Eric Cantor: The Last Honest Man

I agree completely with Mark about the grotesque refusal of the House GOP to renew the Violence Against Women Act, and about future Democratic strategy concerning it.  But I think that Cantor was being completely honest here.

Southern conservative hostility toward tribal courts goes back aways.  Consider the example of Sam Ervin, who nowadays is thought of as a folksy country lawyer doing battle with Richard Nixon, but in his time was a leader of southern segregationism.  At the very same time that Ervin was leading a filibuster against the Fair Housing Act, he also sponsored something called the Indian Civil Rights Act, which substantially limited the autonomy of tribal courts (and was itself later significantly watered down by the Supreme Court).  In other words, the imposition of federal law on white segregationist state courts was a violation of sovereignty, but the same measure against tribal courts was simply a matter of civil rights.

For Cantor, this is the same thing.  White people with jurisdiction over reddish-brown people: good.  Reddish-brown people with jurisdiction over white people: bad. 

It’s the closest thing that a modern southern conservative can get to reimposing the Black Codes.  What else is new?


Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

14 thoughts on “Eric Cantor: The Last Honest Man”

  1. Jonathan,

    Don’t really disagree with your assessment, as far as it goes, but, we shouldn’t ignore the rather large problems with tribal courts and government.

    The tribal courts are often run to protect the Indian powers that be, namely, the casinos. They have been used to attack unions at the Indian casinos, undermine valid personal injury claims (hope you don’t get mugged by an employee at an Indian casino and have to look to the tribal court for justice), ignore public health laws (was just at Casino 29 in Indio where there was smoking everywhere, illegal in California if not within Indian jurisdiction), duck state taxes (no sales tax collected at Casino 29 buffet) and drum tribal members out of the tribe to increase the take of the insiders from gambling.

    I suspect the Republicans are not looking to correct these problems-but, they are still there.

    1. Oh, fair enough. I’m just trying to set forth what is going on in what passes for Cantor’s mind. There are parts of the ICRA that are very good and actually DID enhance Indian civil rights, but that’s not what was going on for Ervin, either.

  2. We have a similar problem in international law, as well. You could say that there are three kinds of foreign legal systems: those with good law and good administration, those with good law and bad administration, and those with neither. (You don’t see bad law and good administration, at least with commercial disputes.) What is a US court to do when asked to enforce a foreign judgment? It can’t say: “okay, we’ll enforce this one, because we trust the courts of Sovereign X, but we won’t enforce that one because everybody knows that Sovereign Y’s judges are all on the take.” Sovereignty connotes a certain kind of formal equality and comity, even when circumstances are very unequal.

    The response of real-world judges differs. Some grit their teeth, and enforce some dubious judgments. Others get very picky for certain sovereigns, but are willing to overlook the same thing for others-while pretending they are consistent. A few will actually judge a foreign sovereign’s legal system-but that’s rare.

    1. The Indian tribes, contrary to their claims, are not really sovereigns. Can you imagine (outside a fantasy novel) the Agua Calientes forming up an army and invading Palm Springs?

      1. I can’t imagine Delaware invading Pennsylvania. This doesn’t extinguish Delaware’s sovereignty.

        1. Delaware’s “sovereignty” was extinguished long ago.

          That is, we had a Civil War and the state’s righters lost.

          The sovereign government of the United States is in Washington, District of Columbia, thanks to Lincoln, Grant and the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

          “The United States is, not are” as Carl Sandberg put it.

          Remember that stuff in the Pledge of Allegiance about “one nation, indivisible.”

          1. No no. There are two sovereignties in our federal system. The states are sovereign as to some things and the federal gov is sovereign as to others. It’s quite simple in many cases, not so simple in others.

            It is not incorrect to say that states are sovereignties in the USA. It just has to be qualified a bit for clarity though, or people with a little bit of law will jump on it and declare that the issue was settled in the 1860s and that sort of thing.

  3. Professor Zasloff, could you remind me what party Ervin belonged to? It wasn’t in your blog post.

  4. It was interesting that Tom Cole was again out of step with the Reich Wing in supporting the tribal provisions. Or perhaps not; Cole is Chickasaw.

