Down the ballot, liberal reformers take over the criminal justice system – Washington Post

September 5 at 6:17 PM

On Tuesday night, as Ayanna Pressley was trouncing Rep. Michael E. Capuano (Mass.) in a Democratic primary and making Boston political history, Rachael Rollins was holding a celebration of her own.

The 47-year-old lawyer, who ran on ending “mass incarceration” and cutting off relations between Boston and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, won the Democratic primary for district attorney of Suffolk County in a rout, leading her closest rival by 16 points. If Rollins defeats her independent opponent in a general election that has no GOP candidate, the county’s nearly 800,000 residents will have a chief prosecutor intent on remaking the criminal justice system. No more cash bail. No more civil asset forfeiture. No more racial disparity in who does and doesn’t go to jail.

“I believe there are certain things we’re just going to reject,” Rollins said in an interview before the primary. “I think there are certain charges that I don’t want to prosecute any longer. Those are overwhelmingly the charges that fall on the mentally ill and those with substance abuse disorder.”

Rollins, who spent just $230,000 on her campaign, is the latest in a string of reform-minded candidates who will be district attorneys in deep-blue cities — places that, for years, elected Democrats who ran on “law and order” platforms. The effort to elect them, which began before the 2016 election but has accelerated, has succeeded in Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis and failed in some other blue cities. But it’s created a blueprint for electing reformist prosecutors and for shaping their agendas.

The first victory in the campaign came in early 2016, when George Soros plunked $300,000 into a PAC created to elect Kim Foxx as the state’s attorney of Cook County, Ill. Foxx won the Democratic primary, tantamount to election in the deep-blue county, proving that the investments, in races that sometimes attracted little money or attention, could work.

In 2017, a larger coalition came together behind Larry Krasner, a defense attorney running in Philadelphia after suing the city’s police force 75 times. He won the Democratic primary, then the general election, despite being opposed by the city’s police union and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In office, within months, Krasner put together an agenda for the district attorney’s office designed “to end mass incarceration and bring balance back to sentencing.” Among his policies: stop prosecuting people accused of marijuana possession, stop prosecuting sex workers with less than three offenses and start requiring prosecutors to justify the cost of long-term incarceration when they seek it.

“It’s a dream come true for those of us who’ve been fighting our hearts out for justice reform for years,” civil rights activist Shaun King wrote in The Intercept.

King had just co-founded a political PAC, Real Justice, designed to elect more Larry Krasners. With a fraction of the money sloshing around the PACs devoted to House and Senate races, King and other co-founders, like the digital organizer Becky Bond, offered a form of “distributed organizing” for reformist candidates. In many cases, those candidates were going up against incumbents or front-runners backed by police unions, local Democratic Parties and the prison industry.

The early results were encouraging. In Texas’s March primaries, Real Justice fell just short in a Dallas County race but got a victory in San Antonio’s Bexar County. The PAC’s next big projects were in California, where four deep-blue counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Sacramento and San Diego — were electing or nominating new prosecutors. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stumped in the state to raise awareness of the campaign; Krasner himself trekked across the country to endorse the candidates.

“When you exist as a movement of islands around the country, you need more islands,” Krasner said this summer in an interview, before heading to California. “If this is a national movement, it’s going to be borne out by more wins in more places, especially in big jurisdictions. So, naturally, I’m supportive of like-minded candidates.”

In June, all but one candidate — Contra Costa’s Diana Becton — went down to defeat. It was a bracing moment for the movement, as attacks that had faltered elsewhere, starting with accusations of outsiders trying to interfere in local elections, seemed to stick.

“When you talk to progressive voters, terms like ‘mass incarceration’ and ‘the school-to-prison pipeline’ — those are terms we all understand,” said Noah Phillips, the attorney who lost in Sacramento. “They need to resonate with moderate voters, too. They will once we do the work and they understand.”

The Real Justice-backed candidate in Alameda County, Pamela Price, encountered many of the same problems. Over one day in late May, The Washington Post observed her campaign, from an office where Krasner’s memo was printed on the walls, to a canvass where Price knocked on doors, to a house party where a diverse crowd heard her talk about changing the criminal justice system. Asked about the incumbent’s attacks on her funding, Price scoffed.

“Soros has come and leveled the playing field, and so has Real Justice,” Price said. “You don’t think it’s fair, huh? You thought it was going to be great, to have an unfair advantage?”

But at the doors, it was clear that some voters who considered themselves liberal Democrats were unready to back a reformist district attorney. Price spent close to 20 minutes with one voter who had complained to the city about a nearby house that was being squatted in by drug dealers; Price could not quite convince her that focusing on treatment instead of incarceration would keep her neighborhood safe.

