3 things you can do if you want to be a big jerk

Here are a few recent stories in which various people — including some public officials — demonstrate how to be a really big jerk.

I don’t recommend being a big jerk, mind you, but if that’s your goal, then study these stories carefully. These folks are putting on a clinic in jerkitude.

1. Walk into a store owned by Christians, throw their religious literature into the trash and insult their faith.

Mayor Tonya Hoeffel of Garrett, Indiana, is a big jerk.

Mayor Hoeffel walked into a local convenience store, observed pamphlets about the owner’s Christian faith on the store counter, and picked them up before throwing them in the trash bin.

When the manager and part-owner of the store asked Mayor Hoeffel why she threw out the informational pamphlets, she replied, “It’s against my beliefs. This is against true religion.”

As Ed Brayton says, “Hoeffel is a moron and a bigot.” This unprovoked disrespect for others’ faith is despicable — particularly from someone elected to represent people of all faiths.

2. Abuse your power as principal to deny gay students an education.

Hemant Mehta brings us the news from the Taylor Career and Technology Center in Texas, which used to offer an adult class in cosmetology. The class was canceled because principal Thomas Amons worried that one of the students might be gay.

Amons thought one of the students enrolled in the class this semester looked gay. And since it’s illegal to bar someone from a public school because of his sexual orientation, Amons — who is, not surprisingly, a deacon at a Baptist church — decided to just cancel the class altogether.

For good measure, Amons fired the teacher, too, since she was apparently willing to teach a gay student. If that happened, next thing you know there might be gay men working in hair salons all over the country.

Thomas Amons is a big jerk.

3. Only get upset when it’s your own tribe being disrespected.

I changed that story about Mayor Hoeffel in the first item. What actually happened was this:

Less than one month after of the massacre of Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Mayor Tonya Hoeffel of Garrett, Indiana has further offended the Sikh community. Mayor Hoeffel walked into a local convenience store, observed pamphlets about the Sikh religion on the store counter, and picked them up before throwing them in the trash bin.

When manager and part-owner of the store Kulwinder Singh Nagra asked Mayor Hoeffel why she threw out the informational pamphlets, she replied, “It’s against my beliefs. This is against Christianity.”

Mayor Tonya Hoeffel of Garrett, Indiana, is a big jerk.

And if you’re a Christian and you’re not upset by her jerkery because it was directed at Sikhs instead of at Christians, then I’m afraid you may be well on your way to joining her in Big Jerkland.

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  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    I changed that story about Mayor Hoeffel in the first item. What actually happened was this:

    That one threw me for a second.  I was like, “Wait, I know I read this at Dispatches and I know it said the stuff was Sikh literature.  What the what?”

  • Tricksterson

    I got confused too when I hit the link and read the story.  I was going to post and correct Fred until I read the third item.

  • AlsnB

     I think it says something really sad about the state of our country that I was confused by the first story because I couldn’t picture the scenario playing out with anyone BUT a Christian being the big jerk.  (Particularly a politician.  It seems like non-Christians can get elected to office but they have to be exceedingly polite and discreet and well-mannered about their beliefs.  Whereas Christian politicos seem to be encouraged to be obnoxious about it.)

  • hidden_urchin

    I don’t think ” jerk” is quite the word I’d use. I’m not as polite though.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    So Tonya Hoeff has the belief that you can walk into someone’s business and throw things out because they’re against your beliefs?

    Can I go into a bookstore and throw out all copies of the Left Behind series and the Twilight books and Dianetics and — know what, I’m gonna need time to make a really big list.

    Except that, damn it, my belief in allowing people to read and write what they want to read and write trumps my hatred of those books. Hrm. 

    Has anyone offered to set up a website for Kulwinder Singh Nagra where they could put the text of the pamphlets, if such a thing does not exist already?

  • Jeff Weskamp

    I used to work at the local Cooperating Ministries food bank and second-hand store.  One of my assigned tasks was sorting books that came in with the donations and stocking them on the shelves.  Whenever a Left Behind book, or a book endorsing Young-Earth Creationism, came along, I simply bought the book (for 25 cents).  And, since I was also in charge of gathering and delivering recyclable materials, I would place the books into the recycling bin for paper goods!

    I felt it was a fair practice.  The Ministries got money from the donated books, and I made sure the books actually served a useful purpose instead of misleading unsuspecting readers.

  • aunursa

    I’m in favor of making the punishment fit the crime.  In this case, the mayor should be assessed a fine that goes to the store owner. She should be required to take classes on anger management and diversity awareness.  And she should be required to take part in community service, perhaps to benefit a Sikh temple.

  • http://www.facebook.com/j.alex.harman John Alexander Harman

    All good suggestions.  I do wonder, though, how the Mikado’s more poetic methods of making the punishment fit the crime would apply to Mayor Dipstick.  Maybe community service cleaning up the litter after a bunch of Chickwits have been handing out Chick tracts on a busy street corner all day?  Or they could ship her to Las Vegas to spend a day cleaning up the call girl ad cards along the Strip….

    My object all sublime
    I shall achieve in time:
    To let the punishment fit the crime,
    The punishment fit the crime.

    And make each prisoner pent
    Unwillingly represent
    A source of innocent merriment,
    Of innocent merriment!

  • Abobymous

    This would be very easy because of the Sikh institution of the Langar, a free community kitchen in which anyone, Sikh or non-Sikh, may serve, and anyone, Sikh or non-Sikh, may eat.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langar_(Sikhism) 

  • JustoneK

    this is the part where I throw up my hands and start looking for real estate to claim as sovereign territory.

  • DCFem

    How come it’s only free speech when it’s their beliefs? As an elected official, she is supposed to uphold the rights of all of her constituents, including their right to free speech. And instead of being a totally lacking in empathy idiot, she could have just walked out of his store and never went in there again if his religious beliefs so offend her. I stopped taking my cleaning to a place where the owner listened to Rush Limbaugh. He has the right to listen to idiotic, bigoted garbage and I have the right to get my clothes cleaned by someone smarter than that.

  • Carstonio

    Neat trick with the Hoeffel story, Fred.  Before I read the actual story, I wondered for a minute if the jerk mayor was gay or Jewish and had suffered at the hands of Christians. While it certainly wouldn’t excuse the jerk, it also wouldn’t excuse the hypothetical persecutors. Of course, in the real world, members of privileged majorities are more likely to pull out the jerk label for members of minorities who protest the privilege in non-jerkish ways.

    Whether the mayor is Christian or Sikh, he shouldn’t care what religion’s pamphlets are on display and shouldn’t care what religion the store’s owners and staff follow. They weren’t pushing their religion on customers or using their religion to harm customers. I picture this guy laying awake at night wishing that all those stubborn heathens would just give in and convert. Or else shrieking in horror at the sight of a Buddha statue or star of David for fear that he’ll lose his faith.

  • Tricksterson

    A laundromat I go to has copies of the Watchtower lying around.  Am not a fan of the Witnesses (although I don’t dislike them more than any other organized religion and have to give them a thumbs up for not believing in Hell).  You know what I do?  it’ll amaze you!  It’s revolutionary!  I…don’t read them.

  • Persia

    I wondered if it was a Christian sect that people don’t consider ‘real’ Christianity – 7th-Day Aventism, Mormon, etc.

  • cminus

    As someone who has a passing familiarity with Garrett, Indiana, I knew the unlikelihood of it having a gay or Jewish mayor, but otherwise I was thinking along the same lines you were.  That part of Indiana is mostly evangelical Protestant, but Garrett has an unusually large Catholic population for the area, so I thought it might be a Catholic/Protestant clash.  The bit about “true religion” fit nicely with that hypothesis.

  • Carstonio

     Oddly, it never occurred to me to read Fred’s modified version as an intrafaith dispute.

  • catseye

    You know, I had actually assumed the first story must be about a Christian trashing the business of someone who professed a different form of Christianity.  That didn’t seem terribly surprising to me, while the odds of a non-Christian in this country having the gall to behave that way seemed even longer than the odds of an Indiana mayor not being at least nominally Christian.

  • AndrewSshi

    That didn’t seem terribly surprising to me, while the odds of a
    non-Christian in this country having the gall to behave that way seemed
    even longer than the odds of an Indiana mayor not being at least
    nominally Christian.

    Possible counterpoint:

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/fl-family-faces-fines-for-holding-home-bible-studies/?fb_action_ids=4257874761315%2C10151169089318979&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map={%224257874761315%22%3A282032328576847%2C%2210151169089318979%22%3A282032328576847}&action_type_map={%224257874761315%22%3A%22og.likes%22%2C%2210151169089318979%22%3A%22og.likes%22}&action_ref_map

    (Sorry it’s from a source out of wingnuttia, but this does seem to point to real instances someone with an axe to grind against practicing Christians throwing his weight around).

  • fraser

     These cases aren’t that unusual–I’ve been hearing about them since the last century (including one which used the same tactic against Orthodox Jews getting together at someone’s house on the Sabbath). Most of them seem to be more about refusing to bend on rules or unfriendly neighbors (“That dick who lives next to me has turned his house into a church! What are you going to do about it, huh?”). I don’t notice anything to indicate an anti-Christian bias or that the town in this case would be nicer if it was Wiccans or Sikhs (this is not meant as an excuse).

  • GeniusLemur

     That strikes me as more likely. And even if the whole thing’s true, we have issues with zoning laws. At the other end of the spectrum, we have prominent people, up to and including people vying for the Republican nomination (Herman Cain) arguing in favor of banning mosques outright, in blatant violation of the first amendment.

  • GeniusLemur

    I have no means to verify the article, but if it’s a source out of wingnuttia, the odds are good that it’s partial or complete bullshit, and the linked article has all the hallmarks of wingnut lying. The government charged them with a zoning violation over their six-person Bible study? How would the government even know about it? The only thing missing from the usual narrative is the made-up Muslim group that didn’t get charged despite holding a 500-person Koran study in their 2-bedroom home.

  • Twig

    The Mayor?!   THE MAYOR?!?!

    I just scrolled up again after reading that twice to make sure.  THE MAYOR?!?!?!?!

  • inhumandecency

    I’ll admit that I throw away the stacks of Dianetics pamphlets the scientologists leave sitting around my neighborhood. I hate knowing that I’m interfering with their religious speech (yes, they’re leaving them in public and not on their own property, but realistically, flyering is a common way to communicate and lots of groups do it). But on the other hand, they’re also known for doing real and deliberate harm to people who get involved with them. I think the moral calculus comes down just on the site of interfering with their recruitment.

  • aunursa

    Some states have laws banning theft and destruction of free newspapers (i.e. taking more than the specific number of copies intended for personal use).  I don’t know if there is a law regarding theft of pamphlets.  Regardless of whether it’s illegal, what you are doing is wrong.  The fact that the group whose materials you are destroying may itself be harmful does not mitigate your action.  I consider Jews for Jesus to be an incredibly immoral and harmful organization; but I would not attempt to steal their materials, nor advise anyone else to do so.  (Nor would I seek to destroy materials of an anti-Israel Palestinian group.)

    I distinguish between your actions and the comment of Jeff Wescamp at 3:31 PM.  At least in that case, Jeff purchased the Left Behind books; therefore he is recycling his own property.

  • Lunch Meat

    In some cases, flyering violates HOA rules or city ordinance. It’s also stupid and wasteful (when I was a canvasser, I’d sometimes come across clearly vacant houses with two or three phone books and piles of flyers covering the porch. In many cases the resident doesn’t even look at them before throwing them away–not recycling).

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Regardless of whether it’s illegal, what you are doing is wrong. The fact that the group whose materials you are destroying is itself harmful does not mitigate your action.

