Ethics Quote Of The Month: Ann Althouse

battery

“To everyone who likes that Lewandowsky got charged: Will you agree that everyone who does nothing more than that should undergo criminal prosecution? Are you willing to pay the taxes to cover that? Are you ready to find out that you’ve already done it and you’re going to be needing to hire a lawyer? Oh, but it’s so funny when it happens to somebody else, somebody you don’t like. If that’s what you think, please just admit to yourself that you are entirely morally corrupt.”

–Law professor and blogger Ann Althouse, taking the popular position among the talking legal heads on CNN and elsewhere that charging Trump’s campaign manager for the technical crime of battery for for what appears to be minor contact on videotape is an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.

Ann is playing law professor here, and it’s hard to tell if she is asking these questions to provoke thought from the knee-jerk partisans and virulent Trump-haters, or if she really believes everything she wrote. I;m a fan of Professor Althouse, so I want to find  a way to justify this post of her’s, which raises valid points and ignores others equally valid.

Do I “like” the fact that Lewandowsky was charged? I probably wouldn’t have charged him, but I’m not sorry he was charged. Why was a campaign manager grabbing a reporter? Why did the Trump organization react to the reporter’s complaint by attacking her honesty and character? I know the law shouldn’t be used to inconvenience people who act badly, and that doing this is usually an abuse of power. Still, do I like the fact that one of Trump’s thugs isn’t getting away with the thuggishness encouraged by his boss? Yes, I guess I do.

The charge can be justified on utilitarian grounds. Today I saw a cable TV news exchange regarding Fields’ complaint on CNN, where a lawyer explained that any unconsented touching is battery, and the interviewer was shocked. “What?” she said. Yes, I remember a lot of classmates in first year of law school being surprised at that too.

It’s the Common Law: nobody has a right to touch anybody else. I love that principle, myself: I don’t touch people unless I have permission, and they better not touch me. It’s  per se battery, and while we usually don’t press it, we might if the batterer is enough of a jerk, or does more harm than he intended. If charging Lewandowsky makes people think twice before laying their hands on me or anyone else, good. Sending a message to discourage others from wrongful acts is always a valid reason to charge someone.

Ann asks, “Will you agree that everyone who does nothing more than that should undergo criminal prosecution?” No, and I don’t have to. I can agree that a high profile example of unconsented touching can be fairly and responsibly charged when it is being defended, as this one has been, as nothing to complain about, when unconsented touching is always worthy of complaint when it stops the victim from doing her job or is otherwise obnoxious.

Now I’ll ask Professor Althouse: Will YOU agree to repeal the Common Law disapproval of battery, and assert that unconsented touching should be approved by society and its laws?

Her next question—“Are you willing to pay the taxes to cover that?”—is beneath her: a combination straw man/ rationalization. Is she really arguing that which laws we enforce should be decided by how much money it costs to prosecute? The Clintons could have formulated that rule: never bring charges against someone who can make it expensive to make the charges stick. Are you willing to pay the taxes to charge every illegal immigrant? Well, actually, yes.

It is thinking like this that led Mayor de Blasio to double down on his defiance of the “broken window” theory, and announce that police will no longer concern themselves with public drunks and those who use the streets as their toilet. Am I willing to pay taxes to allow for sufficient enforcement of battery laws that strangers don’t think they can come up to me and grab me with no potential consequences as all?

Absolutely.

Then this: “Are you ready to find out that you’ve already done it and you’re going to be needing to hire a lawyer?” Boy, Ann really does seem to be lobbying for a “slap, grab or pinch anyone whenever you feel like it” society. I’m not a spousal abuser, Professor, and no, that threat doesn’t trouble me at all, because I don’t touch people without their consent, and haven’t since childhood. I am confident that citizens will be less likely to harm others with violence and aggressive touching if they learn at an early age that any non-consensual touch could result in charges.

Althouse’s final sally,  “Oh, but it’s so funny when it happens to somebody else, somebody you don’t like. If that’s what you think, please just admit to yourself that you are entirely morally corrupt,” doesn’t trouble me one bit. This is just an appeal to the Golden Rule, and I am very happy to be judged by the same standards as Corey Lewandowsky has been for grabbing Michelle Fields, because I would never do that,and if I lost my scruples and mind and did, I would offer my sincere regrets and apologies.

27 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Month: Ann Althouse

  1. My guess is that Lewandowsky got over zealous trying to protect Trump, but yes he deserves to be charged with battery. I will certainly pay taxes to make sure these laws are enforced. Blasio is an idiot for undoing what his predecessor did which made NYC a much safer and appealing place to visit.

  2. The “don’t touch” rule isn’t entirely unknown. It was used to enforce the training now in place for teachers’ ed: no hugging children under any circumstances.

    • A child is not battered if the adult is responsibly comforting him or her: there is presumed consent of the parent in such situations unless non-consent is explicit. The battery laws are aimed at adult batterers and victims.

      • Legally true. Nonetheless, or so I’ve been told by several teachers, in order to preclude any suggestion of impropriety, the no-touch rule for all school personnel has become habitual, as has an “open door” policy for all adult-child one-on-one meetings. It’s a standard complaint by caring educators K-12, along with overlarge classes, inadequate or missing learning materials, and rigidly standardized testing that eats up a large portion of real teaching time.

  3. The lies in this case are so blatant. Fields heavily implied that had another reporter not caught her, she would have been thrown to the floor, and Lewandowsky originally said he wouldn’t have done it if he’d known it was a Brietbart Reporter, and then that he hadn’t done it period. It’s so… Stupid. I hope they sue eachother for slander. That’d just make this whole thing 26% more entertaining.

  4. I said it before and I’ll say it again, this whole “incident” is being blown out of proportion with a whole lot of hyperbole. This should have never gotten this far between reasonably responsible adults.

