Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

And the Ninth Circus Court strikes again, this time regarding voting rights

If there was ever an appellate court that needs a top-to-bottom change, it's got to be the Ninth Circus Court of Appeals. Yesterday they issued yet another boneheaded decision. This one is in relation to voting rights ..... for felons. From the Seattle Times:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday tossed out Washington's law banning incarcerated felons from voting, finding the state's criminal-justice system is "infected" with racial discrimination.

The surprising ruling, by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, said the law violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising minority voters.

The decision is the first in the country's federal appeals courts to equate a prohibition against voting by incarcerated felons with practices outlawed under the federal Voting Rights Act, such as poll taxes or literacy tests.

But Washington's 37,000 felons in prison or on community supervision should not yet break out their voter pamphlets. State Attorney General Rob McKenna said he will appeal — either back to a larger 9th Circuit panel, or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The two-judge majority apparently was persuaded by the plaintiffs' argument that reams of social-science data filed in the case showed minorities in Washington are stopped, arrested and convicted in such disproportionate rates that the ban on voting by incarcerated felons is inherently discriminatory.

The decision, written by Judge A. Wallace Tashima, said the studies "speak to a durable, sustained indifference in treatment faced by minorities in Washington's criminal justice system — systemic disparities which cannot be explained by 'factors independent of race.' "

McKenna said the ruling, if upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, would apply to all 48 states that ban voting by felons in prison or on supervision. But he disputed the research and the court's legal reasoning.

"What the 9th Circuit did here is misapply the Voting Rights Act," he said. "They just got it wrong."

The case was first filed in Spokane in 1996 by Muhammad Shabazz Farrakhan, who was serving a three-year sentence at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla for a series of felony-theft convictions. Ultimately, five other inmates, all members of racial minority groups, joined as plaintiffs.

This has to be the dumbest ruling the Ninth Circus Court has handed down in some time, and apparently it's to make up for any sensible rulings they handed down last year. When you commit a crime -- a felony -- and you're convicted, you lose ALL of your Constitutional rights. Once you have served your time to society for your transgression, you may appeal to have your rights reinstated. It's a lengthy process, for some as long as seven years, but this is the path you have to go through.

The Ninth Circus Court threw that out yesterday and said, wrongly so, that felons can't be denied the right to vote, even if they're still in prison. They claimed this violates the Voting Rights Act, which is an asinine proposal to say the least. Roger Clegg at National Review's Bench Memos explains briefly why their decision is a mistake:

The Ninth Circuit ruled yesterday that it is a violation of the Voting Rights Act for the State of Washington to disenfranchise felons, due to racial discrimination in the state’s criminal justice system.

Oh, where to begin? First, the evidence of systemic discrimination is dubious. Second, even if there were such discrimination, the record is overwhelming that Congress did not intend the Voting Rights Act to apply to felon disenfranchisement. Third, even if the Voting Rights Act did apply, the state’s legitimate and strong reasons for not wanting criminals to vote would rebut any prima facie case. Those who won’t follow the law themselves can fairly be told that they will not be allowed to make the law for everyone else. We don’t let everyone vote — not children, not noncitizens, not the mentally incompetent, and not criminals — since there are certain minimum, objective standards of responsibility, loyalty, and trustworthiness that we require of those who would participate in the serious enterprise of self-government. The Center for Equal Opportunity has devoted part of its website to this important issue.

Well, here’s hoping the Ninth Circuit will rehear the case en banc. If not, the Supreme Court will likely grant review, since yesterday’s decision is in conflict with those of other federal courts of appeals.

If the Ninth doesn't review this en banc, basically punting on the issue, the SCOTUS will agree to hear this case, and they will reverse the most reversed appellate court, again. There's a distinct difference between a felon claiming they were abused while in prison, or the idiotic notion that the death penalty is unconstitutional. (It's hardly unconstitutional seeing as how the Framers recognized the difference between light and transient crimes, i.e. misdemeanors, and Capital crimes. The latter being punishable by death.) But this is just folly. The data regarding racial discrimination has nothing to do with denying felons the right to vote. They have to apply to get that right back when they exit the prison system. That's the way it's always been.

This decision by the Ninth Circus Court shows their utter misunderstanding of the law, and the Constitution. Granted, this was a three-judge panel, and not the entire court, so I won't indict them with the same opinion I give to the slim majority who ruled on this issue. The Ninth needs to review this en banc and reverse this insanity. We predict that is what will happen when this is all said and done.

Publius II

2 Comments:

Anonymous Greg May said...

You wrote:

"When you commit a crime -- a felony -- and you're convicted, you lose ALL of your Constitutional rights."

I don't believe that statement is correct. Inmates sue (or file petitions for writ of habeas corpus) all the time to vindicate Constitutional rights of which they were deprived in prison.

January 6, 2010 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger Syd And Vaughn said...

Mr. May,

You are correct. I misstated the point. Certasin rightsd, such as the Gigth, Sixth and Eighth amendments aren't suspended, as they continue to file appeals. However, many of the others are gone. To this day, as far as I'm aware. G. Gordon Liddy still hasn't been able to get his right to bear arms back despite numerous appeals to the federal government, and a record of good behaviour since being released from prison.

Sometimes, felons may never get certain rights back, no matter how many times they appeal it. However, my point still stands that incarcerated felons don't have any rights to vote. They forfeited those rights the moment they were convicted of their crime.

Publius II

January 7, 2010 at 5:00 PM  

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