    Wow. When did you come across the definitive source of all morality and how can the rest of us get access to it? You don’t think this is immoral; you’re completely certain of both the nature and extent of the morality of this particular action. That’s pretty unusual.

  • aunursa

    You accuse me of claiming to be the sole arbiter of morality.  One who takes it upon herself to destroy brochures that don’t belong to her is acting as the sole arbiter of what is harmful and therefore not safe for public consumption.  Each person is not allowed to make up their own mind because the person who destroys the materials acts as the judge for everyone.  Whatever you may say about my position on this matter, I do not seek to impose single-handedly my judgment of morality or what constitutes harmful materials on anyone else.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    I can respect your position, but I can’t agree with it. I take the same approach as inhumandecency when it comes to materials from the fascist National Front in the city I live in – that stuff is doing real damage to the community I am part of and I will do my best to rid the streets of it.

    (Ironic side-note: I used to work in a restaurant where some NF members would meet*. Their typical meal? Nachos followed by curry. You couldn’t make it up)

    *I and some other employees complained about this, especially since they were openly wearing swastikas and the like, but management refused to bar them

  • The_L1985

     “I used to work in a restaurant where some NF members would meet*. Their
    typical meal? Nachos followed by curry. You couldn’t make it up”

    Wow.  You hate brown people, so you meet up with other haters of brown people to eat….foods invented by brown people.  Makes perfect sense.

  • aunursa

    that stuff is doing real damage to the community I am part of and I will do my best to rid the streets of it

    So you get to destroy property that doesn’t belong to you because you can the sole arbiter of what constitutes harmful materials?  It’s okay to steal because you get to act as judge and police officer?  How would you like it if someone saw a stack of brochures published by your group, and based on his sole determination that the materials constituted harm to the community, took and destroyed the entire stack so as to prevent others from reading them? 

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    1. Not sure you can steal fliers.
    2. I’m not holding myself as sole arbiter of anything. These guys are LITERAL NAZIS. That their ideas are poisonous filth is not controversial. 

  • aunursa

    I’m not holding myself as sole arbiter of anything. These guys are LITERAL NAZIS.

    The Nazis have the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  You hold yourself as the sole arbiter of which materials the public cannot be allowed to see.  The antidote to hate speech is more speech — not less.

    On the other points, my position is exactly the same as Lori’s.

  • AlsnB

     I sort of get where you’re coming from, although I hadn’t thought about it before.  I definitely think I shouldn’t be trashing a group’s materials just because I disagreed with them.  If I were less lazy, a better approach might be to make the effort to provide a counter set of materials.  (But I am lazy so I guess I still might just decide to toss something.  Morally ambiguous SLACKTIVISM.)
    Of course, there are some materials–for example legitimate hate speech of the sort that people could be prosecuted for if they weren’t dropping fliers or bulletins anonymously–that I wouldn’t hesitate to toss.

  • The_L1985

    IHD said he picked what he felt was the less-wrong option.

  • aunursa

    Then he has no complaint when someone else determines to take the “less-wrong option” by destroying materials in which he or his allies invested time and money for writing the articles, time and money for publishing the brochure, and time and money for distributing the materials.

  • LL

    Fred is so nice. And I say that without sarcasm, because it’s nice to have nice people around. I’m not nice, so I’d use a much harsher word than “jerk.” 

    See, it’s stories like these that we need to keep in mind (or just keep and disseminate) when someone says that people who hate gays or people who claim to be Christian are just harmless old throwbacks with no power to hurt anyone or force their views on anyone. I mean, throwing away pamphlets is not such a big deal, but when you walk into someone’s place of business and feel free to throw away pamphlets that they themselves are displaying, what wouldn’t you feel free to do if you had the power to do something much worse? I have no problem whatsoever imagining what that mayor would do if she felt she had that kind of power. We’ve already seen what people like that do in Europe during Nazi rule or Cambodia when Pol Pot was in charge, or on a smaller scale, in Guyana when Jim Jones was in charge of “Jonestown.” I have very little faith in the goodness of human nature (as you might guess) so I always assume that when someone has enough power to do something awful, they will. Or are at least thinking about it. 

  • Jessica_R

    I stick to my sometimes an asshole is just an asshole and say give her the boot, she has no business being in any kind of position of authority over other people. 

  • CAThompson

    It works better in the first example if you take out the “This is against true religion.” Which makes me think of some kind of inter-denominational fight.

  • Münchner Kindl

    There is a difference between taking flyers that have been distributed in a public place and those who are in a place of business, like the Mayor did.

    Another example in the countless list why it would be a good idea if everybody were equal in the US justice system and thus the Mayor could be prosecuted for violation of 1st amendment instead of being safe because govt. agencies can not be brought into court for violating the laws.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Please, please, PLEASE do not talk about US law – especially Constitutional law – again, at least until you’ve done some serious research. For that second paragraph to be any more wrong, I’m fairly certain it would have to involve leprechauns.

  • Münchner Kindl

    I admit I don’t know details of every state – apparently the application varies by each state.

    But it is a principle of US legal system that govt. agencies – like the DA office or the police – can not be prosecuted in a court of law unless they agree to, which in most cases they don’t. This means that if

    the police wrongly arrest and imprison somebody
    the DA or his office suppress exculpating evidence / fail to pass on evidence
    A person is wrongly convicted

    there is neither an automatic investigation by the state into the actions of either the individual officers or the office as whole; nor can the person affected by this privatly prosecute the officers/ office involved for damages.

    I don’t know where in the constitution it says so; but I do know it because in dozen of different cases when these things happen to people in the US, US posters have told me that this rule is the reason why the cops, DAs and judges involved are not punished in any way, and not even brought into court in the first place.

    The same goes for offices that deny wrongly permits or similar: even if they acted grossly neglient or outright broke the law, and even if the citizen had a definite detriment because of that, the citizen has no legal recourse.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

     But it is a principle of US legal system that govt. agencies – like the
    DA office or the police – can not be prosecuted in a court of law unless
    they agree to, which in most cases they don’t. This means that if

    Um, no.

    The same goes for offices that deny wrongly permits or similar: even if
    they acted grossly neglient or outright broke the law, and even if the
    citizen had a definite detriment because of that, the citizen has no
    legal recourse.

    Again, no.

    I don’t know what U.S. posters are feeding you this information, but they have sorely misinformed you.

  • Münchner Kindl

    The last case was which Fred cited recently: a deaf woman called 911 for help, said she was deaf. The cops who showed up then arrested her because she didn’t obey their spoken command, and held her for several days without access to an interpreter. This was against the law in that state: deaf people had to have access to an interpreter in a certain timeframe.

    So please, show me where the cops who broke the law of their state were prosecuted. Or how the victim can take them privatly to court?

    What about the woman with a minor child who was arrested for looking illegal, where the cops couldn’t be bothered to look up the papers that the city govt. had in their possession, and she lost her car because she couldn’t make payments while in prison?

    Please show me the people responsible for that gross neglience were prosecuted in a court of law.

    What about the DA a few years back whose staff suppressed exculpating evidence, and when confronted, waved it off with “ah well they didn’t know that” (although it’s such a basic premise of the advertorial system that law students should learn it in the first week) – please show me where the DA was prosectued in a court of law.

    Otherwise, I will have to accept that the reason given the umpteen times before, whenver I ask “Will the people responible for those screw-ups taken into court?” – “No, they can not be prosecuted for gross neglience or activly breaking the law because the DA’s office/ the police precinct itself can not be accused, and the individual officer can’t be prosecuted, either”.

    When a whole group of cops in LA and other cities were found to be corrupt and forming a tight band, the only way the US could deal with them was to use a special gang law RINO and consider the police a criminal gang – right or wrong? Because under usual laws they couldn’t take corrupt cops or whole gang-precincts to court. Why? Obviously because cops and offices of state are exempt somehow.

    Or how else do you explain it, please?

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

     I don’t need to do any of that.  I simply have to show one or more cases where a police officer was prosecuted for corruption.  Here you go.

    I never claimed that police officers and other state agents are always prosecuted when corrupt or that police officers and other state agents are always sued when they violate someone’s civil rights.  I’m merely pointing out that you are incorrect in your belief that the U.S. legal system prohibits such prosecutions or lawsuits as a matter of law.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    I’m merely pointing out that you are incorrect in your belief that the U.S. legal system prohibits such prosecutions or lawsuits as a matter of law.

    I didn’t say the US legal system prohibits it; I said that they can not be prosecuted unless they allow it (and with some exemptions). If there is a sting by one agency (the FBI in your case) against another agency (local cops), it’s one of the exemptions.

    I also said it’s a principle and I don’t know the details of how it applies in each of the 50 states. Some states may have automatic exemptions from the rule, others not.

    But the principle is “the govt.s can not be sued”. Yes, there are exemptions. It’s still the basic principle.

    I never claimed that police officers and other state agents are always
    prosecuted when corrupt or that police officers and other state agents
    are always sued when they violate someone’s civil rights

    In case of ordinary citizens, serious offences (as opposed to minor ones which are at discretion) are always automatically prosecuted by the state. If the US legal system were equally just, then serious offences – like breaking of civil rights – would automatically be proseceuted regardless of who does them. But because of the 11th amendment, some cases are not automatically prosecuted, if a govt. agency or officer is the one doing the breaking.

    If prosecuting a corrupt cop is so easy in the US legal system, why in the 80s did they have to specially decide to apply the RICO act (which was originally meant for the mafia) also to groups like the LA precinct?

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

     In case of ordinary citizens, serious offences (as opposed to minor ones
    which are at discretion) are always automatically prosecuted by the
    state.

    Actually, this is incorrect.  A good number of cases don’t even make it to or through the indictment process.  Some cases are deemed a waste of time by the D.A.’s office.  You continue to show that you do not have a good grasp of the intricacies or realities of our legal system.  I suggest you quit trying to speak authoritatively on the subject.

    If prosecuting a corrupt cop is so easy in the US legal system,

    Who said anything about it being easy.  I simply pointed out that contrary to your original claim, there’s no legal prohibition against it.  I call shifting goalposts.

    I also reiterate my previous comment: 

    We have reached the point where you seem (to me, at least) intent on
    insisting that you are correct no matter what anyone here tells you or
    what evidence they provide you with.  This is probably not a good point
    to reach.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    You continue to show that you do not have a good grasp of the
    intricacies or realities of our legal system.  I suggest you quit trying
    to speak authoritatively on the subject.

    I’m not speaking authoritavly. I already said that I don’t know the details of 50 different systems.

    We would need experts for each state seperatly, which would make the discussion impossible.

    That’s why I speak generally about the principle, and the philosophy behind it.

    It seems you believe that simply pointing out a few examples invalidate the basic principle.

    I simply pointed out that contrary to your original claim, there’s no legal prohibition against it.  I call shifting goalposts.

    I clarified that: I did not said it’s prohibited, I said it’s not usually possible. Again, yes, there are exemptions. That does not change the principle.

    Again, I’m talking about the principle. You seem to ignore the principle by pointing out singular instances. You have not provided a counter point to the principle.

    We have reached the point where you seem (to me, at least) intent on
    insisting that you are correct no matter what anyone here tells you or
    what evidence they provide you with.  This is probably not a good point
    to reach.

    That’s a serious accusation to make.
    1. You have ignored a large part of my questions unanswered.
    2. You have not refered to my links or sources.
    3. You have not disproven the principle itself, or argued about whether this principle is good or not.

    To me, you haven’t properly engaged in a discussion at all. That’s not a nice way to go about it, from my point of view.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    The people who say that one cannot bring changes against any arm of the government are misinformed. 

    Some states have waived their sovereign immunity, and some haven’t.  The Federal government has effectively waived its sovereign immunity.  City and county governments (which includes Police forces) are not protected by sovereign immunity.

    From what I can tell, it may be possible for charges or a suit to be brought against a state in Federal court.

