Tuesday, May 20, 2008

AG debate & priorities

I hope that in the upcoming AG debate, there will be some time to address the appropriate priorities for an Attorney General.

I hope we will remember that the AG is the State's LAWYER, not the Top Cop and not the Grand Inquisitor. And those who wish to be Prosecutors should run for that office in their home County. While the AG has some duties related to criminal law enforcement, those are not his primary duties.

Under no circumstances should he or his assistants ever tell a judge that the actual innocence of a defendant is "irrelevant" to putting that person to death.

Nor should the AG's office provide traveling guns for hire to make death penalties easier to obtain for rural prosecutors in less than deserving cases.

When DNA shows a person to be innocent, don't stall and keep them locked up, just to avoid embarrassment to law enforcement. Do what is morally and legally right, even if hard.

It would help to have an AG who is willing to speak the truth about long drug sentences and the amount of state resources we spend on prisons for the non-violent. Don't tell us we cannot afford to fund education when you tell use we must spend millions warehousing dopers. Tell us how you can help spread Jackson County's successful Drug Court diversion program across the Stateand prevent the destruction of young lives.

And try to bear in mind that the actual chief law enforcement duty of the Attorney General is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States -- even, and sometimes especially, against the wishes of "Law Enforcement."

Because sometimes a good lawyer has to be willing to tell his client "No".

9 comments:

whistleblower said...

Phil...

I was with you 100% until this line;

"And try to bear in mind that the actual chief law enforcement duty of the Attorney General is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States".

Where did you get that from? Where is it stated that the Missouri Attorney General's duty is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States? Is this just an assumed duty because nobody else is doing it?

Anonymous said...

Phil -

I understand your points, but I would like an AG who has trial experience. Only a litigator can truly understand litigation, including the trial process and appeals. There does not seem to be any real debate here that the candidate with the most (and some would say, only) trial experience is Koster.

The other two candidates are good people, and would probably make fine AGs, but they simply do not have trial experience. In my book, that matters significantly.

Phil Cardarella said...

Dear whistleblower:

Consider looking at the oath of office that is required of every officeholder.

Given recent history, I do not hold your ignorance against you.

Also, I am not sure that Justice Douglas ever tried a case. Better someone whose heart is in the right place than a talented, experienced Scalia. I respect trial esperience, goodness knows, but I value good instincts more.

We'll see who answers the questions I raise -- if anyone.

Phil Cardarella said...

Article VI, U.S. Constitution, third Para.:

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Annoyingly inconvenient as it may be to some political campaigns, stuff like the Bill of Rights is the supreme law of the land. Folks like Adams & Jefferson knew that it was better for the occasional criminal to go free than for the government to have absolute power over the rest of us.

By the way, the eyewitness in the first case to ever free a wrongly convicted man by DNA died this week. It only took three years in prison and a DNA test AFTER her recantation for the criminal justice system to acknowledge the mistake and free the guy.

That is why an AG's understanding of his Constitutional responsibilities is important.

whistleblower said...

Phil...

"Consider looking at the oath of office that is required of every officeholder.
Given recent history, I do not hold your ignorance against you."


Intended or not; that's a pretty arrogant thing to say. While I'm sure that your beliefs are deeply ingrained, they are not supported by Constitution or Statute of Missouri. I do not hold your ignorance against you.

As someone who actually took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, the difference between the oath that I took, and that of the oath taken by the Missouri Attorney General are important.

The Missouri Attorney General takes an oath to support the United States and Missouri Constitutions. Nothing in the AG's oath says anything about protecting or defending. Article VII, Section 11 of the Missouri Constitution and Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

The AG's primary duty is to protect the rights and interests of this state. The AG is the attorney hired to represent the State of Missouri.

The opinions of the Attorney General are just that! OPINIONS They have no force or effect. They are only meant to provide guidance.

The AG's job is defined by Section 27 of the Missouri Revised Statutes.

Phil Cardarella said...

I apologize for my ill-considered phrasing. I intended no insult to you, only to those who occupy offices without actually taking seriously their duty to support the Constitution and the rights it guarantees. Their poor example is what I intended to attack.

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