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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Court turns a cold shoulder
By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published June 23, 2007
"It is intolerable for the judicial system to treat people this way." That's what four dissenting U.S. Supreme Court justices said of the treatment of Keith Bowles. In denying Bowles the ability to appeal of his murder conviction, the high court demonstrated it puts process ahead of justice.
Bowles, an inmate in Ohio serving a sentence of 15 years to life, missed a federal filing deadline for his appeal by three days. He had followed a federal district judge's instructions, but the judge had provided him with erroneous information.
One would think that the court system could adjust things slightly for a situation like this. Relying on the directions of a federal judge is a pretty good excuse for missing a deadline.
And in fact, the high court had established the "unique circumstances" doctrine for just such a happenstance.
Under it, as the dissenting justices argued, in the name of basic fairness, Bowles should get a pass for those few days and continue with his appeal.
But the five-member majority, including the court's newest members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, wouldn't hear of it. In an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court took a rigid line, saying that congressionally imposed deadlines could not be altered by the court. Thomas then explicitly overruled the "unique circumstances" doctrine so that no other litigant can find a federal court willing to make a reasonable accommodation in the interest of justice.
This ruling is just plain heartless. The dissenting justices, the liberal members of the court, pointed out that in the past the court has taken a more flexible view of statutory deadlines. Bowles would have easily fit within this category of cases. Instead, his case will become the new standard issued by a court for which compassion is in short supply.