Monday, July 5, 2010

Voting is important...

And screwing around with it, whether by voter intimidation(See also: here, here, and here), ballot box stuffing, or tampering with the results is, at absolute best, reprehensible.

It seems that a group known as the New Black Panthers engaged in conduct at a polling place in Philadelphia that experienced voting rights attorney and proponent Bartle Bull called "the most blatant form of voter intimidation I have encountered in my life in many states, even going back to the work I did in Mississippi in the 1960s."

Just what were these New Black Panthers doing?

They weren't presenting bouquets. The four men representing the organization, as described in the letter cited above, were caught on video tape blocking access to the polling place (per the U.S. Civil Rights Commission), physically threatening voters (per the U.S. Civil Rights Commission), and verbally harassing voters (again, per the U.S. Civil Rights commission). It is alleged that the verbiage was heavily laden with distinctly negative racial commentary. The men in question were in paramilitary uniform, at least one of them brandishing a club, and said uniforms were badged with New Black Panther insignia.

This would seem a fairly clear-cut case of criminal violation of the Voting Rights Act, and substantial infringement of the civil rights of persons attempting to vote at that station.

Yet, nobody is in jail or facing great thumping civil judgements...and the New Black Panthers are not facing RICO prosecution.

Suit was, in fact, filed in the days after the election by the Justice Department to address these matters.

However, Attorney General Eric Holder or his representatives (who we must assume are acting with his guidance and instructions) in May of 2009 chose to effectively dismiss the matter.

Very quietly.

Over the weekend, we've been hearing of a former Justice Department attorney from the Civil Rights Division J. Christian Adams...who resigned rather than go along with the gag when Congress started asking questions and the Department under Holders leadership (according to Adams) felt deceit was the proper approach to take under oath.

Read here. And bear it in mind, come November.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

CalGuns on McDonald, Heller, etc

Good article on the CalGuns forum summarizing both the effects of Heller and McDonald on local gun laws, and on ongoing legal strategy. Provides some worthwhile insights....

Saturday, July 3, 2010

McDonald vs. Chicago, Chicago's Response

Antedating Heller v. District of Columbia by some years, the Cities of Chicago and Oak Park (each located in Illinois) had passed what were effectively bans on the private ownership of handguns within their respective jurisdictional boundaries. Subsequent to Heller, McDonald and co-plaintiff filed suit against those entities alleging the Cities actions violated the constitutional principles set forth in Heller, particularly the provisions of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, and left plaintiffs vulnerable to criminals. Plaintiffs further sought declaratory judgment that the ban and several related ordinances violated constitutional provisions.

The District Court held that the Seventh Circuit Court of appeals had previously upheld the ordinances and ban in question and that Heller explicitly did not speak to whether the Second Amendment applied to the states and other subordinate non-Federal bodies. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit agreed with the District Court, relying on 19th Century precedent.

With Justice Alito writing for the majority, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the decision of the lower courts regarding the case and sent the matter back to those lower courts to be re-decided taking into consideration the clarifying analysis provided by the Supreme Court in coming to a new decisions. That brings us to where we sit today.

Major issues in coming days appear to include:

1) Katrina style seizures of firearms from private citizens during a declared state of emergency would, under McDonald, appear to be an endangered range of activity.

2) Limitations on firearms owners posession of firearms - i.e., "one functional gun per household", mandatory insurance, barring guns outside of the gun owners home (even on the porch), etc remain to be settled. However, as a fundamental right (as described by SCOTUS in McDonald) it seems unlikely that most such harassment-motivated regulatory efforts will survive constitutional review.

3) Similarly, may-issue "subjective" ("Do I like you?" "Did you make a really nice donation to my campaign?" "Are you the right gender/color/religion?") concealed pistol and firearms licenses would appear vulnerable to litigation - since SCOTUS seems to indicate it will hold denial of Second Amendment Rights to the same standard as First Amendment rights...

4) Related to (3) some question exists about the entire notion of licensing a right, and SCOTUS seems to take exception to setting out any one section of the Bill of Rights for special and hostile treatment.

5) Some tests do exist, for instance the First Amendment "crying fire in a crowded theater" example of unprotected speech. What conduct under the Second Amendment might constitute similar conduct that might be acceptably regulated?

Heller, and subsequently McDonald, offer a bunch of good things - but a lot of questions that can only be answered in front of the Supreme Court are also raised, and must be resolved.