The overnight line is open | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The overnight line is open

Posted By on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 4:52 PM

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Late note: Former Supreme Court Justice John I. Purtle has died at 87. I'd last seen him at Jim Powell's funeral.

Purtle's colorful career, including a successful defense of an arson-for-profit charge, predates the Internet for the most part. Happily, a piece on the justice after he left the court is available from the New York Times. It captures his maverick essence; his raging populism.

In one dissent, John Purtle wrote, ''I may march to the beat of a different drummer, but I have never marched with a goose step.''

And dissenting was something he often did. In 1988, he was the author of nearly half of the dissenting opinions filed by the court. He wrote so many dissents - and wrote them by hand -that he developed carpal tunnel syndrome in his right wrist.

One particularly bitter opinion came in the case of a Little Rock man who stole a package of sliced ham from a grocery store. The offense, originally a misdemeanor, was elevated to a felony by an ensuing scuffle with the police, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, a conviction the majority upheld..

''Over 125 years ago, Victor Hugo, in 'Les Miserables,' attacked the injustice of a system that sentenced a man to imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread,'' Judge Purtle wrote. ''Surely we have made a little progress since that time.''

And this just in: Has the bedraggled Pulaski County School Board, overseeing a financially strapped district short on textbooks, really bought a round of new iPads for Board members?

NEWS UPDATE: The anti-masturbation Tea Party candidate has won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Delaware. This is great news no matter what. A lightly considered Democrat has a chance to win now, if sanity prevails. A good short-term outcome. Or else a 'bagger will soon be showing her rear in the U.S. Senate and over the long haul, that's not a bad thing.

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