WJI's daily reads for Dec. 10, 2021
WBAY: Prison staffing crisis costing state taxpayers millions.
Roll Call: Senators getting impatient with U.S. Justice Department.
Slate: The U.S. Supreme Court is getting ready to turbocharge religious liberty litigation.
The low point of arguments arrived when Justice Neil Gorsuch seemed to insult more liberal and tolerant religions as “watered down” versions of the real thing. Gorsuch asked Taub if Maine’s rules “favor religions that are more watered down, some might say, or more majoritarian, more comfortable with what a bureaucrat in Bangor might say.” (Maine’s Department of Education is in Augusta, but put that aside.) In other words, religions that have value overlap with public school curricula get a pass, while fundamentalist religions—which, to Gorsuch, are more genuine and undiluted—face discrimination. With this comment, Gorsuch revealed that he sees progressive religions as weak, compromised, and inauthentic because they do not demand the kind of bigotry and indoctrination as hard-line religions. (If a state official made this remark, SCOTUS would probably accuse them of anti-religious animus.)
The Washington Post: The pandemic may be producing juries more likely to convict.
Reuters: Ohio judge accused of illegally jailing defendants who can't pay fines.
Now, defense attorneys around the country say they’ve noticed a new discrepancy since trials have resumed after being suspended at the onset of the pandemic: Covid-consicous people are being excluded from juries, either through self-selection or with dismissals by judges. They worry these juries are even less skeptical of police and prosecutors, and thus are even more likely to convict.
There is some evidence to support their concerns. Polling has consistently shown a strong correlation between political ideology and attitudes about covid. Those who are more cautious about covid and supportive of precautions tend to be more liberal; those less concerned tend to be more conservative. (While there was a strong consensus among the public defenders I spoke with that covid has made juries more conservative, it wasn’t universal....)
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