Underestimated allies of freedom are judges who uphold constitutional government and smack down regulatory agencies when they cross the line.
In recent months, we’ve had some stellar rulings by fair-and-balanced judges.
We’ve also witnessed some of the most egregious decisions, including Kenton Circuit Court Judge Gregory Bartlett’s refusal to issue an injunction against the printing of November’s ballots until county clerk Gabrielle Summe had followed the proper procedure of verifying signatures on a petition seeking to allow voters decide an unwanted government agency’s future.
Representatives of the Northern Kentucky Tea Party and the Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky sought the injunction after Summe arbitrarily backhanded thousands of signatures of citizens seeking to ax the illegal and bloated Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission.
Bartlett refused to step in.
But we have some bold judges who remain faithful to both the spirit and letter of the law.
Kentucky Court of Appeals judges Kelly Thompson and Michael Caperton rightly ruled that Jefferson County Public Schools violated state law by not allowing parents to enroll children in schools nearest their homes.
Among those supporting the district’s nonsense is Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Irv Maze, who earlier decided that parents should have little say in the process, and that only the ruling elite of a school district can “determine what school the students … attend.”
But every liberty-loving Kentuckian should thank Divine Providence for the fact that we have some judges who, unlike Maze, uphold the law.
Thompson did just that, while deriding the Jefferson County bureaucrats’ claim that the law only allows parents to “enroll” their children in the nearest neighborhood school but doesn’t ensure they can actually attend those schools.
It “defies logic,” he said.
Thompson then made this request of the Jefferson County school officials: “I’d like to ask that you concentrate on neighborhood schools and get out of the courtroom. You’ve got more litigation than any school district in the country.”
The school district’s response? They’re going to appeal and force taxpayers to continue funding their legal antics.
Speaking of taxpayers being compelled to fund courtroom mischief, before the recent ruling by Circuit Judge Rodney Burress, Bullitt County Health Department Director Swannie Jett bragged that every major Kentucky city that has instituted a smoking ban and faced litigation has won.
So Jett’s health department, which reportedly has spent around $100,000 to defend its oppressive smoking ban, concluded it has carte blanche to regulate smoking in Bullitt County, including creating – and using police powers to enforce – its own ban.
“Nyet,” said the judge.
Accepting the department’s position that “it has the authority to regulate any matter relating to public health would allow (it) to adopt regulations that prohibit the consumption of candy because it is bad for a person’s teeth, to prohibit consumption of deep fried foods, and to limit the consumption of red meat,” Burress stated.
He also made it clear that only elected bodies, not unelected – and unaccountable – health boards, are allowed to create and enforce law.
Burress said that unchecked, the health board’s regulation would also allow it “to regulate the time of night a person has to go to bed based upon the fact that lack of sleep influences a person’s health.”
Then he delivered this blow, protecting the individual liberty of every Kentuckian endangered by one of these health boards: “This court does not believe that type of ‘Big Brother’ conduct was anticipated by the Kentucky State Legislature in its grant of power and authority to health boards.”
We may not be able to stop “Big Brother” in Bullitt County from watching smokers light up. But at least for now, the judge has kept it from doing anything else.
Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at email@example.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.