Archive for the ‘legal / law’ Category


I’m an equal-opportunity pointer-outer-of-stupid-stuff here at WND Watch. And Cheryl Chumley is making a lot of posts … her “About” paragraph says she is a full-time reporter for WND, but I’m guessing she was hired very recently because until this week, I have never seen her posts, and I’m too tired to go back and search. (Okay, fine: She had a few WND posts starting in July 2014, but only around a dozen. Suddenly on March 2, she’s writing around 9 per day.)

Anyway, back to the story: It has emerged over the last few days that when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she used a private e-mail address. WND has reported this as: “Hillary-Gate? Email Server Traced to Clinton Home.” (FYI, I’m really sick of people attaching “Gate” to every scandal or pseudo-scandal.)

The news is really that basic headline. The problem is two-fold: (1) The law (Federal Records Act) requires that official e-mails of government workers take place from government accounts such that they are subject to open-records requests (in other words, what Hillary did was probably illegal, in my very un-legal opinion); and (2) security reasons, for government servers tend to be more hardened against hacking attempts as well as being better backed up.

Because of that first reason, I remember early in President Obama’s presidency, headlines were made about him being the first “Email President” because both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton eschewed e-mail because of those open-records laws. Obama was at a point where he was unwilling to give it up.

There is a lot to still be said for this developing story, and I don’t know how it will turn out. Did Mrs. Clinton violate the law? I don’t know, but it would seem like it. Is this a massive scandal? I don’t think so, but “scandals” tend to be scaled by one’s own personal politics.

Will this affect her possible White House run? I doubt it because the people who won’t vote for her because of this weren’t going to vote for her anyway, and those who would vote for her aren’t going to let this get in the way. For the most part.

But, if she actually did break the law here, I think she should be held accountable. That said, it remains to be seen whether the report is accurate and what the specifics were if it was accurate.


Sigh. To me, this is neither a conservative, nor a liberal issue at this point. (Though maybe it is? State supremacy = conservative cause?) Here’s the latest from Alabama, just in Sunday night (so less than 12 hrs old): “Alabama Judges Ordered to Halt ‘Halt’ Weddings.” It’s by Cheryl Chumley, who I haven’t seen before on WND.

And let’s be very clear: It’s not the weddings at issue, it’s the issuance of marriage licenses.

Anyway, the decision was 7 to 1 with Roy Moore recusing himself (probably the only thing he’s done right in this, in my opinion). The dissenting judge effectively told his co-justicies: “WTF, are you high?” He actually that he didn’t think the case was properly filed, the court had any jurisdiction, and that public interest groups could sue in Alabama’s name, since it was outside groups and not the Governor, Legislature, nor Attorney General who sued.

The issue for me is that second one: Jurisdiction. Article 6, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution clearly says:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Most people I know interpret this to mean that federal laws and courts have supremacy over state. In other words, the Federal District Court Judge’s ruling has supremacy over a state Supreme Court.

This is besides the fact that I think this is a ruling meant to uphold a hugely discriminatory law. Or, as God put it today:

God Tweets on Alabama Supreme Court

God Tweets on Alabama Supreme Court


I posted once and twice last week about the developments in Alabama. World Net Daily happily covered the drama and the Christian Soldiers (mainly Roy Moore) fighting against marriage equality and for judicial nullification (which is odd, considering that Roy Moore is a judge).

What happened on Thursday is that the plaintiffs in one of the counties where a probate judge was following Moore and not the federal ruling is that the US District Judge Callie Granade clarified her ruling and stated it applied to all probate judges. Most counties fell within a day or two, but there are still about a dozen holdouts praying that Moore is right.

What’s surprising to me is that there was nary a peep out of WND about that development. Nothing. After all their coverage in the week before it, there was not a single article nor news snippet about this for the past five days.


Skeptics or logicians reading the title of this post may recognize an inherent logical fallacy, the tu quoque (literally, “you, too”). This is an informal fallacy which means that the logic is flawed, but that doesn’t mean the conclusion reached is flawed.

Many on the far right wing over the past several months have pointed to the fact that both Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan have presided over same-sex marriage ceremonies. Therefore, the thinking goes, they have pre-judged any same-sex marriage case that would go before the Supreme Court and therefore they should recuse themselves. I wrote about this once before back in 2013. Since I wrote about it before, I’ve generally ignored follow-up WND posts on it.

