Look! There Is Hope! Sometimes The System Actually Works!


The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the absurdly lenient prison sentence given to an Iowa police officer who brutally beat a man without cause, then filed a false police report accusing his victim of attacking him. Mersed Dautovic had been sentenced to just 20 months for the attack after a four-day trial in which a Des Moines jury found him guilty of using excessive force and obstructing justice.

Though the sentencing guidelines called for a range of 135 to 168 months, the trial judge sentenced sentenced Dautovic to only 20 months in prison.
A three-judge panel on the 8th Circuit found this to be a “substantively unreasonable” punishment for Dautovic’s “egregious” conduct, which included savagely beating an innocent man, causing his victim serious and permanent bodily injury, then writing a false police report that caused the beaten man and his girl friend to have criminal charges filed against them,  and offering perjured testimony against them at their trial.

“When the totality of the circumstances is considered, a variance from the guidelines range of 135 to 168 months’ imprisonment to a 20-month sentence is unreasonably lenient,” Judge Roger Wollman wrote for the court in his 14-page opinion.

Ya think?

Well what do you know…justice was done within the system!

In a case involving police misconduct!

When the cop was white,

And his victims were black!

And there were no demonstrations, riots, or looting involved!I guess that’s why you didn’t see this in the news.


Source: Courthouse News Service.

44 thoughts on “Look! There Is Hope! Sometimes The System Actually Works!

  1. Now list a second instance from the last 5 years where a cop was investigated, charged, and sentenced to a reasonable amount of time in prison for either shooting a suspected without proper cause, or for excessive force.

    I dare you.

    Just because the system happened to work right in this one instance does not, by any rational stretch, mean that it actually works on a regular basis.

    • I don’t take dares.

      Yeah, you’re so right, Scott—I just stumbled upon the only example of this that’s ever happened without trying, and this unique occurrence just by pure luck occurred in the middle of the Ferguson mess.

      I don’t take dares, and when commenters quit the blog with a obscene insult because they can’t deal with adversity, they either come back with an apology, or they don’t. They especially don’t come back when they re-enter with a chip on their shoulder. You’re banned, buddy. You asked for it, remember? :

      You can actively go fuck yourself. I’m done here.

      • This is an issue I raised on Judge Kopf’s Hercules blog months ago: The system only has to fail just often enough for us to lose confidence in it. If it only worked in nine times out of ten, would you be personally willing to risk the dire consequences of being the tenth? What, to you, is an acceptable failure rate?

        • What kinds of failures do you mean? Too lenient sentencing? A failure is an unequivocal, undisputed failure, like the sentence in the post. One is too many, but no system is perfect. A system fails too often when enough people reasonably lose trust in its ability to serve the public’s needs.

          • In the context of Judge Kopf’s blog, it was a case where judges decided their own appeal. I didn’t even think that was possible, but they got away with it anyway. The Judge wouldn’t even condemn it, which shocked me even more.

            Even if they don’t happen to you, they could. That is why people are so angry in Ferguson. And while I can only guess, it sounds like the source of Scott’s anger: Even a few examples like that corrode public trust, and in his view, it has happened once too often already. I hope that clarifies my statement.

            Thank you again for your response.

            • 1. I don’t know what you are talking about regarding Kopf. What “appeal”? Judges can’t handle their own appeal. Link? Reference?
              2. Even if what doesn’t happen to me? The people in Ferguson are angry that a kid was shot, presuming that the motive was hatred of blacks. If they are angry about something else, then they shouldn’t project that anger on an incident that may have nothing to do with what they are angry about.
              3. Scott has been commenting for about two years, and is pretty much angry all the time, at a lot of things. His “solution” is to “burn it down.” It’s hard for a nihilist to be circumspect.
              4. A few examples will certainly corrode the public trust, but rational and fair people recognize that this is unreasonable. No system as busy or as extensive as the US justice system can avoid breakdowns.

              • I believe it was a Colorado case (Smith v. Malarky(sp?)). The judges in the case were defendants, and a statute said that other judges could sit on the court in case of conflict. I’m sorry, but the judge took down all the posts (he doesn’t like criticism of the judiciary.) I didn’t think that was possible either, but they apparently got away with it. If that happened, the system failed.

