Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fourth Amendment Victory re extending traffic stop

In Rodriquez v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court held that officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they extended a traffic stop to wait for a drug-sniffing dog. The lower courts concluded that there was no reasonable suspicion or probable cause to extend the stop.  If either of those had been present, the extension would have been lawful  The Supreme Court did not deal with that issue. For more detail, see the Courts syllabus for the opinion at the link (“Absent reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff violates the Constitution’s shield  gainst unreasonable seizures”)

Thomas, Kennedy and Alito dissented. This is an issue that the Court had dodged for too long.  However, the finally came up with the correct decision.


DEA Director resigns after agency misconduct reports

It seems that the scandals involving federal law enforcement just keep on going.  The Secret Service and  FBI (see below) have now been joined by the DEA.  Charges include allegations of "sex parties" with prostitutes.

FBI forensic examiners overstated matches

According to the Washington Past, "The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.
Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.
The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions."

Police duty to render immediate aid to suspects hurt by police

The NY Times reported: "
He did not fire a shot. He is black, not white.

But Clarence W. Habersham Jr., the first officer to arrive on the scene after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man named Walter L. Scott, is drawing intense scrutiny both for the questions surrounding his response to the shooting and for what his role has illuminated about the pressures and expectations black officers face in largely white police departments.

Critics of Officer Habersham, 37, including black leaders and lawyers, have called for him to be prosecuted for what they say was his failure to provide adequate aid to Mr. Scott, 50, and for appearing to go along with what many viewers of a video of the shooting believe was an attempt by Michael T. Slager, the white officer who fatally shot Mr. Scott in the back, to plant a Taser by his body."

You also may remember an earlier shooting when an officer ran up to a fatally wounded suspect and told told him, in effect, it was his fault because he ran.

What both of these officers seem to have neglected is their legal duty to render immediate anyone who is hurt by any officers.  The legal duties do

Little data on police shootings available

According to the Recent incidents involving police shooting unarmed suspects has "raised a question about policing that not even the Justice Department can answer: How often do officers across the country fire their weapons?
Under current federal laws, there is nothing requiring any of the 18,000 police departments and other law enforcement agencies across the country to report to the public or to the Justice Department anything about shootings involving officers."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Psychological Factor in Police Shooting

"The Justice Department recently analyzed eight years of shootings by Philadelphia police officers. Its report [see post below] contained two sobering statistics: Fifteen percent of those shot were unarmed; and in half of these cases, an officer reportedly misidentified a “nonthreatening object (e.g., a cellphone) or movement (e.g., tugging at the waistband)” as a weapon.
Many factors presumably contribute to such shootings, ranging from carelessness to unconscious bias to explicit racism, all of which have received considerable attention of late, and deservedly so.
But there is a lesser-known psychological phenomenon that might also explain some of these shootings. It’s called “affective realism”: the tendency of your feelings to influence what you see — not what you think you see, but the actual content of your perceptual experience. . . The brain is a predictive organ. A majority of your brain activity consists of predictions about the world — thousands of them at a time — based on your past experience. These predictions are not deliberate prognostications like “the Red Sox will win the World Series,” but unconscious anticipations of every sight, sound and other sensation you might encounter in every instant. These neural “guesses” largely shape what you see, hear and otherwise perceive.
In every moment, your brain consults its vast stores of knowledge and asks, “The last time I was in a similar situation, what sensations did I encounter and how did I act?” If you’re in a produce section, your brain is already predicting that an apple is nearby. If you are in a part of town with a high crime rate, your brain may well predict a weapon. Only after the fact does your brain check the world to see if its prediction was right."
The authors of the report note: "
Let us reiterate: We are not claiming that affective realism is the preferred explanation for police shootings that involve the misidentification of weapons. Nor are we claiming that racial bias has had nothing to do with such shootings. Indeed, affective realism may be one pernicious way in which racial bias expresses itself.
What we do know is that the brain is wired for prediction, and you predict most of the sights, sounds and other sensations in your life. You are, in large measure, the architect of your own experience."

New Report on shootings by police in Philadelphia

The report covers eight years.  It appears to be very comprehensive. See the 9-page "Executive Summary" at the beginning of the report.

Suicide by Cop?

Woman killed by police leaves note suggesting "suicide by cop."

