November 14, 2004

Reason 1 to Pardon Jim Taricani: It's the Right Thing to do

Carroll Andrew Morse

Rhode Island just passed a separation-of-powers referendum on the state level. But do we have it at the Federal level? Separation-of-powers means that a legislative branch of government makes the laws, a judicial branch of government interprets the laws, and an executive branch of government enforces the laws.

At the moment, Jim Taricani is being denied the protection that separation of powers is supposed to provide. What law did Taricani break? Well, it was not a law exactly, it was a "court-order" not to release information. And who is enforcing this court-order? Well, it is a "special prosecutor" appointed by the judge who issued the order. In other words, in the state of Rhode Island, an American citizen may be imprisoned by his government for violating a rule made by judge Ernest Torres, interpreted by judge Ernest Torres, and enforced by judge Ernest Torres.

This is a clear breach of the principle of separation-of-powers. Fortunately, the Federal constitution anticipated excesses of judicial authority, and provides a remedy -- the Presidential pardon.

And, for a variety of reasons, President George W. Bush should be inclined to use his power of the pardon in this case...

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Andrew -

I don't think you've made your case that a judge forcing someone to testify to a crime is a violation of the principle of Separation of Powers. I've certainly never seen such an assertion before. While that surely doesn't mean it's not true, it does mean that you have a fairly high hurdle to climb to convince me of such a novel interpretation.

The ruling made by Judge Torres isn't just any arbitrary rule ("eggs must be opened at the large end"), it's a ruling that someone with material knowledge of a crime is required to testify about that crime. On its face, this would seem to be just the kind of rule that a judge IS supposed to be creating.

I'll move on to your other arguments, but until you've convinced me that "It's the Right Thing to Do", I don't expect the other arguments to matter all that much.

Rhodeislandly yours,

~ Pseu.

Posted by: Pseudolus at November 15, 2004 4:24 PM

Can you describe the "crime" Taricani is involved referencing only laws actaully passed by the legislature, and not rules made up by a judge?

And, if the law has been broken, why is the case being prosecuted by a court-appointed "special prosecutor", not the US attorney for this region?

You've fallen into the activists' trap, Pseu, where the country has been convinced that the law and your rights are nothing more than what judges say they are.

Posted by: Andrew at November 15, 2004 5:23 PM

I'm probably the only guy in RI who /isn't/ a lawywer (don't even have one in the family!), so I can't quote you chapter and verse. But I would expect that there is a law compelling someone to testify when called (barring self-incrimination type stuff). If there isn't, there should be.

Can someone with better knowledge jump in here and clear this up for us?

Posted by: Pseudolus at November 15, 2004 7:48 PM

I think you have run amuck with Separation of Powers. If a court did not have authority to enforce its orders, those orders would be exercises in futility.

Traficanti is not found quilty of a "crime" he has been found in contempt. Once again, if people are free to ignore court orders, what is the point of courts? Traficanti is free to "purge himself of contempt" at any time.

What is being ignored here is the idea of a "fair trial". The video in question had been "suppressed" to avoid influencing jurors before they heard other evidence in an orderly manner. Giving it publicity shows Traficanti's contempt for the importance of a "fair trial".

I suspect that Traficanti's chief motivation is his "moment in the sun". He will be the first "Journalist" (news reader in Britain) to sacrifice himself for the principle of Journalistic Immunity. A concept not yet recognized in law.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at November 19, 2004 7:32 PM