Government Horror Story: What Happens When We Expect Bureaucrats To Protect Us

Horror1

Indignant and self-righteous activists  argued that the real problem underlying the shootings at Virginia Tech, the D.C. Naval Yard, Newtown, Tucson and elsewhere—other than the Second Amendment, of course– was the failure of the health care system and the government to apprehend and stop emotional disturbed citizens before they start shooting.

This might have some validity, if it were not for a fact that Big Brother worshipers know but refuse to acknowledge. The health care system and the government are operated by people, many of them dedicated and competent, but a lot of them fearful, lazy, irresponsible and stupid. When we place power over the lives and liberty of others in the hands of such people, bad things happen.

They just happened to my family, and I am furious—both at the immediate fools who have abused us, but also the smug social architects who always think a new law and more government control over our lives is the solution to every problem.

At this moment, be warned:

I hate you people.

Stay out of my way.

Almost a year ago, my teenage son was stopped and ticketed for speeding on the highway in the classic BMW that he has largely rebuilt. A passenger and friend had brought pot and drug paraphernalia into the car, and he was on probation; my son decided to declare that both were his, since he had a clean record—an arguably ethical move, but a costly one. My son ended up having the drug charges dropped, but his license was suspended, and he was required to attend meetings of ASAP, a state government counseling program.

My son is almost done with the sessions, which he detests, of course. He has his license back. Over the weekend, he was being prodded to “open up”—he is seldom gregarious to strangers—and really share what was going on his his life. He finally told the group that he had recently broken up with his long-time girlfriend, and was very depressed when moving out of the house they lived in together until two weeks ago. “I felt like killing myself, ” he told them. The counselor recalled that my son had mentioned at another meeting that he was an NRA member, and just like that, he found himself being taken to a hospital for emergency observation as someone who was an imminent danger to himself or others.

My son is not depressed. He has lived with us since his move; he has a new job that he loves, and has many friends. Never mind: a “health care professional” spoke with him at the hospital for all of 15 minutes and determined that he was, in her professional view, dangerous. This raised the possibility of my son being forcibly committed to another facility for a week or more. NOW he really was depressed, as well as worried. This could cost him his job.

This was all being done in the wake of the classic barn door locking exercise after the deadly shooting rampage of an insane student at Virginia Tech a couple of years ago. New laws were quickly passed allowing even an incident that was as much as two weeks old to justify the kind of strong-arm institutionalization my son was subjected to, and being “depressed,” especially for a legal gun owner (which of course makes you a threat to everyone) was a sufficient “incident” to threaten his liberty.

I spoke to the health care professional who had presumed to screw up my son’s existence. Her name is Dee Hearn. I would not normally make this personal, but I do not appreciate being lied to, spoken to like I am an idiot, or being subjected to bureaucratic, ass-covering double talk.

I asked her if they were confining my son against his will. Oh, no, said Dee, who has one of those chirpy, lunch lady ways of speaking that makes you feel like you are back in the 7th Grade. He could leave whenever he wanted to.

“Really?” I said.

“Yes, but since I have determined that he may be a danger to himself and others, a police order might be processed that would authorize law emforcement to bring him back here,” chirped Dee.

“Then he can’t leave, and he is being confined against his will,” I said.

“This isn’t how we look at it, sir.”

Unbelievable.

“Listen,” I said. “I know my son. I’ve spoken with him and been with him every day since he moved back home. He is fine. He is making plans; he is on the way to a career. He has a good job. He is going to be a lot more depressed if he loses his job because you stop him from working.”

“It isn’t my responsibility if he loses his job, sir. My responsibility is to do what my training tells me, and ensure his safety.”

“If actions taken by you result in my son losing his job, I will hold you responsible, because you will in fact be responsible.”

“That is your decision, but we are not responsible, sir.”

Of course people like Dee aren’t responsible. In their little bureaucratic pea brains, they are only responsible for doing all they can to avoid liability for the next shooting,  and if it means sacrificing one, six or a hundred young men like my son to do that, that’s all they care about.

This is emblematic of what big government progressives and big-hearted liberals simply refuse to accept, because their whole philosophy crumbles under its weight. Yes, the government could solve many, many problems, if only there were only sufficiently competent people employed by the government. But from top to bottom, there are corrupt people, dumb people, mean people, dishonest people, uncaring people, arrogant people, incompetent people. There are Lois Lerners and Eric Sheshinskis, Eric Holders and worse at the top, and Dee Hearns and god knows what at the bottom. There are plenty of good, dedicated government employees too, but the sheer weight of the system makes their impact minimal, and the power of the others to screw it up massive. I honestly don’t understand why everyone doesn’t comprehend this. Maybe they need to spend ten minutes trying to make Dee speak sense.

This means that it is absolute folly to trust your welfare, your autonomy, your health, your finances, your secrets and your ability to run your own life to anyone holding any kind of official power, unless you absolutely have to, and even then, you should so so carefully and with great trepidation and reluctance. You cannot trust them. Most of them are cowards. Most of them do not care about you. Most of them will sacrifice your welfare for theirs in a heartbeat.

An independent professional just cleared my son for release, and I am waiting to see him and give him a hug. We will go over some life lessons at dinner tonight, including…

  • Don’t confide in strangers…
  • Don’t assume that the person you are talking to is not phobic about guns…
  • Don’t get involved in the justice system…
  • Don’t trust bureaucrats, because they really don’t care about you, just about finding the path of least resistance…
  • If you do find a government employee who actually cares and is competent as well, shake his or her hand, be profuse in your praise, and understand that you were lucky this time….
  • Be self-sufficient, be your own worst critic, solve your own problems, and do all you can to help other people solve theirs.

My son just lost two days of his life because everyone wanted the government to do “something” about a crazed killer at Virginia Tech.

I’m not going to forget it, and I know he won’t.

 

73 thoughts on “Government Horror Story: What Happens When We Expect Bureaucrats To Protect Us

  1. I have a book–now out of print–called “The Kidner Report: A Guide to Creative Bureaucracy.” One of the theories it advances id that there is no point in working in a bureaucracy if you can’t be a bureaucrat. How true.

  2. Jack:
    I feel your pain. Having worked for a community college for 20 years I know of what you speak. That is why I retired early – to fight these battles with impunity.

    I find it interesting that young men and women who have actually demonstrated violent behavior do not get a similar intervention by a “professional”. I am sure that would have turned them on to the straight and narrow. Perhaps Dee Hearn could speak to them – one on one.

  3. Wow, I’m sorry that happened to your son.
    What about all of the people who attend meetings like AA, NA, Al-anon?
    What happens if they share too much?
    I’d hate to think people aren’t getting the support they need because they are afraid they will get locked up.

    • AA meetings are strictly confidential, as the name implies. And since most meetings are facilitated by caring and involved volunteers, and not paid pencil-pushers, they generally perform well at keeping private matters private.

    • I’ve written about those 12 Step groups… their record of keeping everything confidential is superb. My son was assured similarly regarding ASAP, but they never promised that what you told them after being urged to “open up” wouldn’t get you branded as a potential Adam Lanza so they could prove they were “doing something.”

