Category Archives: legal news

No surprise: High Court upholds Texas voter ID law

Early voting in Texas begins Monday and everyone who votes in this mid-term election will be required to produce identification that proves they are who they say they are.

This comes courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court, which today ruled that the Texas voter ID law is valid and that, by golly, it does not amount to an unconstitutional “poll tax.”


A federal judge in Texas had struck down the law, saying it discriminated against low-income Americans — notably African-Americans and Hispanics — who might be unable to afford such identification. The judge, a Barack Obama appointee, is a Latina jurist.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals then reversed the judge’s ruling. The case then went to the highest court in the land, which today ruled 6-3 to reinstate the Texas voter ID law.

The three dissenters: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a Bill Clinton appointee), and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan (Barack Obama appointees).

Ginsburg said this in her dissent: “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”

Those who support these laws contend that they prevent “voter fraud” and keep illegal immigrants from voting. That, too, is interesting, given that there is so little evidence of such fraud existing in Texas or anywhere else.

The reinstatement of this law is now more than likely going to stand for the foreseeable future.

We’ll see how many American citizens will be turned away from polling places across Texas. Let’s also take a look at their ethnicity, shall we?

Shoplifting accusation? This guy?

This story actually made me drop my jaw in disbelief.

Joseph Randle is a reserve running back for the Dallas Cowboys, who has been accused of shoplifting at a Frisco, Texas, mall. The misdemeanor complaint says Randle — who earns nearly $500,000 annually — tried to life some underwear and cologne from a Dillard’s department store.

This is jaw-dropping only for this reason: The guy makes a half-million bucks a year and gets accused of trying to pilfer some foo-foo and underwear!

I get that he’s not yet been proven guilty, so he’s entitled to some presumption of innocence.

Let’s get real. Some security guard and/or a camera caught someone trying to filch the goods and it turns out to be Joseph Randle.

I think this story might tell us something far more than a pro athlete’s sticky fingers … allegedly. It might speak to someone who earns a lot of money — let me repeat: a lot of money — playing a contact sport for a successful professional football franchise, but who might not have enough money in his pocket or on his credit card to pay for the items he is accused of trying to steal.

What the heck is going on with this young man?

Here's your judicial activism, Sen. Cruz

Ted Cruz brought it up, so I’ll continue running with it.

The freshman U.S. senator from Texas accused the U.S. Supreme Court of engaging in “judicial activism” when it refused to review state cases relating to same-sex marriage. Activism? Hardly. Restraint? That’s more like it.

The Republican’s silly assertion brought to mind a conversation I had in 2009 with a true-blue judicial activist, who was damn proud of his role in correcting mistakes the legislative body in his country makes on occasion.

Meet Salim Joubran, a member of the Israeli supreme court. I made his acquaintance in June 2009 while traveling through Israel with four other West Texans as part of a Rotary International Group Study Exchange. Our group met him in Jerusalem.

Judge Joubran was unapologetic about his activist nature.

His take on the court’s role in Israel is that judges have to correct mistakes that the Knesset — the Israeli parliament — makes in enacting certain laws. “We are respectful of the Knesset,” he said, “but the court’s activism is necessary.”

Joubran said that Israel doesn’t have a constitution. National law, therefore, makes it “virtually imperative that judges correct mistakes in laws approved by the Knesset,” I wrote after visiting with Joubran.

We’re proud in this country of our judicial system. I know I am. It works well most of the time. I’m not going to advocate for the form of judicial activism that Salim Joubran practices while interpreting Israeli law.

But I’m going to draw a conclusion about how some American politicians define the term “judicial activism.” It’s usually used as a pejorative by conservative pols who take issue with what they see as “liberal” court rulings.

Fine. However, conservative judges can be activists, too. I’ve already cited the Citizens United ruling in 2010 as an example of conservative judicial activism.

I cannot recall five years after meeting with Judge Joubran whether he’d be considered a liberal or conservative judge. He’s an activist — and proud of it.

I found it refreshing and, frankly, courageous.

If only more judges in this country stood up for their own activism and were willing to defend it in front of anyone who challenged them.

One more reason to detest Ted Cruz

That settles it: Ted Cruz is my least favorite of the 100 men and women who serve in the U.S. Senate.

