Thursday, July 06, 2006

Two Good Court Decisions

Two court rulings give some hope that the American people have not totally lost control over their country.

First, New York's Court of Appeals in a 4-2 decision said the state's marriage law is constitutional and clearly limits marriage to between a man and a woman, and that gay marriage is not allowed under state law. Any change in the law should come from the state Legislature, Judge Robert Smith wrote. The ruling rejects arguments by same-sex couples that said the law violates their constitutional rights.

The ruling is important because it upholds the traditional definition of marriage, and makes it a legislative matter, not a judicial one, to change the law. With this decision the court allows the people of New York to express their feelings on this issue through their elected representatives, which is the way laws ought to be made, and did not use this as an opportunity to change through judicial ruling what the people had legislated through the democratic process.

The ruling did not make homosexual relationships illegal; it only preserved the practice that has been the norm for centuries.

The Florida Supreme Court today rejected the largest ever award by an American jury, saying that a $145 billion punitive damages award against tobacco companies for injuring smokers was excessive, and also upheld an appellate court ruling that it had been a mistake to certify a class-action lawsuit representing an estimated 300,000 to 700,000 ill Floridians that led to the huge jury award for punitive damages in 2000.

Having legal recourse for wrongs done and injuries suffered is an essential element of a free nation, and businesses, despite their crucial role in our society, cannot operate irresponsibly without fear of liability for their actions. However, the degree to which the nation has moved away from a neutral position with regard to negligence cases filed against businesses is frightening. Too often, juries rule against responsible businesses in court actions filed by people who have been irresponsible in their use of products, or who have at the very least contributed to their own problems. This is not fair to anyone, neither the complainant nor the defendant, and puts businesses in the position of defending themselves when they have done nothing wrong, raising their costs, hence their prices.

I don’t argue the point that using tobacco is harmful. But people most often make a conscious decision to smoke, chew or pinch; it is not forced upon them. And, heaven knows, the message that using tobacco is harmful has been ubiquitous for the last 30 years. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a "tobacco warning." The jury in this case rendered a decision that was ridiculously high, and would in essence reward people for their bad judgment. Before anyone gets a punitive monetary award, it ought to be required that they prove that they did not contribute to their own injury, and that the business in question actually acted irresponsibly.

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Buffalo said...

There is no doubt in my mind that the rights of gays are being violated.

Had the tobacco conversation a couple of days ago. Couldn't agree more. Smoking is a choice. With choice comes responsibility.

Which is probably why the citizens of this country are so easily giving up their choices - no reponsibility.

Anonymous said...

How much is the life of one child who died from second hand smoke worth?

Rosemary said...

I apologize for interrupting this thread momentarily, but I followed a link from the Nomad blog to find you. I've read quite a few of your posts, looked back through your archives, and find your writing to be even tempered and logical.

I’d like to invite you to join our family friendly BLOG VILLAGE TopList. My goal is to have as diverse a group of blogs as I possibly can, representing all viewpoints on religion, politics, family life, sports, etc., as possible. I think your blog would be a great addition.

You can find out more about it at the Blog Village blog.

James Shott said...

How much is the life of one child who died from second hand smoke worth?

I see no connection between allowing people to voluntarily choose to participate in a legal activity and the death of a child.

Second-hand smoke may or may not be harmful to humans; there are varying opinions on this. However, the responsibility for whatever harm may come to a child from second-hand smoke is squarely on the parent(s). To attempt to place it on a tobacco company or on a business that allows smoking on its premises is to completely misses the point.