                That is why the McCree and Fuller cases seem so wrong from an ethical perspective. McCree admitted that what he had done was wrong, and the man he did it to was injured, but the only “punishment” he got was a paid vacation. No criminal prosecution for McCree. And then, there was the case of Judge Nottingham, who couldn’t explain where he got the money to pay for weekly sessions with $1,000 a night prostitutes. Prosecutors try to avoid prosecuting judges for crimes, and all the federal judiciary can do to Judge Fuller is scold him. Jonathan Turley echoes my concern: the slap on McCree’s wrist “could embolden other judges who consider abandoning the most basic ethical demands of their office.” I predict that Judge Fuller will remain on the bench (I’m confident that he hit his wife). If an attorney has “a special obligation to follow the rules,” why not judges?

                Our system fails far too often for my comfort. Here is another example: http://www.westword.com/2007-12-13/news/blackburned. Richard Fine (whom I know casually) is another. The system goes after those who try to make it better, while protecting judges who act badly. How is my loss of faith in our system unfair or irrational?

                • There are bad judges, no doubt about it, and judges, who feel underpaid, over-worked and unappreciated (and are) protect each other. But the system is policed; judges do tend to come from a pool of qualified and ethical individuals, and most of the most egregious misfires in the system, not all, but most, are addressed. The judiciary is still trusted more than most professions.

                  Why are you confident that Fuller his his wife?

                  • Locks of her hair and a broken glass on the floor, according to the report in the Atlanta paper. When you slip on a bar of soap, your hair doesn’t fall out.

                    I am disturbed by your nonchalance toward the idea that judges “protect” each other because whenever they do, they often commit crimes against defenseless people like you and me. Judge McCree and the judges in the Malarky case committed crimes, but the system “covered” for them. And yet, you tell me that we should trust that system?

                    I wonder how Mr. King feels. I wonder how Mr. Smith feels. I wonder how you would feel, were you in their position.

                    The more I learn about the judiciary, the less I trust it.

                    • Mr. King, as far as I can discern, was still not meeting his support obligations. So far, I can’t find evidence that he was an innocent, just that he didn’t get a fair trial. Two different things. The real victim was the plaintiff having the affair with the judge. This may delay or even prevent her getting the support she is owed.

                      The vast, vast proportion of judges are trustworthy, honest, dedicated, and fair.

                      As for I wonder how Mr. King feels. I wonder how Mr. Smith feels. I wonder how you would feel, were you in their position., you really should ban it both from your reasoning process and your debating toolbox. It is just an appeal to bias and emotion. Yup..if my son were killed by a cocker spaniel, I’d never trust a cocker spaniel. It proves nothing, and it’s not an argument.

      • Well, here’s hoping Scott emails in an apology, and that it’s sufficient to get him unbanned. I’ve missed him a bit.

        I’m not exactly happy about your comments leading to his original leaving, which were rather insulting on your part. Accusing him of being stoned, suggesting libertarians want a drug addled America, and specifically calling him irrational (“…stepping your way back to rationality.”) were not exactly the height of rational argument. I stepped out of that argument in part because your responses were irritating me and I long ago decided that angry commenting was generally a bad idea. Thankfully tony stepped in to cover the main points I wanted to add.

        However, that does not make it right to pretend that the cops are never held accountable (universal statements are rarely true) and that this a unique case, or to lead off with the same level of irritation he left with. A cooling off period is often useful, but it serves no purpose if you don’t actually cool down. The “I dare you” was exactly the sort of thing I would expect to anger you. It suggests deliberate malfeasance on your part which is in no way warranted. That’s the key thing I hope he is willing to apologize for.

        On the actual issue at hand, it seems like the legal system is better behaved the further up the chain of appeals you go, but that doesn’t help the people who can’t afford appeals very much. There really does seem to be a pattern of cops getting away with crap, but it’s not an unbroken pattern. It doesn’t help that cops who try to hold other cops accountable are horribly mistreated by their fellows. It’s extremely hypocritical of cops to complain about “stop snitchin”.

        • 1. I did not accuse him of being stoned, and if that’s how you read it, you misread it, or I wasn’t clear. What i wrote was “Sounding stupid, Scott? Stoned? That would explain it.” I assume that Scott would understand that I was accusing him of making a stupid comment, and using the opportunity to remind him of one of the most objectionable effects of pot, by both acknowledging that Scott was not habitually stupid. I very much doubt that he believed I was accusing him of being stoned, which is why I thought his counter–that drug-opponents always accuse drug legalization advocates of being pot heads was a low blow. We had discussed the issue before: I knew Scott doesn’t use pot, and he knows I know.

