As Afghan Poppy Output Doubles
A Staggering 36 Times
More Than The Taliban)
Approves Random Drug Tests For Many Students
Insane Public Policy
Has The Supreme Court Been Smoking?
Arianna Huffington, April 2, 2002
an infuriating blow to reason, logic, fairness, compassion
and equal justice, the Supreme Court ruled last week
that people living in public housing can be evicted
for any drug activity by any household member or guest
-- even if the drug use happened blocks away from the
housing project and even if the tenant had no inkling
that anything illegal was taking place.
on that for a second. The highest judicial body in the
land has said --unanimously -- that it's OK to toss
people who the court acknowledges are innocent out of
their houses for crimes they didn't commit and didn't
even know about. The generals in the drug war are getting
mighty desperate --and silly.
justices did not just uphold the constitutionality of
the "One Strike and You're Out" eviction policy,
first implemented by the Clinton administration in 1996;
they also rushed to its defense, calling it "reasonable,"
"unambiguous" and "not absurd."
try to tell Pearlie Rucker that the law's not absurd.
She was the named defendant in the case the court ruled
on, a 63-year-old great-grandmother who found herself
and everyone living with her facing eviction when her
mentally disabled daughter was caught possessing cocaine
-- three blocks away from Rucker's apartment. Or to
co-defendant Herman Walker, a disabled 79-year old man,
who now stands to lose his home because his full-time
health care worker was found with drug paraphernalia
in the apartment. You'd think that if the Supremes didn't
understand the hardship of poverty, they'd at least
understand the hardships of old age.
the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had struck down this
draconian policy, it ruled that it perverted the intent
of the law, which was meant to improve the lives of
public housing residents -- not destroy them.
high court's opinion, written by Chief Justice William
Rehnquist no less, tried to buttress its cold-hearted
argument by claiming that so-called "no fault"
evictions are justified because drug use leads to "murders,
muggings, and other forms of violence." But he
failed to point out how locking up innocent people solves
that. Or what social ills will be avoided by Pearlie
and Herman being cast out on their innocent rear ends.
Surely even the most brutal and utilitarian calculus
would at least balance the cost of punishing so many
blameless victims against whatever perceived good is
no, the justices couldn't be bothered. In adopting such
one-sided reasoning and hyperbolic "Reefer Madness"
rhetoric the Supreme Court is following in the fear-mongering
footsteps of the administration, whose latest whacko
anti-drug ad campaign tried to draw a link between teenage
drug use and violent acts of terrorism.
reality, two of the four plaintiffs in the case before
the court were elderly women whose grandchildren were
caught smoking pot in a housing project parking lot.
I have a feeling the grandkids were far more interested
in the munchies than in murder and mayhem.
ruling is not only a galling example of drug war lunacy,
but also a gut-wrenching reminder of just how differently
America treats its rich and its poor. The multi-million
dollar homes of Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side
of Manhattan have more than their share of kids struggling
with drug problems. But as concerned as these kids'
parents are, you can bet that their problems are not
compounded by the additional worry that the entire family
will be tossed out onto the street because their kid
is seen smoking a joint three blocks away. Why should
we hold poor people to a standard of accountability
most of us could never meet?
tenant who cannot control drug crime," wrote Justice
Rehnquist in the majority opinion, "is a threat
to other residents and the project." I wonder if
the Chief Justice would apply the same condemnatory
logic to Gov. Jeb Bush, who also lives in public housing
and was also unable to control his troubled daughter.
our political establishment, whether ensconced in plush
public housing or not, is filled with people unable
to "control drug crime" by a household member.
But none of them -- including Sens. Ted Kennedy, Richard
Lugar, and Richard Shelby, and Reps. Dan Burton, Spencer
Bachus, John Murtha, Duke Cunningham and Maurice Hinchey
-- were punished for the sins of their kids. What's
more, unlike the thousands of poor and minority drug
offenders who have had the book thrown at them, these
lawmakers' lawbreaking offspring were frequently granted
the amazing case of Rep. Burton's son, Dan II, who,
in 1994, was arrested for transporting seven pounds
of marijuana across state lines with the intent to distribute.
He pleaded guilty and received probation, community
service and house arrest. Soon after, he was discovered
growing 30 pot plants in his apartment but skated on
the charges once again -- a federal felony carrying
a mandatory-minimum sentence of five years in jail having
been miraculously transformed into a state level misdemeanor.
not surprising that poor kids are routinely sent to
jail while rich kids are given a slap on the wrist and
a ticket to rehab, or that poor parents are thrown out
of their houses for not knowing what their kids are
doing while powerful parents are given our sympathy
and understanding. But it is unjust. And isn't that
ultimately what the Supreme Court is supposed to be
about: dispensing justice?
Rehnquist and company were too busy taking hits from
their double-standard bong, it's now up to Congress
to undo this discriminatory policy. Here's a thought:
Why don't Ted Kennedy and Dan Burton call a joint Senate-House
hearing on "One Strike and You're Out" no-fault
evictions. They can call Jeb Bush, Pearlie Rucker and
their respective daughters (one taken to rehab, one
taken to jail) as the first witnesses.