In the swirling fog that is the 24/7 news cycle, sometimes really important things can be lost. On Wednesday, February 20, 2019, the Supreme Court issued their opinion in Timbs v. Indiana. In this case, the Supreme Court considered whether state governments must comply with the Eighth Amendment: ‘Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.’ For the record, this particular liberty dates all the way back to the Magna Carta.
Historically, the 14th Amendment was ratified to ensure that the individual liberties found in the Bill of Rights would also be protected against infringement by state governments. In prior cases, SCOTUS held that most of the protections in the Bill of Rights do apply to the states, but it had not specifically ruled on the Excessive Fines Clause. Noting this exception, the Indiana Supreme Court announced that it would “decline” to impose “a federal test” on Indiana in the absence of a direct command by the U.S. Supreme Court.
At the heart of this controversy is something called civil asset forfeiture, a process that has often been referred to as legalized theft. If an individual is simply accused of a crime, and not necessarily charged or convicted, their assets may be seized through a civil proceeding. It appears it is not necessary to prove these assets have a direct connection to the crime in question: dubious allegations seem to suffice. And there is this: civil proceedings do not afford the accused the due process safeguards found in criminal law. For too many years, this process has been used by various governmental and law enforcement agencies to guarantee for themselves a profitable revenue stream.
But, on February 20, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court for the first time prohibited all 50 states from imposing excessive fines, holding that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “excessive fines” applies to the states under the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Seldom do all nine justices agree to restrict the power that police and prosecutors exert over individuals. While the decision will no doubt generate a myriad of questions, and likely be the basis for other court filings, there is much to celebrate.
The majority opinion was authored by Justice Ginsburg. Justice Gorsuch filed a concurring opinion. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.
Despite the Democrats' sweep of statewide offices in the last election, Republicans in the legislature are planning a special session for Tuesday, December 4, to "limit Wisconsin early voting [and] strip powers from Tony Evers and Josh Kaul" (see the details in the Journal Sentinel). Your state senator and assembly representative need to hear from their constituents. Let them know in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS how damaging to our democracy such moves are.
The Lame Duck Session time line: This Monday, Dec 3 12:30 at the Capitol please attend if you can), there is a public hearing followed by a closed session of the legislature. (it is believed the 'public hearing' has been given 1 minute only, then the closed session will start.) A vote is scheduled for Tuesday. Truly an effort to divorce the people from the process.
Bottom Line, while the state overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, and the Democrats won all the statewide races on Nov. 6th, the gerrymandering left us with a Republican house and senate (despite the majority of the votes over all for Dems.) Thus the lame duck session, which allows the Republicans to vote on (and Scott Walker to sign) legislation to control Democratic power moving forward.
We need to say to the Republicans who may still have an ounce of integrity that they should VOTE NO and/or walk out of this subversion of Democracy.
What are they planning to do?
- limit voting - limit early voting to two weeks;
- limit governor and attorney general powers, by putting more powers in the hands of the (Republican controlled) legislature.
- Immediate effect, Evers will not have the power to expand the Affordable care act and provide improved health care for all Wisconsin citizens.
- The legislature will decide on adding (an expensive and unneeded) third election day this spring, hoping for a conservative vote on a Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate (assuming low voter turn out).
- The legislature will have the power to change individual income tax rates without input from the governor (executive branch).
- The office of solicitor general will be eliminated; this office oversees high profile litigation.
- The governor could not disband WEDC (and replace it with a Commerce Department). In addition, WEDC will be controlled by the legislature and not by the governor.
Senator Alberta Darling (608) 266-5830
Representative Jim Ott (608) 266-0486
Representative Dan Knodl (608) 266-3796
Be sure to give your name, address, phone number when calling or emailing because they want to make sure you are their district.
John Nichols — the Voice of the Wisconsin Resistance, national-affairs correspondent for The Nation, the associate editor of the Capital Times, and a national treasure — will get us charged up and engaged in the 2018 campaign with his talk titled "How We Win" on Sunday, October 14, at the Plymouth Church, 2717 E. Hampshire St., Milwaukee 53211.
There will be food trucks outside beginning at 5 pm, doors open 5:30 pm. (And the Packers game against the 49ers is not until Monday night!)
Early Voting Information*
Mon - Fri
Monday, October 8:
Monday, October 22
8 am-4:30 pm
|Brown Deer||414-371-3003||October 22||Mon - Fri||8 am-4:30 pm|
|Cedarburg (Town and City)||
|October 15||Mon - Fri||8 am-4:30 pm|
October 22, 2018
Mon - Fri
8 am-4:00 pm
8 am-6:00 pm
October 1 (with following additions):
Mon - Fri
8 am- 4:30 pm
7:00 am - 7:00 pm
8 am - noon
7:00 am - 7:00 pm
|Town of Grafton||262-375-5300||October 22||
Mon - Thurs
8 am-4:30 pm
|Village of Grafton||262-375-5000||October 15||Mon - Fri||8 am-4:30 pm|
|Mequon||262-242-3100||Now||Mon - Fri||8 am-4:00 pm|
|River Hills||414-352-8213||October 22||Mon - Fri||8 am-4:30 pm|
|October 1||Mon - Fri||8 am-4:30 pm|
|Whitefish Bay||962-6690||October 22||Mon - Fri||8 am-4:30 pm|
*On Friday, November 2, all polling places are open until 5 pm.
If you could not make it to the Forum, no problem. You can catch highlights in a video created by the Wisconsin Video Hub.