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Hate Your Neighbor
Written by Chet   

LTNI will not blog about how offended I am by the Westboro Baptist Church's protest of Natasha Richardson's funeral. They need to be ignored.

I will not blog about how offended I am by the Westboro Baptist Church's protest of Natasha Richardson's funeral. They need to be ignored.

I will not blog about how offended I am by the Westboro Baptist Church's protest of Natasha Richardson's funeral. They need to be ignored.

I will not blog about how offended I am by the Westboro Baptist Church's protest of Natasha Richardson's funeral. They need to be ignored.

I will not blog about how offended I am by the Westboro Baptist Church's protest of Natasha Richardson's funeral. They need to be ignored.

 
Interview With The ND Corruption Reporter
Written by Chet   

NDCorruptionYou may have seen my blog post on the ad in the Bismarck Tribune seeking reports of corruption in North Dakota.  (If not, click here.)  I expressed some concern about the ad.  I had questions so I connected with the person behind the ad. 

Here's our question and answer session: 

 

NorthDecoder:  Who are you, where are you from, what do you do? 
 
ND Corruption Reporter:  [The ND Corruption reporter indicated he's from Northeastern ND, identified himself to me, but asked that I not disclose here who he is.  He indicated he has some concern for his personal safety.  For the record, I had gotten a tip as to who he was before he told me, but I didn't tell him that.  He probably knows now.]

ND:  What inspired you to place the ad in the Bismarck Tribune?  (Are you, by chance, the victim of some government corruption?)
 
NDCR:  I had some dealings with corruption but a friend of mine is the reason I decided to get involved in this. 

ND:  Did you put the ad in any other newspapers or magazines?  Any radio or TV ads?
 
NDCR:  I put the ad in the Grand Forks Herald, Cavalier Chronicle, Bismarck Trib, and Walsh Cty Record. I haven't done TV ads yet, because I wanted to see how many stories I got from the newspaper ads. I have only gotten a few stories. I think its because people think saying something will come back to bite them in the ass. I don't want names of private individuals because I can't print them without getting sued. You can say just about anything about ELECTED OFFICIALS THOUGH. 

ND:  How many people have you heard from?  How many stories have you been able to verify?
 
NDCR:  I have only heard from about 3 people. I heard from one that I think is from the Gov's office or Atty Generals office who wanted to know who I was and I told them. I am sure the BCI and swat team will be at my door soon! 

ND:  Before you do your Corruption Report, will you do any independent verification of the stories people tell you?  If so, are you willing to give an example or two of what kind of verification you're doing (generally or specifically)?
 
NDCR:  Yes I will do some independent verification of the stories if I get enough to print. I can give an example of what kind of verification I am going to do when it happens. I have a regular job, so I have to do this at night. If someone does send a story, about the only way I can verify it is through court transcripts and affidavits I think. 
 
ND: When and where do you plan to release your report?  
 
NDCR:  I was going to print a small tabloid type paper and deliver them to stores and gas stations and various places all over North Dakota. Not sure when. 
 
ND:  Are you planning to focus on any particular kind(s) of corruption?  
 
NDCR:  I have heard mostly stories about family courts and the corruption of judges and social services so I was going to focus on that aspect mostly.  If it is one thing I hate, it is child abuse, and people that do the child abuse and the people in the courts, and social services that enable people to abuse children. NOTHING MAKES ME MORE ANGRY THAN PEOPLE ABUSING HELPLESS CHILDREN! 
 
ND:  I noticed your ad references "family courts" first.  Do you have a special interest in family courts?
 
NDCR:  I do have a special interest in family courts.  I have a friend who had his children taken away from him by a corrupt judge and he never did anything to hurt the kids, but the judge told him that he can NEVER see or talk to his kids ever again!  Gee, I didn't know that was legal. Oh yeah, it isn't but the judge let the order stand. 

ND:  I also noticed your ad doesn't include "state agencies," "city government offices" or "county government offices."  Did you exclude those intentionally because you're not interested in corruption in those kinds of offices, or is there some other reason you didn't ask for those types of corruption?  (I'm wondering if you're interested in pursuing reports of corruption in those types of offices.)
 
NDCR:  Yes I am interested in it, but didn't really think about it when I put the ad in the paper. 

