Filibusters, the movies and real life
By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
Nov. 2, 2003
Because we've all seen "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" a half-dozen times, we tend to romanticize the idea of a filibuster in the U.S. Senate. The image that Hollywood presents us with is that of a lone voice persevering against criticism and exhaustion to champion a righteous cause.
In the movies, a man filibustering the Senate carries the day because he eventually wins his colleagues over to his way of thinking.
A flourish of music, black-out, roll credits.
I had forgotten that's not how real filibusters work. It isn't how Thursday's filibuster to block a vote on U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering's confirmation to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals worked.
Nobody's mind was changed. If Pickering's confirmation had come to a vote, it would have passed. The filibuster was about thwarting the express will of the majority an accepted, even time-honored, way to take by trickery what you can't win on merit.
Even if your side prevailed on this question, I don't see much to celebrate.
Elsewhere in the forest
Settlement query: Remember Rita Jack, the police officer reinstated after a two-year battle with the city over unproven allegations that she stole money from the Meridian Police Department's front desk?
She's back on the job, but city officials haven't given her the back pay ordered by Circuit Judge Robert Bailey and are considering an appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Mayor John Robert Smith and the Meridian City Council have until Nov. 7 to make up their minds about that.
Meanwhile, Jack says, and her attorney confirms, that city officials have approached her about whether she might be willing to accept less than the full two years of back pay ordered by Judge Bailey. Her answer was, "no."
And, the Civil Service Commission has issued an order that instructs the police department to allow Jack to take a test for promotion that she missed during her absence from the force. Just for the record, nobody at the MPD publicly opposed the idea, although the city's attorney did argue against it.
As Alice said, "Curiouser and curiouser": Back on Oct. 21, we ran an arrest report in the paper about a man who had been charged with "intimidating a judge, juror, witness, attorney." I made note of it, wondering if a defendant had said or done something extreme during a trial, but didn't get around to calling the Meridian Police Department until this week.
I talked to Sgt. Randy Jackson and it turns out the story is even stranger than that.
It involves two brothers with the same name 21-year-old Erik Ragsdale with a "k," and 23-year-old Eric Ragsdale with a "c."
Jackson said Erik was originally arrested for burglary. He bonded out, and then allegedly collected his brother, Eric, to help him settle a score. Police say the two of them then went and assaulted a man who witnessed the burglary and made a statement against Erik.
Both were charged with intimidating a judge, juror, witness or attorney (in this case, a witness) but only one of their arrests was published in The Meridian Star Erik with a "k." My guess it that it must have looked like a duplication to the reporter who picked up the arrest reports that day.
The case is expected to be presented to a grand jury in March 2004.