Posted on 06-04-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

People don’t always appreciate how much power prosecutors hold in America and how much harm an irresponsible one could cause.  A recent case in Wisconsin demonstrates just how.  After much debate the Wisconsin legislature passed a law requiring schools that have sex education programs to tell students how to use condoms and other contraceptives See link.  One can debate the merits of the law or whether it was good policy to pass the law.  However, the power of the Wisconsin legislature to pass this law is not in dispute.  But such trivialities do not concern Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth.  His primary concern is his sense of outraged morality and in his zeal the legislative mandate is no bar.  So he has fired off a letter to local school districts that any attempt to comply with legislative mandate could result in charges for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

How exactly he will obtain such a conviction for teachers complying with an express legislative mandate is not clear.  This is sheer prosecutorial intimidation.  Yet this is not the worst such case.

Maricopa County Arizona has not received the attention it should.  Over the last couple of years it has been the scene of abuse of the legal process that belongs in a tinpot dictatorship.  The perpetrators are controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio and his man Friday the county attorney Andrew Young.  Having no patience with the legal niceties they appear to have responded to criticism by bringing the force of their offices against critics in government by bringing flimsy indictments (since dismissed) against a local judge and a couple of county board supervisors.  See link.  The abuse of power included arresting attendees of a county board meeting for having the temerity to applaud criticism of the sheriff and intimidating county employees by sending deputies to their homes to find dirt on their bosses.  For a detailed read on the antics of the duo see here.  In the last few years the duo have branded themselves as front-line soldiers against illegal immigration, giving them a partisan shield from their excesses of power.  However, a backlash has set in and the duo are being investigated by a federal grand jury but the taxpayers will be footing the bill for the wrongful arrests and malicious prosecutions on their  watch.  See link.

These cases serve as a reminder for the need of constant vigilance when those in power infringe on liberty or abuse their authority, particularly in local government where seedy corruption often flies under the radar due to the public’s benign neglect.  A vigilant media and public can terminate the career of such officials, as was the case with now disbarred Durham County district attorney Mike Nifong who infamously pursued the Duke lacrosse team on flimsy rape charges to secure his re-election.

We take many liberties for granted in this country.  Stories like these show how real they can be without delving into the paranoid conspiracy theories that have been a fixture on cable news the past year.

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