Judicial passivism 

Judicial passivism

Justice, not cuddling, is what's expected from the federal judiciary — equal justice. Judges in the Western District of Arkansas seem confused on this point.

Judge Harry Barnes is being sweet to a couple of hate-crimers convicted in his court at Texarkana. When Barnes refused to order prison time for the offenders, prosecutors turned to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The Appeals Court said Barnes had indeed been too lenient in sentencing the two men, James Bradley Weems and Christopher Mitchell, to only a month in prison, five months of home detention and two years of supervised release for burning a cross in front of the home of a mixed-race couple. Ordered to stiffen the penalty, Barnes merely added a $2,000 fine and six more months of house arrest.

At the resentencing, Barnes assured Weems and Mitchell that while they'd behaved stupidly, “You're not bad men. I've literally had letter after letter in support of you both.”

No doubt the judge received letters. That people who commit hate crimes can still be the subject of complimentary letters from neighbors is part of the reason we put hate-crime laws on the books. We'd imagine that a mixed-race couple in Fouke, Ark., couldn't generate as many letters on their side. But matters involving the soul of America cannot be left up to people who may very well share the views that drove the defendants to act. Juries must decide. Judges are supposed to help.

Up in Northwest Arkansas, Judge Robert Dawson looks out for Tom Coughlin, a rich thief. Though Coughlin stole half a million dollars from Wal-Mart, Dawson has twice refused to send him to prison. People go every day for stealing less.


Mission accomplished

Foreign policy has not been a strong point of the Bush administration — nor domestic policy, to be frank — but the president's recent trip to Germany could well be judged a diplomatic success, considering. During an earlier meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bush launched a surprise attack on her person, laying on from behind without even claiming that she possessed destructive weapons. Evidently he believed the leader of the Free World was entitled to certain privileges regarding allies, especially those headed by women. Merkel, on the other hand, was visibly shaken. Other than Americans, no one more desired a speedy end to the Bush administration.

Yet their latest conference proceeded without incident. Forewarned and forearmed, Merkel kept a safe distance from the American president. A subdued Bush kept his hands to himself. (Thank you, Condoleezza!) Germany and America remain friends. It is always better to be friends with Germany.



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