The police are never wrong

This would seem cut and dried to me:

Here is my best distillation (based on detailed findings made by the district judge after a five-day bench trial):

In October 2010, officers were searching for a “parolee-at-large” who allegedly had been spotted bicycling in front of a suspected drug-trafficking house in suburban Los Angeles. Officers, who had no warrant to search or arrest, went to the house, announced themselves to the owner, and gained entry by threatening to force their way in. (The parolee was not there.)

Meanwhile, officers Christopher Conley and Jennifer Pederson went to “clear the backyard.” After entering the yard and checking some small metal storage boxes, the two officers came to a dilapidated wooden “shack” that (as the district court found) they could not “reasonably” have believed to be unoccupied. The shack had various signs of occupancy, and a lead officer testified that he had advised the deputies that a man named Angel lived in a shed in the yard with his pregnant girlfriend. (The district judge found that both deputies had heard this advisement, and that if they had not then they had “unreasonably failed to pay attention.”) With his gun drawn, Conley pulled open the door of the shack.

The Mendezes were resting on a futon; Angel kept a BB gun next to his bed to shoot pests. When he heard the deputies’ entry, he picked up the BB gun to move it so he could get up. (Whether the gun was “pointed at” the deputies remains disputed, but the trial judge found Mendez was moving it innocently, merely “to help him sit up.”) Conley shouted “gun,” and the deputies fired 15 bullets at the two occupants. Mendez, severely injured, exclaimed, “I didn’t know it was you guys. It was a BB gun….”

No criminal case was filed against the officers, but the courts did award the Mendezes $4 million in damages in a civil suit. The case is now at the Supreme Court to review that award. I wonder what would have happened if Angel had had a real gun and killed one of the officers?

Supreme court says no to Texas abortion restrictions

The Supreme Court has struck down abortion restrictions in Texas:

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down Texas abortion restrictions that have been widely duplicated in other states, a resounding win for abortion rights advocates in the court’s most important consideration of the controversial issue in 25 years.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joined the court’s liberals in the 5 to 3 decision, which said Texas’s arguments that the clinic restrictions were to protect women’s health were cover for making it more difficult to obtain an abortion.

The challenged Texas provisions required doctors who perform abortions at clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and said that clinics must meet hospital-like standards of surgical centers.

Similar restrictions have been passed in other states, and officials say they protect patients. But the court’s majority sided with abortion providers and medical associations who said the rules are unnecessary and so expensive or hard to satisfy that they force clinics to close.

“The decision erodes states’ lawmaking authority to safeguard the health and safety of women and subjects more innocent life to being lost,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said in a statement. “Texas’ goal is to protect innocent life, while ensuring the highest health and safety standards for women.”

The Post has an article that looks at that last statement:

A key study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology estimated that the risk of a woman dying after childbirth was 10 times greater than after an abortion. The study estimated that between 1998 and 2005, one woman died in childbirth for every 11,000 babies born. That compares with one in 167,000 women who died of abortion complications. Doctors who perform abortions say the most common complications are not bladder issues or problems with reproductive organs — as some abortion opponents like to emphasize — but mild infection that can be easily treated.

So if Texas makes more women continue their pregnancy more women will die. Even if they just delay the abortion more women will die.

Let’s throw in some data (scroll down to tables 7 or 8):

Among the 38 areas that reported gestational age at the time of abortion for 2012 (Table 7), two-thirds (65.8%) of abortions were performed by ≤8 weeks’ gestation, and 91.4% were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation.

and according to here:

The risk of death associated with abortion increases with the length of pregnancy, from 0.3 for every 100,000 abortions at or before eight weeks to 6.7 per 100,000 at 18 weeks or later.

A first-trimester abortion is one of the safest medical procedures and carries minimal risk—less than 0.05%—of major complications that might need hospital care.

The Supreme Court easily figured out that these laws were not about the safety of women and all about restricting abortion.