  • The_L1985

    I have the Constitution in front of me.  You can be tried in a court of law for crimes you commit as President of the United States, which is pretty much the highest office in the land.  If the President can be taken to court like everyone else, then it logically follows that the holders of lesser government posts are likewise susceptible to legal punishment for their crimes.

    Failure to punish police officers et al. for their crimes is a case of corruption within the office, and is illegal.  If the citizen had no legal recourse, that would be the exact opposite of what democracy stands for.  You are referring to the illegal results of corrupt officials protecting their cronies, not to any actual US law.

    Also, a civil suit is not the same thing as a criminal charge.  It is true that elected officials can’t be sued without their permission, but that has no bearing on criminal court.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    Failure to punish police officers et al. for their crimes is a
    case of corruption within the office, and is illegal.  If the citizen
    had no legal recourse, that would be the exact opposite of what
    democracy stands for.  You are referring to the illegal results of
    corrupt officials protecting their cronies, not to any actual US law.

    Um, I’m refering to the many newspaper articles Fred links to, where after a wrongdoing by a cop or DA, the victim / a lawyer says “well we can’t sue, there’s nothing we can do”. They don’t say “the local cops are corrupt, but we are taking this to the higher court”. They don’t say “the victim has decided against a civil suit, but because it’s a crime, the state will investigate and charge”.

    I’m refering to that case a few years ago where a DA and his staff had suppressed evidence in several cases, leading to wrongful convictions, and the article quoted officials as “well we can’t do anything, it’s not a crime we can charge him with” although the rules of the advertorial system clearly state that any exculpating evidence must be turned over to the other side.

    Last time, when the deaf woman was held without interpreter, the article mentioned that this was against the local law. I specifically asked here if charges would be/ could be brought therefore. Nobody answered.

    Also, a civil suit is not the same thing as a criminal charge.  It is
    true that elected officials can’t be sued without their permission, but
    that has no bearing on criminal court.

    So why can’t elected officials not be sued? Is this not part of the sovereign immunity? Is it another principle?

  • The_L1985

     And again:

    1.  “We can’t sue” means “we cannot file a CIVIL suit to the CIVIL courts.”

    2. A lawsuit only has one result:  money changes hands.  It is not the same as a criminal prosecution, which is how people are actually sent to prison.

    “Is this not part of the sovereign immunity? Is it another principle?”

    It is the principle of CIVIL courts and CRIMINAL courts being two different things, as I’ve told you at least 3 other times in this thread.

  • Münchner Kindl

     I have not seen it 3 other times. If I don’t understand your explanation, please make it fuller.

    Also, I know I don’t always use the correct legal terms (I’m not a lawyer and english is not my native language). I thought lawsuit means both parts of going to court. I use “taken to court” as general term for both criminal and civil. If you mean things more specific, please explain in more detail.

    So does sovereign immunity and the 11th amendment mean
    people can not sue civil court – but criminal prosecution is possible
    or does it mean both civil and criminal court is not possible?

    Please say it in plain language instead of citing the original text. I can not understand the original text.

  • The_L1985

    As I said in my explanation (which I posted WITH the original text), 11th amendment only applies to the civil court, not the criminal court.

    It also only applies to people from outside of a given state suing that state as an entity, and has nothing to do with suing individual people at any level of government.

    Also, the bolded parts of the lengthier quotes basically say that a crime committed by anyone can be prosecuted by the courts, and that certain government officials are prosecuted by no less than the Supreme Court itself.

    Generally, in the US, the term “lawsuit” refers only to cases in the civil courts, whereas “prosecution” refers to cases in the criminal courts.

    And I did give explanations in plain language along with the original text. I am sorry that you did not see them: the quotes were in italics, whereas the explanations were not.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    If the President can be taken to court like everyone else, then it
    logically follows that the holders of lesser government posts are
    likewise susceptible to legal punishment for their crimes.

    Though the president has to be impeached first (that is, stripped of his immunity as member of govt., but it’s possible and reasonable idea behind that immunity).

    But there are two different levels:
    A govt. and its office are an entity as a whole – one police precinct for example, or one city council

    and it has members/ officers/ agents who can individually screw up.

    If the whole office itself is of an atmosphere of wholespread defiance of the law – ignoring civil rights, racial profiling, harassing of women, that kind of thing – on a systematic basis; if not only one cop screws up, but his superiors don’t correct things, but hush it up – then you need to charge the whole entity because their whole philosophy of behaviour is rotten.
    Sometimes this means charging the superior, because ultimately the boss is responsible for the behaviour and conduct and outlook of the people he commands. But sometimes everybody is charged.

    And sometimes, one individual screws up, and that individual is charged.

    Partly it depends on what happened: if several people are involved (esp. higher-ups in a cover-up) it’s impossible for the victim to charge only one. Therefore it’s necessary to sometimes charge the whole entity.

    If I understand your argument correctly, you are saying that individuals in govt. can be charged, but not groups?
    So the POTUS can (after impeachment or after his term) be charged; but the whole govt. itself can not be charged? Is that how you interpret the 11th amendment? Or is charging the POTUS another part?

  • The_L1985

    “Though the president has to be impeached first (that is, stripped of his
    immunity as member of govt., but it’s possible and reasonable idea
    behind that immunity).”

    Article 1, Section 3 (i.e., NOT an Amendment, but the original Constitution itself):

    The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When
    sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the
    President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall
    preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two
    thirds of the Members present.
    Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend
    further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and
    enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but
    the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to
    Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

    Article 3, Section 2:

    The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity,
    arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and
    Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;–to all
    Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;–to all
    Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;
    –to Controversies to
    which the United States shall be a Party;–to Controversies between two
    or more States;– between a State and Citizens of another State,–between
    Citizens of different States,–between Citizens of the same State
    claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or
    the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

    In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public
    Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the
    supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.
    In all the other Cases
    before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction,
    both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such
    Regulations as the Congress shall make.

    The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of
    Impeachment, shall be by Jury;
    and such Trial shall be held in the State
    where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed
    within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the
    Congress may by Law have directed.

    Also, I have already explained the 11th Amendment to you in another post.  Please read that post before you respond to this one.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Please, it does not help me at all if you quote full legalese.

    Second, I don’t quite understand why you quote this text: I agree that impeachment is the step of making it possible for the president (ministers) to be prosecuted, and so is not a court case in itself, but preliminary.

    I did read your post about the 11th amendment. The text itself is completly confusing, but your points below are helpful.

    I still do not understand why you say

    2. This doesn’t say that a GA resident can’t sue Georgia. It says that people from outside GA can’t sue GA.

    but wikipedia says

    Sovereign immunity in the United States is the legal privilege by
    which the American federal, state, and tribal governments cannot be
    sued. Local governments in most jurisdictions enjoy immunity from some
    forms of suit, particularly in tort.

    This seems to contradict each other.

    Also, you say “Sue” means only civil court? So the word “sue” in this instance is only civil court = money damages? The word for criminal court would be “prosecution” only?

    So what principle applies to criminal prosecution of either entities like the state of GA, or officials acting in the name of the state?

  • The_L1985

     1. I only quoted the part about impeachment because that section also states that, while only the Senate can impeach a president, he is still fully susceptible to prosecution.  He can be taken to criminal court if he commits a crime.

    2. Wikipedia is not always reliable; however, here it’s not actually contradicting what I said.  Note it says “SOME forms of suit,” not all civil suits in general.  A class-action suit (a.k.a. “tort”) is a suit by hundreds or thousands of people at once, so it makes sense that you wouldn’t want one of those filed against the government.

    3.  Yes, “sue” refers solely to monetary damages and the like.  For example, if a doctor accidentally leaves a small piece of medical equipment in your body during surgery, you can sue him for monetary damages (usually the amount necessary to get the item removed, plus a small amount to pay off the lawyers and such).

    4.  Article 3 applies to criminal prosecution of states or officials, just as it does to prosecution of individual citizens.  The appropriate levels of the U.S. criminal court system handle the case, based on where the crime took place and who is being charged.  Sometimes, a case gets moved to a higher court until it is either settled or it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    3.  Yes, “sue” refers solely to monetary damages and the like.  For
    example, if a doctor accidentally leaves a small piece of medical
    equipment in your body during surgery, you can sue him for monetary
    damages (usually the amount necessary to get the item removed, plus a
    small amount to pay off the lawyers and such).

    Ah. So I must admit I used the wrong term. I meant the general word for “take to court” (is there a general word, or is it always differentiated into civil or criminal?)

    Also, in your example, I would want the doctor prosecuted for neglience in addition.

    2. Wikipedia is not always reliable; however, here it’s not actually
    contradicting what I said.  Note it says “SOME forms of suit,” not all
    civil suits in general.  A class-action suit (a.k.a. “tort”) is a suit
    by hundreds or thousands of people at once, so it makes sense that you
    wouldn’t want one of those filed against the government.

    Sorry, I’m still unclear on the meaning.
    You said that 11th am. means only that people outside GA can not sue (civil) the state of GA. I inferred that you mean that people from GA can sue the state, therefore.

    Wikipedia says the state of GA can not be sued. I understand that nobody can sue the state of GA, whether inside or outside.

    Which is correct?

  • The_L1985

    “Ah. So I must admit I used the wrong term. I meant the general word
    for “take to court” (is there a general word, or is it always
    differentiated into civil or criminal?)

    Also, in your example, I would want the doctor prosecuted for neglience in addition.”

    “Take to court,” as it is generally used, refers also to civil suits.  In the example, the patient can’t have the doctor prosecuted, but if the doctor is arrested for negligence, then yes, he/she can go to prison.  Arrest is generally a necessary part of criminal prosecution, and since you need a warrant to arrest someone*, it’s not exactly super-easy to send people to prison (for good reasons).

    “You said that 11th am. means only that people outside GA can not sue
    (civil) the state of GA. I inferred that you mean that people from GA
    can sue the state, therefore.”

    The 11th Amendment doesn’t affect whether or not people from GA can sue GA.  I don’t know what other laws may affect suing states (El Santo says you can’t do it at all, but I honestly don’t know), just that it isn’t mentioned in that particular amendment.

    *4th and 5th Amendments:  You can’t search or seize someone’s property without a search warrant, and you can’t arrest someone without a warrant for that person’s arrest.

  • El Santo

    “(El Santo says you can’t do it at all, but I honestly don’t know)”

    Well, it’s like the situation with the feds, only x50.  Every state has its own regime of what is and is not covered under sovereign immunity, and I didn’t want to open up that can of worms while I was trying to CLARIFY the issue, you know?

  • Ross Thompson

    *4th and 5th Amendments:  You can’t search or seize someone’s property without a search warrant, and you can’t arrest someone without a warrant for that person’s arrest unless they’re committing the crime right in front of the police.

    Except at airports, or by reading their email, or tapping their phone, or any one of the dozens of other “loopholes” the Supreme Court has recently seen fit to carve into the 4th.

  • El Santo

    I’m not The_L1985, but I think I can clear up at least some of your confusion.

    1.  “Sue” does indeed mean to bring action in civil court, whether for money damages or to compel some specific action.  For instance, if you were fired unjustly, you could sue your employer either for some amount of money or to make them reinstate you in your old job.

    2.  The criminal equivalent of suit is prosecution.

    3.  The reason we have two different words is because the object of a criminal trial is very different from the object of a civil trial.  In a civil case, the person who initiates the suit (called the “plaintiff”) is the individual who believes himself to be wronged, and the aim of the proceeding is to undo the harm caused to him, or at least to compensate him for it.  In a criminal case, action is initiated by the government (whether state or federal), and the aim is to punish the wrongdoer.  The victim herself has no role in a criminal trial except possibly as a witness, and may not receive any compensation for her injuries even if the prosecution is successful.