ND:  What about corruption in private businesses?  Say, for example, a business that has a "cost plus" contract with the state and is cheating on what its costs are; are you interested in those kinds of stories of corruption?  
 
NDCR:  Iam interested in those kinds of corruption. I just didn't have any first hand experiences or stories of that type of corruption. 
 
ND:  Are people asking you to protect their anonymity?  Are you offering to protect reporters' anonymity?
 
NDCR:  Yes they are asking to protect anonymity and I will protect them. I will need to verify stories and I wouldn't print any names of anyone except Elected Officials. I can only use fake names or initials or fake initials. 
 
ND:  What kinds of assurances can (and do) you make to people who send their stories to you regarding anonymity?  I'm thinking of a whistleblower whose job might be at risk if they are identified after you release your report and it becomes clear you've gotten inside information from a state or county office, or a business.
 
NDCR:  I would have to make sure to show the person that sent the story to me gets to read it to make sure it is ok to print before it is printed. I would never want to jeopardize someones job, personal life, or safety for any reason. I think of the people that worked for WSI and went to the AG and said give me whistleblower status and he said he would and then they got fired. Another example of a criminal in power as far as I am concerned. 

ND:  Besides outrageous outcomes in family law cases, are you willing to share a "teaser" (before your report comes out) on some of the corruption that's been reported to you?
 
NDCR:  Yes I will. 

That's our Q&A exchange.  I should note that I've edited exactly two things in this:  (1) there was one typo [an extra letter "L" that I've taken out]; and (2) there was something that I assume was directed to me, personally, and I took that out. 

Though I'm interested in seeing what comes of this, I have to admit I'm really not all that interested in hearing people's complaints about the outcomes in their divorce cases.  I get enough of that in my job and in my personal life, so I'm not all that interested in those cases even if some of you are.  

I'm just not.

But stay tuned...

 
Volunteers needed!
Written by Adam   

I got this in an email and decided to make an announcement for those of us in the Fargo area that are able-bodied

The flood forecast changed drastically yesterday with the raising of the projected river crest and changing the date of the projected crest  from mid April to March 28th.  If you look at your calendar you will see that the 28th is only a little over a week away.

So, what can you do?  The City of Fargo will open Sandbag Central tomorrow at 8:00 AM and run through 8:00 PM and then reopen on Saturday morning and then basically run 24 hours a day until they have enough sandbags.  So, the city needs sandbags, lots of sandbags, over a million sandbags. 

Sandbags don’t fill themselves, so they need people, lots of people, not millions, but still lots.  What they would like is people to come over to Sandbag Central to work 4 hour shifts to fill sandbags.  It is hard, dirty, sweaty work – a lot like going to the gym, without the cost and fancy workout clothes.  As an added benefit, the Salvation Army will serve up coffee to keep you energized.

So, what can you do?  You can forward the request for help and information on to your associates and friends.  You can organize your friends to have a sandbag filling party sometime this weekend at Sandbag Central – it can be fun!  The contact information and parking information is listed below. 

How To Volunteer

Volunteer Hotline - 476-4000
Call between 8 a.m.- 8 p.m.

All volunteers are asked to park at the Fargodome and take shuttles to sandbag headquarters. To make sure shifts are equally covered, volunteers are also asked to call the volunteer hotline, 476-4000, before arriving on site. 

40 feet will break the '97 record, I moved up here immediately following the flood, but lived in SD, which was only less bad than it was here.  Well...let's get moving!

I plan on helping out sometime on Saturday.  Email me if you care to go with me then.  (Adam.Blomeme@DON'TSPAMMEgmail.com)

 

 
ND EMS Problem
Written by Chet   

EMSMaybe you saw this story in the papers yesterday and today...

ND: Group used federal disaster funds for booze, other questionable items, misspending $200K

BISMARCK, N.D. - Nearly a quarter of the federal disaster planning money spent by a North Dakota nonprofit was used for "unallowable or questionable" items, including alcohol, a state official said.

The North Dakota EMS Association, which represents about 1,800 ambulance and emergency workers, also spent money it shouldn't have on lobbying, cell phones, meals and some salaries and bonuses, an internal association audit and other records obtained by The Associated Press show.

Tim Wiedrich, chief of the North Dakota Health Department's emergency preparedness and response section, said Wednesday that the "unallowable or questionable" items made up nearly $200,000 of the roughly $810,000 the Bismarck-based group received between 2004 and last year to help produce a plan to fight bioterrorism and other mass disasters.

