A Brief Bit Of Background: Whenever I sit down in a large room with a bunch of co-workers to “meet” a new manager, and that manangers starts their presentation with “I’m a ‘process person'”, I tell my co-workers “Well, time to get our resumes polished up. This department is screwed blue”.
And I’ve never been wrong.
Another Bit Of Personal Background: Whenever I decry some miscarriage of justice, and some twerp – often a liberal, Ivy-League law-school grad – smugly intones “the process was met!”, I’m kept from strangling Ivyleaguer with his own intestines only with great difficulty, and sometimes only by other people.
Paging Petty Tyrants: There’s an old cliche; “state and local goverment are the laboratories of Democracy”. Perhaps it’s true – but Pageville, Missouri is conducting an experiment in democracy’s extinction.
Faced with a court ruling that capped how much the city could earn in traffic fines, they decided to add fines for…
…well, pretty much everything, according to George Will:
Pagedale residents are subject to fines if they walk on the left side of a crosswalk; if they have a hedge more than three feet high, a weed more than seven inches high, or any dead vegetation on their property; or if they park a car at night more than 500 feet from a street lamp or other source of illumination; or if windows facing a street do not have drapes or blinds that are “neatly hung, in a presentable appearance, properly maintained and in a state of good repair”; or if their houses have unpainted foundations or chipped or aging layers of paint (even on gutters); or if there are cracks in their driveways; or if on a national holiday — the only time a barbeque may be conducted in a front yard — more than two people are gathered at the grill or there are alcoholic beverages visible within 150 feet of the grill.
Upshot; it’s pretty much impossible not to violate some sort of law or another in Pageville, MO.
But the city’s pecuniary interest in particular judicial outcomes, which creates an appearance of bias, is not the crux of the argument that the city is violating the 14th Amendment guarantee that Americans shall not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without “due process of law.” The entire nation should hope that this small city’s pettiness will be stopped by a court that says this: The Due Process Clause, properly construed, prohibits arbitrary government action, particularly that which unjustifiably restricts individuals’ liberties.
That is, the Due Process Clause is not purely about process.
And if this case were a step toward enshrining, Heller-like, the idea that government isn’t about sanctifying process, but upholding the freedom of the citizen, it would be a huge start.
Because the sooner the idea that government exists to protect process is rhetorically loaded into a train and sent to a camp in Idaho to smash metaphorical rocks for a few decades, the better this country will be.