Three recent events echoed the scene in Oliver Twist (1838) by Charles Dickens when the court advised Mr. Bumble that “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction.” Defendant Bumble replies, “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass—a idiot.”
In 1997, the US government agreed to abide by several conditions in the treatment and detainment of immigrants called the Flores Settlement. One of the conditions related to the provision of a “safe and sanitary” environment for children while in the custody of US authorities. Following the hard line policies of the current administration, neither safe nor sanitary has been a recognized standard at the immigration detainment centers at the southern border.
Advocacy organizations have dragged several agencies into the courtrooms of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in San Francisco to obtain enforcement of various aspects of Flores, in particular the “safe and sanitary” criterion. Concrete evidence was presented to the judicial panel that children were being separated from family, detained for periods in excess of that permitted under the settlement, and without safe or sanitary conditions.
An attorney for the Department of Justice, appearing in order to defend the administration’s custodial practices, maintained that the settlement agreement failed to detail “safe and sanitary” to include toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, or sleeping blankets and, therefore, the government was not required to provide them.
One of the judges did not admit that the law is “a ass” for failing to detail such items, but did pose the following:
It’s with everybody’s common understanding that if you don’t have a toothbrush, if you don’t have soap, if you don’t have a blanket, that’s not “safe and sanitary.”
The judge, A. Wallace Tashima, is a former Marine who was imprisoned as a child in a WWII internment camp for Japanese citizens in Arizona. What might he possibly know about safe and sanitary conditions or imprisonment of children?
Turning to a second incident in Florida, where no strange things happen, a woman was arrested for turning in to the local police in Lakeland her husband’s weapons, which she had taken from his apartment. The charge was armed burglary and grand theft of a firearm.
Previously, the woman had obtained an order of protection from her husband for domestic violence, for which the judge cautioned the hubby:
Do not use, possess, or carry any firearms, guns, weapons, ammunition or knives.
One must keep in mind that Florida is the land of “stand your ground” and had passed a “red flag” statute, allowing the police to seize weapons from those who pose a danger to others. According to her own admission, the wife went to her husband’s apartment, removed two guns and brought them to the police, assuming for her own protection a duty imposed on law enforcement. The arresting officer asked the woman, “So, you are telling me that you committed an armed burglary?” Since the woman did not enter the premises with a weapon, this interpretation of “armed burglary” is curious. According to the officer and the woman, she responded, “Yes, I am, but he wasn’t going to turn them in, so I am doing it.”
However, several miles east in Alabama, ass recognition was at the center of a shooting. Two women engaged in some type of altercation when one shot the other, a five-month-pregnant mother, in the stomach. The unborn fetus did not survive. Later, charges of murder against the shooter failed before a grand jury. Not to be denied some frontier justice, a grand jury filed an indictment of manslaughter against the victim mother, who was held on $30,000 bail. Local police testified that the altercation was initiated and continued by the victim. A police spokesperson offered the following statement:
When a 5-month pregnant woman initiates a fight and attacks another person, I believe some responsibility lies with her as to any injury to her unborn child. . . . [S]he shouldn’t seek out unnecessary altercations.
The words loudly redound of courtly gentility reminiscent of Rhett Butler. Stand your ground gone crazy?
There’s an ass, an idiot somewhere in these scenarios but it does not matter whether it is the law or the lawman. It can be accepted that virtually everyone can recognize “a ass—a idiot” or the behavior of one. It’s also a truism that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Transferred to these instances, it’s people who are asses, not the law. But sometimes people are assisted by asinine laws—made, of course, by people.