Minneapolis Star Tribune (AP)

As is noted in the story, this has the potential to turn into a federal criminal case. 

A notable quote was  in the middle of the story.  It went something like this: 

"I think we felt we spent money for the right reasons and that we were spending that money appropriately," Weber said. "We have nothing to hide. Every dime we spent was to promote EMS."

Bismarck Tribune (You know that game where you insert the words "in bed" at the end of your fortune cookie phrase?  Well, I like to insert the words "on beer" or "for beer" in spots throughout this story and this quotation.  For example, "Every dime we spent ON BEER was spent to promote EMS.")

Is it just me, or does that sound strangely familiar to anybody else?

I know a good lawyer who would have suggested to the good folks at the ND EMS Association that they should not talk to the press and they cannot talk to anybody else about these allegations.  They might not have done anything wrong, but... I'm just sayin'.

It'll be interesting to see if Steve Cates sees this story in the papers and takes up the banner for all people accused of misspending public money on booze, lobbying and meals (or limos and hookers, for that matter).  Maybe there will be another "guaranteed to have no lies, misrepresentations or inaccuracies" (ha!) 20 page, illegibly small font  "story" that nobody reads in the Dakota Beacon.

The EMS Association has the potential to do some really important and really good things in a state like North Dakota, where we have vast expanses of rural areas that need adequate emergency medical services.  I sure hope this story falls apart.

 
President Obama on Ed Schultz's Show Today
Written by Chet   

North Dakota's top local and national progressive radio talker Ed Schultz will have President Barack Obama on his afternoon "national" show TODAY.  We get his local/regional show in the morning, but I don't think you can get his national show on the radio out here in Western North Dakota unless you have XM radio service or stream it online (click here for places to get the stream).  You can get a tape-delayed version of it in Fargo on KFGO from 7 to 10 pm, Central Time.  According to his website the show is live from 12pm to 3pm Eastern (or 11am to 2 pm CST). 

I don't know what time the interview will be on and don't know if I'll have time to tune in.  If anyone knows what time the President will be on, please post the time in a comment.  I'd kind of like to tune in while he's on, if I'm not too busy.

 
Former WSI Director Blunt Appeals Felony Conviction
Written by Chet   

JusticeOn Tuesday of last week -- March 10th -- the Clerk of Court in Burleigh County received a Notice of Appeal from the judgment of conviction of former North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance (WSI) director, Charles "Sandy" Blunt.  (Click here for PDF of the docket sheet from NDCourts.com) 

Blunt has also asked for a "stay of execution."  Apparently Blunt doesn't want to have to start doing the community service work he was ordered to do.  Heaven forbid he serve the community.

You'll recall Blunt was charged with and convicted of "Misapplication of Entrusted Property" for abusing public money while he was the director of North Dakota's worker's comp agency.  Blunt and his apologists have blamed everyone in sight for his problems at WSI.  I may get this out of order, but it seems like first they blamed it on the Democrats, then they blamed it on disgruntled former WSI employees, then they blamed it on the State Auditor's Office (run by a Republican), then they blamed it on the highway patrol investigators (under North Dakota's Republican Governor's control), then they blamed it on a reporter at the Fargo Forum, then they blamed left-wing bloggers (e.g. yours truly), then they blamed it on overzealous prosecutors, then they blamed it on whistleblowers who -- before being retaliated against -- worked in top positions at WSi.  Now, it seems, they're blaming it on twelve jurors and the trial judge.   

Have I missed anybody? 

Oh yeah.  I forgot.  They blamed previous administrators at WSI.  

Anyone else? 

Oh yeah.  And the WSI legal department.  It was their fault, too.  Bad legal advice, apparently.

Now... Did I get everyone?

Do you suppose North Dakota's media has time to tell the public about Blunt's appeal?

Nah.  It's probably not news anymore.  It happened so long ago.  

Gosh, it was eight whole days ago.  

It's in the past. 

Let it go, already. 

Gaah!

(But seriously... is anybody surprised?)

