A just-published report by an American Bar Association task force says plea bargaining has not only become the primary way to resolve criminal cases, “some jurisdictions have not had a criminal trial in many years.” Think about that: Years can pass without a defendant exercising the constitutional right to an adversarial process conducted in public in front of a neutral judge and a jury of the defendant’s peers.
This often begins with detention in frightening conditions: To be arrested is to be suddenly plunged into control by a government speaking an often arcane legal language. Then there is “stacking” — prosecutors piling on charges which, in a context of mandatory minimum sentences, force defendants to choose between risking potentially life-ruining trials and pleading guilty to lesser charges, even if innocent.
This “trial penalty” for exercising a fundamental constitutional right is intolerable. In terms of justice, what is the superiority of confessions achieved by the coercion of “stacking” in a courthouse negotiation, and those achieved in the bad old days by beatings with truncheons in the back rooms of police stations?
The task force’s report stresses that plea bargaining has legitimate uses. It incentivizes defendants to accept responsibility for criminal conduct, and offers finality to their victims and the community. Furthermore, prosecutorial resources are scarce, and plea bargaining is a mechanism for efficiently resolving cases. No value in life, however, invariably supersedes all others, and the pursuit of efficiency has too often become “the driving force of criminal adjudication,” supplanting transparency and justice.
New York has created a cigarette-smuggling empire, and the worst is yet to come. It’s the unavoidable consequence of the state’s decadeslong history of raising the cigarette tax, which Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to continue with an additional levy of $1 a pack. She also wants to ban flavored cigarettes. This will only lead to more lawbreaking and less tax revenue, defeating its purpose.
New York can’t keep tobacco, drugs and other contraband out of its prisons and jails. How does it expect to stop smugglers from finding ways to bring untaxed cigarettes into the state? It’s hard to see a scenario in which Ms. Hochul’s proposal would achieve its ends or have a positive impact. The negative consequences are easy to predict—they’re happening now. New York should be looking for ways to end cigarette smuggling. One great way to start is by not increasing taxes even more.
Fed officials thus exercise considerable discretion over the central bank’s monetary policymaking, the goals of which are to pursue what Milton Friedman called the “Holy Trinity” of stable prices, full employment, and economic growth. In so doing, Boris Pesek and Thomas Saving once observed that “even a moron who gets the right to print government currency (Federal Reserve notes) and sell it for income-earning assets … is bound to show a profit.” Those profits, unsurprisingly, are plowed back into the Fed itself and “expensed” on its balance sheet as amenities (lavish office spaces, thick carpets) for the benefit of the central bank’s employees.
The problem with public health is the problem with government bureaucracy in that you cannot serve the public while serving a government hand in glove with special interest groups and completely divorced and detached from the people affected by the burden of your decisions.