Chicago paying out millions for police misconduct

Chicago is paying out millions to compensate people for police killings and misconduct according to the New York Times.
"  The City Council here agreed on Wednesday to pay $5 million to the family of a black teenager who was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer last fall, as federal and state prosecutors acknowledged that they were conducting a criminal investigation into the shooting.
The council’s decision came swiftly and with no debate, even before a suit had been filed in the case by the family of Laquan McDonald, 17, who the police say was wielding a three-inch knife when an officer shot him 16 times . . " That's not all.
Separately, the City Council this week began considering a $5.5 million reparations package for scores of victims of abuse and torture by the police here in the 1970s and ’80s under the watch of a notorious police commander, Jon Burge. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced his support this week for the long-sought reparations, which would include a memorial and a formal apology for the mostly black South Siders who have described being shocked with cattle prods, beaten with phone books and suffocated with plastic bags to compel confessions.
The cases involving Mr. Burge and a group of officers under his command had haunted Chicago and its Police Department for years.
Since Mr. Burge was fired from the department in 1993, the city has paid out some $85 million in settlements and other costs."
When are the taxpayers and voters going to get fed up and say "enough is enough"?  It may be that corruption is so rampant and long-standing that people just take it for granted. Sad!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

More on the reserve deputy charged in killing suspect

The 73 year-old Reserve Sheriff's Deputy who has been charged with manslaughter  in the death of  a suspect (see post below) may have been in that position as a form of political patronage from the Sheriff.  There are also suggestions that his training records were falsified.  It is estimated that there are as many as 400,000 reserve police officers in the U.S.  This incident should trigger a re-evaluation of reserve officers.
Recall that in 2007 a BART officer was convicted in a similar case where the officer said he thought he was drawing his Taser while actually firing his handgun

Book on Boston Marathon Bombers

As you probably know, the surviving Tsarnaev brother was convicted of murder and other offenses arising out of the Boston Marathon bombing.  What appears to be the first book out on the brothers has now appeared.

Two Jailers Indicted

Two jailers in Harris County were indicted for ignoring a mentally ill inmate for weeks.

Dementia, consent to sex, and Rape

A former Iowa state legislator is accused of raping his wife.  The issue is whether, because of dementia, she was capable of consent.  Given the increasing number of persons with dementia or Alzheimer's,this is a significant issue.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Sesquicentennial of Reconstruction starting

The sesquicentennial of the Civil War ends this month.  However, the sesquicentennial of "Reconstruction" should not be ignored. If brought us 3 earth-shaking, freedom-enhancing constitutional amendments, 13th, 14th and 15th. All 3, but especially the 14th, when their promise was finally realized, changed the nature of federalism and strengthened the foundations of liberty in America.  Unfortunately, that is not what many remember. According to renowned historian Eric Foner:
"Reconstruction refers to the period, generally dated from 1865 to 1877, during which the nation’s laws and Constitution were rewritten to guarantee the basic rights of the former slaves, and biracial governments came to power throughout the defeated Confederacy. For decades, these years were widely seen as the nadir in the saga of American democracy. According to this view, Radical Republicans in Congress, bent on punishing defeated Confederates, established corrupt Southern governments presided over by carpetbaggers (unscrupulous Northerners who ventured south to reap the spoils of office), scalawags (Southern whites who supported the new regimes) and freed African-Americans, unfit to exercise democratic rights. The heroes of the story were the self-styled Redeemers, who restored white supremacy to the South.              
This portrait, which received scholarly expression in the early-20th-century works of William A. Dunning and his students at Columbia University, was popularized by the 1915 film “Birth of A Nation” and by Claude Bowers’s 1929 best-selling history, “The Tragic Era.” It provided an intellectual foundation for the system of segregation and black disenfranchisement that followed Reconstruction. Any effort to restore the rights of Southern blacks, it implied, would lead to a repeat of the alleged horrors of Reconstruction.
HISTORIANS have long since rejected this lurid account, although it retains a stubborn hold on the popular imagination. Today, scholars believe that if the era was “tragic,” it was not because Reconstruction was attempted but because it failed."

