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CCBA Feature
dissented. Ed. Note: Want a jury trial, kid? Then enter
into a voluntary waiver and grow up!
Arizona did what it has always done best; that
is, whatever it wanted to. Its Motor Vehicle Safety
Responsibility Act provided, in part, that a discharge in
bankruptcy following any judgment because of a vehicle
accident shall not relieve the judgment debtor from any
of the requirements stated by the Act, including the
loss of a driver's license. The Court held that, not only
was the provision contrary to the Bankruptcy Act (now,
the Bankruptcy Code), but it was also a violation of the
Federal Supremacy clause. Justice White delivered the
opinion of the Court, joined by Justices Black, Douglas,
Brennan and Marshall. Justice Blackmun, joined by Chief
Justice Burger, Justices Harlan and Stewart, concurred in
part and dissented in part. Perez v. Campbell, 402 U.S. 637
(1971). Sorry Arizona, better luck next time!
Now, as long as we are on the subject, let's look at
one of our Confederate states. Georgia's Motor Vehicle
Responsibility Act provided that the registration and
license of an uninsured motorist involved in an accident
must be suspended unless the driver posts security for
the amount of the damages claimed by an aggrieved party
excluding any consideration for fault or responsibility. In
holding the Act in violation of due process of law, Justice
Brennan spoke for a unanimous Court. Chief Justice
Burger, Justices Black and Blackmun concurred in the
result. Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535 (1971).
If you are bored or getting there, don't leave until
you read on to Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).
Petitioner was convicted of California Penal Code
415 which then prohibited " maliciously and willfully
disturb[ing] the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or conduct. " Petitioner wore a jacket
in a corridor of the Los Angeles Courthouse that bore
the words: " Fuck the Draft. " Conviction reversed. Justice
Harlan delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by
Justices Douglas, Brennan, Stewart and Marshall. " The
state may not, consistently with the First and Fourteenth
Amendments, make the single display of this four-letter
expletive a criminal offense. Surely, the State has no
right to cleanse public debate to the point where it is
grammatically palatable to the most squeamish among
us...for while the particular word is perhaps more
distasteful than most others of its genre, it is nevertheless
true that one man's vulgarity is another's lyric. " Id.,
25. Justice Blackmun, joined by Chief Justice Burger
and Justice Black, dissented. Justice White joined the
dissent, in part. (Ed. Note: Who had what for breakfast
that morning?) The dissent... " This Court's agonizing
over First Amendment values seems misplaced and
unnecessary. " Id., 27.
Finally, let us turn to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
vs. William Henry Cosby, Pa. Supreme Court, 39 MAP
2020, [J-100-2020], Slip. Op., June 30, 2021. (If you
read on, you will see that I am not turning senile.) The
Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the conviction
and forever discharged the defendant. And in so doing,
the Court held that " when a prosecutor makes an
unconditional promise of non-prosecution, and when
the defendant relies upon that guarantee to the detriment
of his constitutional right not to testify, the principle of
fundamental fairness that undergirds due process of law
in our criminal justice system demands that the promise
be enforced. " Id., at 79. (I think that Justice Wecht must
have been reading William Faulker before he wrote this
In Cosby, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court relied
heavily on Santobello vs. New York, 404 U.S. 357 (1971),
in which the Supreme Court held that " when a [guilty]
plea rests in any significant degree on a promise or
agreement by the prosecutor, so that it can be said to be
part of the inducement or consideration, such promise
must be fulfilled. " Santobello, supra, 262 cited in Cosby,
79. Chief Justice Burger, joined by Justice Douglas,
White and Blackmun, delivered the opinion of the Court.
Justice Marshall, along with Justices Brennan and Stewart,
concurred in part and dissented in part.
Well class, you are dismissed and discharged. By the
way, there are more significant cases, but time and space
will not permit me to continue. Anybody who wants me
to do a Part II, go ahead and let me know.
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