But, I decided to knock out an easy one today and let you know that it’s still A Thing over at WND, such as this latest story by Bob Unruh quoting the vehemently anti-gay Brian Brown of the National Organization for (straight-only, two-people-only, God-fearing-only) Marriage (NOM) (who also has a WND column): “Calls for Ginsburg to Drop Out of Marriage Case Escalate.”

The issue of judicial recusal is a tricky one. I don’t understand all of the details, but I do know that it is often very much up to the jurist to decide their own conflict of interest and make that determination themselves. I also know that it has long been held that a jurist’s makeup (such as gender, race, sexual orientation, political affiliation) is not grounds for recusal.

Public statements specific to the case? Perhaps. I’m not sure. In which case Ginsburg – who stated this week that people need to get over it, same-sex marriage is going to happen (that’s me paraphrasing) – might be considered as someone who should recuse herself.

That said, if she does, then Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia also must recuse themselves. Interesting that I don’t see WND or anyone else on the right pointing this out.

Why do I say this? Because of the tu quote or, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” While Kagan and Ginsburg have both made their general personal position on marriage equality fairly clear, so have Scalia and Thomas. Thomas has been a bit more cagey in his remarks, but as a strict textualist and very much a person seeking to limit the federal government, his opinions have pretty much always sided with restricting individual rights when those are rights not explicitly enumerated in the Constitution. And, he’s seen as one of the most conservative members of the Court and voted against the majority opinion in the decision to strike down anti-sodomy laws. As for Scalia, he has been very outspoken against same-sex marriage and made his opinions on the issue very clear. He has been the primary dissenter in any legalization or striking down of anti-legalization of pro-homosexual issues, including the anti-sodomy laws and DOMA. In addition to that, both Scalia and Thomas frequently associate with vehemently anti-gay groups.

Do I actually think any of these four will recuse themselves? No. But if you call for one side to do so, you must call for the other. But, WND and its ilk want to stack the deck and know that the ruling this year is likely to be a 5/4 decision, but if both Kagan and Ginsburg recuse themselves, then the Court will uphold marriage equality bans.

Surprisingly, at the moment, the top-rated of the 147 comments on the 18-hrs-old WND story is by “BobSF_94117” and he points this out: “Scalia goes around the country offering his opinion on SSM and, far worse, his legal opinion of it.” You have to scroll through many, many other comments (when ranked form “Best” on down) to find one expressing similar ideas.


I have a headache and the airplane I’m in as I’m writing this has hit some turbulence, so forgive me for a short post. There are three links for this one. First, there’s the WND post, which is “Student Reprimanded for Saying ‘God Bless America.'”

There actually is no story. Nada. No description in the RSS feed, no three-paragraph snippet. Just a link to “Read the full story” which takes you to Fox “news” and an article by Todd Starnes: “Student Reprimanded for Saying ‘God Bless America.'” The Fox story has nearly 10,000 comments when I loaded it in the airport.

“Similarly,” the WND story has 53 comments when I last loaded it. The top-rated comment is by “daleetaylor” who wrote: “I wonder if we realize how close we are to a national collapse. The leaders of this nation are doing whatever they want and they could care less what the American people want. That is the sad truth. They LIE, LIE, LIE and LIE about their lying. We as a nation must pray to the only true God and repent or we will perish. That is the truth. God forgive us.”

Without even reading the story or anything else, my knee-jerk reaction is pretty much what “kim” said in response: “The american people don’t want god in the classroom. They decided 230 years ago and reaffirm that every election since. Maybe you should move to a theocracy.” “kim” was attacked, as expected.

But, the whole reason that I found this story and even clicked on it was because Hemant posted about it on his The Friendly Atheist blog: “Todd Starnes Flips Out After Student Told Not to Say “God Bless America” During Morning Announcements.”

Here’s the real story:

  1. Students at this school (Yulee High School in Florida) are allowed to read the morning announcements. Over the loudspeaker. To a captive audience. At that point, they legally become an agent of the school. More on that later.
  2. Students were adding “God Bless America” to the end of the announcements.
  3. Two students who are atheists, fearing reprisal, told their parents and the parents complained to the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
  4. The legal center wrote a letter to the school explaining the problem.
  5. The principal wrote back within hours saying that “the theistic assertion was not part of the scripted announcements but was added by a student without the school’s approval.” And, “The principal reassured the legal center, “It is our desire and intention to respect the belief and constitutional freedoms of all our students at Yulee High School.””

