The Corner

Law & the Courts

Gavin Newsom Is Nullifying California Law

Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Gavin Newsom speaks in San Diego, Calif., November 2, 2018. (Mike Blake/REUTERS)

I oppose the death penalty. I also oppose Governor Newsom’s lawless imposition of a “moratorium” on the death penalty in California. These two positions are not mutually exclusive.

Section 1 of the “Executive” article within the California constitution holds that “the Governor shall see that the law is faithfully executed.” By issuing his order, Newsom is flatly refusing to do that, and in so doing he is engaging in precisely the sort of legal sophistry, political norm-breaking, and rank contempt for democracy (and juries) about which we are all supposed to be so alarmed. Irrespective of their views on the death penalty, those who cherish separation of powers and the rule of law should refuse to applaud this move. That the order has been covered solely on its merits tells us a great deal about the consistency of the press corps’ commitment to process.

​​The gubernatorial reprieve power is designed for case-by-case evaluations. It is not designed to be used wholesale as a means by which the executive branch can effectively decline to execute laws it opposes. The death penalty has been explicitly and repeatedly affirmed by the voters in California in the last few years — not merely in opinion polls, but in legally binding propositions. Just two years ago, voters in California not only refused to repeal the death penalty, they voted to speed up the appeal process. If I lived in the state of California, I would have voted for repeal. But I would have lost. Governor Newsom lost, too. Now, like Barack Obama and Donald Trump, he is doing what he wants anyway. This is not “prosecutorial discretion” — or any form of “discretion” for that matter. It is not a “reprieve.” It is not a “moratorium.” It is a nullification. It is wrong.

Most Popular

Film & TV

A Sad Finale

Spoilers Ahead. Look, I share David’s love of Game of Thrones. But I thought the finale was largely a bust, for failings David mostly acknowledges in passing (but does not allow to dampen his ardor). The problems with the finale were largely the problems of this entire season. Characters that had been ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Great Misdirection

The House Democrats are frustrated, very frustrated. They’ve gotten themselves entangled in procedural disputes with the Trump administration that no one particularly cares about and that might be litigated for a very long time. A Washington Post report over the weekend spelled out how stymied Democrats ... Read More

Australia’s Voters Reject Leftist Ideas

Hell hath no fury greater than left-wingers who lose an election in a surprise upset. Think Brexit in 2016. Think Trump’s victory the same year. Now add Australia. Conservative prime minister Scott Morrison shocked pollsters and pundits alike with his victory on Saturday, and the reaction has been brutal ... Read More
NR Webathon

We’ve Had Bill Barr’s Back

One of the more dismaying features of the national political debate lately is how casually and cynically Attorney General Bill Barr has been smeared. He is routinely compared to Roy Cohn on a cable-TV program that prides itself on assembling the most thoughtful and plugged-in political analysts and ... Read More
Film & TV

Game of Thrones: A Father’s Legacy Endures

Warning! If you don't want to read any spoilers from last night's series finale of Game of Thrones, stop reading. Right now. There is a lot to unpack about the Thrones finale, and I fully understand many of the criticisms I read on Twitter and elsewhere. Yes, the show was compressed. Yes, there were moments ... Read More