Justice for the Uighurs – The Least They Can Do

A number of readers who can imagine that I do anything other than support any Republican policy will be happy to know that I have long been very troubled by use of Guantanamo Bay for holding prisoners. Beyond the problems I have with using Gitmo because it serves a useful loophole purpose by keeping prisoners of the Administration off of American soil, I have trouble with the policy of completely ignoring the power of judiciary. On top of that, I have a big problem with the extreme reluctance to release prisoners even if they pose no threat to the United States.

This is an extraodinary abuse of Executive power. Like most of the expansion of the Executive in the past seven years, no one has dared to attempt to check it, because it is shielded in the patriotism and fear of the War on Terror.

I was particularly disturbed to read about the 17 Uighur prisonser who were taken captive on the basis bounty money offered in Pakistan. I’m not suggesting that all Pakistanis will sell out their mothers for the right price, but some were willing to sell out Uighur refugees from China for $5,000 each.

They were sent to Guantanamo six years ago. It took the military two years to recognise that they posed no threat whatsoever. What happened to the other four years? Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter, since they don’t look like us and talk like us, and after all, they are Muslims. That seems to be the reason they are sitting in prison. I can’t imagine a government lawyer would like to give up six years of his own life for no reason in a foreign country – or actually a military outpost because the laws of that foreign country would not allow him to be held without trial. (That’s why I’ve always said it was 95% of lawyers who gave the rest of us a bad name.)

But then again that government lawyer wouldn’t be there because he didn’t have to flee his own country which had been taken over by another ethnic group who treated him as a second class and suspect citizen because of the way he looks and his religion. And that lawyer didn’t have to flee to the country of other ethnic groups who had no particular sympathy for him and who were willing to sell him out for cash.

But even though the Supreme Court has ruled that judges can release prisoners (not exactly a novel idea) and the Court of Appeal has ruled that there is no basis for holding Huzaifa Parhat, one of the Uighurs, the Administration will not let them go.

The problem seems to be that no country will take them, except for China of course. Chinese officials already have 17 bullets ready, with stamped envelopes addressed to their families ready for the spent cartridges. The one thing the government can’t bear to do is allow them to settle in the United States. Sure they settled them on US-leased land in Cuba for six years, but that doesn’t count. There are 20 churches in Tallahassee willing to help re-home them, amongst other religious and social groups.

The unbelievable and virtually admitted injustice that has been imposed upon these refugees is payment enough to bump them to the head of the queue for a Green Card. In addition to their immediate release, I hope U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina will further order the Department of Homeland Security to do just that.

Lack of Convictions

Once again, between extensive discussions in the comments and work, I’ve gone several days without a new post. And once I have something to post, it’s one of those topics that is important to me, but doesn’t tend to generate a lot of viewship. Oh well. . .

Even though crime in the UK has continued to rise, the number of convictions in trials is at a seven-year low. If this were because the quality of criminal defense work is getting better and better, then I suppose that would be okay. But I don’t think that’s the reason.

This is really due to three main causes. Police forces are under a lot of pressure to meet targets. They need to charge defendants. They put together sloppy cases that the Crown Prosecution Service can’t win.

The other two causes create a danger to the public. They endanger public safety by using cautions instead of trying to get convictions. A signed caution counts just a good for the statistics as a conviction, because it is an admission of guilt.  As reported in The Daily Telegraph, from 2002 to 2006, “there was a 142 per cent rise in the use of cautions for violence against the person from 23,607 to 57,273. There was a 75 per cent increase in cautions for robbery and a 60 per cent rise for sexual offences.”

That’s right, chances are that if you rob someone, the cops will say, “Okay, you’ve admitted you’ve done wrong. Now don’t do it again. We might take you to court if you do.”