Officer charged with murder of suspect

A S.C. police officer has been charged with murder of a suspect.  The video looks very incriminating, but there is obviously more to the story.  Remember, even police officers are entitled to the presumption of innocence.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

RFRA & 1st Amend and Business Discrim against LGBT's--Business Loses Most Cases

The issue is whether religious-based objections by businesses to serving LGBT customers can overcome laws prohibiting such discrimination?  Do RFRA’s and/or the First Amendment trump such laws?  (It may be helpful to read the first post below first.) 
First, if there is no applicable law banning business discrimination against LGBT’s, there is no issue.  There is nothing for Freedom of religion to overcome. Only the government is bound by the First Amendment.   A few states have such laws (that is treated below).  There is no federal statute on the matter. The 5th and 14th Amendments requiring equal protection of the law only apply to governments. They do not apply to private businesses.  
Next, let’s go over First Amendment “free exercise of religion” rights.  The U.S. Constitution takes precedence over any state or federal law.  This is the bottom line.  Based in the case law, the basic principles are as follows. According the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby, businesses and corporations have First Amendment freedom of religion rights, just like individuals.  They have this right against both state and federal governments.

Under the First Amendment, (According to Smith v. Employment Div.) if it is a neutral law of general applicability (not limited to any particular religion or specific religious belief), and does not implicate any other constitutional right (e.g. right of privacy), the Court does not require the government to meet the very difficult test of strict scrutiny (narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest).  This test is used in some situations, but not when the law is a general, neutral one.  A law banning LGBT discrimination by any business would be neutral law of general applicability (it applies to all businesses and is not aimed at a particular religion or religious belief). In this type of case, the government merely needs to show that the law is neutral and general and within the power of the states.  The states could, if they wanted, provide a religious exemption, but the First Amendment does not require that they do so. States have a general power to prohibit various types of discrimination.  Such a state law probably does not violate freedom of religion.  Under the Smith test, the business would not have a First Amendment right to discriminate.  Here we are talking about a business decision based on religious grounds.  We are not talking about discrimination in personal matters such as dating, marriage, etc.  These decisions are covered by the constitutional rights to privacy and liberty which would trump anti-discrimination laws, just like they trump laws requiring discrimination

 States have power to regulate commerce, as does the federal government when that commerce has an impact on interstate commerce.  Federal government power to enforce equal protection under the 5thand Fourteenth Amendments cannot trump individual or private business  rights.  The federal government can only enforce equal protection against state and federal  governments. States can enforce their own equal protection laws against individuals and private businesses, but those laws must meet U.S. Constitutional standards. 

Could a federal law, under Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce banning business discrimination against LGBT’s survive a First Amendment challenge?  The federal government can regulate individual conduct under the Commerce Power)  Maybe they could, but that opens up a whole new can of worms.  Let’s move on the RFRA’s. 

The federal and  most, if not all state RFRA’s require that government laws and acts that substantially infringe on religious practices must be justified by government by showing that it is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling government interest (strict scrutiny).  The federal and state governments can statutorily bind themselves to a rule which, in effect, provides greater protection than the First Amendment.  The federal RFRA applies only to the federal government.  A state law applies only in that state.   In the absence of a state RFRA, the state and federal governments must meet only the lenient test of the Smith case.  If there is a state RFRA the issue would then be whether the anti-discrimination statute can meet the  state statutorily mandated strict scrutiny test.  This test gives the business owner more, but not absolute protection. Arguably, preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by businesses is a compelling governmental interest.  If the statute is carefully written to be neutral and general, serves a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored (to minimize damaged to religious rights) it could overcome the RFRA.  Again, the business loses.

You might ask then, why did the business win in the Hobby Lobby decision? Remember, that was a decision under the federal RFRA only.  The feds lost because the provision in the Obamacare statute was not narrowly tailored.  The government could use other alternatives that would not place a substantial burden on religious belief. Had the statute been more carefully drafter (narrowly tailored) Hobby Lobby would have lost.

Bottom line, religious-based discrimination in business against LGBT’s will not be protected by the First Amendment.  A carefully drafter state anti-discrimination statute would pass most state RFRA’s.  The business is going to lose most of these cases.

RFRA v. LGBT Rights--cont.