    Was Corey Lewandowsky’s actions justified or not; since I was not viewing Fields actions from Lewandowsky’s point of view, I can’t make that judgement. From the video vantage point, it appears to me that Lewandowsky was concerned about Fields actions and intervened to change those actions.

    Since it is very evident from Trumps reactions in the video when he actually pulled his arm away from Fields clearly indicating that Michelle Fields was not respecting Trumps personal space and was engaging in “unconsented touching”. We can’t tell if Fields was just pushing against Trump or actually grabbing at Trumps arm. If from Lewandowsky’s point of view it looked like Fields was grabbing Trump’s arm, then is Lewandowsky’s actions justifiable?

    If all this “assault” hyperbole continues I would expect Trump to press similar charges against Michelle Fields for her “unconsented touching”, the law is the law and it should be equally applied to all – right?

    What happens to Secret Service members protecting the President of the United States when they do similar things to enthusiastic citizens due to something “suspicious”, are they charges with assault?

    I’m quite sick and tired of all the BS!

    • “If from Lewandowsky’s point of view it looked like Fields was grabbing Trump’s arm, then is Lewandowsky’s actions justifiable?” Fact question, but unconsented battery by X on Y does not justify battery by Z on X.

      Now don’t get assault mixed up with battery. Assault is to put one in fear and anticipation of imminent harm or battery.

    • I said it before and I’ll say it again, this whole “incident” is being blown out of proportion with a whole lot of hyperbole. This should have never gotten this far between reasonably responsible adults.

      When does it become “the incident”? Trump’s staff attacking the reporter, lying and insulting her rather than just apologizing, and Breitbart backing Trump against their own staff isn’t being blown out of proportion at all.

      Was Corey Lewandowsky’s actions justified or not; since I was not viewing Fields actions from Lewandowsky’s point of view, I can’t make that judgement. From the video vantage point, it appears to me that Lewandowsky was concerned about Fields actions and intervened to change those actions.

      Irrelevant to anything, however, at least in the post, which was about Ann A’s gross generalizations and silly leaps from this incident to the legitimacy if objecting to battery.

      Since it is very evident from Trumps reactions in the video when he actually pulled his arm away from Fields clearly indicating that Michelle Fields was not respecting Trumps personal space and was engaging in “unconsented touching”.

      I don’t think so. A candidate is presumed to have given implied consent to being approached by reporters.

      We can’t tell if Fields was just pushing against Trump or actually grabbing at Trumps arm. If from Lewandowsky’s point of view it looked like Fields was grabbing Trump’s arm, then are Lewandowsky’s actions justifiable?

      No. Did he talk to her? Ask her to back off? Was Trump actually threatened? (no…)

      If all this “assault” hyperbole continues I would expect Trump to press similar charges against Michelle Fields for her “unconsented touching”, the law is the law and it should be equally applied to all – right?

      Wrong. See above. What barns were people raised in that they weren’t taught that neither assualt nor battery are ethical?

      What happens to Secret Service members protecting the President of the United States when they do similar things to enthusiastic citizens due to something “suspicious”, are they charges with assault?

      No. The presence of bodyguards and common knowledge means that the body being guarded does not consent to touching.

      • Chapter 784 ASSAULT; BATTERY; CULPABLE NEGLIGENCE

        784.03 Battery; felony battery.— (1)(a) The offense of battery occurs when a person: 1. Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or 2. Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person. (b) Except as provided in subsection (2), a person who commits battery commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. (2) A person who has one prior conviction for battery, aggravated battery, or felony battery and who commits any second or subsequent battery commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. For purposes of this subsection, “conviction” means a determination of guilt that is the result of a plea or a trial, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld or a plea of nolo contendere is entered.

        I copied that from THIS page which was linked in a post discussing the topic on Tom Sullivan’s facebook page.

  5. I’ll be honest, I can’t tell from the video what happened, nor am I willing to make a judgment about what happened based on a grainy video in which I, at least, can’t tell what happened. I will admit that my knee-jerk reaction to anything connected to Trump is to hang him, but that, too is unfair. The bruising on her arm may…or may not…prove that she was grabbed, but it does not prove by whom. My suggestion…let the courts decide. There certainly isn’t any good reason to revamp our entire definition of battery, as the Professor suggests. I will say this…if you touch me wilfully, without my consent, like grabbing my are, you had best be prepared for me to touch you, as well.

      • WHEW! Thanks for the clarification. I thought maybe you left out an “s.” If somebody grabbed me “there,” I would have to consider the circumstances most carefully, before “pressing” any further. The manner of any return touch on my part could be highly variable.

  6. What about the debate moderators and candidates who hug each other? Where does their touching of each other fall on the ethics and law spectrum?
    Dual, mutual battery? (I’ve lived long, yet still not mastered “mutual consent.”)
    Political pornography? (i.e., victimizing the public? The showmanship of such touching seems wrong on multiple levels.)

    • Hmm, this is interesting. Apparently, if you were to spit on somebody, you probably could be charged with battery. So that explains to me why obnoxious hippies were arrested in the 60s. Touching without consent however seems problematic to me: If I was to hug a woman I knew well, and she did not explicitly give her consent, could I hypothetically be charged with battery?

  7. Jack,
    This is one of your best posts in recent memory (which isn’t to suggest the others have been sub-par). Thoughtful, carefully (and respectfully) crafted, and thought-provoking.

    I find myself completely without dissenting comment — even as an advocate of the Devil — which is a new feeling for me,

    I wish you and yours the best!

    • Thanks, Neil. Believe it or not, thoughtful appreciative feedback is very, very important, especially after a day of spamming comments that begin, “Your a moron! Vote Trump!”, which is, in fact, most days, and often lead me to ponder whether this is worth the effort.

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