“Reading Justice Diaz’s opinion itself, I do not understand why other justices would vote to suppress it. It seems to me within the normal bounds of debate you see in dissents, and has nothing that one could take as personal or an attack between the justices.” This is a quote from Oxford attorney Tom Freeland IV, in a story by the Daily Journal. It concerns a dissent written by a sitting Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court. The Court has taken an extreme bent in recent years, the result of national money pouring into Supreme Court campaigns from the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. The groups have turned the Court into as conservative a court as you could ask for.
The quote above concerns a dissent written by one of two Justices who are not in the conservative majority. Courts of appeal routinely write opinions which are accompanied by dissents. The dissent is a chance for a Justice to disagree with the ultimate decision rendered by the court. They have no bearing on the ruling of law annunciated in the court’s decision, but can give guidance to future litigants who might want to attempt to change the result of the case.
The Mississippi Supreme Court voted to ban disclosure of the dissent written by Diaz. Court watchers, according to the story, found the court’s vote “unusual” and “unbelievable. It certainly sets up a situation where future justices could be cowed into not writing dissents for fear of a similar vote coming up and being made public. It certainly will have a chilling effect on dissenters. Appears to be an extension of tort reform from the bench, a situation I have blogged about before, by muzzling an alternative view of the law.