Inaccurate Implication of Terrorism Legislation?

Article excerpt

Much could be said about David Kopel's Feb. 6 commentary on anti-terrorism provisions in the pending federal crime legislation ("Terrifying terror legislation"). As the Attorney General of California, however, my federal legislative priority has been the habeas corpus language contained in Title IX of H.R. 2768. I was therefore amazed to read such an inaccurate portrayal of what this change in the law would actually accomplish.

Mr. Kopel wrote that this legislation "virtually destroys habeas corpus," which he defined as "the rightof persons to ask a federal court to rescue them when they are being held in state prions in violation of the Constitution."

It is ineed ironic that in his rhetorical tirade against Uncle Sam and Big Brother, Mr. Kopel conveys such distrust for state judicial systems and such an abiding faith in the federal courts. There is an inconsistency of logic here that should at least raise questions in the minds of Mr. Kopel's readers.

In fact, because habeas corpus stems from a federal statute which only Congress can fix, state criminal justice systems have experienced clear-cut abuse of any notions about federalism. It is within the states where murders and other heinous crimes take place, where the trial occurs, and where the victims are buried. Why does Mr. Kopel perceive the role of the federal judiciary as some kind of "rescue" operation? Does he think that Sandra Day O'Connor was any less sincere about her oath to uphold the Constitution when she was a state judge? Does he believe that when Malcolm Lucas traded in his federal robe for a state robe to sit on the California Supreme Court he somehow became less able to interpret the Constitution?

It should be kept in mind that the persons in need of federal court "rescue" under Mr. …