Law at the Sharp End

Jaye Ramsey Sutter (“in a bad mood & telling you about it since 1962”) walks much, much a harder road than I do:

Today the Supreme Court did a good thing, no more death penalty for those who commit crimes when they are juveniles. To hear people discuss it,however, you would think that the Supreme Court took away everyone's Christmas present. For a bunch of Christians, these Americans are strangely pro-death penalty. I am positive that Christ himself would support the execution of juveniles while they are still juveniles. Amen.

I wanted to discuss the opinion with my students. I wanted them to see what an actual opinion looks like. We went up on line in the classroom and saw it. As we talked about what it meant my students opened up about their legal issues and problems.

I was stunned.

One young woman asked about what to do when her boyfriend beat her. Should she call the police from their appartment, should she leave the scene, should she sleep on it and call the next day.

I feel odd discussing the elegance of a Supreme Court decision with its beautiful citations and form when these students experience such violence.

One young man, so full of energy and intelligence asked if his girl friend had a restraining order against him and she walked into their favorite club and he was there, should he leave or should she? I told him bluntly to be a man, don't argue over some childish right to be drinking in their favorite club, and leave. Just walk away. Why don't she have to do that, he begged. Why don't we skip over that part and you be the adult and leave, I replied.

How can we teach the civilization of this Supreme Court decision to people who live with such violence as part of their lives?

I don't think it was a wasted class. I think our textbooks and our curriculum should address the violence that is our students' lives. They asked me who to call if the neighbors are abusing their children. I replied that a call to the police would certainly work and that Child Protective Services would investigate. I told them if they did not call the police they were making the abuse possible because they are aware of it and are doing nothing.

And I'm going to conferences.

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2 Responses to Law at the Sharp End

  1. Brett Bellmore says:

    “One young man, so full of energy and intelligence asked if his girl friend had a restraining order against him and she walked into their favorite club and he was there, should he leave or should she? I told him bluntly to be a man, don’t argue over some childish right to be drinking in their favorite club, and leave. Just walk away. Why don’t she have to do that, he begged. Why don’t we skip over that part and you be the adult and leave, I replied.”

    There’s just something so WRONG about that attitude, as if being an “adult” was the same as being a dishrag. Why DOESN’T she have to be the one who leaves? And if he does leave, and she follows him, does he have to run away? If she keeps following him around, does he have to move to another state? Where does it end? It’s a fair question that you don’t answer by telling somebody to “just be an adult”.

  2. Jaye says:

    In Texas, restraining orders–which were the subject of The Simpsons tonight–are easy to get. All that is required is an ex parte conversation with a judge. A judge who has made a career out of listening to truth and lies. Judges orders are not to be denied. Judges have become much more sophisticated when it comes to date violence or family violence. Why would someone want to be where they are not wanted to the point that the object of their interest has to get a court order–at their own expense on their own dime and time–to keep them away?

    Some Tuesday, go down to the family court in Harris County. Tuesday is restraining order day. The bailiff puts the men on one side of the courtroom, the women on the other. They go before the judge and he listens to both sides. If he believes that it is in the complaining parties’ interest, the party that may still be battered and bruised and bandaged, she will get her restraining order. He doesn’t want to read in the paper the next day that woman is dead and won’t be back before his court seeking his help.

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