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The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort Archive



March 2016



Garland SCOTUS Pick Good Politics, Bad Substance

Written by , Posted in Liberty & Limited Government, The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

President Obama made the relatively obvious strategic choice by nominating a “moderate” judge to fill the late Judge Antonin Scalia’s seat. Although it disappointed the hard left, in particular the race and gender obsessed identity politics crowd, Merrick Garland’s nomination will challenge Republicans’ resolve to deny Obama opportunity to fill the seat before he leaves office.

Had Obama simply appointed another die-hard leftist, Republicans would have risked nothing by waiting him out and seeing what happened during the election. If Hillary won they’d be no worse off, but if a Republican (not named Trump) won they’d get someone more to their liking. And the idea put forth by Democrats that stalling would spark an electoral backlash against the GOP is wishful thinking at best.

But now it’s trickier. Hillary will almost certainly appoint someone to the left of Garland, who Orrin Hatch in 2010 pushed Obama to nominate to the seat eventually filled by Elena Kagan. He and some other Senate Republicans have suggested they might take up Garland’s nomination during the lame duck session after the election. However, if a Democrat wins Obama will likely withdraw the nomination (which Sanders has already publicly asked him to do in the unlikely scenario that he is elected) and allow his predecessor to put forth a Progressive ideologue. That puts pressure on them to

A wildcard is Trump’s populist insurgency. If he is the nominee, Republicans can go ahead and assume Hillary will win – baring the increasingly unlikely scenario that she is indicted – and act accordingly.

Long story short, Obama has forced Republicans to weigh the risks and rewards of accepting his nominee instead of the no-risk position they’d have faced against a more hardline pick.

But while his nomination is good politics, what might the “moderate” Garland mean for liberty if confirmed? Sure, he has some level of bipartisan appeal, but they are mostly on issues in which the parties are both wrong.

As Ilya Shapiro explains, he is simply too deferential to government.

Garland has shown an alarming amount of deference to the government in his years on the important D.C. Circuit, which handles appeals from administrative agencies. I also fear that he won’t represent the check on ever-expanding federal power and executive actions to the same extent as Scalia. And if you’re a civil libertarian, his solicitude for law enforcement makes him much less appealing than other judges who had been under consideration.

Reason’s Damon Root made a similar case:

While Garland is undoubtedly a legal liberal, his record reflects a version of legal liberalism that tends to line up in favor of broad judicial deference to law enforcement and wartime executive power.

In the area of criminal law, for example, Garland’s votes have frequently come down on the side of prosecutors and police. In 2010, when Garland was reported to be under consideration to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, SCOTUSblog founder Tom Goldstein observed that “Judge Garland rarely votes in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals of their convictions.”

Likewise, Garland voted in support of the George W. Bush administration’s controversial war on terrorism policies in the Guantanamo detainee case Al Odah v. United States, in which Garland joined the majority opinion holding that enemy combatants held as detainees at the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay were not entitled to habeus corpus protections. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately overruled that decision, holding in the landmark caseBoumediene v. Bush that Guantanamo detainees do enjoy habeus corpus rights.

Nevertheless, there is at least one issue likely to prove a major obstacle to Garland’s finding broad Republican support, and that is gun control.

Overall, however, deference to government is a common trap for Republicans, who fear “judicial activism” to the point that they would rather Congress and the Executive operate without significant judicial constraints. As such, they might see Garland as a real move in their direction from Obama, when in fact he’s more likely to be another ally of big government and a disappointment for civil liberties.



March 2015



Rule of Law on Trial in King v. Burwell

Written by , Posted in Health Care, Welfare & Entitlements, Liberty & Limited Government, Taxes, The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

You might think King v. Burwell is just about Obamacare. To be sure, the ruling could profoundly impact the law if nothing else is done. Though depending on how legislators react, even a finding in favor of the challengers could be made to have no real impact at all.

But what will certainly have an impact is a finding in favor of the government. Endorsing their position would be a huge blow against a most basic tenet of our representative system. I wrote about this in my latest column for EveryJoe.