    4.  The criminal courts in America cover individuals only, not governments or corporations.  This makes sense, when you think about it from a practical standpoint:  how exactly would you send the state of New Hampshire or Ford Motor Corporation to prison?

    5.  Sovereign immunity applies to state and federal governments, but not to governments of lesser rank (cities, counties, parishes, etc.).  Furthermore, the federal government has waived sovereign immunity in a wide array of circumstances by statute.  That means Congress has said that in all cases meeting certain general descriptions (you’d have to look up the individual statutes to say which, and I don’t have that kind of time right now), the federal government will submit to being sued.  Presumably future Congresses could repeal the laws waiving sovereign immunity, but that hasn’t happened yet.

    6.  The main purpose of the 11th Amendment was to establish a mechanism whereby states governments in dispute with each other could get those disputes resolved on neutral territory.  For example, Maryland and Virginia have been wrangling over water rights in the Potomac River (which acts as the border between them) literally for centuries, and the way those lawsuits are handled is governed by the 11th Amendment.  For the purposes of your question, the 11th Amendment is more a distraction than anything else.

    7.  As I said in my big, long post above, individual government employees or officials can indeed be sued or prosecuted, but only AS INDIVIDUALS.  The principle is called the “stripping doctrine,” and it was intended to address exactly the sort of concerns that you raise.  Note also that because American law allows for suit or prosecution to be brought against multiple people for the same offense (the targets of such proceedings are called “co-defendants”), the stripping doctrine could in theory be applied to the whole membership of, say, a police department or a district attorney’s office, although it would be highly unusual to do so.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    4.  The criminal courts in America cover individuals only, not
    governments or corporations.  This makes sense, when you think about it
    from a practical standpoint:  how exactly would you send the state of
    New Hampshire or Ford Motor Corporation to prison?

    Well, the fish stinks from the head. If the whole culture and attitude of a group is wrong, then the whole thing must be cleared out, instead of picking one lower-rank scapegoat and continuing as usual.

    With corporations, the problem of diluted responsiblity and how to make people accountable in court has been addressed by Fred several times in the past – we need new morals and new laws not only if corporations are “persons”, but also to adequatly deal with new problems of a few people giving orders, many people following them that cause grief for thousands of victims, but nobody being responsible for a direct criminal act.

    Yes, it’s practically difficult, but I think it’s important to find a solution.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    6.  The main purpose of the 11th Amendment was to establish a mechanism
    whereby states governments in dispute with each other could get those
    disputes resolved on neutral territory.  For example, Maryland and
    Virginia have been wrangling over water rights in the Potomac River
    (which acts as the border between them) literally for centuries, and the
    way those lawsuits are handled is governed by the 11th Amendment.  For
    the purposes of your question, the 11th Amendment is more a distraction
    than anything else.

    Thank you, that explains the original idea better. I understand sovereign immunity in places which have a sovereign (like monarchies) because that is a holdover from being special, blessed, not-ordinary-mortal etc.

    But exemptions in a democracy don’t make sense to me.

    Note also that because American law allows for suit or prosecution to be
    brought against multiple people for the same offense (the targets of
    such proceedings are called “co-defendants”), the stripping doctrine
    could in theory be applied to the whole membership of, say, a police
    department or a district attorney’s office, although it would be highly
    unusual to do so.

    So if a whole DA office or police precinct shows in their behaviour a blatant disregard in their whole attitude, the whole group could be brought up for criminal prosecution under one suit, and thus house be cleaned?
    That sounds like it could work. But if you say it’s unusual, why is not done often?

  • El Santo

    “So if a whole DA office or police precinct shows in their behaviour a blatant disregard in their whole attitude, the whole group could be brought up for criminal prosecution under one suit, and thus house be cleaned?That sounds like it could work. But if you say it’s unusual, why is not done often?

    Again, it’s a question of practicality.  If you’re the plaintiff trying to get some semblance of justice, it’s just a lot quicker, easier, and cheaper (those legal bills do add up, after all) to pick out the worst of the bad apples and go after them with every weapon at your disposal than it is to try to prove that the whole barrel is at fault.

  • The_L1985

    Maybe government agencies in your country can’t be penalized for breaking the law, but I assure you, in the US, officials are legally accountable for any crimes they commit in office (at least, on paper*–the fact that a lot of politicians are very rich, and the existing injustice of It’s OK If You’re Wealthy, tends to warp things a bit).

    The concept of “diplomatic immunity” only applies to officials who are traveling abroad, so they don’t have to worry about accidentally breaking a law they didn’t know existed.  It doesn’t apply to things that are illegal everywhere (murder, theft, harassment, assault, vandalism, etc.), or to things that the official had been specifically told ahead of time were against the local laws.

    ——————————————-

    * “Paper,” in this case, being the U.S. Constitution.

  • Cathy W

    Without invoking diplomatic immunity, it’s harder, legally,  to prosecute some public officials for actions taken in the course of their official duties.  I don’t think that applies here, but it’s also all but impossible, practically, to prosecute the well-connected in some jurisdictions, regardless of the law.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    True, but neither of those problems are unique to the US justice system.

  • Lori

     

    The concept of “diplomatic immunity” only applies to officials who are
    traveling abroad, so they don’t have to worry about accidentally
    breaking a law they didn’t know existed.  It doesn’t apply to things
    that are illegal everywhere (murder, theft, harassment, assault,
    vandalism, etc.), or to things that the official had been specifically
    told ahead of time were against the local laws.   

    This is not how diplomatic immunity works. Diplomatic immunity applies to certain officials when they are in a foreign county in the course of their duties (not traveling on vacation or something).  It covers pretty much everything because the purpose is not to keep the diplomat from being charged for breaking a law s/he didn’t know about, it’s to keep the diplomat from being charged with a crime in order to manipulate his/her home government.

    That means that the worst the host country can do to a diplomat who commits even a serious crime is to strip his/her credentials and send him/her home, barred from ever returning to the country in question. In some cases they may be able to get his/her home country to agree to prosecute, but they can’t do it themselves.

    The only thing that can change that is for the home country (not the diplomat) to wave diplomatic immunity. As a practical matter that’s what tends to happen if there’s evidence that a diplomat committed a serious crime, but it’s not always the case. If relations are particularly difficult between the two countries or the host country has a particularly sketchy justice system the home country may refuse to wave immunity and simply recall the official. I can think of at least one case where the USSR did that with a diplomat who had committed vehicular homicide (he was driving drunk and, IIRC, hit and killed a pedestrian). They refused to wave immunity and simply put him on a plane and that was that. Everyone involved was incredibly pissed and it generated plenty of outrage, but TTBOMK the guy never spent so much as a day in jail. I imagine that his career took a dive and he never got another foreign posting (which wasn’t such a small thing back in the day), but he was never charged for his crime.

  • The_L1985

     Ah.  I had a vague idea of how it worked, but clearly there were a lot of holes in my knowledge.  Thank you!

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    Maybe government agencies in your country can’t be penalized for
    breaking the law, but I assure you, in the US, officials are legally
    accountable for any crimes they commit in office

    You misunderstood me. In my country, we have the principle of “Rechtsstaat” (it doesn’t even exist in AE, so there is no direct translation for it but the principle is explained here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rechtsstaat ). One of the parts is that if a DA, cop, office worker for govt. agency etc. is either grossly neglient or outright breaks the law when doing their job, they will both be automatically prosecuted by court, and the citzen can also take them privatly to court for damages incurred because of this.

    In the US legal system, the principle is that agencies of state, like a DAs office etc. can not be sued unless they agree to be sued, which they mostly don’t.

    The state has what we call sovereign immunity, which means it must waive
    its immunity in order to be subject to suit. This is most commonly done
    by statute, and as you might expect, sovereign immunity varies from
    state to state.

      from
    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2262/do-the-wrongfully-imprisoned-get-compensation

    The concept of “diplomatic immunity” only applies to officials who are traveling abroad

    Not what I was talking about.

  • Jim Roberts

    Aunursa, your argument falls apart very quickly. You’re calling this theft, but you can’t steal something that has been freely distributed. You mention destruction of free newspapers being a punishable offense. That is true only in certain areas and only because newspapers are a protected class. When you give something for free and do not monitor its distribution, you have no say in how it is distributed.

    My kids love collage. Love it. Every time I’m in a new place, with a pamphlet rack, I scoop up one of each. When I return home, my kids get busy with the scissors. They might keep a word or two, but they’re most interested in the pictures.

    I pick up these pamphlets with the express purpose of having them destroyed. Is this immoral? If not, why not?

  • Lori

    I pick up these pamphlets with the express purpose of having them destroyed.

    You pick up one of each, which is the number that people are intended to take. The fact that you’re picking them up for a purpose other than reading them is the risk groups take when they put out pamphlets.

    This is quite different from taking and destroying all the copies of a particular brochure for the purpose of preventing other people from even seeing them and I suspect you know that.

  • Lori

    On the brochure issue, I have to agree with aunursa (and you know I don’t say that lightly). Either people have the legal right to distribute brochures or they don’t. It’s not OK to decide that Group A can do it because they’re “good”, or at least harmless, but Group B can’t because they’re “bad”. As we discuss pretty much every day there are groups who place those labels exactly the opposite of the way we would (this statement is true no matter how one slices and dices the “we”). Unless the brochures are actually illegal then I think you have to leave them alone and allow people to make their own decisions about taking/reading one. If they are illegal you report them and use the correct process for having them removed.

    To do otherwise is to give up the right to complain when those jerks do the same to groups that you support. (See also: the brouhaha over stolen and defaced yard signs during the Prop 8 campaign.)

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    To do otherwise is to give up the right to complain when those jerks do the same to groups that you support.

    More broadly, it’s to give up the right to claim to support freedom of speech as a principled stance, rather than a tactic of convenience.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    Lori:


    This is quite different from taking and destroying all the copies of a particular brochure for the purpose of preventing other people from even seeing them and I suspect you know that.

    We’re talking about throwing away fliers from one particular place, not destroying their printing presses.

    Dave:
    More broadly, it’s to give up the right to claim to support freedom of speech as a principled stance, rather than a tactic of convenience.

    No right is absolute, and that includes Freedom of Speech. I have no problem with anti-Holocaust Denial laws, on hate speech laws and on other restrictions, in the right circumstances.

  • Lori

     

    We’re talking about throwing away fliers from one particular place, not destroying their printing presses.  

    So? This is really rather beside the point.

     

    No right is absolute, and that includes Freedom of Speech. I have no
    problem with anti-Holocaust Denial laws, on hate speech laws and on
    other restrictions, in the right circumstances.  

    A) This has nothing to do really with taking a bunch of flyers & destroying them simply because you consider the group harmful.

    B) You are of course free to support a much more restrictive application of the 1st Amendment than the US currently has. However, it’s questionable if you can do that and call yourself a principled supporter of free speech and it’s definite that you can’t complain if the majority gets together and decides that your ideas are among those that are just too nasty and/or dangerous to be allowed free expression.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    No right is absolute, and that includes Freedom of Speech. I have no problem with [..] restrictions, in the right circumstances.

    I agree.
    But the broader those “right circumstances” are understood to be, the less significant that nominal freedom is.
    If we extend the category of “right circumstances” to include someone endorsing Scientology, for example, I suspect we’ve made it essentially insignificant. 

  • The_L1985

     It depends.  If I’m ignoring pamphlets from groups I hate, but which do no real harm to people, while at the same time destroying pamphlets from a group (the KKK, for instance) that definitively does actual, measurable harm to actual, verifiable people as part of its purpose (i.e., not an unintended side-effect), is that principle, convenience, or both?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Just to clarify, here. You aren’t positing a provision that says harmful acts are not protected by the first amendment, even if they happen to be speech acts… right? I would consider that a fairly narrow and principled exception, compatible with the general existence of a right to free speech, and I endorse it.