    Sen. Kirk (R-IL) is suddenly favorable to at least consider expanding Medicaid after experiencing months of rehab. The bubble around “conservatives”, from Fox to gated communities, is malevolent in more ways than we sometimes realize. Progressives are not immune to the numbing from social segregation of communities either.

  5. The simple and obvious explanation is that Republicans are waging a war against women. Everything else is just party talk.

    From Amanda Hess:

    This year, developments in women’s health care were disseminated … through the fuzzy interpretation of conservative talk show hosts, religious officials, and candidates for public office.

    Here’s what we learned:

    A lady votes for president based on how horny she gets in her period time.

    According to CNN, women vote in national presidential elections depending on how “sexy” they feel, with those sexy feelings shifting over the course of the menstrual cycle. CNN reported on a study in Psychological Science showing that “hormones may influence female voting choices” and that “during the fertile time of the month, when levels of the hormone estrogen are high, single women appeared more likely to vote for Obama and committed women appeared more likely to vote for Romney.” That’s because when single women are ovulating, they “feel sexier” and “therefore lean more toward liberal attitudes on abortion and marriage equality.” But when married women “feel sexy,” they overcompensate for “the increase of the hormones motivating them to have sex with other men” and vote Republican as “a way of convincing themselves that they’re not the type to give in to such sexual urges.” CNN later retracted the story, but the question remains: Can campaign strategists game future elections by gathering undecided female voters in the same dorm room and administering them absentee ballots at their horniest?

    Rape victims’ bodies “have ways” of preventing impregnation by rapist sperm.

    This election season, failed Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin taught us that allowing victims of rape to secure abortions is unnecessary, as “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Women who do become pregnant as a result of rape can rest easy—according to Akin, they were not really raped, not “legitimately” anyway, and are free to be forced to raise the child with the baby’s daddy, who is, at worst, an illegitimate rapist. Failed Indiana Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock advanced the theory, noting during his own senatorial campaign that on the rare occasion that rape does result in pregnancy, it is a beautiful miracle that “God intended to happen.”* Previously, Akin contributed these insights to the field of gynecology and obstetrics: People make babies by taking an embryo and adding “food and climate control, and some time”; abortion providers provide abortions to “women who are not actually pregnant.”

    Rape is a method of baby-making.

    In a competing conservative theory of reproductive health, failed vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan insisted this year that rape is, in fact, a “method of conception.” According to Ryan, raping is such a sound technique of producing new humans that pregnancies resulting from rape should be treated like all others—the government ought to require women to carry them through to birth (or else horrible medical emergency). Once the baby is safely delivered from the womb, many states honor practitioners of the rape method with the same parental rights that nonrapist fathers enjoy.

    Sluts may ward off pregnancy by guzzling large numbers of contraceptives.

    After 30-year-old Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke testified in front of a group of House Democrats in support of mandated insurance coverage for contraceptives, noted women’s health expert Rush Limbaugh countered that Fluke—a “feminazi,” a “slut,” and a “prostitute”—is “having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth-control pills and she wants President Obama to provide them, or the Pope.” The more sex that women have, the more birth control they must consume, according to Rush Limbaugh. Should insurance companies be forced to subsidize women’s insatiable slut hunger for progesterone? Or should prostitute law students be forced to rely on over-the-counter solutions, such as Foster Friess-approved knee aspirins?

    Single ladies and gays are not fully developed humans.

    This Christmas, Pope Benedict XVI gave unmarried straights and married gays the gift of damnation, commenting that outside the union of man, woman, and child, these sinners are engaging in a “faulty conception of human nature” that is destroying the “essence of the human creature,” inhibiting “the full development of the human person.” These underdeveloped humans—along with women who choose abortion—pose a “serious harm to justice and peace.” Confirmation of the Pope’s evolutionary theory will be provided in Heaven, where it will be proved that his view is “not at all backward-looking but prophetic.”

  6. You’re still not acknowledging a basic problem. Tribal courts do not provide many of the rights that we consider central to due process. There is not even a right to appointed counsel for indigent defendants.
    Do you think that maybe that should be of concern?

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