…If the court rules in favor of the government, it will mean that the executive branch is free to rewrite legislation despite the clear meaning of a law if they can plausibly argue that the consequences for not doing so would be negative. It is, at its core, a case about who gets to write the law.

It’s true that Congress typically gives the Treasury department more latitude than typical because of the complexity of the tax code. But where Congress has not said to fill in the blanks, Treasury must follow the law, as must any other agency within the executive branch. To allow otherwise would undermine a fundamental principle of our government: that we are a nation of laws, which are created by elected representatives.

As an example of what to expect if the court allows for erosion of the separation of powers, consider the current call by Sen. Bernie Sanders – self-described socialist – for the White House to rewrite the tax code without Congress.

He wants Obama to declare by fiat the elimination of certain “loopholes.” But what are commonly referred to as “loopholes” are really just particular policy choices made by elected leaders. They can be either good, such as those which alleviate double taxation, or bad, such as those which provide special handouts for politically favored businesses. Regardless, they are part of the tax code which Congress has created, as is their legal prerogative. If they don’t like it they should legislate a new tax code, and if we don’t like it we can vote them out of office.

…This White House has been open about its desire and willingness to rewrite the law as Obama sees fit in order to advance his agenda. And his spokesman responded favorably to Sen. Sanders suggestion, saying that Obama is “very interested” in unilaterally hiking taxes. If the court rejects the latest challenge to Obamacare and finds in favor of the government, it will only serve to embolden his efforts to unconstitutionally transform the nation.

The whole piece is available here.



January 2015



The Case for Criminal Justice Reform in the 114th

Written by , Posted in Legislation, The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

I don’t see much getting done in the next two years in terms of major legislation. The reforms Republicans want aren’t likely to be signed by President Obama, and his proposals will have a hard time finding traction in Congress, even among Democrats. That said, there’s one major issue that has at least a slim chance of advancing. I explain why in my most recent column at EveryJoe.

…Recognition of serious problems in the criminal justice system spans the ideological spectrum. The left has long had its concerns, though often narrowly focused on issues of race. Libertarians, too, have been consistent in criticizing the excesses of the drug war and the police militarization it has enabled, as well as the appalling practice of civil asset forfeiture. Gross abuse of the latter, which allows police to seize property without ever charging – much less convicting – an individual with a crime, has also contributed to a growing conservative awareness of the need to address the nation’s criminal code and its enforcement.

…The organization Right on Crime has made strong inroads among conservatives in making the case for reform…

Meanwhile, libertarian Charles Koch has  trained his sights, and deep pockets, on criminal justice reform, and has stated plans to ramp up his efforts in 2015. Typically treated as a boogie-man by the left, Koch has even forged alliances with the more liberal ACLU and progressive king-maker George Soros to bolster his efforts.

Taken altogether, these groups represent a rare and potent coalition.

The rest is available here.



November 2014



Case for Criminal Justice Reform Goes Well Beyond Ferguson

Written by , Posted in The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

Last night’s announcement that Officer Darren Wilson would not be charged in the shooting of Michael Brown has been followed by violent riots in Ferguson, as well as more peaceful demonstrations throughout the nation. Opinion among the commentary class has unsurprisingly polarized and cleaved along traditional lines, with the left all in on identity politics and the right firmly entrenched in a law and order mentality. Both, I think, are missing the significance of the events taking place.

First, I want to make clear that the looting, destruction and violence taking place in Ferguson should not and cannot be excused. The responsibility for these crimes rests entirely with the individuals committing them, and in an ideal world they would be held firmly accountable for their actions.

Second, I think the specific facts of the incident in question must be separated from the broader social and policy questions. On the facts, I’ll just say that I think the overall outcome that Officer Wilson will not be criminally punished is probably correct, though the standard for grand jury indictment is typically so low that allowing a trial would have been acceptable, even welcome, under the circumstances.

