Two judicial opinions this week in two very different cases had scathing language for federal officials at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice.
In the first case, federal Judge Edward R. Korman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York amped up his criticism of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding emergency contraceptives that can be taken to reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected intercourse.
Last month, the court ruled against the administration and ordered that levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives be available over the counter and without point-of sale age restrictions. The government asked for a stay of that decision.
On Friday, Korman eviscerated Sebelius. He noted that the debate over the contraceptives has gone on for more than 12 years, “even though they would be among the safest drugs available to children and adults on any drugstore shelf.”
In 2011, the FDA concluded that one version of the drug could be sold without a prescription or an age restriction. But Sebelius reversed the FDA.
The judge said that decision was “politically motivated” and was “so unpersuasive as to call into question her good faith.”
He added that if a stay was to be granted, “It will allow the bad-faith, politically motivated decision of Secretary Sebelius, who lacks any medical or scientific expertise, to prevail – thus justifiably undermining the public’s confidence in the drug approval process.”
And he didn’t stop there. He said the FDA was negotiating a “sweetheart agreement” with one drug manufacturer. He told the government that its appeal was “frivolous and is taken for the purpose of delay,” but out of courtesy to the Court of Appeals he would allow the parties until May 13 to file their appeal in that court.
The other case, concerning the death penalty, included the dissent of a justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Lawyers for death row inmate Willie Jerome Manning filed an emergency motion to stay his execution after the Department of Justice acknowledged errors in FBI hair analysis testimony during Manning’s trial.
In an 8-1 vote, the court granted the stay May 7. But one justice, Michael Randolph, wrote a scathing dissent.
Randolph said that Manning had had access to hair and other forensic evidence for years and shouldn’t have been granted the 11th-hour reprieve.
But what really set the judge off was DOJ’s admission that it was conducting a review of the issues with the Innocence Project.
Randolph noted that the Innocence Project is opposed to the death penalty. And here’s what he said about the review: ”Although the connectivity and expediency by which this review was accomplished is mind-boggling, I should not be surprised, given that the families of victims of the clandestine ‘Fast and Furious’ gun-running operation can’t get the Department of Justice to identify the decision makers (whose actions resulted in the death of a border agent and many others) after years of inquiry, and that this is the same Department of Justice that grants and enforced Miranda warnings to foreign enemy combatants.”