Politics for the lawyers

The matters of court used to be the court of kings. Now it is the court of lawyers and judges. The selection of judges is a primary matter of concern in favoring presidential candidates. The lawyers get involved as lobbyists for issues that involve their paycheck and market. The US House of Representatives recently demonstrated that national security is not high on their priority list and there is reason to believe that lawyers were a part of the reason.

Robert D Novak described Why Torts Trumped Terrorism. His view is that the tort immunity for companies that cooperate with the government would reduce the lawyers’ market. Therefore pressure was put on members of Congress to set aside the FISA legislation.

The true reason for blocking the bill was Senate-passed retroactive immunity to protect from lawsuits private telecommunications firms asked to eavesdrop by the government. The nation’s torts bar, vigorously pursuing such suits, has spent months lobbying hard against immunity.

The FISA law involves a very difficult intersection of surveillance, privacy, personal versus national rights, and espionage that has prompted paranoid delusion rather than effective debate. Litigation issues also have a long history in the internal wars of the 5th columns who see their enemy as domestic and not foreign. Carol Rosenberg of McClatchy Newspapers reports on one of the other fronts in the litigation theater: Clinton would seek to try 9/11 plotters in established courts. One of the reasons why foreign terrorists are not being tried in criminal courts is due to a national security need to reduce information disclosure about national secrets. That doesn’t keep the lawyers out of it and there have been continual efforts for lawyers to be ever more involved in matters of foreign captures.

It is interesting that the same folks who are promoting this court of lawyers and judges are also claiming that everything is going towards the court of kings. They are full of accusations about the executive running roughshod over personal rights and abusing authority. That also showed up in Congress when the House decided that citing executive staff for contempt for failing to tell all about political appointees was more important than national security legislation.

Yet another effort to support this priority on lawyers over national security has been to rationalize FISA related issues as insignificant or irrelevant. That stands in contrast to the legislation having gone through a public process only to be stopped at the whim of the Speaker who failed to put it on the agenda. The significance is determined by the opinions of the whole and that is reflected by the bill surviving the process to get to where it is submitted for vote. The Congress over the last few years has made good use of many procedural tricks to prevent such issues of standard business from a final decision. That is particularly visible in the matter of judicial appointments.

Does this sound confused? The point is that these matters are all related and interconnected by values and philosophy: tort reform, national security, judicial appointments, jurisdiction over military matters, espionage, personal privacy rights, and political procedure shenanigans. It is like an iceberg where you only see a part of one or the other aspect above the surface now and then. It will take care to avoid getting the hull ripped by what is under the surface.

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