State and Local Legal Blog

Attorney General Holder is sore about the Shelby County decision.

July 31, 2013
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And who would be surprised?  Mid-July, about 3 weeks after the Shelby County decision (the one that found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, which meant that preclearance by the DOJ is no longer required under Section 5, which only applies to jurisdictions identified by Section 4) he has intervened in Texas asking the federal courts there to make Texas continue seeking preclearance.

I have been searching to see if he suggested a substitute to Section 4 which could be applied to “Texas”.  Frankly, I don’t think that General Holder is going to have a lot of success with this matter.

Governor Bryant stated yesterday that he would fight any effort to make Mississippi return to a federal preclearance process for election changes.  Of course, one of The Governor’s (and the Secretary of State’s) big pushes is for Voter ID, which Holder (and DOJ in general) opposes.

While there are lots of arguments out there about disenfranchisement as a result of a Voter ID statute, it simply doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.  In Mississippi, as in most states, I suspect, you get a voter ID card when you register.  If a photo is required, then I am sure that the counties in Mississippi could buy the photo equipment, or perhaps work a mutual deal with the Highway Patrol, which is equipped to take photos.

The Governor said that in November of 2011, 61% of Mississippians favored Voter ID, but he gave no source for his poll results that I am aware of.  However, as I said, it doesn’t seem very onerous a requirement to me — but that’s just my opinion.  The rest of this post is “fact”.



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The fate of Mississippi’s murdering juveniles

July 29, 2013
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Mississippi is one of the states that demands life without parole for juveniles who are found guilty of some levels of homicide.  For example, under the capital murder (Miss. Code Ann. Sections 97-3-21 and 99-19-101 (1972) and simple murder (Section 97-3-21), life without parole is a mandatory sentence.  See Mississippi’s Probation and Parole Law, Miss. Code Ann. Sections 47-7-3(1)(f) and (h).  Likewise, a juvenile who is a habitual offender (two prior felony convictions) would also be subject to life without parole.  See Miss. Code Ann. Sections 99-19-81 and 99-19-83.

In 2005 the US Supreme Court, in Roper v. Simmons, 543 US 551, 578 (2005), determined that the 8th and 14th Amendments forbid imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were under the age of 18 when they committed their crimes.  In Graham v. Florida, 130 SCT 2011 (2010), the Court determined that a juvenile offender convicted of a non-homicide offense and facing a sentence of life without parole as a habitual offender could not be sentenced to life without parole.  This case categorically bans life without parole in this situation, and any challenge of a like sentence should be filed under Graham as opposed to Roper.

Now, in Miller v. Alabama, ___ US ___ (2012), the Court has determined that the 8th Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.  Miller did not categorically forbid life without parole sentences for juveniles, but does urge the sentencing judge, even in murder cases, to consider the mitigating qualities of youth before imposing such a sentence.  The Court stated, in pertinent part:  “Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features — among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences.”

The Court also asked the sentencing judge to consider “…family and home environment that surrounds [the juvenile] — from which he cannot usually extricate himself — no matter how brutal or dysfunctional.”  The Court suggested that the judge also include a consideration of the circumstances of the homicide offense, including the extent of his participation in the conduct and the way familial and peer pressures may have affected him and a child’s capacity for change and rehabilitation.

Anticipate that your Mississippi Supreme Court will resolve this issue soon, as there are a number of post-petition claims already filed before the Court.

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Secession is not an ugly word…

July 26, 2013
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particularly when it isn’t Southerners that are bandying it around.  As I write, Vermont is discussing secession (which actually they do every year or two — so that is not big news), but so are northern counties in Colorado.  But these counties don’t want to secede from the US — just from Colorado.

The last time a portion of a state seceded from another was way back when West Virginia was created.

The amazing thing is that, when touted by non-Southerners, secession is not an ugly word.  I can only guess that while we Southerners were chafing under the yoke of big government telling us how to live in the 1860s, nobody was telling other folks what they could and could not do.  But now it looks like all of us are chafing under the yoke of big — and some would argue — ineffective government.  It’s a great time to be interested in political policy




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