The Supreme Court had a suggestion Wednesday for one of the more extreme reasons used by the Obama administration to deport documented immigrants on drug charges: Stick a sock in it.
The justices appeared fed up by the latest in a series of cases they have reversed over the past decade — cases in which immigrants have been deported or threatened with deportation because of minor drug offenses.
This time, the offender was convicted of possessing "drug paraphernalia" — a sock used to conceal four tablets of Adderall, a stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
"If he had cocaine in his sock, he would probably be convicted of possession of cocaine," a clearly miffed Justice Elena Kagan said.
"He was convicted of paraphernalia here because he had four pills of Adderall, which if you go to half the colleges in America ... and just randomly pick somebody, there would be a decent chance..." the former Harvard Law School dean said, her voice trailing off.
Nearly all the justices appeared convinced that the government had gone too far in deporting Moones Mellouli, a Tunisian who came to the USA on a student visa in 2004 and went on to earn two master's degrees, work as an actuary and teach mathematics at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Mellouli was deported under a federal law that permits the government to remove non-citizens "convicted of a violation of ... any law or regulation of a state, the United States or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance." First offenses for minor amounts of marijuana are exempt.
Much of the hour-long argument dealt with the literal and practical interpretations of those words. Does the drug have to be on the federal list, or is the Kansas list enough? Is it the violation that matters or only the conviction? What does "relating to" refer to — the violation or the law?
It wasn't long before the justices socked it to the government, and the case began to unravel.
"Is a sock considered drug paraphernalia under federal law?" Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked Mellouli's lawyer, Jon Laramore.
"Do you think a sock is more than tenuously related to these federal drugs?" Justice Antonin Scalia asked the government's lawyer, Assistant Solicitor General Rachel Kovner.
2. Feds grab man selling black rhino horn. From the Sun-Sentinel:
The president of a luxury Boynton Beach auction house pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to smuggle rhinoceros horns, coral and elephant ivory to China.
Christopher Hayes, president of Elite Estate Buyers, admitted to participating in a complex conspiracy to falsify shipping documents and use third-party shippers to help slip the illegal items out of the country to foreign buyers. In one case, federal prosecutors say, he sold two horns of the endangered black rhinoceros to a Texas resident and who was smuggling them to China....
Hayes' lawyer, Benedict Kuehne, said his client was "deeply apologetic" about violating the law protecting endangered species.
"He is distraught that he even in a slight way may have contributed to the harm of the environment and endangered species," he said. "Through his established business, he hopes to become an educator and leader in informing the profession about the concerns with endangered species items."
Hayes, 55, of Wellington, faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. A sentencing date has not been set. The company, which does business under the name Elite Decorative Arts, will pay a fine of $1.5 million. The company deals in high-end goods such as Chinese jade jewelry, oil paintings and antique porcelain.
The horns of the black rhinoceros, a critically endangered African species, command high prices in Asia for their use in traditional medicine. The investigation involved undercover officers of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who posed as buyers.
3. Dersh's op-ed about the false accusations against him is pretty powerful:
I now stand accused of crimes I did not commit, by an unnamed woman who I don’t know and never met. I am also being sued for defaming my accusers. I still have no opportunity to respond in court to the false charges, though I am now seeking to intervene in the lawsuit in which the accusation was filed. I have submitted a sworn statement denying the accusations with great specificity. The court has not yet decided whether to accept my motion.I feel like a victim of a drive-by shooting or the object of scribbled graffiti on the wall of a bathroom stall. I may never have the opportunity to prove my innocence, or to have my accusers prove the false charges, in any court of law. But because I am relatively well known—a double-edge sword in these situations—I can at least fight back in the court of public opinion, though at the very high cost—in legal fees, loss of insurance coverage and the possibility of a large monetary judgment against me.Imagine the same thing happening to a person who did not have the resources to fight back.There is a gaping hole in our legal system that allows lawyers to bring irrelevant accusations against innocent nonparties in court papers that insulate them from any consequences, and to deny the falsely accused any opportunity to respond.The law must be changed to shatter this hall of mirrors I face and others might. There must be consequences for those who file accusations with no offer to prove them and no legal responsibility if they are categorically—and disprovably—false.I will not rest until this gaping hole is filled with reasonable safeguards, so that what is happening to me can never happen to another innocent person.