After the election, Price said she was surprised to see Alameda County — anchored by the left-wing bastions of Oakland and Berkeley and rattled by police shootings — stick with the old system

“We are one of the most progressive counties in the country, and we have one of the most regressive justice systems,” Price said. “Soros isn’t the real story. The real story is the police money that came in from across the state to stop us. The real story is who owns our criminal justice system. Mr. Soros doesn’t own the system, they do.”

King was also floored by the defeats. “We thought it would matter that Hillary Clinton won those counties,” he said this summer. “And that didn’t transfer at all to these races. Moderates and whites will band together to oppose Trump or elect a mayor. But when it comes to the criminal justice system, in some places, they vote like conservatives.”

In that interview, and in a memo he wrote later in June, King suggested that the lessons of California were to start earlier and to emphasize that criminal justice reform was more fiscally responsible than the status quo — a message that had clicked for Krasner, but not for other candidates.

By the end of summer, the movement seemed to regain its footing. In Missouri’s August primary, Ferguson City Councilman Wesley Bell ousted St. Louis County’s longtime prosecutor in a race colored by the aftermath of Michael Brown’s killing by a police officer. And in the run-up to Sept. 4, the campaign for Rollins in Boston seemed to be coming together. She had a five-way primary, a compelling story and eventually the endorsement of the Boston Globe.

“I’ve represented the police. I’ve sued the police. I’ve gone to drug-rehab graduations, where we hope this is the one that really takes — and then, despair,” Rollins said before the election. “We need a fighter in this role, someone who’s a grown-up.”

Rollins’s answer to the problem that had dogged defeated candidates was similar — that prosecuting nonviolent crime stretched resources that could be keeping people safe. But in Boston, the message clicked.

“The crime they see on TV is violent crime, and that’s the crime I believe we need to focus on,” Rollins said. “What they’re not seeing is that the overwhelming resources of the DA’s office are not focused on those crimes; they’re focused on the property crimes, the trespassing, loitering. Well, over 50-60 percent of the matters the office has focused on is crimes of addiction, crimes where the root cause is someone having a mental illness.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Trump's Cabinet reportedly whispered about invoking the 25th Amendment, which lets 14 people remove a sitting president from office

trump pence

  • The 25th Amendment formally outlines the transition of power if the president is unable or unfit to serve.
  • Section IV allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to remove the president from office.
  • Americans have been particularly interested in the amendment since President Donald Trump took office.

An anonymous senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration wrote an op-ed in The New York Times on Wednesday, claiming there’s a “quiet resistance” undermining the president.

The official wrote that “there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment.”

Trump himself reportedly didn’t know what the 25th Amendment did. When former adviser Steve Bannon told him it posed the biggest threat to his presidency, according to Vanity Fair, Trump said, “What’s that?”

After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Congress proposed and the states ratified the 25th Amendment in 1967 to formally outline the transition of power. Before that, the vice president didn’t officially have the power to take over.

The amendment states that if the president dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the vice president becomes president. If there is a vacancy in the vice presidency for any reason, the president can choose someone to fill it.

And if the president is unable to fulfill his duties — like when President George W. Bush was under general anesthesia for colonoscopies in 2002 and 2007 — he can temporarily transfer his powers to the vice president, and get them back when he’s done.

But Section IV is what some liberals have been frantically searching for more information on, because it could be a way to legally remove Trump from office.

A legal loophole

trump mnuchin ross lighthizer navarro

Under the amendment’s fourth stipulation, it would only take 14 people to depose the president — Vice President Mike Pence and 13 of Trump’s 24 Cabinet members.

Section IV reads:

“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

John D. Feerick, former dean of Fordham Law School, is one of the chief architects of the 25th Amendment who shepherded it through Congress in the early 1960s.

He told Business Insider in March 2017 that the senators who signed the provision into law specified that declaring the president unfit must rely on “reliable facts regarding the president’s physical or mental faculties,” not personal prejudice.

“If you read the debates, it’s also clear that policy and political differences are not included, unpopularity is not included, poor judgment, incompetence, laziness, or impeachable conduct — none of that, you’ll find in the debates in the congressional record, is intended to be covered by Section IV,” Feerick said.

Policy and political differences, unpopularity, poor judgment, incompetence, laziness, or impeachable conduct — none of that is intended to be covered by section IV.

Section IV goes on to say that if two-thirds of both houses of Congress don’t vote to uphold the decision and keep the vice president in charge within 21 days, then the powers and duties automatically transfer back to the president. So if the president doesn’t want to give up his office, Feerick explained, he doesn’t have to if Congress agrees he shouldn’t.

Akhil Reed Amar, a leading constitutional scholar at Yale University, said in a podcast for the National Constitution Center on the topic that the president’s own running mate is the one who triggers a “palace coup,” in order to maintain political stability.

