Short-Circuiting the System to Play Elected Dictator

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Prosecutorial discretion.

Now there’s a nice phrase. 

Another phrase that’s almost synonymous with prosecutorial discretion is selective prosecution. One is considered a sometimes valid, if often abused, tool in the prosecutorial toolbox. The other heads off into the dark hinterlands of overt discrimination and flat-out corruption. 

From what I’ve seen, selective prosecution is closely aligned with those other destructors of justice: subornation of perjury and tampering with the evidence. 

Taken together, these little prosecutorial peccadilloes have the ability to overturn our justice system and make it into a tyranny.

Prosecutorial discretion, when mis-used for political demagoguery, can easily become a means of blocking the system and turning the whole legislative/judicial process into a sham. Prosecutorial discretion aligned with political demagoguery is so close to selective prosecution that it’s difficult to differentiate between them. 

My colleague, Leah Libresco, chimed in on the question of prosecutorial discretion yesterday with a fine post on the behavior of two elected officials. These two people are at the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum on what they are demagoguing about, but their misbehavior is based on an identical misapprehension of the powers of their office. 

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One is Kathleen Kane, the Attorney General of the State of Pennsylvania. Attorney General Kane announced a few weeks ago that she would not do the job the voters of the state of Pennsylvania elected her to do. She would not defend the state’s law defining marriage in court. Why? Because she doesn’t agree with the law. She seems to think that the law is immoral.

Her announcement was greeted by cheers from gay rights activists and uncomprehending silence from most of the citizens she betrayed. Attorneys General have gone about the business of doing their jobs for so long that most people just take it for granted that they will do them. In fact, a lot of people don’t really understand that when an attorney general flat-out refuses to do their job in this way, it is, and should be, an impeachable offense in most localities. 

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The other is a sheriff in Baton Rouge Louisiana who has been arresting homosexuals for violation of what sounds like the state’s anti-sodomy law. The Supreme Court overturned this law in 2003. I would guess that the sheriff didn’t agree with this decision. He may very well mirror Attorney General Kane by thinking that the decision is immoral.  

This debate about where personal morality ends and the responsibilities of office begin is not nebulous. It also does not apply to employment situations such as whether or not a pharmacist is required to fill prescriptions for RU486, a nurse should be required to assist in an elective abortion or a florist must sell flowers for a gay wedding. But it applies absolutely to elected officials. 

The difference — and it is an enormous difference — is between ordinary employment and elected office. An elected official who refuses to fulfill the requirements of their job or who deliberately oversteps the limits of their powers, is violating a public trust. They are violating the Constitutional privilege to hold office and execute the powers of the people in the name of the people.

Public office is not mere employment. It is the indispensable ingredient of the smooth functioning of a just and stable government. As such, it is incumbent on every and all elected officials to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and not the abuse the powers of their office. 

I react to both the situations described above, not, as Leah did, as a philosopher, but as an elected official who has been charged with fulfilling the duties of office for 18 years. I understand several key things that proponents of these two elected officials’ actions won’t accept.

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First, law enforcement, from top to bottom, is not law making. Law enforcement enforces laws. It does not write them. If Attorney General Kane wanted to work to overturn Pennsylvania’s marriage law, there were many options open to her, including running for election to a law-making position. Since she is an attorney, she might also have considered not running for office at all and filing cases against the law, maybe doing it pro bono. 

An Attorney General is not supposed to even take positions on the laws which they are sworn to defend and uphold. By that I mean that she should not be out making stump speeches against such laws — or for them, for that matter. Her job, and I keep saying this, but nobody seems to hear me, her job is to uphold and defend the laws of the State of Pennsylvania.

This is especially grave since, like all elected officials, she is the only person in her jurisdiction (in this case, the entire state of Pennsylvania) who holds the power of her office. If she refuses to do her job, the job can not be done by anyone else.

This is equally true of the sheriff in Baton Rouge. As an elected official, he is the only sheriff in that jurisdiction. No one else can do his job. Also, he is not a law maker or a law interpreter. He is a law enforcer. The decisions about what laws he should enforce are made by Congress, the legislature and the courts. 

Elected office is a privilege, not a sentence to be served. If any elected official finds that they cannot in good conscience perform the duties of their office, they have the free right to resign at any time.

Leah Libresco used a quote from a play and movie about my patron saint, St Thomas More, in her analysis. Thomas More was the Chancellor of England. Despite the enormity of this position, he resigned when his conscience would no longer allow him to discharge his duties as the King demanded. This is a good example for all of us who hold office. 