Enter Todd Starnes. Who “asked Jeremy Dys, an attorney with Liberty Institute to weigh in on this nonsense and he said the atheists don’t have a prayer:”

“Whether a student is being patriotic or engaging in religious speech, there is no law in this country forbidding a student from telling his or her classmates, ‘God bless America’ and it is illegal for a school to censor a student for doing so,” he said.

Dys also wonders why atheists are so hell-bent on trying to censor the patriotic speech of a red-blooded American high school student.

“Regardless of this attempt by secularists to white wash over this demonstration of patriotism by a teenager, America’s students do not give up their right to free speech and the expression of their religious beliefs when they go to school,” he said.

Here’s the issue: Students don’t give up their First Amendment rights to free speech when at school. They can tell fellow students anything they want about their religious beliefs or wear clothing that does – provided they do not create a hostile environment or interfere with learning – during school hours and on school property.

The issue goes to my first enumerated step in the story: They are giving this to a captive audience over the public address system as agents of the school. The school – and its agents – cannot advocate a religious belief. Therefore, the students saying “God Bless America” over the loudspeakers to a captive audience as part of the morning announcements is illegal.

Another part of the comments are people screaming about the “atheist students” and how they feared reprisal, and how they should have just come forward on their own. Um, this is high school. Do you really want to be even more of a pariah if, say, you’re the person already with few friends, and it’s the school’s prize quarterback who’s the one saying this in the announcements? Really?

And, I can personally relate: In my elementary school (grades 3-5), we were allowed, two at a time, for fifth graders, to go to the office in the morning and read the Pledge of Allegiance over the loudspeakers. Like good little minions, everyone in their homerooms would stand and recite it along with us.

I was fairly atheistic from a young age. I would say the pledge (I stopped in high school, for which I got bullied even by friends for not saying it when everyone else would during assemblies), but I would remain silent during the “under God” part. I was going to skip over it when I read it to the school. But even I, who already at that age didn’t have too many friends to lose anyway, chickened out and just read it as I was “supposed to.” Though because I didn’t chicken out until literally the word before it, I tripped up anyway and instead of a proud statement of church-state separation, I just was laughed at because I stumbled over several words in front of the entire school. The girl who did it with me (since it was boy-girl pairs) just shook her head, and the secretaries administrative staff looked at me with pity.

Sometimes school sucks. Trying to make a political, religious, or a-religious statement – even if you’re in the right – can make you a social pariah right at that age where you’re trying to figure out who you are, what your values are, and just fit in.


As I said in my post two days ago, Monday would be interesting in Alabama with all the legal stuff (and, I would argue, illegal stuff) going on. I think the headlines are what really tell much of the story.

From World Net Daily, we have these, all written by Anti-Homo-in-Chief Bob Unruh (all comment counts are preliminary since these are less than 24 hours old):

*This story has gone through at least four different headlines. The first was, “Drastic Measure Taken on ‘Gay’ Marriage.” The second, I didn’t copy down. The third was “Supremes Won’t Stop ‘Gay’ Marriage,” and the last one I saw was “Alabama Begins Marrying ‘Gay’ Couples.”

And, I have lots of headlines from other news outlets, including many from blogger Joe Jervis at “Joe.My.God” or “JMG” for short. These are in temporal order, starting late Sunday night, and by reading the headlines, you’ll be able to tell a lot of what happened.

That is a lot of news coverage. To try to summarize for y’all who don’t want to even skim that list, there was a basic sequence of events:

  1. Judge Roy Moore on Sunday night sent a letter to all probate court judges telling them NOT to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He stated in the letter that the Governor could take action against them if they did, though the Governor’s office said they had no idea what Moore was talking about. Because, you know, The Bible. And Icky Stuff.

    “The U.S. district courts have no power or authority to redefine marriage. Once you start redefining marriage, that’s the ultimate power. Would it overturn the laws of incest? Bigamy? Polygamy? How far do they go? A lot of states in this union have caved to such unlawful authority, and this is not one This is Alabama. We don’t give up the recognition that law has bounds. I disagree with standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent blacks from getting equal education. We’re talking about a constitutional amendment to preserve the recognition that marriage is one man and one woman, as it has been for centuries.” – Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, speaking this afternoon to NBC News.

  2. This created a patchwork of counties in Alabama that were offering licenses to everyone (few), offering licenses only to opposite-sex couples (more), or none at all (most).