          2. Yeah, I escalated the discussion into unfairly personal territory. My fault. I confess: I have no tolerance for the drug legalization argument. I’ve witnessed the effects of tobacco and alcohol addiction up close, saw too many lives ruined by other drugs, and listened to the same (bad) rationalizations too many times. This will be a multilateral, slowly unfolding catastrophe, one that devastates the poor, black and children above all others, and will cost billions. Ah, but fewer black drug dealers will be jailed, the government will have a new income source, just like with gambling (that worked out well, didn’t it?), and best of all, wealthy white elites will get to have their occasional toke with friends! Great trade-off.

          3. I miss him sometimes too, but when someone dramatically exits the blog because they can’t endure opposition to their dearly held beliefs and tops it off with “go fuck yourself,” I take that as final, self-immolation. I gave Scott a lot of leeway, and many commenter stopped commenting because of his abuse, which I permitted because he supplied substantive content, and because he convinced me that censoring intense expression, despite my belief in the importance of civility, also restricted legitimate expression. He owed the blog, and me, more respect and gratitude.

          4. I see little distinction between advocating something that is sure to have a disastrous result, and advocating a disastrous result. There is a distinction, of course, but it is acceptable rhetorically to say: your irresponsible position will result in a drug-addled nation, thus you must want that. If you don’t want that, change your position. In this case, I don’t think that’s unfair, since we have plagues from the two most prominent legal addictive recreational drugs, and I do not believe intelligent people can possibly think that the next one will have any different effects. I believe, like so many ideologues, libertarians prefer purity to reality—hence Rand Paul’s insistence that we shouldn’t have passed laws forcing private businesses to serve blacks. Yes, I think that kind of ideological absolutism is unethical and dangerous.

          5. You know, I do pitch the tone of my replies to the commenter sometimes. Not in a tit-for-tat manner, but because they have established their comfort level, and I don’t feel that I have to always express myself on my own blog like I’m in a bar seminar. I would not argue with you or Urbanregnor or Tim the same way I would argue with Ampersand, tgt or Scott, who, you will recall, was prone to debate by telling someone to “eat a bowl of dicks.” I assumed he could handle some sharp elbows without having a meltdown.

          6. “It’s extremely hypocritical of cops to complain about “stop snitchin”. Great point. It’s also hypocritical for the black community to condemn cops for embodying the same group loyalty cops see every day in communities unwilling to testify against local crooks, drug-dealers and gang-members.

          • 1. Perhaps he didn’t take it that way despite your expectations. Your readers (well, me at least) did NOT know you had established the he didn’t smoke pot. It really did look like an accusation that he was stoned without any evidence, and seemed like poisoning the well.

            2. Some of your comments were not directed solely at him, but all libertarians. I was less than enthused. I flatly disagree with your assessment of what will happen. I do expect usage to go up. I don’t think that the fatal accident rate will significantly increase. Gang violence will decrease. The expansion of people into other drugs after using marijuana first will sharply decrease. One significant effect of the arbitrary nature of what is and isn’t allowed currently is that having tried the least harmful drugs, people are less inclined to trust the government’s stance on other drugs. I don’t care a whit about government income. Over what time frame will it cost billions, and how will you measure the cost? I can’t dispute or agree with it without those two items.

            3. I agree with everything you said here.

            4. see #2. The evidence of a disastrous result is not yet in evidence. Can you define what you mean by drug addled nation? >50% of the populace using it to such an extent that it affects the other parts of their lives, or would you put it lower than that? I don’t expect more than 2 percentage points added to the number in the following link once it’s legal everywhere. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annual_cannabis_use_by_country

            There are good reasons to assume that the effects of cannabis will be less than tobacco or alcohol. It’s know that cannabis smoking has a smaller correlation with cancer rates than tobacco does, and that it doesn’t come with the increased aggression associated with alocohol consumption. It depends on the specific affect you are worried about. I’d much rather have a pot head parent than an alcoholic one, although neither is a good thing. The lack of aggressiveness is also part of why I don’t expect accident rates to go up. The increase in caution (possibly too paranoid to drive at all) may more than make up for slowed reaction times. However, I don’t know if it’s possible to effectively measure the effect of cannabis usage on driving habits other, so there may be no way to accurately predict this in advance.