The evidence suggests that officer Wilson was indeed attacked inside his vehicle and that, at some point, Brown disengaged and Wilson pursued. The crux of the case is whether Brown was surrendering or turning to fight at the time he was shot. Perhaps no one knows with absolute certainty whether the shooting was unavoidable, not even Wilson, but the forensic evidence from my understanding is consistent with Wilson’s story, and most of the evidence ambiguous to the point that Wilson would have most likely been acquitted, and rightly so according to the high standards we ought to require for actual conviction.

Regardless, the grand jury verdict has not settled the discussion. While the divisive voices of identity politics are wrong to break this episode entirely down to that of a racial injustice, so too are their critics who see in Ferguson’s aftermath only mindless riots and a need for the restoration of order through force and escalation.

That the right decision was most likely reached in the case doesn’t change the fact that, as Walter Olsen says, “our system for dealing with police use of deadly force is broken.” Illustrating the point, consider the typical outcome for a grand jury. The old saw is that a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, and in federal cases (where data is available), grand juries opt to indict 99.99 percent of the time. The single variable that turns the statistic completely around is when a police officer is the potential defendant. Under those circumstances grand juries almost never indict. Possible explanations include excessive deference on part of jurors to police, or disinterest on the part of prosecutors at potentially angering the very police upon which their profession relies on having good relations. In either case, the number of incidents of police misconduct that go unpunished poses a serious problem.

We are seeing the consequence of that problem play out now. The communities that most often come into contact with the police – poor, urban, and minority – trust them the least. This not only makes policing those communities more difficult, but when tensions reach a high enough level it can boil over into social unrest and violence. Simply put, if the police were more believable, and public perceptions generally indicated faith in the ability of the criminal justice system to punish police misconduct, what’s happening in Ferguson right now would not be occurring.

Because the thin blue line works more often than not to protect incompetent, corrupt or malicious officers, broad swaths of the public simply do not trust the system to return a just verdict, even in a case such as this where the outcome was seemingly appropriate. That’s a problem that requires serious institutional changes both in terms of what the law says, such as ending the Drug War, and how it is enforced, including reversing the militarization of police forces, ending practices such a civil asset forfeiture that pit the interests of police against the public, building better relations between departments and the communities they serve, and, perhaps most importantly, consistently and transparently punishing officers who break the law. Until these things are done, we can expect what has occurred in Ferguson to happen again and again.



August 2014



Case for Police Reform is Bigger Than Ferguson Shooting

Written by , Posted in The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

Facts are slowly trickling out regarding the Michael Brown shooting by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. Not only has it now been determined that Brown was involved in an earlier strong-arm robbery – which speaks to Brown’s state of mind and makes it more plausible that he would engage an officer in violent conflict – but it’s also being claimed by some sources that officer Wilson suffered serious injuries in the alleged scuffle. The latter is far from proven, however.

This is important information for this particular case and those that want to ensure justice is done. It does not, however, tell us anything about the need for criminal justice reforms. Even if the shooting of Michael Brown was justified, it does not absolve the nation’s police as a whole, or even the Ferguson police in particular, of wrongdoing. The Ferguson PD would still be responsible for unnecessarily inflaming tensions through a combination of unnecessary and excessive displays of force, and a lack of timely communication.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Max Geron, a security studies scholar who runs the Media Relations Unit of the Dallas Police Department had to say:

The images from Ferguson, Missouri are disturbing and disappointing to those who recognize their role in law enforcement as servants of the public as opposed to strict enforcers of the law, maintainers of order or members of a paramilitary organization. While enforcing the law is a primary function and order maintenance is a part of that job, they are but components of the larger public servant role. Additionally, while police agencies are paramilitary in nature, law enforcement leaders now, more than ever, need to guard against the increase of militarization currently underway.

I’m disheartened that police unions and associations across the country are concerned about citizens photographing police while in public and have no qualms about speaking out against it. This adds to the concern of the public that we are moving more towards a police state and slowly eroding the freedoms we should cherish in this great nation.



August 2014



Lack of Police Accountability Will Breed More Ferguson’s

Written by , Posted in Culture & Society, The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

A number of troubling things are happening related to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. In the wake of the shooting death of 18-year old Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer, there have been looting, riots, and demonstrations. While theft and mindless destruction of property by looters shouldn’t be tolerated, residents have more than enough reason to be upset.

