Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Show Me The Money

Law porn alert...

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's passing sent myriad commenters scurrying to their keyboards. It is not an exaggeration to write that a wholesale stampede of pundits, some of whom may have actually known of which they wrote, sallied forth with dire predictions of governmental collapse, as though a Supreme Court having a scant eight members was tantamount to a Marine Corps with no bullets.

The justices have, perhaps accessing greater wisdom, superior intellect or, more likely, breathtaking egos, soldiered on with the business of deciding cases and controversies. Today's decision reveals a court mindful not only of its constitutional underpinnings, but wholly unimpressed with the extra-judicial limits others attempted to place on their deliberations.

In a case all about jurisdiction, Johnnie Roberts and the Supremes duke it out about a lawsuit that has been in the offing since Ronald Reagan's presidency. In 1983 a terrorist attack took the lives of 241 Americans, almost all of them Marines, after an attack on a building used as barracks. The families of the fallen sued, and won. It was something of a reach (the details of venue are really a way) but that isn't what the instant case is about. It's about following the money.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you are a multi-billionaire who has somehow been found liable for a judgment of...oh...billions. The money is frozen, but that doesn't mean anything in the ionospheric world of international banking. In a series of paper chases, the relationship between Bank Markazi, the government of Iran (the defendant) and the money became attenuated - which is what any reasonable defendant would do.

A billion dollars. There is no chance - none - that my lovely wife and I wouldn't own a Bahamian island were someone to give me a billion bucks. Goat Cay, for example, is for sale at an ultra-affordable seven and a half million. Let's say I get carried away and get a ten million dollar house, complete with a five million dollar boat dock and a million dollar sailboat. Let's do the math - we'd still have nine hundred seventy-ish (Greer Math) to pay a friend who promised to be my bodyguard. Clearly, the billion and a half being argued over here is worth all the legal maneuvering.

Congress passed a series of laws saying, in essence - "We're often stupid and act idiotically. Often is not always. Don't fuck with our legal system." I know it will confound my good friends of the Right, but the O-man is on board with all of this, issuing Executive Orders (I know, right?) and signing the bills passed in 2012.

Well, to get back to my original point (if you have read this far...sorry). With the skeleton crew available to John Roberts (please, no Ginzberg jokes), six justices had seen enough. Along with the seemingly obligatory nod to the 1803 Marbury decision, at Bank Markazi's insistence they consider the 1872 Klein case. I pretend no previous experience with Klein, about which the Court seemed lukewarm, in any case. Muddling through, a divided and paralyzed Judiciary creaking and groaning in the background, the aforementioned Justice Ginzberg wrote an opinion joined by five others (although Justice Thomas did not join as to one section - yeah,  whatever). That's not the coolest part. Hey, man. Check this out.

Roberts himself wrote the dissent, which Justice Sotomayor joined. Okay, read that again. I'll wait.

Uh huh. Split, not along "partisan, ideological" lines but between six justices who don't see a separation of powers problem, and two who do.

Okay, so what? Well, I decided to read the Harris case, also decided today, on the off chance a cycling friend had somehow gotten dragged into the hallowed halls. Alas - a voter redistricting case from Arizona. Well, they can sometimes be tasty little bits of partisan sniping... Shit. A unanimous court.

Clearly, the Republic is finding a way to live with eight justices (for the moment, at least). So, everybody just calm the frick down.

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