      • I see clear parallels between religious notions of confession and repentance and the AA meetings.

        It would seem the same confidentiality expected of pastors or priests that makes the process of healing so effective is an absolute and therefore by analogy ought be absolute with AA as well.

  4. I feel your pain, Jack. The worst 72 hours of my life occurred about 10 years ago when a doctor told us that our best bet to helping my then 15-year-old son get his anti-depressant meds under control was to admit him to the juvenile in-patient program where they could monitor everything. Unfortunately they neglected to inform us that we had just signed “commitment” papers and couldn’t remove him from the facility for 72 hours unless we were willing to face the possibility of losing custody of him in an administrative law hearing. We wanted to remove him because: 1) they took him away, put him in a dorm room by himself and left him there for several hours alone, confused, frightened; 2) when we arrived at the beginning of visiting hours, patients were screaming and running away from orderlies who were holding hypodermic syringes above their heads as they ran; 3) there was food on the floor; and 4), as with many psychiatric facilities, the staff looked scarier than the patients. (This facility, by the way, is the same facility from which a patient “escaped,” though I think he actually virtually just walked out the door, and then ended up going to his psychiatrist’s house and killing him.)

    Your advice to your son is excellent.

    (In order to protect my son’s identity, I am not signing with my real name. But you know me and should guess who I am by my assumed name.)

  5. This reminds me, during the last year or so, every little minor medical appointment I’ve had has started with exactly the same list of mental health questions. I wasn’t happy being asked with no prior warning, with no mention of privacy implications, or even a prompt to suggest I might decline to answer. (I wonder if it’s just a local state thing, or if this is national.)

  6. I know this is not the point of the article, but I am so mad about what your son did a year ago I could scream.

    But onto the therapy. First, he either really did want to kill himself or he was lying. If he did want to kill himself, then the counselor rightfully should be concerned. If he didn’t, then it was a bone-head move to exaggerate. Court-ordered counseling? He should have made up some BS that made it looked like he was participating but that no one should be concerned. And yes, it is completely ethical for a sane person to lie in these circumstances. Why couldn’t he have said, “Well, obviously it was sad when we broke up, but I processed it and now I feel like I grew as an individual. I will keep what was good, change what was bad, and start dating again when I’m ready.” [insert more blah, blah, blah here]

    You say above that the counselor recalled that your son mentioned that he was in the NRA. Did she acknowledge that this is why she was concerned or are you assuming that? If she said this was the reason then I agree it was an overreaction. (But seriously, if your son is going to willingly put himself into the system, then he needs to learn to lie or at least omit facts. Why did he need to volunteer this little gem?)

    My understanding always has been that court-ordered therapy sessions are never confidential. Am I wrong?

    You’ve had a bad experience, but I’m not sure your anecdote is evidence of a completely dysfunctional system. I wonder how many people have been helped by people in your son’s position? On a related note, Virginia laws are pretty strict on this subject in favor of the patient. I have a friend who has been desperately been trying to get her adult son committed for years. But this clever boy has it down pat what to say to health care professionals so he has never been deemed a safety risk at the time of examination.

    I’m glad your son is out. What a horrible ordeal for your family.

    I’m also glad that the drug charges were dropped. Do you mind sharing why that happened? I can’t help thinking about all the dialogue recently about how petty drug charges can ruin kids’ lives.

    • The only thing wrong with what Jack’s son did is that he didn’t keep being ethical by denying the government nanny the opportunity to whip out her arsenal of petty bureaucratic bullshit.

      • It’s kind of silly to reply to myself, but I’m going to add…I’ll bet he doesn’t make the mistake being honest with a bureaucrat (especially one with the power to lock him up) anything ever again.

      • He was wrong to race, and wrong to let a kid with drugs in his car. He was wrong to take the blame and expose himself to the system — unless he was planning to smoke the port too, then I think he did the right thing. But none of these things should land him in the pysch ward.

        And while he wasn’t “wrong” to be honest in therapy, it wasn’t wise either.

    • That has got to be the sweetest, most sympathetic justification of an absolute violation of rights that I’ve ever read. God spare me from my fellow citizens’ good intentions.

      • There are many Amendments that one should exercise while in police custody — but the First and the Second aren’t among them. Unless you want to go to jail — or court-mandated therapy.

    • 1. He had an excellent lawyer who knows the system cold as a former prosecutor. The deal was that if he met the meeting requirements, the drug stuff would be nol prossed. Having a squeaky clean record helped.

      2. He honestly said that he felt like killing himself, which is not, in my experience, the same as being suicidal. Nor his. He’s probably heard me say that I was on the verge of killing myself dozens of times in my office when my computer was cashing and I was under a deadline. And it was momentary, as he explained, and two weeks earlier.

      3. Yes, my understanding was that he went through a very similar explanation as you outlined, was sincere about it, and they didn’t care.

      4. They said they were afraid he was going to shoot someone, so I assume the fact that he owned a gun was the sole basis for this. He is the least violent person I know. He has never harmed anyone, never been in a fight, never threatened violence, never hit anyone, has no temper tantrums.

      5. Hey, a blind squirrel will find a nut on occasion, and if you scoop up people for no good reason, the odds are someone will benefit eventually. That can’t justify the others, like my son, who are treated for pre-crime, humiliated and robbed of two days after being prodded to trust the stupid and untrustworthy.

      • The story, if it occurred as you outlined, is completely outrageous. Heads should roll.

        But…I’ll be honest here, I’m skeptical. I guess my skepticism starts with the original police stop, where the guy gracefully takes the fall for his passenger, the “real” bad guy. Are we really believing that it wasn’t his marijuana? I know we all have a blind spot regarding our own children, but I can’t believe that you don’t doubt his story just a wee little bit. And you think your son’s actions, if his version is to be believed, was an ethical act? Especially since you are against the legalization of marijuana? Curious.

        Then, his claims of being despondent over the breakup. That I believe. But it is very difficult in Virginia, as other people have noted, to involuntarily commit someone. Are we certain there weren’t threats toward other people mixed up in his suicidal statements? That does put things on a whole other level. If someone is already under evaluation by the state (something that he basically volunteered himself for, if his accounting of events is to be believed) and they have the means and expressed the desire to harm others, it would be negligent not to ramp up the evaluation.

        I’m glad everything worked out for him, and for everyone else involved. If going by his own version of events, then he did an unethical act, which ironically led to the state pursuing an outrageous unethical act against him. But I’m not sure if he is the most reliable narrator (teenage boys often are not). I can easily see, with the addition of just a couple of words (i.e. “I felt like killing myself…and her, I was so sad and angry.”) that can cause some alarm bells to ring in many quarters. I would love to see the official recounting by the counselor on exactly what he said. That might prove illuminating.

        But your after the fact advice was spot on. Hopefully he learned his lesson, ditches the scumbag friends, and takes your advice in the future.

        • As explained to me by both the professionals and my son, all he did was relate his past depression. No, he would not make threats. I know him…that’s not his style. It’s not hard, once you’re are in ASAP, to be sent “voluntarily” for additional examination. He was tricked, essentially. They “suggested” he go to the hospital, and once there, they wouldn’t allow him to leave. He was not committed. He was held for limited observation, and as soon as an independent investigator spoke with him, it was over. But they took their time.

