Lawyers gagged (or just wishful thinking)? Last week, the Utah Supreme Court held that statements to the media are not entitled to what is known as "judicial proceedings immunity." In most instances, people can't be sued for things said in open court or in a court filing. However, as the Supreme Court noted, speaking to the media doesn't serve the same function as speaking to a court. The Tribune laments this ruling as essentially a "gag order" that will deprive the public of important information. Nah. Most lawyers already knew or suspected that statements to the press were not immunized. Lawyers are professional wordsmiths; they are supposed to know how to get a point across in a way that is not technically defamatory. They can advise their clients of the ground rules, or funnel inquiries through themselves. We predict little, if any, change in the availability of information on lawsuits. After all, such statements are usually in the client’s interest, not to mention free publicity for the lawyer...
Meanwhile, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff expressed similar fears in federal court yesterday, arguing unsuccessfully that having to testify about things he said in 2003 regarding Parker Jensen and his parents might have a chilling effect on politicians making public statements. So what's the downside? Okay, but seriously, if a public official knows of what he speaks – a big if, perhaps – then what's the worry? Besides, does anyone really think that Mark Shurtleff -- he of "Save the Dog!" and "Iraqi Rocky" fame, and author of today's Tribune tweak -- is going to become a wallflower? We don't think so.
Speaking of non-wallflowers, Mitch Jensen of Siegfried & Jensen, whose face appears on TV screens approximately every 3 minutes, has been placed on probation in his law practice for 6 months by the Utah State Bar. But on the upside, S & J's ads are less traumatic these days--no speeding cars crashing into each other lately.
Mero's jaw dropper. A few days ago, Utah Amicus pointed out the use of the "worst of all possible analogies" by Paul Mero of the Sutherland Institute in a pro-voucher column. Not having seen the Tribune column to which UA referred, we thought perhaps it was an off the cuff remark, an ill-advised choice of words for which Mero might be given some slack. In response to UA's comments, Mero provided a link to his entire essay "for any of your colleagues interested in thinking." What the heck, we'll try anything once.
Warning: Mero's essay is not for the weak of stomach. It is not an off the cuff remark, not a slip of the tongue. It is 6 pages of Mero arguing that there are legal, familial, socioeconomic, and "disquieting" parallels between slavery -- slavery -- and not receiving public funds for sending your kids to private school. (Mero's essay downplays the fact that parents are legally free not to send their children to public school already; what we are really talking about is getting public money for doing so.) At the beginning of each section, Mero reiterates that slavery was, like, really bad, but then argues at length that it is still analogous to not getting voucher money. We like a good debate, and we have even been known to change our minds once in a while, but this analogy is just nauseating. In Mero's last reminder that slavery was really not a good thing at all, he writes, "As a personal experience, there are no sane comparisons." Just sane "parallels."
Update on the China 14: Today we learnedthe shocking news that the upcoming boondoggle to China by 14 legislators (and two staff members, apparently) is going to cost a lot more taxpayer money than they originally claimed. What's more surprising, though, is that after three months the China 14 still can't come up with a straight-faced justification for this junket. The typical explanation goes something like this: "Well, er, uh..."--except for House Majority Leader David Clark, who shows some chutzpah by arguing that, not only is the trip important for, uh, lots of reasons and stuff, but it's essential! They would be derelict not to go! Good grief–why are you dilly dallying then? Utah's economy is hanging by a thread!