This debate gets more confusing all the time.  The debate ignores a number of important differences between constitutions and statues, and state v. federal laws ,etc. See this article helps sort things out.  States need to decide on whether they want laws that ban or limit discrimination against LGBT persons. Then the issue becomes whether that state law violates First Amendment freedom of religion.  I hope to get to that issue in a later post.  For now, however, in part, the article states:
"What has completely changed are the politics around the issue, the symbolism of what voting for one of these laws means," Sanders said.
In other words, it’s how some conservatives want Indiana’s law to work that fosters fear among civil rights advocates for how it might.
Still, constitutional law professors say both sides are misinterpreting the point of these laws. The courts have not approved exemptions to discriminate against gays under religious freedom laws, and likely would not because the government has a compelling interest in protecting civil rights.
The two sides are essentially yelling past one another about a non-issue when they should be working on enacting protections based on sexual orientation in Indiana, said Robin Fretwell Wilson, professor and director of the family law and policy program at the University of Illinois College of Law.
"If there’s a license to discriminate in Indiana, it’s the fact there’s an absence of a statewide law that makes a promise to the LGBT community," she said. "RFRA is about minoritarian religion against government, by and large."

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Conflict-of-Rights: Religious Freedom v. Non-Discrimination

The conflict between Religious Freedom Restoration acts and principles of non-discrimination against LGBT individuals is heating up.  It appears that pressure by large corporations (e.g. Walmart) will quash or get reforms to at least some of the state RFRA's.   Two important American values are in conflict here--religious freedom and non-discrimination.  Two groups are asserting conflicting rights.  This is a very complicated and thorny conflict-of-rights area.  If possible, the courts should stay out of it and let the legislative branch, which hopefully reflects public feelings, decide. One compromise would be to exempt public accommodations equality laws from the RFRFA. However, the Supreme has already decided one issue under the RFRA in the Hobby Lobby case.
Another issue not mentioned in the prior post on this issue is the fact that RFRA rights are not absolute.  Government can infringe on religious rights if it shows a compelling interest.  This is high burden to meet, but can be done. Stay tuned.

Educators convicted in test score falsifications

11 former educators and administrators were convicted for falsifying student text exam results.  A prior post noted similar convictions for educators in El Paso, TX.  Anyone who doesn't think public education in the country is in serious trouble, has their head in the sand. Additionally, although the two are often treated as a pair, common core and related standards on the one hand and high-stakes testing on the other, are separate issues.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Texas Rarely Prosecutes Parents when Kids misuse guns

"Texas rarely prosecutes people who fail to secure their guns from children, according to a newspaper review of Department of Public Safety statistics.
Gun owners can be charged with a misdemeanor in Texas if they fail to secure their firearms or leave them in a place that a child can access. But the child access prevention, or CAP, law is rarely applied in Texas, the Austin American-Statesman ( ) reported Friday.
Authorities have arrested more than 200 people accused of making a firearm accessible to a child since 1995, when that section of the Texas penal code was enacted, but there have been only 61 convictions, DPS figures show."

In part, this may be because someone close to the adult was killed or injured by the child's misuse of a gun, and that may be deemed enough punishment.  (e.g. child killed brother with parent's gun).

Although there are frequent media reports of such misuse,  the number and rate of accidental firearms deaths of children has fallen significantly over the last 25 years.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hillary Clinton's State Dept. E-mail "Unpleasantness"

I hate to say "there oughta be a law," but when it comes to the conduct of high public officials or those with national-security sensitive jobs, there ougtha be a law to prevent (and punish) this type of situation from happening again. According to the New York Times (NYT):
"WASHINGTON — An examination of the server that housed the personal email account that Hillary Rodham Clinton used exclusively when she was secretary of state showed that there are no copies of any emails she sent during her time in office, her lawyer told a congressional committee on Friday.
After her representatives determined which emails were government-related and which were private, a setting on the account was changed to retain only emails sent in the previous 60 days, her lawyer, David Kendall, said. He said the setting was altered after she gave the records to the government.
“Thus, there are no emails from Secretary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state on the server for any review, even if such review were appropriate or legally authorized,” Mr. Kendall said in a letter to the House select committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
The committee subpoenaed the server this month, asking Mrs. Clinton to hand it over to a third party so it could determine which emails were personal and which were government records.
At a news conference this month, Mrs. Clinton appeared to provide two answers about whether she still had copies of her emails. First, she said that she “chose not to keep” her private personal emails after her lawyers had examined the account and determined on their own which ones were personal and which were State Department records. But later, she said that the server, which contained personal communication by her and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, “will remain private.” The server was kept at their home in Chappaqua, N.Y., which is protected around the clock by the Secret Service."

