Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Black-Robe Posse, continued

""""Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers run by PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care.

While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled.

“In my entire career, I’ve never heard of anything remotely approaching this,” said Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, who was appointed by the State Supreme Court this week to determine what should be done with the estimated 5,000 juveniles who have been sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2003. Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention.""""


The Judiciary AKA Black-Robe Posse remains one of the most powerful forces in American organized crime. JudgesGuilty/NYT

You, mon lecteur, might not quite understand the significance of the term "Black Robe Posse." Sitting on the wrong side of a courtroom, and hearing some piece of calvinist trash sentence a person to 25 years to life--in the particular case, a hispanic convicted of possession of a few ounces of heroin, with a history of petty crimes, but no murders, rapes, or robberies--you begin to understand this.

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"To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have with others the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. Their maxim is boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem [good justice is broad jurisdiction], and their power the more dangerous as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control."""


Jefferson's thoughts on judicial review, however quaint they might seem to some--or perhaps tainted by Jefferson's "ethical lapses"--still apply. The authentic progressive opposes the Judiciary, notwithstanding the fact that occasionally judicial review may result in good (or maximization of utility in Benthamspeak), by preventing populist hysteria of various sorts. Unfortunately, many contemporary vichy-crats now consider the Judiciary--really the most antiquated, feudal, and unscientific of the three branches-- the most crucial branch of govt.

The judiciary forms part of the 2nd Estate (deuxieme ├ętat) in French revolutionary terms. They are not always with the King, or the clerics, but usually with the nobles, estate holders, tories: the judge defends the aristocracy, and wealthy bourgeois. More than a few judicial barons lost their heads during the Reign of Terror.

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