Comment of the Day: “Prelude: Intent, Gross Negligence, And ‘Extremely Careless’”

eyes closed driving

Long-time commenter (and blogger) Glenn Logan has authored not one but three COTD-worthy posts of late. I have chosen his commentary on the gross negligence/extremely careless distinction for the honor, but any of them would have been worthy choices. You can find the others in the threads here and here.

Before I get to Glenn, I want to point out that a recent and ridiculous news story illustrated the difficulty of the gross negligence/extreme carelessness distinction perfectly:

A North Florida woman is saying her prayers after running her car into a home — after saying her prayers.

The 28-year-old woman was driving in the tiny town of Mary Esther, located west of Fort Walton Beach in the Florida Panhandle. Deputies from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office say the driver told them she was praying and had her eyes closed before the incident took place.

According to NWFDailyNews.com, authorities say she ran a stop sign, going through an intersection and into the yard of a home. The driver tried to back out, but her car got stuck in sand and dirt around the home. No one was hurt inside the home and the driver was taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation. She was cited for reckless driving with property damage.

Gross negligence would be praying, driving, and closing her eyes knowing well that it endangered others, and doing it anyway. Extremely careless would be praying, driving, and closing her eyes assuming that no harm would come of it, perhaps because God would be driving the car. “Reckless,” however, may cover both.

Here is Glenn’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Prelude: Intent, Gross Negligence, And ‘Extremely Careless’”: Continue reading

Prelude: Intent, Gross Negligence, And “Extremely Careless”

falling bowling ball

By now I intended to have published a thorough essay deciding the question of whether conservatives, and their claims that James Comey was part of a Justice Department conspiracy to save Hillary from indictment, were more unethical that Clinton supporters in the news media and elsewhere pronouncing her “exonerated” because she’s not facing trial. Alas, pressing matters have intervened, but no matter: I will present it soon. Meanwhile, however, allow me to clean up a relevant controversy.

Much of the mockery of Comey’s explanation of the FBI’s recommendation, since accepted with a big “Whew!” by Loretta Lynch, arises from his assertion that while Hillary’s handling of classified information was “extremely careless,” it did not arise to the standard of “gross negligence” specified in the relevant statute. Too many pundits and commentators to mention have snorted at this, arguing that there is no practical difference. Comey did not help, when he was asked the question in his Congressional testimony, by explaining the difference as one of enforcement: in a century, he said, no conduct similar to Clinton’s has ever been found to meet the “gross negligent” standard sufficiently to warrant prosecution. Attorney General Lynch, when she was asked the same question by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis), just repeated how she accepted the recommendations of Comey not to indict Clinton.

There is a difference, however. I don’t know why neither Comey nor Lynch could articulate it, but it exists, and I will now make it clear.

For this analogy I owe thanks to a D.C. lawyer, ethics expert and law professor friend of long-standing with whom I was recently discussing the Clinton matter. He has a gift for  analogies, and said this…

“Intent, is when you drop a bowling ball out of an office building window, aiming so that it will kill somebody by falling on the victim’s  head.”

“Gross negligence is when you toss a bowling ball out of an office building window without looking in order to get rid of it, knowing full well that it is mid-day and very likely to fall on someone’s head.”

“AH HA!” I interrupted. “Then ‘extreme  carelessness’ is when you toss the bowling ball out of an office building window without looking, in order to get rid of it, because it’s 3 AM and you mistakenly/ignorantly/ stupidly  assume nobody will be walking on the sidewalk at that time of night!”

“Exactly!” he said.

More to come…