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Press Pariahs
I am writing in response to George Cothran's Dec. 3 article "Poisoned Probe."

Having just finished Isabel Fonseca's brilliant, excellently researched book Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey, I wanted to share a quote from Gypsy activist and historian Ian Hancock from his book The Pariah Syndrome.

"For example the newspapers. When-ever there is a story about Gypsies it's always about crime. And only when Gypsies are implicated is ethnicity mentioned: 'the Gypsy mother,' 'the Gypsy home.' Imagine substituting the word 'Jew.' "

I would recommend that Mr. Cothran read Ms. Fonseca's book.
Elisabeth Sisco
Bernal Heights

Conservatives in the Court
Tara Shioya's account of wasteful public spending at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals headquarters in San Francisco ("Splendor in the Court," Dec. 10) was a worthwhile piece of reporting that unfortunately misdirects the reader's umbrage toward "liberal" judges who have supposedly given the court a "dubious reputation." The latter part of the article, while sounding objectively factual, subtly adopts the perspective of a "a frustrated Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist" -- the leading practitioner of conservative judicial activism in our lifetime. The article lapses into sloppy errors and partisan factual omissions to create the impression that cost overruns and liberal judges somehow form a single package that we should reject.

For example, Shioya exaggerates the court's "liberal" composition by erroneously reporting that "Thirteen of the Ninth Circuit's 18 active judges ... are Carter appointees." In fact, only five active judges were appointed by Carter, and only nine of the 18 were appointed by Democratic presidents. The other nine are Bush and Reagan appointees. Moreover, many senior judges appointed by Republicans continue to decide cases, including Judge Sneed (of the $52,000 cherry wood paneling), a very conservative Nixon appointee.

It is true that the Ninth Circuit is reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court more than any other Court of Appeals. But the U.S. Supreme Court, with a solid right-wing majority, has been more conservative in the past 12 years than at any time since the 1930s.

As far as I'm concerned, the more "frustrated" Chief Justice Rehnquist is, the better things probably are for the poor, for civil rights, for choice, and for all those "hard luck stories" the chief dismisses so contemptuously. Does SF Weekly really want to insinuate conservative judicial activism as the proper standard for judging judicial values?

David Schwartz
Santa Monica

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