June 13, 2013 |
I can't say, of course, how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the same-sex marriage cases before it. But I can talk about how South African courts grappled with the issue in 2005, after a case was brought by a lesbian couple who had been denied the right to marry. As a justice on the Constitutional Court at the time, I was asked to write the judgment in that case, which led to South Africa's becoming the fifth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. The case before the court involved Marié Fourie and Cecelia Bonthuys, two Pretoria women who had lived as a couple for 10 years and wanted to get married.
June 6, 2013 |
When a Guatemalan court found the country's former dictator, Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, guilty of genocide last month, it was the first time a Latin American leader had been convicted of such a crime in his own country. The verdict was hailed as a victory not only for Guatemala's fragile courts but also for Latin America generally, where weak judges and fearful prosecutors have all too often failed to bring human rights abusers to justice. That triumph, however, is now at risk. Just days after Rios Montt was convicted, the trial court's verdict was thrown out on a procedural technicality by the country's Constitutional Court, which ordered the lower court to rehear all evidence presented after April 19, when the procedural mistake occurred.
May 24, 2013 |
TUCSON - A federal judge has ruled that the immigration enforcement policies of the man who calls himself "America's toughest sheriff" violated the Constitution by using racial profiling. For years, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has ordered his deputies to detain people they suspect of residing in the country illegally and to hold them for federal authorities. The 142-page ruling issued Friday by Judge G. Murray Snow came as part of a lawsuit brought on behalf of Latino plaintiffs who asserted that race was a major factor in initiating immigration enforcement stops.
May 8, 2013 |
Cheerleaders in a small Texas town can continue to display their Bible verse banners at football games, after a district judge ruled Wednesday that their actions did not violate the Constitution. The cheerleaders in the football-dominated town of Kountze garnered national attention when they sued the school district in a case that pitted free-speech rights and religious freedom against the doctrine of separation of church and state. Hardin County 365th Judicial District Court Judge Stephen Thomas said the banners that included religious messages - such as "If God is for us, who can be against us?
May 7, 2013 |
NEW YORK - If someone told you of a barnstorming TV host who interviewed people around the country about a given subject, you'd say it sounds like a lot of the road-trip reality series that have proliferated on cable TV. But what if that host had NPR credentials? And what if the show's theme wasn't burger stands or pawn brokers but the most important document in the history of self-governance? Then it might sound a little more like "Constitution USA," a four-part nonfiction series that debuts Tuesday on PBS (KOCE locally)
May 3, 2013 |
Last week, Texas and Oklahoma squared off in a Supreme Court battle over water rights that has the drought-ridden West on edge. At issue is a state's control over its own water: Texas seeks to buy or otherwise tap water from Oklahoma under the terms of an interstate water compact, actions that Oklahoma has so far refused to permit despite the compact. The stakes of the court's decision are high. Interstate water agreements provide the legal foundation for the economies of most Western states, which are disproportionately dependent on irrigated agriculture.
April 27, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - The federal rules say a person making an arrest "must take the defendant before a magistrate without unnecessary delay. " And the Supreme Court has said the judicial process must begin within 48 hours. This rule aims to "prevent secret detention," wrote former Justice David H. Souter, adding that "no one with any smattering of the history of 20th-Century dictatorships needs a lecture on the subject. " Despite criticism from Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill that the questioning of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was prematurely curtailed, legal experts say the only way to have avoided triggering that process once he was arrested a week ago would have been to declare him an enemy combatant.
April 23, 2013
Re "Legal debate swirls around treatment of suspect," April 21 I am glad the Boston bombing suspect has been caught. But however despicable his alleged crimes are, do we want to deny a U.S. citizen his right to a trial, as guaranteed by our Constitution? Terrorist prosecutions enjoy a near-perfect conviction rate. A cowardly attack on innocent people is scary because it is hard for us to understand why anyone would do something so uncivilized. But it is also scary when those who have sworn to protect and defend the Constitution use such an act to attack our constitutional rights.
April 23, 2013 |
On Monday morning, Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged with using a weapon of mass destruction. According to a transcript of that proceeding, a magistrate at Tsarnaev's hospital bedside read him the Miranda warning, informing him of his right to counsel and his right to remain silent. But among the things we don't know is if, or to what extent, Tsarnaev was interrogated before being informed of his rights. Over the weekend, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. gave every indication that he intended to have Tsarnaev questioned without the Miranda warning.
April 16, 2013
NEW YORK - An independent review of the U.S. government's anti-terrorism response after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks found that it was "indisputable" the U.S. engaged in torture and the George W. Bush administration bore responsibility. The report released Tuesday by the Constitution Project, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, is an ambitious review of the Bush administration's approach to the problems of holding and interrogating detainees after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.