Letter From DC: "I Can't Fornicate at 55" and Jurisprudence

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Washington's lawyers eagerly anticipated this week's release of Supreme Court decisions on such weighty issues as gender discrimination and the EPA's jurisdictional authority, but it was a $75,000 civil lawsuit in Fairfax County, VA over a car accident on the Beltway that caught the attention of the legal community.

"At the time of the collision, Defendant was going 85 miles per hour," read the complaint by plaintiff Abdu Omar. "At the time of the collision, Defendant was driving admittedly drunk," it accused. "At the time of the collision, Defendant was partially or totally in the backseat of the car," it continued.  "At the time of the collision, Defendant was having sex with a female."  All righty, then.

salem t. trad.jpgThe Defendant, Salem Trad, denied the charges, testifying that he was asleep in the back seat of the car at the time of the collision recovering from a session of being orally pleasured.  It was his best friend, Yenenah al-Damari, that had to be driving, Trad insisted to Circuit Court, after the two and his lady friend returned from the "Baltimore Ballet" (strip club) to celebrate his 21st birthday. 

Problem was that he told the arresting state trooper that it was the lady friend who was driving when he came to the accident scene.  And al-Damari was no where to be seen, as he claimed that he had already been dropped off.

Testimony appeared to confirm his absence from the scene, as a witness said he found a dazed young lady sprawled across the front seats and Trad behind the wheel with no al-Damari in sight.  The lady friend denied being the driver as well as body surfing Trad.

The jury took just 40 minutes to impose a $22,000 award against Trad.  Al-Damari told the Washington Post that the trial was a "waste of my time" and that he had slept through most of it.  Trad, meanwhile, should have known better.  He had already been convicted in criminal court for DWI, after the judge rejected his claims that he wasn't driving on account of his, ahem, recovery from bliss.  Sammy Hagar couldn't even make this stuff up...

While Trad was making his contribution to the "News of the Weird" in the suburbs, another head-scratcher in jurisprudence was occurring with the loftier halls of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Although not as saucy, a unanimous decision by the deeply divided Court is just as jaw-dropping as 85mph, drunken hanky panky.

CO2.jpgThe Justices (save the recused Sonia Sotomayor) were in rare full agreement that the EPA, and not state courts, should regulate carbon dioxide emissions from polluting power plants.  The oddity is that the unanimous decision was reached for completely different reasons between to so-called right wing (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Alito) and left wing (Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor).

The right wing of the Supreme Court affirmed the EPA's jurisdictional authority as it awaits Congressional Republicans' continued efforts to gut the agency's actual ability to regulate global-warming gases under the Clean Air Act.  In essence, it insulated power-producers from multiple regulatory regimes, while at the same time, simplifying global warming skeptics' efforts to remove the oversight of that single authority.

The Court's left wing, while taking pains to withhold any endorsement of any view on global warming, used the decision to build on a 2004 Supreme Court decision that asserted the EPA's jurisdictional authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.  In essence, the intent was to further empower the EPA to act on global warming.

Meanwhile, across the street on Capitol Hill, Republicans were faced with the unintended consequences of its efforts to weaken the EPA through the appropriation process.  They were able to cut the agency's budget by 16% as part of the deal with President Obama last April to keep the government running. 

The EPA has long been a symbol of a federal bureaucracy run amok and a job (and profit) killer for the energy sector, which has collectively invested more than $417 million in lobbying and campaign contributions over the last year and half, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The delicious irony is that Congressional Republican cut off their nose to spite their face.  The EPA passes on the majority of its budget onto the states in grants to address clean water, drinking water, and large initiatives such as the Great Lakes restoration project and the Puget Sound program.  States will be losing more than $725 million in federal support for its efforts to protect and restore the environment.  That's a decent amount of bacon Senators and Representatives like to promote as bringing home.

Now, House Republicans are looking for ways to get that money back to their districts, even though they vehemently disagree with the purpose of that money.  Instead, they will target FTE (full-time equivalent) positions at EPA headquarters in hopes that they can limit new regulations on pollution that the money they want restored is supposed to address.

Salem Trad sees chauffeurs and Penthouse Forum sex where apparently neither exists.  Congressional Republicans want local pork to fund rules they do not want to exist.  Washington's a great town....

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Marc Osgoode Smith has covered – and participated in - Washington DC policy circles for more than two decades as a journalist covering media and as an association and think tank executive. Smith now enjoys his role as a “cultural observer” of DC Politics and the people that engage in them.

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