Bob Meade: When punishment is needed

  • Published in Columns


U. S. District Court Chief Judge Brian Jackson recently ruled that a Louisiana policeman, who was injured by a rock thrown at him by an unidentified protester in a Black Lives Matter protest rally, cannot sue Black Lives Matter because it is a “social movement.” In other words, if the person committing the felonious act while in the social group cannot be positively identified (and I assume the identity corroborated) the person being injured has no legal recourse to seek damages for injuries suffered. Wow! Has the Judge just found a way to legalize mayhem by “social groups”?

Let’s think this through for a few minutes. First, one might assume that to hold a protest rally, the leaders of that rally should need a permit from the municipality.  It is also reasonable to assume that the permit allows for “the people to peaceably assemble” as cited in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is hard to imagine that the founders would have endorsed participants in such an assembly having the ability to commit felonious acts without any chance of being held accountable.  The Amendment specifies peaceable, not felonious.

Next, the judge’s ruling cites Black Lives Matter as a “social” movement and denies the officer the right to sue for damages to his person. Wouldn’t one think that a truly “social” movement would not have a problem asking its participants to identify the person(s) who threw the rocks? And, if a “social” group is given a permit to “peaceably assemble,” but the group breaches that permit by committing felonious acts, should it still be considered a “social” group? And, should all “peaceably assemble” permits now require all participating in the rally to be verifiably identified and also sign the permits?

One has to wonder if the judge either didn’t know of, or if he simply ignored the numerous incidents of those groups attempting to incite violence when their protest slogans called for policemen to be killed and calling them pigs, to be fried like bacon? Do you think our founders would have judged those marches as “peaceable” assemblies?
Thinking of a recent protest rally in Boston, it is estimated that seven thousand people showed up to protest a “free speech” rally being held by approximately fifty people. I don’t recall if the protesters had a permit, or if they were a “social” group but, as a matter of context, if a Boston police officer were to have been similarly injured at that protest rally, would he or she have been allowed to sue the rally organizers? Equal justice? Blind justice?

One also has to wonder if Judge Jackson would have made a similar ruling if the person who was injured was not a Louisiana policeman, but was a child who was visiting her grandmother. If justice is to be blind, the ruling of the judge should be the same regardless of who was injured.

Sadly, we have seen our court systems become politicized, making decisions that are more socially driven than Constitutional. We have judges who have imposed large “cash bail” requirements on people which has resulted in some being held in jail for lengthy periods prior to their trial dates . . . essentially prejudging their guilt. We have seen judges refuse to accept a change in plea request seemingly because others charged with the same crime were not found guilty by a jury of their peers. Prejudging guilt!

The recent tragedy in Las Vegas that resulted in the killing of 58 innocent people, and the injury to over 500 others, is going to present many more serious claims for damages. In all likelihood, not only will the estate of the shooter be sued, but so will the hotel, gun manufacturers, and maybe even municipalities, for failing to prevent the “peaceful assembly” of the concert goers. It seems like there would be no questions as to suing the estate of the shooter, but perhaps the hotel will seek to be absolved of any responsibility. Obviously, a vigorous case will be presented alleging that the hotel turned a blind eye to the unusual amount of baggage that was brought in, the fact that the alleged shooter refused housekeeping entry into the room for a number of days, or ignored the sounds that resulted from the building of the platform from which the shots were fired. We have to wonder, if a judge can prevent what he deems to be a “social group’’ from being sued by a policeman who was injured by someone in that group, can another judge also prevent a hotel from being sued for ignoring out of the ordinary conditions that resulted in such a tragic event?

We are all fallible; we make mistakes, as do organizations, businesses, and government entities. We need to find ways to do better, but that won’t happen if we don’t acknowledge the failings and assess some punishment for them.

Bob Meade is veteran, retired businessman and longtime volunteer in Laconia.