    Alabama Counties Status of Marriage Licenses, February 10, 2015

    Alabama Counties Status of Marriage Licenses, February 10, 2015

  3. The Governor came out and said that he wasn’t going to do anything against probate judges who followed Moore’s directive or who followed the Federal court’s directive. But he did NOT want to be compared to Gov. George Wallace who, half a century ago, stood in the way of National Guard troops after the Federal courts ruled against desegregation. (This comparison was being made a lot yesterday.)

    Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican and a Southern Baptist, said he believes strongly that marriage is between one man and one woman, but that the issue should be “worked out through the proper legal channels” and not through defiance of the law. The governor noted that Alabama is about to be in the spotlight again with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed after civil rights marchers were attacked and beaten in Selma, Alabama — events chronicled in the Oscar-nominated movie “Selma.” “I don’t want Alabama to be seen as it was 50 years ago when a federal law was defied. I’m not going to do that,” Bentley said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

  4. Some judges refusing to comply with the the Federal order were mocked.
    Alabama Probate Judge Refusing to Follow the US Constitution

    Alabama Probate Judge Refusing to Follow the US Constitution

  5. Others were sued, but the Federal judge did nothing:

    Probate Judge Don Davis is not a party in this case and the Order of January 23, 2015, did not directly order Davis to do anything. Judge Davis’s obligation to follow the Constitution does not arise from this court’s Order. The Clarification Order noted that actions against Judge Davis or others who fail to follow the Constitution could be initiated by persons who are harmed by their failure to follow the law. However, no such action is before the Court at this time.

  6. So, the actual plaintiffs are now suing.

That’s kinda where we are today, or as of noon today. I could talk about a lot of issues here. Including Judge Moore making many of his arguments on Facebook, and then deleting them, like the one below.

One of Roy Moore's Rants on Facebook that Were Deleted

One of Roy Moore’s Rants on Facebook that Were Deleted

Or that this is a huge case of judicial activism, which I thought conservatives were against. Or questions about authority, and whether Moore actually has any authority over probate judges. Or the apt or inapt comparisons to George Wallace. Or that in the refusal of the Supreme Court of the United States to grant a stay of the Federal judge’s order could be interpreted (by Justice Thomas’ own remarks) as the tacit admission that that is how the Supreme Court will rule later this year.

Instead, I think I’ll just point out the real effect here: In all this posturing, to try to uphold their religion (and let’s be honest: There is no reason to be against this other than religion, and it’s what’s been the focus of all Moore’s (and others’) arguments), they are hurting real people. People who love each other and just want the recognition of the state that opposite-sex couples have always enjoyed. This isn’t just some vague issue. It’s a real one with real victims.


This is a long post, and a developing situation at that. I first became aware of Judge Roy Moore, the “Ten Commandments Judge,” a decade ago when I was in college. He refused to comply with a court order to remove a massive monument of the Ten Commandments from his courthouse, and because of that, he was stripped of his judgeship.

For this, he was made both into a martyr for the cause and something of a minor celebrity among the far-right who are über-religious.

Then, a little under a decade later, the (adjective removed) people of Alabama decided to elect him yet again to be the Supreme Court Chief Justice (of Alabama). Seems to me that a man who refuses to follow the ruling of the courts has no business being a judge.

And, he’s at it again. Specifically, the Federal court in Alabama ruled as every single other court (except the 6th Circuit) has for the past few years: the state ban on issuing marriage licenses to two people of the same gender is unconstitutional. Moore is all about nullification.

This post is made from several WND posts:

It is also made from several posts on other sites:

Really, that first news snippet lays out the entire initiation:

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has released a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley saying that he intends to continue to recognize the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and urging the governor to do so.

Moore’s office released the three-page letter that was delivered to the governor this morning in response to a federal judge’s ruling Friday striking down the ban.

“As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I will continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment,” Moore wrote.

The problem is that legally (by court precedent, by federal law, and, well, the results of the Civil War), federal law trumps state law. Federal courts trump state courts. Federal Constitution trumps state constitution. There’s something called the Supremacy Clause in the US Constitution about this. But, Moore seems to think that only the Supreme Court can void a state law: “Moore said court precedents from throughout the state’s history make it clear that only the U.S. Supreme Court can overturn the highest court decision in the state system, so Granade’s decision, and a temporarily delayed order implementing it, was out of line.” FYI, this particular District Judge was an appointee of former President George W. Bush.