            As a final point on this part, there are predictable corrosive effects of criminalizing behavior that doesn’t have a specific victim. You need to use far more invasive policing to even find out about it than you would to find out about theft or assault. The victim of theft is going to report it, but you have actively seek out people using a substance prior to the effects of that usage becoming a more readily found crime. I think those corrosive effects on the legal system are worse for society than the harm caused by legal usage, but it would take a long time to go over the details here, in a comment that’s already a bit large.

            I am not claiming that legal usage comes with no harms, but the plural of anecdote is not data. I’ve seen a fair number of functional users, and a few nonfunctional abusers. The latter is more visible but less common than the former in my personal experience. That may be more a matter of luck than general trends.

            Given reliable statistics otherwise I am willing to change my mind on this. I have a high bar for “reliable” though. There’s nothing like earning a math degree to sour you on the way the general public uses them.

            5. that’s fair. I’ll try to remember that even when responde to a comentor with a statement about a broad group that includes both me and someone like Scott. Conversely, engaging someone at that level should moderate your later reaction as well. It generally doesn’t, which is one of many reasons I prefer to be a clinical and rational as possible in discussions even with someone who doesn’t do the same in return. I’d rather not escalate into trading insults.

            6. agreed. Personally, I think the elevation of group loyalty to such an extent is unethical, but we are in the minority on this it seems like. 😦

            • 1. You did note that I immediately, in that exchange, clarified that I was not speaking literally. I presumed, and presume, taht someone in the habit of saying “eat a bowl of dicks” was familiar with hyperbole and other rhetorical devices involving non-literal statements.

              2. I’m sure you disagree. You are wrong, and for the most obvious of reasons. We have harmful behavior that the government is on record as informing its constituency that it is harmful, dangerous and wrong. With legality, the message is, and always is: “It’s fine. Go ahead.” When the culture is nodding yes, conduct increases. Increased drug use means diversion of resources into non productive–saving, investment, education—areas. It means pathology and disruptions of family, work, and productivity. Alcohol use in excess cost states an estimated $2.9 billion in 2006, and that doesn’t measure human cost. It is irresponsible to assume that adding a second legal addictive drug won’t increase those costs. In fact, it’s magical thinking and confirmation bias.

              5. I appreciate your tone, always have. You also make rational arguments, even when I think you are wrong. The problem is what to do when someone makes asinine assertions nicely, and really need to be told.

              Don’t frown! Minorities prevail when they are persistent, articulate, and right.

              • “With legality, the message is, and always is: ‘It’s fine. Go ahead.’ ”

                I take issue with this idea. I first found this very blog by Googling the phrase “just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical” or something similar. I would consider a person dangerously foolish and stupid to think that all legal things are good ideas, and that legality was tantamount to encouragement. That said, this society is in a bit of a vicious circle where foolish, stupid people call for protection in the form of laws that dumb down the collective psyche by taking the place of caution, reason, wisdom, prudence, and dare I say common sense. Under such circumstances, I can understand why one might fear that legality would be interpreted as recommendation, but the root problem is the lack of education and wisdom of the society, not the legality itself. This world cannot survive unless people are free, and people cannot survive freedom unless they learn the important mindsets and are not bound by addictions.

                “Increased drug use means diversion of resources into non productive–saving, investment, education—areas.” Anything recreational is non-productive, by that definition. I have my own arguments against drug use, but I’d like to point out that this is a weak point. Furthermore, while alcohol use does more or less indisputably cause all the problems you state, it was still ultimately decided that legalizing alcohol was less costly to society than Prohibition. I think the situation with marijuana is comparable. Not to say that I approve of the way alcohol is treated in society, or that I’d approve of the way marijuana would probably be treated by modern humans if it were legalized. This is more of a “lesser of two evils” thing.

                I think I’m on the same page as Phlinn here, regarding more or less all of his post. That said, hooray for clinical rationality!

