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Aug. 5, 1996


Federal judges are political football

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By N. Lee Cooper

The glory and pride of the Olympics are over. After the last national
anthem was played and the last medal awarded, Americans returned to one
of their other favorite pastimes - presidential politics. As the
Republicans and Democrats prepare to gather for their national
conventions, both seem to have invented a new demonstration sport for
the next Olympics, "scapejudging."

What is scapejudging? It is the process by which one party goes for the
"gold" of votes by citing anecdotes and court decisions out of context
to suggest that the other party's judicial appointees are to blame for
some particular ly heinous social problem. This year both parties seem
to be out to prove that the other side's appointees are responsible for
Clearly political consultants, pollsters and pundits have convinced
candidates of all political persuasions that federal judges make popular
scapegoats. As public concern over violent crime grows, politicians find
it easy to respond with calls for the appointment of "tougher" partisan

. But the American people know this is a sham. For one thing, more than
95 percent of aIl criminal cases in the United States are brought in
state, not federal, courts. And those criminal cases brought in federal
courts result in conviction 95 percent of the time.

The American people want politicians to focus on real problems, not
scapejudging. A recent poll conducted for the American Bar Association
by Louis Harris & Associates found that Americans are not fooled by
political rhetoric, and 84 percent agree that it is wrong for the
President or Congress to try to influence judicial decisions. Moreover,
a full 83 percent of the American people felt it was inappropriate for
the decisions of federal judges to be used in political campaigns.

The danger of scapejudging goes beyond the politics. Attacks on the
integrity of the federal judiciary may undermine our democracy. The
White House and Congress play an appropriate role in overseeing judicial
funding, not judicial findings. In creating an independent judiciary,
our founders did not intend to give either branch a line-item veto over
every case moving through the courts.

We must not turn the operations of our justice system over to the same
partisan powers who brought us budget gridlock and government closures.
It is a very short bridge from gridlock to courtlock - if politics are
injected into the workings of the courts.

The justice system works best when it is free of partisan influence.
For example, when our nation was confronted in the 1950s and '60s with
the last vestiges of slavery - embodied in segregation and Jim Crow laws
-the executive and legislative branches seemed paralyzed - unwilling or
unable to act. But a few courageous federal judges in the South stood up
to political pressure and personal threats, stood tall, struck down
discriminatory law after discriminatory law, and moved the nation
forward into a new era of integration.

And recently we have seen the judicial system work in the Whitewater
matter where partisanship has failed. After months of hearings and
millions of taxpayer dollars spent, the Senate issued two partisan
reports that added nothing to the public's understanding about the
matter. During this same time the independent counsel and the Justice
system are moving forward to find those who are guilty of wrongdoing and
bring them to justice.

Judicial power, of course, is not absolute. The judicial branch is one
of three co-equal branches of our government. There must be a balance
between an independent judiciary that is not swayed by the politics of
the moment, and the appropriate function of the executive and
legislative branches in overseeing the fiscal and functional operations
of the judicial branch. There are, understandably, tensions among the
branches over these issues. But political oversight of funding is far
different than political attacks on a judge's findings.

The ABA has formed a bipartisan Commission on Separation of Powers to
examine the questions involved in separating the individual branches,
and to create an opportunity for dialogue among the branches about what
is appropriate oversight and what is inappropriate intrusion. This group
will include former members of Congress, federal judges, and executive
branch officials.

The American people aren't fooled by partisan scapejudging, and both
parties are wasting time and energy on that pursuit, time and energy
that could better be focused on finding real solutions to the real
problems that confront America.

EDITOR'S NOTE: N. Lee Cooper is president-elect of the American Bar


Welfare reform bill

takes right road

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Congress has passed and President Clinton has vowed to sign a bill that
would reform this nation's welfare system. As has been said and often,
it's about time.
Too many people for too many years have learned to work the government
for their livelihood rather than going out and getting a job.
Not only has the existing system been expensive in terms of money, but
is has cost many people their souls - loss of self respect in being able
to make an honest living. Our country now has several generations of
The welfare system was set up with good intent, to help those in need
until they could get on their feet. In years past when honesty still
existed, that was fine. Now people come to this country and instantly
get on the welfare system, something they have not helped support
through their efforts as taxpayers. The reform bill still provides for
those who simply have no hope, but it also provides powerful incentives
for those on welfare to get into the work force.
Children are being taught at any early age to milk the system and live
off the government. The reform bill might not solve all those problems,
but it is a start.


MTV shows life

like it really is

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Dear Editor:
MTV going off the air in Pecos. It is quite an interesting topic. Who
would have thought that one station launched 15 years ago would have
caused such a stir from the bowels to the highest level in our society.
Albeit not all of its programs have been beneficial to society, MTV has
educated many of us. I have not had any ill effects of watching this
station (all 15 years). As for me, it showed life as it really is; while
not being able to see "city" life. The fact that it has supported the
cause of "Rock the Vote" first taken up in the 1988 election and "Choose
or Loose" are just two of many educational efforts the station has taken
upon itself to educate this great land of ours, the land of Free Speech.
Just ask President Clinton, who probably would not be where he is today
if it had not been for young viewers registering through "Choose or
MTV has helped many other causes as well. It has always shown programs
dealing with hunger such as the concerts of Live Aide to the concerts of
Farm Aide. It has also dealt with and supported any causes trying to
help find a cure for AIDS and Cancer.
Mr. McKinnon is right that not all can be blamed on a television
station. MTV has had its influence whether it be good or bad, but as
interesting as the Discovery channel is (learning about splitting atoms
or endangered species of the African desert that most will never see)
MTV shows real life and tries its best to educate and change the world
to make it a better place.
The fact that this change will not be seen in Pecos is a sad thing.

Slade Armstrong


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Letters published on this page will be edited for libel and may be cut
to fit the allotted space. To be considered for publication, letters
must be signed and a telephone number given for confirmation. Names may
be withheld at the discretion of the editor. Comments on any subject are
welcome. Mail to P.O. Box 2057, Pecos TX 79772, FAX to 445-4321 or
e-mail to:



By Mari Maldonado

Classmate's success

stirs high school memory

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I was really pleased to see that a high school classmate of mine
recently illustrated and published his first book, The King of Persia.
It's hard to believe that our senior year I was dubbed MOST TALENTED
with this extraordinarily, truly talented, man we used to call simply,

I think last time I saw Walter Holcombe was on the UT campus as I was
entering an economics class and he was exiting the same classroom. I
never did see him again, but it certainly brought back some sweet
memories of Pecos High School moments when Walt never failed to
entertain both the class and teacher with his wit and illustrations.

In my senior year book entry Walt wrote, "Mari, A rose is just a rose,
by any name. To be or not to be, that is the question. For in sleepy
death dreams shuffle our mortgaged guaffs, I just though I'd throw that
in for some class." The first two citations are pretty common, but the
third is just an example of how Walt never ceased to amaze us with his
unusual, yet original, sense of humor that seemed to flow through him

Anyhow, with our 10-year reunion less than a year away, I hope to see
him there, along with many more graduates of the PHS class of 1987. I
jokingly find it amazing that I'll be the only 21-year-old at my class
reunion. Yeah, Right! Twenty-one with seven years experience.

Oh well, I still hope to see a good number of high school classmates
next July.

I've heard some people say they don't or didn't plan to attend their
class reunions, and the logic behind this escapes me. Why would one not
take the opportunity to see those persons that accompanied them through
some of the most trying and significant years of their lives?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mari Maldonado is an Enterprise reporter whose column
appears each Monday.
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Copyright 1996 by Pecos Enterprise
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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