Hopefully this comes across as something other than only routine sour grapes. "The First and The Fourth" subject matter area is, if anything, at least as important as the most committed proponents are adamant about. And I don't want to imply that I have any special knowledge on the subject. Except that I actually do. At least a little.
Swear to god, when I got convicted and sentenced out of the Northern District of Florida (conviction in 1981, sentencing in 1985, but that's another story), it was because a huge chunk of the Bill of Rights had been blown all to hell to make things happen that way. I'll slander and libel U.S. Federal District Judge Lynn Higby all up and down, and won't hesitate in the slightest to publicly do so. Of course that's partly because he retired in disgrace, and mainly because he's dead.
On the other hand, if the subject is going to be violations of personal freedoms, and, consequently reduction of Constitutional Rights, this is one area where you just can't follow the game unless you have a Program.
Even small pieces of who in the government has gotten away with what, how, why, where, and when are important in understanding why we're in the mess we are today. And I had a little larger window into a very smelly piece of that than I would have wanted to ever be the case.
Okay, so, DEA Operation Grouper, surfaced and main arrests having been made in 1981. But with one hell of a back story. Largest Operation in the history of the world at the time, blah, blah, blah. Three million pounds of pot confiscated over 2 1/2 years, twenty plus major groups of serious assholes (like me) brought up on charges, blah, blah, blah.
Anyway, so now I'm going to go long story short on this whole thing. Some DOJ/DEA brainiacs got sick and tired of having the federal judiciary (or at least, in their minds, the illegitimate part of it) just totally fucking up all of the good work being done on the ground by the hard working, majorly scarificing field agents. Time to get creative. Stop letting the criminals, the defendants, determine where the crimes were going to take place. The legal concept is called "Venue" and Venue, based on the location of the commission of a crime, determines where the prosecution will occur. The alternative, of course, is called "Forum Shopping" and is absolutely forbidden to the government. A "Due Process Violation", but part of the reason why it is one is because we just don't want all of the bad judges (or the good ones, from the perspective of the police) having all of the big cases landing on their desks. I mean, do you think that there's any threat to fairness and justice if the cops get to pick their own judges?
And how that happened in Operation Grouper is too long winded to go into here. But why it was able to happen really is the entire crux of the matter. And how The Northern District of Florida got to be possibly the most lawless federal court in the entire country (and the recipient of more Operation Grouper business than any other district except for another really bad one up on the southern coast of Georgia) is really the target of this whole discussion. Because First Amendment Rights, Fourth Amendment Rights, Fifth Amendment Rights, or any other Rights you might care to mention are always and ever going to be a whole other question in the hands of a "tough judge" than they are in the hands of a thoroughly unethical one.
So let's start with Judge William Stafford, or, really go one step back to U.S. Attorney William Stafford, before Tricky Dick bestowed a judgeship upon him in return for dirty tricks successfully played. And, no, this is neither conjecture, nor delusion. In fact, many of you have seen a reference to this story in that popular movie from some time back called "Born in the USA". The anti war stuff was going on down in Miami in 72'. The Vietnam vet organizers were then hauled up to Tallahassee, The Northern District of Florida, on a Grand Jury Subpoena. Overseen by none other than Stafford. And in case you want to think about whether there was any coincidence in any of this, look up the Supreme Court decision in the case of Stafford v. Briggs. Yes, that Stafford. I don't want to belabor the point, but if you'll read the published decision, you'll know everything you need to about what had actually gone down. Okay, here is one hint. Stafford set up an undercover fed as one of the "targets", and got full reports about the strategy of the protest side, and lied about it in court.
But, hey, easy peasy for the government because the judge on the case was so ethically deficient that he had already been banned by the supervisory Curcuit Judges from even hearing any more drug cases (and this in the toughest Circuit in the nation). Well, "hearing" was a bit of a misnomer because he stopped listening years before and simply gave every single convicted defendant the maximum possible sentence.
Which then brings us to my judge, Lynn Higby. The old dude passed the batton and Higby caught it, and no fool was he. Fast forward, I'm already in prison some years later and I run into a footnote on a case describing how a defense lawyer who needed to gave up a federal judge and a prosecutor for taking a million dollar bribe each in another high profile drug case.
But the rules are different for some than for the rest of us. Higby "retired" from lifetime tenure as a federal judge and went back to a lower paying position on the state bench. But at least he had a cool million cash to help ease the transition.
Which is a long way of getting around to making the short observation that if you think that our judicial system ain't currently working too well at protecing your individual rights, you most likely have hit the nail right on the head.
And if you're a drug cop, and you can pick your judge on the front end, what kind of places are you going to take a look at? First Amendment? Fourth Amendment? Fuck, in the hands of the "right" judge all that shit's nothing but a minor inconvenience!