Corrupt Hive

In stecore invenitur

Stupid is as Stupid Does

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Much of today’s legal reasoning is fantastical but for good or for ill it occasionally reduces to farce. One such example is the Iowa Supreme Court’s recent decision in Willard v. Iowa. In fairness, much of the opinion’s reasoning is not out of the ordinary. But the fundamental justification for the court’s decision is plainly stupid.

Willard is a sex offender. After having been convicted of his offense, Iowa passed a law banning convicted sex offenders from living within 2000 feet of a school. This law was appealed in federal court (by someone other than Willard) and found unconstitutional. The state then appealed to the 8th Circuit, which overturned the district judge and found the law constitutional. Three days after this ruling, Willard buys a home within 2000 feet of the school district. The police inform him that he has 30 days to move. Willard sues which a bunch of claims, most of which even I agree are bogus.

But before the court can address those claims, however, it has to deal with the threshold issue of whether Willard was given proper notification of the law. Clearly, three days is not much time for the ordinary person on the street to be informed of 8th Circuit’s ruling. If there was no possible way for the ordinary person to know of the law, then it’s unreasonable for the courts to enforce that law. The Iowa Supreme Court’s tap dance around this issue is farcical.

On remand, the federal district court recognized an agreement of the parties to resume enforcement of the statute on September 1, 2005. We conclude Willard was not legally entitled to reside in his house when he purchased it. Rather, the State simply agreed to postpone enforcement of the statute. Willard should not have been under any illusion that he was entitled to live in the house when he purchased it. (emphasis in original)

As the school yard saying, “Stupid is as stupid does,” makes clear, enforcement of the law just is the law. Without enforcement, the law is nothing but a paper tiger. It has no means; it’s is merely ink on paper, glowing pixels on a screen. The claim that the state agreed to waive enforcement of the law but not the law is a distinction without a difference. To claim that a person is required to obey a law that the state has agreed not to enforce is simply bizarre. The court should be ashamed of itself. The only rational conclusion was Williard’s; it is the court that is creating the illusion.

If you have trouble conceiving this imagine the following. A parent tells a child that he cannot play outside after nine pm. The child objects and says that he is old enough at ten to play outside. The parent says OK, you can play outside tonight while I consider your point. The child comes in at 10pm. The parent says that they have considered the child’s point and rejected it; ten years old is still to young to be playing outside after 9 pm. And oh, since the child did go and play outside after 9 pm that evening, the child is now grounded for the next week.

Say what? The child has every right to be outraged, as does Willard in this case.

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Written by Daniel

September 20, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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