Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Those activist judges!

I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. But this story on today's Supreme Court ruling caught my eye:

The case was of an American who smuggled guns into Japan and served 3 years, then did not report this fact when he tried to buy guns in the U.S. On the federal forms, when asked if he had been convicted "in any court" of a crime punishable by a year or more in prison, he answered 'no.' His argument was that the from refers only to courts in U.S. jurisdictions. The majority agreed, saying, among other things, that other countries apply different standards to crimes, and so something that would get a lenient sentence (less than a year) might get several years in another country (vandalism in Singapore, which has a penalty of up to 3 years, was cited as an example).

In dissent, Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy said, among other things, that "any" means what it says. "Indisputably, Small was convicted in a Japanese court of crimes punishable by a prison term exceeding one year," Justice Thomas wrote. "The clear terms of the statute prohibit him from possessing a gun in the United States."

Now, if I were filling out that form, I might be confused about what "any court" meant as well, and it could reasonably be construed to mean only courts in U.S. jurisdictions, simply because that's the scope of most federal laws.

Aside from the fact that the Court pointed out a big loophole in our gun control laws which I expect was not anticipated by Congress, I was struck by the idea that the most conservative Justices were arguing in a manner that was not only inconsistent with conservative views on access to guns, but also with their dissent in the recent decision striking down the death penalty for minors.

Those up-tighty righties in tighty whities claimed, in that decision, that we have activist judges who put the laws of foreign countries on the same level as our own laws (never mind that we sign treaties with other countries which, once ratified, are supposed to be the law of the land). I wonder what they think of the fact that their darlings, those most conservative of the Supremes, are doing exactly that? I guess it's only beyond the pale when you happen to be noting the fact that most civilized countries don't execute children.


Blogger redterriers said...

Perhaps I've lived too long, but I never thought I'd see the day when you and Justice Clarence Thomas agreed.

Will miracles never cease?

7:26 AM, June 23, 2005  

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