Some of the San Francisco peace activists who protested to save Saddam before the war have now gone to Baghdad to keep a close eye on the U.S. military occupation forces and the private companies working on the reconstruction, reports the SF Chronicle. “This is a test of our rights – of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly – and we will press those to the full extent,” San Francisco activist Medea Benjamin tells the Chronicle. Among other things, the activists hope to establish Iraqi labor unions and an organization to work for human rights. Strange. I wonder why they waited until after the fall of Saddam to set up their human rights shop in downtown Baghdad.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:16 PM
California Schools chief Jack O'Connell elaborated this afternoon on his threat to file a petition with the Supreme Court seeking to force a Nevada-style break in the state budget deadlock. O’Connell said he expects his department’s attorneys to file a petition early next week “seeking a ruling that would suspend the two-thirds requirement for passing a budget or increasing revenues, and instead, allow a simple majority.”
No word yet on why O'Connell doesn't simply ask the Legislature to pass the education budget by a simple majority, which the state Constitution allows. I think the answer is pretty clear. This suit has no chance of prevailing, and O'Connell is grandstanding to put pressure on Republican lawmakers and win brownie points for himself with the education lobby.
UPDATE. State Treasurer Phil Angelides has just announced that he will join O'Connell in this lawsuit. This is a shame. I have had a lot of respect for Angelides in the past, even when I haven't agreed with him. But stooping to this level, asking the courts to intervene in the business of the Legislature, asking judges to set aside the state Constitution, is beneath him, or at least beneath the man I thought he was. He is either pandering or he has lost respect for the rule of law that underpins our liberal democracy. Either way it's got to be the low point in his career.
NOTE: For a more detailed explanation of how California law differs from Nevada, see my earlier post below.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:36 PM
I got an e-mail yesterday from a law firm publicist that I think says a lot about what’s wrong with the legal profession today. I’m not going to identify the lawyer or the publicist, but I want to share most of what was in the note. The publicist identified her client, the lawyer, as offering an “expert legal opinion” that might be of use to journalists covering the recall litigation. The lawyer, she said, worked on the recent challenge to punch-card voting in California and had “numerous issues” with the recall. Among them:
1) The procedural problems in having this election in an off-year -- there tends to be low participation in off-years, thus a small number of voters could decide the recall. The off-year electorate also skews more conservative and opponents of the Governor will be drawn to this race.
(2) Coupling the recall with a candidate election for the new governor burdens the electorate with a potentially moot (but nevertheless expensive and time consuming) campaign and election. It also permits a small number of voters to decide who will be governor; restricts available choices because viable Democrats might not run because they do not want to undermine the Governor, but then the party could be left without its best candidates if the recall succeeds.
(3) Unlimited spending on this campaign -- There are no limits on campaign expenditures because they are independent expenditures on an issue (the recall), not a candidate election. The result is potentially unbridled spending.
(4) Constitutional issues with the refusal to acquiesce in the election of the winning candidate. Is there a real ground for recall here? What are the proper grounds for recall?
(5) Will this become a trend nationwide if it succeeds?
As you can see, very little of this has anything to do with the law. The concerns raised are political. They may be valid arguments against the recall, but they are not legal arguments. Yet this is an experienced election law lawyer who holds himself out as an expert on this issue. Today he’s just trying to get quoted in a major newspaper. Tomorrow, presumably, he could be filing suit or serving as an expert on an anti-recall case. That’s sad.
UPDATE: Rick Hasen (not the lawyer involved) replies here, suggesting that I've come down too hard on the attorney. Hasen says lawyers, when offering expertise, need not confine themselves to courtroom matters and might in fact make good commentators on related issues outside the scope of the law. I agree. But I took this solicitation, coming as it did the day after the first legal challenge was filed, as implying that the issues raised were potential legal obstacles to the recall, when most if not all of them seemed to be concerns clearly in the realm of the legislative branch or left to the people to decide.
Posted by dweintraub at 9:15 AM
The LAPD officer who writes under the name Jack Dunphy for the National Review Online suggests in this column that the city might see riots once again if a jury acquits two Inglewood officers of charges filed after one of them roughed up a teenager during an arrest last summer. And Dunphy says the trial has not been going well for the prosecution.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:57 AM
The Chron has more details about Issa's gun possession arrest as a 19-year-old college student. The cop who cuffed him disputes the congressman's story.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:01 AM
Today's Field Poll release says California's view of the president has dropped to its lowest level since the Sept. 11 attacks, with his approval rating here standing at 49-41. Also: the state has turned against Bush on the economy, is not thrilled with the Iraq war aftermath and generally thinks the nation is moving in the wrong direction. Read the whole PDF file here.
Posted by dweintraub at 5:55 AM