Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Cal Lanier and the Law

A nice (guy? gal?) named Cal Lanier has been leaving comments this morning. Lanier seems pretty smart. Who is Cal? One of the three people who run the blog Football Fans for Truth. Surely you remember them.

Cal Lanier wants Terri Schiavo dead. Go read Lanier's comprehensive Terri Schiavo FAQ. Oh sure, Lanier demurs at the end, saying that he's not "on Michael Schiavo's side." No, no, he's "on the side of the law." Boy, is he.

Lanier's lock-step support of the legal system is so great that he treats nearly every issuance of Judge George Greer as gospel truth. His entire case for killing Terri Schiavo--that is, being on the side of "the law"--is built around the assumption that Greer and legal system are infallible. Lanier writes:
I offer up a few hypotheticals:

1. Assume all facts are the same, but Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers agree that the feeding tube should be removed.

2. Assume all facts are the same, the Schindlers oppose the feeding tube removal, but Terri Schiavo left a detailed living will that specified she would want the feeding tube removed if she were in a persistent vegetative state.

3. Assume that Michael Schiavo has remained completely faithful to his wife all these years, but still testifies that she told him she would want to die in these circumstances, and the Schindlers still oppose him.

If your opinion switches from opposition to support in these hypotheticals, then your opposition is based on the circumstances in this case. So ask yourself: do you really think that you know more about the case from the media coverage and court documents than the judges who actually reviewed all the evidence?

This, of course, is the chicken-hawk argument. How dare a president who has not served in the military order our soldiers around. How dare a person who has never directed a movie write a film review. How dare a bunch of geeks in pajamas question 60 Minutes reporters who have been immersed in the intricacies of George W. Bush's national guard service. Get it?

And upon close examination, this is the entire substance of Lanier's argument for killing Schiavo.

Is Michael Schiavo denying his wife care? No, Lanier says: Ignore the facts of her neglect--the bed sores, the extracted teeth, the lack of physical therapy, the contorted body--because the court says Schiavo isn't denying her care; so it must be true. Should an MRI be done on Terri? No, Lanier says: Ignore the calls from board-certified neurologists, because Judge Greer says an MRI is unnecessary; so it must be true. Is there a doubt about the PVS diagnosis? No, Lanier says: Ignore the doubts expressed by medical experts, because the court has found that she is in PVS; so it must be true.

Lanier's devotion to the rule of law is admirable, if blinkered. As a friend recently said to me, "blind obedience to the law is just as enslaving as contempt for the rule of law." We need laws. But our rule of law is an imperfect system implemented by imperfect men. When miscarriages of justice happen from time to time, we need to be willing to step in and correct them.

Cal Lanier's siding with the law is simply tyranny by other means.

Update, 1:07 p.m.: A commenter tells me Cal Lanier is a gal, not a guy. If so, apologies to Cal for the mix up--but this is what you get for not having a picture posted with your site and having a name made famous by a Hall of Fame shortstop.


Anonymous said...

Psssst. Cal Lanier is a she. Gender-prejudice any?

Cal Lanier said...

Hey, thanks for the link. Here's my response:

Last Full Measure

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite bit on the case, from an Ann Coulter column:

Judge Greer's finding on Terri's wishes may be immune from legal review, but it's not immune from criticism. He's a finder of fact – he's not God. A few years ago, Judge Greer found that Helene Ball McGee did not have reasonable cause to believe domestic violence was imminent and denied her an order of protection. Two weeks later, Mrs. McGee was stabbed to death by her husband. So judges can make mistakes.

Of course, Cal would assure you that Ms. McGee didn't have reasonable cause to believe domestic violence was imminent, because Judge Greer so found. Don't trouble with the facts when we have process.

Bookworm said...

As someone who has been around judges for along time, I can tell you that a scarily large number of them are ideologically driven, intellectual lightweights.

To premise an argument on a judge's findings, despite a plethora of well-documented contradictory facts is frightening. It is true, of course, that judges eventually have to decide between one version of the facts and another, but the public doesn't.

Cal also ignores the fact that many judges, having made a decision, will never, never back off, no matter that they are later proven wrong. Too many judges feel that -- just as a priest, once ordained, is a conduit between the faithful and God -- so too is the judge, once sworn in, a conduit between the party he prefers and some higher truth, irrespective of facts or controlling law.

