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A Supreme rebuke: 9th Circuit's backfire

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

In its 10th reversal of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in five months, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a dressing-down much like a frustrated parent would give to a stubborn, misbehaving child:

"That decision is as inexplicable as it is unexplained. It is reversed," the high court said in a unanimous per curiam ruling that restored the conviction of a California rapist.

Now, most children know when they've crossed the line. Does the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit• Probably not.

The Supreme Court's exasperation is understandable. In this case a black defendant was convicted for the rape and robbery of a 72-year-old woman. But during jury selection, the defense questioned why the prosecutor acted to remove two black jurors. The trial judge sided with the prosecutor, agreeing that the prosecution had race-neutral reasons for removing the jurors based on specific aspects of their backgrounds.

A California appeals court agreed there was no discrimination. So did the state's Supreme Court. As did a U.S. district judge in a 40-page opinion.

But guess what happened when the appeal eventually landed at the 9th Circuit, that bastion of liberal interpretations , despite a 1996 law that makes it difficult for federal judges to overturn state courts without a darn good reason?

This time the 9th Circuit's fully loaded bombast went off in its face.

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