A Slow News Day
But the importance was made clear by the Favorite Philosopher of 1 First Street, Tom Goldstein:
At A Public Defender, it appears that Gideon can't take a joke.
Wow, slow news day. On the Supreme Court front, the chatter has been over the sentence Justice Thomas interjected during today’s oral argument in Boyer v. Louisiana. Some of the commentary has devolved into psychoanalysis of the Justice’s supposed hostility towards Yale Law School. The real question to be asked is: can you take a joke?
That wasn't funny. Not even close to funny. Jeff Gamso can't take a joke either.
You know what’s missing in every single one of these articles? A mention of Boyer. Who’s Boyer, you ask? Boyer, of Boyer v. Louisiana [SCOTUSBlog preview; oral argument transcript here]. Boyer, who sat in jail for 5 years facing the death penalty because the State could afford to only pay one of his lawyers – one that wasn’t qualified to represent him in a death penalty case. Boyer, in whose case witnesses died while he was waiting for the political football of indigent defense funding to stop getting punted around from endzone to endzone like it was a Browns vs. Cardinals game. Boyer, whose egregious delay the state of Louisiana seeks to shrug off as not really important and certainly not their fault.
The Supremes decided.
Actually, they decided not to decide. Which is, of course, a decision.
The Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal of Jason Pleau, who the feds wants to execute but Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee, whose state has no death penalty, does not.
Which means it's over. The feds get Pleau. To keep him. To try to kill him.That happened yesterday too. But Gideon raises one more thing:
You want a story? I’ll give you a story: this is the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright. That the decision trumpeted the arrival of an era of equal justice for all, but that era has never materialized. That states still woefully underfund indigent defense; that access to justice isn’t equal and that people get screwed. Every. Single. Day.Still not funny. It's not that there was nothing else discussed in the blogosphere yesterday. The handful of people who had yet to write anything about the suicide of Aaron Swartz and couldn't bear to be left out, offered desperate attempts at relevance. It included such gems as Ian Millhiser's piece at ThinkProgress about ten crimes that were worse than Swartz's but have less severe sentences, the sort of simpleminded fluff that appeals to people who hang out at the intersection of Passion and Ignorance.
While Millhiser's post was inadvertently funny, its audience didn't find it a laughing matter.
The Washington Post immediately realized how important the news of the day was.
If you're keeping score, we've got two guys facing execution, one of whom sat for five years because nobody wanted to spend enough money to get him a lawyer. One guy and suicide over his prosecution. And the anniversary of a promise made to provide a defense to any American who was too poor to defend himself that he would be given counsel, which was broken as soon as the bill came.
Still, the utterance set off a small quake among those who closely follow the Supreme Court. It quickly lit up Twitter, and parts of official Washington waited for a transcript of the proceedings or a scrubbing of the tape of oral arguments. It prompted the kind of intense analysis that usually accompanies one of the court’s important decisions.
It's not like any of this would have interested anyone anyway. Thank the Lord that Clarence Thomas showed up to give us something worth talking about, which may or may not have been a cute little joke about Ivy League law schools if only someone hadn't stepped on his punch line.
Gideon provides the closing synopsis:
TL;DR: Thomas mumbles, internet creams itself, Boyer sits in jail, Gideon weeps.
And that's what matters on a slow news day.