Business Service Discrimination v. Legal Marriage Discrimination & Religion

According to the New York Times (NYT) an “Indiana law that could make it easier for religious conservatives to refuse service to gay couples touched off storms of protest on Friday from the worlds of arts, business and college athletics and opened an emotional new debate in the emerging campaign for president.  . . . Passage of the Republican-led measure, described by advocates as protecting basic religious freedom, drew fierce denunciations. .By Friday afternoon, influential national leaders, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, had weighed in against the law, calling it a disappointing invitation to discriminate.Continue reading the main story  . . .But Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, a Republican who has not ruled out a 2016 presidential run, defended the law as an overdue protection when “many feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.” . . A similar furor was building in Arkansas on Friday as the State Senate adopted a version of the bill that has inflamed the state’s corporate giants, like Walmart, and high-tech companies the state is wooing. . . .The laws are modeled on a federal religious protection measure adopted in 1993 and subsequently passed by 20 states.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

Horrible legislative proposal in Texas

"It has been suggested that [Texas] SB 10 should be renamed the “Corrupt Incumbent Official Indemnification Act.” It creates a special legal system reserved for elected and other public officials and constructs a complex maze designed to stymie criminal investigations and prosecutions. If the bill becomes law, prosecuting a corrupt official will require the unanimous approval of the attorney general, the Texas Rangers, the presiding judge of the judicial region where the accused resides, and a local prosecuting attorney."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Explanation of the law in the TX Confederate flag license plate case.

Here's the legal background in a nutshell.
"Because Texas allows more than 300 civic organizations to buy space on its license plates, free-speech advocates say that the state has created a limited public forum in branded logo plates. If that’s right, the sons of Confederate veterans who want to put the Confederate battle flag on a license plate should win their case. The government can’t favor nonracist speech over racist speech, because racism is a viewpoint, albeit a nasty one.
But that’s only half the legal story. On the other side is a separate doctrine, known as the doctrine of government speech. According to this principle, if the government is speaking, and not a private person, then the free-speech clause doesn’t apply at all. The government is under no obligation to speak neutrally. It can advance any viewpoint it wishes, provided that viewpoint isn’t itself unconstitutional.
Courts love the government speech doctrine because it enables them to make difficult free-speech cases disappear. In the Texas license plate case, it means the state could express any view it wants on its license plates without worrying about embracing any one viewpoint. If the logos on the plate are government speech, Texas wins.
At this point you may be getting frustrated with me, or rather with the Supreme Court. “Come on,” you say, “this isn’t simply a limited public forum or simply government speech — it’s obviously both!”
Well, yes. But the Supreme Court’s judicial doctrine hasn’t really clarified what would happen if the case presented a true hybrid between a limited public forum and government speech. The law insists on slotting every example into one of the two boxes. And which doctrinal box the court chooses dictates the outcome of the case."

This is a toughie.  In a close case I believe that constitutional rights should always prevail.  I believe Texas has created a limited public forum.  This being so, it cannot discriminate against viewpoints.  It must allow the rebel flag plates.  The solution is to abolish the specialized plates option. 

Firing squad now an option in Utah for death penalty

Utah's governor signed the bill making firing squad an alternate means of execution if no drugs are available.  Utah is currently the only state using this method.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lawsuit challenges CA's prostitution ban

A "sex-workers" group has filed a lawsuit to overturn California's laws against consensual prostitution.  The group relies, in part, on the Supreme Court's decision (Lawrence v. Texas), overturning laws prohibiting consensual adult homosexual acts.  However, from the article, it appears that they are not following the rationale of the plurality in Lawrence, which did not get into "fundamental rights," it merely asked whether "liberty" was involved.  Stay tuned!

Justice Kennedy calls for Prison Reform

According to the AP,  U.S. Supreme” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy  told a U.S. House Commtte that 'American prisons rely too much on holding inmates in isolation and that the corrections system is "broken" in many respects.
At a  hearing on  Monday to discuss the Supreme Court's budget, "Kennedy told lawmakers that the country does not spend enough time thinking about making prisons more humane.
Kennedy says solitary confinement "literally drives men mad."
He is the author of the court's opinion in 2011 that ordered California to cut its inmate population to deal with unconstitutional prison conditions caused by overcrowding.""