No racism here

This is pretty stupid work:

The case, Foster v. Chatman, arose from the 1987 trial of Timothy T. Foster, an African-American facing the death penalty for killing Queen Madge White, an elderly white woman, when he was 18.
In notes that did not surface until decades later, prosecutors marked the names of black prospective jurors with a B and highlighted those names in green. They circled the word “black” where potential jurors had noted their race on questionnaires.

They ranked the black prospective jurors in case “it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors,” as the prosecution’s investigator put it in a draft affidavit at the time. In the end, prosecutors struck all four black potential jurors.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said the prosecutors had violated a 1986 decision, Batson v. Kentucky, in which the Supreme Court ruled that race discrimination in jury selection was unconstitutional and required lawyers accused of it to provide a nondiscriminatory explanation.

Lanier had offered a list of 11 reasons for striking Garrett, including that she was too young.

“Yet Garrett was 34,” Roberts wrote, “and the state declined to strike eight white prospective jurors under the age of 36. Two of those white jurors served on the jury; one of those two was only 21 years old.”

Lanier also said Garrett was unfit to serve because she was divorced. But, the chief justice wrote, Lanier “declined to strike three out of the four prospective white jurors who were also divorced.”

Lanier gave eight reasons for striking a second prospective juror, Hood, including that his son was the same age as the defendant and had been convicted of a crime that was, he said, “basically the same thing that this defendant is charged with.”

Roberts called this “nonsense.”

“Hood’s son had received a 12-month suspended sentence for stealing hubcaps from a car in a mall parking lot five years earlier,” he wrote. “Foster was charged with capital murder of a 79-year-old widow after a brutal sexual assault.”

And (via here):

Still, Georgia courts had consistently rejected Foster’s claims of discrimination, even after his lawyers obtained prosecutors’ notes that revealed their focus on the black people in the jury pool. In one example, a handwritten note headed “Definite No’s” listed six people, of whom five were the remaining black prospective jurors.

The sixth person on the list was a white woman who made clear she would never impose the death penalty, according to Bright. And yet even that woman ranked behind the black jurors, he said.

Governor upset that he might be blamed

It seems there were some problems with voting in Arizona:

Maricopa County voters woke up with an election hangover Wednesday morning, and it wasn’t pretty.

Complaints about waits in lines that topped five hours in some locations, a shortage of ballots and inadequate staffing at the county’s 60 polling locations stoked anger and drew condemnation from Gov. Doug Ducey, lawmakers and national groups.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch an investigation into what he called “a fiasco.”

That’s not good, is it Governor Ducey:

Ducey called Tuesday’s long lines “unacceptable” and laid the blame on elections officials.

As an aside, both the Governor and the election officials are Republicans (I’m sure this surprises you). Onward:

Ducey signed the state budget last year that cut the funding counties needed to conduct the election, over the protests of county officials.

The governor also called for opening the presidential primary to all voters, a factor that added to the confusion as independents showed up, only to have to argue to get a ballot. Many were given provisional ballots since they weren’t registered with a party; others said they were discouraged from getting a ballot.

Hmm, it sounds like this is really your fault Governor. Of course, it’s also the Supreme Court’s fault (via here):

Previously, Maricopa County would have needed to receive federal approval for reducing the number of polling sites, because Arizona was one of 16 states where jurisdictions with a long history of discrimination had to submit their voting changes under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. This type of change would very likely have been blocked since minorities make up 40 percent of Maricopa County’s population and reducing the number of polling places would have left minority voters worse off. Section 5 blocked 22 voting changes from taking effect in Arizona since the state was covered under the VRA in 1975 for discriminating against Hispanic and Native American voters.

But after the Supreme Court gutted the VRA in 2013, Arizona could make election changes without federal oversight. The long lines in Maricopa County last night were the latest example of the disastrous consequences of that decision.

My guess is that Republicans will eventually blame it all on the federal government since they didn’t step in to stop the Republicans from doing something that turned out really bad (see Flint).