The police are also endangering the public with fixed penalty notices. A fixed penalty notice is like a traffic ticket. A cop says you are guilty and issues a fine. The number of fixed penalty notices has risen dramatically, in no small part because the number of crimes for which a notice can be issued has also expanded significantly. This is bad for civil liberties, because there are an increasing number of transgressions for which the burden of proof is shifted to the defendent. But it is also bad for public safety and welfare, because for those who are committing some of these offenses, there is no criminal record.

The following information is from the Home Office:

Offences where a notice might be issued

Examples of offences where a penalty notice for disorder may be issued include:

  • intentionally harassing or scaring people
  • being drunk and disorderly in public
  • destroying or damaging property
  • petty shoplifting
  • selling alcohol to underage customers
  • selling alcohol to somebody who is obviously drunk
  • using fireworks after curfew

Maybe it’s just me, but some of these seem fairly serious for there to be no record attached. You can harrass someone, destroy their property, or steal from their shop, then pay a small fine and go back to what you were doing. Or you could use your shop to sell alcohol to children.  No big deal.

Something that shocked me as a former criminal defense attorney in the States was to learn that only 67.5% of cases in Crown Court (where the more serious cases are heard) result in a guilty plea. And this is an increase. In the States over 90% of cases are pleaded out. This means that that in over 30% of cases sent to trial in Britain, the defense thinks they have a shot at winning. I suppose with a 61% acquittal rate this is not surprising.

This either means that defense lawyers are really good or the police are fitting a lot of people up and having their cases collapse. I think I’m going with the latter.

Moneygrubbing

Carol Williams is a millionaire. She earned her money by divorcing a successful businessman. She said he was overbearing and controlling. She got £1.4 million ($2.8 million) in a settlement agreed by both parties.

Sounds like her lawyers did a pretty good job. She thought so. That is, until two months later when the House of Lords ruled that the wives of the rich were entitled to much more.

Now Ms Williams is suing her lawyers, because if they has delayed her case (even though she was very keen to push the deal through) until after the ruling, she could have gotten a bit more than twice as much. As they say, 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. Since her lawyers couldn’t predict the future, she wants them to cough up the extra £1.6 million to which she is entitled.

Of course it’s not cheap to sue your lawyers. The costs are around £400,000 and Ms Williams says she has been forced to sell her house to fund the litigation. Forced by her own greed.

Court of Appeal Rules Man Can Carry a Stick

It is a stark contrast between the right-to-carry laws in the US and the stripping of weapons in the UK and at the same time a demonstration of taxpayer money wasted in the pursuit of a political agenda.

Stuart Kennedy is a stripper who uses a police uniform as the set up for his act. He was stopped out the Paramount Bar by two real cops. They weren’t so worried about the uniform – though they did follow him to the pub to make sure he was telling the truth. There’s no indication as to whether either constables Amanda Lawson and Fiona Duncan enjoyed the show. Of course they needed to watch the whole thing to be sure. That’s right, two police women watched him on taxpayer time, just to be sure he was a real stripper. PC Lawson told the trial court, “We had never been in a situation like that before. We needed proof he was a stripper.”

But that wasn’t the issue. No, it was his truncheon that bothered them. Stuart used a real police truncheon, not a floppy imitation. The policewomen arrested him after the show. He was charged with carrying of an offensive weapon. There is an provision in the law for a “reasonable excuse” but neither the police nor the Crown Office (the prosecutor in Scotland) thought Stuart had a reasonable excuse. The sheriff (trial judge) disagreed and threw the case out of court. Both he and the general public thought it was a waste of time and money.

Not to be put off by a judge or the overwhelming common sense of the Scottish people, the Crown appealed. This time three judges told them the same thing. The full written opinion will be released at a later date, but the Court of Appeal decided not to waste anyone’s time and let it be known that the Crown’s case had failed.

There is probably no way to tally the total costs of this overblown exercise in comic jurisprudence. All of this over who can carry a stick with a handle.

