Before we get into this new example of in-your-face judicial malpractice from what has historically been the most left-wing federal appeals court in the nation, let’s take a look at the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
And let’s look at this pertinent clause, from the Fourteenth Amendment:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…
Now, here’s the story, and pay close attention to how the LA Times covered it.
Writing for the publication, Maura Dolan tells us:
In a partial rebuke of a lower court jurist, a federal appeals court decided Friday that criminal defendants were not robbed of their right to speedy trials or forced unconstitutionally to remain behind bars because the COVID-19 pandemic delayed their trials.
But that’s not exactly what the court ruled. Let’s continue with Ms. Dolan’s stellar “reporting”:
’Surely a global pandemic that has claimed more than half a million lives in this country, and nearly 60,000 in California alone, falls within such unique circumstances to permit a court to temporarily suspend jury trials in the interest of public health,’ said a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Ahh… So the Ninth Circuit panel DIDN’T say that defendants “were not robbed of their right to speedy trials…” because, the panel did, in fact, acknowledge that jury trials had been SUSPENDED. The judges simply excused the clear violation of both Amendments above cited, claiming that, well, these were “special circumstances,” so, heck, what kind of “stick in the mud” would argue against letting the state do whatever the heck it wants?
Curiously, in her next paragraph, Ms. Dolan acknowledges that the trials were delayed (i.e. the plaintiffs HAVE NOT RECEIVED SPEEDY TRIALS BEFORE JURIES OF THEIR PEERS, AS MANDATED BY THE CONSTITUTION), but, yeah, it’s all cool…
The appeals court ruling effectively affirms that COVID-19 was an emergency that forced some courts to take unprecedented steps, including delaying proceedings. It means criminal defendants are unlikely to prevail in arguing that pandemic-induced delays should allow them to be released from jail or have their charges dismissed.
In other words, a delay isn’t a delay because it’s done for a “special reason,” and those trapped behind bars for months aren’t really trapped behind bars for months.
And, evidently, the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments come with asterisks reading: “Some conditions may apply.”
Which ought to make these federal judges pause for a moment.
If the Constitution can be suspended whenever they deem it a “special” time, how secure is their vaunted, tax-funded court? That appeals court a creation of the federal government, which, in turn, is a creation of the Constitution and its written rules, so if those rules can be disregarded anytime some cabal in America wishes to disregard them, how secure does that make the Ninth Circuit judges’ jobs?
As Dolan mentions, one of the three cases which comprised this Ninth Circuit blanket ruling dealt with a Newport Beach doctor who’d been prosecuted by the government for dealing narcotic prescription opioids.
In one of three cases the panel decided, it reinstated charges against Jeffrey Olsen, a Newport Beach doctor who was indicted in July 2017 on 34 counts involving illegal distribution of opioids… Olsen had successfully sought several delays in his trial while on bail. But after the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which includes Los Angeles and six neighboring counties, suspended jury trials due to public safety concerns over COVID-19, Olsen invoked his right to a speedy trial.
A district court judge heard his case and heard the state’s argument about “special circumstances,” leading to:
U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled in favor of Olsen and dismissed the charges in a way that would make it impossible for prosecutors to refile them. The prosecution appealed.
Which brings us to the “unsigned” decision, from Ninth Circuit Judges Mary H. Murguia, Morgan Christen (Obama appointees), and Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn, the Clinton-appointed Chief District judge in Texas who sat-in. According to Dolan:
Olsen had asked for trial delays eight times over three years and was granted them, the 9th Circuit said. He demanded a speedy trial only after jury trials were suspended, the appeals court said.
Which makes no difference as to whether or not it was constitutional for the most recent court date, as scheduled, to be delayed. If the defendant and his attorney were ready, but the state chose to delay, that is not the fault of the defendant or his counsel. That is the fault of the state, and previous overtures and requests by the plaintiff prior to the final court date that was delayed and delayed – suspended, in fact – are not pertinent to the constitutional issue of the state failing to fulfill its constitutional duty.
The Ninth Circuit panel reveals their blindness to the clear constitutional breach by California once more in this statement, saying that Judge Carney:
…entirely failed to consider the facts and circumstances of Olsen’s case, including the years of continuances Olsen obtained while on pre-trial release and the absence of any prosecutorial culpability in causing the delay…
But the facts and circumstances of Olsen’s criminal case are not what are at issue. What is at issue, regardless of the details of each claimed criminal offense, is that the state of California suspended its jury trials indefinitely, citing an excuse of a “pandemic.” It wouldn’t matter if the so-called “pandemic” were a real pandemic or it was an outbreak labeled “pandemic” under the World Health Organization’s redefinition of it in 2009, when they lowered the lethality threshold for an outbreak to be called “pandemic.” The fact is that a state is forbidden from instituting such lengthy delays, or “temporary suspensions,” regardless of the threat, and anyone who is accused of a crime is supposed to get a “speedy” trial in front of a jury.
Critics of the Constitution -- especially those who recognize that the previous governing document of the US, the Articles of Confederation, was much more oriented towards decentralization and liberty – easily can note that “speedy” is never clearly defined. But surely, given decades of CA court operation that gets defendants to court within weeks, a year of canceled court proceedings can’t be considered “speedy.”
Heck, even in Massachusetts, the state government has tried to get cases to trial, going so far as to rent the legendary Lombardo’s Function Hall to allow for makeshift court rooms that can offer all their COVID spacing and camera communications.
Can’t another leftist enclave, like Gavin Newsom’s California, figure it out?
This ruling is frustrating, but it could be an interesting and important issue to watch. On appeal, it could go to the US Supreme Court, and it will help us see once more those Justices who truly believe in the Constitution as the so-called “rules,” and those who couldn’t care less.