          My son doesn’t lie. That is a bi-product of being an ethicist’s son. He has always confessed wrongdoing or questionable conduct, sometimes a bit after the fact, but that’s been his MO for many years. A lot of what he’s told me, I would have never have told my parents.

          Yeah, he’s a natural leader, gutsy, bold, chivalrous, generous. I’m sure he’s used pot, but as he once said regarding alcohol, he loves his car, and would never risk it by driving impaired. He’s done stuff like taking the full blame for the actions of others all his life…part of it is a refusal to be intimidated by authority—a good thing. The rest is a natural inclination to be gallant. That’s him—it’s unusual. I don’t blame you for being skeptical…I was furious with him for taking the responsibility for the pot…his friend told me he was about to come clean, and my son stepped in. He also confessed to the cop that he was racing, which would have involved a much worse charge and fine. The cop thanked him for being honest, and didn’t charge him.(Lucky) As a lawyer, I’ve told him never to volunteer information to a cop, but he’s his own man. I’m proud of him. He’s very unlike me, but he’s got a strong ethical core. Once he stops doing stupid stuff…

    • You’ve had a bad experience, but I’m not sure your anecdote is evidence of a completely dysfunctional system.

      Of course. It’s one anecdote. But isn’t it obvious that incompetents infest everywhere in the system? Look at the high level bureaucrats…Susan Rice, John Kerry. Look at the health care website; at a guy like Snowden getting access to all that classified information—sure, we might get lucky and stumble over some dedicated, competent public servants, but how long will you be lucky? We need police; we need an army; somebody’s got to try to keep things from falling apart…but who in their right mind would confidently trust these faceless clods to do anything requiring judgement, sensitivity or common sense that could control the path of our lives?

      Look, I want the government to work, and I am a patriot. I believe in democracy. But giving more and more responsibility to people who screw up so routinely, whether they mean well or not, is insane.

      • It’s almost as if giving vast bureaucracies power over all aspects of our life is a fundamentally flawed idea, which inevitably results in tyrannies and oppression, no matter how well intentioned! If only we could have somehow foreseen this…

      • There are just as many idiots in the private sector. I’ve worked in it my entire life. The reason you don’t hear about them is that major screw-ups are settled out of court without media attention. That being said, I hate bureaucracy and inefficient government as much as the next guy.

      • I feel your pain. Everybody does. Corrupt cops, corrupt judges, corrupt bureaucrats. We have all been there. But in your own assessment, it is absque damnum injuria, no matter how severe or permanent the injury? Am I misunderstanding you, Jack?

        Jack: “Of course. It’s one anecdote. But isn’t it obvious that incompetents infest everywhere in the system?

        Yes, it is. Including our judiciary, I might add. (Every veteran trial lawyer has at least a few good war stories.)

        I think it is obvious to anyone who is paying attention that our system is completely dysfunctional, and the reason is that no one in power is accountable. That is why, especially in light of this incident, Jack’s little spat with Erwin Chemerinsky makes no earthly sense.

        In our discussion, I drew Jack’s attention to the standard for governmental accountability espoused in the International Covenant on Civil Rights — the standard that virtually every country in the world (including our own government) agreed to:

        “3. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes:

        (a) To ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity;

        (b) To ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities, or by any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, and to develop the possibilities of judicial remedy;

        (c) To ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted.”

        http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx

        As we actually signed this treaty, it is supposed to be the law of our own land, U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2; Head Money Cases. Jack’s response truly astounded me:

        Jack: “Let me save us both time—Multi-lateral UN treaties are also not worth the paper they are printed on, since the UN doesn’t, won’t and can’t enforce them, and the individual nations can interpret them out of existence.

        Ponder that for a moment. The fact that The Gambia might not enforce these rights somehow grants the United States authority to disregard its international obligations, as well?!? Not exactly the answer I would have expected from an ethicist, to be certain. Two wrongs don’t normally make a right.

        [In point of fact, this treaty is actually enforced BY the UN, provided that a signatory agrees to the First Optional Protocol (many Third World states have). Commonwealth and EU countries don’t need it because they have highly functional judiciaries, and the rights enumerated therein have, in fact, been enforced in those States. American judges have done as Jack counseled, interpreting the ICCPR out of existence without any foundation in law. No ethics points for OUR judiciary.]

        With that foundation laid, let me get to a story not unlike Jack’s, but with a much darker ending. In connection with a divorce proceeding, my friend’s ex-wife conspired with a corrupt judge to have him committed to a mental institution. Due process? Get real! Not in an American court!!! The man lost his good-paying job, and ended up being almost unemployable for a while. It took this man ten years and an array of court battles to even be able to FIND his daughter, whom his ex had secreted away. Having just graduated from law school, he is being given the third degree because he had the temerity to fight for his rights, and he might not even be admitted to his state bar. Absque damnum injuria, my [mild expletive]!

        Jack: “But giving more and more responsibility to people who screw up so routinely, whether they mean well or not, is insane.”

        It seems to me that the only solution is to hold these people–or at least, the government they work for–accountable, and the only way government will be motivated to exercise proper oversight is to severely curtail official and sovereign immunity. If Jack’s son had lost his job and suffered harm more permanent than “a lesson learned” due to the wrongful conduct of a bureaucrat, shouldn’t he be entitled to some form of reasonable compensation?

        Jack promised me a thoughtful reply. I am going to ask that he honor that warranty. Where should the accountability line be drawn, and why? (My thesis is that Jack will end up uncomfortably close to agreeing with that flaming liberal, “extreme anti-law and order advocate” Chemerinsky.)

        • 1. No, I won’t. Because as he has proved for years, Chemerinsky refuses to acknowledge the real world, and lives in the world of ivory tower ideals, while presuming to interfere with real world issues.

          2. As long as the idiots at ASAP and the hospital were acting within their authority and discretion, neither I nor my son would have any recourse in the courts, and that is as it should be.

          3. Limited government immunity and absolute judicial immunity are imperfect but absolutely indispensible protections (and special exceptions) for government to function. The burden of proof is on anyone asserting otherwise to prove that not to be the case, and individual examples where immunity worked a terrible injustice doesn’t matter. The question isn’t ensuring accountability when there has been actual misconduct, but functioning when every disappointed or angry citizen feels that they have been wronged, sue, and force government employees to spend the time and money defending themselves.

          4. It is so obvious why this can’t work that I suspect anyone advocating it of really being dedicated to the collapse of government generally.

          5. Your touching faith in the good intentions and legitimacy of the United Nations is, I’m sorry, but it has to be said.. teeth-falling-out fucking astounding.

          • Jack: “Your touching faith in the good intentions and legitimacy of the United Nations is, I’m sorry, but it has to be said.. teeth-falling-out fucking astounding.”