Pretty much everyone disagrees with him. For example: “Ronald Krotoszynski, a constitutional law expert at the University of Alabama School of Law, said Moore’s words carry little legal weight, as federal constitutional law trumps that of states. “There is no credible legal argument that an order from a federal judge with jurisdiction over a matter isn’t binding on a state government,” he said.””

As a side bar, Moore founded a group called the Foundation for Moral Law. It’s now run by his wife. Officially, the group has not responded to Moore’s letter to the governor, though it has said this:

“Alabamians approved the 2006 Sanctity of Marriage Amendment by 81% of the vote,” she said, “and the will of the people should not be lightly discarded in favor of an alleged right that is found nowhere in the Constitution.” She added that the Foundation bears no animus toward the plaintiffs in this case or in any other: “Jesus loves them, and He died for their sins as well as for mine. But homosexual conduct is still sin, and we must stand firm for what is right.”

As another (completely gratuitous) side bar, Judge Moore’s son isn’t as clean-cut as his papa, as JMG pointed out on January 29. His Twitter feed was quickly made private, but that was after people grabbed screenshots of him writing such illuminating things as: “Happiest of days to you my man @Tcopeland4 may much poon come your way #birthdaybash2014” or “I would love to meet the folks who think they go harder than these niggas #thecrew @Tcopeland4 @woods457 @JLHrastamon @Kyul_Landers” And lots of pictures of him with lots of alcohol.

Back to the story … In response to Moore’s letter urging the Governor to ignore the federal court ruling, the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) has filed a formal judicial ethics complaint against Judge Moore:

over his public statements urging the governor and Alabama judges to defy federal law and enforce Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages. The complaint was filed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission of Alabama, which could recommend that Moore face ethics charges in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. That court removed Moore from the office of chief justice 12 years ago after he refused to comply with a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

“Moore is once again wrapping himself in the Bible and thumbing his nose at the federal courts and federal law,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “As a private citizen, Moore is entitled to his views. But as the chief justice of Alabama, he has a responsibility to recognize the supremacy of federal law and to conform his conduct to the canons of judicial ethics.”

JMG points out, “It was the SPLC’s 2003 complaint that first got Moore booted off the Alabama Supreme Court. He was reelected in 2012.”

At the same time as this, probate judges in Alabama were hoping for what the county clerks of Florida did, as well, but ultimately didn’t get: That maybe the Federal judge’s ruling would only apply to those particular plaintiffs and/or that particular county. No such luck, as the second JMG post I linked to points out: “Federal Judge Granade today clarified her ruling from last Friday, stipulating that it does indeed apply to all Alabama counties. […] Granade’s clarification cites federal Judge Robert Hinkle’s similar ruling in Florida.”

And, “The Alabama Probate Judges Association said it would follow her judgement.”

Moore, however, is not backing down. In response: “Alabama’s chief justice is telling probate judges that they are not required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite a federal judge’s decision overturning the state’s gay marriage ban. Roy Moore sent a letter Tuesday to probate judges, saying the judge’s decision isn’t binding on them.”

And, in response to that, the SPLC filed another ethics charge against Moore.

Besides interviews to such fair and balanced outlets as World Net Daily, he’s been on radio programs such as with Tony Perkins’ “Washington Watch” (Perkins is president of the Family Research Council), and with Sandy Rios on the American Family Association’s show. These may not help him if he is brought up, again, on ethics charges. This quote deals with his appearance with Perkins:

His latest appearance may turn out to be a gift to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which earlier this week filed a complaint against the Chief Justice after he first pledged to ignore pro-equality rulings. SPLC pointed out that Moore’s declaration constitutes numerous ethics violations, such as commenting on a pending case and encouraging lawlessness.

In his conversation with Perkins, Moore also lamented that the country no longer arrests and imprisons gays and lesbians, approvingly citing the 1986 case Bowers v. Hardwick, which legitimized anti-LGBT harassment by police. The FRC filed an antigay brief in the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned the Bowers ruling.

But, it’s not just the SPLC that is getting into this. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has started a petition that demands the Judicial Inquiry Commission take action against Judge Moore.

I’m getting this post out today because tomorrow, Monday February 9, the stay on Judge Granade’s order is lifted, and probate judges must begin to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or be in contempt of that court order.