Yeah, that’s right – an Ohio man serving 15 to life for murder had his appeal thrown out (and that decision supported by the Supreme Court) because the judge made a mistake.

A narrow Supreme Court majority on Thursday agreed that a lower court properly dismissed the appeal of a man who missed a federal filing deadline by three days because of a federal district judge?s erroneous instructions.

The defendant, Keith Bowles, who is serving a sentence of 15 years to life for murder, had argued that given the judge?s erroneous instruction ? that he had 18 days to file an appeal instead of the 14 that federal law allows ? his case should come within the ?unique circumstances? doctrine that the Supreme Court created to recognize unusual instances when jurisdictional rules need not be strictly enforced.

In an example of “judicial activism”, the conservatives on the Court chose to ignore precedent.

The court, however, used the case to announce it was overruling the two precedents the Supreme Court had used when it established the ?unique circumstances? doctrine in the 1960s. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said the court now regarded the doctrine as illegitimate. ?If rigorous rules like the one applied today are thought to be inequitable,? Justice Thomas added, the remedy should come from Congress.

Justice David H. Souter, writing for the four dissenters in the case, Bowles v. Russell, No. 06-5306, objected that ?it is intolerable for the judicial system to treat people this way.? He added, ?There is not even a technical justification for condoning this bait and switch.?

Note, this was not a willful violation of the law by the defendant or his counsel, nor a clerical error on the part of the defendant. This was an error on the part of “the system”, and instead of correcting the error, they are giving the guy the finger. This is a gross injustice, having an appeal thrown out because you followed the judge’s instructions.

Elections have consequences. Reelecting Bush in 2004 put these authoritarian a-holes in control of the Supreme Court.

Additional background available here.