Thursday, April 23, 2009

More Change You Can Believe In: Obama Seeks to Limit Defendants' Rights

It'll be interesting to see how far this one flies under the media radar.
The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to overrule long-standing law that stops police from initiating questions unless a defendant's lawyer is present, another stark example of the White House seeking to limit rather than expand rights.
Didn't we hear incessant howling for eight years about how Bush was conducting an assault on civil rights?

Where is the drumbeat of outrage?
The administration's action - and several others - have disappointed civil rights and civil liberties groups that expected President Barack Obama to reverse the policies of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, after the Democrat's call for change during the 2008 campaign.

Since taking office, Obama has drawn criticism for backing the continued imprisonment of enemy combatants in Afghanistan without trial, invoking the "state secrets" privilege to avoid releasing information in lawsuits and limiting the rights of prisoners to test genetic evidence used to convict them.

The case at issue is Michigan v. Jackson, in which the Supreme Court said in 1986 that police may not initiate questioning of a defendant who has a lawyer or has asked for one, unless the attorney is present. The decision applies even to defendants who agree to talk to the authorities without their lawyers.

Anything police learn through such questioning cannot be used against the defendant at trial. The opinion was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the only current justice who was on the court at the time.
So an opinion written by liberal darling John Paul Stevens is now to be kicked to the curb?

Why? Does Obama not believe in the right to counsel before interrogation? I guess not.
Stephen B. Bright, a lawyer who works with poor defendants at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, said the administration's position "is disappointing, no question."

Bright said that poor defendants' constitutional right to a lawyer, spelled out by the high court in 1965, has been neglected in recent years. "I would hope that this administration would be doing things to shore up the right to counsel for poor people accused of crimes," said Bright, whose group joined with the Brennan Center and other rights organizations in a court filing opposing the administration's position.
Apparently, Obama doesn't care about the poor.
Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and former FBI Director William Sessions are among 19 one-time judges and prosecutors urging the court to leave the decision in place because it has been incorporated into routine police practice and establishes a rule on interrogations that is easy to follow.
No doubt the media will be howling tonight about this gross threat to civil rights.

Welcome to Obamaland, where there's more concern for the welfare of terrorists than for the average American.


Some background from SCOTUS Blog.

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