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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Sunday, August 18 2002

Judge's loophole

Every day I read stories in the newspaper and few upset me enough to make comments. However, two stories in yesterday's Tribune-Democrat, because of a potential cause-effect relationship between the two, did annoy me. The first story had to do with a ruling made by Chief District Judge D. Brooks Smith in a preliminary hearing. The judge disallowed the admission of drug possession evidence obtained by two Johnstown police officers found on the two defendants. Judge Smith questioned the motives of the police officers who claimed that they stopped the suspects because of curfew violations. The judge believes the officers approached the men with the intent of catching them with drugs and not for curfew violations. In other words, Judge Smith found a loophole for the defendants.

You may ask, "isn't it the job of the defense attorney to nit-pick the law and find loopholes for his clients?" The answer is, yes. And the defendant's lawyer, Johnstown attorney, Art McQuillian, was planning to do just that. He was going to challenge the constitutionality of Johnstown's curfew law. Now, he states, that is a moot point. Without the confiscated drug evidence, he feels the federal attorney has no case against his client.

The second story has to do with a plan by the Windber School Board to initiate random drug testing of students taking part in sports and other extra-curricular activities. Like school administrators anywhere, Windber officials don't relish considering such a plan. However, they not only have the responsibility of overseeing the education of Windber students, they also have to consider the safety and welfare of all who attend their schools. With drug use on the increase, they feel that they must take some preventive measures. Their job and the jobs of law enforcement officers become more difficult when judges allow obviously guilty defendants to escape prosecution through legal loopholes.

Now, getting back to the original story, did the judge find a loophole for the defendants or for himself? Chief District Judge D. Brooks Smith was appointed to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush and approved in a close vote by the Senate. He will assume his new position on September 23. Had he allowed the drug evidence submitted by the Johnstown police officers, he would have had to make a decision on the constitutionality of the Johnstown curfew law, which was the defense planned by Attorney McQuillian, a much weightier issue in the judge's record of rulings. As Will Rogers once said, "I only know what I read in the newspapers." And sometimes what I read between the lines makes me question the wisdom and judgment of some judicial decisions.

Things my mother taught me (series)

My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION
—"Just wait until we get home!"

Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for the day

Indolence is a delightful but distressing state; we must be doing something to be happy.

Mahatma Gandhi

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