Clinton judge rules paper money unfair to blind

Posted by DarthDilbert at 11/29/2006 01:16:00 AM

In a ruling that could "change the face of American currency", U.S. District Judge James Robertson has ordered the Treasury Department to come up with ways for the blind to tell bills apart. I guess Judge Robertson missed class the day that they went over Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution. It comes at no surprise that he is a Clinton appointee, and also one of the judges who resigned from the FISA court over NSA wiretaps.

I found a number of things strange in his ruling. While praising foreign currency (pages four through six) he notes that the Bank of Canada provides free to blind and low vision individuals "an electronic hand-held note reader" which sounds similar to the device that plaintiff Patrick Sheehan already has and he discussed in page two.

He references legislation from Fortney "Pete" Stark and Joseph P. Kolter. HR 6027, from the 96th Congress, was introduced by Stark and referred to the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs on 4 December 1979 where nothing happened to it. HR 3656, from the 97th Congress, was introduced by Stark and referred to the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs on 20 May 1981 where it was later referred to the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage on 1 June 1981 where nothing happened to it. HR 2666, from the 98th Congress, was introduced by Stark and referred to the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs on 20 April 1983 where it was later referred to the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage on 2 May 1983 where nothing happened to it. HR 2160, from the 102nd Congress, was introduced by Kolter and referred to the House Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs on 1 May 1991 where it was later referred to the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs and Coinage on 15 May 1991 where nothing happened to it. Stark has a 100% rating from the ACLU, and Kolter was implicated in the Congressional check kiting scandal accused of heading a conspiracy to launder Post Office money through stamps and postal vouchers. Kolter was later indicted by a Federal grand jury on five felony charges of embezzlement and subsequently pled guilty to conspiring to defraud taxpayers in a stamps-for-cash scheme and was sentenced to six months in prison on 31 July 1996.

He notes that the currency redesign of 1996 incorporated an infrared feature for hand-held currency readers, but then complains that it didn't fall withing the recommendations that the National Academy of Sciences. What was their recommendation? That the denomination numeral be printed on the banknote in black on a white background or in white on a black background. I'm sure that the counterfeiters would have loved that to be introduced. One example after another is provided by the government showing the dangers of certain recommendations towards counterfeit currency, but that doesn't phase Robertson in the least as he states that the recommendations are "unsupported" and are "utterly unpersuasive." He claims that the government "offers no reason to think that the addition of a tactile feature would render U.S. currency more vulnerable to counterfeiting." If he had read his own ruling he would clearly see many reasons as pointed out by the government.

He states that the contention that any "drastic or sudden changes to the currency would undermine international recognition and acceptance of US currency as a common medium of exchange throughout the world" is "not only unsupported, but, on its face, is fairly absurd." It took me a few minutes to find a quote from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan who said on 13 May 2003 at the introduction of the new $20 design that "The soundness of a nation's currency is essential to the soundness of its economy. And to uphold our currency's soundness, it must be recognized and honored as legal tender and counterfeiting must be effectively thwarted." Greenspan added that "The Federal Reserve is deeply committed to protecting our currency from counterfeiting, ensuring it is always accepted as legal tender and preserving its soundness." If only Robertson was as deeply committed to thwart counterfeit currency as Greenspan.

He refers to the "undue burden" portion of the Rehabilitation Act, and goes on to point out that the changes he wishes to have included in currency would cost $205,500,000 - or an increase in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's budget by five percent. I'm not sure what classes he took at Western Reserve Academy, Princeton University, or George Washington University Law School - but an increase of $205.5 million not to mention annuals costs estimated at $24 million to clearly be an "undue burden".

I'll be interested to see what his finding for the plaintiff will do to the dollar in currency markets seeing as how they requested a "permanent injunction prohibiting defendant from continuing to manufacture banknotes in the present manner."

San Francisco Chronicle
USA Today
Men's News Daily

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