The Nanny Court

Another banner SCOTUS 5-4 decision yesterday, this time telling inmates to f*ck off:

WASHINGTON, June 14 — A narrow Supreme Court majority (Bowles v. Russell 2007) on Thursday agreed that a lower court properly dismissed the appeal of a man who missed a federal filing deadline by three days because of a federal district judge’s erroneous instructions.

“The court used the case to announce it was overruling the two precedents the Supreme Court had used when it established the “unique circumstances” doctrine in the 1960s. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said the court now regarded the doctrine as illegitimate. “If rigorous rules like the one applied today are thought to be inequitable,” Justice Thomas added, the remedy should come from Congress.”

Oy(ez). So just like last week’s decision in favor of gender and employment discrimination because the plaintiff missed a deadline (more here as well), now the court is saying that if you fail to file an appeal by the deadline, even if you were told the wrong date by a federal judge, tough shit.

Writes Souter in a snarky dissent: “In ruling that Bowles cannot depend on the word of a District Court Judge, the Court demonstrates that no one may depend on the recent, repeated, and unanimous statements of all participating Justices of this Court…It is intolerable for the judicial system to treat people this way…There is not even a technical justification for condoning this bait and switch.”

New name for the Roberts Court: The Nanny Court. Rather than settling constitutional or legal questions, this gang of five seems hellbent on punishing petitioners for breaches in etiquette; filing etiquette, for heaven’s sake.

One can imagine if this gang had been around back in 1954: “Sorry, Brown et al, but while segregation sucks and everything, you missed the filing deadline by one day, even though it was set erroneously by that segregationist judge. It is so ordered.”

Concludes Souter: “Unless every statement by a federal court is to be tagged with the warning “Beware of the Judge”, Bowles’ lawyer had no obligation to go behind the terms of the order he received.”

“Beware of the Judge.” Sounds like a good subtitle for the new book out about Clarence Thomas called “Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas.” Writes reviewer Orlando Patterson:

“[Thomas] frequently preaches the virtues of honesty and truthfulness, yet there is now little doubt that he lied repeatedly during his confirmation hearings — not only about his pornophilia and bawdy humor but, more important, about his legal views and familiarity with cases like Roe v. Wade.”

And now we know he feels filing deadlines are more important than what’s being challenged. If there has been one hallmark to Thomas’ jurisprudence all these years it’s been “denial and defiance”.

Or in other words, if you’re an inmate (or a woman), get out of my court.

Cross posted from AoF

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2 Responses to The Nanny Court

  1. Darrell Prows says:

    It’s a bullshit decision, but it seems to be of minor application. I assume that that is why Thomas got to write for the majority. My running tally on him is that he is almost certainly the least consequential appointment in my life time. It amazes me that he has fooled himself into believing that he actually belongs there.

  2. Ginny Cotts says:

    The Nanny Court, trying to punt the ball in those robes…
    Seems like the game is being played between a judicial version of shirts and skins teams. Souter, et al, are sans robes. 😎

    This, btw, brings to mind the Texas SC ruling on an appeal from the TX death row inmate whose court appointed lawyer had admittedly, slept through his trial. TX SC: Tough S**t, sucker.