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This Is What A Police State Looks Like

9:29 pm in Uncategorized by Rania Khalek

police state UK

olice state UK by The Girl 78, on Flickr

 

The late Chalmers Johnson often reminded us that “A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can’t be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system was modeled, lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship.”  His warning rings more true by the day, as Americans watch the erosion of their civil liberties accelerate in conjunction with the expansion of the US Empire.

When viewed through the lens of Johnson’s profound insights, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Kentucky v. King makes perfect sense.  On May 13, in a lopsided 8-1 ruling, the Court upheld the warrantless search of a Kentucky man’s apartment after police smelled marijuana and feared those inside were destroying evidence, essentially granting police officers increased power to enter the homes of citizens without a warrant.

Under the Fourth Amendment, police are barred from entering a home without first obtaining a warrant, which can only be issued by a judge upon probable cause.  The only exception is when the circumstances qualify as “exigent,” meaning there is imminent risk of death or serious injury, danger that evidence will be immediately destroyed, or that a suspect will escape.  However, exigent circumstances cannot be created by the police.

In this case, the police followed a suspected drug dealer into an apartment complex and after losing track of him, smelled marijuana coming from one of the apartments.  After banging on the door and announcing themselves, the police heard noises that they interpreted as the destruction of evidence.  Rather than first obtaining a warrant, they kicked down the door and arrested the man inside, who was caught flushing marijuana down the toilet.

The Kentucky Supreme Court had overturned the man’s conviction and ruled that exigent circumstances did not apply because the behavior of the police is what prompted the destruction of evidence.  Tragically, an overwhelming majority of the Supreme Court upheld the Conviction.  Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that citizens are not required to grant police officers permission to enter their homes after hearing a knock, but if there is no response and the officers hear noise that suggests evidence is being destroyed, they are justified in breaking in.
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With Liberty And Justice For…Corporations?

11:04 pm in Uncategorized by Rania Khalek

IMG_0476

IMG_0476 by corazón girl, on Flick

On April 27, 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States once again ruled in favor of big business.  In the highly anticipated case of AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, the Roberts led conservative block of the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that federal law trumps state law in allowing companies to use arbitration clauses to prohibit consumers from joining class actions against the companies.

The case involved a California couple, Vincent and Liza Concepcion, who were charged $30.22 sales tax on the full retail price of a cellphone that was advertised as “free.”  They filed a lawsuit against AT&T for deceptive practices on behalf of a class of consumers who had also overpaid.  But the couple, along with their fellow plaintiffs, had signed a contract with AT&T that contained a “mandatory arbitration clause” which required them to settle any disputes through arbitration (a private legal proceeding) and barred them from seeking class-action treatment with other consumers, whether through arbitration or in a lawsuit brought in a traditional court.

Initially, both a federal district court and the Ninth Circuit Court sided with the Concepcions, saying it was unfair under a 2005 California Supreme Court ruling, for contracts to ban class-action litigation.  However, this was overturned by the recent Supreme Court decision, which says federal law, specifically the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925, trumps state law.

Aside from the fact that the conservative Justices who purport to be staunch defenders of “states rights” abandoned their principles for corporate interests, this ruling has chilling implications for future corporate accountability.  Corporations are now free to legally bar victims of their abuse from collectively suing in a court of law if the abused have signed a contract that includes a mandatory arbitration clause, regardless of state laws to the contrary.  This could literally render companies immune from class actions and overall accountability.

At first glance, it seems reasonable to conclude that individuals should simply steer clear of these types of contracts in order to avoid waiving their rights.  But most people are unaware that mandatory arbitration clauses are commonly used in product and service contracts, and sometimes in employment contracts–usually found buried in the fine print of billing inserts, employment handbooks, health insurance plans, and dealership agreements.
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