[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/22/art.boface0222.gi.jpg caption="Obama administration now reconsidering trying 9/11 defendants in court."]
Special to CNN
Suppose that shortly after 9/11, when it became clear that Osama bin Laden and other members of al Qaeda were responsible for the attacks, President Bush had made the following announcement:
"Those responsible for these attacks are cowardly, vicious murderers, and we will pursue them to the ends of the earth to capture them. They are not warriors, they are criminals, and they will be treated accordingly. And once we catch them, we will bring them back to the United States and put them on trial right there in lower Manhattan so that a jury of 12 fair-minded New Yorkers can decide their fate."
Such an announcement would not have been controversial in the slightest and undoubtedly would have been met with widespread approval. After all, putting terrorists on trial in federal court is how we always dealt with terrorists, including the first group of murderers who tried to blow up the World Trade Center.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/04/nypd.wtc.jpg caption="New York City police officers guard lower Manhattan, near Ground Zero."]
Peter Bergen and Karen Greenberg
Special to CNN
Obama administration officials, apparently bowing to political pressure, said over the weekend they are considering moving the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused operational commander of the 9/11 attacks, out of New York City.
The objections to holding it in New York seem reasonable: The financial cost to the city and the fear that the trial might inspire a lone bomber or even an organized al Qaeda attack.
Certainly, holding Mohammed's trial over many months and even years in the congested streets of Lower Manhattan will damage the local economy. But the fix for this could be straightforward: Move the trial to one of the many other courthouses in the five boroughs, or to Governor's Island, which is within sight of the crater where the World Trade Center once stood.
As to fears of bringing on another attack, putting Mohammed on trial in New York doesn't make the city any bigger a target than it already is, because - guess what - New York already is the No. 1 target for jihadist militants. It has been so for almost two decades, since the first Trade Center attack in 1993, which was followed by the averted plots to blow up the Holland Tunnel and other Manhattan landmarks and the 9/11 attacks themselves. Since then, there has been a plot to blow up the Herald Square subway station and alleged attempts to bomb fuel tanks at JFK airport and synagogues in the Bronx.
The unconvincing objections about the costs of holding the trial and the heightened terror threat that comes with it are also trumped by the larger public good from putting Mohammed on trial in New York City.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/10/sotomayor.poll/art.sotomayor.gi.jpg caption="Critics warn confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor could turn into a partisan battle."]
CNN Supreme Court Producer
These rulings or cases are from Sonia Sotomayor's service as a trial judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan), from 1992-98; and most prominently, an appeals judge on the U-S Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, from 1998. That New York City-based court handles appeals from New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.
Most federal appeals are heard by a three-judge panel that changes from case to case, from a larger pool of full-time judges, which in the 2nd Circuit numbers 12. A particular panel normally hears oral arguments, and has the option of issuing a full opinion. Sotomayor wrote opinions in many of the appeals listed below, but not all. In some bigger cases, the full circuit court will re-hear a case.
The Washington Post
Suppose a black female nurse is seriously injured during her work at a hospital and is forced to take a medical leave of absence. When she returns almost a year later, she reapplies for new jobs but doesn't get any offers of comparable salary and seniority. For one of the jobs for which she was turned down, two white women with disabilities are chosen. For another job for which she was rejected, a younger white male is hired.
So how did Judge Sonia Sotomayor rule? The ultra-right talk-show hosts who spent all last week attacking the judge as a "liberal activist" or even a "racist" would surely predict that she would have ruled in favor of this sympathetic black female with a severe disability.
They would have been wrong.
Read Judge Sotomayor's 11-page published opinion, on behalf of a unanimous three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in the case of Norville v. Staten Island University Hospital. The case, decided Nov. 3, 1999, can be found in the published federal court decision reports at 196 F.3d 89.
She found no race or age discrimination and voted for a new trial on the disability claim because of legally erroneous jury instructions.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Voting Rights Act became law 44 years ago; but it has been repeatedly challenged and repeatedly upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today, it’s back before the justices with a case focused on the usual suspects: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, states with a long and ugly history of discrimination at the voting booth. But Section 5, the section of the law specifically at issue, also covers Alaska and parts of California and New York. In fact, there are a total of 16 states that are required to get approval from the Justice Department before they can change any of their statutory voting procedures.
Some of these states are actually asking the justices to uphold the law as a model of civil rights integrity and enforcement.
But, God love ‘em, Georgia and Alabama, states with the most notorious of histories, are fighting the case tooth and nail. They argue that there is no need for a law rooted in the past, a law passed 25 years ago; and they’re pointing to Barack Obama as proof.
Editor’s Note: In a federal courtroom yesterday, a furious judge dismissed the charges against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and launched a criminal investigation of the prosecutors who bungled the case. That’s the headline; here are the details, as reported by CNN’s Terry Frieden
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/07/ted.stevens/art.ted.stevens.gi.jpg caption="Stevens and his wife, Catherine, arrive Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Washington."]
CNN Justice Producer
This was a truly extraordinary hearing, and very dark day for the entire Justice Department. Those in the courtroom were treated to high drama, yet tragically no cameras were allowed.
Judge Emmett Sullivan, and then defense attorney Brendan Sullivan, Stevens’s chief counsel and no relation to the judge, each gave a very lengthy, emotional, blistering, truly devastating summary of the government's very serious failures in the Stevens case. Paul O’Brien, leader of the new prosecution team that replaced the original members after problems in the case surfaced, stood briefly to apologize totally and did not disagree with any of the criticism.
Stevens then gave a fairly straight forward, not particularly emotional statement:
Mark Hugo Lopez
Pew Hispanic Center
At a time when Latinos are interacting more than ever with police, courts and prisons, their confidence in the U.S. criminal justice system is closer to the low levels expressed by blacks than to the high levels expressed by whites, according to a pair of nationwide surveys by the Pew Research Center.
Six-in-ten (61%) Hispanics say they have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence that the police in their local communities will do a good job enforcing the law, compared with 78% of whites and 55% of blacks. Just under half (46%) of Hispanics say they have confidence that police officers will not use excessive force on suspects, compared with 73% of whites and 38% of blacks. Similarly, just under half of Hispanics say they are confident that police officers will treat Hispanics fairly (45%) and that courts will treat Hispanics fairly (49%). In comparison, 74% of whites and 37% of blacks say they have confidence that the police will treat blacks and whites equally.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/09/art.getty.leahy.jpg caption="Sen. Patrick Leahy's comments are likely to re-ignite a simmering debate about how actively to focus on past political and legal policy disputes."]
CNN Justice Department Producer
The FBI has now launched 38 major corporate fraud investigations stemming from the nation's financial crisis, and that number could grow sharply, a top FBI official testified Wednesday.
The disclosure by FBI Deputy Director John Pistole (Pis-tul) reveals an increase of at least a dozen newly-opened investigations of large financial institutions since the FBI last year reported it was looking into about two dozen major firms. And the scope of the criminal probes is certain to grow.
"It could potentially rise into the hundreds. It is an exponential potential," Pistole told a Senate panel.
Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”
AC360° contributor and In Session anchor
I’ve predicted quite publicly, including on national television, that President Barack Obama will make his first Supreme Court appointment within his first 100 days. But I wouldn’t have predicted one this soon. And while it is true that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is undergoing cancer treatment here in New York, has no immediate plan to retire, news of her hospitalization has sparked a flurry of speculation about who might replace her, were she to do so.