            I believe that I have spotted our problem: You don’t know jack about international law and as such, you are proceeding from assumptions that, if true, I would laugh at with you. Most attorneys know exactly zero about international human rights law, and asking you to be up to speed would be both unfair and unreasonable. (And yes, I will ignore the silly and impolite snark. Better to ignore an insult when you understand why it was leveled, and being ethnically Jewish, I get your distrust of the UN.)

            Let’s be honest: At times, the UN makes Congress look effective, and that takes talent. And if ICCPR enforcement depended on it, “farce” would be a charitable term. But that’s not how it works.

            A treaty is a contract between nations, governed by the principle of pacta sunt servanda. Treaties are binding on signatory States, and a State may not invoke its internal law as a justification for non-performance. As such, domestic courts of those States interpret these treaties as if they were an integral part of their own Constitutions. We have the same rule in our own law (the 200-year-old “Rule of Charming Betsy”), and our Constitution is explicit in proclaiming that treaties are the supreme Law of the Land. U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2. (This is why, when you examine our ratifications, you will always find a Reid v. Covert reservation, making clear that the treaty does not supersede our Constitution. Quite literally, if the parties wanted to, they could gut the First Amendment, which is why we always make the reservation.)

            In most countries, you look for its enforcement in local courts, and many European courts are arguably superior to our own. Even in countries like India and Kenya, one of the legacies of being a former Crown colony is a sound judiciary. Thus, for much of the world, the rights contained in what has rightly been called the “International Bill of Rights” are enforceable.

            In countries accepting the Optional Protocol, an international agency has been set up that interprets the ICCPR, relying heavily on decisions in the many jurisdictions where persuasive precedent has been set. And if you have to choose between a relatively feckless body and no body at all, you are probably better off with the relatively feckless one.

            Jack: “It is so obvious why this can’t work”

            Why? Because you say so? Surely, Jack, you can come up with a more credible argument than that! It appears to work in the rest of the world. Japan. New Zealand. The EU. Canada. All have incorporated it into domestic law, and the world hasn’t stopped on its axis. Thirty years of empirical evidence says that you are wrong. Why can’t it work here?

            Remember that as long as the State is liable, individual judges don’t have to be. And if lawsuits take a little of the judges’ time, they do. If judges do their jobs, they never have to worry.

            Jack: “Limited government immunity and absolute judicial immunity are imperfect but absolutely indispensible protections (and special exceptions) for government to function.”

            Tell me why a Judge McCree ought to evade tort liability. Or the judge in Stump v. Sparkman. Even learned judges don’t agree with you, and they have compelling reasons. I will let Justice Douglas respond:

            The argument that the actions of public officials must not be subjected to judicial scrutiny because to do so would have an inhibiting effect on their work, is but a more sophisticated manner of saying “The King can do no wrong.” Chief Justice Cockburn long ago disposed of the argument that liability would deter judges:

            “I cannot believe that judges . . . would fail to discharge their duty faithfully and fearlessly according to their oaths and consciences . . . from any fear of exposing themselves to actions at law. I am persuaded that the number of such actions would be infinitely small and would be easily disposed of. While, on the other hand, I can easily conceive cases in which judicial opportunity might be so perverted and abused for the purpose of injustice as that, on sound principles, the authors of such wrong ought to be responsible to the parties wronged.” Dawkins v. Lord Paulet, L. R. 5 Q. B. 94, 110 (C. J. Cockburn, dissenting).

            This is not to say that a judge who makes an honest mistake should be subjected to civil liability. It is necessary to exempt judges from liability for the consequences of their honest mistakes. The judicial function involves an informed exercise of judgment. It is often necessary to choose between differing versions of fact, to reconcile opposing interests, and to decide closely contested issues. Decisions must often be made in the heat of trial. A vigorous and independent mind is needed to perform such delicate tasks. It would be unfair to require a judge to exercise his independent judgment and then to punish him for having exercised it in a manner which, in retrospect, was erroneous. Imposing liability for mistaken, though honest judicial acts, would curb the independent mind and spirit needed to perform judicial functions. Thus, a judge who sustains a conviction on what he forthrightly considers adequate evidence should not be subjected to liability when an appellate court decides that the evidence was not adequate. Nor should a judge who allows a conviction under what is later held an unconstitutional statute.

            But that is far different from saying that a judge shall be immune from the consequences of any of his judicial actions, and that he shall not be liable for the knowing and intentional deprivation of a person’s civil rights. What about the judge who conspires with local law enforcement officers to “railroad” a dissenter? What about the judge who knowingly turns a trial into a “kangaroo” court? Or one who intentionally flouts the Constitution in order to obtain a conviction? Congress, I think, concluded that the evils of allowing intentional, knowing deprivations of civil rights to go unredressed far outweighed the speculative inhibiting effects which might attend an inquiry into a judicial deprivation of civil rights. Pierson v. Ray (Douglas, J., dissenting).

            Jack: “The burden of proof is on anyone asserting otherwise to prove that not to be the case, and individual examples where immunity worked a terrible injustice doesn’t matter.”

            The burden is on those who would advocate absolute and/or sovereign immunity to find it somewhere in the Constitution. (And no, it isn’t there.) “To the Constitution of the United States the term SOVEREIGN, is totally unknown. There is but one place where it could have been used with propriety. But, even in that place it would not, perhaps, have comported with the delicacy of those, who ordained and established that Constitution. They might have announced themselves “SOVEREIGN” people of the United States. But serenely conscious of the fact, they avoided the ostentatious declaration.” Chisholm v. Georgia (Wilson, J.).

            And yes, I say that they do matter. The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect us from abuses of magisterial power, and to assert that it cannot do so is to declare it null and void. To even state the case refutes it.

            You are certainly entitled to your opinion, Jack, but please don’t insult the intelligence of your readers by haughtily declaring that no other position is defensible when men who are easily our equals declare otherwise. You expect people to respect your intellect and I shall endeavor to; all I would ask is that you extend the same courtesy.

            • I studied International Law, and it is, for the most part, illusory and ephemeral. Especially as it involves the U.S. Good. You say, absurdly, that “Treaties are binding on signatory States, and a State may not invoke its internal law as a justification for non-performance.” That’s a gross over-simplification, and since the US takes the position that it must assent to being governed by such treaties, and does so only when it feel like it, then I, not you, am correct in my assessment of its impact.

              I explained why I think ending judicial immunity is a terrible idea. The fact that judges, good ones, fear it is plenty enough reason, though there are others. Don’t play appeal to authority here. Douglas is one judge, and one who thought locking up Japanese-American citizens was a swell idea: he’s hardly infallible. The reason that we still have judicial immunity is that all those brilliant minds you appeal to, on balance, ended up in the status quo. I have never said or implied that the opposing opinion was not defensible—you do a fine job defending it. But it’s here to stay, and most of the time, I’m glad. Expanding judicial immunity beyond the bench, which is another trend, is worthy of alarm. Not judicial immunity itself, which has worked well, and cases like the the one the 6th Circuit gulped and decided are very rare…hence all the publicity. Hard cases make bad law, and the 6th Circuit resisted the impulse to make a worse one.

