Friday, October 21, 2005

There ought to be a law

Picture this scenario. You are an illegal immigrant. You have no papers. You are arrested for illegally re-entering the U.S. You are then deemed incompetent to stand trial, so you sit in jail for two years. Now, in order to speed up the trial, the government seeks to medicate you so that you are lucid enough to stand trial. However, the regimen that the government seeks to employ includes such side effects as nausea, diabetes, irreversable facial tic syndrome, and could even result in rival psychoses. Your attorney is not given the list of medications before the hearing, and therefore can't forward an expert opinion for your position.

Apparently, this was allowed, until recently in the 9th Court of Appeals, where the unanimous decision served as another in a long line of judicial criticism over the process. The decision that Judge Reinhardt (Not to be confused with Judge Reinhold of Fast Times at Ridgemont High fame) issued an admonition against such medication: "The administration of involuntary medication ordinarily consittutes a serious and substantial violation of a defendant's liberty interest."

The case at issue is a strict issue regarding a continuance, the article notes, and therefore is unlikely to be picked up by the Supreme Court for review, which lends itself to be more viable a vehicle for judicial activism of this nature. Those that argue for a strict constructionist view would say that such work, even if they were to concede it is "right," undermines the legislative role and makes judges lawmakers. They would say that if such an act were so offensive, then the People would shout from the rafters for an overhaul of the law by the legislators. No word on how many registered voters were aware of such a law, so that they could clamor for change.

2 comments:! said...

I'm not sure I see your "judicial activism" argument here, Steve. Fifth & Fourteenth Amendments: "...nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." I think being forced to take medications that can cause you harm (and possibly take away your life) is a deprivation of your liberty. And the "any person" language has been interpreted to include undocumented immigrants.

Matthew said...

I cannot believe that such a thing actually occurs!