A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Eric Holder

Obama’s DOMA Decision on Solid Legal Footing

By Trevor Timm

On February 24, in a major victory for gay rights activists, the Obama Administration reversed its two-year policy of defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court despite the President’s insistence he did not agree with the law. The Justice Department announced that it would no longer defend the act against lawsuits because it believes that “much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed” the law and it conveys the “stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s) Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.”

While criticism from the Republican House leadership has been relatively muted, potential Republican presidential candidates have loudly denounced the decision.

Social conservative and rumored Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was the first to jump on the supposed reversal, saying it was an “inexplicable political error.”

“I think he owes the people of America an explanation,” Mr. Huckabee said. “Was he being disingenuous and dishonest then [when he said he would defend the statute in court], is he being dishonest now, or did he change his view and if he did, when and why?”

Other presidential hopefuls charged that the President had reversed his policy, politicized a legal issue, and perhaps committed an “impeachable offense” by declining to defend the law in court.

But was this, in fact, a reversal of policy? How “political” was it? And is the decision in violation of the Constitution? (more…)

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Why Bin Laden Might Not Need Miranda’s “Right to Remain Silent”

By the LASIS Staff

On April 14, CNN’s political ticker noted that Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee that there was no need to read Miranda rights to Osama Bin Laden upon his capture because there already exists enough evidence against the al Qaeda leader to convict him at trial.

Miranda rights, of course, are the “right to remain silent” and the “right to an attorney” that, if you watch TV cop shows, a police officer grunts victoriously into a suspect’s ear as the officer cuffs the perp and slams him against the hood of his patrol car. This is purely for entertainment and dramatic effect; a criminal suspect doesn’t need to be read his Miranda rights until law enforcement has placed him under arrest and is ready to question him about his alleged crimes. If law enforcement never plans to question a suspect, then the suspect never has to be read his Miranda rights. (For a more complete explanation about how Miranda warnings work, check out the helpful NOLO guide here.)

(more…)

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