              • Jack: “I studied International Law,”

                Then, why did you make this argument (“Your touching faith in the good intentions and legitimacy of the United Nations is, I’m sorry, but it has to be said.. teeth-falling-out fucking astounding.”) when you knew that it was improper to do so? Compliance with human rights treaties is at the signatory State level for the most part, thereby avoiding the worthless bureaucracies in Geneva. That was sloppy and, I would submit, beneath you–apart from the unnecessarily coarse language. (I suspect that there is an interesting story behind that, but won’t ask if you won’t share.)

                Jack: “You say, absurdly, that “Treaties are binding on signatory States, and a State may not invoke its internal law as a justification for non-performance.” That’s a gross over-simplification

                Absurdly? Jack, it is from Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, related verbatim. If you remembered your international law, you should have grasped its significance. (I couldn’t recite the conditional estates on a bet, so no, I don’t expect it from you.) However, I will agree that an in-depth discussion of the law of breach is beyond the scope of an ethics blog.

                Jack: “That’s a gross over-simplification, and since the US takes the position that it must assent to being governed by such treaties, and does so only when it feel like it, then I, not you, am correct in my assessment of its impact.”

                Or to put it another way,”America is the latest iteration of the Soviet Union, Comrade Hawley!”Of course, we sign these silly international compacts with no intention of respecting them! We are America! “Law” is for lesser countries. Nice, Jack. You are admitting that America is unethical.

                In reference to the ICCPR, Sen. Moynihan (D-NY) observed that “[e]ven though the [ICCPR] is not self-executing, these will now become binding international obligations of the United States.” 138 Cong. Rec. S4,783 (1992) (statement of Sen. Moynihan). Apart from the fact that the act of ratifying an agreement constitutes assent–treaties are governed by the principles of contract–that appears to be a pellucid statement of assent. Senator Moynihan also warranted that the United States “had undertaken a meticulous examination of [domestic] practice to insure that the United States will in fact comply with the obligations that it is assuming. This can certainly be viewed as an indication of the seriousness with which the obligations are regarded rather than an expression of disdain for the obligations. Certainly, there was a time when the nations of the totalitarian block[sic] ratified obligations without reservation—obligations that they had no intention of carrying out. Far better to ratify with the firm intention of living up to the covenant’s terms.” Id.

                On the face of it–the “debate” consumed six pages of the Congressional Record–the Senate expected that it would be enforceable. That looks like “assent” to me! That judges exercised their own illegal judicial veto of the ICCPR merely underscores the need for the abolition of absolute judicial immunity. Judges are servants of the law, not our masters, and putting a few in the poorhouse for their wrongful acts would underscore this point.

                Jack: “Don’t play appeal to authority here. Douglas is one judge, and one who thought locking up Japanese-American citizens was a swell idea: he’s hardly infallible.”

                Aaaaahhhh, the old “Thomas Jefferson owned slaves” argument. Jack, you are flailing. My point in quoting Douglas is in establishing that there is a credible argument for abolishing absolute judicial immunity, thereby obliterating the argument that the Framers somehow must have intended to bestow it upon Article III judges. Either you find official immunity in the Constitution or it does not exist, and you can’t really find it in the spaces between the lines. (Chemerinsky makes this point to devastating effect, and as you are familiar with his work, I will incorporate it here for sake of brevity. Scalia hates this argument … because it is his.)

                As for the absurdity of your argument, I am absolutely certain that every legendary judge has had at least one clinker. Remember this line from ConLaw: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”? Oliver Wendell Holmes. No judge is infallible; arguments stand on their own. One judge and the truth can, however, make a majority. See Plessy v. Ferguson.

                Jack: “The reason that we still have judicial immunity is that all those brilliant minds you appeal to, on balance, ended up in the status quo.”

                Ask a hundred doctors whether they would like to get rid of malpractice suits, and what do you think their response would be? Seriously, Jack! “No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time.” Federalist #10. Judges granting themselves immunity was illegitimate in the Tudor Star-Chamber, and it is equally illegitimate today. This involves judges acting unethically — and, as Madison points out, predictably.

                Jack: “But it’s here to stay, and most of the time, I’m glad.”

                I want to bring this discussion back to the subject of ethics, as this is the purpose of this blog.

                I’ve always reacted with alarm to the suggestion that “might makes right and the ends justify the means” is a valid ethical principle. At the risk of quoting Justice Douglas again, procedure “spells much of the difference between rule by law and rule by whim or caprice. Steadfast adherence to strict procedural safeguards is our main assurance that there will be equal justice under law.” Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123, 179 (1951) (Douglas, J., concurring).

                The structure of our government is designed to preserve our liberty. It is the exclusive province of Congress to write laws, the President to enforce them and judges, to interpret them. Even procedural laws governing our courts are written pursuant to a delegation of authority by Congress. For judges to write laws personally benefiting themselves is illegitimate on its face, irrespective of whether it is sound policy or not. Simply put, that is above their pay grade.

                Either we are governed by the Constitution that we revere, or mere men. Which is it, and if you approve of the status quo, why do you believe that the ends justify the means?

                • 1. Art, I don’t want to let you think I’m not grateful for the reminder of this treaty, and the arcane fun of deciding which international treaties are self-executing or not. I am; I think it’s interesting and vaguely relevant to the topic at hand. But the conversation reminds me of pedants who find some line in the Constitutional Congress’s debate over the Declaration and spend the rest of their lives writing treatises about how it doesn’t mean what we think it does, and the last 250 years has been a terrible mistake. You found a fun hammer, and now everything is a nail.

                  2. It’s pretty clear what happened, isn’t it? The treaty advances broad human rights concerns aimed not at the US, but at the many countries that rape, pillage and steal. The language was negotiated, and the US, as the nation that most abides by the principles articulated anyway, had no choice but to sign it. Since not a soul, including Moynihan—who is my favorite US Senator of the last 75 years and who may have been the only one at the time who read the thing…but who was not himself an international law expert or even a lawyer—honestly believed that the treaty would change how the US conducted its domestic policies, it was passed, and promptly, and properly, forgotten. The Senator was grandstanding: they do that, even the smart ones. What is unethical is for you to pretend otherwise.

                  2. I assume, though you are covering it with sarcasm, that you are fully aware that the US ignores that provision. So you have argued that I am ignorant of international law by pointing out that the treaty has no force in the US, then admitting that it has no force in the US. You apparently (I say apparently because I doubt this is really the case) don’t understand domestic law. The US may not hand over its sovereignty to other nation which is what it would be doing if this particular treaty was uses as you suggest. That would be unethical, and worse: I violation of our founding documents and the ideals behind them. If you want to make the Constitutional argument that judicial immunity should be scrapped, that fine—the scholarly work supports you substantially. This, however, is navel-gazing, obsession–pick your poison.

                  3. If such a provision had any governing effect, it would be cited in briefs routinely. It would turn up in majority opinions, and not just cute dissents. It would be a matter of extremely hot debate wright up until it was abrogated, causing a huge round of America-bashing the would sound a lot like your comment. It would be taught in grade schools shoulder to shoulder with the Founding documents, since it supersedes them (according to you.) Has any of this occurred? Please show me if I somehow, as an attorney and an American government scholar, missed it. But I didn’t. There have probably been but a handful of Senators since Pat who were even aware of this treaty. I doubt that it has been mentioned on the floor of the Senate since, or if so, rarely. 90% of Congress is unaware of it (or more.) I doubt John Kerry or Susan Rice or Joe Biden could tell me anything about it. I understand this about international law that you are trying to act like you do not: it doesn’t matter until the US decides that it’s in its interest to matter. In that, the US is no different from any other signatory to this or any other UN Treaty.

