I’m sure Eric Holder has good intentions, as far as they go.
We’ve seen this before: civil unrest followed by the National Guard followed by a sop from Washington, usually in the form of some high profile visit or other. Maybe by the President. More often the Attorney General.
On his day-long swing through the area, the attorney general was welcomed warmly at every stop. At Drake’s Place, a soul food restaurant located a few blocks from the scene of overnight clashes, Holder went table to table offering words of encouragement to some stung by the fatal shooting and days of unrest.
“We don’t want the world to know that’s all that’s going on here,” said Viola Murphy, mayor of the nearby Cool Valley community.
“We can make it better,” Holder told her.
How are you going to “make it better”, Eric? You’ve got some kind of magic wand you wave?
We’ve said this many times: civil unrest is an indictment of our courts and our legal profession. Another program or edict emanating from Washington, punctuated by a media saturated visit from a high ranking official, isn’t going to accomplish jack other than maybe quelling the immediate disorder. For now.
The serious solution, or at least one serious solution, is very simple. Norm Pattis alluded to it the other day:
What is not written in the Constitution is the legal doctrine the courts have fallen in love with and rely upon to keep police misconduct cases from going to trial — qualified immunity. This doctrine sprung from the fertile imagination of a judiciary sick and tired of presiding over civil rights cases. It is a product of a judicial revolution no one noticed, a revolution that has effectively closed the courts to ordinary people seeking justice.
We at Lawyers on Strike suggested this kind of serious solution more than two years ago:
Statutes can be amended by a simple act of Congress.
So if the people of the US ever recover their gumption, they might want to browbeat their federal legislators/congress-critters into amending 42 U.S.C. 1983 to provide a few things to counteract the execrable rulings of the SCOTUS. Such as:
1) no immunities for public officials, including judges;
2) no statute of limitations;
3) no summary judgment permitted (F.R.Civ.P Rule 56 won’t apply)
4) Make it all retroactive.
It bears repeating: we have a lot of lawyers who need work. For a long time – too long – lawyer “work” with any cache or prospect of a prosperous living has meant to become a toady and tool of the powerful against the weak: represent the bank, the insurance company, the government.
Even so, all the unemployed and underemployed lawyers are a great untapped resource out there, and Ferguson demonstrates once again – just like the Occupy movement did – that there’s an increasingly desperate need. What’s not to like?
A “litigation explosion”? Meh. The only litigation explosion that ever actually happened was a stupefying increase in criminal prosecutions and imprisonments. All the rest was insurance company propaganda. We should be ashamed of ourselves for being so thoroughly duped.
Nevertheless, however simple this serious solution is, it’s not easy. There are a lot of conflicting and powerful interests – police unions, for example. And as a people we don’t do difficult too well anymore. Or at all, it sometimes seems.
There is a basic lack of discipline, I think. Mental discipline in the first instance is required to understand what a serious solution might be. And then personal and behavioral discipline is required to implement the serious solution.
So in the meantime there are emotionally cathartic visits by the Attorney General to the trouble spot of the day, and then when we tire of that there is Kim Kardashian. Until the next unarmed black teenager is shot to death by a police officer at one of those odd moments that makes it a triggering event.
The undisciplined lurch from crisis to crisis, in between long periods of indifference and indolence. If that’s what we have become then what happened in Ferguson is just random, episodic noise, fodder for a news cycle and little else.