Friday, June 08, 2007

I called it, this time on vouchers

It seems that a little old JD who can use lexis nexis and westlaw trumped the BS of the state's highest elected attorney.
In a win for voucher opponents, the Utah Supreme Court decided today that Utah's two voucher bills are joined at the hip -- and should live and die on the outcome of a Nov. 6 referendum vote.
The court said the referendum-proof law remaining in Utah code will also die if voters reject the original voucher law.
"If the voters choose to reject [the original voucher law, the amending voucher law] will not create an additional voucher program," said the court's written decision.
The decision came just hours after the court heard oral arguments on the issue from four separate parties, who each got 20 minutes. Justices asked all of them, in one way or another, how they expect the court to clean up the mess created by voucher statute remaining in Utah code.

What the article does not say is that this decision was unanimous 4-0, meaning even without one of the most liberal justices, Chief Justice Durham (who abstained for some reason), the court was unwilling to play politics with the state constitution and the common law.

Michael Leavitt appointee Associate Justice Michael Wilkins asked the obvious question: "Why isn't this a legislative problem?" asked Wilkins in oral arguments. "It would appear to me that the Legislature ... has produced ... what turns out to be a confusing situation. Why are we the ones who get to fix it by exceeding the authority the law gives us?" Yeah why is the legislature too chicken to face the fact that the people don't like their law and want to repeal it, so they created a clever "voucher bill" that really was an amendment.

It seems like you guys need to come up with a new lie now. I am expecting the racism argument, or maybe comparing the public school system to slavery, or maybe some babble about competition and parental choice.

We have a choice, it is called private schools. If you can afford them, or manage to get a scholarship/sponsorship, you get to go. Since Thomas Jefferson, we have believed in public schooling as a right for our children. In fact, it is found in most state constitutions, including Utah's.

"The Legislature shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of the state's education systems including: (a) a public education system, which shall be open to all children of the state; and (b) a higher education system. Both systems shall be free from sectarian control." Utah Const. Art. X, Sec. 1.

Oh and if it ever becomes necessary, remember this too "Neither the state of Utah nor its political subdivisions may make any appropriation for the direct support of any school or educational institution controlled by any religious organization." Utah Const. Art. X, Sec. 9.

Case closed.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Shurtleff fires special DAGs for disagreeing

As Ethan reported, Utah AG Shurtleff fired not one, but two Deputy Attorneys General for advising the school board that Shurtleff's opinion letter was full of it. The Salt Lake Tribune fills in the details of Ethan's exclusive.
The state school board, which is holding its June meeting today, stopped what it was doing and went into closed executive session after receiving the letter. It discussed the matter for more than an hour before announcing it would continue to use Lear and Hill as legal counsel and would seek further discussion with the AG.
The board ignored Shurtleff's advice during a special meeting May 29 and voted to issue an order saying it couldn't and shouldn't implement a voucher system until a court sorts out legal concerns. That vote led Shurtleff to say he could no longer defend the board's actions. It also appears to have triggered today's letter.

I am glad he created an environment where the school board can get a second opinion on his erroneous legal advice. As I have pointed out before, as a matter of statutory interpretation under Utah law, it is clear that the referendum would repeal the underlying bill and that the second bill is an amendment to the first.

Now you say, but Shurtleff is the Attorney General of the state of Utah, and has been practicing law for decades, and you haven't even passed the Bar yet (so why should I believe you). Well, the AG is a politician (he was a SL County Councilman before becoming AG), one who is allied to the power structure that got us into this mess in the first place. He supported vouchers in the past. So it appears that my taking a course in legislative process and statutory interpretation, where I received the highest grade of anyone else in the course, reigns supreme.

Sure, I have never been a fan of vouchers, but I am not twisting facts to say that vouchers are illegal. I think it is arguable that they violate the Utah Constitution on separation of church and state, even if SCOTUS said they do not violate the US Constitution's 1st Amendment. And even though I disagree with SCOTUS, I am not going to try to distinguish Cleveland's system and our system to make a federal constitutional claim, because it is pretty dishonest.

