Non-Sentences

I recently posted a collection of ridiculous court decisions and asked, “Is The Law An Ass?” I suggested that the law was OK but the people who work in and around courts could well be the issue, and upon reflection I think this is more the case. The mere fact that all of the decisions listed here were made in the United States opens up other options, of course, but we continue to see examples of the law being ‘interpreted’ by some in widely differing ways.

I was interested to read a few days ago that a case that was heard (and ruled on) some time ago was to be brought back to court because the original sentence was possibly passed down by one of these legal ‘asses’. A person was found guilty of abusing his 4 year old daughter (and it would seem there was some suggestion of sexual impropriety in the act?) but the judge, in her very finite wisdom decided that because the convicted man was a public figure, and more, a public figure who made people laugh (he is, apparently, one of our favourite comedians) and gave them joy, he would be discharged without conviction.

Now I am a simple layman but to me this means he was guilty of the charge but because the sentencing judge held certain views and opinions, either about the charge or about the charged (or both) he could go on his way with no record of guilt, a free man who apparently had done no wrong.

If this is the case the law is very definitely an ass. A child had been assaulted- how seriously or whether or not there were sexual elements is to a certain extent immaterial. Or whether by a stranger or a family member. A child was assaulted– a defenceless 4 year old child! And the case had been proven- either by evidence or plea I don’t really care- it had been proven!

There have been other unsavoury outcomes from court actions against ‘personalities’. It is immaterial to me whether the person convicted is a sportsperson, a legal-eagle, an artist, a politician or successful business person, or if they are black, white or brindle- if they are found guilty of the crime they were in court to answer for then any name suppression should be lifted and they should be given a punishment that fits the crime. They should not be hidden under a blanket of suppression because to be ‘outed’ would harm their reputations or their business. They should have thought of that before they beat their child, abused someone, drove drunk, defrauded others or committed any of the other myriad of crimes that we see such people charged with.

I guess there is some merit to suppression before guilt is established, but once you’ve been convicted suppression of name, charges and any other potentially damaging information relating to the crime should be lifted. The advice is simple if one doesn’t want to be seen as a horrible person- don’t commit the offence (and for goodness’ sake, if you do don’t say you weren’t aware of what you were doing!)

Come on, judiciary.

IS THE LAW AN ASS?

…or is it that the law’s fine, but it’s practiced, interpreted and implemented by asses!!!

It’s time again for the annual ‘Stella Awards‘! For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald’s in New Mexico , where she purchased coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving (and, oh- wasn’t she freeing her hands to apply eye-liner or such?). Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right? That’s right; these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep your head scratcher handy.

Here are the Stellas for year — 2011:

* SEVENTH PLACE *

Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son

Start scratching!

* SIXTH PLACE *

Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles , California won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn’t notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor’s hubcaps.

Scratch some more…

* FIFTH PLACE *

Terrence Dickson, of Bristol , Pennsylvania , who was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldn’t re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight, count ’em, EIGHT days and survive on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner’s insurance company claiming undue mental Anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish Keep scratching. There are more…

Double hand scratching after this one..

* FOURTH PLACE *

Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place in the Stella’s when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor’s beagle – even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner’s fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.

Pick a new spot to scratch, you’re getting a bald spot..

* THIRD PLACE *

Amber Carson of Lancaster , Pennsylvania because a jury ordered aPhiladelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. What ever happened to people being responsible for their own actions?

Only two more so ease up on the scratching…

*SECOND PLACE*

Kara Walton, of Claymont , Delaware sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000….oh, yeah, plus dental expenses. Go figure.

Ok. Here we go!!

* FIRST PLACE *

This year’s runaway First Place Stella Award winner was: Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City , Oklahoma , who purchased new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver’s seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner’s manual that she couldn’t actually leave the driver’s seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her, are you sitting down? $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home. If you think the court system is out of control, you are certainly not alone!!!

Justice?

Whale Oil Beef Hooked blogger Cameron Slater has been found guilty on a number of counts of breaching name suppression orders, and I suppose there can be little argument that he did, in fact breach orders imposed by judges in a number of ‘high profile’ cases and is, therefore, guilty. That Mr. Cameron’s arguments to have the name-suppression practice either overthrown or at least made less easily applied have to be tested in the law court has achieved its purpose by publicising the campaign but what does this actually achieve? There are many New Zealanders who would agree with Mr. Cameron about name suppression being granted too often and too easily, and I suspect if it came to the point of being voted on there would be significant support for at least a review of the current law. It would appear that Mr Cameron’s efforts to skirt the law by various means has been unsuccessful and through the trial process those who he wished to ‘name and shame’ have been able to retain their anonymity because the court, of course, upholds the suppression orders.

I hope that more Kiwis will lend their support to Mr Cameron’s campaign as too often it seems that suppression orders are granted to ‘the rich and famous’ and not infrequently for what could be argued as specious reasons. Visit Mr Cameron’s blog at http://whaleoil.gotcha.co.nz/