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by scott huminski
Wednesday, Nov. 05, 2003 at 2:27 PM
Dean's Disdain for the Bill of Rights
Another in this series of articles where Dean attacks judges that dare to follow the law and the Bill of Rights in a State where he pledged that it was his ‘mission’ to appoint judges that would ignore legal technicalities, the Bill of Rights. Dean’s shoot from the ‘lip’ style is noted below. It’s important to note that these spontaneous verbal gems depict Dean’s true feelings on an issue and foretell his future conduct. His damage-control statements belie his true beliefs.
At the end of Freyne’s below article he poses the question of whether William Sorrell (the next US Attorney General if Dean elected, Dean’s favorite appointee) would follow the same legal policies enunciated by Dean. Without a doubt, yes. See,
Cronies v. Qualifications, Dean’s Dilemma
Is Howard Dean a Criminal Too?
Howard Dean Worse than Ashcroft and the Patriot Act
The Freyne article is followed by the recent TIME flip-flop article on Dean’s law and order policies.
– Scott Huminski
* * * *
HO-HO AND THE 'HOODS'
By Peter Freyne
Ask Governor Howard Dean a question and more often than not, you'll get a Howard Dean answer. There are times he'll actually say, "I'd rather not comment on that" or "That's the first I've heard of that," but hit the right button and the guy with the 68-
percent approval rating and certain re-election staring him in the face will shoot from the lip with blazing accuracy. Such was the case recently when the subject of State Auditor Ed Flanagan was waved in front of Dean like a red cape in front of a big, bad bull. And The Lip showed itself again the other day when the Gov was asked if he had any thoughts on the decision by Chittenden County States Attorney Scot Kline to drop charges against the Free Mumia protesters arrested during last summer's NGA spectacular. Judge Dean Pineles ruled on June 12, over the prosecutor's objection, that the defendants could present a "necessity defense" -- in a tradition made famous over a decade ago by the Winooski 44 who invaded U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford's Winooski office and refused to leave. Six protesters were arrested outside the Sheraton last summer for playing "catch us if you can" as they streaked for the hotel's front door in a long-shot attempt to reach Gov. Ridge of Pennsylvania and persuade him to commute the death sentence of cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. They didn't have a chance and were quickly tackled by an all-star team of cops from local communities as well as state troopers. They were charged with unlawful trespass.
Howard Dean could have let this one slide. He could have said, "I really don't want to comment on that. It was the prosecutor's call." But he didn't. Ho-Ho couldn't resist. Firmly mounted on the state's largest bully pulpit, Howard Brush Dean opened up with both barrels. His first shot was aimed squarely at the judge.
"The error was by the judge not the prosecutor," replied Ho-Ho. "The decision to allow the necessity defense to be used was a mistake." Brilliant legal mind, our governor, eh? "I thought it was very disappointing and unfortunate," said The Lip, "that Judge Pineles made the decision he did about the use of the necessity defense in a case where there was significant damage done to public property such as the Ethan Allen Homestead
and ,000 of police overtime. I don't regard those as trivial. I was very disappointed."
It's certainly comforting to know just where the guy who appoints judges to the Vermont bench stands on matters of law. This only embellishes Ho-Ho's law and order reputation. Remember he's the guy who once said 95 percent of people charged with crimes are guilty anyway so why should the state spend money on providing them with lawyers?
"These guys defaced the Ethan Allen Homestead," continued Field Marshall Howard Von Dean. "These guys are a bunch of hoods running around our streets. I don't think this has anything to do with the necessity offense --imported hoods I might add. People who spray paint and deface public property are hoodlums not protesters with some higher purpose. I have no patience for that." Never mind that no one has ever been charged with a crime for spray painting "Free Mumia" on the walls of the Ethan Allen Homestead where the governors gathered for breakfast. Can't let the facts get in your way. Judge Pineles told Inside Track that he "respects the Governor's opinion," but noted his ruling
allowing the necessity defense was "legally sound." Pineles carefully applied the four-pronged standard established in case law by the Vermont Supreme Court. He followed the law, not the whims of the state's most successful politician. The prosecution appealed to the high court but the Supremes refused to hear it. They let Pineles' ruling stand for one reason and one reason only -- it was the right decision. You've got to wonder if Ho-Ho's King George III views on the law reflect at all the views of his right hand man -- Administration Secretary Bill Sorrell, our Supreme Court justice in waiting. Blaming the judge for going by the book might make Ho-Ho feel good, but one would expect a little more class from one so well bred.
Huminski Comment - This judge merely ruled that the defendants could assert a specific defense to the charges when it came before trial. In response, the prosecutor dropped the charges when he knew he would be facing a strong defense in a very public trial. The prosecutor realized that this case would not be the usual railroad job that Vermont prosecutors have become accustomed to under Dean regime appointed judges. Dean, a fan of prosecutors, blames the judge because a prosecutor realized his case was too weak to overcome a valid defense. Dr. Dean what other legal defenses should we eliminate to satisfy your zeal to convict at all costs? Dean was born to wealthy nobility, but unfortunately, in the wrong era. Historically, rulers like Dean could have been the law unto themselves. It must be very frustrating to Dean that he wasn’t in power several hundred years ago where he could have really called the shots unconstrained by the technicalities of the law.
