ROGER FITCH ESQ • WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2015
Ten turbulent years of the Roberts court ... Gitmo travesties ... Failure of "black site" victims to get remedies ... Stealing votes ... Roger Fitch, Our Man in Washington, reports
THE supreme court is back in town, withtrouble on its mind.
A frightening agenda awaits action by the Republican-activist majority.
First, the court has to decide which 75 cases to hear, whittling the 8,000 petitions with its dreaded "long conference" and relists.
Politically-charged cases will be eagerly taken on by the most political supreme court ever.
In one of its first decisions, the court gave Wall Street a free pass on insider trading.
In one of its first cases, the corporate-friendly 5-4 majority on the supreme court reviewed the resistance in California to forced arbitration in consumer litigation.
The Federal Arbitration Act dates from 1925, but it wasn't until Southland Corp v Keatingin 1984 that a new Republican majority discovered that the FAA applied to states, their consumers and contracts.
More here on the court's relentless extension of arbitration to employment contracts and class actions.
In another case, the same majority will be deeply sympathetic to corporate class action defendants who have found a clever way to pick off plaintiffs one-by-one.
The court will also consider whether its 2012 decision striking down mandatory life imprisonment without parole for underage defendants should apply retrospectively to a further 2,100 prisoners. A heartless decision is a distinct possibility.
The Republicans on the court have already done plenty for the party, including its attacks on voting rights, but there are three big cases this term that could allow them to do even more to aid the states' determined suppression (read on) of potential Democrat votes.
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While talk has turned to closing Guantánamo, what has happened to internees who managed to get out, some through forced repatriation to strange countries?
VICE News has an article on two Tunisians who were dumped last year in Kazakhstan, where the Czars used to send troublemakers like Dostoyevsky. The experience of the exiles has not been a happy one; unlike Fyodor, they don't speak Russian.
There can be worse language problems. Newsweek has a story on a recently-released Gitmo prisoner who spent 13 years in wrongful US custody after a mistake in translation.
Al Jazeera meanwhile has a where-is-he-now video on another Gitmo travesty of justice, the internment of Asadallah Raman, a 10-year-old Afghan boy held for a year at Guantánamo with two other children. His plight was first reported in 2004 in the San Francisco Chronicle.
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In other unfinished war-on-terror business, two men formerly imprisoned by the CIA, and the personal representative of a third that the CIA tortured to death, are suing the psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen in federal court in Washington State.
The ACLU has a backgrounder.
The two psychologists, whose company was paid $81 million for "services" before the CIA cancelled their contract, are also being sued for human experimentation.
The NYT wonders why the government can't allow victims a judicial remedy after years of shamefully blocking every claim.
Blame lies with the supreme court for denying certiorari in case after case of prisoner torture and abuse; the appeal of Al Laithi v Rumsfeld (see previous post) should give the court another chance to redeem itself.
Fortuitously, the Bureau of Investigative Reporting has a new study of the "black sites", torture dungeons set up by the CIA in Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Thailand, Afghanistan and Guantánamo.
The report confirms that the CIA's Lithuanian torture facility near Vilnius was in use when - without irony - DefSec Donald Rumsfeld visited that city’s KGB museum, a former torture facility, in October 2005.
The 14 "high value detainees" ultimately sent to Guantánamo in 2006 were the remnants of a Gulag that contained at least 119, according to the Senate's Feinstein "Torture Report". Forty-two of these are now known to have been released, 30 are still in US custody, seven have died, and the fate of the others is unsettled. None have received any compensation, apology or explanation.
Finally, in a perfectly legal (see August post) - albeit expensive and embarrassing - case of victor overkill, the mighty US made an example of a lowly Taliban combatant who had the temerity to attack American soldiers in Afghanistan, during a war.
The result was the defendant's conviction of terrorism and attempted murder in a Virginia federal court.
More here on the symbolic show trial of Irek Hamidullin, who failed to harm anyone, and was the lone survivor among 30 Taliban.
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In 2013, the supreme court's five-man Republican majority judicially repealed - in Shelby County v Holder - the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that required Justice Department supervision of states with shocking records of race-based vote suppression (see most recent Fitch).
Since then it's been open slather for racist gerrymanders and vote suppression throughout the old Confederacy - and beyond.
The US elections don't begin until 2016, but for Republicans, it's never too early to steal votes.
Now's the time to further entrench vote suppression, and there's been nothing quite like it since the end of Reconstruction (1877) and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South.
Fitch previously reported the Republican trick of closing voter registration offices and places where one acquires the ever-more-complicated identification to vote.
Alabama, which requires a photo driver's licence for voting, has simply closed the driver’s licence offices in most black-majority counties. More here.
The Washington Post reveals another ruse for deflating Democrat votes - moving popular polling places to remote, less accessible locations.
In North Carolina, black voters - 22 percent of the population - are likely to vote Democrat, but even those with transport will find themselves driving, on average, three times as far to vote as white voters.
In Kansas, the state's tea party politicos are attempting to require proof of citizenship, at odds with federal requirements.
Texas has taken voter suppression to the next level - citizenship prevention - by stopping nationality-proving birth certificates from being issued to suspect newborns who might grow up Democrats. More here. A federal court declined to stay the policy pendente lite.
The only good news for Democrats - and democracy - has come from California, a solidly Democrat state: it now has a new law providing automatic voter rego.
Henceforth potential voters will have to opt out rather than jump through hoops to opt in.
Sounds almost Australian.