“Let them sue.” Amen to that, Warren

Meant to post this yesterday, before the city council’s action. But I’m going to post it anyway, because I agree so strongly with what Warren Bolton had to say in his column Tuesday morning:

Let them sue

By Warren Bolton – Associate Editor

WHILE SOME Columbia officials understandably are concerned about a possible legal challenge, that’s not reason enough for City Council to shun a permanent teen curfew in Five Points.

There’s too much at stake in terms of controlling violence and ensuring overall community safety, particularly the safety and welfare of our children. It would be disappointing for City Council to allow the temporary curfew that’s been in place for about two months to sunset as if all is well. It is not.

This community needs to make a clear, strong statement that it is not acceptable for youngsters to hang out late at night and into the wee hours in bar districts that cater to adults. Nothing good happens there — or anywhere else — for children out during those hours. Children out late at night are just as likely to be victims as perpetrators…

The NAACP and ACLU have threatened to sue if a curfew is enacted.

Let them sue.

… (A) lawsuit might be the best thing that could happen, because this community needs a curfew, and once and for all, we would get a definitive answer…

Amen to that, Warren. Yes, there are those who may sue. Let them bring it on.

If an elected official or administrator is to refrain from responsible action whenever the ACLU threatens to sue, then he or she should resign and let someone with some sand take over. That’s what the ACLU does (I’m not sure what the NAACP does these does other than pursue a boycott that seems designed to have the opposite of the stated effect). That’s what the ACLU will always do. You have to go ahead and govern responsibly anyway.

To extend this point a bit: I also get frustrated when legislative bodies shrink back from doing the right thing because someone may filibuster. Whenever that happens, I say, “Let them.” Allow the filibustering party to make a spectacle of itself. Allow the issues to be aired completely, openly. Let it become obvious who is obstructing effective action. And then, man up and invoke cloture (something senators tend to have a horror of). But if you can’t get the votes to do that, just let the spectacle continue, until either you eventually prevail or the opposing party has burned up every grain of public goodwill it may once have enjoyed. And then try again.

The obstructionists will always do what they do. When you’re trying to do the right and responsible thing, it is your job, your obligation, to overcome their opposition — not be intimidated by it.

7 thoughts on ““Let them sue.” Amen to that, Warren

  1. Daniel

    I agree that legislative bodies should not fail to act simply beacuse of the threat of a lawsuit.

    But that’s different than choosing not to act because the body agrees with the underlying legal principal of the threatened lawsuit.

    If a legislative body believes an action would be unconstitutional, it should not nevertheless pass it and rely on a court to strike it down, if necessary, just because they think it’s a “good” thing.

    I’m not imputing that view to Council, nor do I think you’re making that argument, just thought it was an important distinction.

  2. Brad

    Daniel, thanks for your thoughtful response.

    And I 99 percent agree.

    Certainly I agree that you shouldn’t vote for something you think is WRONG, but I don’t think that was what you were saying.

    I would also agree that a public body should generally avoid pointless litigation. One should not make an empty gesture that will accomplish nothing other than run up court costs. And MOST of the time, you should avoid a suit when you think you have a chance, but you know it is very slim.

    But if you believe the law is on your side, you should act, and not be intimidated by a lawsuit threat. And in that sense, I think it is wise of the council to build its case so that it will stand up in court. Very prudent.

    I think you and I agree up to that point.

    But I will also say that there are rare cases — cases unlikely ever to come up in the public careers of most elected officials — in which you are consciously challenging current case law, or statutory law, with the goal of setting new precedent, or getting the statute overturned.

    Actually, I guess the latter would be much more common than the former. For insance, if a locality wants to rise up and do the right thing in spite of the SC Legislature’s insistence on preventing localities from taking such actions (say, banning smoking in public places), you should take it to court.

    Trying to overturn case law, especially when it touches on constitutional questions, would be far more rare. I’m thinking of such cases as when Brown v. Board did away with the body of law established by Plessy v. Ferguson.

    Not something I recommend as a regular policy, but I wouldn’t say “never.”

  3. Steven Davis

    Association of

    Where’s Jesse? Where’s Al? Where’s Louie Farakahn? Where’s Tupac?

  4. Mark Stewart

    Annexation restrictions would be another good area for cities to push back against nineteenth century legislative promulgations.

  5. Phillip

    Though (even as a longtime member) I don’t agree with their stance on this, at least there is some kind of ideological consistency (if carried too far) in the ACLU’s position. I don’t understand the NAACP getting involved in this at all.

  6. Brad

    That is not a pick! The fingertips are nowhere near an orifice! There is no penetration! And other Seinfeldesque protestations…

    Actually, it’s Tom Davis, back when he was chief of staff to Mark Sanford, and I just caught him in a thoughtful moment during, or perhaps just after, the governor’s annual lunch with editorial types on the day of the State of the State address.

    I like to think that was Tom was thinking was, “What am I doing being chief of staff to Mark Sanford?” But that’s probably not it.

    Anyway, it’s due to rotate off soon…

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