If Attorney General Kane can not in good conscience do the job that her office requires of her, she has the clear option of resigning. What she does not have is the option of refusing to do her job and thereby depriving the people of Pennsylvania of the legal representation they are Constitutionally entitled to. 

I am glad that Leah found this example giving the other side of this argument. Maybe it will help clarify what is at stake for those people who are so enthralled with their particular advocacy that they are willing to support overturning the very structure of government that gave them the right to advocate in the first place. 

From Unequally Yoked:

I’m a little troubled by the way same-sex marriage is becoming de facto legal in Pennsylvania.  When I was having SCOTUSblog parties back in June, I found the reasoning based on standing kinda messy.  If a law is challenged, it seems like the appropriate state officials should be obligated to defend it.  Ducking it seems like a odd kind of de facto veto.  And not a proper civil disobedience-y one, a la Mayor Jason West of New Paltz, who conducted then-illegal marriages and was charged for it.

And now this is playing out in Pennsylvania.  The PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane declined to defend her state’s ban on same-sex marriage, and it’s unclear who will pick up the baton, or if anyone will be left with standing to do so.  The proper way to overturn laws is repeal or, if they’re actually unconstitutional, letting them have their day in court.  Not short-circuiting the system over a conscience objection.

 

Pennsylvania: Another AG Refuses to Do Her Job

Attorney General Kathleen Kane

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane

 

Kamala Harris has an astral twin in Pennsylvania

Ms Harris is the California Attorney General who refused to do her job when it came to speaking for the people of California and defending Proposition 8 in court. That is why the Supreme Court refused to rule on Prop 8, which let the lower court decision that overturned it stand. 

Now, we have another state Attorney General who says she is going to use the power of her office to aid in overturning a state law by the simple expedient of refusing to do her job. 

“I can not ethically defend Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced at a press conference attended by cheering gay marriage supporters, “We are the land of the free and the home of the brave and I want to start acting like that.”

I’m not sure how an Attorney General can claim that they are “ethically” refusing to do the job they were elected to do with a straight face, much less do it with such grade school rhetoric. 

I am a Democrat, but it’s no surprise to me that this latest la-dee-dah refusal to do the job which is the primary requirement of the office she holds comes from another Democrat. I have a suggestion for Attorney General Harris: If you find the laws of Pennsylvania so reprehensible that you cannot in good conscience enforce them and defend them in court, then do not file for the office and campaign for the job which requires you to do that. 

If Attorney General Harris wanted to be a lawmaker, she should have filed for the state legislature. Then, she could have worked to overturn this statute by acting in the full integrity of her office. However, she did not file for the legislature and she was not elected to that or any other lawmaking body. The office she sought and to which she was elected is the chief law enforcement office of Pennsylvania.

Cops at any level do not make laws and they do not chose which laws to enforce. It’s called separation of powers, and we have it to keep little caesars like this from taking over government. 

These two women have allowed their overweening concern with their own personal opinions to supersede the responsibility they owe the people of their states to do the job they were elected to do. If they were honest rather than demagogues, they would resign these offices on the basis that their consciences would not allow them to do the job in front of them.

To refuse to do their jobs and by so doing to aid in the overturning of a law they are bound by oath to enforce and defend is dishonest, callous, cheap demagoguery that denies the people who elected them the voice in the courts that they promised to give when they ran for election in the first place. 

From Reuters

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused on Thursday to fight a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit is believed to be the first federal case since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 26 that the U.S. government must recognize same-sex marriages in states where it is legal.

Kane, a Democrat who supports same-sex marriage, announced her decision at a press conference in the National Constitution Center in historic Philadelphia.

“I cannot ethically defend Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA,” Kane said, referring to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, overturned by the high court last month.

“It is now the time here in Pennsylvania to end another form of discrimination,” Kane said to a crowd of about 200 supporters gathered at conference, many carrying signs reading “Out for Freedom” and cheering her decision.

“We are the land of the free and the home of the brave and I want to start acting like that,” she said.

By declining to defend the state, Kane effectively tosses the issue to Governor Tom Corbett, who can decide to appoint another state lawyer to the task.

Kane and Corbett, a Republican who opposes gay marriage, are both named in the federal lawsuit that was filed in Harrisburg this week.

The ACLU sued on behalf of 23 people, including potential marriage candidates whose unions would not be recognized under current Pennsylvania law.

The lawsuit asks the court to allow the plaintiffs and all other same-sex couples the right to marry in Pennsylvania, and also asks that the marriages of same-sex couples validly obtained in other states be recognized by the state.

