May 15th, 2013
May 14th, 2013
The rapidly expanding IRS scandal would seem to be a pretty straight-forward case of IRS agents improperly – and quite possibly criminally – abusing their power by targeting conservative groups for audits and harassment. But the kooky left has found another explanation: It’s all because of Citizens United! As former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it:
“We need accountability at the IRS, of course, as to how this happened. But we’ve really got to overturn Citizens United, which has exacerbated the situation.”
Here’s the tortured logic: By upholding the right to free speech by corporations, labor unions and other organizations, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision generated a massive increase in the number of groups seeking tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Over-worked IRS agents quite naturally responded by to the increased workload by singling out certain groups for greater scrutiny. Get it?
Give me a break. If Citizens United was really responsible, why were only conservative groups targeted? The attempt to mitigate the actions of unscrupulous IRS employees by spreading the blame to the Supreme Court just demonstrates the moral bankruptcy of the far-left and its willingness to using ANY excuse to try to silence corporations supporting conservative causes.
May 7th, 2013
Another state, more evidence that “merit” selection fails to remove politics and cronyism from the judicial selection process. Common Cause Rhode Island – a tentacle in the Soros-bankrolled “merit” selection campaign – blasted RI Governor Lincoln Chafee’s nomination of Senate President Joseph Montalbano to the Superior Court, saying the move “raise[s] suspicion that judicial vacancies are being used as part of the end-of-the-session bargaining among legislative leaders and the governor.”
Common Cause RI accused the Judicial Nominating Commission of being filled with “lobbyists and former political party officials.” Really??? Stop the presses! Governors now “regularly take more than 21 days, sometimes years, to pick” judges from the Commission’s list of approved candidates – and even reach back to lists submitted as long as five years ago.
The bottom line, according to Common Cause RI: “merit” selection “clearly has not worked as anticipated because none of the principles are performing their assigned tasks as envisioned by those who had a hand in its design.” Translation: “merit” selection has utterly failed to remove politics from the judicial selection process in Rhode Island.
May 6th, 2013
Michael Warren has an important, must-read (subscription may be required) in the Weekly Standard that exposes the hidden agenda behind the “transparency” campaign sweeping corporate America. The effort is being led by a group called the Center for Political Accountability, which bills itself as a nonpartisan organization, but whose true purpose is to “convince (some might say force) [companies] to get out of politics entirely.”
Led by former Democratic Hill staffer Bruce Freed, the group works to intimidate companies into shutting down all political advocacy efforts under the guise of transparency. The not-so-subtle hope is to embarrass companies that support conservative candidates and causes in order to tilt spending toward the left, whose funders, such as public employee unions, are immune to public pressure. In addition to lobbying CEOs and other corporate officer directly, according to Warren:
“In recent years, CPA and its allies have used the proxy process aggressively to hassle corporate boards to adopt more sweeping disclose of their political spending. According to As You Sow, an umbrella group for activist shareholders, at least 125 proposals related to political spending are expected in the 2013 proxy season, a figure that has more than doubled in three years.”
A Manhattan Institute investigation revealed that just 17 percent of shareholders in Fortune 200 companies supported similar transparency proposals in 2012. So Freed and the Center also apply public pressure by ranking companies according to its own transparency index and releasing the results to a compliant media. In addition, the Center is pushing the SEC to adopt a new rule requiring all public companies to disclose their political spending.
If this overall strategy – pushing politics to the left under a good government guise – sounds eerily similar to the “merit” selection campaign, you’re right. If fact, the Center for Political Accountability – like Justice at Stake – is bankrolled by George Soros and aided and abetted by other Soros-funded groups such as MoveOn.org, Common Cause, and Media Matters.
These groups work together seamlessly to bludgeon any company that dares support a conservative candidate. One recent corporate victim, Warren points out, was Target:
“ … when it contributed $150,000 to the political group MN Forward in 2010. MN Forward say it supports ‘pro-business’ candidates and gave money to Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Emmer also backed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. When Target disclosed its contribution to MN Forward, all hell broke loose. MoveOn.org … organized gay-rights protests at Target stores across the country and … delivered to the retailed a petition promising a boycott signed by 24,000 people.”
The campaign worked. Not only did Target halt its contributions to MN Forward, it significantly curtailed all political donations, especially those supporting individual candidates.
The ultimate goal of the Soros-funded transparency charade is clear: Intimidate companies into giving up their right to free speech – and their right to contribute to the candidates of their choice – and tilt the political playing field further to the left.
May 5th, 2013
Is law a “profession in crisis,” as Steven J. Harper claims in his new book? Or will the legislative “monstrosities” of Dodd-Frank and Obamacare ensure the continued need for “top-flight legal talent,” as eminent legal scholar and law professor Richard Epstein maintains?
Harper marshals some compelling stats. Since 2004, applications to law schools have plunged from 100,000 per year to around 54,000. The average law student now graduates with $125,000 in debt and increasingly dim job prospects. Once high-flying law firms are going bankrupt and even white shoe firms suffer from low morale and frozen salaries.
It’s probably too much to hope, but perhaps the constriction of the lawyer pipeline represents an early indicator that our country has finally figured out we can’t litigate our way to prosperity. I’m not holding my breath though.