Witness descriptions paint Brown’s shooting as a deliberate homicide, yet police have refused to release the name of the officer who killed him. The police department predictably claims that Brown was the instigator and inexplicably attempted to take the officer’s gun, but police are notorious liars who routinely falsify reports to cover up wrongdoing. Sometimes they are punished, but given the frequency with which such actions are discovered, it’s quite likely that it far more often goes unnoticed. While it’s certainly possible that police are telling the truth in this case and that the witnesses are lying to get them in trouble, the public has every reason not to give them the benefit of the doubt.

It is, in other words, the constant and pervasive lack of accountability for police departments across the country that fuels tensions and distrust. Even when misconduct is clear, the thin blue line often serves to protect officers from punishment. The result is a frustrated public that sees little hope of justice when police misbehave. The casual dismissal of public concerns only fuels the notion that police don’t believe they serve anyone but themselves.

Often times misconduct and false reports are only discovered when video later comes to light. It would thus be of significant public interest for police to be monitored by video at all times. When a small California city put cameras on all their police officers, the result was a dramatic decline in the number of complaints against officers. Police, like their civilian counterparts, misbehave less when they are more likely to be caught.

Others rightfully highlight the growing militarization of police forces across the US. Federal grants have encouraged local police departments to acquire weapons of war for domestic use. Tiny towns are getting funds to build SWAT teams and armored vehicles for which they have no need, and then are predictably deploying them in situations where such extreme tactics are not only unwarranted, but can be counterproductive.

Given the excessive deference by prosecutors for police wrongdoings and the fact that police are being handed weapons of war to use against the public, the only surprise that should come from the events in Ferguson is that such unrest is not already more common. If things continue as they are without significant reform of policing in the US, we can expect these confrontations to continue to happen.



July 2014



Sen. Paul Moves to Breathe Life Back Into Fifth Amendment

Written by , Posted in Big Government, The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

Right now, it is possible and quite common for the government to seize personal assets without trial or any other form of due process. Under what’s known as civil asset forfeiture, police can take property they claim may be part of a crime, though they need not prove so, and put that money in their department’s pocket. This gives police departments incentive to steal. To make matters worse, it is then up to the victim to prove their innocence, often at significant cost, if they want any hope of getting their property back.

Rand Paul has introduced a bill that would end this despicable practice:

Sen. Rand Paul yesterday introduced S. 2644, the FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act, which would protect the rights of citizens and restore the Fifth Amendment’s role in seizing property without due process of law. Under current law, law enforcement agencies may take property suspected of involvement in crime without ever charging, let alone convicting, the property owner. In addition, state agencies routinely use federal asset forfeiture laws; ignoring state regulations to confiscate and receive financial proceeds from forfeited property.

The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General’s Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury’s General Fund.

Radley Balko has more on how the law will also stop state and local officials from skirting state law by conspiring, for a kickback, with the feds.

The bill would also require states “to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property.” This is important. Currently, a number of state legislatures across the country have passed reform bills to rein in forfeiture abuses. The problem is that the federal government has a program known as “adoption” or “equitable sharing.” Under the program, a local police agency need only call up the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or similar federal agency. That agency then “federalizes” the investigation, making it subject to federal law. The federal agency then initiates forfeiture proceedings under the laxer federal guidelines for forfeiture. The feds take a cut and then return the rest — as much as 80 percent — back to the local agency. This trick thwarts the intent of state legislature that have attempted to make civil forfeiture more fair when it comes to burden of proof, protections for innocent property owners and eliminating the perverse incentive of allowing forfeiture proceeds to go to the same police agency that made the seizure.

Which brings us to a final important provision in the bill: It would “would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General’s Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury’s General Fund.

To put it simply, agencies of the federal government have engaged in a criminal conspiracy with state police departments to loot and rob the American people. It’s about time that someone take the obvious position of ending their abuses.



