Thursday, August 18, 2005


What I bet you don't know about Mississippi

It's been a refreshing morning. I've been perusing some of the recent news of the court systems—state and federal. Some of the outcomes are dubious; others laughable. Occasionally justice prevails, though it's usually overturned on appeal.

Justice did not prevail in the case of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, who was just exonerated by a jury in his federal bribery trial. He was tried along with two lesser judges and the attorney accused of being the briber. Judge Diaz won a clean acquittal while the jury hung on a number of charges faced by his codefendants.

But the feds are not letting Diaz off so easily. He hardly had time to bask in his innocence before the feds brought a tax evasion indictment they had waiting in the wings, just in case the bribery charge failed. This was the technique, you will recall, that was used to bring down Al Capone, and is therefore especially appropriate for Mississippi judges.

Normally I would withhold judgment. But Judge Diaz' wife has already pled guilty to one count of tax evasion, and she certainly didn't evade taxes on bribes all on her own.

But I didn't get your attention to discuss the sordid state of the courts in Mississippi. You probably knew that already. What I bet you don't know is how little it matters in Mississippi what you do—at least if you're a public official.

According to Holbrook Mohr of the AP, even if Judge Diaz is convicted on the tax-evasion charge, it will have no bearing on his fitness to continue as a Mississippi judge. Mohr makes the point that most felony convictions would be grounds for removal from the bench. But there are a few exceptions. To wit—

manslaughter, federal tax-code violations, corruption or embezzlement in office or gambling with money that comes into an official's hands because of his office.
Why even I could stay out of trouble in a system like that!

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