April 29th, 2013
Disgraced former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Betty Weaver is set to release a new book on May 15, aimed no doubt at settling old scores with her former colleagues on the bench. Weaver slunk off the court after being censured for secretly recording private deliberations and then leaked the recordings in an unsuccessful effort to unseat now-Chief Justice Robert Young. Her retirement came after cutting a secret backroom deal that paved the way for the appointment of trial lawyer-friendly judge Alton Davis, who was dumped as soon as voters had the chance. Weaver was also famous for clinging to her taxpayer-funded car and $60K per year personal office at a time when taxpayers across Michigan were suffering from a wrenching recession.
The title of Weaver’s new book? “Judicial Deceit: Tyranny and Unnecessary Secrecy at the Michigan Supreme Court.” Sounds like the perfect title for Weaver’s autobiography.
April 26th, 2013
The Tennessee legislature wrapped up its 2013 session recently without acting on a bill to renew the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission. That means the state’s “merit” selection commission will formally cease to exist on July 1, leaving the whole judicial selection process in limbo until voters can decide on a proposed constitutional amendment to end the failed experiment with “merit” selection and adopt a modified federal system for picking judges.
April 26th, 2013
For years, I’ve been making the point that all judicial nominating systems are influenced by politics. A good case in point is New Jersey, which follows a modified federal system, with the governor appointing judges subject to Senate approval. Yet recently, there’s been a “logjam” at the state’s busiest courthouse because “the county’s benches will be 15 judges short of the full complement of 56 because of the political standoff.”
In a talk to the Essex County Bar Association this week, Governor Chris Christie laid the blame squarely on Democratic state Senator Richard Codey. Sen. Codey for his part labeled the governor a “bully” whose “nose would extend to Asia” if he were Pinocchio. Cody also accused Christie of trying to trade judicial appointments for appointments to the “Mosquito Control Commission.” Christie’s spokesman called Codey “a disservice to his own county.”
My intent here is not to cast blame, but merely to point out that abolishing judicial elections won’t end political maneuvering when it comes to judicial appointments. That’s because elections, campaign contributions, television ads, etc. are not the true source of politics in the courtroom. The main reason politics has seeped so deeply into the nominating/confirmation process is that judges over the last few decades have started acting like politicians – routinely overstepping their authority by acting like partisan legislators instead of non-partial jurists.
April 26th, 2013
Lawrence Schonbrun of Class Action Watch lifts the rock on the “class action racket” in a must-read article in American Thinker. Schonbrun leads off with what he calls the “poster child for the dysfunctional class action system” – the Ford Explorer SUV class action. The attorneys in that case walked away with $25 million in legal fees because they claimed their lawsuit resulted in $500 million in benefits for the plaintiffs. The real story? The plaintiffs received a $500 coupon to buy a new Ford … but only 148 were ever redeemed. So the lawyers pocketed $25 million, while the plaintiffs got $74,000. There’s more – a lot more. Some highlights:
- “The injured class members who are supposed to be the primary focus of these cases have become its primary victims.”
- “In theory, the class action system was meant to protect us from life’s little harms. But, as is often the case with theories, reality presents a different picture. Even the model of the lawyer as servant for the client breaks down in class actions because the lawyers are incentivized to serve themselves first. Class members merely provide a fig leaf of legitimacy for the lawyers to engage in what amounts to a shakedown.”
- “Another problem is that the system is rigged so that lawyers’ fees are not tied to whether the clients are better or worse off as a result of the lawsuit; fees are tied to the theoretical size of a settlement….Thus it is in the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ and defendants’ interest to create a fictitious value for the settlement, and the court is encouraged to go along with this ruse because it gives the judge cover to approve a substantial class settlement and a handsome fee.”
The whole piece is well worth reading.
April 17th, 2013
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed legislation in recent weeks modifying the state’s “merit” selection system to require the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments to send the governor five potential nominees for each judicial vacancy, rather than three. It’s a small change, but indicative of the widespread dissatisfaction with “merit” selection and an acknowledgement that unelected, unaccountable commissions have far too much power over who sits on state courts. According to news reports, Brewer herself has “never been a fan of having to select from a list” and supports changing to a federal-style system.
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was named honorary chair of Justice at Stake on Monday, confirming her role as a leader of the George Soros-financed “merit” selection campaign. Up until now, O’Connor preferred to pose as an impartial arbiter in the battle to control how judges are selected for state courts, so at one level the announcement strikes a blow for greater transparency.
In a press release, O’Connor calls “the flood of money coming into courtrooms by increasingly expensive and volatile campaigns” the “greatest threat to judicial independence in our country today.” Of course, she makes no mention of the $45 million-plus that Soros has funneled toward special interest groups dedicated to removing ordinary citizens from the judicial selection process. She also fails to mention her own role in “volatile campaigns” – such as the robo-calls she made to lobby Nevada voters in a failed “merit” selection ballot initiative.
We once applauded her historic appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. But we just shake our heads at her political motives today that seek to shut regular citizens out of the courthouse that her own historic appointment once opened. Too bad, so sad.
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