July 2014



Government Moves to Shake Down FedEx Because They Don’t Spy on Packages

Written by , Posted in Big Government, The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

You would think that enforcement of terrible US drug laws would be the responsibility of the myriad government agencies lavishly funded to harass American citizens based solely on what they put in their own bodies. But according to the government, enforcement is apparently actually the responsibility of FedEx.

FedEx Corp. was indicted for delivering prescription pain pills, sedatives, anti-anxiety drugs and other controlled substances for illegal Internet pharmacies.

The operator of the world’s largest cargo airline was charged by the U.S. with 15 counts of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and misbranded drugs and drug trafficking that carry a potential fine of twice the gains from the conduct, alleged to be at least $820 million for it and co-conspirators. The company, while denying the allegations, said today in a regulatory filing that conviction could be “material.”

…The criminal case is an unprecedented escalation of a federal crackdown on organizations and individuals to combat prescription drug abuse, said Larry Cote, an attorney and ex-associate chief counsel at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Targeting a company that’s two, three steps removed from the actual doctor-patient, pharmacy-patient relationship is unprecedented,” said Cote, who advises companies in the drug supply chain on compliance matters.

Note that we’re not talking about delivering cocaine for the cartel here, but rather medicines that government artificially restricts and keeps from patients and those who need them. Nevertheless, the government insists not only that selling medicine is a no good, horrible bad thing, but that it furthermore is the responsibility of FedEx to know what is in every package they deliver to ensure that that no one is daring to deliver cheap medicine.

The whole thing is, in other words, typical government thuggery at its ugliest:

As it turns out, the feds say that “as early as 2004, DEA, FDA and members of Congress” told the delivery company that willing buyers and sellers were engaging in transactions that make politicians very, very sad. FedEx apparently established internal systems for tracking online pharmacies, but shipments still got through. This makes the feds even sadder, and they insist FedEx has been “conspiring” to let the packages through.

FedEx says this is all bullshit. The company insists that, in response to the government’s crusade to keep Uncle Bob from buying his little blue pills at a discount, it’s asked the feds for a list of suppliers it shouldn’t service. The feds haven’t gone beyond the bitching phase to offer anything helpful.

…So, what do the feds want FedEx to do? The indictment isn’t specific, but FedEx hints that the government wants the company to paw through everything it ships and block the stuff that officials don’t think people should be allowed to send from place to place.




March 2014



Government’s Top Thug Preet Bharara Shakes Down Toyota

Written by , Posted in Big Government, The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

Preet Bharara is a rogue U.S. Attorney and government thug. The latest victim of one of his shakedown scams is Toyota:

The original uproar was set off when a Lexus crashed in San Diego on Aug. 28, 2009. In later investigations, both Nhtsa and the San Diego County sheriff’s office concluded that the car had been fitted out with too-long floor mats belonging to another model, trapping a floored accelerator.

Horrifying as mat-entrapment accidents may be, they are rare: The feds have identified only one fatal Toyota crash with this pattern other than the one in San Diego. There also is nothing unusual about sudden-acceleration claims—they’ve been lodged against Audi, NSU.XE +0.02% Honda, Ford, Mercedes, GM, GM -0.84% Subaru, basically every auto maker.

Toyota had recognized the mat concern as early as 2007 on a Lexus model, and now, out of caution, it also recalled millions of cars to have gas pedals altered so oversize, stacked, or otherwise errant mats would be less likely to overtake and smother them.

Nevertheless, the Justice Department on March 19 announced a one-count wire fraud indictment of the Japanese company, simultaneously settled by Toyota’s agreement to pay $1.2 billion. Why the huge sum? Supposedly, the company had made that much in extra sales by inappropriately reassuring the public, Congress and regulators that it was adequately handling the (almost entirely bogus) furor.

…Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s statement of agreed facts fulminates about a second supposed coverup, that of “sticky pedal” syndrome: unwanted friction might make some gas pedals stick on the way back up. Toyota informed Nhtsa about sticky-pedal in October 2009, but the feds complain that the company should have come clean a few weeks earlier than that.