Use of the trespass statute as a tool to silence dissent has become commonplace in Dean’s tenure in Vermont and that practice is currently before the federal courts as an unconstitutionally over-broad restriction on First Amendment rights. This federal ruling is expected within the next several weeks and it will hopefully be the start of the un-doing of what Dean did to justice and the Bill of Rights in Vermont.
Vermont Public Radio, Bob Kinzel: “It's likely that Howard Dean's tenure in office will also have a long term effect on the state's criminal justice system. In his first years as Governor, Dean was often critical of judges who Dean thought did not hand down tough enough sentences. Over the last 10 years, Dean has appointed more judges than any previous governor and Dean describes his appointees as "law and order" judges. Dean's judicial philosophy appears to be having a significant impact - during his tenure as governor the average sentence handed down in Vermont has doubled - a situation that has led to an overcrowding of the state's prison system.” Huminski note, In the rural and sparsely poulated State of Vermont, much of the crime and resulting incarceration arises from offenses that urban prosecutors would pass on.
Dean's Law and Order Views
The representative of the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," is, on some constitutional issues, at odds with many of his party’s base.
By VIVECA NOVAK
TIME Magazine, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has rarely missed a chance — in debates and smaller forums, as well as on his website — to hammer the Bush administration's handling of civil liberties since the 2001 terrorist attacks. He's even taken other Democrats to task: "Too many in my party voted for the Patriot Act," he said last June in a not-so-veiled jab at some of his opponents in the presidential race. "They believed that it was more important to show bipartisan support for President Bush during a moment of crisis than to stand up for the basic values of our constitution."
But on Sept. 12, 2001, Dean had quite a different reaction. He told the Vermont press corps he believed the terrorist hijackings would "require a re-evaluation of the importance of some of our specific civil liberties. I think there are going to be debates about what can be said where, what can be printed where, what kind of freedom of movement people have and whether it's OK for a policeman to ask for your ID just because you're walking down the street…I think that's a debate that we will have."
Jay Carson, a Dean campaign spokesman, notes that Dean's comments came in the frenetic immediate aftermath of the attacks. "We shouldn't lose our focus on how the Bush administration has cynically used 9/11 to erode American civil liberties," Carson said. "Gov. Dean is and has been for his entire career a strong proponent of civil liberties for everyone." Dean's comments might be attributed to the emotion of the moment. But his views on certain constitutional and criminal justice principles have for years been at odds with those of many who form the base of the party — who are in the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" that Dean says he represents.
At the time of Dean's post-9/11 comments, Michael Mello, a Vermont Law School professor, called them "terribly irresponsible." In an interview this week, he gave a broader critique of Dean's approach to legal issues. "Whenever law is involved, he's been dreadful," Mello said. "He just doesn't get the Constitution or what lawyers do or what the courts are for." The exception, he added: Some "surprisingly good" Vermont Supreme Court appointments.
Dean made it clear early in his tenure that he thought alleged criminals were cut too much slack. "My view is that the justice system is not fair," Dean said in 1991 during his first week as governor. "It bends over backwards to help defendants and is totally unfair to victims and to society as a whole." Robert Appel, former head of the state's public defender system, said he had constant clashes with Dean over funding for the service. According to Appel, Dean said on at least one public occasion that the state should spend less money providing the accused with legal representation, saying that "95% of criminal defendants are guilty anyway." (Carson says the comment was meant as a joke, but Appel counters that even if it was, "the underlying message was pretty clear.")
Which may be one reason why Dean, in 1999, wanted to refuse a 0,000 federal grant to the public defender's office for aiding mentally disabled defendants. "That was unusual, to say the least," says Appel. The state legislature overrode Dean's opposition. Dean spokesman Carson responded that Dean didn't want to create a program that the state couldn't afford to fund if federal money disappeared in the future. But he did not disavow Dean's anti-defendant bent. "This is a governor who was tough on crime and is a big believer in victims' rights," Carson says.
Dean's shifting views on the death penalty have raised questions about whether he has gone from being an outspoken opponent to a sometime supporter as a matter of political expediency. He says he began to change his mind in the late 1990s, partly as a result of the case of Polly Klaas, the California girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered. He attempted an explanation of his support for capital punishment, even while agreeing that in some cases "the wrong guy" might be executed, on NBC's Meet the Press earlier this year. Saying he thought the death penalty was preferable in some instances to a sentence of life without parole, Dean noted that in some instances criminals who are locked up for life might be freed on a legal "technicality" only to commit more horrible crimes. "That is every bit as heinous as putting to death someone who didn't commit the crime," he said.
Dean, whose support for the death penalty is limited to cases involving murdered children or police officers, or mass murder, has since refined his position. On his website, he says that as president he would order his Attorney General to evaluate the federal death penalty and take steps to ensure its fair application; support the Innocence Protection Act, a pending bill that would help defendants secure experienced lawyers and access to DNA testing; and set up a Presidential Commission on the Administration of Capital Punishment to recommend reforms to prevent wrongful convictions.
Appel is willing to give Dean the benefit of the doubt. "My hope is he has grown over time, and I think he has," he said. But the former governor's explanations don't satisfy some of his critics. "He has the wrong reactions when it comes to people's legal rights," said law professor Mello, adding, "I wish so much I could support him."
A detailed look at Dean’s ‘justice’ policies from a 1997 Vermont Press Bureau piece at the below link.
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