                Regarding the point about loyalty, wasn’t the full quote something like, “My country, right or wrong. If right, to be kept right; if wrong, to be put right?” It seems in their tendency to gloss over the tough duties in life humans avoid putting their groups right. For my part, I ally with the ideas people represent rather than people themselves, so I reserve the right to call them on betrayals of their ideals. It keeps things honest when you serve beneficial abstract concepts rather than mutable individuals or institutions. The mutability of humans is downright scary at times. Being more in touch with the abstract concepts I choose to represent, I’d like to think I’m less fickle with how I deal with others. However, tying this back to the subject at hand, most humans would sacrifice their integrity and ideals to avoid alienating the mutable, fickle, self-centered people around them, and this creates the problem of “loyalty.” Loyalty is supposed to mean sticking by a person or institution when it’s the difficult right choice, not the easy wrong one, which is why it’s easier just to resolve to do the right thing and not tie it to words like “loyalty.”

                • I’ve dealt with these arguments for decades…they are no more persuasive now than they were long ago. Brief summaries of the key points:

                  1. Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right, but the law is part of any society’s consensus about what is right. That means that it both reflects and leads the culture. This is one of law’s basic functions; no political scientist or government philosopher has ever seriously disputed it, but I keep reading and listening to educated people deny the undeniable effect of law endorsing societally destructive behavior by declaring it acceptable, as in “legal,” or “not serious enough to worry about.” This IS serious enough to worry about, and I’ve worried about it since the smartest kid in my high school was rendered useless for life by recreational drugs, since one room mate who went through a period when he and his wife began and ended every day with a joint or two, confessed to me that his short term memory was shot, and when another room mate had a psychotic episode while stoned.

                  2. The comparison with alcohol and Prohibition is false, and often disingenuous or ignorant. Prohibition came too late, by about four hundred years. Booze was in intertwined with social rituals, traditions, religion and commerce. It was a huge portion of US business. Prohibition proved that if you let a drug become too entrenched in the culture, there’s no going back. Also, when the government has said that conduct is legal for 150 years, a U turn just isn’t going to work. We aren’t at the point where other drugs are beyond the point of no return…pot is far from the universal presence in society that alcohol was in the twenties, or is now. Most people still don’t use pot, because its illegal, because enough people believe its bad for you (and it is) and because there are still stigmas attached to it. Take all that away, and you will have Alcohol II.

                  3. Other recreation teaches, enriches, provides entertainment, or physical, spiritual and emotional benefits. Pot simply reduces cognitive ability. I feel confident in saying that any use of the resources benefit society more.

                  4. “Lesser of two evils” is nonsense here. Evil I: prosecuting those who have contempt for laws in order to prevent a socially destructive malady, while preventing elite middle class pot lovers from relaxing with an occasional toke without risking being fired or disbarred. Evil II: having children stoned in schools, seeing poor Americans face one more pervasive obstacle to success, having more workers stoned on the job, and others choosing to stay stoned rather than look for work; and allowing kids to harm their cognitive functions by overuse when their brains are still developing. Gee, tough choice! Seriously? What I find disgusting–yes, that is the word— is that those doing all the agitating for legal pot will be the ones least harmed by it. They have support networks, education, a bit more common sense. They have spas and treatment centers. It is the poor and vulnerable who will be devastated by this, and they don’t care.

                  It’s a terrible, reckless gamble to take with the health and productivity of society, and the best possible scenario is that its just as bad as alcohol, which is a health problem of epic proportions.

                  • 1. So your point is, as far as I can tell, that we may have to make things illegal just because we can’t trust people not to cause problems for themselves if they weren’t. I accept such circumstances for the present, but I will never stop trying to get society to the point where we don’t need the proverbial warning labels on toothpick containers. I perceive a society that needs personal freedoms restricted in order to keep people from abusing them to be equally as tragic and pathetic as the society it would become were those laws not in place, the cognitively impaired one you describe. A society that needs rules imposed from above in order to avoid destroying itself is surviving not on its own merits, but on luck, and is therefore unworthy of being called free and adult. Long story short, I concede that marijuana should be illegal in this society, but I am sad that humans have so little maturity that such a law is actually necessary.

                    2. Point taken, and well made, regarding the cultural path-dependence (a phenomenon which I despise, but that doesn’t make it less effective, more’s the pity.)