 
A Tiff In North Dakota Law Enforcement
Written by Chet   

CageI sat through a short legislative committee hearing Tuesday morning that got kind of spicy.  It was the North Dakota Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on House Bill 1416.  The part people seemed to be fighting about is this:

12-60-08.1. Power of the attorney general to issue subpoenas in bureau investigations. The attorney general may issue an administrative subpoena compelling the recipient to provide records or information to an agent of the bureau of criminal investigation in any criminal matter being investigated by the bureau.

HB 1416 

The horribly unconstitutional (in my opinion) provision is being pushed through the legislature by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.  It's kind of flown under the radar so far this session.  It was passed in the House and is now in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  What was interesting is that the States Attorneys showed up and testified in opposition to the bill.  So we had local prosecutors arguing with the state's top prosecutor about the legitimacy of his claimed need for this bill.  Here's how it played out:

Assistant Attorney General Jon Byers got up first, and testified that there's only one way for prosecutors to get subpoenas issued for out-of-state internet Internet Protocol (IP) information and that is by contacting a cop in the state where the Internet Service Provider (ISP) is located, convince them to set aside all their other work and go talk to a local prosecutor, and get the prosecutor convinced to seek the issuance of a subpoena by a judge.  Byers and the BCI cop who testified in support of this bill acknowledged that this relates, almost exclusively, to internet-related crimes.  He made it sound like the process for getting these out-of-state subpoenas is horribly burdensome, but it's the only way this can get done.  He claimed states attorneys can get subpoenas through the "States Attorney Inquiry" process, but that the subpoenas ultimately are issued without court participation.  He was wrong.

After Byers and the other A.G. employee supporter of the bill got done testifying about how the A.G.'s office needs this subpoena power, then McLean County States Attorney Ladd Erickson got up and essentially said -- without saying it -- that Jon Byers has no idea what he's talking about.  He pointed out that there's a process that involves both a state and federal statute that he and other states attorneys use all the time to get this out-of-state internet information.  He described the process.  It included court participation and the issuance of a court order.  He said states attorneys all around the state use the same process all the time.  It sounded like it was quick and easy and not a big deal, but that it also protected citizens' privacy and due process rights by involving the court and requiring a minimal showing of proof (something the A.G.'s bill doesn't include).  Intentionally or otherwise, Byers was made to look like he was completely clueless about how subpoenas are issued by prosecutors "in the real world."  I watched Byers as Erickson described this process.  His face turned redder and redder as Erickson explained how the real world works.  I couldn't tell if he was angry or embarassed.  Perhaps both.

Bottom line?  The A.G.'s office was either wrong, or they were deliberately providing false information to the committee.  I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they probably just didn't know what they were talking about.  They usually don't.

Erickson was asked by the committee's chairman, David Nething, why he hadn't testified about this bill when it was in front of the House committee.  Erickson explained he had tried to work something out with the Attorney General.  It sounded as though the A.G. wasn't willing to work with him.  Erickson said he had some proposed amendments, but it sounded as though the A.G. wasn't interested in looking at them.  Erickson provided copies of the proposed amendments to the committee members.

What's interesting -- and controversial -- about this bill is that it purports to create a process for issuance of an "administrative subpoena" by the A.G.'s office -- without any checks or balances by the judicial branch -- in ALL criminal cases being investigated by the A.G.'s office and it's investigative arm, the Bureau of Criminal Investigations.  For people who aren't law trained, that might not seem like a big deal, but it is.  Generally speaking, subpoenas can only be issued in the name of a court.  An exception probably exists in investigations by administrative agencies.  An example might be that the Department of Human Services has authority to issue administrative subpoenas when it is investigating a licensed daycare provider.  Or the Securities Department might issue an administrative subpoena when it is investigating a stock broker.  Same with the North Dakota Insurance Commissioner's office.  Those sorts of administrative subpoenas in non-criminal cases are fairly normal.  If evidence of criminal conduct is discovered during the course of information obtained with an administrative investigation, the agency might involve a prosecutor.  Again, that's normal. 

But this bill would open the door wide open for the A.G. to issue subpoenas in every criminal investigation with no standards being imposed and no judicial oversight.  It would essentially invalidate and/or circumvent Rule 17 of the North Dakota Rules of Criminal Procedure, which requires that all subpoenas in criminal investigations have to be issued "in the court's name."  If you're a constitutional law buff, you might know that the legislature has tried invalidating/circumventing court procedural rules in the past, with little success.  State v. Hanson comes to mind.  That was a case where the legislature tried to override the Supreme Court's rules relating to the exchange of information between defendants and prosecutors in criminal cases.  The Supreme Court said that's a power limited to the government courts  and threw out an entire section of the North Dakota Century Code.

