March 14, 2013

We Have to Insist on Rules

Justin Katz

Rules of procedure are a sore spot for me.

For several years, now, I've been watching at the state and local levels (especially the local level) as laws and procedural rules have been distorted beyond recognition. On Monday, in fact, I presented a case in a four hour hearing before the Tiverton Town Council, making up the rules as it went, concerning a process for Charter Complaints. The Town Clerk had simply invented a new process that hadn't been done in the past and that wasn't described in the Town Charter.

Typically the lawyers' trick goes something like this: The law doesn't say what the people in office want it to say. It is therefore "ambiguous," and they can do whatever they, themselves, feel is reasonable.

A more extreme example is when the lawyers simply pretend the rules are clear and in their favor. That's the case in the argument of the legislative lawyer whom Ted Nesi cites in his review of how House Speaker Gordon Fox "nullified" a committee vote that he didn't like (ironically concerning the authority of the Ethics Commission over the legislature).

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justin if you insist on rules being followd to a T do you really think it was okay for a sitting town council memebr to go into a school sieze evidence, and record someone on video without her knowledge. you lost your case on the merits and the fact that mrs. cook made for a very unreliable witness. sour grapes

Posted by: doctor jay at March 14, 2013 11:38 AM

There was nothing illicit or inappropriate about a town council member requesting and being handed an item that is being made available to the public, and RI is a single-party consent state, so one person can record and release a conversation.

I lost my case because the town council's own lawyer sat before them and, with the hired lawyer, completely ignored the crux of the matter. There is no rule of law in Tiverton. It's tribal government, in which the rulers make up the rules as they go.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 14, 2013 11:45 AM

Thanks, Justin, for pointing out why RI tops the list for corruption--and how hard it will be to correct it.

Posted by: Mike at March 14, 2013 12:11 PM

It was ever thus. "Two thingsthe people should never see; the making of law and the making of sausage". Otto von Bismarck.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 14, 2013 7:50 PM
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