State and Local Legal Blog

Some Thoughts on Mississippi and Ethics

July 26, 2010
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OK, Mississippi has more “greed” (read “corrupt officials”) than any other state says a recent poll.  Sad, sad.  The poll is corroborated by The Corporate Crime Reporter which established that Mississippi was the most crooked state in America.  The Reporter reached this conclusion by comparing the number of federal corruption convictions in the last decade and the 2002 population, and comparing other states’ results, the conclusion was inescapable.  James R. Crockett, a professor of accountancy and information systems at University of Southern Mississippi, has written Hands in the Till:  Embezzlement of Public Monies in Mississippi and he traces 37 cases of embezzlement in Mississippi.

Ya’ll Politics today had an article about Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.).  He is on the Standards of Official Conduct committee of the House.

Did you know that Senator John C. Stennis wrote the Senate’s first Code of Ethics?  He also chaired the first Senate Ethics Committee.  And he is the only Mississippian in the history of the Committee to chair it.

While Ya’ll Politics touted lots of achievements of Congressman Harper today, I am so pleased that he has found a seat on the House’s ethics committee.  He is following in the steps of one of Mississippi’s greatest statesman.

Congratulations, Congressman Harper.

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What are communities of interest?

July 23, 2010
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What do you think of when you hear the term “communities of interest”?  The members of your alumni association?  The members of your professional association?  The members of your church?  The members of your family?  We all are “enrolled” in various communities of interest.

But viewing communities of interest from a census and redistricting perspective is totally different.  It is one of the ways that a new redistricting plan can be justified if it deviates slightly from the “one man, one vote” principle.  The United States Supreme Court has made it clear that a state may recognize communities that have a particular racial makeup “provided its action is directed toward some common thread of relevant interests.”  Miller v. Johnson, 515 US 900, at 920.  In the Miller case, the Court found that the racially gerrymandered district in question was “260 miles apart in distance and worlds apart in culture”.  Id at 908.


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What I’m thinking…

July 12, 2010
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The appellate courts have not rendered any particular decisions which affect state and local government, so I’m going to talk for a while about community involvement.  I read a wonderful book recently, Doing Democracy, by Bill Moyers, et al, and it has caused me to think about community involvement and why we don’t have more of it.  Reading this book came on the heels of my re-read of Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, and together they send a powerful message.

While Putnam has collected data and, using it, attempts to reason out the lack of community engagement in post WWII, Moyers tells us how to begin again.  Moyers’ plan, developed over 40 years ago, called the Movement Action Plan [MAP], is a model of a social movement that has grown out of community activism.  It’s food for thought, and we will be thinking about it for a day or so.


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Constance McMillen Makes News Again

July 8, 2010
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On June 25 of this year, I blogged about Constance McMillen, the high school student from Itawamba  County who caused the ruckus by wanting to bring her girlfriend to the prom.  Well, today Constance McMillen is a wealthier young woman.  The lawsuit filed by the ACLU on her behalf was settled on the 20th of July for a mere $35,000 and the promise to adopt a district wide policy which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.  The lawsuit is over.

Constance missed her senior prom (as did all her classmates — the school simply canceled the prom rather than have a lesbian couple in attendance.)  And I suspect that had the lawsuit gone to trial, Constance would have become  much wealthier as a result.  But she wasn’t out to get even with the school district, she was just out to get justice.  She satisfied herself that what she had done in settlement was good for her school and good for the students who come after her.

The value of her lawsuit, in dollars and cents, was substantially above the settlement amount she chose to accept, but she feels proud to have contributed to a more tolerant Mississippi — even if it was a kicking and screaming Mississippi.

We’re getting there….


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