A nearly identical proposal was the subject of much debate in Washington, D.C., last month.  D.C. cops made all the same arguments being made by North Dakota's A.G.  The A.C.L.U. got involved in fighting the D.C. law, but we don't have any civil liberties in North Dakota, so they haven't engaged here.  This is an area of the law that's pretty hot around the country, yet our local media hasn't written anything about the fact there's a fight going on here.  They're too busy not writing about the way our legislators are trying to mis-use the stimulus money to not write about big fights between North Datota's law enforcement entities.

Those of us who work with this stuff sometimes wonder how the Attorney General -- a guy who has sworn to uphold the laws and constitution of the State of North Dakota and of the United States -- can be the person advocating for what appears, pretty clearly, to be an unconstitutional law.  It must be awkward for him and his staff, especially when they show up at the hearing so unprepared and end up making significant misrepresentations to the committee members.

It was interesting to see local states attorneys fighting for people's rights while our Republican Attorney General was fighting to circumvent the constitution.   One thing one of the county prosecutors said in his testimony was that he hates to ever be on the opposite side of the A.G.'s office on a bill.  You could cut the tension in the room with a knife.  This bill has obviously caused some stress in the relationship between the A.G.'s office and the local prosecutors.

It'll be interesting to see where this horrible bill ends up.  

Look for a story on this in tomorrow's Bismarck Tribune or Fargo For 'em, but don't hold your breath while you look.  This stuff is too hard for them.

 
Governor Hoeven's Elitist Parking Area
Written by Chet   
Staff Parking Only

If you've been to the Capitol Building during the legislative session this winter, you know parking is at a prime.  The best parking spaces are filled early and often.  But one thing that's new this year is a section in one of the best "customer parking" lots.  In the lot just West of the North Dakota Highway Department  building, in the row of parking spaces closest to the "circle drive,"  the entire row has flourescent orange cones set up and signs indicating "Parking By Permit Only." (Click here to see the yellow highlighted area I'm talking about.)

If you've ever worked in a service industry job, one thing you know is that employees always park in the parking spaces farthest from the front door of the business.  This is as true at any restaurant as it is at any big box retail store.  It's true in the parking lots of most businesses that have parking lots.  

Question:  Who gets the "Permits" for the parking spots closest to the front door of the North Dakota State Capitol?  

Answer:  Governor John Hoeven's staff. 

What's funny about this parking area is that anybody can park in those "permit only" parking spaces.  Despite the (mis)information on the signs, you don't need a permit to park there   We have a law in North Dakota that says nobody can do anything about it if you park in those spots during the legislative session.  Here's what it says:

Whenever any authorized law enforcement officer finds, on state charitable or penal institution property or on the state capitol grounds, a vehicle standing, stopped, or parked in a dangerous location or in violation of any official traffic-control device prohibiting or restricting the stopping, standing, or parking of any vehicle, the officer shall place a written warning on the vehicle for the first offense and thereafter an authorized traffic citation may be issued. However, no traffic citation may be issued for a violation of this subsection occurring on the state capitol grounds during a legislative session.

NDCC § 39-10-48(4) [emphasis added]

The signs your government has put up actually misrepresent the law.  Your Governor is lying to you so that his staff can get better parking spots than you and I get.  How pathetic is that?

The Governor should learn a little something about customer service from folks who've worked in the service industry.  His employees should park in the furthest parking spaces, not the closest.  Or they should have to fight for the same parking spots over which the rest of us fight. 

You pay taxes on those parking spots, too.  You should use them.  (I do.)

You deserve it, too.

 
North Dakota's CRAZY "Abortion" Bill
Written by Chet   

HearingThere's a bill working its way through the North Dakota legislature right now relating to "personhood."  It's a bill being ushered through the legislature by people (including legislators) who obviously don't understand what the bill says, does and/or doesn't do.  Here's the substantive text of the bill:

A BILL for an Act to provide legislative intent as it relates to references to individual, person, or human being.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF NORTH DAKOTA:

SECTION 1. References to individual, person, or human being - Legislative intent. For purposes of interpretation of the constitution and laws of North Dakota, it is the intent of the legislative assembly that an individual, a person, when the context indicates that a reference to an individual is intended, or a human being includes any organism with the genome of homo sapiens.