                  4. Look at a treaty that everyone is aware of, sort of: the anti-torture agreement. The US violated it (disgracefully, but didn’t want to admit it, had rationalized reasons for doing it, and wasn’t about to submit itself to international jurisdiction. Thus is simply found a lawyer of not to explain that the treaty didn’t apply. It did apply, and water-boarding is torture. Never mind: it;s not until the US says its not, because the UN has no way to enforce its treaties, at least against the US. The US knows this when it signs them, and the UN knoews it knows, and knows the US wouldn’t sign it otherwise. This is called, in contract terms, a meeting of the minds. The treaty provision doesn’t mean what it appears to, and I suspect you know it as well as I.

                  5. Did someone say “grandstanding”?

                  6. The irony is that you are citing a provision that the US must itself agree to be governed by, which would be unethical as waiving US sovereignty (thus not ethical)to argue that it should do this to eliminate judicial immunity, which also requires that the US agree to waive as a part of of waiving government immunity. If we are going to waive the immunity to suit, which is part of sovereignty, why not just waive it, without having to waive a larger chunk of sovereignty to get there?

                  7. As to your hyperventilating about Douglas, let me remind you that my only point was that “because Douglas says so” is not a persuasive argument, and it seemed to me that this is what you were doing. It would have been similarly unpersuasive to quote Scalia, Harlan, Holmes, or even the great, immortal, brilliantly named John Marshall. If your point was that this was just a really keen argument, then I misunderstood you. And I don’t think its an especially good argument. Douglas tended to be an absolutist, and this is a good example.

                  8. If you read here at all, you know that I believe (because its true) that in law, ethics and morality there are anomalies that don’t fit, and if you try to make them fit by rigidly applying the rules or principles that exist to them, then you get bad results; if you try to amend the rules and principles to include them, you wreck the rules and principles. So you deal with the anomalies as exceptions. It is an excellent example of how the ends sometimes justify the means, and not destroying a valid principle, like judicial immunity, to avoid the clearly unjust consequences of a handful of anomalous cases, is both ethical and wise.

                  • Before I go on, I want to thank you for engaging me on this, and traveling along this rabbit trail. It’s hard to find even lawyers willing to discuss the bizarre world of international law, and I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I.

                    First, whether judicial immunity is good or bad policy is beside the point. Under our Constitution, Article III judges have no authority to write laws, and their self-grant of absolute immunity is, by definition, a lawless act. How that can be transmogrified into an ethical act is not apparent to me.

                    Jack: “I assume, though you are covering it with sarcasm, that you are fully aware that the US ignores that provision. So you have argued that I am ignorant of international law by pointing out that the treaty has no force in the US, then admitting that it has no force in the US.”

                    As I am totally confused by that statement, I am not going to even try to deconstruct it. What I do say is that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land,” US Const. art.VI, cl. 2, and the plain text of the Supremacy Clause rules out even the raw possibility that a treaty might be valid and in force and yet, somehow lack the force of domestic law. See Jordan J. Paust, Self-Executing Treaties, 82 Am J. Int’l L. 760, 782–83 (1988).

                    Either the ICCPR is a treaty, or it is not. And if it is not, what is it? Either the United States ratified that treaty, or it did not.

                    “In construing a treaty … [courts] first look to its terms to determine its meaning.” United States v. Alvarez-Machain, 504 U.S. 655, 665 (1992).
                    Furthermore, “[a] treaty … is a law of the land as an act of Congress is, whenever its provisions prescribe a rule by which the rights of the private citizen … may be determined.” Head Money Cases, 112 U.S. 580, 598-99 (1884). Article 2 of the ICCPR requires contracting States to “ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.” This provision prescribes a rule which eviscerates some form of official immunity, be it judicial or sovereign, as a matter of definition. And treaties are covered by their own separate plain meaning doctrine: “In determining whether a treaty is self-executing courts look to the intent of the signatory parties as manifested by the language of the instrument, and if the instrument is uncertain, recourse must be had to the circumstances surrounding its execution.” Diggs v. Richardson, 555 F.2d 841, 851 (D.C. Cir. 1976). As it is difficult to contend that the language of the instrument is uncertain, and the circumstances (it’s the UDHR, with an enforcement mechanism) would confirm its plain meaning, the only reasonable way to interpret that treaty is that it extinguishes the judge-made common law of official immunity.

                    If Congress could pass a law tomorrow abrogating judicial immunity, why couldn’t they have done it this way, as well?

                    What happened? It was but another chronic flare-up of what Judge Bork called “the American disease.” Judicial activism. Judges, unethically and unlawfully rewriting the Constitution for their own benefit. (The worst case of this abuse of judicial authority is that of Aharon Barak of Israel.)

                    There is no intellectually honest way to justify what our “band of outlaws” (George Will) in black robes have done. As any reservation incompatible with the “object and purpose” of a treaty is severable and void, and the treaty is further deemed to have been ratified without the reservation, our declaration that the ICCPR is “non-self-executing” cannot be invoked, as it renders our compliance illusory. After all, in a multilateral compact like this, the “signatory parties” in “the intent of the parties” included the other 95% of the world, and I’m pretty certain that they expect the US to live up to its end of the bargain.

                    For these reasons, I would submit that the only reason that the US is not in compliance is because our judiciary has knowingly committed criminal violations of our law.

                    Jack: “The irony is that you are citing a provision that the US must itself agree to be governed by, which would be unethical as waiving US sovereignty (thus not ethical)to argue that it should do this to eliminate judicial immunity, which also requires that the US agree to waive as a part of of waiving government immunity. If we are going to waive the immunity to suit, which is part of sovereignty, why not just waive it, without having to waive a larger chunk of sovereignty to get there?”

                    As you probably remember from law school, it is easier to break a treaty than to make one. Remember, we didn’t have to agree to this deal, and we could rescind our ratification by simply declaring as much. We agreed to the deal.

                    Keep in mind how sovereignty works. The people hold sovereignty — the jus summi imperii — as tenants-in-common, and parts of it are doled out to the federal and state governments. Through treaties, the feds are able to yield some of the sovereignty they have, but the nature of a treaty is such that it can be reclaimed at any time. Thus in reality, you haven’t given up sovereignty as much as you have agreed that you will forego certain acts within your purview as a sovereign in exchange for a promise from the other sovereign to do what you ask it to. The transfer of sovereignty is therefore illusory, because it never goes away.

                    Even if judicial immunity can be found in the Constitution — it’s a lot easier to find Lois Lerner’s e-mails and Amelia Earhart — either the President and Senate can abolish it via treaty, or Congress could pass a domestic law abolishing it. Either method is equally legal, and therefore, equally ethical. For that reason, I don’t see an ethical dilemma.

