I notice that the angry mob hasn’t gone to Silicon Valley to protest. Somehow, no matter how rich or prominent he got, Steve Jobs inspired widespread admiration. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that his business involved producing real “instruments” and not murky financial ones.
I’ve talked about civil unrest before, how it is properly understood as a rebuke to lawyers and judges. Judges especially, I think. There’s only so much lawyers can do. But they try. At least Christina Agola did.
There was a mildly interesting article in Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle yesterday:
“While the maxim, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ may be sound advice for everyday living, it is not always a good rule to follow where litigation is concerned,” U.S. District Judge David Larimer wrote in dismissing the lawsuit from businessman John Casciani…
From 2003 to 2006 Casciani landed his copter on a helipad behind his Webster home in The Bluffs development. But in 2006 the town passed a law prohibiting private aircraft from taking off or landing in Webster.
Casciani sued, claiming that the law unfairly targeted him. In 2009, Larimer dismissed the lawsuit, saying the legal complaint was rife with hearsay but devoid of factual allegations. Casciani also claimed he was discriminated against because he is Italian-American, an allegation that Larimer determined lacked substance.
Casciani’s attorney, Christina Agola, filed a second lawsuit after the dismissal. In his decision released today, Larimer said that the new complaint generally mirrored the first, with only several new allegations added. Most allegations “are virtual duplicates of the allegations … in Casciani I,” Larimer wrote.
The second lawsuit, Larimer wrote in a stinging opinion, “is so egregious as to be potentially sanctionable.”
There is nothing terribly sympathetic, in political terms, about a guy who insists on operating his private helicopter from his private helipad in his no doubt ample backyard in the middle of an otherwise quiet and tony suburb. Let’s note that at the outset and then get past it.
Here’s the thing: Judge Larimer, whose name has graced these pages before, has never seen a criminal complaint filed by the government he didn’t like. No US Attorney has ever been threatened with sanctions for bringing a “frivolous” criminal complaint. Indeed, a federal prosecutor is encouraged to be “creative” in applying law in novel ways and “testing the limits” of laws in order to prosecute people and lock them up.
If Mr. Casciani starts flying his helicopter about Webster, annoying the neighbors, and then the Village of Webster (within a town of about 43,000) passes an ordinance that appears to apply to only the one person crazy enough to do that – well, what about that?
Is it a Bill of Attainder?
As you can see from the link, Bills of Attainder were historically regarded as a marker of oppressive government. So maybe Mr. Casciani has a point, and so does his lawyer Christina Agola. Maybe, although the factual circumstances and the plaintiff involved are less than optimally savory, important constitutional values are involved. Maybe the question should be presented to a jury, rather than just Judge Larimer, who regards his courtroom as a playground for the government and the politically powerful, but off limits to individual claims, which are almost always “frivolous”.
As you can see, Judge Larimer has become quite adept in his dotage at hurling sarcastic quips, but they travel only in one very predictable direction.
So what’s the point here? Glad you asked. It’s not that Judge Larimer – who, it should be remembered, is an appointed federal judge – is as reflexively hostile to individual claims as he is accommodating to government ones, and is otherwise such a pedestrian, politicized and lazy-minded “jurist” that bringing him an interesting case and legal issue is merely to cast pearls before swine.
Although of course all of that is true.
No, the point is that he’s like just about everyone else on the bench, state and federal, appointed or elected, only perhaps a little more open and obvious about it. We’re drowning in Judge Larimers.
So change contexts and what do you get? A judiciary that, for example, for decades serves as no check whatever on the most outrageous, dishonest, and indeed criminal conduct, so long as that conduct is sophisticated and perpetrated by, say, politically connected and too big to fail banks in New York and Washington. But then when the victims of this conduct try to air their grievances through lawyers and complaints and the processes that have been provided, they are mocked and squelched and declared “frivolous” and their lawyers are threatened with sanctions.
And so finally people take to the streets in protest. Who in the legal system but a moron would be surprised? But I’m sure Judge Larimer is.
Of course this is Judge Larimer’s fault. And the fault of judges like him, which is just about every other damn judge. And rather than threatening Christina Agola with sanctions, Judge Larimer should be thanking her for bringing him such an interesting issue. If only he had the least ability to appreciate such things.
I pointed this very same thing out in a post in February, before the whole “Occupy Wall Street” thing:
Keep in mind that the Connick case is only a paradigm, a representative sample of what has happened. It is repeated in many forms, in many cases, over and over throughout the legal/judicial regime in the United States. Large, institutional litigants and their minions are not held accountable in the courts when they break the law, even when they do so willfully and egregiously; while individuals are increasingly imprisoned for increasingly trivial offenses, or even framed when they are entirely innocent.
And indeed just yesterday there was another report concerning the goings on in that same federal court in Rochester: a man facing 20 years in prison for “food stamp fraud”.
I don’t know how the contrast can get more stark, and yet from the comfort of their sinecures the officials don’t notice. They are not stupid, not even Judge Larimer. Perhaps the comfort itself is the problem, then.
Occupy Wall Street, it seems, may grow big enough to address that problem. But it’s still too bad – and shame on the courts – that it had to come to this.