(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Thursday, December 19, 2002

A suggestion on the Ten Commandments

It appears that Chief Justice Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court has declined to remove the Ten Commandments monument within the 30-day grace period that Judge Thompson allowed him; Chief Justice Moore has left Judge Thompson no choice but to issue an injunction requiring him to do so, on pain of contempt.

So here is my suggestion. In this case, it seems to me, the public good will be served by making sure that the removal of the monument is accomplished peacefully and in a way that gives as little opportunity as possible for public grandstanding by those who want to defy Judge Thompson's order. I think that imposing the traditional contempt remedies -- fines and imprisonment -- on Chief Justice Moore would not serve those ends, even though such remedies would be quite proper from a legal perspective if Chief Justice Moore does not comply with an injunction. I also think that having the U.S. Marshalls remove the monument would play into bad old Southern stories about the evil federal government. So what to do? Brush off Fed. R. Civ. P. 70, which says "If a judgment directs a party ... to perform any other specific act and the party fails to comply within the time specified, the court may direct the act to be done at the cost of the disobedient party by some other person appointed by the court ..."

So, with little fanfare, Judge Thompson could simply appoint some sturdy, courageous, and otherwise anonymous person with a little forklift to go remove the monument if Chief Justice Moore refuses to do so. I would imagine that volunteers could be found. It would be such a disappointment to the folks who, for fundraising purposes, want a film of uniformed government officials doing the work.

posted by sam 7:35 AM 0 comments


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