    Rather, you are positing a broader exception that says harmless speech acts are not protected by the first amendment if they accrue to the benefit of groups that intentionally hurt people. Is that right?

    If so… I would consider that a principled exception if applied across the board (rather than applied to groups I disapprove of that hurt people, but not to other groups that I’m indifferent to that hurt people) but I don’t endorse it.

    Or are you not positing a systematic legal exception at all, but rather an individual mandate to silence proponents of groups each individual disapproves of that hurt people? If so, I don’t consider that a principled exception, and I don’t endorse it.

    To use your specific example… if we demonstrate before the law that the KKK performs criminal acts (including but not limited to criminally hurting people) then I endorse taking legal action against the KKK to stop them from performing those acts, up to and including disbanding them altogether, and I think that’s compatible with endorsing a principle of free speech. I don’t endorse laws criminalizing blog posts endorsing the KKK, but I think that can be compatible with endorsing a principle of free speech, depending on how it’s done. I don’t endorse taking extra-legal action to silence that blogger, and don’t think endorsing such action is compatible with endorsing a principle of free speech.

  • The_L1985

    Er….We already have a principle in place that certain forms of harmful speech are not tolerated.  It is illegal, for instance, to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or to call 911 when there’s no emergency.

    There’s a difference between removing pamphlets or fliers from one particular spot and shutting down a blog or printing press.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    We already have a principle in place that certain forms of harmful speech are not tolerated.

    Yes, that’s true.

    There’s a difference between removing pamphlets or fliers from one particular spot and shutting down a blog or printing press.

    Yes, that also is true.

  • Jim Roberts

    I don’t mean to sound as though I endorse someone throwing out a stack of pamphlets simply because you don’t like the group they represent.

    What I object to is saying that throwing away a stack of free pamphlets is, by definition, an immoral act. It may be an illegal act, it may be ethically questionable, but I’d hesitate at immoral, particularly with the scant detail we have.

  • Lori

    I suppose that depends entirely on how one defines “immoral” and that’s a fair discussion to have, but it really has nothing to do with your kids’ art project materials.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Münchner Kindl does have a point, but it’s not due to diplomatic immunity. It’s due to something colloquially called the “blue shield” or the “blue wall”. Police officers will abuse the law, and then rely on the fact that nobody in the hierarchy of the police will ever hang them out to dry for it.

    It is not a de jure immunity to the consequences of police actions but it is de facto.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

     Well yes.  There’s the blue wall.  There’s also the fact that a lot of people aren’t going to push the issue — like taking a civil rights violation to court — for various reasons (like they just don’t have the time, money, or other resources to do so).  But as you pointed, that’s all de facto, not de jure as is being claimed.

    As a rough analogy, I have an acquaintance who lost her job teaching at a given school because the administration found her blog about Druidry and took issue with it.  She could demonstrate that the blog was not hosted on a school server and that she did not use school time or resources for blogging.  She had a pretty solid case for a discrimination suit.

    However, pursuing the suit would require her to devote a lot of time and money.  It would also require her to either remain local or make extended trips back to her town of residence at the time for court appearances and so forth.  This would effectively mean putting her search for a new job on hold, as it was likely that she would not find a new source of employment in that area and would be unable to take time off for court appearances if she did.  In the end, she decided not to sue simply because the other needs in her life took priority.

    That decision doesn’t change the fact that there was a case there.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    There’s also the fact that a lot of people aren’t going to push the
    issue — like taking a civil rights violation to court — for various
    reasons (like they just don’t have the time, money, or other resources
    to do so).

    If citzens don’t bring civil suit because of private reasons (too much hassle/ time), that’s one thing.

    If they can not bring civil suit at all, that’s another thing.

    Apart from the civil suit, some law-breakings should automatically be prosecuted by the state. A thief who steals from a private citizen will automatically be brought into criminal court, regardless of what happens in civil court.

    But if a cop steals; if a DA suppresses evidence and shrugs it off; if the cops inprison a woman without bothering to look up her correct papers – nothing happens in criminal court.

    You do not see a problem with that?
    You deny that these things happen?
    You point out examples where cops have been brought to court as counters? That doesn’t do away the general principle.
    What explanation do you have?

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

     But if a cop steals; if a DA suppresses evidence and shrugs it off;
    if the cops inprison a woman without bothering to look up her correct
    papers – nothing happens in criminal court.

    That is not universally true, as has been repeatedly pointed out to you.

    You do not see a problem with that?

    I see a big problem with that.  Quit putting words in my mouth.

    You deny that these things happen?

    Nope.  Never have.  Again, quite putting words in my mouth.

    You point out examples where cops have been brought to court as counters?

    I did.

    That doesn’t do away the general principle.

    It does away with the claim that by law, cops and prosecutors cannot be prosecuted for such things.

    What explanation do you have?

    I have explained.  Your mind is clearly made up.  I will not waste any more of my time or stand for any more of your badgering.

  • aunursa

    There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cases that disprove the false claim you are trying to advance.  Here is just one of the most famous ones.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Um, no. The blue wall is a problem in all countries with a police force ( or with an army, or fire fighters, or similar): that because their lives depend on their partner, people will start to believe they have to be loyal to their partner even if he is breaking the law. How much pressure is put from the old-timers to the new-timers to follow that code of loyalty/ silence, or how much time the training school and supervisors spend explaining that the law is more important and that loyalty is to the law first, and that bad apples dishonor and betray everybody, varies from country to country.

    But “sovereign immunity” is a principle that not all countries have, that explicitly spells out that some parts of the government do not have to answer to the law in court. I can not see it as anything else than an exemption, and huge problems deriving from it.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    We have reached the point where you seem (to me, at least) intent on insisting that you are correct no matter what anyone here tells you or what evidence they provide you with.  This is probably not a good point to reach.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Um, no. I have conflicting evidence; and I’m not a lawyer. (Nobody else here has declared themselves to be lawyers, either).

    So on one hand, newspapers articles about people being wrongly charged say that these people can not sue. Wikipedia explains that the 11th amendment is about sovereign immunity that the govt. can not be sued (unless…) And again, previous US posters did give sovereing immunity as reason for many cases.

    On the other hand, you basically say “No, wrong”.

    That’s not convincing enough for me, sorry. Give a better explanation; answer all my questions (instead of ignoring the most part); give some valid cites about the principle.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

     On the other hand, you basically say “No, wrong”.

    I and others have offered specific counterexamples that contradict your basic claim.  I find the fact you mischaracterize that as “basically saying ‘No, wrong'” further evidence that you are not participating in this discussion in good faith.

  • Münchner Kindl

     You have ignored large part of my questions. You have not disputed the principle of 11th amendment.

    I noted several times that there are exemptions: if the state agrees to be sued; exemptions to the 11th am. clarified by several court decisions; some states waived their state immunity.

    Exemptions to a principle don’t automatically contradict the principle. Sometimes, there are so many exemptions that for all practical purposes, the principle is nullified. Sometimes not.
    The specific counterexamples you have given do not convince me at all that the principle of sovereign immunity is nullified in practice.

    You have not answered my examples.

    To me, your repeated method of ignoring parts of my questions is evidence that you are not in good faith; that you play “Gotcha” with a few examples, when I already said “general principle”.

    To use a comparision: If I claim that in general, gays in the US are discriminated against, pointing out that a few states allow gay marriage does not invalidate the general claim, because on the whole level, the negative instances are much more than the exemptions.

  • aunursa

    You made this claim.

    But it is a principle of US legal system that govt. agencies – like the DA office or the police – can not be prosecuted in a court of law unless they agree to, which in most cases they don’t.

    This claim is false.  Everyone else here knows this claim is false.  When you try to argue that you know the American legal system better than we do, you make yourself look like an idiot. 

    That is all.

  • The_L1985

    Nobody is playing “Gotcha” except you.  “General principle” means general LEGAL principle, according to what YOU said in your very first comment on this article.  You said it was illegal to prosecute US officials or law enforcement officers, and we gave clear counterexamples proving that this is not the case.

    The fact that you don’t understand the 11th Amendment, or that you’ve been misinformed by Americans who can’t be bothered to look it up, doesn’t automatically make you right.

    (By the way:  http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html  That is the WHOLE Constitution, amendments and all, verbatim.  It is the law of the land.  If you are going to argue about US law or the US Constitution, you damn well better have done some research first.)

  • Münchner Kindl

     Um please, don’t start getting snide. Until now, you try to explain the details. Please answer my questions neutrally as before.

    I said I’m not a lawyer. So reading the constitution itself does not explain anything to me. The full text you gave above is completly confusing to me. So I rely on paraphrases in normal language. Additionally, the law is changing by interpretation, when I look at the wikipedia article.

    And I try to understand the principle of the 11th amendment and of sovereign immunity.

    So far from what you and the others have said, there are exceptions. I already admit that. But do these exceptions mean that for all practical purposes it no longer applies?

    Pepperjack said

    Some states have waived their sovereign immunity, and some haven’t. 
    The Federal government has effectively waived its sovereign immunity. 
    City and county governments (which includes Police forces) are not
    protected by sovereign immunity.

    From what I can tell, it may be possible for charges or a suit to be brought against a state in Federal court.

    Do you believe that this means that for all practical reasons, the principle is no longer valid because almost all cases can be brought?

    Because I still do not understand and have not gotten an answer as to why people say “we can not prosecute” DAs or cops.

    Is it because reporters are misinformed and people could sue? (Though they often cite lawyers).
    Is it a confusion of “Can not sue” with “do not want to sue”?
    Is it a case where the exemption of sovereign immunity does not apply?

  • The_L1985

    “Because I still do not understand and have not gotten an answer as to why people say “we can not prosecute” DAs or cops.”

    It is because those particular people are misinformed.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    “Because I still do not understand and have not gotten an answer as to why people say “we can not prosecute” DAs or cops.”

    It is because those particular people are misinformed.

    Thank you! Finally.

    However, (sorry ;-), this only raises more questions for me:

    Is there no institution / group to bring these cases where prosecution is possible routinly into court? You have the ACLU which is concerned about civil rights, but a private group.

    Can they only bring civil cases, not criminal ones? Are they limited in funds and time and so only take a few cases?

    Is there no prosecutor general or similar who oversees a state / the union for misdeeds and brings them to court? (Is it a problem of jurisdiction again, that the feds can’t prosecute on a local level, and that not all states have a state DA?)

    Should not such an institution exist to counteract lack of probity? (Or would an institution itself suffer from it)?

  • The_L1985

    “Can they only bring civil cases, not criminal ones?”

    Bingo!  Only the courts can bring a criminal case against someone, and you can’t have more than one criminal trial for the same person and the same exact offense.  (For example, Joe murders Sally, but is acquitted in court due to lack of evidence.  Joe can’t be tried for Sally’s murder again, but if he kills somebody else, he can be tried for that second murder.)

    Basically, a suspect is arrested*, then the prosecution and defense prepare their case.  The defendant (suspected criminal) then gets his legally-required trial by jury, and is either acquitted (found innocent) or sentenced (because he was found guilty).  You have to be arrested first.

    To be “tried” generally refers to the criminal courts (to help distinguish it from being “sued”).

    * Forgot an exception to the “must have an arrest warrant” rule:  if the police actually witness you committing a crime, or if you attack an officer, they can arrest you on the spot.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    Basically, a suspect is arrested*, then the prosecution and defense
    prepare their case.  The defendant (suspected criminal) then gets his
    legally-required trial by jury, and is either acquitted (found innocent)
    or sentenced (because he was found guilty).  You have to be arrested
    first.

