Elmer Gerard “Geronimo” Pratt spent eight years imprisoned
within a prison within the imprisoned prison as a black man in
solitary confinement. For the first eight years of his unjustified
twenty-seven-year term, he was subject to the worst hurt the
American penal system could inflict upon him. He was not subject to this hurt solely because of the crimes for which he was convicted; but, rather, he was subject to this hurt because of his political ideology. This paper will not focus on Pratt’s political views or the governmental efforts to bring down the Black Panther Party (BPP or “Panthers”) by framing Pratt. It will instead focus on how the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
and other government agencies were able to make Pratt’s
existence in prison as deplorable as possible. Specifically, this
paper will discuss how Pratt’s inmate record was manipulated by
government agencies through inaccurate information, which was
used to justify Pratt’s solitary confinement.
The United Nations has long recognized that international
drug trafficking and drug use are issues that must be addressed
on a global scale. Over the last century the international community has entered into a “global war on drugs” with its
primary purposes eventually evolving into a two-fold goal—
decimating the market for illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin
and methamphetamines, while also promoting the availability of
licit drugs, such as narcotic pain medication, that are used for
medical and scientific purposes in countries where they may not
be otherwise available. This war on drugs, while unquestionably
a necessary endeavor, has created certain casualties within the
area of human rights. Some countries maintain drug laws that,
either as written or as enforced, condone inhumane and/or cruel punishments that directly contradict recognized human rights initiatives. Other countries violate certain human rights by prescribing drug laws that over-regulate medically necessary
drugs, such as opiate-based pain killers, creating an underavailability of them in areas where they are in high demand.
On August 24, 1855, Abraham Lincoln ended a letter to his
close friend Joshua Speed with these words:
I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy.
This is Lincoln’s most famous statement on Know-Nothings and
nativism. Yet this letter alone cannot convey the entirety of his
views of ethnicity, Know-Nothings, immigrants, and nativists.
Abraham Lincoln had an enormously complex conception of
immigrant and ethnic groups. Many men of his era saw every
ethnic group, every immigrant—whether Irish, Jewish, German,
Swedish, or American Indian—as the same. Lincoln, however,
saw each group as distinctive, each with its own history, its own
needs, and its own contributions to American society. Because he saw the diversity of these groups, rather than simply jumbling them together as “foreigners” or “savages” like many of his day, Lincoln had an unusual conception of individuals of different ethnicities, as well as their groups, as a whole. Lincoln
assembled this conception from his many dealings with individual immigrants, ethnic groups, and those factions for or against them in American society—as citizen, as politician, and as President.
In the last half-century, the executive branch and the
legislators on Capitol Hill have frequently clashed over
information that Congress feels it needs to effectuate its
lawmaking or oversight functions, but that the administration
feels the need to keep confidential. As a result, congressional
investigations have been stymied and, in a number of instances,
harmful or improper presidential actions have continued without
appropriate scrutiny or constraint.
Consider the stalemate from 2007–2009 between Congress and
the Executive over allegations of politicization at the Department of Justice (DOJ). In the course of seeking to determine why several U.S. Attorneys were forced to resign en masse, Congress uncovered credible evidence that the DOJ had been commandeered by partisan operatives aiming to entrench their political allies by manipulating prosecutions. These revelations called into question the integrity of the federal criminal justice system and indicated that crucial decisions were made inside the White House. But the President blocked the ensuing congressional investigations at the White House door. He ordered Karl Rove, former White House Aide; Harriet Miers,
former White House Counsel; and Joshua Bolten, White House
Chief of Staff, not to honor valid congressional subpoenas—
claiming executive privilege over testimony Rove and Miers
would provide and documents in Bolten’s possession as well as
immunity from congressional subpoenas for his aides.
