America consists of three branches of government, all working together to guarantee us – even alleged criminals – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Except, of course, that it doesn’t – not at all.
First of all, they aren’t supposed to work together. They are supposed to be in tension, serving to check and balance one another. The Legislative Branch makes the laws. The Executive Branch (the President, and all the President’s men) enforces the laws. The Judiciary interprets laws and orders the other branches to behave, well, legally.
Second of all, the branches don’t do their jobs. The Executive under Obama didn’t enforce laws that it didn’t like; under Trump it won’t be any different. The Legislative… well, they’re mostly useless and they have been for decades. (Unless, I guess, you’re the proud mother of a magician.) And the Judiciary… Well, despite over a million Google hits about ‘activist judges,’ they aren’t much help to us chickens. Judges generally preserve the status quo, even when it’s awful.
How awful IS the status quo? Well, in Los Angeles the Sheriff’s Department has over 300 deputies with a history of past “misconduct” (little things like theft, bribery and brutality) that could damage their credibility if they testify in court. The Sheriff, bless his needing-to-get-reelected heart, tried to send those names to prosecutors, in case they needed to be disclosed to defendants in criminal trials.
The union for deputies “strongly opposes” the sheriff’s move. No surprise; police unions are notoriusly corrupt and, well, vile. The real surprise is that the court is on the union’s side – even though telling the defense that a cop is a liar has been law for well over 50 years. I’m telling you that this is a big deal. Don’t take my word for it, though. Jerry Coleman, a DA in San Francisco and prosecutorial ethics professor at the USF School of Law, said that this decision could affect “the integrity of the criminal justice system entirely, and the public’s sense of honesty in the proceedings.”
The court had a choice: protect our rights to a fair trial, or protect a cop’s rights to keep illegal behavior a secret. The court is not on our side.