Scott Lemieux

Scott Lemieux is an assistant professor of political science at the College of Saint Rose. He contributes to the blogs Lawyers, Guns, and Money and Vox Pop.

Recent Articles

SCOTUS's Meaningless Death Penalty Rules

The Eighth Amendment forbids the execution of the mentally ill. So why did we kill John Errol Ferguson?

AP Images/Amber Hunt
Monday evening, the state of Florida executed John Errol Ferguson. This was not an act of injustice because Ferguson was innocent—he brutally killed eight people. It was an act of injustice because Ferguson was mentally ill. The Eighth Amendment forbids his execution. In 2008, the Supreme Court held that a person cannot be executed if he or she is insane at the time of his or her execution. To the extent that the term has meaning, it's hard to imagine that it doesn't apply to Ferguson, who experts have testified has a "genuine belief" that he is the "prince of God" and has the power to control the sun. Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones details Ferguson's history of mental illness: Ferguson's story, and long-documented record of mental illness, starts back in 1965, when records show Ferguson was suffering from hallucinations. In 1971, he was committed to a state mental hospital after being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. For the next several years, court-appointed doctors...

Will the Department of Justice Find Zimmerman Guilty?

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
AP Photo/Alex Menendez S ince the end of the George Zimmerman trial, many of those dismayed by the not guilty verdict have pushed for the Department of Justice to press federal civil-rights charges against Trayvon Martin’s killer. Given the strong possibility that race played a role both in Zimmerman's decision to follow the unarmed teenager and in the jury’s verdict, it seems plausible that federal intervention might be warranted. Indeed, soon after the verdict was read in mid-July, Attorney General Eric Holder launched an inquiry into whether civil-rights charges should be filed against Zimmerman. But unless the investigation uncovers evidence that was not publicly available at the time of the trial, it is almost certain that the federal government will decline to prosecute Zimmerman. The first barrier to bringing civil-rights charges against Zimmerman is that he is not a state actor. Since Reconstruction, the Supreme Court has generally interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment as...

The Obama Administration's Unhealthy Obsession with Whistleblowers

Yesterday saw a mixed verdict delivered to Bradley Manning, who was charged with various crimes under the Espionage Act for leaking classified materials to WikiLeaks. Colonel Denise Lind, who presided over the court-martial, acquitted Manning of the most serious charge brought against him while finding him guilty on 20 of the 21 lesser charges. Lind's ruling is at least a partial victory, acting as a partial break of the Obama administration's overreaching war on whistleblowers. But many aspects of the case remain disturbing. It is notable and welcome that the government could not convince Lind that Manning was guilty of aiding the enemy under the Espionage Act. Since this charge rested on the theory that releasing any information the government would rather keep quiet is "aiding the enemy" by definition, the dangers of convicting Manning can hardly be overstated. The idea that transparency aids the enemy is the same theory behind prosecuting newspapers for publishing the Pentagon...

The Filner Scandal Isn't a "Sex Scandal"

AP Photo/Gregory Bull
AP Photo/Gregory Bull S an Diego mayor Bob Filner has refused to resign amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment, saying that he will undergo therapy instead. As Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post notes , it seems implausible that two weeks of therapy can fix Filner's very serious issues with women. But there is a much deeper problem with Filner's refusal to resign. His invocation of therapy suggests that the scandal is a purely private affair without direct implications for his conduct in office. This is dead wrong. It's crucial not to conflate consensual and nonconsensual actions together into a single catch-all category of "sex scandals." The current media environment and sexual privacy for public figures are often incompatible, and reasonable people can differ about whether the increased attention to personal questions of sexual morality is good for public discourse. My own view is that being a good spouse and being a good public official have virtually nothing to do...

Why the Courts Matter to LBGT Rights

AP Images/Elaine Thompson
The eminent legal scholar and federal judge Richard Posner has a self-described "revisionist" piece on litigation and same-sex marriage in The New Republic . Since it is partly a review of Michael Klarman's From the Closet to the Altar , much of what I have to say about Posner's piece is contained in my review of the Klarman book , and I won't repeat all of those arguments in the same detail here. But Posner's piece is instructive because it embodies some fallacious assumptions about institutional change in American politics that cause many scholars to misundertand the role litigation can play in social reform. What's most telling in Posner's review for me is this: The books are scholarly and well written, but deficient in payoff. They are basically just narratives of the history of homosexual marriage in the United States. I don't think this is right. The argument in Klarman's book is subtle—in part because he started off, like Posner, believing in t he conventional backlash thesis...

Pages