Why the additional scorn? Well, the freshman Republican from Texas said this about the Supreme Court’s decision to refuse to review state laws banning same-sex marriage:

“This is judicial activism at its worst.”

OK, he said some other stuff too in criticizing the high court. He accused the justices of “abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution.”

Judicial activism, eh?

I think I can come up with at least one greater example of judicial activism perpetrated on this nation by the Roberts Court, one of the more so-called “conservative” courts in the nation’s history. Let’s try the Citizens United case.

Remember that one, Ted? That’s the case that determined that corporations are people, too — to borrow Mitt Romney’s (in)famous phrase during the 2012 presidential campaign. The court decided to let corporations spend all the money they wanted on political campaigns, just like regular folks. It determined that multi-zillion-dollar business interests have as much say in determining who gets elected as poor schleps like me who might want to write a $20 check to the candidate of my choice.

So, if you’re a candidate who then gets elected, who are you going to listen to more intently: the mega corporation or the individual contributor?

That, Sen. Cruz, is how I would define judicial activism.

This label often is used by conservatives to rip apart liberal judicial rulings. These critics, such as Cruz, ignore at their peril their own brand of judicial activism.

The Roberts Court showed it can be as activist as, say, the Warren Court was in the 1950s.

Cruz surely knows this.

A dear friend of mine who visited my wife and me this past weekend served in government and journalism for more than 40 years. He said of Cruz, who he described as “smart as they come”:

“Intelligence is inherited. Wisdom must be earned.”

Where's the threat to 'traditional marriage'?

So …

The Supreme Court has refused to review challenges to same-sex marriage laws in several states. “Marriage equality” proponents have proclaimed that as a victory, that it shows the highest court in the nation is comfortable with states allowing same-sex unions.

I’ve commented already today on the shifting tide in favor of same-sex marriage.

No doubt we’re going to hear commentary from those who perceive some “threat” to traditional marriage by the expansion of the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

Allow me this brief look at the so-called threat.

There isn’t any.

I’ve stated already that my wife and I — and I feel comfortable speaking for her on this matter — are quite comfortable with our own union. We sealed it 43 years ago and we’re going quite strong. At no point ever in all those years have we felt threatened by those who choose to bond with others of the same sex. The gay couples we have known have their own lives and we have ours. End of story.

No, the threat to traditional marriage covers a lot more ground than this single issue. It rests with society at large, with laws that make it arguably too easy for couples to end marriages.

My own values are deeply held and are personal in the extreme. They won’t be shaken loose by those of different orientations.

I could bet real American money that I am not alone in believing that same-sex unions pose zero threat by themselves to “traditional marriage.”

Same-sex marriage tide has turned

The currents have turned in favor of same-sex marriage.

Who knows? It well might be accepted as part of the “new normal” in this country, if the courts continue to have their way.

One by one, state bans on same-sex marriage are falling victim to that little ol’ provision in the U.S. Constitution that protects people’s “equal protection of the laws.”

It’s in the 14th Amendment. It’s one small clause in one small sentence. It resonates loudly in appellate courtrooms all across the country.

Even the U.S. Supreme Court — that bastion of “strict construction” arguments of the U.S. Constitution — has ruled that the federal government must recognized state-sanctioned same-sex marriage. Texas has joined the parade of states that are awaiting final disposition of this argument.

I remain on the fence on this issue. The term “marriage,” to me at least, carries a traditional connotation in that it involves the union of a man and a woman.

Having noted that, I am not going to condemn anyone who wants to marry someone of the same sex. It’s not my call to determine who people should love. I’ll let the government sort it out. I’ll continue to live my traditional life in marriage to a woman I married 43 years ago. And I will let others live as they choose.

Furthermore, none of these court rulings puts my marriage in any danger. It will survive quite nicely and I am sure it will continue to grow and flourish without any threat from whatever the courts continue to rule.

Tradition and belief systems aside, though, the Constitution does appear to stand in favor of all Americans regardless of their orientation. If it says that all Americans must not be deprived “equal protection” under the law, that it means all Americans. There’s not a word in that clause that mentions their sexual orientation.

“All” means all, yes?