The Supreme Court has agreed to take up the question of whether the Bill of Rights’s Excessive Fines Clause applies to the states [Eugene Volokh] Because the case involves a state’s claim to a seized vehicle, it might also permit the Court to address issues of the constitutionality of asset forfeiture [Ilya Somin, Nick Sibilla, IJ petition for cert in Timbs v. Indiana]
A “union-backed activist group says Amazon should be charged with a crime for its threat to roll back job growth” if the Seattle City Council follows through with a controversial tax idea to assess larger firms a new per-employee tax. “The group, Working Washington, is asking Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to charge Amazon with a Class B felony: ‘intimidating a public servant,’ citing the company’s move to pause some construction and leasing in the city pending the outcome of the vote on the so-called ‘head tax.’…Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna called the group’s prosecution demand absurd, saying the law in question is aimed at protecting individual public employees from personal threat, particularly of physical force.” [Jim Brunner, Seattle Times] More: John Sexton.
Commenter @Living4Winter on Twitter: “It’s so fricken weird when Ayn Rand comes true.” On Monday the Seattle city council voted 5-4 to approve the tax; a final vote will come later and Mayor Jenny Durkan has signaled that she may veto the measure. [KOMO] Update: the council unanimously adopts a tax set lower, at $275 rather than $500 per worker. [Matt Day and Daniel Beekman, Seattle Times]
More: Eugene Volokh with a more thorough First Amendment legal analysis (Working Washington’s theory “would criminalize a vast range of ordinary political action” including “an advocacy group’s threatening to boycott a city if the city council doesn’t change some law that the threatener thinks unjust.”)
Two things that can both be true:
1) we should find a better system than cash bail;
2) in the mean time bail bond services provide a needed service for some families.
Or as I put it in my new National Review piece:
This week Google and Facebook announced that they would stop accepting ads for bail-bond services. It’s the perfect moral gesture for our times: It makes a grand statement, keeps pressure groups happy, reminds us that the tech giants have weight to throw around, and leaves its intended beneficiaries no better and perhaps imperceptibly worse off.
I go on to discuss stigmatization as a substitute for policy, which sorts of practices if adopted would probably serve as a substitute for cash bail, and the widely held notion that mass incarceration in the contemporary U.S. arose from a plot to expand business revenue. The piece concludes:
If one is going to be suspicious of mercenary motives in the justice system, I recommend starting with the providers among whom defendants’ families do not get to pick and choose in their hour of need in a relatively competitive market. That would include probation providers and jail phone-call providers — and, yes, some firms involved with private prisons.
Of course, those companies aren’t big advertisers, since the only customer they need to convince is the law-enforcement agency. So Google and Facebook are spared the need to worry about what posture to strike toward them.
Whole thing here. For a different view, here’s Google’s Senior Counsel on Civil and Human Rights writing together with the chairman of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and general counsel for Koch Industries. [Malika Saada Saar and Mark Holden]
In the case of a federal law providing for the mandatory deportation of lawful permanent residents convicted of a hazily defined “crime of violence,” Justice Neil Gorsuch steps comfortably into Nino Scalia’s shoes as the Court’s champion of void-for-vagueness invalidation of criminal laws whose contours were left overly unclear. “It doesn’t make him a squish. It makes him an originalist,” [Ilya Shapiro, Washington Examiner; opinion in Sessions v. Dimaya] More: Jay Schweikert, Cato.
On the legalities of the raid on Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, a good place to start is with Ken White’s for the New York Times (his earlier blog post). Also: “Lawyers should be reminding people, pundits and groundlings alike, that this is an extreme measure, a dangerous measure, that may be necessary” but should not be the occasion of glee [Scott Greenfield]
Meanwhile, the New York Times has managed to discover the worst argument.