    But there are two kinds of arrest then – the one with a warrant/ witnessing a crime; and the one where police just arrests people and throws them into jail without charging them.

    Or do the cops in the unjust cases always claim “it was an attack on a cop/ resisting arrest”? Can you actually be arrested for a traffic ticket, or only because your asking “why?” is twisted into “resisting arrest”?

  • El Santo

    “But there are two kinds of arrest then – the one with a warrant/ witnessing a crime; and the one where police just arrests people and throws them into jail without charging them.”

    No, a warrantless arrest still requires the police to charge you with something, or to release you within a set period of time (usually 24 hours, but it probably varies somewhat from one jurisdiction to another).  Once you’ve been formally charged, there’s a hearing before a low-ranking judge to set the amount of your bail (the amount of money that you’d need to pay in order to avoid staying in jail until your trial– which you really want to do, since the delay between arrest and trial can amount to months).  Then comes the grand jury hearing, at which another judge and 24 more or less randomly selected citizens hear the preliminary evidence against you, and decide whether or not the police have enough evidence against you to merit an actual trial.  If not, the charges are dropped, and you go on your way.  But if the grand jury is impressed with the evidence against you, trial proceedings begin.

    “Or do the cops in the unjust cases always claim ‘it was an attack on a cop/ resisting arrest’? Can you actually be arrested for a traffic ticket, or only because your asking ‘why?’ is twisted into ‘resisting arrest’?”

    All too often that is EXACTLY what happens.  It isn’t allowed, naturally, but cops can be criminals, too.

  • The_L1985

     You have just pinpointed exactly why poor people tend not to get much in the way of justice in this country.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Um please, don’t start getting snide.

    I find it amusing that this sentence starts with “um”, and that it’s the second response that starts that way, because it’s forbidden on TWoP to start a reply with “um” since it almost always is an indication that the poster is – yep – being snide.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    I find it amusing that this sentence starts with “um”, and that it’s the
    second response that starts that way, because it’s forbidden on TWoP to
    start a reply with “um” since it almost always is an indication that
    the poster is – yep – being snide.

    TWop = Television without Pity? Or do you mean something else?

    And I thought um is just a noise of clearing your throat to get attention or get your thoughts, like hm?

  • Münchner Kindl

    Here’s the principle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_immunity_in_the_United_States

    “Sovereign immunity in the United States is the legal privilege by
    which the American federal, state, and tribal governments cannot be
    sued. Local governments in most jurisdictions enjoy immunity from some
    forms of suit, particularly in tort.”

    So how do you call this principle, if not that state agencies and people who work for them are exempt?

    Oh, and it’s called the 11th amendment apparently.

  • The_L1985

     Those are CIVIL suits.  What Americans generally refer to as a “lawsuit” is a CIVIL suit, which is not settled in the criminal courts.

  • Emcee, cubed

    But it is a principle of US legal system that govt. agencies – like the DA office or the police – can not be prosecuted in a court of law unless they agree to, which in most cases they don’t. This means that if the police wrongly arrest and imprison somebody the DA or his office suppress exculpating evidence / fail to pass on evidence A person is wrongly convicted
    there is neither an automatic investigation by the state into the actions of either the individual officers or the office as whole; nor can the person affected by this privatly prosecute the officers/ office involved for damages.

    You are misunderstanding what this means, and how it is applied. Yes, innocent people get arrested by the police. The DA’s office prosecute innocent people. Innocent people get wrongly convicted. The nature of those jobs and our system means those things can happen. We try to limit them, but they will happen. 

    If those people and the system were working in good faith, then yes, you have no legal recourse. Otherwise, every person found innocent in a courtroom would have a basis to sue the police and the DA’s office. That would be ridiculous. However, in a case of actual wrongdoing? Whether it is maliciousness, negligence, or other illegal acts, then you do have recourse, and there have been some rather high profile cases of such things happening. The outcomes are not always what we’d hope for, but the cases do go before a judge and jury.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    However, in a case of actual wrongdoing? Whether it is maliciousness,
    negligence, or other illegal acts, then you do have recourse, and there
    have been some rather high profile cases of such things happening. The
    outcomes are not always what we’d hope for, but the cases do go before a
    judge and jury.

    In all the cases I cited – articles in US newspapers in the past years, often linked to by Fred – the DAs or cops were not brought into a court at all, and the reason given – by US posters when I asked why – was that they could not be prosecuted.

    So either the principle of exemption because of sovereign immunity applies in most cases and only a very few cases are exempt from the 11th ammendment and do get to court – or a lot of people are lying/ misinformed. (I assume that will be the next argument “But you can’t trust newspapers!”, because it’s always used).

  • Emcee, cubed

    The high profile case I can think of that involved charging and trying individual officers,  suing the police force and the city, is the Rodney King case. Though the 4 officers were acquitted, they were in fact tried. (The Feds then charged them with civil rights violations, and two were found guilty.) King also sued the City of Los Angeles for civil rights violations and won damages from them. So as Jarred says, the US legal system does not prohibit such prosecutions in the cases of wrongdoing.

    The other one I can think of is the one where the State of Massachusetts is suing the federal government for not recognizing same-sex couples who are legally married in the state. If the federal government can be sued, I can’t imagine that a police department can’t.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    The high profile case I can think of that involved charging and trying
    individual officers,  suing the police force and the city, is the Rodney
    King case. Though the 4 officers were acquitted, they were in fact
    tried. (The Feds then charged them with civil rights violations, and two
    were found guilty.) King also sued the City of Los Angeles for civil
    rights violations and won damages from them. So as Jarred says, the US
    legal system does not prohibit such prosecutions in the cases of
    wrongdoing.

    And wasn’t a big part of the problem of the Rodney King case that the Feds had to use the civil rights angle instead of the real mishandling because otherwise they would have not jurisdiction? Wasn’t the whole case of Rodney King about it being a highly political and thus pressure being brought to bear?

    Again, if the state agrees – because there is pressure – or if it’s one of the exemptions (like civil rights) – then cases can be brought.

    But not automatically. Not for citizens who suffered wrongdoings, where therefore the DA should step in regardless of civil suits.

    It seems you don’t understand the problem with the principle that the govt. agencies are exempt because a few cases did actually get to court? That without needing exceptions or special allowance, instead prosecuting each illegal behaviour automatically, would provide much more justice and protection to the citizens?

  • Emcee, cubed

    If prosecuting a corrupt cop is so easy in the US legal system, why in the 80s did they have to specially decide to apply the RICO act (which was originally meant for the mafia) also to groups like the LA precinct?

    This is mostly a jurisdictional issue. The federal government does not have power over local law enforcement. There is no federal law that says that a local police officer has to obey certain rules. Those are usually local or state laws, and the federal government has no power to enforce those laws. Therefore, they need a federal statute to use to go after them. This is the same reason that they couldn’t get involved with the Trayvon Martin shooting except as a civil rights violation. 

    The other reason is one of the burden of evidence. RICO laws allow them to use a different burden of proof to shows conspiracy and ties to show that all the crimes are related, as opposed to just individual wrongdoing. 

  • Emcee, cubed

     It is true that elected officials can’t be sued without their permission, but that has no bearing on criminal court.

    Actually, the way this is stated, it is untrue as well. Elected officials can’t not be sued for things that take place in commission of their duties as an elected official. I can’t sue the mayor for damages because the city exercised its right of eminent domain and took my house to build a freeway. I can, however, sue the mayor as a private citizen if s/he rear-ended my car and refused to pay for it. 

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    Elected officials can’t not be sued for things that take place in
    commission of their duties as an elected official. I can’t sue the mayor
    for damages because the city exercised its right of eminent domain and
    took my house to build a freeway. I can, however, sue the mayor as a
    private citizen if s/he rear-ended my car and refused to pay for it.

    Aha. That is helpful to know.

    However, if – to use your example – the mayor was unjustified in taking your house – they took it not neutrally according to law, but for a petty reason; or they did not pay the full sum of recompensation as specified in the law – can you take them to court? (Criminal or civil)?

  • Emcee, cubed

    There is some recourse, though it is limited. Eminent domain has all kinds of issues, some of which are in legal limbo right now, because of people fighting it for just those reasons (they think the government is abusing eminent domain.) So yes, you can sue to stop the eminent domain, and likely you can sue for more money if what they propose to give you is too low. But eminent domain has a fairly broad latitude, so wrongdoing is really tough to prove. 

    An easier to understand example with less gray area. A policeman is in a high speed chase of a criminal, and crashes into your parked car. In most cases I believe, the police department carries insurance that will cover the cost of the repairs or replacement. What you can’t do is sue the police officer or the department as a whole for additional monies (what are called “punitive damages”). Those type of damages are used as a punishment to try to stop the offending behavior. To punish a policeman or a department for doing its job is not something we want to happen. A policeman who says they aren’t going to chase a criminal because they could get sued if they get into an accident is pretty useless.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Thank you, but this example was not what I meant*. A cop crashing during a high speed case is not wrong behaviour, it’s an accident. The cases I meant were all wrong behaviour – cops not checking up on legal papers; DAs withholding evidence…

    * Though if a lot of cops crash, it’s a good idea to force the dept. to have special courses to avoid crashes during chases. I’ve also read that a lot of dept. stopped having high speed chases despite Hollywood because there are so many bystanders damaged, and to set up roadblocks instead.

  • El Santo

    There’s a nuance that you’re missing here, Münchner Kindl.  While it is true that the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects both state and federal governments against lawsuits under most circumstances, it is possible and indeed routine for INDIVIDUAL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES to be sued or prosecuted for misconduct on the job, AS INDIVIDUALS.  This is called the “stripping doctrine,” in the sense that the governmental malefactor is stripped of the protection of sovereign immunity by their misdeeds.  So in your examples of a thieving cop, an evidence-suppressing district attorney, or an overzealous border guard, the victim in each case does have potential legal recourse– it’s just that the defendants in each case would be individuals who acted badly, rather than the governmental agencies that employed them, and whose authority they abused.Now, you do have something of a point about civil versus criminal penalties for official wrongdoing.  A prison warden who tramples on the rights of the inmates under his power would normally face civil suit rather than ciminal prosecution, and so wouldn’t have to fear being incarcerated himself for what he had done.  However, there is a sense in which civil liability for official wrongdoing actually puts the victim at an advantage in seeking justice.  In the American system, civil and criminal courts operate under different standards of proof; a civil suit is decided on a “preponderance of evidence” basis (meaning that whichever side has the better case wins, even if that better case is still flimsy), while a criminal prosecution must establish the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Consequently, a wronged person seeking redress against a corrupt official would find it easier to win in a civil case.Of course, none of the foregoing means that courts don’t sometimes get it wrong, or that corruption higher up in the ranks doesn’t sometimes prevail, or that agencies don’t sometimes stonewall victims and their lawyers to protect corrupt employees.  All that stuff happens, and our system is as dependent as any other upon the probity of those charged with making it work.  Probity seems to be in shorter supply than usual right now, and there’s A LOT of dirty dealing at all levels of the American government because of it.  But there’s a big difference between powerful people abusing the system to fend off justice and a system that is DESIGNED to be without safeguards against official misconduct.

  • Emcee, cubed

    Because I still do not understand and have not gotten an answer as to why people say “we can not prosecute” DAs or cops.

    What “people” exactly are saying this? You change between ‘reporters’ and ‘posters’, say things like “when I ask, they say”, and say someone will say “you can’t trust newspapers.” 

    These various things seem to contradict each other. Are you actually reading someone saying this in a news article, or in the comments under a news article? If it’s the former, I would want to see more details on the case than what you’ve told here, as the answer may lie in the details. If it is the latter, then my answer is, “Yes, those people probably have a misunderstanding of the legal system and how things work.” There are people who believe that any one in the government is above the law, and can’t be prosecuted for whatever reason. (Usually, their own persecution complex.) 

