In the past I have written about what I thought was judicial overreach. Part of that overreach came in the form of judges denying bail or setting it for unusually high amounts, often for “cash only,” or not assigning similar bail amounts from person to person for the same or similar offenses, and so on. In some cases, the judges' pre-trial bail decisions have the effect of prejudging a person’s guilt before they have a chance to plead their case, as they are kept in jail for months or a year or more, pending their trial.
Recently, the Associated Press reported that California’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, stated she wanted to do away with the option of judges to impose a cash bail requirement on defendants. She prefers to rely on assessment of a defendant’s flight risk and danger to the public to determine whether or not the person should be released. Good for her! Let’s hope all jurisdictions follow her lead.
Would it be possible to have an ombudsman-type panel to quickly review a judge’s bail decisions before they are imposed? It appears that those of limited financial resources are the most hurt by severe bail decisions, and will most likely not be able to afford an appeal of the judge’s ruling.
Another issue of government overreach has to do with the federal government claiming ownership of approximately 30 percent of the total land mass across the country. The feds claim ownership of about 640-million acres of land. Of that number, 92 percent of the property is in 12 Western states. Following is the percentage of each of those state’s property that is owned by the federal government: Alaska-62 percent, Arizona-38 percent, California-46 percent, Colorado-36 percent, Idaho-62 percent, Montana-29 percent, Nevada-85 percent, New Mexico-35 percent, Oregon-53 percent, Utah-65 percent, Washington-29 percent, Wyoming-48 percent..
It is understandable that the federal government may want to take ownership of certain lands for our national parks. However, federal ownership of other property within a state essentially denies the state and its citizens the ability to explore and develop its natural resources, to sell properties for home and businesses to expand, to derive tax revenues, and so on. A number of the states are objecting to federal claims and intend to bring suit.
As noted, the federal government claims ownership of 85 percent of Nevada’s land. One may recall the fuss that began in 2014 when the Federal Bureau of Land Management began to round up the cattle of rancher Cliven Bundy, ostensibly because he had failed to pay the government the fees that they claimed he owed for grazing his cattle. He and his family before him had been grazing cattle on that land for over 150 years, long before Nevada ever became a state. Bundy had maintained the wells and the fencing on the property. Fellow ranchers and other supporters from across the country went to Nevada to face down the Bureau of Land Management. Other states refused to accept the Bundy cattle that had been rounded up by the government. Abattoirs (slaughterhouses) also refused to accept the cattle. In somewhat of a pickle, the BLM stopped their round-up. At the heart of this case is the fact that the claim of ownership by the government can essentially take away a family business that had been in operation for over 150 years. It isn’t like the federal government had another “need” for the property, or that the Bundy’s and other ranchers in the area had another alternative grazing source. Governmental bullying?
In another case of judicial overreach, Rochester resident Jerry DeLemus was one of the supporters who were arrested in the Bundy protest. Judge Gloria Navarro refused to allow the Marine Corps veteran to post bail; he was held in jail until his hearing. When he finally had his hearing, the federal prosecutors had asked that he be given a six-year sentence. The judge refused and gave him a sentence of 87 months. DeLemus had also previously asked to withdraw his guilty plea after other people who had participated in the protest had been acquitted of a similar offense in Oregon. Judge Navarro refused to let him change his plea. Judicial bullying?
Another related issue is that a president can use the “Antiquities Act” to independently designate property as a “Federal Monument,” thereby preventing that territory from ever being developed, and its resources made available. During his administration, President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante as a national monument. It encompassed the largest land area of all U.S. National Monuments. When that monument was named, it removed the largest clean coal supply in the world from ever being developed . . . and no citizen or legislative representative ever had a say in the issue. Governmental bullying?
We can do better.