2010 in Review: Instant Karma and the Law

Four years ago I decided on a whim that I would try to put a year's worth of legal news to the music that sometimes plays in my head. The result was this column for the Huffington Post in December 2006 entitled "This Land is Your Land," in homage to Woody Guthrie. The following year, in December 2007, I aimed a little lower and offered up this column, again for Huff-Po, entitled "A Tale of Christmas Law." In 2008, I did not write a piece (and I don't remember why). But I was back last year, this time for Vanity Fair, with this piece. "Blowin' in the Wind," yet another ode to Bob Dylan. This year, grace of a new host, there was but one choice. In memory of John Lennon, on the thirtieth anniversary of his death, I offered my version of his classic, "Instant Karma." Forgive me in advance, Yoko.

Instant karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you're gonna be dead
What in the world you thinking of
Laughing in the face of love
What on earth you tryin' to do
It's up to you, yeah you

Opponents of same-sex marriage, who support California's Proposition 8's ballot measure, accused U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of bias because he is gay. After the respected Republican appointee declared the marriage ban unconstitutional on due process and equal protection grounds, he promptly announced his retirement... Charles Cooper, the hapless lead attorney for Proposition 8, told Judge Walker during closing aguments in the case: "Your honor, you don't have to have evidence" to declare the measure valid... In Iowa, vengeful voters removed from office three of the state's supreme court justices who ruled last year in favor of same-sex marriage... an unusually zealous state attorney in Michigan, Andrew Shirvell, went off the deep end in monitoring the activities of the openly-gay president of the University of Michigan's Student Council... and a Virginia lawmaker promptly introduced legislation in the wake of the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that would preclude gays or lesbians from openly serving in the state national guard.

Instant karma's gonna get you
Gonna look you right in the face
Better get yourself together darlin'
Join the human race
How in the world you gonna see
Laughin' at fools like me
Who in the hell d'you think you are
A super star
Well, right you are

Like her mentor Sarah Palin, erstwhile public figure Christine O'Donnell blanched when asked to name a recent Supreme Court case with which she disagreed. "I am sorry," O'Donnell said, "right off the top of my head, I know there are a lot but, uh, I'll put it up on my website I promise."... Lt. Col. Terry Larkin, the veteran soldier, the doctor, was convicted in December by a military court for refusing to obey orders because of doubts about the Commander-in-Chief's nationality. On the day he was sentenced, he said he had made a mistake... Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller was exonerated by her colleagues even though a judicial investigation revealed her conduct in the Michael Richard death penalty case was "clearly inconsistent" with the proper performance of her duties as a judge... and South Carolina's Democratic Senate candiate Alvin Greene, fighting felony obscenity charges, nevertheless wondered aloud if a presidential campaign was in his future.

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well we all shine on
Ev'ryone come on

Climate change denier and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli waged a war against science, and academic freedom at the University of Virginia, before the courts reined him in, for now... Florida Governor Charlie Crist gleefully pardoned long-dead Doors vocalist Jim Morrison -- the Guv even made the motion himself on behalf of the singer -- as the Sunshine State marked its 27th year in a row without a grant of clemency in a capital case... Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), whose state received massive federal help in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, threatened to delay a Senate vote on a popular health bill for 9/11 responders... And after openly defying the federal government and its immigration policies with a controversial state law, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer declared she was offended by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks abroad about the Justice Department's planned response to the matter.

Presented by

Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is a legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, and Commentary Editor at The Marshall Project

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