Friday, April 13, 2012

U.S. v. Kelly (9th Cir. - April 13, 2012)

"On November 2, 2009, appellants Father Stephen Kelly, Lynne Greenwald, Father William Bichsel, Susan Crane, and Sister Anne Montgomery—in an act of symbolic protest against nuclear weapons—cut their way through two fences and into a secure area of United States Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, near Seattle. All are longtime peace and disarmament activists. Two are Catholic priests, and one is an eighty-year old Catholic nun. Two others are grandmothers. Once inside, the group spread “simulated blood” on base fences and unfurled a banner reading, “Plowshares — Trident Illegal and Immoral.” (Although the government is tightlipped about Kitsap-Bangor’s mission, appellants say the base houses submarines carrying nuclear-warhead-tipped Trident missiles.) Shortly afterwards, Marines detained the protestors. The United States later initiated this criminal prosecution."

Okay, you had your day in court.  Several days, in fact.  You claimed (essentially) that the Hague Convention of 1909 outlawed nuclear weapons and that it doesn't count as "maliciously" destroying government property if you do it with a good reason.  The jury disagreed, and convicted you.  You filed an appeal, and the Ninth Circuit disagreed with you too.  Story done.

I'm not sure that history will judge this opinion incredibly favorably.  If it even remembers it.  It goes out of its way in places to rebuff the defendants' arguments and seems overly legalistic at times.  That is not to say it's wrong.  Because it isn't.  The Ninth Circuit's holding is indeed what current precedent requires.  But so were the convictions of people who sheltered fugitive slaves.  Not exactly opinions that you want to put on your bookshelves throughout history.  Especially when you're highlighting just how right the slaveholders were.