                    Jack: “The Senator was grandstanding: they do that, even the smart ones. What is unethical is for you to pretend otherwise.”

                    I share your deep respect for DPM. And even if he was grandstanding — it is at least somewhat presumptuous for you to say so, as he may have meant every word he said, and I saw nothing in the Congressional Record that qualified as unduly grandiose — the ICCPR is not the ACA. While I do wonder at times as to whether my (liberal) Congressman can even read, the idea that no one but DPM read the ICCPR is too cynical, even for me. Staffers brief Senators on legislation, and I rather doubt that they voted for this as blindly as you suggest. But at the risk of going all Scalia on you, that is the treaty they ratified, and they bound the nation through their actions.

                    While the UN can’t enforce anything, there is a price to be paid, and that is in diplomatic credibility. We saw that play out in Crimea, where our new International Man of Charisma (John Kerry) scolded Russia for invading a sovereign nation on a false pretense. Putin said “tu quoque” before that idiot had even finished his sentence. As DPM reminded us, “Certainly, there was a time when the nations of the totalitarian block[sic] ratified [human rights] obligations without reservation—obligations that they had no intention of carrying out.” For this “shining city on a hill” to resemble that remark is problematic, as it declares to the world that our light is out.

                    If we hope to solve the world’s problems, credibility matters.

                    • American judges did not simply invent judicial immunity out of a vacuum. The states incorporated common law into their own tort law, and common law excluded judicial acts from the definition of tort.

                      A state could (wisely or unwisely) expand the definition of torts to include judicial acts.

            • Committing two commenting sins (chiming in late and skipping most of the thread) because I’m stuck on one thing Art Hawley said: “treaties are the supreme Law of the Land. U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2.”

              I have a pocket Constitution sitting in front of me right now, and Art, your argument about the constitutional deference to U.N. treaties makes no sense. Article VI — the entire thing — only divvies up a few specific powers between the federal government and the states. Regarding treaties, all it says is that the federal government alone (not the states) makes treaties with other nations and levies war.

              Nothing in it says that our rights and constitutional processes are subordinate to international treaties.

              Are you using the same Constitution I’m using?

    • First off, I want to take a great big sign of relief, and I feel the earth settling beneath my feet: I’m disagreeing with Beth again! Everything is good!

      My understanding always has been that court-ordered therapy sessions are never confidential. Am I wrong?

      In a word, Yes. On that point and so much more.

      It’s always driven me halfway up a wall (which is a popular saying Beth, I’m in no danger of driving my car up a wall, but I figure you need help with these ‘figure of speech’ things) when I hear that the state has imposed help group meetings on someone. It’s abusive. If someone is drunk driving, they’re an idiot, but not necessarily an alcoholic, and so sending them to meetings is punitive instead of helpful, and it’s interrupting the group… They don’t need people who don’t want to be there being miserable, and how likely are the regulars to share knowing that this newcomer might not share their values regarding anonymity? My mother is very much involved in AA, and while I think it’s a cult, it’s a cult that works, and on a utilitarian basis, I think they do a lot of benefit to society, and should continue with my blessing. So I asked her once why they let the government throw problems at her, and her answer was two fold: One: They get an amount of government money, and she figured that money might disappear if they said no, and Two: Some of those people might actually be alcoholics, and they aren’t in the business of turning people away.

      But seriously, if your son is going to willingly put himself into the system, then he needs to learn to lie or at least omit facts. Why did he need to volunteer this little gem?

      You have to look at why these groups exist. Are they a help group, are they counselling, or are they a screening process to remove dangerous people? The first two and the third ARE mutually exclusive, because counselling and help groups are confidential, and the third isn’t. The entire process is an unethical lie the moment your ‘councillor’ who is a bureaucrat and not even possessed of the empathy required to sort a suicidal thought from a figure of speech reports not only to another bureaucrat, but to the authorities in a stunning example of big brother (not actually related to you, or necessarily male) mentality.

      You’ve had a bad experience, but I’m not sure your anecdote is evidence of a completely dysfunctional system.

      Is it evidence on it’s own? No. Is it evidence at all? Anecdotal, at best. I think it is a symptom, and worthy of discussion. And I think the evidence that the system is broken is in the amount of recidivism of people who are forced into the program. Sure people fall off the wagon, but at what rate does this system utterly fail? In fact, in putting people in a situation that could be much worse for them (a loss of employment, for example) how often do people leave the system in worse shape than they started, and more likely to reoffend? I don’t know the answer, but offhand rejections aren’t the answer either.

      I wonder how many people have been helped by people in your son’s position?

      I think you meant “How many people in your son’s position has the system helped?” But the answer to both is the same: None. Jack’s son wasn’t driving intoxicated and wasn’t suicidal. He didn’t need help. The system seems so counterintuitive to what they’re trying to do, I wouldn’t be surprised if in a situation where someone WAS intoxicated and suicidal, they would be let go with a warning.

      • Don’t be relieved yet Humble.

        1. No where in my post did I endorse group therapy. I’m sure it works for some, I know it doesn’t work for others, and it certainly wouldn’t work for me. Group mentality isn’t my cup of tea. (I didn’t even enjoy pep rallies in school.) Court-ordered group therapy — especially for a driving offense — absolutely makes no sense to me.

        2. I only was criticizing Jack son’s wisdom in volunteering any information. If I were ordered to do group therapy, which I would despise, my sole purpose would be throw information at the therapist which I thought he/she wanted to hear. Belonging to the NRA wouldn’t be in my talking points — even though there is nothing wrong with belonging to that organization.

        3. Maybe the system is dysfunctional, maybe it isn’t. I do know that state mentally health facilities can’t keep up with demand right now — so I’ll acknowledge in that sense that it is definitely failing. A shocking percentage of prisoners require drugs/therapy. I don’t know what the answer is. Can it be fixed? Should it be scrapped? If we get rid of it, what are we supposed to do with the fact that a high percentage of prisoners are in custody because of mental illness? Build more prisons? Prozac in the water?

        4. Regarding Jack’s son — I agree. But that was the deal that he struck to get a clean record. I was asking about people who truly need mental treatment. We can’t know the percentage (high or low) who have been helped.

        • 1. The question was whether court ordered group help sessions were confidential or not, and the answer should be a resounding: yes, period, but the answer is more like: yes, comma. There is and should be an expectation of confidentiality, especially from the people running the meeting.

          2. It shouldn’t have mattered. You’d be amazed at the personal stories you hear at these meetings, I sat in on an AA meeting and heard this just grotesquely funny story regarding a member who lost their bottle opener and streaked naked to their neighbor’s toolshed to steal a screwdriver to stab open the bottles, and tripped on the way back. The idea is that the group is brought together in shared experiences, without judgement, without names, to help each other. Having a pencil pusher in the background scribbling crib notes for big brother is absolute bullshit.

            • But if they aren’t confidential, what’s the point? These meetings, if not confidential, would become a way for the judiciary to ferret out information that people would not normally give, at the expense of actually helping the participants. And that would just break the system. That the system is supported by the membership is why I think that the majority of these meetings ARE confidential, and feel a special resentment for happenings like this, where the actions of a very select few, poison the well for everyone.

