You Call This a Court?

In the November 1986 state election, Rose Bird, the 25th Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, who had served for 10 years, was ousted by the “law and order” tide that was sweeping the country. She was the only Chief Justice (one of three other associate justices) to be removed from that office by a majority of the state’s voters. Since that time, the Supreme Court has followed the mandate of the political right-wing.

With 720 inmates on death row, the California Supreme Court has just distinguished itself as one of the most opportunistic and result-oriented group of jurists in the history of United States jurisprudence. They have now affirmed 45 death penalty cases in a row, without so much as a penalty reversal. Ruling 100% of the time for the prosecution in these cases reflects a level of callousness and dishonesty rarely witnessed in the history of law.

During the same time period that the California Supreme Court has rubber-stamped the propriety of state-sanctioned killing for all those who come before it, such beacons of light as Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, have reversed numerous death penalty cases.

So, given the sorry lack of justice and due process in these cases, why are not more California death row inmates being killed? The answer is that the federal district courts still have vestiges of real judges, appointed by previous  administrations, who have been willing to evaluate these cases honestly; however, that situation is quickly changing. We are now entering the period of judicial history where the Reagan/Bush I & II, judicial appointees  are going to be in the great majority.

Committed right-wingers such as Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and their ilk now inhabit the halls of justice throughout the nation, and “law and order” will soon be the sole guiding principle of the day. Within a year, the 720 inmates on California’s death row will start to receive the punishments that brain-dead Republicans have in store for them: death for all on the row. The very same brilliant minds that determined that failing to tax the rich would somehow help the poor, have now put their cards on the table regarding criminal justice: kill them all and let God sort it out.

It is clear that a defendant undergoing the charade of judicial process in our concentration camp at Guantanamo is more likely to get a fair trial than a death penalty defendant in front of the  California  Supreme Court. Subjects of our torture techniques throughout the world are more likely to get a fair shake  from their owners and masters than the innocent victims of our judicial system will get from the hooded cobras who sit on California’s highest court.

Some justice!

Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, immigration, and appellate law.

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