Does this apply to anything?

President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to fill the open Supreme Court position. Let’s see what Republicans have to say:

“The American people may well elect a President who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration. The next president may also nominate someone very different,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Wednesday. “Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said he fully supports that stand. “We should let the American people decide the direction of the court,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

“I continue to believe the Senate should not move forward with the confirmation process until the people have spoken by electing a new president,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said in a statement.

“After the election, I look forward to considering the nominee of our new president,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement. “Whether the American people elect a Republican or a Democrat, I will judge his or her nominee on the merits, as I always have.”

“The right thing to do is to give the American people a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” Coats said in a statement Wednesday. “The next president, with input from voters in the upcoming election, should fill the current Supreme Court vacancy.”

I have two questions here:

  1. How long can a President appoint a Supreme Court Justice for? If a Justice either resigns or dies in the first year of their presidency, is the President allowed to appoint their successor or does that have to wait until the next election also? Perhaps we should amend the Constitution so that there is a special election to vote on any nomination.
  2. Does this apply to any other areas? If the US is attacked, should a President wait until after the next election to respond?

The ACA endures

Well looky there, the Supreme Court ruled that subsidies to the state for the ACA are fine. It’s amazing:

Several portions of the law indicate that consumers can claim tax credits no matter where they live. No member of Congress said that subsidies would be limited, and several states said in a separate brief to the court that they had no inkling they had to set up their own exchange for their residents to get tax credits.

So, sure, the overall bill overwhelmingly implies that people should be able to get subsidies even if their state doesn’t set up their own exchange, but:

The challenge devised by die-hard opponents of the law relied on four words — ‘‘established by the state’’ — in the more than 900-page law.

So one mention perhaps implies that states without exchanges won’t get the subsidies and multiple mentions that they will (reinforced by the recollection of everyone who worked on the bill and all the states that worked with the federal government) leads Republicans to conclude the former. They must have been great students–sure I mentioned 20 times that a topic was going to be on the test, but once I forgot so it’s unfair that it was on the test.

Both sides do it

This article starts with a bit about Justice Scalia and then says this:

“While liberal justices are over all more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices,” the study found, “the votes of both liberal and conservative justices tend to reflect their preferences toward the ideological groupings of the speaker.”

but then they get to the actual results:

The largest one, at least among members of the Supreme Court who cast more than 100 votes in free speech cases since 1953, belongs to Justice Scalia. Justice Clarence Thomas is not far behind. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. have not cast enough votes for a reliable appraisal, but the preliminary data show a similarly significant preference for conservative speakers.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the current court’s most reliable free speech vote, favored conservative speakers by a smaller but still significant margin.

The Roberts court’s more liberal members “present a more complex story,” the study found. All supported free expression more often when the speaker was liberal, but the results were statistically significant only for Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010.

In the case of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the difference was negligible. And it is too soon to say anything empirically meaningful about Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

In other words, the conservative justices are all much more likely to vote for free speech if it’s conservative while liberals only lean towards supporting liberal speech. Look at the numbers (they are the percent of time they voted for free speech if the speaker was liberal, if the speaker was conservative, and the total votes counted; an asterisk means the difference is significant):

  • Thomas      23.1*   65.4    104
  • Scalia          20.7*   65.2    161
  • Alito            9.1*      53.9    24
  • Roberts      15.4*    64.3    27
  • Kennedy   43.2*     67.7    143
  • O’Connor  30.6*    50.7    190
  • Breyer       40.0      38.1    87
  • Souter       60.3      51.1     103
  • Ginsburg  53.2      40.0    92
  • Stevens     62.8*    46.9    260

You might notice that all of the conservative judges have a statistically significant difference and only one liberal judge does. You might also notice that the largest difference for a liberal judge is about 16%, while the smallest for a conservative judge is about 20% and that’s if we count O’Connor and Kennedy as conservative. If we count them as moderate, then the smallest difference for a conservative is about 39%–but both sides are the same.

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