                    3. I can’t speak from experience, but many would argue that pot can have some emotional or spiritual benefits, and that it does not simply reduce cognitive ability. I, personally, prefer to develop my emotional and spiritual well-being without the use of drugs, but I acknowledge the limitations of others in such endeavors such that they might derive an advantage from drugs used prudently (prudently being the key word). If people can’t keep some aspects of their minds from drowning out other aspects, they may have to turn those aspects off artificially rather than doing it through mental discipline. I’d hope people would work their way up to mental discipline, but I can’t afford to trust that for the time being.

                    4. Point taken again, if not very clinically made. Like I said before, this world won’t survive if people are not free, and people won’t survive freedom unless they practice the right mindsets and avoid addictions. I guess humans have to work their way up to this “freedom” thing, because they certainly can’t survive it now.

                    The idea that legalizing marijuana being as bad as alcohol is the best case scenario only holds if society as a whole stays the same, which admittedly is a fair assumption for the present. On the other hand, I foresee even bigger problems if we assume society stays the same, so I’m hoping I can invalidate that assumption in the future.

                    You have successfully addressed my concerns by pointing out that modern humans on the societal level still need to be treated like children (or adolescents) instead of adults. I appreciate the reality check. Now I’m going to go work on my plans for teaching humans how to be adults, because otherwise we’re collectively doomed.

                    • You are fairly remarkable, EC, and maybe unique in my experience, in that you are actually analytical and open-minded on this issue, and do not default to traditional talking points rather than engaging. It’s very impressive. I find myself wondering what could be accomplished…and not just on this issue… if everyone was more like you.

      • I don’t think Scott should be banned. The language he used toward you was no different than the words/rhetoric/abuse he handed out to everyone else. You never demanded apologies from him toward us and instead excused Scott’s language as “art”. Well, what’s good for the goose ….

        I would add a smiley face, but I know how much you dislike emoticons. I just want to make sure you read this with the right tone as I certainly don’t want to be banned either.

        But as someone who perhaps took the greatest abuse from Scott (at a minimum I think I’m on the Top 10 Scott Jacobs Insult List), I hope you take seriously my request not to ban him. The more voices here the better.

        • Here’s what I just wrote on this topic to Phlinn,another pro-Scott pleader:

          I miss him sometimes too, but when someone dramatically exits the blog because they can’t endure opposition to their dearly held beliefs and tops it off with “go fuck yourself,” I take that as final, self-immolation. I gave Scott a lot of leeway, and many commenter stopped commenting because of his abuse, which I permitted because he supplied substantive content, and because he convinced me that censoring intense expression, despite my belief in the importance of civility, also restricted legitimate expression. He owed the blog, and me, more respect and gratitude.

          The problem is, Beth, that Scott had four strikes against him. First, this blog suffered because I supported his right to be uncivil, as he was an absolutist about permitting free speech. I was never certain that was correct on my part, but it was a close call. I have…let’s see…e-mails from nine women who said that his calling women (and men) he disagreed with “cunts” made the blog inhospitable. (Some have returned since Scott left.) Defending Scott had a lot to do with losing Barry (Ampersand), which while he was an aggravating knee-jerk progressive, he was smart and well-informed. So I gave Scott a lot of leeway, and I regard his tantrum and final kiss-off rank ingratitude, frankly.

          I also have decided that I am not going to let commenters return after formal, “I have had my fill of this blog, so I won’t be coming back. Good day, sir!” grand exits unless they contact me and say pretty please. When employees resigned or quit under me in snits, they always found, to their shock, that I accepted their exit and there was no going back. I’ve been meaning to make this change on the Commenter policies. Nothing says anyone has to comment, but if they stage a walk-out, they better keep walking.

          Scott knew that he was burning his bridges by saying “fuck yourself” to the host. Finally, he returned with a dare, which would get any new commenter warned.

          Four strikes. But the fact that you would stand up for him speaks extremely well for your fairness and generosity. Brava.

          • I see you and I commented in the same minute, Jack. I empathize with your points too. Still, I would like to read Scott’s comments again (in hope that he’ll understand that he is not the only one with absolutist positions or tolerability thresholds, so it’s basic Golden Rule stuff to self-moderate).

        • Beth: “I just want to make sure you read this with the right tone as I certainly don’t want to be banned either.”

          Is everyone here afraid of being banned? Does Mr. Marshall ban people often? Are his bans based on viewpoint, and will he even ban those who respond politely? It is hard to have vigorous discussion while walking on eggshells. Why are you afraid of being banned, Beth?

