Monday, July 25, 2011

The End of Civil Debate

A recent decision by a Davidson County General Session Court Judge is a great example of fuzzy-headed, liberal thinking. With more judges like this one, it’s no wonder that civil political discourse seems to be coming to an end.

Back during the legislative session, the Education Committee for the Tennessee State Senate was conducting hearings on collective bargaining rights relative to the teachers’ union in Tennessee. Lots of people on both sides of the issue showed up. The issue was controversial.

But during the public hearing, some young college-aged students started yelling and chanting and disrupting the meeting. When they would not quiet down after half an hour and be respectful of those in the room trying to listen to or engage in the debate, they were asked to leave the hearing room. Some did. But several lay down on the floor and locked arms, refusing to leave. Eventually they had to be dragged out by Capitol Police. As would be expected, they were charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Well, General Session Court Judge Casey Moreland recently found them not guilty. After all, according to the Judge, these students were just asserting their First Amendment Rights to political free speech.

I’m all for free political speech, but there must be some element of order and civility in public hearings. And there must be some way to ensure that everyone gets to exercise his or her right to free speech without disrupting the rights of everyone else who wants to speak.

So, it would appear that we now have a new legal principle in Davidson County when it comes to state legislation. Next time you don’t like something going on down at the state Capitol, go down to the hearing room or maybe the Senate or House Chambers, chant for half an hour, then lay down on the floor and chain yourself to a chair or something. No problem.

But let me suggest you not go down to Judge Moreland’s courtroom during docket call and protest the acquittal of these rowdy students in the same way these students disrupted the Senate Education Committee. My guess is that Judge Moreland won’t see the First Amendment value of your keeping him from getting done with his judicial work. It could cause him to miss a tee-time or something.

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