Are We a Society of Men or of Laws? It Matters
VALLEY PATRIOT EDITORIAL
A society run by the whims of men and unfettered by laws can imprison you without cause or due process. It can steal your property and silence your protestations. Ultimately, the result is a breakdown of civil order and a descent into chaos.
It is the rule of law that assures us that our freedoms are safe and that the government’s use of force is bound by and controlled by agreed legal constraints. Without it, society will inevitably crumble.
Space does not permit an exhaustive cataloguing of recent violations of the rule of law – that would take an encyclopedia. Instead we cite the local example of law breaking and lack of respect for our constitution.
Locally, Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua and his cronies have decided that they are not subject to either the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) or the related directives of the courts. Under FOIA, a request for information that is rightfully in the public domain must be granted within ten days and then provided “forthwith.” The only burden on the requestor is to pay reasonable costs (defined under the law) for producing the information.
The case at issue, one that involves The Valley Patriot (TVP), has been chronicled in detail in this paper (see: valleypatriot.com) and will only be briefly summarized here. A FOIA request made by TVP of the City of Lawrence in February of this year and re-re-submitted in July has been ignored by Lantigua and City Attorney Boddy – ignored with the exception of charging us $61.81 for producing the requested information. Of course our check was cashed and no information subsequently provided.
The reader will not be surprised to learn that full disclosure will likely prove that the Lantigua administration had been involved in serious criminal activities … their refusal to provide the requested information is understandable, but nevertheless a violation of the law.
Laws are often ignored, but the courts are the venue that civilized societies employ to adjudicate such differences of opinion – differences such as, “Should our laws be followed?” The Valley Patriot took this “difference of opinion” to the Lawrence Superior Court in October and the case was heard by Superior Court Judge Thomas Murtagh.
In multiple rulings, Judge Murtagh consistently ruled in favor of The Valley Patriot and even granted a contempt motion against the Lantiqua administration. The latest ruling required that Lawrence release the requested documents immediately and un-redacted. As of December the Lantigua administration has outright refused to comply.
FOIA, a duly enacted law, has been ignored. The right of the citizenry to know what government is doing behind closed doors has been repeatedly violated. The state’s legal apparatus – the mechanism we depend on to maintain the rule of law – has been rendered impotent.
Lantigua is following the lead set by President Obama and Governor Patrick. Unless effective action is taken by the court soon to stop such blatant disregard for the law and for the directives of the courts, we will lose our grip on civilization.
It is time for the court to give the Lantigua administration an ultimatum: Produce the requested information within 24 hours or those responsible will be jailed for contempt of court and will remain there until such information is produced, in full.
It is now or never. Are we a society ruled by the whims of men or ruled by laws? We are about to find out.