Monday, April 30, 2007

I have been uninspired recently

I tried to hard to overreach with this blog. I think I wrote some interesting things at times, but I also went for weeks without anything to say.

When you cast too wide a net, you will come up empty.

Yet, I don't particularly want to reel in my focus. I am a law geek, first and foremost. I love the law, including matters outside my immediate practice.

Which is why Scott v. Harris is so fascinating. It is a summary judgment case on the issue of whether a police officer has qualified immunity when using force to stop a high speed chase. The rule at summary judgment is to accept the non-moving party's version of events as true, and then decide if there any issue of fact worthy to reach a jury.

Here, the plaintiff alleged that he was moving slowly and carefully, and that force was unnecessary. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was, essentially, a bat out of hell. Had the Court followed the usual rule, and summary judgment denied. Instead, the Court did something truly unique- they found their own facts, based on a video of the chase, then made the video part of the public record in the case, including it as part of the opinion (92Mb RealPlayer file).

Because of the video, the Court found that qualified immunity existed, 8 to 1. This is a first- the Court is usually deferential to the formalities of the law. Here, the formalities were just thrown out the window. Good- formalities run the risk of becoming meaningless lawyer's tricks when used to thwart the obvious (and just) outcome.