Tort Reform: Who is above the law?
There are many bad things that can be said about the Paula Jones lawsuit: it was a colossal distraction for our whole country, it was an abuse of the legal system, and it was a frivolous lawsuit. The case should have been adjourned until Clinton left office.
Despite many absurd aspects of the process, living in a country where a hairdresser can take the most powerful man in the world to court, file a suit, and have a snowball's chance in hell of winning should reassure all of us of an important principle:
"No one is above the law."
Is that principle really true in the United States? Who really believes it? Is it a good principle?
The evolving scandal involving Rep. Mark Foley brings this to mind. The full scope of the scandal has not yet unfolded. Were Rep. Mark Foley's actions limited to e-mails and instant messages? Were any Congressional aides physically abused? Were other children abused? Were other government officials involved? Should the victims have a tort remedy against Rep. Mark Foley?
Shortly after his resignation, we learn that some in the Republican House leadership knew of some inappropriate activity by Rep. Foley. What action did they take? Did they investigate? Did they look at his computer? Did they interview anyone? Did they talk with any of the Congressional pages? Did they hire an investigator?
And what did the leadership do to protect the public interest? Did they see any conflict, or at least the "appearance of impropriety" allowing Rep. Foley to continue to serve on a committee that addresses exactly the subject matter of the allegations against him? Did those who criticize consensual homosexual relationships so loudly see any problem with having enabled the circumstances of non-consensual homosexual abuse of young boys entrusted to them? What responsibility do they bear? Are they above the law?
Should the Republican leadership who failed to act be held accountable under tort law? The facts are not yet determined. We do not yet know, to paraphrase a former US Senator from the State of Tennessee: "What did the leadership know and when did they know it?" While we are determining the answer to that question, we can meaningfully ask what law applies.
If these Congressional pages were abused by Rep. Foley after the Republican leadership was advised and failed to act, should the leadership be held accountable under tort law?
Or should we extend the full benefits of tort reform to them?
Is the Republican leadership above the law? Some who advocate elimination of the tort system worked strenuously to use the tort system to distract our entire country while using Paula Jones as a pawn. They have not acknowledged the contradiction inherent in using the tort system they want to abolish for their own short term political ends when it is convenient.
So let us put the question to the tort reformers. No one, except of course, Bill Clinton, should be held accountable under the tort system. .
If the Speaker was negligent, and as a result young boys were sexually abused, should the Speaker be held accountable under the tort system?
For the moment, I am not interested in the facts of this case. I am interested in the general legal principle. Do child molesters at the highest levels of government who abuse their powers, and those who enable them, deserve the benefits of tort reform?