22 February 2017

First Official Trailer

The Supreme Court just gave a preview of its likely treatment of Drumpfian anti-[insert-religious-or-immutable-ancestral-characteristic] immigration policies this morning. If I may quote the (Republican-appointed) Chief Justice, writing for a 6–2 majority that includes another Republican appointee:

But our holding on prejudice makes clear that Buck may have been sentenced to death in part because of his race. As an initial matter, this is a disturbing departure from a basic premise of our criminal justice system: Our law punishes people for what they do, not who they are. Dispensing punishment on the basis of an immutable characteristic flatly contravenes this guiding principle. As petitioner correctly puts it, “[i]t stretches credulity to characterize Mr. Buck’s [ineffective assistance of counsel] claim as run-of-the-mill.”

This departure from basic principle was exacerbated because it concerned race. “Discrimination on the basis of race, odious in all aspects, is especially pernicious in the administration of justice.” Relying on race to impose a criminal sanction “poisons public confidence” in the judicial process. It thus injures not just the defendant, but “the law as an institution,… the community at large, and… the democratic ideal reflected in the processes of our courts.”

Buck v. Davis, No. [20]15–8049 (22 Feb 2017) (PDF), slip op. at 21–22 (citations omitted).

Immigration matters are not criminal, so this is not a literal preview. The only real distinction would be the "plenary power over national security" figleaf raised by the administration and resoundingly rejected below — and, as both courts below have noted, there simply isn't record evidence demonstrating that these immigration policies are, in any way, governed by "national security" without regard to the Fourteenth Amendment. The only way that figleaf makes a difference to the censor is if what it's covering is really, really tiny… which sort of calls into question its utility in the first instance.

This is yet another instance in which facts make a difference. Both Congress and the Drumpf Administration need to pay attention, as do the states when advancing ideology in a vacuum (PDF).