It is too bad, Shurtleff is being petty by demoting and punishing those who disagree with him. It is fine for him to say you are all liable now since you didn't follow my advice, but he didn't need to de-deputize them just to score political points. Even if it made Ethan happy.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Romney has won Iowa already

If two of the big three and possibly Fred Thompson are ditching the Ames straw poll, then they have all about put up the white flag to the Mitt-ster. So much for calling Democrats surrender monkeys. (H/T Political Wire)
Just hours after Rudy Giuliani announced he would skip the Ames Straw poll in Iowa later this summer, the AP reports Sen. John McCain "quickly followed suit in bypassing the early test of strength."

McCain campaign manager Terry Nelson: "It's clear that the Ames straw poll will not be a meaningful test of the leading candidates' organizational abilities... We have decided to forgo our participation in the event."

In case you forgot, Terry Nelson was deeply involved (and an unindicted co-conspirator) in destroying NH union and Democratic phone banks in 2002 to make sure that John Sununu would be elected to the US Senate.

please take over

dear guest blogger invitees,

please start posting on this blog. I know I said the other day that blogging keeps me sane, but sucking on the multiple choice questions is driving me crazy.

The day I never have to fill in a bubble sheet again will be a happy one indeed. Those things are an abomination. Somehow, I always manage to chose a stupid answer that I never would have. And I always miss a row or mess up which bubble to fill in all the time.

The GRE had multiple choice questions on the computer, where they could vary the questions according to how many of the easy and moderate ones you got wrong. I sucked at that too, but at least I felt that was fairer than worrying about erasing and filling in ovals with a number two pencil or pen (with correction tape).

Standardized tests are evil. Not to sound arrogant, but I am much smarter than my test results. I scored average on my SATs but thankfully Brown looked past that, and I graduated with honors. I did average on the LSATs, but thankfully the U law school looked past that, and I graduated with honors in some classes and semesters. Now at least the Utah Bar, I just need to pass (and get a 133+ on the MBE for the DC Bar), but I still worry about that given how poorly contracts and property MC questions are going.

Anyway, help would be appreciated. I will try to post when I can.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Giuliani: beyond the pale

So you're running for president, and have a huge national lead, but in the states that matter, New Hampshire and Iowa, you are way behind a flip-flopper. You could attack the guy for pandering and flip flopping, but you don't want to remind primary voters that you are consistently against their positions on those issues.

If you haven't guessed already, I am talking about Rudy and Mitt. So what instead did "America's Mayor" decide to do? Attack Romney's religion on things he doesn't even believe (nor does his religion believe).
[T]he "Deputy eCampaign Director" of the Giuliani campaign, Katie Harbath, directs the blogger to the Salt Lake Tribune story — clearly in the hope that the story and its "Romney-as-fulfiller-of-Mormon-prophecy" angle will receive wider play.
From: Katie Harbath <[redacted]>
Date: Jun 4, 2007 [redacted] AM
Subject: Is Romney the stuff of Mormon legend?
To: [redacted]


Thought you'd find this interesting. Best,


From the story, which I quoted from yesterday, there are these quotes "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not accept the legend - commonly referred to as the "White Horse Prophecy" - as doctrine." and this one by the Mitt-ster himself "I don't put that at the heart of my religious belief."

I really dislike Romney, but Giuliani is equally completely unacceptable. It doesn't matter to me that senior Giuliani officials apologized after getting caught.

Monday, June 04, 2007

keeping me sane

I blog daily during bar review thus far because I can't possibly study for 8 hours straight. My mind just turns to putty after about 4 or 5 hours straight, which is great for the two day long exam I will take starting on Pioneer Day.

Sharing my thoughts with you is partly selfish and the other part is to get a dialog going with the 'sphere so that we can advance knowledge and the debate. So anyway, here are my collection of observations today:
  • California liberals in the state legislature are trying to get a "should we get out of Iraq?" question on the ballot in time for Super Duper Tuesday The effect of this proclamation could be akin to gay marriage in 2004-- getting out the anti-war left to vote-- and thereby damaging Sen. Clinton's campaign. This could get very interesting.

