that in 2016, twice as many meth labs were discovered than during the previous year.  This as fatal heroin and fentanyl overdoses for the past year set a record, averaging one death per day.  The state's incoming legislature will consider a mountain of bills to address the illegal drug problem.

Parolee Arrested in Cop Shooting:  A suspect was arrested Monday for the New Years day shooting of a police officer in Valley Brook, Oklahoma.  NBC News4 reports that Cory Lee Hartsell was taken into custody for shooting officer Brian Southerland in the leg during a traffic stop on Sunday.  Southerland was rushed to the hospital in critical condition but is now listed as in serious condition after surgery.  At the time of his arrest, Hartsell was on parole for the non-violent offenses of grand larceny and possession of meth.  

Eighth Circuit Upholds Minn. Sex Offender Law:  A panel of judges on the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Minnesota's controversial sex offender program today, overturning a district court ruling finding it unconstitutional.  The program allows the state to hold sex offenders beyond their sentences in treatment facilities until they are determined to no longer be a threat to public safety.  After 20 years, only one offender has been released unconditionally.   Steve Karnowski of the Associated Press reports that in a lawsuit brought by seven sex offenders, a District Court Judge ruled that the program   "shocked the  conscience" and unconstitutionally violated the defendant's rights.  The Appeals Court decision held that the lower court judge had held the state to an overly high standard and that none of the sex offenders claims rose to the level needed to reach the Supreme Court's "conscience shocking" standard. 


What Happens When We Step Back the Police?

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Murderers have a field day.

This is perhaps the single most important lesson from Chicago, an ongoing tragedy of violence.  The city had a mind-numbing increase in murder  --  over 50%  --  in 2016.

The usual suspects cannot be blamed:  Poverty, class structure, racism, gangs, callousness in the powers that be, lax gun laws.  Assuming arguendo that all those things exist and cause crime, there's no evidence that any of them got worse last year, and still less that they got 50% worse.  (As to gun laws in particular, Chicago has among the strictest in the country, and there is no evidence that more guns came into the city in 2016 from outside jurisdictions than in 2015).

So what gives?

By far the biggest change in Chicago was the shackling of its police, through consent decree, by the supposedly compassionate ACLU.

Ms. Saunders Goes to Washington

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Debra Saunders has long been the resident person of sense (singular) on the opinion pages of the San Francisco Chronicle.  I have called her the SF Chrontrarian, and we have quoted her columns many times on this blog.

Debra is moving to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and she is going to Washington as that paper's White House correspondent.  We at CJLF congratulate her and wish her well in the new gig, though we will miss her in California.

News Scan

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Last Ditch Efforts Incoming: This Tuesday during the 5 minute recess between the close of the 114th US Congress, and the opening of the 115th, President Obama will have the opportunity to make some last minute appointments to federal judgeships which may include appointing a justice to the supreme court. Stephen Dinan at the Washington Times reports during this five minutes, congress will enter what is known as "intersession recess" which would open the opportunity for Obama to exercise his power to make recess-appointments. Legal scholars are saying that this would be a risky move for POTUS given the 1 year term limit for individuals appointed in such a way.

New Year Shootings: At the dawn of 2017, we see yet another group of shootings in which police officers are left injured in the line of duty. In Oklahoma City, an officer has been shot in the leg and remains in critical condition according to Lorne Fultonburg of KFOR news. Another police officer was shot in Calvert, Texas this Sunday evening while giving a man a ride. ABC 13 Eyewitness news reports that the officer was shot in the back while exiting his patrol vehicle in what is being called a new year's ambush shooting. Luckily this officer was not seriously injured as his flack vest absorbed the bulk of the damage.

ISIS Claims Istanbul Club Shooting: The Islamic state has released an official message taking credit for the massacre that took place in an Istanbul Nightclub on new year's eve, claiming that the shooter was a "heroic soldier of the caliphate". John Hayward at Breitbart news reports The Reina nightclub in Istanbul was attacked by a radical Islamist during a new year's celebration during which 39 people of varying nationalities lost their lives, and 70 were left injured. The radical Islamic group ISIS has officially taken credit for the attack, claiming that it was punishment for the celebration of an "apostate" holiday.

