Archive for January 18, 2012
Today’s Supreme Court arguments cover two cases simultaneously, pitting law and order against family. Both Holder v. Gutierrez and Holder v. Sawyers involve immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors, became lawful permanent residents, and whom the government subsequently wished to deport for illegal activity.
But the illegal activity is not in question here; the question is more procedural. Specifically, people who have been lawful permanent residents for at least five years, and have lived continuously in the United States for at least seven, are entitled to ask the government for leniency when threatened with deportation. Neither Carlos Gutierrez, nor Damien Sawyers, met those requirements. (more…)
Today, Rasmussen Reports published results of a poll performed yesterday. In it, Newt Gingrich is a mere three points behind Mitt Romney…exactly the sampling margin of error for the poll. In other words, assuming there isn’t some other form of bias, the two candidates are statistically tied.
To some degree, the surge is bolstered by the CBS News/New York Times poll, also published today, which covers the past five days. That poll shows Romney with a seven-point lead, which would make sense if the surge happened after the last debate. It’s also worth noting that this poll covers 340 registered voters, while Rasmussen covers likely voters.
On the other hand, Gallup’s poll (also published today), covering the past four days, and including a thousand registered voters, indicates a 17-point lead by Romney.
One of these polls is not like the others…
What might it mean? One thing we don’t know about the CBS or Gallup polls is the distribution of respondents over the various days. If there is a late surge, a bias of respondents toward the earlier days could mask the surge somewhat. The polls ending prior to the debate show Romney with a comfortable lead in the neighborhood of 20 points. That the post-debate polls all show tightening, albeit to varying degrees, suggests that the Gingrich Surge might be real.
Today, the Supreme Court issued decisions on two cases we covered earlier.
This was the case where a mailroom error was going to send a man to death. In a 7–2 decision (Justices Scalia and Thomas dissenting), the Court held in favor of Maples, the convicted murderer. The decision quotes from Coleman v. Thompson:
Cause for a procedural default exists where “something external to the petitioner, something that cannot fairly be attributed to him[,] … ‘impeded [his] efforts to comply with the State’s procedural rule.’ ”
In this case, it’s unreasonable to expect someone to be aware of a court issued document that he never received and could not have received. The decision does not, of course, render Maples a free man. It merely grants him a hearing of his appeal.
Justice Scalia’s dissent says, in essence, that it’s a state issue that shouldn’t be decided by a federal court. He also concludes that, because Maples believed he was still being represented by the firm that had abandoned him, it should count as him actually being represented by the firm, and thus his claim of lack of representation is unfounded.
This was a somewhat complex case involving copyright law and the Berne Convention.
The Court held in an 6–2 decision (Justice Kagan recused herself; Justices Breyer and Alito dissented) that Congress has the authority to retroactively take works formerly in the public domain and place them under copyright protection, and the First Amendment is irrelevant to such actions.
The Court did not choose to speak regarding supercession, with respect to the ratified Berne Convention treaty and the Constitution. Rather, the Court opted to maintain with Congress the power of implementation of the treaty’s provisions.
Justice Breyer’s dissent states that extending such protection to public domain works does nothing to encourage new works to be created, the ostensible purpose of copyright protection, and thus Congress overstepped its bounds by granting copyright retroactively to public domain works.
Wikipedia goes dark today, in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Ordinarily I would link to the Wikipedia article on the Act, but that would be rather counterproductive. Instead, I include here some relevant portions of the Wiki article.
The bill would authorize the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites outside U.S. jurisdiction accused of infringing on copyrights, or of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. After delivering a court order, the U.S. Attorney General could require US-directed Internet service providers, ad networks, and payment processors to suspend doing business with sites found to infringe on federal criminal intellectual property laws. The Attorney General could also bar search engines from displaying links to the sites.
On its surface, this seems like a reasonable law. If a site is violating copyrights, this enables protection of those copyrights by making it difficult to access the site. But there are some rather dangerous unintended consequences. (more…)