Saturday, October 09, 2010

The registry court case

I tried to make sense out of the US Supreme Court case I posted yesterday. It is confusing.

As I understand it, the Humphries were wrongly put on the child abuse index. It went to court, and the court agreed that the Humphries were innocent. But the Humphries still could not get off the index.

The Humphries sued in federal court for a denial of their constitutional rights. The federal judge agreed that Humphries should not be on the list, that California is denying the due process rights of its residents by not having a procedure for innocent people to get off the index, and that the state of California and the city of Los Angeles have to pay 6-figure damage awards, mainly for attorney fees.

The city of LA was appealing to the US Supreme Court because it puts people on the index, and the state doesn't give it any money for taking innocent people off, so it says that it has no responsibility in the matter. The city says that it is just following the law that created the index, and if the state wants due process, then the state should create the due process.

The Supreme Court justices were unconcerned about the differences between the city and the state. Their concern was that the trial record does not include a finding that the city had a policy of refusing to allow due process. The appellate court said that such a finding was unnecessary in this case, as both the city and the state are not only denying due process to the Humphries, they are denying it to all Californians put on the index.

Apparently the concern of the justices is that if they let this ruling against the city stand, then it will set a precedent for other cases, and make it easier to sue state officials for violating the constitution. The justices do not want lawsuits against rogue officials who are merely individually failing to do their jobs properly, but only lawsuits against officials who are following an unconstitutional policy.

The whole issue is ridiculous in this case, as it is obvious that LA has a policy of no due process. The Humphries are still on the index, even after 5 or 10 years of litigation.

This case may last a few more years. It seems likely that the justices will remand the case back down to the lower court for a determination of whether the city had a policy of no due process for people on the index. The courts will surely find that there is such a policy, but the courts will probably stall for years in order to give the state and the city every opportunity to start a policy of due process.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

we as CA citizens are funding employment for the otherwise unemployable. As the judiciary fiddles, the legislature burns since there's no movement there to create the proper laws to handle this sort of Kafka-esque Catch 22. Reminds me of the old joke: what do you call 1000 lawyers on a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean? A good start....