Under an Alabama law passed before World War II, many county sheriffs can keep what are deemed extra sums allocated for inmate meals but not used for that purpose. Some large counties require the surplus to be turned over to general county funds. Can sheriffs of other counties convert the funds to personal use? In Etowah County (Gadsden), a local resident says he was paid to mow the sheriff’s lawn with checks from from the sheriff’s “Food Provision Account.” [Connor Sheets, Al.com] And in a followup, four days later local police arrested the resident who had told the reporter about being paid for lawn-mowing. The raid, said to have been based on an anonymous call reporting the odor of marijuana issuing from within an apartment, resulted in charges against him later bumped up to felony drug trafficking based on weight: “Once that marijuana was mixed with the butter then the whole butter becomes marijuana, and that’s what we weighed.” [Sheets, Al.com]
Suspects in possession of 4,000 kilos of oranges, or four metric tons, said they had no idea where they came from [Lowering the Bar, Spain]
- Fiasco of Cliven Bundy prosecution points up that even those who break the law are entitled to a fair trial. “In the Bundy case, Judge Navarro slammed the FBI for withholding key evidence. Unfortunately, this seems to be standard procedure for the FBI.” [James Bovard, USA Today; Mark Joseph Stern, Slate; earlier]
- Don’t undermine structural protection Double Jeopardy Clause provides against prosecutorial overreach [Jay Schweikert on Cato amicus brief in Currier v. Virginia] Case gives SCOTUS chance to reconsider “dual sovereignty” exception to Double Jeopardy Clause [Ilya Shapiro on Cato certiorari brief in Gamble v. U.S.]
- “The room he was in happened to fall within 572 feet of a park and 872 feet of a school,” within the 1000 feet set by Tennessee law, result misery [C.J. Ciaramella and Lauren Krisai, Reason (“Drug-free school zone laws are rarely if ever used to prosecute sales of drugs to minors. Such cases are largely a figment of our popular imagination.”)]
- Missed last spring: this challenge to the “Standard Story” of mass incarceration [Adam Gopnik on John Pfaff’s “Locked In”]
- Ignorance of the law is no excuse. But with law having proliferated beyond anyone’s grasp, perhaps it should be? [Stephen Carter, Bloomberg, earlier]
- Another study finds decriminalizing prostitution reduces sexual abuse and rape [Alex Tabarrok]
Under the circumstances, eight years (as opposed to 27) was long enough for Sholom Rubashkin to serve behind bars for bank fraud and other financial misconduct, especially since by interfering in his bankruptcy proceedings the U.S. government had itself driven up the cost of his actions to creditors, thus pushing him into a higher sentencing range. There were other irregularities in his trial as well. But let’s hope that President Trump extends clemency to other equally deserving inmates who lack the money and influence to call forward a campaign on their behalf [Mark Joseph Stern, Slate] More: Des Moines Register, WLF, NBC.
- Attitudes on law enforcement now function as culture war rallying point and vehicle of identity politics on both sides [Dara Lind] Good news on officer safety: “Line of duty deaths this year approached a 50-year low” [Ed Krayewski]
- SWAT deployment and police militarization — in rural Western Massachusetts [Seth Kershner, Valley Advocate] Trump still wrong on this issue [Eric Boehm]
- Would it be easier to address America’s high rate of fatal shootings by police if the focus were allowed to slip off race for a moment? [Conor Friedersdorf]
- Neighborhood police checkpoints employed in West Baltimore for several days in November, yet in 2009 DC Circuit, via conservative Judge Sentelle, found them unconstitutional [Colin Campbell and Talia Richman, Baltimore Sun; Elizabeth Janney, Patch]
- What should be done to address rising crime rates? Federalist Society convention panel video with Dr. John S. Baker, Jr., Heather Childs, Adam Gelb, Hon. Michael Mukasey, George J. Terwilliger III, moderated by Hon. David Stras;
- In Collins v. Virginia, Supreme Court has opportunity to reaffirm that home is truly castle against police search [Cato Daily Podcast with Jay Schweikert and Caleb Brown]