13 January 2011

Short Takes

* I went to the Burger King restaurant in Cherry Creek earlier this week to get a cheap breakfast sandwich while I waited for the bank to open. The location was previously famous for being the parking nazi of Cherry Creek North, aggressively booting people in its lot. This time, I had to wait several minutes for anyone who worked there to appear, even after calling out an "anybody home?" Their bathroom is also the skankiest in all of Cherry Creek.

* Radio stations in Denver are in a slump. I have twelve FM and six AM pre-sets on my car radio, which I regularly revise with the best available options on the airwaves. Yet, several times in the last week, the elevator music in retail stores around town has been fresher and more interesting than what I can hear on any of those eighteen stations.

* Science Fair is over for another year. Next up, History Day.

* What is with all of the little banks on and around 1st Avenue in Cherry Creek? There must be twenty of them in the neighborhood, most with just one or two locations. You'd think it was Bern, Switzerland, or Luxembourg, or the Cayman Islands. I almost never see anyone actually doing business there, but presumably they have enough customers to stay afloat. I presume that they are catering mostly to a high end, local market clientele making loans to businesses, real estate developers, wealthy individuals and medium sized businesses, but I'm really not entirely clear what the business model is, although it seems to be a very similar business model for all of the banks that are not retail customer oriented.

* Even though Denver was almost 20% below average in precipitation in 2010, the snow pack in all of the state's major river basins was well above average, and since that is what really matters most for both Front Range water users and for the Colorado tourism industry, it's all good.

* Justice Kagan wrote her first U.S. Supreme Court opinion on the subject of the proper way to calculate the car expense in Chapter 13 plan calculations. The ruling was 8-1 with only Scalia dissenting. I agree that her reading was the better interpretation of the statute (it disallowed the expense when there was no actual loan or lease on a vehicle that had to be paid). The court took the case because there was a circuit split on the issue.

* The Article I immigration court based in Denver has a new judge who is married to one of the ICE prosecutors in the Denver office who presses these cases. The new administrative law judge must "must recuse herself from any case directed by her husband" but I have real doubts about whether that is sufficient to remove the appearance of impropriety in this situation.

In an ordinary court, only part of the docket involves cases brought by the government. But, all of the cases before this administrative law judge will be brought by the office of which her husband is a part. The pervasive association the new immigration judge has with one side of every single case before her creates a clear appearance of impropriety. I can't imagine how I could possibly be impartial in her shoes. Immigration judges have immense discretion. Statistically, the judge a person with a case in immigration court is assigned to is the single most important factor in determining the outcome of the case. Inappropriate use of that discretion by immigration judges, mostly to the detriment of immigrants, has flooded the federal appellate courts in recent years, and has cast grave disrepute on the credibility of the immigration courts as institutions where any meaningful kind of due process exists. This development certainly doesn't help the situation. If the recusal were from all cases with ICE involvement, that would probably resolve the problem, but that isn't a viable option for an immigration court judge.

I feel for the couple, who are no doubt both very smart, competent immigration lawyers, each of whom has a good federal government jobs. Neither has personally done anything wrong. But, maintaining this kind of status quo, even with recusals from cases where the other is personally involved really doesn't cut it. In government contexts the concern is not primarily ex parte communications about particular cases or personal gain (the government lawyers don't win or lose anything as a result of the outcome of particular cases), but about bias towards one side or the other on the part of the office, which is just as strong even without personal involvement in the same cases. We are not such a parochial backwater in Denver that we have no choice but to have a conflicted immigration court system because no one else is up to the job.

* Once again, Denver cops are being sued in a police brutality case and fraudulent police report case arising from a January 2009 traffic stop. Westword has more details.

* Marginal Revolution is a superior blog that I will add to my sidebar in due course.

* The percentage of women in Colorado's General Assembly (41 out of 99) is the highest of any state in the United States. The national average is 23.4%.

* Republicans are constantly accusing liberals of inventing constitutional rights that aren't supported by the language of the constitution. But, these days, the shoe is on the other foot. John Tomasic at the Colorado Independent nails it with this headline:

King to Polis: Healthcare law infringes on right to have babies in garbage cans

He goes on to explain:

Iowa Rep. Steve King today on Capitol Hill at a Rules Committee hearing on the GOP plan to repeal the healthcare reform law. He ended up telling Colorado Rep. Jared Polis that the law is unconstitutional because, for instance, it forces uninsured women who deliver babies in garbage cans to buy health insurance. Polis, aghast, searched for words.

Isn't funny how the rights Republicans want to invent always seem to be ones you have no desire to actually exercise?

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