Tag Archives: law

Quick Missouri Supreme Court Bleg: Springfield v Adolph Belt Jr.

I received an email from Beth Riggert, Communications Counsel for the Missouri Supreme Court, noting today’s Missouri Supreme Court decision in the Springfield red-light camera case, City of Springfield, Missouri v. Adolph Belt, Jr. Riggert’s email noted that neither her email nor the summary of the case were to be quoted (does anyone know why this is the case?), but here is an excerpt from the decision:

This is a $100 case. But sometimes, it’s not the money – it’s the principle. When Adolph Belt, Jr., a 30-year veteran of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and a former Kansas City police officer, received a notice that his car had been photographed running a red light in Springfield, he did not take the matter lightly. Undeniably a traffic expert, Belt timed the yellow caution light at the intersection and found that it was rather quick. He also concluded that the stoplight and the cameras needed to be synchronized.

The Springfield city code provides that hearings for violations of this ordinance are to be heard in an administrative proceeding. In Belt’s proceeding, the hearing examiner denied Belt’s challenge to his citation and found him liable for the prescribed $100 penalty. Belt then appealed, requesting a trial de novo before the circuit court. The circuit court dismissed the request for a trial de novo, finding it had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal. Belt now appeals the circuit court’s dismissal, arguing he is entitled to a trial de novo for a municipal ordinance violation.

Violations of municipal ordinances such as this one cannot be determined administratively but must be heard in a division of the circuit court. Section 479.010, RSMo Supp. 2009.1 The administrative proceeding is void, and Belt’s $100 penalty is vacated.

You can also listen to the audio of the oral arguments here.

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A Story of Revolution in Venezuela

Before Chavez there was Bolivar, before Bolivar there was Miranda, who is now known as El Precursor. Interestingly, the link is to the entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica, not Wikipedia (it is both jarringly strange and wonderful to me that Wikipedia has made the Encyclopedia Britannica irrelevant to me). This selection is from the excellent A Way In The World, a selection of autobiographical personal narrative by the Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul:

…Venezuela is a colony in the New World, with slave plantations, and it has all the divisions of that kind of place: Spaniards from Spain, who are the officials; a creole Spanish aristocracy; creole Spaniards who are not aristocracy; mulattos; the Negros of the plantations; the aboriginal Indians. This kind of place is held together only by a strong external authority. When that external authority goes, people can begin to feel they are sinking. Freedom for one group can mean slavery or oppression for another group.

So the Venezuelan revolution, as it progresses, deepens every racial and caste division in the country, encourages every kind of fear and jealousy; and the revolution begins to fail. The ordinary people of the country begin to go over to the other side, the side of old authority, and the reverences and law and religion they know.

Miranda appeals to the slaves to join him. They don’t listen; in fact, the slaves of Barlovento rebel, and there is a moment when it seems they might capture the capital, Caracas. And now, to buy peace, or at any rate to buy time, some of the very men who had called Miranda out from London, to lead their revolution, decide to hand him to the Spaniards. They wake him up one night and march him to the dungeon of a coastal fort.

There is some very interesting material here and many things to note. One is the sheer impact of Spanish colonialism, which as part of its economic and territorial imperialism has reshaped the human map of Venezuela in very vicious ways. I am curious about the evolutionary path of these kinds of coalitions and the strategic games they play and why particularly these coalitions aren’t able to mutually coordinate a revolution or (later stable non-authoritarian government).

The line of thought also plays out some interesting questions. It seems to me that bad governance is path-dependent and part of the story is that turmoil itself retards the formation and optimal evolution of institutions that make civil governance possible. If you have any thoughts of readings to point me further along this path please post them in the comments.

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On Humanity

Ralph Peters in the New York Post writes:

WE made one great mistake regarding Guantanamo: No terrorist should have made it that far. All but a handful of those grotesquely romanticized prisoners should have been killed on the battlefield.

The few kept alive for their intelligence value should have been interrogated secretly, then executed.

Terrorists don’t have legal rights or human rights. By committing or abetting acts of terror against the innocent, they place themselves outside of humanity’s borders. They must be hunted as man-killing animals.

I would say that the reverse is true. It is precisely because we show mercy to prisoners and dispense justice fairly that the concept of humanity means anything.  That is why not torturing people means so much. And why we should call extra-legal execution of a prisoner without a fair trial what it is: murder. This outcome might be unpalatable: it is offensive that prisoners can enjoy all life, even in prison, while their victims molder in the ground. But it is none the less important because laws are designed precisely to ensure that punishment is meted justly. Because shooting first and asking questions later is a good way to kill a whole lot of innocent people.

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