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Judge Jones on the Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act

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  • rlbaty50
    This is yet another post that hasn t posted to the archives or showed up in my in-box after several hours. So, I m sending it again; this time from the
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2006
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      This is yet another post that hasn't posted to the archives or showed
      up in my in-box after several hours. So, I'm sending it again; this
      time from the website: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2006, 7:05 a.m. MT.

      Report from RedStateRabble

      Friday, September 29, 2006

      Judge Jones on the Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act

      On Tuesday, the House passed the Public Expressions of Religion
      Protection Act. The bill bars judges from awarding legal fees to the
      American Civil Liberties Union and similar groups that sue
      municipalities for violating the Constitution's ban on government
      establishment of religion.

      Had this law been in effect last year, it would have made it nearly
      impossible for the group of 11 Dover parents to overturn the school
      board's mandated teaching of intelligent design there, and that's
      exactly what right-wing Republicans in the House have in mind.

      Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative
      office, told the Washington Post that the measure is "election-year
      red meat for the Christian right, because they've been complaining
      they haven't gotten enough from this Congress."

      It just so happens that Judge Jones, who presided over the Dover
      trial, was scheduled to speak at the University of Kansas the day
      after the House passed the bill. Dr. Leonard Krishtalka, Director,
      Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, asked about
      it at a dialogue with Judge Jones on Wednesday.

      Red State Rabble covered Jones lecture on Tuesday, but we weren't in
      attendance Wednesday, we do have this eyewitness report from reader BH:

      Judge Jones was appropriately circumspect on the question--the
      legislature makes the laws and can do what they want. He did note that
      this is only the latest instance of similar attempts to "rein in" the
      judicial branch (some of which would have been much more problematic
      constitutionally) -- none of which have gone anywhere.

      He also noted that the House and Senate often play out the roles
      expected by the writers of the Constitution, in which the House is
      prone to radical actions that are moderated by the Senate.

      The aspect of the story he did focus on--as another example of public
      ignorance about the role of judges--was the assertion that
      he "awarded" $1 million in legal fees to the plaintiff's attorneys on
      his own.

      In fact, when the case was initially filed it was done under the
      provisions of a federal law that stipulates the losing party will be
      responsible for costs of the litigation. Which is why Congress is free
      to change the law--though the`reason for the law in the first place
      was to provide some teeth to discourage violations--after all, if they
      lost the case, it means they really were doing bad things.

      In fact, because the pro-ID school board members were voted out before
      he issued his ruling in the case, the ACLU and Americans United
      attorneys agreed to ask for only half their actual fees and expenses.

      All he did was approve an agreement between the two sides.
      Interestingly, Judge Jones had been so angered by the blatant lies
      told by some of the former board members in sworn depositions that he
      referred them to the local district attorney for possible prosecution
      for perjury as well as calling them out in his ruling.

      If they had been honest in their depositions, it is possible that the
      case would never have been brought to trial--it would have been too
      obviously a loser--and the judge would have issued an injunction
      against the policy.

      The fact that the board didn't have to pay for its defense--thanks to
      the Thomas More Foundation--probably emboldened them to fight it out.
      If the current board wanted to do it, the perjury would probably be
      sufficient basis for them to sue them to recover costs.

      It appears they'd rather move their community past this debacle rather
      than prolong the distraction.

      BH adds these observations:

      Judge Jones was asked why he decided to rule on the broader question
      of ID-as-science rather than limiting himself to the narrower grounds
      of blatant religious motivation by the board majority.

      His reply was that the lawyers and expert witnesses on both sides did
      such a good job of presenting the arguments that he was able to do it -
      - and his goal was to thereby help spare other communities the waste
      of money and time the trial represented for Dover.

      He also said that he had not deliberately set out to expand the scope
      of legal argument on creationism. That application came from his
      evaluation of the evidence, again to the credit of the lawyers and
      witnesses who provided the material.

      Finally, he was asked how the trial had changed him personally.
      Echoing his comments from the evening talk, he said the attacks on him
      and his decision have made him aware of how little the public
      understands what a judge actually does--hence his determination to
      speak publicly.

      Judge Jones' visit did give me some reason to hope, at least with the
      current state of the federal judiciary, adds BH. Last winter, when the
      NCSE lawyers came to Lawrence after the Dover decision, I [BH] asked
      whether he was an exception. In their experience, he's not. But I do
      think Judge Jones may be among the very best as a writer, a task he
      takes very seriously. He told us that he tries to very hard to write
      all his decisions in plain language and to avoid legal jargon as much
      as possible. He went through many drafts of the final paragraph of his
      decision to get it just right--probably the reason it's been quoted so
      often.

      # posted by Pat Hayes

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