Friday, January 21, 2005

Rogue Elephant, One of W's Judges Runs Amuck

Judge Richard Leon's ruling todayshutting Gitmo detainees out of Federal court makes a mockery of the Supreme Court's ruling last year that they could not be denied access to US Courts to challenge their detention. Judge Leon dutifully granted them access and then promptly dismissed their case in a breathtaking kowtow to executive power, ruling that whatever the executive branch does to non-citizens abroad is beyond the power of the court to control, Constitution and treaties be damned

This judicial capitulation to the will of the executive is nothing new for Judge Leon; but merely par for his career. Appointed By W in 2001 to the extremely powerful Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Judge Leon has been a judicial wrecking ball. In four short years has already done untold damage to the country and the law. He routinely ignores precedent and established law to produce rulings that serve the administration or his extreme neo- conservative views. An examination of his infamous career on the bench (to which he has a lifetime appointment) Shows why the Fight for the Judiciary is one the Left simply cannot afford to avoid; and the disastrous consequences for our country if we lose.


In all the controversy that accompanied George W's early nominations, it likely no one noticed Judge Leon's appointment. Other than a Congratulatory note from Senator Dewine (which noted that Judge Leon was originally hired by , surprise, Dick Cheney) The nomination and confirmation of Judge Leon was an unremarkable and unremarked event.

Once he ascended the Bench however, Judge Leon wasted no time making his presence felt as this early profile of him shows He was going to be trouble:
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Leon is just now settling into his new job, and he's already busy making first impressions. "He's loud, obnoxious, and big," said one of his new colleagues after a meeting. More to the point, he's also a movement conservative ... A friend of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's from their undergraduate days at Holy Cross,

Leon is skilled in partisan witch-hunting. He spent part of the last decade serving as the Republicans' chief counsel to the House Banking Committee during its sound-and-fury-signifying-nothing -- or as others call it, Whitewater --
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And before he's even settled into his office he was making judicial waves as well:
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Judge Richard Leon -- a recent George W. Bush appointee. Leon is so new that most attorneys in the D.C. bar weren't aware that he'd reported to work. He's not even listed on the court's Web site. [However] Leon and Kollar-Kotelly may each end up heading a three-judge panel that would hear the respective cases [Challenging McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act
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And predictably Judge Leon's part of the ruling was good news for the administration and bad news for us:
_____________________________________________________________________________________The net effect of Leon's ruling was to broaden significantly the ban on advocacy group advertising and to remove any time limits on when the ban took effect — meaning that an ad broadcast today could run afoul of the law, even though the presidential election is 18 months away.

"It took a couple of days to sink in," says Joel Gora, associate dean of Brooklyn Law School. "But we realized that if the ACLU wants to run an ad criticizing Bush on civil liberties, we would be committing a crime … . How can it be that if we criticize President Bush, we have to ask the government for permission? It's an enormous problem." Gora was one of the American Civil Liberties Union's lawyers arguing against McCain-Feingold in McConnell
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Since that auspicious start, Judge Leon has been a reliable friend of the corporate executive and polluter and a sworn enemy of government oversight
Some of his more memorable rulings:

Protecting big pharmaceutical companies against price fixing lawsuits
and

Limiting the government's power to go after corrupt corporate executives


in this case making sure that corrupt CEO of Freddie Mac would be able to keep his 60 million dollar paycheck (which the government tired to seize after it was reported that the mortgage giant's books were in accurate by billions of dollars)Warning the logic used in this decision is twisted it may cause mental sprain

He's also Voided a Consent Decree to give developers a blank check to destroy a habitat for an endangered frog species That's right, the two parties had already worked out a compromise, and was only Asking the court to ratify it. Instead, in a nearly unprecedented move, Judge Leon made his own deal giving the developers everything they asked for, despite its extreme damage to the environment, including critical habit for an endangered species. (this disdain for the environment probably shouldn't be too much of a surprise given his previous work for the Oil and Gas Institute

This same sensibility can be seen in This case where he denied citizens the right to sue the EPA for delays on restricting hazardous wood preservatives.

The point of all this? Just one. This man is on one of the most powerful District Courts in the nation (all suits against federal agencies are heard here) and he will be there for the rest of his life, and there is nothing we can do about it. Judicial appointments are the ideological gift that keeps on giving, long after rest of BuschCo's reign is nothing more than a bad memory, the judges he appoints will continue to wield enormous influence and be able to incredible damage. If one judge wreck this much havoc in four short years imagine what a Bush controlled judiciary could do over the next 3 or 4 decades. There is no such thing as a minor judicial appointment, and we can't afford to let a single one go unchallenged. In an era where democrats believe they have to pick their battles, this and this alone is the most crucial one of all. We cannot afford to let the Neo-cons solidify their hold on this most permanent branch of government, or the problems the next reformist president will face, will make FDR's look like a picnic

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