The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, one of the most right-wing courts in the country, sanctioned a former high school cheerleader because she brought a lawsuit claiming that she shouldn’t be required to cheer for her alleged rapist:
The former cheerleader and her family are appealing the ruling by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which includes an order to pay the school district’s legal fees on the grounds their suit was far-fetched and frivolous. [...]
H.S., then 16, attended a party in her hometown of Silsbee, Texas, in October 2008. She said she was dragged into a room, thrown onto the floor by several youths and raped by Rakheem Bolton, a star on the school’s football and basketball teams.
Bolton and a teammate were arrested two days later, but were allowed to return to school after a county grand jury declined to indict them. They were later indicted on sexual assault charges, but in the interim came the February 2009 incident on the basketball court.
H.S. joined in leading cheers for the Silsbee High team. But when Bolton went to the foul line, and the cheers included his name, she stepped back, folded her arms and sat down.
This decision is hardly the first time the right-wing Fifth Circuit has come under scrutiny for its harsh judgments. As the Wonk Room noted earlier this year, the overwhelming majority of Fifth Circuit judges are invested in the oil industry, and both of the judges who voted against reinstating a drilling moratorium during the Gulf oil disaster attended oil industry-funded junkets. In one case brought by Katrina victims against the energy industry, so many judges were required to recuse themselves that there weren’t enough judges left to hear an appeal.
Yet, even in a circuit known for its knee-jerk ideology, the cheerleader rape case was heard by an unusually radical panel of three judges. Judges Emilio Garza and Edith Clement were both on President George W. Bush’s “short list” for potential Supreme Court nominees, and Clement serves on the board of the leading organization providing industry-funded junkets for judges. The third judge, Priscilla Owen, took thousands of dollars worth of campaign contributions from Enron and then wrote a key opinion reducing Enron’s taxes by $15 million when she sat on the Texas Supreme Court. The panel did not include the court’s chief judge, Edith Jones, who has her own history of ignoring the pleas of women who are sexually harassed or assaulted.
(HT: Howard Bashman)