Attorney General’s Wife Co-Owned Abortionist Office Building

Attorney General Eric Holder and his wife Dr Sharon Holder

 Attorney General Eric Holder’s wife, Dr Sharon Holder, and her sister, Margie Tuckson, were co-owners of the building where indicted abortionist Dr Tyrone Malloy had his abortion clinic.

According to an article in Human Events, the co-ownership is held through a trust.

The story was uncovered by Jill Stanek, the pro-life nurse who blew the whistle on President Obama’s history of killing the Infant Born Alive Act in Illinois.

Stanek says:

Thanks to pro-lifers Michelle Wolven and Catherine Davis, a small group of us have been on this story for weeks.
While Michelle and Catherine were digging through online records of Georgia abortion clinics, they stumbled on the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder’s wife Sharon Malone Holder (both pictured right) co-owns with her sister an Atlanta area abortion clinic building.
The building is located at 6210 Old National Highway, College Park, Georgia.

They handed the story over to Troy Anderson, who, along with co-author Will Swaim, published the article yesterday in Human Events.

The resulting Human Events article says in part:

Eric Holder Jr.’s family is moving fast and furiously to bury the U.S. Attorney General’s ties to one of Georgia’s most notorious abortion doctors.

Just cleared by an internal report in the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning debacle, the nation’s top lawman now faces allegations that his connection to Dr. Tyrone Cecil Malloy is a conflict of interest that helps explain Holder’s failure to prosecute abortion providers who run afoul of federal law.

Critics say it may also explain why Holder has been eager to prosecute pro-life advocates who counsel women outside abortion clinics.

Documents obtained by Watchdog show that Holder’s wife and sister-in-law co-own, through a family trust, the building where Malloy operated. A Georgia grand jury indicted Malloy on Medicaid fraud charges in 2011. A state medical board twice reprimanded the doctor.

Holder and his wife, Sharon Malone Holder, an obstetric and gynecological doctor at Foxhall OB/GYN in Washington, D.C., failed to respond to several requests for comment.

But reached by phone at her home in Minneapolis, Margie Malone Tuckson, Holder’s sister-in-law, said there’s no link at all — that Fulton County tax records showing the property belongs to her and Holder’s wife “are wrong.”

“I don’t own this property and my sister does not own this property. We are not technically on this deed,” Malone Tuckson said.

However, public documents reviewed by Watchdog.org show that the family transferred ownership to a family trust in 2009, eight months after President Barack Obama’s inauguration. But even the new deed directly names Holder’s wife and sister-in-law as trustees. After inquiries by Watchdog reporters, Tuckson contacted the Fulton County Assessor’s office and asked them to change tax records to reflect the “new” ownership.

But none of these technical changes obscures the Holders’ conflict of interest. Catherine Davis, a founding member of the National Black Prolife Coalition and president and founder of The Restoration Project — a Stone Mountain, Ga.-based pro-life, pro-family organization — said she’s outraged by the revelations.

“There is a clear conflict of interest when the man charged with pursuing those that abuse the system is also one who is engaged in some way with the business,” said Davis, whose organization brought the issue to the attention of Watchdog.

Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, a national pro-life organization based in Wichita, Kan., said the disclosures help him understand why Holder has been targeting pro-life advocates.

In recent months, judges have blocked Holder’s efforts to punish pro-life supporters counseling women outside abortion clinics. In one case, Holder’s Department of Justice agreed to pay Mary “Susan” Pine $120,000 for its filing of an “improper lawsuit” against her, according to a statement by Liberty Counsel, an Orlando, Fla.-based nonprofit legal firm. Pine counseled women on the sidewalk outside a Florida abortion clinic.

“It looks to me like the attorney general and his wife are in business with the abortion industry, which makes a lot of sense and helps explain why (Holder’s Justice Department) is prosecuting pro-lifers and losing the cases around the country,” Newman said.

“They have been attempting to prosecute pro-life people under the (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994), and as far as I know they have lost 100 percent of those cases in the last four years. This (Malone Holder’s property interest) explains his bias. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anybody that Holder and the Obama Administration are extremely biased against pro-life people and in favor of the pro-abortion crowd.”

Fulton County tax records show Holder’s wife and sister-in-law own the building, located at 6210 Old National Highway, College Park, Ga. A statement from the Georgia Department of Law shows the building was home to Old National Gynecology, Malloy’s medical practice devoted to the performance of abortions.

In December 2011, the statement says, a DeKalb County Grand Jury indicted Malloy, Old National’s owner and operator, and his former office manager CathyAnn Edwards Warner on two counts of Medicaid fraud. The indictment alleged Malloy and Edwards accepted nearly $390,000 in federal medical assistance payments for medical office visits associated with the performance of elective abortions and for ultrasound services that were never performed. (Read more here.)


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