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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Around the Web With Legal Schnauzer

Our coverage of two major figures in the Deep South--Paul Minor in Mississippi and Paul Bryant Jr. in Alabama--has received notice recently in the blogosphere.

Joan Brunwasser, of OpEd News, interviewed me about our coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC and its possible impact on the Minor case. Minor's attorneys make a compelling argument that their client was prosecuted for alleged behavior that the nation's highest court now says is to be encouraged.

Brunwasser and I discussed the scary notion that the defendants in both the Minor and Don Siegelman cases were convicted largely because federal judges gave unlawful jury instructions. In other words, American citizens were convicted of "crimes" that do not exist.

That led Brunwasser to raise an issue that got to the heart of the matter:

Brunwasser: I don't know about you, but this makes me feel very insecure. If you can't depend on the law to stand behind you, and are actually fearful that the law can be used, or misused against you, what kind of system is this? And what can we do about putting justice back in the DOJ, where it belongs?

Legal Schnauzer: You raise very good questions. And that's why Obama's "look forward, not backward" approach on justice issues is so wrongheaded. In fact, I think it is already hurting him politically. The Massachusetts vote probably happened for a lot of reasons. But a little more than a year ago, the No. 1 question on Obama's Web site was about investigation of possible Bush-era crimes. That was a huge concern on the public's mind, and Obama has ignored it. He's paying a price at the ballot box.

People who have followed the Bush DOJ closely, as you and I have, know something smelly was going on. But even people who haven't followed the story closely, I think, sense that our justice system is broken--not only at the Supreme Court and federal level, but in many cases, at the state, county and municipal levels.

The fundamental problem, in my view, is that the law is a self-regulating profession. And until that changes, we will continue to have a "justice" system that is far too easily corrupted. And the Supreme Court just made matters worse by making it open season for corporations to buy justice--which they've pretty much been doing already, particularly in states like Alabama and Mississippi, where Karl Rove and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have shaped our courts to their liking.

So much attention is focused on health-care reform, and that is important. But our health-care system works well for a lot of people--those who have good insurance coverage. I'm not sure our justice works for anyone--other than lawyers and judges, who get quite wealthy off of it. It certainly does not serve the public.
I would submit that we need major legal reform every bit as much as we need health-care reform. But you almost never hear the issue raised.

You can check out the full Brunwasser interview here.

Our coverage of Paul Bryant Jr. and his company's ties to a massive insurance-fraud scheme in Pennsylvania, drew the attention of Dan Harralson, who produces The Sports Times Network.

We discussed Bryant's business activities and his influence over the University of Alabama and its powerhouse football program. A key question: Should someone with a history of questionable ethics in the business world be serving as a trustee at a major public university?

You can check out the full interview here, in an audio format.

1 comment:

James Greek said...

Shoot Bear Jr. will get away with it because people worship his daddy.