A Legal Blog for the rest of us!

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Raymond Bonner of the NY Times runs an intriguing article examining the personal side of Marine Major Michael Mori (I've written about him here, here, and here), the outspoken JAG attorney representing an Australian Guantanomo detainee coming up for a military tribunal:

What you see is not necessarily what you get.

That was the common reaction here to Maj. Michael Mori, an intense, energetic, 38-year-old American who became a near celebrity in Australia when he was here earlier this month.

He is an officer in the United States Marine Corps and looks it - powerful physique, chiseled features, military haircut. But when he speaks, he sometimes sounds like a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, sharply criticizing the Bush administration's policy toward the detainees at GuantÀanamo Bay, Cuba, calling the military tribunals before which some will be tried ``kangaroo courts.''

``We can't work it out,'' said Minna Muhlen-Schulte, an art student at the University of New South Wales, referring to the disconnect between Major Mori's image and his views. Having seen him on the news, she had come to hear him in person.

Major Mori sees no contradiction. He is an American, and he is a marine. But he is also a lawyer for David Hicks, an Australian who was captured in Afghanistan more than two years ago and has been held at GuantÀanamo since. Major Mori was in Australia to investigate the case, and has been besieged by television, radio and print journalists.

``What I'm saying about the system isn't leftist,'' he said one recent morning here, speaking of the tribunals. ``It offends my understanding of what justice is that's been ingrained in me by the Marine Corps and by my legal training.''

Major Mori describes himself as apolitical - he says it does not matter to him if there are four more years of President Bush, ``followed by eight years of Jeb,'' or if Senator John Kerry is the next president. He says his objections to the military commissions are the same as those the Bush administration has to the International Criminal Court. Both have unchecked power, and both can be misused for politically motivated prosecutions, he said.

As any good centrist, I offer the other side a chance to voice their opposing viewpoint. I gave you my thoughts about Scalia here. From the Orange County Register, a cartoon response to my views.

Thanks to Howard for the heads up.
I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw this one: How Appalling, a to-the-T spoof of Howard Bashman's How Appealing. Even though this man represented my organization in Federal court, I highly recommend the spoof blog. Thanks to De Novo for the heads' up.
3000 HITS IN 9 WEEKS... 
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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Marine Major Michael Mori, who I've told you here and here is displaying incredible courage in uncharacteristically publicly defending his Guantanomo detainee clients, is speaking up again. The Mail and Guardian (South Africa) reports:

Earlier Major Mori said that labelling the defendants as terrorists had allowed the US government to lower its standards of justice. He said the system lacked checks and balances, such as a truly independent appeal process.

'The appointing authority, who approves the charges, is the same person who gets to rule on defence motions,' he said. 'He is basically reviewing his own decisions ... it's like letting the bowler call leg before wicket."

HUH? "Call leg before wicket?" OK, whoever you are from South Africa, little lesson in Journalism 101: If you're going to blatantly misquote somebody, make sure you do so with a figure of speech that that person actually uses in his or her native country. That way, everyone in America won't catch your apparent lack of ethics. Something tells me Major Mori didn't learn how to play cricket in Quantico, Virginia, or at any other Marine training for that matter.

UPDATE 1: My further research shows that this South African story is taken verbatim from a story which the Guardian (UK) ran here. So is the Guardian guilty of blatant misquoting? I'm writing the editor to clear this up. Maybe the good Marine actually used a cricket analogy to curry favor with his Australian defendant's countrymen, but I doubt it. Stay tuned...
The Yale Daily News today reported that last week, the House Armed Services Committee approved a bill that expands the Solomon Amendment power to withhold federal funding from schools that block access to military recruiters. Currently, the Solomon Amendment only affects DoD funds. If the "ROTC Military Recruiter Equal Access to Campus Act" passes, Homeland Security, CIA, and DOT funding could be cut as well.