SECTION 2. STATE TO DEFEND CHALLENGE. The legislative assembly, by concurrent resolution, may appoint one or more of its members, as a matter of right and in the legislative member's official capacity, to intervene to defend this Act in any case in which this Act's constitutionality is challenged.

ND Legislative Website

Where to start?!?  How about I start with this:  This bill is so ridiculously absurd that the Right to Life organization and the Catholic Bishops recognize it will not survive a constitutional attack if it is passed and challenged.  Huh?  An abortion law that is NOT supported by the Right to Lifers and the Catholic Church? 

C'mon!!!  

No.  Seriously.  I'm serious.

North Dakota Catholic Bishops Paul Zipfel and Samuel Aquila said they would support Ruby's bill as long as lawmakers amended the language. Otherwise, they will stay neutral on it.

Christopher Dodson, general counsel for the North Dakota Catholic Conference, said the amendments that the bishops are pushing would put an end to some of those "extraneous questions that keep coming up."

The extraneous questions that Dodson mentioned during a Thursday press conference could range from the serious (how would defining an embryo as a person affect abortion and birth control in North Dakota?) to the ridiculous (would the bill make it illegal for a pregnant woman to ride a bike because of state law?).

"We have not felt we have had consistent interpretations as to what it would do," Dodson said. "The bill itself does not indicate what the bill would do. It might not do much at all. But it could do something."

Ruby said he wants his bill to stay untouched, adding he doesn't understand why the bishops are not agreeing with the current language in his bill.

Bismarck Tribune

I know, I know.  It says the bishops will "stay neutral" on the bill if it's not amended.  But that's the same as saying they're against it, as far as I'm concerned.   You have to ask yourself, "How bad is an abortion bill if the Catholic Church can't even support it?"

Answer:  It has to be pretty bad.

I attended part of the hearing on this bill this morning at the North Dakota Capitol.  I listened to all of the proponents' testimony and only about the first 20 minutes of the opponents' testimony.  The proponents included the following cast of characters:  (1) Rep. Ruby, the bill's sponsor, (2) a guy who held himself out as a "constitutional law expert" (even though he is no more a constitutional expert than I am); (2) a woman from Seattle who adopted a 4 year old fertilized egg and had it implanted in her, with her offspring, (3) a 12 year old boy who read an essay, (4) a young woman who had been born at 24 months gestation [she showed a "dramatic" powerpoint presentation, with a soundtrack, clearly intended to evoke some kind of emotional response], (5) right-wing rag publisher Steve Cates, (6) a lobbyist for a fringe pro-life group, (7) an angry, loud guy who cited a lot of scripture, waved his arms around, and who wore a leather hat and "really cool" dark sunglasses, (8) Sen. George Nodland, who wanted everybody to think really, really, really, really, really, really hard about how important this bill is and (9) maybe another person or two that I can't think of right now.  They were all very passionate about the abortion issue, but none seemed qualified to talk about this particular bill, or the problems with the bill.  It seemed to me as though all had gotten some really, really bad information about what this bill will and will not do.  That's unfortunate.

I was only able to stick around for the testimony of the first opponent to the bill and about 2 minutes of the testimony of the second person. The first was a Dr. Stephanie Dahl, an OB/Gyn doctor specializing in fertility issues at MeritCare in Fargo.  Dr. Dahl systematically addressed about 5 or 6 of the problems with the bill, giving specific examples of how it will effect doctors who work with women.  She talked about ectopic pregnancies and molar pregnancies.  (All you "scientists" out there should look these things up.)  Dr. Dahl talked about women who have all kinds of complications with pregnancy and the fact that this bill will make it difficult or impossible for those patients to get proper medical attention in North Dakota.  She systematically picked this bill apart.  If the proponents of this bill had engaged in 20% of the intellectual analysis Dr. Dahl engaged in, the debate might have been worth listening too, but it wasn't.  

One of Dahl's best points -- particularly poignant in a hearing where one of the proponents had claimed we need this law because she had adopted a fertilized egg that had been frozen for four years -- was that if a fertilized egg has the same legal rights and protections as a person, then it would be torture or false imprisonment to put that person (a/k/a fertilized egg) in a freezer for four years, four months, four days, four hours or even four minutes.  The woman from Seattle -- and others in her shoes -- wouldn't be able to adopt a four year old fertilized egg in North Dakota if this bill becomes law.  Any intelligent person in the room recognized the amazing irony of this fact, but I'd bet none of the proponents saw it.

