Monday, July 14, 2008

Congress is Awesome

That's what it boils down to.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Dark Side of Florida

Above: Something is rotten in the state of Florida.

So sometimes being a civil rights attorney is not all that fun. Sometimes you have to do some grunt work. Me, I've spent the week plugging numbers into a huge spreadsheet. Actually, that's not true. I spent the week making sure an intern plugged those numbers into the spreadsheet. We don't pay her.

Still, the work is not always sexy. (By the way, as an attorney that has seen many a sexual harassment case, it is my advice that you do not refer to your work--or to anything or anyone in your office environment--as "sexy." You should draw the line at saying that your work "looks very nice today.") But even the drudgery can sometimes turn up something interesting. And yesterday it did.

In the law, rarely does anyone come to you with a smoking gun. You'll rarely find some memo from a Secretary of State saying "And for the month of July, I'd really like a progress report on how we're going to get all the black people off the voter rolls by November. Remember, people, we're only 124 days out! Let's get McCain elected here!" The way you find out the dirty stuff that's happening is by poring over thousands of documents in the hope that someone somewhere put something down on paper that leads us to something juicy. And as we were going through three boxes of call logs from the Broward County Board of Elections in Florida, we certainly found something juicy:

Elections in Broward County are being supervised by evil Jedis.

Yes, that's right. If you go vote in Broward County in the fall, your precinct table may well be manned by a Sith Lord, a disciple of the power of the Dark Side of the Force. I have unearthed a call log that reveals that during the 2008 primaries, a certain "Darth Peterson" called County headquarters to run an address check on a Broward County voter.

This has huge legal ramifications. Supreme Court followers will surely recall that that august body has previously ruled that the mere presence of Sith lords at polling places constitutes prima facie evidence of voter suppression efforts. See Organa vs. Palpatine, 456 U.S. 1657 (1999) ("Nothing has quite so efficacious a detrimental effect on the exercise of the franchise than the ominously pregnant hum of a lightsaber."). Now, with the Supreme Court's new right-leaning composition, legal experts are predicting that the Court is itching to overturn that rule.

"Scalia was in the minority in Organa, as you'll recall," said Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, "and I'm certain that he wants a second bite at that apple. And you know that Alito is very much to the right of former Justice O'Connor on this one. Back in 1993, when he was still on the Third Circuit, he ruled that Imperial Stormtroopers had Eleventh Amendment immunity from civil damages awards in Bivens actions for excessive force. He even went so far as to add dicta to the effect that that outcome would remain the same 'no matter how many Bothans died in bringing the Court that information.'"

Left: A 2004 photo of Broward County poll workers. We assume that that's Darth Peterson on the far right.

Preliminary investigation into reports of this Darth Peterson have yielded troubling results. The Establishment Clause ramifications of Peterson's repeated "I find your lack of faith disturbing" comments alone make this Constitutionally problematic, and reports that Peterson was Force-choking voters pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton require immediate attention.

Florida: if it's not one thing, it's something else.