As I've told you here and here, and here, I helped write our Amicus Brief in the FAIR v. Rumsfeld case, the case that is challenging the original Solomon Amendment. Generally, I support all efforts to help military recruiters to fight the good fight and recruit the best possible candidates for service. Unfortunately, while I think the bill's intentions are noble, I think the timing may be bad. One of the Solomon Amendment opponents' key arguments is the slippery slope argument: if they give up "academic freedom" on this issue, it will be taken away more and more easily in the future. This bill only gives that argument more ammunition. Also, this bill may actually weaken the Solomon Amendment, as it specifically defines a violation as refusing to give equal access to military recruiters. The Solomon Amendment has a much more bright-line standard, allowing DoD to cut funding any time military recruiters are blocked, not just for failing to give "equal access." Finally, this bill expends precious political and media capital that could be better spent on defending the current Amendment in court and in the media.

All leaders, military or Congressional, need to know when and how to engage the enemy. This may be a battle to avoid so that the war for military equality and veterans rights can be won.
I consider Amanda Butler an e-friend, so she should consider the following reprint from the Volokh conspiracy as friendly ribbing:

How do University of Chicago students spend their spring breaks?

Well, Crescat's Amanda Butler went to the oral arguments for Newdow, and files this extended report.

UPDATE: Will Baude and Amy Lamboley went to the Met instead, though Will spent last Spring Break at the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Slate has sent a reporter to cover the other side of Spring Break, reporting on activities I'm told some non-Chicago students indulge in.

I should note for the record that when I went to college, US News And World Report did a survey of 300 colleges to determine the top party schools. My alma mater, the United States Military Academy at West Point, was rated #299. The dead last school: you guessed it, the University of Chicago. I mean, come on, what kind of mascot is a Maroon anyways?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

From transcripts and secondary sources, it appears that Dr. Michael A. Newdow delivered an eloquent and masterful argument before the U.S. Supreme Court today, even if it fell mostly on deaf ears. Most justices from both sides of the political and ideological aisle expressed extreme skepticism at his hardline stance against the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. The highlight of the argument happened when Chief Justice Rehnquist tried to pick apart Newdow's contention that the words "under God" are divisive (story here via NYTimes.com):

For example, when Dr. Newdow described "under God" as a "divisive" addition to the pledge, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist asked him what the vote in Congress had been 50 years ago when the phrase was inserted.

The vote was unanimous, Dr. Newdow said.

"Well, that doesn't sound divisive," the chief justice observed.

"That's only because no atheist can get elected to public office," Dr. Newdow shot back.

The courtroom audience broke into applause, an exceedingly rare event that left the chief justice temporarily nonplussed. He appeared to collect himself for a moment, and then sternly warned the audience that the courtroom would be cleared "if there's any more clapping."

The Times did a good job of capturing the Courtroom moment. However, it appears that nobody did a good job of researching Dr. Newdow's contention. Indeed, it appears that atheists can get elected to very high office. Culbert Olson was elected Governor of California in 1938 and held office for four years. He was raised in the Mormon Church but rejected religion at an early age. After serving as Governor, he served as President of the United Secularists of America. Anyone know of any Federal officeholders who were atheist? NOTE: The Centrist is NOT an atheist, although he rarely wakes up from his drunken hangover early enough to attend church.

UPDATE 1: Amanda Butler of CrescatS spent her Spring Break hearing oral arguments in the Pledge Case. Her extended report of the arguments beats hands down any professional journalism of the case that you will see.

UPDATE 2: Will Baude of CrescatS has this post on this particular exchange between Rehnquist and Newdow.

Still, Supreme Court Justices (especially those who are relatively skeptical about the use of legislative history) should be wary when using 50-year-old history about the actions taken by publicly elected officials during a time of political persecution.

Valid point...they should especially be wary when the attorney (Newdow) makes the crowd laugh with a completely erroneous assertion of history. The fact is, many atheists have been elected, and many many more are probably just going through the motions when they talk about the Almighty.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Story Here.