Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hoover, the Judge and the Immigrants

I vented in the previous post. Here are some semi-rational thoughts.

First, I haven't read the lawsuit, but my semi-educated guess is that it alleges the City and this judge conspired to target a specific ethnic minority. That would be tough to win, because the plaintiffs would have to show that the City selectively enforced the law against hispanics. Unless the plaintiffs find some type of internal memo, or a whistle blower or some other type of smoking gun, that will be tough to prove. The numbers laid out in the story are pretty persausive, but courts are not very sympathetic to arguments relying on numbers.

Second, in my opinion this judge has acted improperly - legally and morally - regardless of any conspiracies. Legally, he is a state judge, and the lawful penalties for state crimes like jaywalking do not include exile. Maybe they were illegal immigrants under federal law, but he has no jurisdiction to enforce federal law. Morally, even if this judge had the authority to exile people, no Catholic judge should impose such a ridiculously disproportionate sentence. An eye for an eye doesn't mean punish as harshly as possible, it means the punishment should fit the crime. If it is a serious crime, that means a serious punishment. If it is a lesser crime, that means a lesser punishment. What have these 'illegal immigrants' done wrong? Left their own country in search of a better job, home and life? Worked hard all day for low pay so they could support their family? Hoped? Dreamed? Imagined? And for this you are going to exile them? Exiling someone for jaywalking is not dispasionately applying the law. It is manipulating the law for some extra-legal purpose.

Third, where have the lawyers been? Did any of these folks even have lawyers? Why has no-one appealed this? And if they have, what happened to the case?

Fourth, the following quote may be the most outrageous part of the story: "Cahill says he works hard to be accessible to officers when they ask him for search warrants or no-bond orders. 'You don’t sit and play 20 questions when you have developed a rapport with them; if they have a reason, you accept it,' he said."

Wrong, your 'honor.' Playing twenty questions is your constitutional, and therefore, legal obligation. You are supposed to be a neutral and detached decision maker, not a rubber stamp. You are not law enforcement; you are a judge. Act like one.

Fifth, the 'you can't act like this and be a Catholic' comment just expresses my frustration with church leaders who only want to condemn sins committed by democrats. Our bishop, on the front page of the local catholic newspaper, condemned the recent statement by Catholic congressional democrats that their faith informed all their policy choices. The bishop told us that you can not be pro choice and Catholic. Well this week the president reiterated his war-for-regime-change foreign policy. Where is the statement that you can't be Catholic and support unjust wars? This judge is accused of breaking the law in order to punish impoverished immigrants? Where is the statement that you can't be Catholic and oppress the poor?