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Supreme Court to hear case on police use of force on the mentally disabled

The issues involve both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fourth Amendment.  Oral argument is coming up.  Expect a decision sometime in late May or early June. According to, the facts area as follows:

"In August 2008, a city social worker made an attempt to check up on Teresa Sheehan, a mentally disabled woman living in a group home in San Francisco.  The worker planned to take Sheehan for a current psychiatric evaluation.  He let himself into her room with a key, apparently without first getting permission.
Sheehan told him to leave and, he said later, brandished a knife and threatened to kill him.  He called the police and took other residents out of the home. Two San Francisco police officers, Kimberly Reynolds and Katherine Holder, responded and learned of the situation.  The social worker asked them to help get Sheehan to the facility for the planned test.  He told them that Sheehan had not been taking her medicines, and was not taking care of herself physically.
The officers knocked on the door of Sheehan’s room and announced themselves.  Using the social worker’s key, they unlocked the door and entered.  Sheehan was lying on the bed, but apparently got up suddenly.  The officers later said that she grabbed a knife, told them to get out, and said she did not need any help.  She allegedly also threatened to kill the two police officers, and said they had no warrant to arrest her.
The officers left the room and called for back-up support.  Without waiting for other officers to arrive, according to the record in the case, the two officers decided to force their way back into Sheehan’s room, fearing that she might try to escape and might have other weapons.
With guns drawn, they went in.  They testified later that she came at them with a knife, and that they tried to subdue her with pepper spray but that she kept advancing toward them with the knife in hand.  The officers fired their weapons, hitting Sheehan five or six times.  She survived the wounds."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Obama Administration appears to fear transparency

You may already be familiar with the saying that "sunlight is the best disinfectant."  Unfortunately, far too many levels of government and agencies act like Dracula.
According to the Associated Press:
"The Obama administration set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.
"The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn't find documents and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.
It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law — but only when it was challenged."

When the add on the IRA e-mail and Sec. of State Clinton's private e-mail and server and disposal of "personal e-mails," anyone who expected Obama's promises of "change" to result in more sunlight has to be greatly disappointed.  If course, most if not all administrations have been guilty too.

Two New Gun Rights Bills in Texas

The Texas Senate has approved both open carry (for those with concealed carry licenses) and allowing licensed concealed carry in buildings on public college campuses.  Both votes were strictly along party-lines.  All Repubs for, all Dems against.  The campus carry bill is the most controversial.  From the  negative side: “The people of Texas don’t want this bill. The administrators don’t want this bill. Faculty doesn’t want this bill. Workers and employees don’t want this bill. Students don’t want this bill,” Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said. “Why are we doing this?"
 First, the factual assertions are incorrect.  I personally know students, faculty and a  number of Texans who are not opposed to the bill.

Second like so many politicians on both the left and rights, they never knew, forgot or don’t care that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land.  An individual’s prejudices and ideology and party loyalty are not the law of the land.  The Second Amendment protects both the right to keep and bear arms.  While these rights are not absolute, certainly the Second Amendment protects carrying in college campus buildings by state-licensed individuals.  While government can restrict carrying in highly sensitive places, e.g. jails, courthouses, etc.  public university campuses are not in the same category as these other locations.   Much of the Constitution and all of the Bill of Rights are “contermajoritarian.”  It doesn’t matter what the majority wants, these rights prevail over legislative and popular preference.  In Texas and most, if not all, of the South, segregated public schools were required by statute. If, in  1953  there was a referendum on whether public schools should be racially integrated, it would have lost badly.  The next year,  the Supreme Court ruled otherwise.  The only way for the majority to overrule the Constitution is to follow the difficult process of amending it.
Thirdly, fear is a powerful motivator that has been used throughout history to trample rights (Red Scares 1920-21 and 1947-57,,  crime and rape by black students in integrated public schools, communist threats in 1950’s, etc.).  There was no increase in; gun crime after Texas passed concealed carry.  No state saw an increase in gun crime after passing concealed carry.  Concealed carry is already allowed on campus grounds.  There have been no shootings that I know of by licensees on college grounds.  Further, to get a license, a person must be 21, pass a shooting demonstration, have “clean” criminal record, be fingerprinted and screened, and pay a sizeable amount for the training and license.  The people most likely to be a problem will not be able to get a license.

Finally, many public universities and colleges nationwide show a widespread disrespect for First Amendment rights. (See the FIRE website).  They show a similar disrespect for Second Amendment rights.  Apparently there are public officials and public employees who think they are above the law.  Prejudice and ideology trumps the law for these arrogant, self-righteous individuals.