The medical issues are all interesting, but the real problems with the bill are legal.  I'm not going to go through all of them, but I'll touch on some.  I wish I could take credit for thinking all of these up, but I can't.  Most of these come from questions senators -- both Democratic and Republic -- asked during the hearing:

1.  The bill purports to provide an explanation of the "legislative intent" of the framers of the state constitution.  Amendments to the constitution require that legislation goes through special procedural hoops, none of which are being followed here.  

2.  Courts only look at legislative intent when a statute is ambiguous.  (It's true.  Look it up.)  There's no reason for a court to look at this bill/law unless the statute being applied is ambiguous.  A fairly good argument can be made that we have a couple hundred years of jurisprudence on the issue of "personhood" (not to mention a much longer history of dictionary definition), so it's likely nobody would ever have a reason to look at this bill/law, if enacted.

3.   According to the sponsor's testimony today, the legislator appointed (under Section 2 of the bill) to defend the state in litigation wherein this bill/law is challenged wouldn't have to be a lawyer.  We have a law in North Dakota that says people who defend things in court have to be... wait for it... lawyers.  The sponsor -- a non-lawyer -- said he wants to be the legislator appointed to defend the law in court.  It's called "practicing law without a license" and it's a class A misdemeanor.  Look it up.  (And where the hell is the State Bar Association?!?  Shouldn't they take a position on this?!?)

4.   Section 2 ignores the separation of powers clause.  The Attorney General -- an executive branch elected official -- has been assigned the job of defending laws.  This bill would give that function to a legislative branch official.  This is patently unconstitutional.  

5.  The bill's sponsor testified today that there are two fringe law firms out East that would be willing to defend this law pro bono.  It's his thought that the state could avoid any defense costs by just having one of those firms defend the law.  It was his testimony that his intent iis that that should be done.  This would be a patently unconsitutional delegation of an executive branch power.  

6.  The proponents -- and all the North Dakota House of Representatives members that voted for this bill -- obviously haven't thought about any of the other areas this bill would impact.  Family law, including child support.  Probate.  Criminal law.  Tax law.  Welfare.  Child abuse.  Drinking age (and any other age-related laws).  Education.  This law would hit almost every area of law and the proponents haven't considered any of that.  They have engaged in legislative malpractice.  We should fire all of them, including the Democrats who voted for this bill.  Sorry to say that, but it's what I think.

I could go on.   These are just a few of the constitutional/legal problems with the bill.

Other problems were raised by senators today.  One senator asked the bill's sponsor -- Rep. Ruby -- what would happen if this bill was enacted an it was determined that the life of the woman was at risk if the fertilized egg was allowed to remain in the woman's body for nine months.  Ruby's response was... um... crazy.  He said that any time the woman's life was at risk, the bill would allow for the termination of the pregnancy.  Why is this crazy?  The bill says the fertilized egg has the exact same rights as its host.  If they have the exact same rights, how can one argue that one's rights are superior to the other's rights?  It's an indefensible assertion by Ruby.  It's as if he hasn't even read the bill he's sponsored.  

Therein lies the real problem with this bill.  The people supporting this bill haven't engaged in the kinds of analysis that any intelligent legislator should engage in.  The lack of intellectual curiousity was overwhelming.  

But I have to confess something:  There's a part of me that would like to see this law enacted.   It is so incredibly unconsitutional and so illegal that it's the sort of law that is almost certain to be stricken down by every court that looks at it.  Why is that a good thing?  These proponents want to take it "all the way to the Supreme Court."  That's what they said.  That's a quote.  After every court -- including the Supreme Court (if they even bother to grant cert. on this bill) -- would probably recognize that the State of North Dakota had overstepped its constitutional and legal authority.  At the end of the case, the State of North Dakota could very well be required to pay the huge attorney fees of the opponents of an abortion bill.  Think about the justice in that.  The State of North Dakota could end up funding Planned Parenthood's legal team for three years.  That would be frosting.  It would almost be worth it to have this bill enacted into law, just to see that happen.

But the people of North Dakota deserve better.

 
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