Wednesday Writs: The Scales of Justice on Trial in Chapman v. United States

Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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10 Responses

  1. Jay L Gischer says:

    Wow. I’m with Justice Stevens. That’s absurd. It’s a great reminder that judges aren’t oracles.Report

    • Road Scholar in reply to Jay L Gischer says:

      Indeed. It’s like the flipside of the crack vs powder disparity. And then there’s weed, where the nastiest, paraquat tainted Mexican ditchweed will get you the same time as the finest buds in the land despite the enormous disparity in THC levels.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    Does Chapman allow for cops to argue that the dirt in the pots holding the pot plant count as the drug (because we talked about cops doing this sort of thing the other day… “POLICE SEIZE 30 POUNDS OF MARIJUANA!” and it was one and a half ounces of bud and 29+ pounds of everything else) or does Chapman limit to just allowing police to weigh the bong?

    As for L2, my response is something like “people in Hell want ice water”. Why does what law enforcement want have diddly squat to do with what the law actually *IS*?Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Jaybird says:

      Why stop there? If someone’s growing a cannabis plant directly in dirt in the garden, measure the canopy width of the plant, calculate the volume of a cone of earth extending from that canopy to the centre of the earth, and multiply by the average density of the planet.

      By my arithmetic that means they could seize 2.3 gigatonnes of cannabis by finding a plant whose canopy has a 50 cm diameter.

      In the interest of practicality, they may opt to uproot the plant itself for seizure and declare the rest of the cannabis to have been destroyed.Report

  3. Oscar Gordon says:

    L2: SC is struggling with the execution of that idea, because everyone is just way too wound tight about it.

    And I agree with Jaybird, why does LE get to voice an official opinion about this?

    L8: Is that not the purpose of having a company be a corporation, so responsibility for bad acts can become so diffuse that no one person can be held to account?Report

    • And I agree with Jaybird, why does LE get to voice an official opinion about this?

      Who is better qualified to discuss the difficulties and costs that a change in the statutes has on enforcement of the laws as a whole? When I was a budget analyst for the state legislature, one of the most difficult parts of the policy analysis side of the job was estimating the knock-on costs of enforcement. (Ask me about octane test engines.)Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Who is better qualified to discuss the difficulties and costs that a change in the statutes has on enforcement of the laws as a whole?

        That’s an interesting question. We’d have to compare their past predictions with the actual outcomes.

        To my knowledge no police department in the history of ever has predicted that a change in the law would reduce policing costs and requested a corresponding budget cut, so that would be the equivalent of checking a stopped clock against an atomic clock time source – it is truly quarter past three twice a day, but there’s no sense looking at that particular clock to check.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Gotta agree with Dragonfrog, the police are not actually very good about predicting the effects of decriminalization. It’s always a case of, “things will get worse!” Well, unless we are talking about de/criminalizing police behavior, then it’s the exact opposite.

        To be fair, they are not always wrong. If you decriminalize things like petty theft/vandalism, or raising the threshold of what counts as petty, you have a solid risk of getting more petty crime, if you are not addressing the motivating factors of that petty crime.

        But this is about raising an industrial product that is merely related to one that is banned (and getting less banned every election cycle). LE opinions should be treated skeptically.Report

      • PD Shaw in reply to Michael Cain says:

        In my experience state agencies all have lobbyists. They may not be called that because they are exempt from lobbying laws, so they might be called Legislative Liaison or Director of Legislative Affairs. Not only do they give official opinions about legislation in which an agency will have a role, but in legislative floor debates the sponsor might be accused of not having consulted with the agency’s lobbyist.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

        For the record, I fully support the right of the cops to say “this will be an awful policy”.

        If complaining about it before the fact is all that this is limited to, let me state now: I have no objection at all to the police saying that they don’t like it.Report