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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 we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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