Any week that starts off with John Belushi’s immortal reflections on March just has to be a good week.
1. Connecticut: Judicial ethics and guns. Anti-gun fanatics are cheering this week’s ruling by the Connecticut Supreme Court reversing a lower court judge dismissing a lawsuit by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting against Remington Arms Company, allowing the case to proceed. In the 4-3 decision the court possibly created a path that other mass shooting victims can follow to get around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, known as PLCAA, which has protected the manufacturers of the AR-15 assault rifle from lawsuits, thus setting the stage for a sensational “Runaway Jury”-type trial. The court’s reasoning is that the Sandy Hook families should have the opportunity to prove that Remington violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) by marketing what it knew was a weapon designed for military use to civilians. The problem is that the ruling ignores the law, as John Hinderaker explains (but he’s not the only analyst trashing the decision):
“Firearms of all kinds have been ‘designed for military use.’,” he writes. “The 1911, designed by John Browning, was the standard U.S. military pistol for many years and remains one of the most popular pistol designs today. So what? There is no such exception in the Second Amendment…Under the Supremacy Clause, federal law will govern over state law. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act is intended to avoid precisely the result reached by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The PLCAA puts firearms manufacturers on the same plane with all others. If their products are not defective–if they do not malfunction–they are not liable. If someone stabs a victim to death with a knife, the victim’s heirs can’t sue the knife manufacturer. It is the same with firearms.”
Hinderaker correctly concludes that significance of the ruling is not that it opens a road for the Second Amendment to be constrained, or for ruinous liability to applied to gun-makers, but that it shows how courts will deliberately ignore the law to reach political goals.
2. Connecticut again: Ethics Alarms Test. How many ethics issues can you spot in this story and video from the New Haven Register? Corinne Terrone, a clerk in the Hamden School District, was videoed using racial slurs during an altercation at a supermarket. Under pressure, Terrone resigned. Some issues I noted:
- A public school district can’t have employees making racist comments in public places, so Terrone had to go. The question is whether the same conduct would have been a firing offense if she were black, her targets had been white, and she called them “white motherfuckers”? I would say yes, and I also have grave doubts that she would have in fact been fired if the races were reversed.
- The headline is misleading: this wasn’t a racist tirade, it was an argument in which one participant stopped to vulgarity and racist slurs.
- From the article: “After her first use of the racial epithet, the man appears to rush toward Terrone, who taunts, “Put your hands on me, come on!” and pulls out her phone to begin recording. The man then appears to quickly knock the device from her hand, and does not make further physical contact based on what is visible in the footage.” “Nigger” is arguably “fighting” in such a context, and not constitutionally protected, but the use of fighting words does not excuse assault. Yet there is no mention in the article that the man who grabbed her cell phone is being charged.
- “East Haven Police Lt. Joseph Murgo released a statement, saying the department “is aware of this disturbing video and the hate speech contained in it” but that no complaint has been filed.” Using hate speech is not a crime, much as we are told otherwise by the ignorant and censorious.
- Is it really necessary or appropriate for Connecticut legislators to publicly condemn a citizen’s conduct in a local dispute that has not even resulted in a police complaint, when they know little or nothing of the context of the episode other than what was broadcast on Facebook?
- When is shunning by cell phone video excessive and when is it appropriate?
3. Maryland: “A wonderful bird is the pelican…” Didn’t this idiot learn the classic limericks? Jonathan Turley flagged this story last week about a Maryland man who posted a video of himself tackling a pelican in Florida, and concluded, “hopefully there will be some sanction for this stupid and dangerous conduct.” There will be: William Hunter Hardesty, 31, was arrested by Maryland state troopers at an Ocean City hotel after a warrant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission charged him with animal cruelty to migratory birds and the intentional feeding of pelicans. He’s going to be extradited.
Hardesty appears to be completely clueless, writing on his Facebook page, after commenters condemned his pelican-pummeling, “Next time ima eat him for dinner !! Wonder what they taste like.”
4. New York: This is depressing but not surprising, which is also depressing. Attorney Gordon Caplan, a co-chair of one of the largest and oldest law firms in New York City, Willkie Farr & Gallagher is among 50 people charged in that bribery and cheating scheme to gain students illicit admission into top universities. Caplan has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, and paying $75,000 to bribe the proctor of an ACT exam with the help of a college prep company. The FBI wiretapped phone calls between Caplan and a witness who eventually cooperated with the FBI. Caplan has been placed on a leave of absence and will have no further management responsibilities, according to a statement by the firm.
It sounds like they have him dead to rights, and if he committed the crimes, he should be disbarred. I assume he will be, but I’ve been wrong before.
5. Tennessee: Heartless Scammer Of The Month. Krista Toro put her infant son up for adoption. Then, last year, she called the adoptive parents and offered them her latest child out of wedlock, since she was pregnant. She persuaded Julie Zupan and her husband to pay Toro a weekly stipend during the pregnancy, and then, just before the delivery date, called to convey the sad news that she had suffered a miscarriage.
She had never been pregnant, and has been arrested by police. Now the Zupans have an ethical conflict: do they press charges against the birth mother of their child? Should they? Julie says, “The end of the story needs to be that [our son knows] that he came from people who went through a hard time, that we had to call the police, we had to get the courts involved but that it ended up that everyone is okay now, we forgive them, were going to move on, that’s your family, we’re all extended family, we’re going to move forward, that, that is my goal.”
Your Sunday poll: