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July 3, 2022

With all the momentous and emotional news coming at us lately, you probably missed some stuff that we might otherwise be talking about. I'm here to keep you informed.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

I don’t normally like to use this column space to depress you. There are more than enough depressing news stories out there — stories that I’m sure I don’t have to list. But the recent glut of high-profile awfulness has crowded out coverage of tragedies we’d otherwise be aware of.

A federal judge in North Dakota, for example, last week awarded a judgment of $4,641,337,011 against the Juarez Cartel aka Vincente Carillo Fuente Organization or La Linea for the murder of six children and their mothers in Mexico.

The case is Miller v. Juarez Carter, and I don’t recommend reading its 165 pages unless you’ve been drinking or enjoy deep depression. There are lengthy descriptions of what happened.

I guess it’s the right result — but I’m having a hard time imagining the cartel cutting a check to pay this judgement. In normal times, cartel murders are something people might be discussing.

The barrage of recent high-profile, ideologically split Supreme Court rulings has also diverted our attention from a group of other recent split Supreme Court rulings with unexpected groupings of justices that we could have been discussing.

For example, Nance v. Ward in which Justices Kavanaugh and Roberts joined the liberal justices in ruling that a death row inmate could ask to be shot rather than lethally injected.

Question No. 1: If you’re in charge of executions in Georgia and a murderer asks to be shot, do you litigate all the way to Supreme Court or do you just shoot the guy? Which is more inconvenient? Who’s going to sue if there might be a technical state law problem (which the Supreme Court majority said there wasn’t)?

Question No. 2: Why would four justices dissent? Are they pro-vaccination even though they’re conservative?

The reasoning in Justice Amy Coney-Barrett’s dissent essentially comes down to “lethal injection is the only method of execution authorized under Georgia law.”

Rules trump pain (unless they’re rules you don’t like).

And then there was last week’s Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety in which Roberts and Kavanaugh sided with the liberals in a case that reaffirmed the long-established precedent that the people who run Texas are really awful.

In case you missed it (which you probably did), an Iraq war veteran who was exposed to toxic burn pits was denied a disability accommodation by the Texas Department of Public Safety after he came back home and wanted to go back to work.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 gives returning veterans the right to get their old jobs back with state employers and the right to sue if they aren’t given those jobs. Texas claimed sovereign immunity to block the suits.

The liberal majority opinion written by Justice Stephen Breyer was clearly designed to annoy conservatives (or maybe trick Roberts and Kavanaugh) — it uses constitutional history and quotes Alexander Hamilton.

Question No. 1: If you’re in charge of the Texas Department of Public Safety, do you litigate all the way to the Supreme Court or do you give a war hero a job? Which course of action makes you look dumber?

Question No. 2: Why would four justices dissent?

The reasoning in Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent essentially comes down to “States did not surrender the immunity applicable in their own courts when they delegated the enumerated powers — including the War Powers — to Congress in Article I.”

Rules trump pain (unless they’re rules you don’t like).

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