Thursday, June 25, 2009

Some thoughts on arguing the law

When you argue the law it helps to cite, read the cases, back assertions with references if there is no case law, and to read the relevant statutes. I had an argument with @justinmclachlan, who is, as far as I can tell, a truly terribly bad lawyer. First he cites nothing, then he doesn't read cases, then he doesn't read the legislative history, then he cites no references. I can just imagine what would happen to that as a legal brief.

Then, having committed all of these sins of argument, he goes off. Well I can do that too, and it doesn't even take law school to learn how to do that.

One of the real problems with the law right now, is that we, as a collective we, want to do many things which are simply unconscionable and stupid. The law can be twisted to allow it, but at that point it allows many other stupid things as well. People put on blinders to this, and happily chug along doing some stupid things, while pretending that the other stupid things can't happen. Except, they can, and do happen.

Let me take an example. We, as a collective we, want to ban "child pornography." However, the way the laws are worded, in that kind of sweeping, written by a bad prosecutor in the middle of the night kind of way, allows teenagers for being charged as sex offenders for "sexting." Everyone was shocked, except, well those who had read the law itself, which plainly does in fact allow it.

Let me take another example: Australia's proposed plan to censor the internet down to the level of what a 45 year old terrified mom thinks a 15 year old should be allowed to see. It is plainly stupid, and against any form of self-government as the term is understood. It is also legal in the sense that the laws as written provide for it. 

And another one: the Defense of Marriage Act. It is plainly against Article IV 1, which provides that states shall provide full faith and credit to each other's instruments. Except same sex marriage, that doesn't count. 

Or torture. There are enough examples there, but the one that is current is the decision not to prosecute. In a country where teenagers are prosecuted for sending semi-naked pictures to each other by cellphone camera, there is no logic of danger to society that has torture not prosecuted. Except the logic that their are interests that are above the law in some strange way, or that there is a parallel law based on some concepts that aren't ever actually ennumerated, subject to a vote as such, or written down any place. A rule of not even  people, but prejudices.

When we pass laws that are contrary to our most solemn promises to ourselves, and we have been doing that a great deal, it undermines the whole of the structure. Out there, in the fringes of thought, are people who would knock down the entire structure, because they do not understand it, or they understand that they are always on the outside of this special zone of law.

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