              • I’m not sure what the point is myself. In prisons, many group therapy sessions are led by the same person whose job it is to hand out punishments. If I were an inmate, I’d be careful what I said. I think NPR did a story on this a few months ago.

                In any event, even in private therapy, if a therapist has reason to believe that a patient poses a danger, he/she is under obligation to report it. So, the trick is to find a competent therapist if you need one. Jack’s son got a bad apple apparently.

    • I remember the comment, and yes, you called it.

      Did I mention that the health care professional “ordered” us to remove all guns from our home after my son was released…which they may not lawfully do?

            • Inoperable guns include a WWII Luger without a firing pin, and two other US army guns from the WW I era, from my Dad’s collection, that are good as doorstops…I bet you could club someone with them, though. And my son’s, licensed, legal, but unassembled shotgun.

              Yes, come to think of it, it is like RR’s statement…

              • My niece’s doctor asked her parents, out of nowhere, if there were any guns anywhere my niece spends a lot of time. Her parents refused to answer, on the grounds that no issue had arisen that required that question to be raised. She was there for a normal check-up, nothing more, and she’s not even eight, hardly at the age where she’d be able to even pick up a firearm, leave alone fire it. Yet somehow this pediatrician thought she needed to know if any of my niece’s family possessed a gun…why? BTW, I myself won’t be answering that question here, Jack set forth a VERY key point above about not confiding in strangers.

  7. Jack – I hope you don’t mind if I ignore the “Big Picture” and”Lessons Learnt” stuff here.

    I’m sorry you and your son went through this. I’ll get to the “Big Picture” later, but I’m something of an activist, and there’s a real danger for those like me that we forget to be merely human. We forget to take things personally.

    Please leave the Big Picture out of it for a while. You and your son have been through something personally traumatic. You need time to heal. It might also help if you have friends on the other side of the planet who give a damn about what happened to you both, regardless of the larger issues.

      • Agreed and agreed. Jack, you are mostly right here, but you are also very personally involved in this situation, which makes it, as you’ve pointed out in other situations, hard to be objective, indeed almost impossible a la the Newtown parents (not that you would ever give sobbing testimony). Give yourself a few days to calm down, recover, think his through, and see it through less angry eyes. Zoe is right about maybe looking to what personal friends you have. Thankfully this didn’t turn out a lot worse, not that that makes what happened all right. You may have remedies, but I’d suggest talking to a lawyer you trust who doesn’t know you so well as to get personally invested.

    • Zoe
      You make a good point and there is nothing more therapeutic in working through your outrage to an issue than by writing about it. It gives you a release and helps clarify your thinking because it’s just you and your thoughts without the clutter of other opinions being interjected in the process.

  8. Infuriating! I could tell you stories of the terrible things I’ve wrongfully endured, and continue to wrongfully endure, at the hands of these monsters. George Orwell is turning in his grave, and I’ve no doubt that Satan has prepared a special place in hell for them.”
    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience..” C.S. Lewis

    • If only there was some sort of method to bring about the complete and utter collapse of civilization, even at the local level. Then such atrocities would never happen, for none would have the power to do it.

      Alas, it is impossible, so these atrocities will continue.

  9. This kind of stuff would not happen if there were a complete social collapse resulting in government ceasing to exist at even the local level.

    Is such a thing possible?

  10. Jack, I would suggest that this sort of thing is exactly why a large number of libertarians are suspicious of the police. In a response about Balko’s article you said “Balko is a libertarian and like most libertarians, unreasonably suspicious of police.” Are you at all inclined to walk back “unreasonably” given what the system has done to your family?

    For people who have been the target of the power of morons or jerks with power who have also noticed how the system acts to protect the morons and jerks, mistrust until proven otherwise seems like exactly the right stance. If I hadn’t seen how cops value brotherhood over the law I might actually give them the benefit of the doubt. As it is, in any involuntary interaction with the police I will take pains to be as careful as possible and will not assume they are good people. I extend more trust to the general public, in part because they are more likely to actually be punished for misdeed instead of being punished for reporting misdeeds.

    The only one with power initially was Dee, who clearly couldn’t be trusted. The people under her couldn’t do anything about it, and I wouldn’t trust the people with authority over her to want to do anything about it because it would weaken their own authority.

    • No. And these weren’t the police.

      As it happens, the police have been almost universally professional, responsible, restrained and fair in my dealings with them, as well as my family’s. I know many police officers personally, as well as some nationally prominent ones. It’s not going to happen, but were my son to become a police officer, I would be very proud of that decision. My Dad, interestingly, was far more suspicious of police overreach than I am.

  11. All the issues you mentioned with increasing government oversight are also true of the police. I understood that this particular instance was not the police.

    I wonder sometimes if feelings about the government and police are mostly a matter of chance interactions and locale. There’s a semi joking comment in libertarian circles that “libertarianism happens to people”. It’s usually in response to reading about someone who got a rude awakening to just how bad the people in power can be and starts thinking that maybe the people who prefer a smaller government have a point. In my personal case, that’s not how I got there.

    I haven’t had any major issues with the police, but I was also used to think my city (Billings, MT) was better than most. When a cop sued the city and won, by proving he had been harassed and left out in the cold for turning in other cops for mishandling drugs, I was sadly disillusioned on that point. It wasn’t so much the existence of bad cops, but that most of the other cops and the police chief took the side of the bad cops and thought it was just fine to make his life hell. Another cop who testified on his behalf had to go on to sue the city himself for being retaliated against. http://www.ktvq.com/news/300000-settles-suit-between-city-and-billings-police-officer/

  12. I saw this entry in Shrink Rap. Unfortunately, your son’s story is all too common. I have my own that happened in Europe a few years back. The details are here http://www.madinamerica.com/2013/01/ny-times-invites-readers-to-a-dialogue-on-forced-treatment/#comment-19770 (comment by cannotsay). In Europe the standard is “need for treatment” that translates into “whenever some psychiatrist says so”.

    Nor I am surprised that Dee Hearn couldn’t care less about your son’s job because my own captors couldn’t care less about my own. The whole “in the best interest of the patient” rationale is bs that translates into “we will lock up as many people as capacity allows as to justify our own jobs’ existence”.

    There is a community of survivors in http://www.madinamerica.com your son might be interested in interacting with.

    Another case that made the rounds this year that shows psychiatric abuse in full force in the US is that of Justina Pelletier. You can google it.

    The conclusion of the survivor community is that all so called “health care professionals” should be treated as if they were part of law enforcement. Anything you say to them can, and will, be used against you :).

  13. Good advice all around, Jack. Everyone should be damned careful with that word “depressed”, in particular. Once upon a time, it was no big thing to tell your doctor you were feeling a little tired and depressed over recent events. NEVER tell this to a VA doctor. I think I escaped the padded cell by the skin of my teeth! I swear, if my house burned down, my mother died, my car blew up and Obama made another speech- all on the same day- I’d tell every government flunky who ambled by that I was on top of the world. But if they laughed, I kill them!!

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