Thursday, October 06, 2011

Going the Star Chamber one better

MNO called my attention to a post by law professor Jonathan Turley on the assassination -- let's call it what it is -- of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. Apparently, the hit list is made by a committee of unnamed "senior officials." The successful hit on al-Awlaki was, of course, greeted by cheers and clapping by the public, about which Turley says this:
The fear is that this is how the rule of law dies — to the cheers and thunderous applause of citizens.
It made me think of the old English institution, the Star Chamber, the camera stellata. You should go to the link and see a list of the luminaries who thought the camera stellata was a swell idea. Here's a little more about it:
The jurisdiction of the Star Chamber was as vague as its constitution. Hudson says it is impossible to define it without offending the supporters of the prerogative by a limitation of its powers, or the lawyers by attributing to it an excessive latitude. In practice its jurisdiction was almost unlimited. It took notice of riots, murder, forgery, felony, perjury, fraud, libel and slander, duels and acts tending to treason, as well as of some civil matters, such as disputes about land between great men and corporations, disputes between English and foreign merchants, and testamentary cases; in fact, as Hudson says, "all offences may be here examined and punished if the King will." Its procedure was not according to the Common Law. It dispensed with the encumbrance of a jury; it could proceed on rumour alone; it could apply torture; it could inflict any penalty but death. It was thus admirably calculated to be the support of order against anarchy, or of despotism against individual and national liberty.
But we've gone the camera stellata one better; our's can inflict the penalty of death. Neat!

Update: Here's how you get a seat in the Star Chamber.

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