Left out of all this is the conclusion reached in the Nhtsa’s 2011 report: There was no evidence sticky pedals played a role in any of the accidents. The agency also acknowledges that sticky or otherwise, a gas pedal can be overridden by properly functioning brakes.

Providing an addendum to his op-ed at the Cato Institute blog, Walter Olson highlights some of the draconian terms in the “agreement” offer that Toyota no doubt understood it could not refuse:

A couple of other points I didn’t have room for in the WSJ piece: Toyota is settling the government’s trumped-up single charge of mail fraud by way of a so-called Deferred Prosecution Agreement, or DPA, and its terms really must be seen to be believed. “Toyota understands and agrees that the exercise of the Office’s discretion under this Agreement is unreviewable by any court,” appears on clause 14 on page 6, with “Office” referring to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, currently Preet Bharara. And if you are expecting even the tiniest squeak from anyone at Toyota in contradiction to the government line, even around the coffee machine at the local dealership, consider clause 13, which states: that Toyota “agrees that it shall not, through its attorneys, agents, or employees, make any statement, in litigation or otherwise, contradicting the Statement of Facts or its representations in this Agreement.” If DoJ catches wind of any such statement it can revoke the agreement not to prosecute, without of course having to give back the billion dollars. “The decision as to whether any such contradictory statement shall be imputed to Toyota for the purpose of determining whether Toyota has violated this agreement shall be within the sole discretion of the Office.”

When people talk about federal prosecutors having become a law unto themselves, this is the sort of thing they mean.

Appalling stuff, but this is really just par for the course for Bharara, whose unquenchable quest for power has turned him into one of the government’s more vile goons. He touched off an international incident last December when he arrested and subjected to a strip search an Indian diplomat over a petty minimum wage issue. He later added fuel to the fire he created with one of America’s strongest Asian allies by going off half-cocked and lashing out at critics with a “defense” of his action that was thoroughly unprofessional in tenor and tone, which further antagonized India and undermined efforts of the State Department to calm the matter. Investigative reporter Gary Weiss correctly observed that, “there is something seriously wrong with [Preet Bharara’s] judgment and temperament.”

He’s not the only one tired of Bharara’s antics. U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan criticized the “tabloid tone” of Bharara’s typical pretrial grandstanding.

But it’s still business as usual for Manhattan’s U.S. Attorney, whose aggressive tactics are typically celebrated thanks to the heavy dose of economic populism that accompanies his agenda. So long as he targets unpopular segments of society, his overreaches will be tolerated  by the cocktail crowd. In fact, they generally criticize him for doing too little on Wall Street. In that regard, Bharara resembles much more a demagogic politician than an agent and enforcer of the law. The law is simply a tool that he is perfectly comfortable perverting to his nakedly self-interested ends. Given the significant and largely unchecked power he wields, that makes him one of America’s most dangerous thugs.



March 2014



South Carolina Prosecutors Think They Should Be Above the Law

Written by , Posted in The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

I spend a lot of time railing against abuses of the federal government, and for good reason given its size and disposition, but state and local officials are by and large just as awful. And South Carolina is doing its best to make sure we don’t forget it.

Radley Balko reports on a brewing conflict between South Carolina prosecutors and one of the state’s Supreme Court justices. Justice Donald Beatty, it seems, has upset a number of prosecutors who are demanding that he recuse himself from future criminal cases. The cause of their uproar? Beatty apparently deigned to remind them that they are not, in fact, above the law:

At a state solicitors’ convention in Myrtle Beach, Beatty cautioned that prosecutors in the state have been “getting away with too much for too long.” He added, “The court will no longer overlook unethical conduct, such as witness tampering, selective and retaliatory prosecutions, perjury and suppression of evidence. You better follow the rules or we are coming after you and will make an example. The pendulum has been swinging in the wrong direction for too long and now it’s going in the other direction. Your bar licenses will be in jeopardy. We will take your license.”

Any prosecutor who objects to the above should be presumed unfit to hold office and immediately fired. It won’t happen, of course, because the institutional corruption runs too deep. The fact that so many within our criminal justice system  – who exercise tremendous power over the public – believe that they should remain above legal accountability is deeply troubling.