(Ed. note: this post was first made on July 5th 2011 – a date that should resonate with Fullertonions; FFFF republished it in 2016; and now, given the City Council’s decision to employ legal harassment against FFFF bloggers, we repost, the themes in the essay being more apropos than ever )
And now Friends, here is installment #6 of Professor J.H. Habermeyer’s engaging essay on the relationship of local government agencies with their constituents.
The Sixth Wall
As we have already seen, the local government has formidable resources at its disposal to protect itself in its undertakings, no matter how inimical those doings may be to the very taxpayers who are footing the bill to defend them. And nowhere is this better illustrated than in the utilization by the bureaucracy of the legal system to thwart, frustrate, outlast, and outspend any civic opposition.
First I will note that judges are habitually riding calvary-like to the aid of fellow government authority. This is seen in the way that government action, often of dubious legal or constitutional foundation is tolerated with the tacit understanding that we need government and thus we need the people who run it; thus the individuals symbolize the institution and both must be protected for the common good of having government itself. It is a very egregious offense indeed that will cause a judge to act in a way that could undermine confidence in the very government of which he is a part.
And so judges themselves can be counted upon to defer to the bureaucrats and their experts and dispose of all sorts of embarrassing obstacles that separate a government from its desired object. Constitutional Amendments 4, 5 and 14 in particular seem to be the most annoying impediments, and are thus brushed aside with the most regularity. Anyone who doubts this need only look at the way our country’s police collect evidence and the way that urban renewal fiascoes have wreaked havoc on the very cities they were meant to revitalize; both with the disconcerting approbation of the nation’s jurists.
But to even advance to a courtroom takes time and money, again, two resources that the government agency has in abundance and which opponents can usually be counted upon to have very little. A city has its own attorney; if needed outside counsel may be employed at the taxpayer’s expense, which is to say at the expense of the very people who have shown the temerity to seek legal redress!
If, once before a judge, the nearly impossible occurs, and the opponents win a courtroom victory, the agency can be relied upon to seek appeal to a higher court, running up more cost and draining its antagonists even farther.
The spectacle of free citizens in a democracy suing their own government is not a pretty one and while public agencies will avoid it, once joined, it is a battle that they will never voluntarily quit: for defeat means professional humiliation and a chink in the armor of their alleged expertise and professionalism. There is no cheap lawyer’s trick they will not deploy to win, including technicalities in the law that work to their advantage and to the disadvantage of their supposed employers.
It is a desperate man who engages his own government in a legal dispute.
The Seven Walls of Local Government