Without Objection

Except for presidential politics, I tend to blog mostly about things on the eastern side of the Atlantic. That’s probably because living here, most of the things that affect my life on a daily basis are here. However, having visited the blog of a commenter to a previous post, my attention is drawn westward.

Each of Mark McGaha’s children have been declared a Child in Need of Services (CHINS) by an Indiana Circuit Court at the behest of the Department of Child Services. I can’t opine on whether they should be CHINS or not, or whether they should be in foster care.

As a lawyer I used to handle occasional CHINS cases in Indiana, usually representing the interests of one or both parents. One of my longest-running cases was a CHINS case involving what I called the family tree that didn’t fork. So I’m not denying that there can be situations whether the State needs to step in.

Unless there have been significant changes in my absence, like all buraucrats, DCS workers range from good to bad. If McGaha’s allegations are true, then there are some in Fountain County who are very bad. One thing that concerns me is that there is no mention of McGaha’s lawyer. He needs one. If he is doing this on his own, sadly he is fighting at a severe disadvantage.

This may be why the Fountain County Circuit Court judge got away with an outrageous unconstitutional act. She issued a restraining order preventing WXIN in Indianapolis from showing McGaha’s face or even allowing him to make his complaints against DCS. As one of my old law professors commented to the Indianapolis Star, “I don’t know what’s more outrageous: the judge ordering this and not knowing it violates the Constitution, or knowing and still issuing the injunction.” He described this as bordering on judicial misconduct. “Quite simply, a judge does not have the authority to stop the press from publishing or airing a story. Any person has a right to contact the press and say a public agency is not treating them right.”

Because of the inherent power of the bureaucracy, the press is one of the only checks upon it. That is why it is so important that access to the press not be denied. The greater the power, the more important the power to question it and challenge it. The more important that it stay on the straight and narrow. Otherwise rights get trampled upon. Otherwise democracy is meaningless.

How Times Have Changed

When I was Republican County Chairman of Gonzales County, Texas, we were definitely the minority party. Way in the minority. This was at a time with the only winnable statewide race for Republicans was the governorship. Pockets of GOP support on a more local level were beginning to emerge in places, but for Gonzales County, as well as most other rural counties in South Texas, to win the Democratic primary was to win the general election.

So imagine my surprise when I was going through one of the regional daily papers online and learned that the candidates for District Attorney are both Republicans. Whoever wins the Republican primary will be unopposed in the general election.

I’m not particularly surprised that both candidates are women. Texas has a long history of electing women, including the second woman governor in US history in Ma Ferguson. Ferguson would have been the first woman governor in US history, if Nellie Ross hadn’t been inaugurated two weeks earlier to finish her husband’s unexpired term. Ferguson’s husband had also been governor, but had been impeached and removed from office eight years before.

That’s why I won’t be surprised if Hillary wins the Democratic presidential primary. I would, however, be very surprised if she were to win the state in November. No Democrat has carried Texas since Jimmy Carter barely did so in 1976.

But it’s local politics where things have changed. This is the proof that Texas has really become a Republican state. I just wish I was there to enjoy it.

What’s Bugging Lawyers

Any time Big Brother is not watching, he may still be listening. In what is one of the clearest indications of how Britain is becoming a totalitarian state, it has emerged that the police bugging of a conversation between a Muslim MP and his constituent is not a fluke. And it is not confined to terrorism or national security cases.

A whistleblower at Woodhill Prison has let the press know that hundreds of lawyers have been bugged while meeting with clients.  This should have the Government worried – not because they are under a lot of pressure from opposition parties to explain how this has been allowed, but because judges could start throwing out convictions, even in some high profile cases.

If notorious criminals start hitting the streets because their human rights have been flagrantly violated a lot of people are going get unhappy very fast.

It is worrying that the State has such a need to control that it cannot afford to allow the privilege that has long formed the bedrock of the lawyer-client relationship. It must have information at all costs.  After all, information is power and the closer the State gets to omniscience, the more powerful it becomes.