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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. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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