  • Münchner Kindl

    What “people” exactly are saying this? You change between ‘reporters’
    and ‘posters’, say things like “when I ask, they say”, and say someone
    will say “you can’t trust newspapers.”

    It’s both. In the newspaper articles Fred linked to, sometimes the victims say it. Sometimes a lawyer is quoted by the reporter. Sometimes the reporter says it.

    When discussing these cases on this or at another board, various posters said that “state can not be sued” (Some of the posters on the other board claim to be lawyers). (I linked to an article by Cecil Adams in straightdope where he said that.

    I almost never read the comments under the newspaper articles.

    I admit I seem to have misunderstood that “sue” means only civil suit. I thought it meant “take into court” generally. I always expect criminal court (prosecute) first for serious offences like mistreatment of citizens by cops or withholding evidence so innocent are wrongly convicted. Money comes later in my mind to punishment for serious abuse of power and trust of an officer of law or executive has and expects, to neglect and disregard the citizens he is charged with, so serious steps must be taken. Yet the articles never mention those steps being taken automatically.

    Even if the DA always throw out those cases, I would expect a public statement on why at least, not closed door “well that’s not worth our time; this is not enough evidence”.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    In the American system, civil and criminal courts operate under
    different standards of proof; a civil suit is decided on a
    “preponderance of evidence” basis (meaning that whichever side has the
    better case wins, even if that better case is still flimsy), while a
    criminal prosecution must establish the defendant’s guilt “beyond a
    reasonable doubt.”  Consequently, a wronged person seeking redress
    against a corrupt official would find it easier to win in a civil case.

    Yes, I know about the differing standards of proof (they were explained during the OJ trials for example).
    On the other hand, for a civil trial, the victim has to spend time, effort and money for the lawyer, while in a criminal suit, the state takes over the accusing part.

    Now, you do have something of a point about civil versus criminal
    penalties for official wrongdoing.  A prison warden who tramples on the
    rights of the inmates under his power would normally face civil suit
    rather than ciminal prosecution, and so wouldn’t have to fear being
    incarcerated himself for what he had done.

    This is where I would expect an automatic reaction by the state to purge its ranks of wrongdoers by taking the misdoer to criminal court. And esp. to counteract the “blue wall” among the lower orders, the superiors/ the courts must act.
    And because so many of the cases given were terrible for the victims. Money given as recompensation for the woman who lost her car while in prison is the minimum; but to send those cops to prison for mistreatment and neglect of their duties is what I would consider necessary to establish trust of the citizens in the police again.
    Otherwise, what’s to stop them from repeating it? If they are not punished by criminal court – and many victims lack the ressources (both time and money) for civil court, nothing happens and bad behaviour continues.

    Is it a matter of lack of probity, as you call it, that higher-ups don’t automatically prosecute, even in serious cases like those in the newspapers?
    Is it because it’s easy for the DA to “toss out charges” because they have not enough chance of winning? (This is also weird for me to remember).
    Is it because the courts are overworked so it’s easy for the “old boys network” to drop things?

    So in your examples of a thieving cop, an evidence-suppressing district
    attorney, or an overzealous border guard, the victim in each case does
    have potential legal recourse– it’s just that the defendants in each
    case would be individuals who acted badly, rather than the governmental
    agencies that employed them, and whose authority they abused

    In the case of the deaf woman, or the DAs office, it was a group of people, however, showing that that specific office/ precint had a bad attitude towards the law and civil rights and correct proceedigns. That’s where I would expect the whole office to be criminally charged to stop that.

    All that stuff happens, and our system is as dependent as any other upon
    the probity of those charged with making it work.  Probity seems to be
    in shorter supply than usual right now, and there’s A LOT of dirty
    dealing at all levels of the American government because of it.

    That’s why I favour a system where automatic steps must be taken in cases, instead of leaving it up to the discretion of a DA whether to bring the case, or making it easy for a superior to sweep it under the rug. If things must go their course, less decisions are required that can be used as levers.

  • The_L1985

    The problem is, a lot of the places with corrupt cops are also in low-income areas.  Poor people are generally assumed to be criminals when they bad-mouth the police here, or why would they say such things about the cops?  We trust our elected officials too much as a general rule.

    Also, remember that when you’re a police officer, your coworkers are also your most trusted friends.  Could you call the police on your best friend?  Those emotions can be powerful enough to create doubt in a lot of people.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    The problem is, a lot of the places with corrupt cops are also in
    low-income areas.  Poor people are generally assumed to be criminals
    when they bad-mouth the police here, or why would they say such things
    about the cops?  We trust our elected officials too much as a general
    rule.

    The newspaper articles show a very clear side, however. If it’s one cop (or even two cops) against a citizen, it quickly becomes a case of “he said, she said” (as in a lot of other instances). But in the case of the deaf woman (to use the latest example), there was a witness to the cops shouting verbally only at her before subduing her; her previous call to 911 with the note that she was deaf – and the dispatcher passing it onto the cops – is a matter of record (most likely – 911 is recorded, yes?); that x amount of time passed until she had acess to an interpreter is a matter of record…

    Even considering the sad state of the media in general – as many articles and Fred specifically have often lamented – with lack of adequate reporters, or proper investigating, those articles do not sound like a simple parroting of statements or quick jumping to conclusions without facts. They look like a story of things gone wrong.

    Also, remember that when you’re a police officer, your coworkers are also your most trusted friends.  Could you call the police on your best friend?  Those emotions can be powerful enough to create doubt in a lot of people.

    That’s where training comes in – somewhere there was an article about individual police schools trying a new track to hammer it into their students that the law is more important than protecting a buddy with false loyalty.

    A supervisor outside the normal structure, or an anymous line people could call, just to voice their doubts, would probably be helpful “Today I saw my buddy do x, and it didn’t feel right. I didn’t speak up, because I didn’t want to break file in front of a suspect, but now I don’t know what to do.”
    Or if the boss regularly has meetings discussing what happened at a particular event and how things should have been done to raise awareness.

    If the general perception both inside and outside is that most police stick together more than that they obey the law / are bad apples it’s very difficult to turn around.

    If on the other hand you start with a culture of “all cops are helpers of citizens” like beat cops and the cops themselves seeing as upholding the law first, then seeing bad behaviour will cause a different reaction of “You can’t do that!!!” from both fellow cops and citizens.

    Terry Pratchett describes how Vimes trains the city guards in Ankh-Morpork similarly: first, they are lectured by a troll (very single-minded) on the law and how they are not allowed to break it (when interviewing suspects etc.)
    Then, a mean cynic street cop takes them outside and shows them the dirty forbidden tricks to survive the mean criminals.
    This steps always comes after the first automatic step towards the law. Otherwise, if you take them out to the street first, they learn to be nasty to survive (shoot first for protection) and disregard the law too easily.

  • The_L1985

     If on the other hand you start with a culture of “all cops are helpers of citizens”

    We have a culture of “Police officers enforce the law.”  The implication is that the law is always right.

  • Ross Thompson

    We have a culture of “Police officers enforce the law.”  The implication is that the law is always right, that police officers always obey the law, and more chillingly, that the law is more important than individual people.

    Based on watching cop shops (so probably not entirely 100% accurate), American police tend to have a culture of “the law is what criminals use to get off on a technicality”, which leads to “getting the bad guy” being more important for the police than “following the law”.

    In contrast, British police (again, mostly from TV, post-1980’s) had the culture of “the law is what makes sure we got the right guy”, which leads to more respect for the procedure, even if it means the presumed bad guy walks.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Well, not going by cop shows (which are fiction – rule of drama – and written by non-cops mostly) but by those newspaper articles and how the defenders of cops on messageboards argue vs. how newspapers in my country write/ how the cops here talk at open door functions, the attitude in the US is:

    “there’s lots of crazies / criminals out there with guns – every time I stop somebody to give them a traffic ticket, they might pull a gun and shoot me, so I better shoot first to protect me”

    Obviously, this is difficult for cops on the one hand to legitmatly protect themselves, on the other hand, to not shoot a 10year old black boy with a super-soaker out of overreaction.

    Better training, better standards, better selection process and better pay would help, along with different laws (the whole war on drugs escalation has not helped).

    vs. “The police is your friend and helper” (this was the official slogan back when I was a kid) and they serve to protect citizens.

    But there is a cultural difference : we not only have less crazies, but also less guns. A cop here does not imagine that a traffic stop will turn into a shoot-out.
    There’s also a different emphasis in the law itself. Paragraph one of our Constitution says *”Human dignity is unviolatable. To respect and protect her is the obligation of all state power”. This is the basic idea for all other rights.

    So a cop protecting the law can not violate the rights of one individual for the greater good; the law is about each individual. The greater god doctrine has been refused several times as argument.

    *(Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie zu achten und zu schützen ist Verpflichtung aller staatlichen Gewalt) http://www.iuscomp.org/gla/statutes/GG.htm#1
    While this is technically bad grammar (Human dignity can and has been
    violated; it should be “shall” instead of “is”,) obviously the intent
    was to show how important this is.

  • The_L1985

     “A cop here does not imagine that a traffic stop will turn into a shoot-out.”

    Neither do cops here.  Again, the U.S. idea of a police officer is “someone who catches Bad Guys.”  There’s a big difference between “our job is to clean up these streets and get rid of criminals!” and “our job is to make the city save for its citizens!”  This isn’t just something the police believe–the whole reason U.S. crime shows focus on Finding And Catching The Bad Guy is because that is the American cultural expectation of what the police are supposed to do.

    This difference in attitude is why there’s a lot more police brutality in the U.S. than there is in Europe.

    Also…German, right? I don’t speak the language, but just enough of those words look familiar. :)  Wilkommen!

  • El Santo

    “In the case of the deaf woman, or the DAs office, it was a group of people, however, showing that that specific office/ precint had a bad attitude towards the law and civil rights and correct proceedigns. That’s where I would expect the whole office to be criminally charged to stop that.”

    Ah, okay.  There’s another misconception about the system buried in this paragraph.  In the US, a great many laws carry no ciminal penalties for violating them; the actions they forbid are still illegal, but the enforcement mechanism is strictly civil.  Most American discrimination law is like that.  Things can get very complicated here, too, because government agencies are allowed to sue individuals (and corporations, although that’s a side issue here), including in cases of official misconduct, and there are whole agencies charged specifically with enforcing the law by civil means.  The Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, doesn’t try to put polluters in jail.  Instead, it sues them for violation of the Clean Air & Water Act and other such legislation and/or regulations.  The federal Department of Justice is also permitted, under some circumstances, to step in and sue rogue government officials for civil rights violations, and rampant abuse of minorities falls into that category.  However, that usually requires a private citizen to bring such violations to the enforcers’ attention– not so much as a matter of law, but as a matter of practicality.  That is, it’s a huge country, and there’s a limited number of federal agents to notice things going wrong.  And of course there is that discretion issue you raise.  So again, the system is by no means perfect, but there are mechanisms in place to deal with these problems.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    In the US, a great many laws carry no ciminal penalties for violating
    them; the actions they forbid are still illegal, but the enforcement
    mechanism is strictly civil.  Most American discrimination law is like
    that.

    OH! That is … disappointing to me. Civil rights are so very important in the US, since they are the only protection against mistreatment (and because of the history), and yet a cop beating or tasering a suspect can only be charged civily?

    Shouldn’t there be a medium step to make it more drastic to stop cops and officials misusing their power? Like those punitive damages mentioned above, an automatic damage for each instance?

    The federal Department of Justice is also permitted, under some
    circumstances, to step in and sue rogue government officials for civil
    rights violations, and rampant abuse of minorities falls into that
    category.  However, that usually requires a private citizen to bring
    such violations to the enforcers’ attention– not so much as a matter of
    law, but as a matter of practicality.  That is, it’s a huge country,
    and there’s a limited number of federal agents to notice things going
    wrong.

