* Making Up the Law as They Go
- View SourceJ.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California December 5, 2001
Brad Goodspeed, WA. JAILer-In-Chief, has approximately 3 dozen original JAIL4Judges T-Shirts of various sizes he would like to move. Open a bargaining deal by writing him at baronboy@...http://www.sierratimes.com/archive/files/dec/03/vin.htmMaking up the law as they go along
By Vin Suprynowicz 12.03.01
If the courts won't enforce the written law -- if they simply make up whatever's necessary to protect the state's power and its revenues -- why should the rest of us act as though there's any law that binds us? Aren't we then equally free to just make up whatever's convenient, as well? ....
Local pipefitter Mike Mead, 53, gainfully employed, a father of three and a grandfather, was driving along a four-lane road "behind the K-Mart, east of Boulder Highway" at Racetrack and Newport roads in Henderson [Nevada] at 2:30 on the sunny afternoon of June 26, 2000, when one Officer Roy of the Henderson police department pulled him over and wrote him up for going 47 miles an hour in a 35 mph zone. ....
Mead ended up paying the municipality a total of $95, "I believe it was $45 for the fine and $50 for court fees..."
He could have gotten off a lot cheaper if he hadn't fought the ticket, of course -- the folks in charge of our courts these days apparently think "justice" is best served by offering cash rebates for paying up and not rocking the boat....
...Mead had heard of a case won by Mr. Dornsife up in Reno, by pointing out to the court that Nevada is bound by both state and federal law to show a written engineering study justifying any posted speed limit. And "There's absolutely no way there'd been a study done there and justified 35 miles an hour," Mr. Mead figured.
So he called and wrote the Henderson city Traffic Engineer, John Bartels, asking whether there was an engineering study for that stretch of road. And indeed, he was told -- first orally and then in writing -- there's no engineering study backing up any speed limit sign in Henderson.
"He told me, 'We just design the road for 45 miles and hour, and then set the speed limit 10 miles an hour below the design speed,' which allows them to write their tickets and raise their revenue."
The letter submitted into evidence (as Exhibit Number One) upon appeal of Mead's conviction to the District Court of Judge Joseph Bonaventure is from John Bartels, city traffic engineer of the Henderson Public Works Department, and clearly affirms no study was conducted.
"In your faxed letter, you inquired as to whether or not a speed limit study was ever conducted on Racetrack Road between Boulder Highway and Warm Springs Road," wrote Bartels. "The City of Henderson has not, to my knowledge, conducted a speed limit study on this section of highway."
Nevada Revised Statute 484.781, titled "Adoption of manual and specifications for devices for control of traffic by department of transportation," covers all such devices in Nevada including the speed limit signs themselves, and (in compliance with a separate federal law which requires any state accepting federal highway funds to adopt this statute, by the way), stipulates:
"2. All devices used by local authorities or by the department of transportation shall conform with the manual and specifications adopted by the department." The manual mentioned (the state had no choice - it's the manual they're required to adopt if they want the federal highway moneys) is the national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), published by the Federal Highway Administration. ...
Yet on Nov. 14, putting the continued cash flow of the traffic fine system ahead of such arcane notions as enforcing the law as it's written, District Court Judge Joseph Bonaventure ruled in the case of Mike Mead traveling 47 miles per hour, even after admitting into evidence the unrebutted letter from the city admitting there was no engineering study, as follows:
"Having read the briefs and the record below and having heard oral arguments of the parties, the Court finds that an engineering and traffic study was performed by the City and that the numeric speed limit of thirty-five miles per hours (35 mph) was reasonable and not arbitrarily set." "There was no study done there and the judge said 'My ruling is that there was a study done.' The city said, 'We didn't do one,' " laughs an amazed Mike Mead....
"I'm amazed now that there may be thousands of cases where the city has not done an engineering study. ... I asked him, how many studies can you show me around town, and he told me on the telephone, 'None; we haven't done any.' " ....
But why would Judge Bonaventure -- who didn't return my calls last week -- have blatantly lied and said there was a written study done if there really isn't one? "Because if Nevada followed the law it would be a threat to the paychecks of the very judges, district attorneys, city officials, traffic officers, and all the rest that depend on these fines for their very subsistence," Dornsife responds.
"And it's a clear conflict with another tenet of our laws that the trier of fact, the prosecution and state witnesses should not have a financial interest in the outcome of a case. But contrary to this basic tenet, here they literally live off and are virtually wholly dependent on the fines collected. ....
"We do not have a rule of law. What's happened in Nevada and it's happened in every state is that the courts are wholly dependent on this damned traffic money. ... It's a farm system for the theft of public funds; it's just like this judge out here in Mina (Nevada) who bought the radar for the local cops to use to improve the income for his court. ....
"There's just too much money involved; you'd be goring too many sacred cows; the courts are too dependent on all these dollars ...
"I think it would be good for people to find out just how corrupt the courts are," Dornsife pleads. "This case in Las Vegas just put me over the edge. ... How can you go to court with such clear, decisive evidence and just have them throw it out? The primary duty of the Nevada Highway Patrol now is writing speeding tickets and every court in the state lives off that; it's a whole infrastructure now based on not safety, but revenue. I haven't seen a single court in Nevada where you can get a fair trial (in a traffic case.)"
The state Supreme Court tells him "this is not an issue that's of interest to them," Dornsife says; Assistant Attorney General Brian Hutchins "told me their job is to protect the DMV, not the public.
"So if we can't get relief in the courts and the courts are going to rule nonsensically, where do you go? It's clear that the court is not following the law. ... Henderson acknowledges there is no study; yet the courts rule there has been an engineering study, so you can't get there from here."
Indeed: If the courts won't enforce the written law - if they simply make up whatever's necessary to protect the state's power and its revenues - why should the rest of us act as though there's any law that binds us? Why aren't we equally free to just make up whatever's convenient as we go along, as well?
Mike Mead's appeal was case C176390; Chad Dornsife can be reached at 775-851-7950 or via e-mail at chad@.... Judge Joseph Bonaventure did not return my calls.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
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