Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Comstock case prompts critical editorials

The Comstock case is prompting some hard-hitting editorials by influential newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The L.A. Times took the opportunity to come out against not just the federal expansion that is the U.S. Supreme Court's focus in Comstock, but civil commitment of sex offenders more broadly:

"Using the civil commitment process to lengthen a criminal sentence is dishonest and dangerous," cries the subhead of yesterday's editorial, "Sex offenders behind bars: How long?"
That issue of federalism isn't unimportant, but the more pressing question is whether civil commitment for a mental condition is being misused to force felons to remain in prison after they've completed their legal sentences.
The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, focused on a critical angle that I'm planning to blog more about soon -- the dangers to civil liberties inherent in expansion of civil commitment laws to other groups. Decrying the attempts by "feds [to] usurp another area of state law," the WSJ pointed out:
The implications go well beyond sex offenders…. If the Supreme Court reverses the lower court's decision, it will sanction the notion that nearly any appealing idea may be justified as necessary and proper. In other countries, loose detention laws give wide latitude to authorities to lock up any number of people who "threaten the public safety," including political prisoners. Maybe next the feds could force everyone in America to buy health insurance.
The L.A. Times editorial is HERE. The Wall Street Journal editorial is HERE. And, for any of you who want to really immerse yourselves in the Comstock case, I recommend the Sex Crimes blog, which has an incredibly comprehensive page of resources on the case.