    So if the victims of the newspaper articles; or the reporters; or readers of the article – went to the DOJ (wrote them) and told them of this misbehaviour and that this was serious misconduct – the DoJ would investigate? Would they be obliged to, or could they say “not enough staff, sorry”, “not serious enough, business as usual if suspects are tasered, that’s necessary? (Can’t make an omelette without eggs)?

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    a cop beating or tasering a suspect can only be charged civily?

    That’s not exactly what is meant by “civil rights violation.”  Tasering and beating are both considered “battery” which is a crime and one can do jail time for that.

    A civil rights violation is something like not hiring a person because of his or her race or religion or disability.  And we do not send people to jail for things like that. 

    However, the term “only” doesn’t really apply, because we have an idiom in English — “hit (him/her/them) in the pocketbook.”  In our culture, at least, having to give someone you wronged money, or having money withheld by someone you wronged, is often all the punishment needed.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    That’s not what is meant by “civil rights violation.”  Tasering and
    beating are both considered “battery” which is a crime and one can do
    jail time for that.

    A civil rights violation is something like not hiring a person
    because of his or her race or religion or disability.  And we do not
    send people to jail for things like that.

    Well, for example during the Rodney King trial, when the cops were let off despite beating King when he was already on the ground and subdued (which I would consider battery), the media said the only way the feds could get in and get a new trial was with civil rights violation of Rodney King – because they had no jurisdiction otherwise, and because there is no federal standard on how cops should treat people, so apparently “beating a suspect” can still be explained as “resisting arrest”.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    The Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, doesn’t try to put
    polluters in jail.  Instead, it sues them for violation of the Clean Air
    & Water Act and other such legislation and/or regulations.

    Doesn’t that make it rather toothless? Isn’t it easier for a big corporation to pay a small fine out of the petty cash? (Shouldn’t the fine be a percentage of total income, plus the option of jail time for the chairman /CEO for serious, aggravated, continous offence?)

  • The_L1985

     Depends on how much the EPA is suing them for.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Sorry, have to leave for tonight. But thanks for all the help in clarifying the issue. It’s still complicated for me to get through and keep things seperated, but it does look less bad as it did originally. (Though I still think a lot needs to be done systematically aside from practical problems, but that’s another topic).

  • Emcee, cubed

    No, cops who use undue force can be prosecuted criminally. The officers involved with the Rodney King beating were tried in the criminal courts. They were acquitted because the legal definition of “undue force” and “resisting arrest” aren’t common knowledge, and when the jury was given those definitions, they had reasonable doubt as to whether the officers had, in fact, broken the law according to those definitions.

    Also, ignoring instructions from a police officer (that are not in themselves illegal) is actually a crime. So failing to stop when police say “Freeze”, failing to get out of the car when asked, refusing to submit to a breathilizer test, or even failing to pull over when you see the blinking lights and hear the siren behind you, are all legitimate reasons for officers to bring you in. Now, what happens after that can be in question. As mentioned above, they should only be able to hold you 24 hours unless they have a jailable offense to charge you with (the “not listening to a police officer” crime is usually only a fine – but it is a legit reason to bring you in to see if there are any outstanding warrants, etc. (Also, failing to submit to a breathilizer test is a jailable offense. It is considered a tacit admission that you are drunk driving.) 

  • Rhubarbarian82

     The officers involved with the Rodney King beating were tried in the criminal courts. 

    For a more current example, there are currently two Fullerton PD officers facing charges in the beating death of Kelly Thomas last year. One of them faces a second degree murder charge (we’ll see if it sticks, but if there was ever a cop who deserved it, the one on trial certainly does). Charges may still be brought against a third officer. 

    Personally, I think there’s going to be increasing friction between easily captured video evidence and department spokespersons’ default response of “resisting arrest” and “justified force.”

  • PJ Evans

    two Fullerton PD officers facing charges in the beating death of Kelly Thomas

    The Fullerton PD has said, just in the last couple of weeks, that Thomas was innocent. It’s not much, but it’s a step in the right direction.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Personally, I think there’s going to be increasing friction between
    easily captured video evidence and department spokespersons’ default
    response of “resisting arrest” and “justified force.”

    To which some have responded by abusing state wiretapping laws, which in effect criminalizes single-party recording of something, even if it’s in public.

  • Münchner Kindl

     You mean like this http://www.cracked.com/article_18620_6-completely-legal-ways-cops-can-screw-you.html

    Sadly, that entire genre might be on its way out. Currently, three states had made it illegal to film on-duty police officers, even (and especially) if they are beating up handicapped minorities in the middle of the town square.

    In Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland, they require both parties to
    consent to any recording for it to be legal. So, that cop whom you just
    filmed spouting profanities that reinvent the very idea of racism?
    Unless he always dreamt of being an Internet sensation, he can easily
    bust your ass and confiscate your camera.There are 12 states in total that enforce an all-party-consent law, but
    only three interpret it to include public places of gathering with
    absolutely no expectation of privacy. So on one hand, that kind of sucks
    for people trying to record police misconduct, but on the other, hey,
    apparently security cameras are now illegal in parts of the Northeast!
    Looting party next week!
    Read more: 6 Completely Legal Ways The Cops Can Screw You | Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/article_18620_6-completely-legal-ways-cops-can-screw-you_p2.html#ixzz275ZvOIjS

  • TheFaithfulStone

    I didn’t read all the comments, because Holy Crap, and I didn’t want to get into a long discussion of the general legal principles everyone is confused about (“prosecutorial immunity” is a different thing than sovereign immunity for instance, and it does exist, but it’s not absolute.)

    I just wanted to point out that fraud is not protected speech. Therefore Scientoligist have no more right to promote their culty-MLM scheme as a religion than Bernie Madoff does – just that nobody has caught up with them yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Riastlin-Lovecraft/100000678992705 Riastlin Lovecraft

    Define “Fraud”. Because when dealing with religions, I fail to see how Scientology is less fraud than Roman Catholicism  (It’s good to be sovereign ruler of your own country because all those people accept you as the successor of Saint Peter), or indeed, any religion that is not the True Religion.

  • TheFaithfulStone

     Please.  The Catholic Church does not charge you $5,000 to shock you with a nine volt battery, then require you to ditch your friends and family, then sue people who point out that they’re a cult (not because they can win, but because it’s a pain in your ass.)

    In other words, one of these things is not at all like the other.  That is, for all of it’s problems, the Catholic Church is NOT ENTIRELY a dangerous cult of grifters and con-men founded by a paranoid drug addict.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    But they ARE an organization happily devoted to ensuring kiddie diddlers never get the justice they deserve. (>_<)

  • Ross Thompson

    To be fair, the Catholic Church might have been founded by a paranoid drug addict; how would we know?

  • Mark Z.

    Most churches straight-up ask you to give them money. If you give it to them, and get nothing in return, that’s not fraud. They didn’t promise you anything.

    Scientology sells services, which ought to make them accountable for the quality of their services. For example, there’s one step in the Scientology program that’s supposed to make you immune to the harmful effects of drugs. I assume most Scientologists don’t immediately go and test this, but if they did, they could sue.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    Scientology sells services, which ought to make them accountable
    for the quality of their services. For example, there’s one step in the
    Scientology program that’s supposed to make you immune to the harmful
    effects of drugs. I assume most Scientologists don’t immediately go and
    test this, but if they did, they could sue.

    Wasn’t there way back in the 70s when they started an investigation by the FDA or consumer protection agency (I forgot whether it was an US or German office) who looked at the E-meter and found it didn’t work at all – that is, it didn’t register like a normal EKG or similar meter would (the principle of measuring skin current for stress wasn’t invented by Hubbard after all)?

    They tried to stop them, but the influence of the Scientologists in the higher levels and/ or their campaign of harrassment made them drop the issue for not worth the battle, IIRC.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    It’s also worth noting that when someone says, “We can’t do anything about it,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is anything preventing them from pursuing criminal charges; it often means that they are not confident that they can make a sufficient case to secure a prosecution.

    There can be any number of reasons why a prosecutor might reach that conclusion:  corruption, political pressure, witnesses who are unwilling to testify, the fear of losing a high-profile case and deciding that not even bothering is the more prudent course of action, etc.

  • Münchner Kindl

    So now that I have (I think) understood the principle – what resources would the Sikh shop owner have had against the mayor?

    I assume, given the statement about religion, that she was not acting in her capacity as mayor enforcing an ordinance (against littering or hate speech), but as private citizen. So theoretically, the shop owner could have told her to leave because of house right, if necessary called the police to get her out. (In practice, it would probably be unwise to get the mayor pissed off at you  that way, esp. in a small town).

    If the mayor had acted officially – that would be a violation of 1st amendment, yes? She would need an ordinance or something passed by the city council to back her up – she can’t make up her own rules, because mayors are executive, not judiscative, correct?
    But the law / rule/ ordinance itself would be illegal, could be taken to court and struck down, right? (Although that might take some time and require ressources like the ACLU).

    So is there any way the mayor was not only a jerk, but legally acting?

    Again, depositing a bunch of flyers at once in a public park would fall under littering, I understand that, but that’s not described here.

    Would it make a difference if the shop owner had put up a sign “Please take one” or can that be assumed/ inferred reasonably?

  • Tricksterson

    No littering, they were on the counter in his store.  And in most cases of pamphlets like this there’s no sign, they’re just there for anyone who wants them.

  • Emcee, cubed

    There are two factors at work in why the Feds used civil rights violations to go after the officers in the Rodney King case.

    First is jurisdiction, again. Federal authorities do not prosecute crimes like battery. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that the federal government should be allowed to prosecute anyone who has broken any laws. This is not the case. Because the specifics of laws can vary from state to state (yes, every state has a battery law, but penalties, exceptions, details, etc. may be different), the states themselves are responsible for enforcing those laws. Federal authorities only have the right to prosecute when a federal law has been broken. There is no federal battery law, so the federal government can’t prosecute for that. (Part of the reason for this break-up of jurisdiction comes from the idea that the states wanted to united for their mutual benefit, but able to act independently of each other. So this defining of jurisdiction is a feature, not a bug.)

    The second is what we call “double jeopardy”. The officers had already been tried and acquitted of the battery charges. They are not allowed to be tried again for the same instance of the same crime, even if it is a different court. If this was not the case, a person could be dragged through court after court until either someone found them guilty or possibly until it reach the US Supreme Court, who would them sent every minute of the day dealing with all these little cases that shouldn’t have come to them in the first place. So because the officers had been tried, the Feds couldn’t try them again for the same thing. 

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that the federal government
    should be allowed to prosecute anyone who has broken any laws. This is
    not the case. Because the specifics of laws can vary from state to state
    (yes, every state has a battery law, but penalties, exceptions,
    details, etc. may be different), the states themselves are responsible
    for enforcing those laws.

    Yes and no. I know on one level that in the US, the principle of states being independent trumps the principle that standardisation both on practical (one design for fake-proof ID instead of 50 different drivers licenses, some on paper!) and on principal (a minimum standard for education or on what cops should never do to a subject) issues would be desirable.

    On the other hand, I have a hard time remembering it because my instinctive response to cops beating a suspect is “They are not allowed to do that!”  That they can weasel out because in this state the battery is defined different once a cop has been assaulted, is too strange for me to fully accept; it’s one of the things I think your people should change.

  • The_L1985

     Good luck.  Remember, from 1783-1789, the U.S. wasn’t one country: it was a loose confederation of allied countries.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    Neither do cops here.

    Maybe not in your city. I’ve had cops pull their guns on me during traffic stops on two separate occasions, here in LA. 


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