Anonymous said...

And what is the solution? So far, I haven't seen anybody give a solution to what they see as the court's mistake.

Should we not have courts anymore? Just get rid of the judiciary? Should we have a nationally televised hearing and then get the entire country to vote on what Ms. Schiavo's wishes are in a national referendum?

Did the court get this wrong? I'm with Cal, I don't know. I didn't sit through every hearing, read every brief filed with the court, review all of the testimonial and documentary evidence. I'm certainly not omniscient.

Besides just bashing people as wanting Terri Schiavo dead (that's really productive), what would you have us do Mr. Last? The lack of solutions lends credence to the argument that this whole issue is just being pushed for political gain.

The courts will NEVER be perfect. They get things wrong all the time. For a full list of all the death row inmates exonerated since 1973 check out And those were people convicted by juries!!!

Should we only allow people the right to die if they have a written living will? Maybe. But then that would really screw people who can't afford an attorney to draft a written living will or who can't write or who don't have the forethought to get a living will. Should we get rid of the right to die altogether, written living will or no written living will?

What's your solution to judicial mistakes? Or is it not about solutions and only about rhetoric?

Bookworm said...

Anonymous, after correctly implying that no one is perfect, asked "do we get rid of the judges?" No. Judges are important, and they're an essential part of the system our Founders envisioned. What we need to do, however, is get rid of judges who believe that their gut feelings trump the law. I've worked on cases where a bank with the law entirely on its side lost to a little old lady because the Court couldn't bear to rule against the little old lady. It always seems more humane to side with the little old lady, but can banks in the long run, really carry on viable, and tremendously useful, businesses this way? What good does it do for business stability if banks know that there is no rule of law but that, instead, the rule is "the little old lady always wins"? There is room in the courts for fairness (it's called equity), but if there is law, it has to be given full weight before the judge charges in with his often ill-defined, amoral emotions.

Reece said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Reece said...

Bookworm, with all your respect for the law, doesn't it seem problematic for you that the law has been correctly applied in Schiavo's case?

Yes, *some* judges may be "ideologically driven intellectual lightweights" who "believe that their gut feelings trump the law." But where's your evidence that Judge Greer is one of these judges?

Florida law said what it said, and he applied it. He used the law, and every appeals court which has had the case has agreed with him.

How is he wrong?

Beyond that, how is it at all relevant that some judges will never "back off" a decision?

Can you show that Greer has done this? You claim that judges will persist in the judgments even after being proved wrong. When was Greer proved wrong? Every appeals court has agreed with him.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful that the conservative movement is revealing their true colors about government intervention into our personal lives. Perhaps this will all end with them sending armed stormtroopers into save Terri, just like they decried Janet Reno for doing to the (very much not braindead) Elian Gonzales not five years ago. Good show, old chums. I can only hope that the 92% of voters who have been siding with Michael Schiavo in the polls will recall this next election.

arrScott said...

About those bed sores: Christopher Reeve received perhaps the best care that any non-mobile patient has ever received - in the entire history of medicine, if his unprecedented recovery of mobility after paralysis is any guide to the quality of his care - and Mr. Reeve suffered from bed sores. An infection from one such sore is what ultimately caused his heart to fail. So are bed sores are not, in fact, proof of criminal neglect.

Anonymous said...

Call me old fashioned, hell call me MSM, (I'm fairly close) but have any of you read the report of the guardian ad litem in this case? Or even the court documents as they come out? I may not be a fan of Mr. Schiavo's but the guardian who was court ordered to judge in this case said Mrs. Schiavo Never had a bedsore to the date where her evaluation ended. Whether that's changed I don't know. but hell we're researchers here right? Read the case logs.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I *did* read through both Pearse's 1998 and Wolfson's 2003 reports. The net from Pearse is Schiavo is not to be believed and to get new tests and the net from Wolfson's 2003 is to get new tests.

Wolfson has also said that he had an agreement between the Schindlers and Schiavo to do so in late 2003 but Felos turned the deal literally at the last minute because he was contesting the Terri's law that had created Wolfson's position. Why did Felos, whose bias in this case is at least openly on the right to die side let negotiations , go for so long when he knew he would be contesting the ability to have a Guardian ad litem?