We know him as the Great Emancipator and the Savior of the
Union, but we could add Financier Extraordinaire to complete
Abraham Lincoln’s trinity of titles. Prosaic as money may seem,
Lincoln could not have recaptured the South and released the
slaves from bondage had he not figured out how to finance the
War. His pragmatic approach first preserved and then replaced
the U.S. banking system, presented a model of America-first
money management for future Presidents, and paved the way for a broad interpretation of the Necessary and Proper Clause in the U.S. Constitution. It also set the country on a course that led to an intertwining of the financial sector with the federal
government. Centralization of power at the national level saved
the Union, but it also led people to look to Washington in money
What follows is a description of the U.S. financial system at the
time Lincoln became President and evidence of his opinions about its flaws. The article then turns to Lincoln’s options for financing the War and the choices he made, along with an analysis of the strength of his influence. It ends with a discussion of Lincoln’s financial legacies.
The three constitutional amendments of the Civil War and
Reconstruction era constituted a new, even revolutionary,
foundation for the United States: “a new birth of freedom” in the
famous words of President and lawyer, Abraham Lincoln. The Fourteenth Amendment and particularly Section 1 form a “second
[United States] Constitution.” Section 1’s language and its
embedded values held the promise (a promise delayed, no doubt)
and a vision of moving the country toward a more perfect nation.
The bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth provides an
appropriate occasion to revisit the ideas and contributions of our
sixteenth President. Of particular interest to patent lawyers is
Lincoln’s extensive interest in, and involvement with, the U.S.
patent system as inventor, lecturer, lawyer, and President. Lincoln clearly understood the importance of the patent system in promoting technological advance, which he believed to be
important to the nation’s economic growth. He spoke eloquently
on the subject, patented an invention, and participated in
numerous patent-related lawsuits during the years he practiced
On January 20, 2009, Chief Justice John Roberts administered
the oath of office to Barack H. Obama, the forty-fourth President of the United States. Aside from nervously stumbling over the constitutionally prescribed, thirty-five-word oath, the two men probably experienced some awkwardness of a different sort. Their pairing on the steps of the Capitol marked the first time in United States history that a Chief Justice had sworn in a President who voted against his confirmation. To be sure, the two men who stood before a crowd of nearly one million spectators on that day had some things in common. Both were stellar students at Harvard Law School—Roberts (class of 1979) served as managing editor of the law review and Obama (class of 1991) as its president—and after completing law school both experienced extraordinary success. Fifty-three at the time of the inauguration, Roberts is the second-youngest Chief Justice in American history, while Obama, at forty-seven, is the fourthyoungest to be elected President. Despite these similarities, as a U.S. Senator from Illinois in 2005, Obama brought their ideological differences into sharp relief during Roberts’ confirmation hearings. While acknowledging Roberts’
qualifications and his love for the law, Senator Obama opposed
the nomination because, in his words, Roberts “has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak.” Citing in particular Roberts’ dismissive attitude toward “efforts to eradicate the remnants of racial
discrimination,” Obama was one of twenty-two Senate Democrats to vote against President George W. Bush’s first nominee to the Supreme Court.
The Emancipation Proclamation leads many Americans to
regard Abraham Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator.” Others are
not so laudatory, doubting whether he did enough to end the
South’s “peculiar institution.” These observers regard Lincoln as
principally concerned with saving the Union, rather than ending
There is a more fitting title for Lincoln, one utterly beyond
cavil. Call him “The Great Suspender of the Great Writ.” He
undoubtedly earned this sobriquet, having suspended the
privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or delegated suspension
authority almost a dozen times. He also has the distinction of
being the only President ever to suspend the privilege of the
Great Writ unilaterally and the only one to do so throughout the
In 1861, in the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was faced with an insoluble dilemma. There was a war within the country's borders and southern rebellion imperiled the fate of the Union. Understanding that he held an awesome power as Commander in Chief of the nation, Lincoln acted in the way he saw best fit for the survival of the nation as a United States. Although grounded in the Constitution, Lincoln's acts were, in the eyes of many, extraordinary and unprecedented expansions of his executive authority; and in the eyes of some, extra-constitutional.
Lincoln’s political positions from the Mexican War to the Civil
War offer some tempting targets. In the first military conflict, he criticized President James Polk for exercising executive power in an unconstitutional manner; in the second, Lincoln wielded extraordinary powers after the firing on Fort Sumter. One scholar observed:
There is more than a bit of irony in Lincoln’s accusation against
Polk. Within half a year of reviving it, Lincoln as president was
himself to face the question of sending armed forces into disputed territory, and eventually his decision was to make him the second president to be charged with contriving a war and shifting the guilt to the other side.
