In light of the recent decision of The Trumpet to pardon this man, I thought an old post reflecting Joe Arpaio’s outstanding character might be timely, though this post deals with a related matter (and, no, this post will not appear in my forthcoming book):

Courting Failure

I found two pieces of information about the federal court system interesting and worth pondering. Consider the first item from the New York Times about the number of vacancies in our courts:

The number of vacancies on the nation’s federal courts has reached an astonishingly high level, creating a serious shortage of judges and undermining the ability of the nation’s court system to bestow justice.

Of 856 federal district and circuit court seats, 85 are unfilled — a 10 percent vacancy rate and nearly double the rate at this point in the presidency of George W. Bush. More than a third of the vacancies have been declared “judicial emergencies” based on court workloads and the length of time the seats have been empty. By far the most important cause of this unfortunate state of affairs is the determination of Senate Republicans, for reasons of politics, ideology and spite, to confirm as few of President Obama’s judicial choices as possible.

This, in itself, is an embarrassment, though it seems unlikely this Congress could do anything to make itself look worse. But the number of important court cases backing up due to Congress’ reluctance to either nominate or  confirm proposed justices raises serious questions about the ability of these people to govern this nation — if we had any doubts.

On the other hand, we read a good piece of news from Phoenix, Arizona regarding a decision by federal district court judge Murray Snow regarding the country’s self-proclaimed “toughest” sheriff, Joe Arpaio, and his policy of racial profiling in defiance of federal mandates and constitutional principles guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens in this country. A case was brought against Sheriff Arpaio by, among others, Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, a Mexican tourist who was in the United States legally when deputies took him from a car in which he was riding with a white driver and kept him detained for nine hours while they determined whether or not he was indeed in the country legally. The country’s “toughest” sheriff has apparently a defiant attitude toward federal laws and a declared policy that reflects his own particular brand of racism — and, sad to say, keeps him secure in his office.

Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio has required prison inmates to wear pink underwear and saved taxpayers money by removing salt and pepper from prisons. He has, at times, forbidden convicted murderer Jodi Arias from speaking to the press.

The stern Maricopa County Sheriff has said the federal government will not stop him from running his office as he sees fit. But on Friday it did.

A judge [Murray Snow] ruled Friday that Arpaio’s routine handling of people of Latino descent is not tough enforcement of immigration laws but instead amounts to racial and ethnic profiling.

Some of those profiled sued Arpaio, and Judge Murray Snow found their complaints to be legitimate.

The federal court in Phoenix ordered “America’s Toughest Sheriff” — a moniker Arpaio sports on his website — to stop it immediately and has banned some of his operating procedures.

The sheriff’s office has a history of targeting vehicles with occupants with darker skin or Latin heritage, scrutinizing them more strictly and detaining them more often, Snow ruled.

As is the case here, it is not unusual for the courts to do things right in this country. Indeed, one might say the judicial system is one of the great strengths of this country and something we can be very proud of — and which keeps us this side of barbarism. But the unwillingness of Republicans in Congress to act on federal court appointments means that many cases will go untried and  innocent people will suffer unfairly. In the case of the country’s “toughest” sheriff, the case took eight months between the days of the final testimony and the decision itself.  One suspects that Judge Snow’s calendar is filled to the brim. Can we agree that this is yet another strike against the Congress?

The founders thought that incompetent politicians would simply be voted out of office. Alexander Hamilton says this repeatedly in the Federalist Papers. That doesn’t often happen, however, because they have enough wealthy backers to convince gullible voters at election time that they are doing a bang-up job on the voters’ behalf, and a great many people simply don’t care. So we are faced with Congressmen who hang on to their offices for dear life, by ignoring their civic duties and their constituents but pleasing those who hold the purse strings, knowing that it beats real work and pays very well. In spite of the fact that it might lead to inefficiency (though that ship has already sailed), there surely ought to be term limits on congressional offices. It would force the politicians to be a bit more responsive to their constituents and less concerned about reelection. Politics would be less a career choice and more a temporary respite from the business of making an honest living. That’s one the founders missed, for all their prescience and political savvy.

7 thoughts on “Pardon?

  1. The pardon of Arpaio is shameful. Even at age 85, he should be in federal prison for civil rights violations and hate crimes. In another context, he’d be prosecuted for war crimes for his treatment of prisoners.

  2. What an excellent post, Hugh! As re Arpaio, his pardon is yet another bit of proof that the ‘man’ in the Oval Office cares not a whit about justice, as if we needed further proof. As to the larger point(s) … yes, the framers of the Constitution had faith that the citizens would quickly vote out of office any who did not operate in the best interest of the nation. But I don’t blame them … back in 1787, the citizens had just fought long and hard for their freedoms and were determined to protect it at all costs. It was sacred to them. As time has passed, the lessons of the 18th century have grown dim, and people have grown spoiled and apathetic.

    I agree with you that the judicial branch is the most effective and least partisan. However, my fear is that if the current administration remains in office too long, with three of the justices on the Supreme Court at an age that they could retire any time, our judicial branch may be in danger of losing some of its independence.

    Again, excellent post!

    • Yes. The judiciary in recent times has become more political. sad to say. And another thing about the short terms for elected officials in the eighteenth century: they were paid a pittance and were probably eager to get back home to earn some money!!

      • That is a good point too! They served because they saw it as a civic duty, a duty to country … now they serve because they see dollar signs … $$$

  3. Very well written and very informative. Unfortunatally it points what a disgrace this administration and the legislature has failed us. Dare I say things are out of control.

  4. The new release of “The Treasures of the Sierra Madre,” starring Donald Trump. His famous line will be “Judges! We don’t need no stinking Judges!”

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