“The 25th Amendment doesn’t try to specify in great detail what might count as a disability, but does try to in effect identify who and how we go about the process,” Amar said. “Here’s the key point: The vice president is the pivot in the whole process. Unless the vice president puts himself — maybe one day, herself — forward, no one else can really basically, at least within the 25th Amendment framework, proclaim an unwilling president ‘disabled.'”

The idea is that the Cabinet and VP are the president’s closest advisers, Feerick said, so they would be the ones with the best sense of his mental faculties. They, and Congress, could also consult doctors to evaluate the president’s physical and mental health in order to determine if he or she is fit for the job, though they don’t have to.

The 25th Amendment is a separate process from impeachment, which allows Congress to remove a sitting president if a majority of the House of Representatives votes that he has committed treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors, and a trial in the Senate convicts him.

In either case, legal scholars argue, the goal is to make the process as objective as possible.

“In a time like this of unusual crisis, one had to count on leaders in the executive branch and Congress to really be patriots, not partisans,” Joel K. Goldstein, a constitutional expert at St. Louis University, said at a symposium that Fordham Law School hosted in September.

Renewed interest

25th_amendment Google_Trends

Americans have been brushing up on their knowledge of the Constitution during Trump’s presidency, according to Google Trends data.

The search term “25th Amendment” spiked in popularity after Trump took office, particularly after he signed the controversial travel bans, and after he tweeted an edited video of him body slamming CNN.

Interest was rejuvenated amid the release of the explosive book, “Fire and Fury” — whose author, Michael Wolff, said the amendment was brought up “all the time” in the White House.

Feerick, who didn’t discuss applying Section IV to Trump, said he hopes this renewed interest in the Constitution will encourage Congress to consider filling some of the legal gaps in the amendment that he and other legal scholars have proposed over the years.

For example, the Constitution doesn’t outline what happens if the vice president is unable to serve, and he and other experts agree that the order of succession shouldn’t include members of Congress as it does today.

“It’s important that people be educated about the Constitution. It’s our greatest charter of liberty,” Feerick said. “I’m really happy that there’s greater education going on — I’m obviously not happy about all the division in the country — but I’m happy that at least there’s greater education being provided about the amendment.”

SEE ALSO: Here’s who’s in Trump’s Cabinet

DON’T MISS: A senior member of the Trump administration says he is part of a secret resistance working against the president in the White House

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This is how impeachment works — and what a president would have to do to be impeached

Source link

Criminal Minds Has Big Plans For Its 300th Episode – Cinema Blend

9 hours ago

Criminal Minds closed its thirteenth season with a cliffhanger that left two characters’ fates in question. The episode ended with Reid and Garcia held at gunpoint by members of a serial killer cult. As if that wasn’t bad enough for fans dying to know what would happen next, the show hadn’t even been renewed just yet. Well, Criminal Minds did finally score a renewal order, and fans could look forward to a Season 14 premiere that also happened to be the series’ 300th episode. The show has big things planned for the 300-episode milestone, as showrunner Erica Messer recently revealed.

According to showrunner Erica Messer, the 300th episode kicks off with the team other than Reid and Garcia trying to determine what happened to the duo and what happened with VICAP Agent Meadows, who seemed like an ally for much of the Season 13 finale. The crisis will reach a climax, as to be expected, but the impact won’t end when the final credits roll. Garcia in particular will be affected by what happens in the 300th episode. As if she didn’t have enough of an emotional ride in Season 13! In her chat with TVLine, Messer revealed that “what she does to survive” is something they “never truly played before.”

Garcia has spent far less time in the line of fire than most of the BAU, so perhaps what she does to survive will take her to some heretofore unexplored violent places. Could Garcia need to cross personal lines to escape? She’ll undoubtedly want to help Reid and assist the BAU in catching the bad guys as well. No wonder she’ll deal with the effects of what she goes through in episodes beyond the 300th in Season 14, which may get more episodes than we expected.

Maybe Shemar Moore could drop by as Derek Morgan one more time to give her some support and perhaps a shoulder to cry on. Fans undoubtedly wouldn’t mind seeing Moore back with the BAU, even if only briefly. He wouldn’t even need to switch networks to drop by Criminal Minds from his own show. Who do I have to talk to for SEAL Team to lend Moore for an episode of Criminal Minds?

The 300th episode — appropriately titled “300” — will see the rest of the team following clues in their own history to figure out why Reid and Garcia were targeted by Benjamin Merva and his cult. The BAU only has a certain amount of time to find and save them, as a “Believers” prophecy is set to be fulfilled. While we probably don’t have to worry than Criminal Minds is going to kill any major characters off, all signs point toward an intense 300th episode that could be rewarding to longtime fans.

You can see for yourself when the 300th episode of Criminal Minds airs Wednesday, October 3 at 10 p.m. ET on CBS following the Season 2 premiere of SEAL Team. For more important fall TV dates, be sure to take a look at our 2018 fall premiere schedule.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link