A close look at Lincoln’s actions during the Civil War reveals
some similarities to Polk but also fundamental differences. More so than Polk, Lincoln showed a deeper respect and commitment for popular rule, legislative authority, and constitutional principles.
Much of what Lincoln said early in his political career reflected
Whig philosophy, including the public’s right to rule through the
legislative branch and limitations on presidential and judicial
power in order to preserve the principles of self-government. The Whig Party formed in large part as a reaction to what was
considered a dangerous concentration of power within the
presidency of Andrew Jackson. In a speech before Congress on
July 27, 1848, Lincoln said he and the Whigs wanted the people
to “elect whom they please, and afterwards, legislate just as they please, without any hindrance, save only so much as may guard against infractions of the [C]onstitution, undue haste, and want of consideration.” Speaking in Boston two months later, on September 15, he emphasized Whig principles “that the people’s will should be obeyed, and not frustrated by Executive usurpation and the interposition of the veto power.” Thos principles helped guide Lincoln's policies when he entered the White House.
In 2009, we celebrated the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s
birthday and the inauguration of Barack Obama. The coincidence of one’s birthday and the other’s inauguration only enhanced the parallels between the two. They are the only successful candidates from Illinois, although both were born and raised elsewhere. They were both born poor, and in their own ways, self-made men. Lincoln grew up without his mother and with a father who was emotionally absent. Obama grew up without his father, and with a mother who was often gone. Both were lawyers and, in their own ways, quite successful. Lincoln was by far our most eloquent President, a craftsman of language who we still quote and read with awe. Obama is an orator of unusual ability, and while he may not write his own speeches (as Lincoln did), nevertheless, his eloquence and skill are part of his trademark. Both were accused of radicalism, when in fact, on most issues they are truly quite conservative and traditional. When they ran for President, opponents circulated scurrilous rumors about their religions—that Lincoln was a godless atheist and Obama was a Muslim. Neither was true, but both were designed to emotionally charge the opposition.
After meeting for a two-day live symposium on September 30 and October 1, 2009 at Albany Law School to discuss, honor, and reflect on the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth—and more importantly, the lessons that can be learned from his remarkable work prior to and during his time in the White House—the Albany Government Law Review has collected the scholarship from the conference and presents it here in this issue. Our goal in publishing the articles contained herein is to add to an ongoing conversation about the use, abuse, and limits of executive power while paying homage to, or in some instances even critiquing, the examples set by the sixteenth President of the United States.
In the days after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Justice
Department implemented Operation PENTTBOM (Pentagon/Twin Towers Bombing), a massive investigation under the aegis of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As part of the investigation, federal law enforcement officials established
various policies and procedures that included the arrest of
hundreds of Arab and Muslim men, primarily on immigration
related charges. The government identified these individuals as
“September 11 detainees.” These men were subsequently
confined to various facilities, including the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York. After a
thorough investigation, the Inspector General of the Department
of Justice (DOJ) concluded that many detainees were beaten,
denied medical treatment, deprived of religious freedoms, and
denied due process rights while in custody.
Getting the mail every day is exciting when one is young, but
as people grow older, few good things are in that box. Take, for instance, the jury summons: dreaded by most, sought after by few, and a civic duty to all. No matter what position you take on jury duty, the service involved can be time consuming if you are selected, and probably even if you are not. Jury duty compels citizens to perform their civic responsibility, but it can also infringe upon jurors’ privacy rights, afforded to them by the
Constitution. The burdens imposed on jurors are both financial
and emotional. Furthermore, the need for a jury to decide
another’s fate is amplified by the long court process, “hostile
attorneys or [other] court personnel,” and perhaps also by the
criminal defendant. Jurors can be required to reveal any type
and amount of information, including that which could be
detrimental, embarrassing, or damning—information that they
would not choose to voluntarily reveal. In recent years, courts
and legal scholars have assessed whether juror anonymity is
viable, looking at how empaneling anonymous juries invades the constitutional rights of criminal defendants, jurors themselves, and the media, and assessing how to protect juror privacy while not infringing on the rights of other parties involved in litigation matters.