Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Supreme Court

June
28th

Next test for Obamacare: The November election

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The U.S. Supreme Court has settled the biggest question about Obamacare: Is it constitutional? Now comes the second question: Is it politically sustainable?

Supporters of the law have complained bitterly of the legal challenge that 26 Republican attorneys general – including Washington’s Rob McKenna – mounted against the Affordable Care Act.

But without the lawsuit, the act’s legality wouldn’t have been settled this soon. There would have been no victory in court on Thursday, and the massive law would still be dogged by the threat of unresolved constitutional issues.

As it happened,

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June
27th

Death behind bars shouldn’t be automatic for juveniles

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this week on juvenile sentencing has been widely misconstrued.

The court did not forbid judges from sentencing the youngest murderers to life in prison without a chance of parole. It did forbid states from automatically requiring – through mandatory sentencing schemes – that killers be locked up until death for murders they committed as juveniles.

The ruling might affect six inmates from Pierce County, including two of the perpetrators of Tacoma’s infamous 1998 Trang Dai massacre.

The most dramatic Pierce County case – possibly the most dramatic case in the country – is that of Barry Massey, who was sent up for life after helping kill a marina operator in Steilacoom in 1987 at age 13. At the time, Massey was the youngest defendant in America to receive that penalty.

Life without parole is an important sentencing option. Many supporters of capital punishment fear that depraved killers will eventually be released if they are not executed. Some jurors will opt for life in prison instead of execution if they are assured that the killer will actually remain behind bars.

But the court majority Monday rightly struck down an Alabama law that ordered judges not to factor in circumstances or chances of rehabilitation in juvenile cases.

To state the obvious, adolescents are not adults. By definition, they lack maturity and have had less opportunity to rise above what may have been hellish childhoods. The moral compasses of many teenagers aren’t fully operational. As a rule, they are more emotional and impulsive, and much less likely to think through the consequences of their action.
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June
25th

Congress has failed on immigration for far too long

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Illegal immigration is a problem only the federal government can fix. America can’t have 50 states with 50 different immigration policies.

The U.S. Supreme Court was right Monday when it killed Arizona’s move to criminalize job-seeking by illegal aliens, arrest them without warrants and require all immigrants to carry papers.

Arizona usurped federal authority when it included those provisions in the hard-line immigration law it enacted in 2010. Most media hotheads have focused on another part of the law, the one that would allow police officers to check the immigration status of

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April
4th

Citizens United bodes ill for Washington’s judicial races

This editorial appears in Wednesday’s print edition.

Washingtonians beware. The incentives to buy justice with campaign dollars are so great that it’s only a matter of time before the new super PACs come shopping for Supreme Court seats in Olympia.

The Washington Post reported last week that jurists in some states are preparing to defend themselves against unprecedented barrages of media attacks funded with unprecedented war chests. The stage was set in 2010 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which eradicated long-standing restrictions on campaign contributions from corporations and unions.

The decision provided for no firewalls between political and judicial elections. In states that insist on using popularity contests to pick their judges, the threat to an impartial judiciary is obvious. Read more »

Sep.
29th

Decide sooner, not later, on health insurance mandate

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Well, is it or isn’t it?

The question of whether the federal health care insurance mandate is constitutional is all but certain now to go where everyone knew it would eventually – the U.S. Supreme Court.

The mandate for all Americans with taxable income to purchase at least minimal health insurance by 2014 is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act approved by Congress in 2010. It has been challenged by 26 Republican attorneys general – including Washington’s Rob McKenna.

Two federal appeals court panels have ruled on it: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel (Florida, Georgia and Alabama) struck down the mandate as unconstitutional but upheld the rest of the law while the 6th Circuit panel based in Ohio upheld the law and the mandate. With two federal courts ruling in opposite ways, the mandate was going to get to the Supreme Court eventually. But separate requests from both the Obama administration and the AGs have speeded up the process. Read more »

March
2nd

Cruel, reptilian, parasitic cults have rights, too

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

“Thank God for 4 more dead troops. We are praying for 4,000 more.”
– The Westboro Baptist Church

The First Amendment doesn’t protect only the speech we hate; it also protects speech that bubbles up from the pipes of human septic tanks. We can’t fault the U.S. Supreme Court for upholding the right of Westboro Baptist Church members to spit their venom – from a distance – at military funerals.

The best response to speech is more speech.

This “church” – it’s really an inbred tribe of swamp creatures – specializes in invective and protests designed to outrage its moral superiors, which include most child-fondlers and widow-swindlers.

These self-proclaimed Baptists, who’ve been disowned and condemned by bona fide Baptist churches, are a traveling media circus – no, make that freak show – that feeds on litigation and governmental efforts to shut them down.

So let’s settle for the constitutional remedy of calling Westboro “Baptist” Church what it is and isn’t.

What it isn’t is anything remotely resembling its claimed Christianity, a religion founded on such precepts as “God is love” and “Bless them that curse you.” (Westboro Baptist version: “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God For Dead Soldiers.”)
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Feb.
27th

This state’s open elections dodge another bullet

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It’s settled: The crypto-political action groups that package their ads as “issue advocacy” in this state will still have to disclose their donors and donations.

Human Life of Washington fought that requirement all through the judiciary; it lost for good last week when the Supreme Court rejected its appeal of a prior loss in the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals.

The case was a little peculiar from the start.
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Aug.
24th

Campaign cash and justice make a poor mix

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The Supreme Court giveth, and the Supreme Court taketh away.

The cause of judicial integrity got a big boost last year when the high court ruled that a West Virginia justice shouldn’t have helped decide a lawsuit involving a donor who’d given $3 million to his election campaign. (He decided in favor of the donor.)

The ruling – Caperton v. Massey – has prompted that state judiciaries to look hard at which judges are deciding which cases affecting which political supporters.

Washington’s supreme court may soon require that judges disqualify themselves from proceedings in which big campaign donors stand to gain. The U.S. Supreme Court got it right in Massey, and the Washington Supreme Court ought to adopt the proposed rule.

That would give pause to the people who’ve been pouring ever-larger sums into judicial races, expecting that they’ll have a judge in their corner when their case is heard If that judge has to withdraw from that case, there’s considerably less incentive to buy a court seat for a friend. Read more »