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Police not responsible for woman's murder

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a woman's lawsuit against Vanderburgh County officials following the death of her daughter because there isn't a federal constitutional right to be protected by the government against private violence when the government isn't complicit.

In Christine Sandage, et al. v. Board of Commissioners of Vanderburgh County, et al., No. 08-1540, Christine Sandage sued county officials after her daughter and two other people were murdered by Travis Moore, who was on work release at the time. Moore then killed himself. Moore had been serving a four-year sentence for robbery and was in the custody of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department.

Sandage's daughter, Sheena Sandage-Shofner, had complained twice to the sheriff's department that Moore was harassing her. The suit claims the department's failure to revoke Moore's work-release privileges and put him back in prison deprived the victims' of their lives without due process of the law.

The federal appellate court affirmed the District Court's dismissal of the suit because there isn't a federal constitutional right for people to be protected by the government from private violence in which the government isn't associated with or participating in the violence. The 7th Circuit cited several cases to support its ruling, including Bowers v. DeVito, 686 F.2d 616, 618 (7th Cir. 1982), and DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189 (1989).

To have an enforceable federal constitutional right to provide a service such as protection against violence would be impractical and the federal courts would have to decide how much money must be appropriated for police, prosecutions, and prisons; minimum length of state prison sentences; when prisoners should be allowed to be on work release; and other issues, wrote Judge Richard Posner.

The plaintiffs' cite Monfils v. Taylor, 165 F.3d 511 (7th Cir. 1998), in which Monfils had tipped off the police to a thief at his job but begged the police not to release the recorded telephone call or else the thief would recognize his voice. The police agreed to not release the tape, but one officer gave a copy to the thief after he requested it; the thief then killed Monfils. The officer didn't know there had been an agreement not to release the tape. The 7th Circuit in that case upheld a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff because Monfils would have been safer before the police released the tape, wrote Judge Posner.

"In this case, in contrast, the danger was created by Moore, and by Moore alone; the defendants merely failed to take any steps to reduce the danger," he wrote. "They failed in their moral duty to protect members of the public from private violence, while the police in Monfils took a step - releasing the tape - that either created or greatly increased a danger of private violence."

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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