          • I’m not “afraid” of being banned. My prior comment could have been read as insulting to Jack and I did not want him to infer negative tone — especially since I know him personally. That’s one of the dangers in having conversations through a blog and not in person.

            I still disagree with Jack’s decision because it suggests that Scott’s nasty verbal attacks (at which he excelled) were excusable as long as they were directed at other commenters and not Jack. Jack writes above that he had other reasons for the banning.

            As an aside, I have frequently argued that Jack DOES need to moderate more (especially with Scott), because this is an ethics blog where I believe civility should be encouraged. In fact, I believe I started the argument re moderation which ended with Ampersand quitting the blog — I’m sad about that.

            Jack doesn’t want to redact comments — which is his right — I would just have a different approach. Encourage civility so we have more voices across the spectrum, but the only people who should be banned are trolls. If people don’t want to rewrite or omit negative personal attacks, then their comments won’t be posted. Once they learn to play nice with others, their comments will appear. Accomplishing this without censoring is challenging. But it’s not my blog, and I am far too lazy to ever start one. My way is not Jack’s way.

            • “I still disagree with Jack’s decision because it suggests that Scott’s nasty verbal attacks (at which he excelled) were excusable as long as they were directed at other commenters and not Jack.”

              This is true, in fact, and it is because the duty of civility and respect owed to the host is greater than that owed to a guest. The same goes in any hierarchy. A soldier can insult another soldier; if he or she says the same to a commanding officer, it’s court martial time. I’ve allowed commenters, established ones like tgt and Ampersand, to go so far as to call me a liar and biased; I don’t like it, but they earned the right to be direct, and I knew them well enough that I assumed they had some good faith reasons to make those accusations, which alerted me to check my own analysis. I have permitted nasty insults from commenters who were being facetious, or whom I know were not trying to be vicious (“Smile when you say that, Mister!”)

              “Fuck yourself” crosses the line, and Scott may be the last commenter who gets away with that, “cunt” or “eat a bowl of dicks” with another commenter, either. You know, this was the second time he quit: the first was when I reprimanded him for insulting another commenter, and he returned after a lengthy exchange about free expression.

          • Beth was being facetious.

            The blog has had over 84,000 non-spam comments in less than five years, from well over a thousand individuals. Ethics Alarms is run somewhat like a seminar, and I respond and engage with commenters more than any blog I’m familiar with having similar traffic. The only commenters who have been banned for viewpoint are 1) the racists, and I give even them one shot, and 2) those who espouse the philosophy that ethics don’t exist. In the context of this blog, that is trolling.

            The Comments guidelines make it clear that non-ethics related comments and political rants, unless they are from regular commenters, who have earned the privilege, will not be appreciated; nor will rude behavior toward the host/moderator/discussion leader, ME. I allow somewhat more leeway in arguments among commenters. The standards for new commenters is tougher than for established contributors: if you enter with an insult, snark, or disrespect, I reserve the right to decide that having you around will be a burden on me and everyone else. I offer this blog as a service, not to be abused; you are my guest: behave like one. Articulate dissent from my posts is cherished…in part I write in a manner designed to stimulate dissent. Challenging the premise of the blog, my integrity, my credentials, my honesty, my motives; repeatedly misrepresenting my position or simply repeating partisan talking points without dealing with rebuttals can get one banned, as they should.

            You might read some of the exchanges here before suggesting that anyone is “walking on eggshells.” The banned commenter whose tone I decided was inappropriate ended a comment by telling me to fuck myself. Do you see what I object to about that “tone,” Cathi?

            • I have been lurking for a few days. The other banned commentator was “articulate, civil,” and presented interesting counter-arguments. And no, I can find nothing to support your claim that he did not believe that ethics exists. All he ever did was disagree with you respectfully and explain his reasoning.

              Someone said he “would not learn.” If “learning” means “always agreeing with you,” you would be the first professor I know who believes that, and I trust that you aren’t. My professors taught me to do my best to challenge them, and that it was okay if we disagreed. It is how we learn.

              It seems that you didn’t follow the spirit of your own rules there. And no, I can’t object to your ban of Scott, but Beth’s comment didn’t seem facetious in context. You have jumped on her pretty hard before, and her comment was perceived as reflecting that fear. That you are personal friends in real life changes how it should be seen.

