Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: A ‘regular ol’ tort case’ gives Arnold most joy by Linda Satter (pay wall; so a longer summary):
It’s been 48 years since a young Morris Sheppard “Buzz” Arnold strummed the guitar and sang Bob Dylan songs on a stage at the Ozark Folk Festival in Eureka Springs.
But it’s safe to say there’s still a little bit of “hippie” in this distinguished gentleman from Little Rock who, at age 71, has been quietly serving for the past year as the presiding judge on the nation’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review while wrapping up 21 years in his more-public job on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Now, Arnold says, he is planning to retire from both jobs, effective next Sunday,and move on to whatever might be “blowin’ in the wind.”
Known for his intellect, eloquent writing and knowledge of Arkansas history - which have served him well as an 8th Circuit judge - Arnold is also recognizable for his pinstriped seersucker suits and shock of longish gray hair that sometimes sneaks past his suit collars.
His nickname, Buzz, is a lifelong moniker imposed by his step-grandfather, the late Sen. Tom Connally, after Sergeant BuzFuz in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers.
In a recent interview in Little Rock, he said he doesn’t have any particular plans for retirement. He spoke as he was vacating his 31stfloor office in the Metropolitan National Bank Building, where he had a treetop view of the atrium of the federal courthouse, a building that is named for his now-deceased older brother, Richard, who also served on the 8th Circuit.
. . .
His favorite cases, he said, have been those involving the Bill of Rights - specifically, the First and Fourth amendments - as well as “just a regular ol’ tort case, like a slip and fall,” which can end up in federal court if the parties are in different states.
Asked if any of the numerous opinions he has penned as an 8th Circuit judge make him particularly proud, Arnold readily cited a 2001 case, Henderson v. Norris, in which the 8th Circuit granted a habeas petition from a man whom a state-court jury had sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for first-offense delivery of a small amount of cocaine.
In a rare ruling, the 8th Circuit panel agreed with the convict that the sentence amounted to a violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and ordered him to be resentenced or released.
“He was selling cocaine that weighed less than a paper clip,” Arnold recalled, shaking his head.
. . .
While most of Arnold’s jobs have left a well-publicized trail of accolades, from his written opinions to his books that have won prizes for both their literary and historical quality, it is his less-public role as the top judge of the nation’s top surveillance court that he focused on last week.
For starters, Arnold cringes at the description of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and its appellate court, the Court of Review, as “secret” courts.
That label has been frequently used in dozens of recent articles that began June 5, when a former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, leaked to a British newspaper, The Guardian, a highly classified court order directing a subsidiary of Verizon Communications to give the government logs of calls between the United States and abroad. It was followed by Snowden’s disclosure of a program called Prism, through which the government collects Internet data on foreigners abroad from companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple.
Among intense criticism about the “secret court” authorizing the government to snoop into the private emails and telephone calls of American citizens, President Barack Obama and others have rushed to explain that the data collection, which has gone on for years, captures only raw numbers for the most part and is aimed at foiling potential terrorist attacks.
Among the 11 judges on the surveillance court is U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright in Little Rock, who was appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts in May of 2009. Roberts appointed Arnold in 2008 to the three-judge review court, which hears government appeals of surveillance requests that the lower court has denied. Just last year, Roberts appointed Arnold as presiding judge of the Court of Review.
Members of both courts serve seven-year terms and are not eligible for reappointment.
Arnold noted that the surveillance courts weren’t created until 1978, and, “Before that, there was no court that had review over the government’s foreign intelligence surveillance. The executive branch was free to do what it wanted to do, with no judicial oversight.”
Rather than worry about a “secret” court authorizing nosy intrusions into citizens’ privacy, Arnold said Americans should be glad that the courts consist of federal judges who know a thing or two about the law and are there as a protective barrier between the executive branch and individuals.
“They need to consider that the people who have been put in charge of the process have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution,” Arnold said, noting, “I’m as critical of the government as anyone, but the criticism needs to be reasonable.”
Arnold's term on the review court runs to May 18, 2015. Also, he swore me in as NACDL's 50th President in Milwaukee in August 2008. I always love hearing his stories about government overreaching. A Republican appointee, he's a libertarian, and he never believed in giving the government the free rein some of his colleagues on the Eighth Circuit did. I'm sure he's rankled by the suggestion that, just because he's a Republican appointee, he's in the government's pocket. NEVER.
Factoid of the day (actually again, in case you missed it): Little Rock has two judges involved in FISA cases: Arnold and USDJ Susan Webber Wright, who I went to law school with. I've always wondered about what extent the NSA went to to set up secure communications into their offices and the national security clearances of their staff. I have three sentencings with her week after next in drug cases. She just took senior status herself.
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