Without Objection

Except for presidential politics, I tend to blog mostly about things on the eastern side of the Atlantic. That’s probably because living here, most of the things that affect my life on a daily basis are here. However, having visited the blog of a commenter to a previous post, my attention is drawn westward.

Each of Mark McGaha’s children have been declared a Child in Need of Services (CHINS) by an Indiana Circuit Court at the behest of the Department of Child Services. I can’t opine on whether they should be CHINS or not, or whether they should be in foster care.

As a lawyer I used to handle occasional CHINS cases in Indiana, usually representing the interests of one or both parents. One of my longest-running cases was a CHINS case involving what I called the family tree that didn’t fork. So I’m not denying that there can be situations whether the State needs to step in.

Unless there have been significant changes in my absence, like all buraucrats, DCS workers range from good to bad. If McGaha’s allegations are true, then there are some in Fountain County who are very bad. One thing that concerns me is that there is no mention of McGaha’s lawyer. He needs one. If he is doing this on his own, sadly he is fighting at a severe disadvantage.

This may be why the Fountain County Circuit Court judge got away with an outrageous unconstitutional act. She issued a restraining order preventing WXIN in Indianapolis from showing McGaha’s face or even allowing him to make his complaints against DCS. As one of my old law professors commented to the Indianapolis Star, “I don’t know what’s more outrageous: the judge ordering this and not knowing it violates the Constitution, or knowing and still issuing the injunction.” He described this as bordering on judicial misconduct. “Quite simply, a judge does not have the authority to stop the press from publishing or airing a story. Any person has a right to contact the press and say a public agency is not treating them right.”

Because of the inherent power of the bureaucracy, the press is one of the only checks upon it. That is why it is so important that access to the press not be denied. The greater the power, the more important the power to question it and challenge it. The more important that it stay on the straight and narrow. Otherwise rights get trampled upon. Otherwise democracy is meaningless.

No First or Second Amendment at UVa-Wise, or Writers Who Own Guns Must Be Crazy

Steve Barber was a student at the University of Virginia – Wise. I say “was” because he has been expelled for a paper he wrote for a creative writing class. In his paper, the protagonist thinks about violence against his professor. Apparently there are certain things you just can’t write about.

However, if you are also a licensed gun owner with a carry-and-conceal permit, and you have guns in your car – then you are mentally ill and can be involunarily committed for evaluation. Only crazy people own guns and enroll in creative writing – at least in Virginia.

There is no doubt that officials at UVa-Wise acted in an unjust manner, way outside their authority. They even have a rule that says no guns can be in cars on campus. Unfortunately for them, that’s an attempt to supercede a state law that says the opposite. Based on the involuntary committment, they then got the Commonwealth Attorney to convince a judge to revoke Barber’s gun permit. That’s right. His gun permit was revoked for possessing a gun – not even on his person, which he was entitle to do – but in his car. It doesn’t matter that the evaluation showed that he wasn’t crazy or a threat.

And it doesn’t matter that the actions of the university have a dramatic negative impact on Barber. He will now have to immediately begin to repay his student loans. If he can’t pay them, then they go after him with their Mafia-style tactics. So he has to abandon his plans for a college degree and the only thing he can do is immediately re-join the military. So auch for his plans of going back into the service of his country as a officer.

Don’t expect that he will get any support from the press. No, they have found a great opportunity to trash him – all in the name of “better safe than sorry”. Can’t have another Virginia Tech. But as law professor Eugene Volokh notes, “expulsion would still strike me an excessive remedy; nor would protecting the university from the possibility that he would turn into a Virginia-Tech-style mass killer justify this: If he really does plan to commit mass murder, he could do that as an expelled student pretty much as easily as an enrolled student (since the school doubtless doesn’t have guards at each possible entrance to keep him off campus).”

Yes, a little paranoia goes a long way.

Steve Barber has his own blog now. H/T to Abhishek Saha at Muse Free where I first saw this story.