Hatred of Police Becomes More Brazen

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Fatal shootings of police officers increased in 2016 to the highest level since 2011. I don't know all the reasons for this.  Certainly the overall murder increase and the surge in the deadly heroin trade are part of the mix.

But there's another part:  Hate.  It's just that simple.  When you breed hate, as the Black Lives Matter movement does, arm-in-arm with Obama's Justice Department and its allies in Congress, you get the outcroppings of hate.

When Donald Trump won the election, 20 year-old's at prestigious colleges demanded "safe spaces," as if their whining consternation at the results amounted to a loss of "safety."  When dozens of policemen get gunned down in the street, the problem we hear trumpeted is not a lack of safety, but  --  ready now?  --  that cops are pigs and have it coming.

This kind of poisonous thinking gets displayed and honored in the Capitol building.

Think that exaggerates things?  Keep reading.

School Discipline & Juvenile Crime

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Mall violence, usually caused by roving gangs of teenagers, has been in the headlines over the holidays.  in most of the news stories on this issue, law enforcement and security officials speculated that social media had contributed to these incidents, presumably by allowing perpetrators to quickly alert other teens where and when to gather and riot.  Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald  suggests that a larger contributing factor is the Obama Administration's years of pressuring schools to stop suspending unruly students in order to prevent racist teachers from disproportionately disciplining black students.  This practice, called "restorative justice", seems to have caused significant increases in school violence in districts which have fully embraced it.  With little or no discipline at home or at school, who is surprised that teen mobs are beating people and damaging property at shopping malls?   

Multiple Punishments for One Act

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The California Supreme Court today decided People v. Corpening, S228258, involving the problem of a single act violating more than one statute:

A defendant may not be punished more than once for a single physical act that violates multiple provisions of the Penal Code. The charging document in this case identified the same forceful taking of a vehicle as the physical act completing the actus reus for both robbery and carjacking. Where the same physical act accomplishes the actus reus requirement for more than one crime, that single act cannot give rise to multiple punishment. Because that is precisely what happened here, Corpening's one-year robbery sentence must be stayed.

News Scan

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Military May Execute Murderer Soon:  A federal judge has lifted the stay of execution for an Army cook convicted of rape and murder in 1988.  Ryan Browne of CNN reports that Ronald Gray was sentenced to death by a military court for raping and murdering two women.  He had pleaded guilty in civilian court to two other killings and five rapes.  With the stay lifted, an execution date for Gray may be set within the next 30 days.  If Gray's sentence is carried out, it would be the first military execution since 1961. 

Over 800,000 Illegals Get CA Driver's LIcenses:   Tatiana Sanchez of the San Jose Mercury News reports that in the two years since Governor Jerry Brown signed a law (AB 60) allowing illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses 806,000 have been issued.  Supporters of this law argue that people in the country illegally have learned to drive more safely while obtaining licenses and that they can now drive without fearing the police.  Some fear that under the incoming Trump Administration, the information made available to law enforcement through the licensing process may be used to deport illegals.  This is unlikely because, according to the California DMV, the information law enforcement agencies can obtain  -- such as name, gender/description, address, date of birth and driver license number -- doesn't indicate a person's immigration status or whether they received licenses under AB60.

Maryland Cop Shot:  Fox News reports that a Maryland sheriff's deputy was severely wounded in a shootout this morning.  Deputy Warren Hogan had transported a female from headquarters to her home to pick up clothing after a domestic violence incident, when a yet unidentified man fired on him with a shotgun.  The injured deputy returned fire, fatally wounding the shooter.  The deputy was life-flighted to a hospital in critical condition.  

 

The Bloody Scandal of Criminal Justice Reform

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Every day, I count my blessings that Jeff Sessions, the Senate's leading battler against "criminal justice reform," will be our next Attorney General.  But when I read today's Washington Post story, I counted them with extra vigor.

Let's say it out loud:  Criminal justice reform is a con job.  It's a scandal and a bloody scandal to boot.  We know because every one of its central ideas  -- enthusiasm for rehabilitation, avoidance of "punitive" attitudes, and the giving of second chances  -- is practiced right here in the nation's capital, and has been for years.  We don't have to guess what's going to happen.  We know.

The results show up in the hospital when they don't show up in the morgue.  That Congress should ever contemplate a similar criminal justice policy on a national scale is not merely curious; it's irrational.  And inexcusable. 

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