Thursday, March 8, 2012

Some political notes on the Mississippi Supreme Court's Pardongate pronouncements

Since the legal aspects of the Pardongate opinions will be discussed ad nauseum across the web, I'll do my best to cover the political ramifications of the hot item on today's hand down list.

To begin with, this is bad for Republicans in the Mississippi Legislature.  Every single bill that would have done something to prevent Pardongate II died this week in committees.  With Republicans in control every aspect of the Legislature, limits on the governor's pardon power died only because Republicans did not want to pass them.  Does Haley still have that much sway over y'all under the dome, guys?

This is kind of a neutral result for Jim Hood.  Certainly, he would have liked to have succeeded in having the pardons overturned and keeping murderers behind bars.  But no one can blame this result on him.  He did all he could possibly do to protect the people of Mississippi, and he'll get tremendous credit for that.  He's probably more popular now than ever before.

Any day the media is covering Pardongate, it is a bad day for Haley Barbour. But the result could have been worse for Haley Barbour, I think.  The Court could have overturned the pardons, making Haley look like he did something legally wrong in addition to morally wrong.  But the Court didn't, so the pardoned murderers and sex offenders get to buy guns, work in schools, etc. Which means that this result may wind up being the worst thing that ever happened to Barbour and his legacy.  For instance, if a pardoned murderer kills again, Barbour will get a lion's share of the blame.  It will be Willie Horton all over again, but even worse, as Dukakis didn't personally know the facts of Horton's case and didn't make the decision to release him.  Barbour claims that he reviewed each pardon recipient's file and found them all worthy.

Justice Jess Dickinson, author of the majority opinion, is up for reelection to the Court this year. (Edited 3-9-2012 at 9:07 a.m. - No he isn't.  I goofed this.)  Writing the majority opinion was a risky political move, especially considering that he is elected from the Southern District. That's important because of the Michael Graham pardon, which has the extreme southeastern part of Mississippi up in arms.  Dickinson leaves himself wide open as being cast as "the supreme court justice who refused to stop Barbour from pardoning cold-blooded killers."  I'd like to say that Mississippians are beyond being influenced by misleading attack ads regarding a judge's opinions on criminal matters, but I'm pretty sure every reader of this blog knows that's not true.

Chief Justice William Waller, also up for reelection this year, benefits from being able to tell voters that he voted to overturn the pardons.  He is now insulated from attack on that issue.  That is a good thing for him, as he could be vulnerable in the Central District during a year when Obama is at the head of the ballot.


Anderson said...

Didn't Dickinson run in 2010?

Cottonmouth said...

Pretty positive he's finishing his first term this year.

Cottonmouth said...

Well, Anderson, you're right. My math is terrible. He's insulated from any electoral concerns.