              • Cathi, he SAID, multiple times, that ethics was a myth, that all ethics was situational (which means the same thing), and kept returning to that theme. If someone wants to argue that ethics is all subjective, they can do it elsewhere…that isn’t the theme or the assumptions for discussion here. If the analogy is a seminar, this is a fundamentalist crashing a paleontology course and refusing to shut up.

                A full-throated endorsement of “Anonymous” endorses vigilantism, terrorism, anarchy and rejection of accountability, and thus rejects all ethical systems. He, and anyone is welcome to those absurd beliefs, but as they are not debatable in an ethics context, I will have little tolerance for them here.

                It’s my call. You can accept it, or not, but it is no longer open to debate.

                I judged him a troll, ultimately, and I am comfortable with that assessment.

      • Why the short sentence? Because that’s what they always give to white cops who cripple and frame blacks, apparently.

        Though the sentencing guidelines called for a range of 135 to 168 months, the trial judge sentenced Dautovic to only 20 months in prison. The judge specifically declined to apply the six-level color-of-law sentencing enhancement, and “weighed heavily the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparity among defendants with similar records or lack thereof who have been convicted of similar conduct.”

  2. Jack,

    Since the concept, or principle, of equal protection seems to receive so much focused attention these days, I can’t help asking:

    Has there ever been a case where the breadth of latitude of sentencing guidelines has resulted in a large disparity in sentencing between essentially identical offenses and virtually indistinguishable defendants, where the more heavily sentenced defendant won a reduced sentence on grounds of unequal protection?

      • My follow-up(s) would be (if such a case exists) either something like, how did such a ruling impact the applicable sentencing guidelines (if at all)? Or, as a result of such a ruling (perhaps ironically), could mandatory minimums in sentencing be reasoned as lacking “reasonable basis” for ensuring the very equality they might appear to be designed to secure?

        Of course, you know I am not a lawyer – nor could I ever qualify to be one.

  3. As I recall from logic class, it is a circumstantial ad hominem argument, but are they necessarily invalid?

    I also recall reading a story where a Judge Younger (the name doesn’t ring a bell to me, but it may to you) cross-examined a witness in a drug case while he was a prosecutor. He only asked one question: “You’re his mother, aren’t you?” Everyone knows that a mother will do just about anything for her son, including lying on the witness stand. That question cast doubt on her entire testimony, which may have been absolutely truthful.

    For example (and I am not accusing you of this!), some might say that your opinion cannot be trusted on this subject, because you make your living by presenting ethics seminars to judges. Just as Mr. King’s experiences might taint his opinion, your self-interest might taint yours. Experience tells us that it does matter and for that reason, the question is a valid one.

    I get back to my original question: How many judicial failures are too many? What you say may well be true, but the consequences of failures may be so severe that even a few failures justify public distrust of the system.

    In baseball, umpires blow calls all the time. But when a judge blows a call, there is a system in place for correcting it. When the system fails, it casts a cloud on the integrity of everyone involved. There is an excellent discussion of the failures of the system policing judicial misconduct in federal courts at herculesandtheumpire, and it seems that even judges are telling us that the system doesn’t work (and the real complaints are the ones not being filed).

    • “For example (and I am not accusing you of this!), some might say that your opinion cannot be trusted on this subject, because you make your living by presenting ethics seminars to judges. Just as Mr. King’s experiences might taint his opinion, your self-interest might taint yours. Experience tells us that it does matter and for that reason, the question is a valid one.”

      Why would teaching judicial ethics make me biased toward judges? That makes no sense at all. I teach ethics to accountants, doctors, government lawyers, corporations, Fortune 500 companies, teachers, artists, athletes and others—am I presumably biased toward all of them? How is being a trainer like being a mother?

      • Aren’t a witness’s biases always relevant in cross-examination?

        If judges suddenly stopped liking what you were teaching, would they keep hiring you? If the answer is “probably,” the question is a fair one.

        • As I said, I have no biases regarding the professions I teach. You don’t understand ethics training, do you? They WANT me to show them how unethical they are, so they can pretend they learned something. Occasionally, they really do. Why would a professions ethical proclivities make any difference at all to an ethics trainer? It’s a crazy theory.

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