Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Left & Right Finally Unite?

This week, Adam Liptak wrote a New York Times article which discussed the half-dozen or so upcoming Supreme Court cases that will decide how the United States will handle people charged with crimes from here on out whenever a crime involves sex, drugs, or corporate corruption.

Not surprisingly, Liberal groups such as the ACLU (which as a general rule is never fond of the government sending anybody to jail for just about anything) already have their lawyers drafting amicus briefs in support of the accused and against the prosecution (aka the Government).

In a rather interesting turn of events, however, Conservative groups are also writing amicus briefs in support of the accused and against the prosecution. Oh, you heard me right. That's not a typo. As the NY Times put it:

"Civil liberties groups and associations of defense lawyers have lined up on the side of the accused. But so have conservative, libertarian and business groups. Their briefs and public statements are signs of an emerging consensus on the right that the criminal justice system is an aspect of big government that must be contained. The development represents a sharp break with tough-on-crime policies associated with the Republican Party since the Nixon administration."

So why the change of heart, you ask?

The NY Times goes on to speculate:

In an interview at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group where he is a fellow, Mr. Meese said the “liberal ideas of extending the power of the state” were to blame for an out-of-control criminal justice system. “Our tradition has always been,” he said, “to construe criminal laws narrowly to protect people from the power of the state." There are, the foundation says, more than 4,400 criminal offenses in the federal code, many of them lacking a requirement that prosecutors prove traditional kinds of criminal intent. “It’s a violation of federal law to give a false weather report,” Mr. Meese said. “People get put in jail for importing lobsters. "Such so-called overcriminalization is at the heart of the conservative critique of crime policy."

Overcriminalization you say? Too many laws on the books you say? OK, let's run with that for a minute. Isn't it quite a great coincidence that nearly all of the 4,400 some-odd laws that are on the federal books today are the same 4,400 some-odd laws that were there a year ago? Two years ago? 8 years ago? At what point, exactly, did these 4400 laws become "too big" for government? Are we to believe that Conservatives were sitting around one day post-January 20, 2009 when the law count was at 4,399, and that these Conservatives were perfectly fine with this count until Congress came along and passed that 4400th law which somehow pushed Conservatives over the edge?


Is this merely a shift in attitude against the Government now that Government has a new leader?

While you try to figure that one out, let me take this opportunity to at least give props where props are due to the two consistent Conservatives on the Supreme Court who remain steadfast and unwaivering in the face of these flip-flopping, anti-Obama, I mean, anti-Big Government Conservatives: Justice Scalia-Thomas (the two have become one mind over the years).

Justice Scalia-Thomas. A true Conservative's Conservative. Rejecting Liberalism since 1986 when men were men and sheep were scared.

As the NY Times comments:

Scalia and Thomas are vanguards of an understanding by the modern right that its distrust of government extends all the way to the criminal justice system,” said Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University...The conservative re-evaluation of crime policy is not universal, of course. Two notable exceptions to the trend, said Timothy Lynch, director of the Cato Institute’s criminal justice project, are Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. “Roberts and Alito are coming down consistently on the side of the government in these criminal justice cases,” Mr. Lynch said.

Has the Right's hatred for Obama finally forced them to turn a 180 on Crime & Punishment? Or am I way off base here because this whole thing is a genuine concern by Conservatives about the Criminal Justice System becoming too much of a "Big Government" problem?

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