  • Speaking of HRC, my wife has flipped back to her camp given her commanding performance at last night's debate. I still lean most towards Obama, and he did much better, but sometimes he was a bit too wordy. His answer to Wolf's Osama question could have been one crisp sentence, Yes, assuming I don't have to wipe out a whole city but just a training camp. Again Hillary had the best answer and everyone looked to her at that moment. It was amazing. I wasn't bothered by the lack of time to the "second tier" in fact, I don't think Kucinich or Gravel should ever be allowed back into these debates. "I get my meds from the VA." – Mike Gravel.

  • According to the Salt Lake Tribune,
    It's Mormon lore, a story passed along by some old-timers about the importance of their faith and their country.
    In the latter days, the story goes, the U.S. Constitution will hang by a thread and a Mormon will ride in on a metaphorical white horse to save it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it does not accept the legend - commonly referred to as the "White Horse Prophecy" - as doctrine.
    Romney says he doesn't believe in the supposed prophecy...

    The Constitution is indeed hanging by a thread (due to among other things, the suspension habeas corpus at the executive's will) and I would be happy if a Mormon or anyone would come in on a white horse and save it, but Mitt "We ought to double the size of Guantanamo" Romney clearly isn't the one.

  • Maybe this is the real reason some support vouchers
    The fear about voucher programs leading to segregated schools exists because it's happened before. The first state-sponsored voucher programs arose in Southern states as a way to help white families avoid sending their children to integrated schools. The schools were dubbed "segregation academies" and popped up throughout the South.
    Eventually, courts ruled those scholarship programs illegal, although many white students continued to avoid enrolling in public schools and those who did often moved to predominantly white districts. Those familiar with the history of segregated schools say current voucher debates bring up painful memories for many, said Marcia Synnott, a University of South Carolina history professor who is an expert on the history of education in the South.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

hey big spender

(photo credit: Skip ODonnell, © 2006)
Well the local papers pointed out what I suspected, that Ralph Becker's numbers' weren't as impressive as they sounded.
With summer still on the horizon, and the election more than five months away, Keith Christensen is setting a blistering pace in the Salt Lake City mayoral cash contest, already amassing more than half a million dollars.
Christensen, who has led the fundraising charge all year, has piled up more than $508,000 - much of it from developers and other business owners - according to the latest round of campaign finance disclosures filed Friday.
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson is in second place with just over $241,000 - less than half Christensen's total. But Wilson also has spent more than any other candidate, leaving her with just $89,000 in the bank.
City Councilman Dave Buhler runs third with $216,000, followed by House Minority Leader Ralph Becker, who has raised $176,000 but has spent relatively little.

Of course, the more important numbers are cash on hand and polls (especially the ones where people vote). But some times fundraising numbers are a good proxy for how the race is shaping up. For example, Hillary has lots of money, then Obama, then Edwards, and then the rest of the crowd on the Democratic side. McCain poor fundraising matches his lackluster polls and overall sinking in the standings, while Giulliani and Romney's prowess relate back to their polling in a way.

But some times, it just means you have rich friends, not that you have lots of friends.
The bulk of Christensen's cash comes from big fish in the capital city's business community. Developers Kem Gardner and Dell Loy Hansen each kicked in at least $7,000, while Spencer Eccles contributed $7,500. Checks for $5,000 or higher also came from mortgage and real estate companies. And Stuart Reid, a former mayoral hopeful and Christensen ally, added $2,500 to the campaign.
Wilson's ledger includes a long list of donors who mostly have given less than $1,000. But there are a handful of private big spenders - Bruce Bastian, co-founder of WordPerfect, floated the campaign $6,500 - as well as small business and real estate money.
Early polls have shown Wilson holding a lead with Buhler in second place. Christensen, Becker and Saxton trail, according to the surveys...

Becker's people will undoubtedly point out that unlike the others, he could not fundraise during the legislative session and that his support is pouring in in May. Most of his checks are much smaller, which may be better ethically, but when others are getting $7,500 checks and you are getting $500, it is tough.
I would really like to see a debate with the top four so the public can decide who the top two should be. When everyone is invited, you can't hear much more than sound bites.