Brian Smith

Rights, moral claims, and immoral acts

232 posts in this topic

-------

Your example doesn't provide the context of whether or not you were acting with "reasonable care" nor was enough information given to determine whether your actions would or would not qualify as "reasonable care". Thus the question is being asked outside of the context required to give a rational answer.

Well, let's put it this way. If the owner of the vase puts it in the middle of the kitchen floor, balanced on a thin wooden frame so that the center of gravity was above the base of the vase, then it is his responsibility if it falls if someone bumps it. An owner has responsibility to properly secure his property. But that was not the issue that I thought we were talking about. The issue was whether damaged property, qua property, was a violation of the rights of the owner who has the right to keep his values. After a piece of property was damaged, a determination would be made as to whether the owner properly secured it. If all of these contextual issues have to be determined prior to the damage, then there would never be any justification for getting the government involved in any particular claim. If someone claims his rights were violated, is it not the function of the courts to determine if, in fact, such a violation did occur? On what basis would the courts, or police, take any action with respect to damaged property, if the context that would typically be apart of the trial have to be determined before even claiming that one's rights were violated? Who would make such a determination? Should I take the person who broke my vase out into the backyard and fight about it?

In other words, if you agree that 'responsibility, like care, is contextual,' and that your comments were supposedly framed by this principle, how do you square that with your question about assigning responsibility without including the necessary context?

As I, hopefully, explained above, the determination of the context under which the property was damaged is a function of the legal system. If the context had to be determined before the engagement of the legal system, how would you even make a legal claim? Is it not the function of the government to provide an objective means of settling disputes? The damaged property should be prima facie evidence that the owner has a right to get the government involved in settling the dispute, which would then determine if the owner contributed in any manner to the damaged property, should the defendent so claim.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wouldn't, but that is a difference between moral and legal responsibility. I would seek to make restitution, and I think that is the right thing to do, but the law might not hold me legally liable.

Why would you make restitution if the owner put the vase in an unstable position?

But that determination of liability would only be determined after the issue went to trial, which can only happen if there is evidence that the owner's rights were violated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
An owner has responsibility to properly secure his property.
Yes. And there are many conditions under which an owner might be viewed as not having secured his property "properly". Having a priceless vase in a room where a single bump can cause it to be damaged or destroyed could indeed be viewed as a lack of protection. I alluded to some of these factors when I said a rational man takes his cues from the way an owner treats his property. If an owner exposes his priceless property to the same natural hazards he exposes his cheap property, what care is that telling the otherwise unknowing rational man he should take with the vase?
But that was not the issue that I thought we were talking about.
Yes it is the issue we were talking about. It is specifically the issue of implied consent as it relates to the concept of "reasonable care." If a property owner gives consent for someone to do something with his property, then it is not a violation of the rights of the owner's rights if that someone does that something.

For instance, if you give me your consent to pick up and shatter a vase on your wall, the "damaged property, qua property" is not "a violation of the rights of [you] the owner who has the right to keep [your] values." With your consent, you have given permission for that value to be lost. In other words, I would have had your consent for the physical contact. Of course, if I did not have that consent, then the damage would be a violation of your rights.

That is an example of explicit consent. Now take an example you have used of implied consent:

If you give me a glass to drink from, implied in the consent to use that glass is the possibility that, despite "reasonable care," I may accidentally break it. Thus, if I do break it, and it is determined I was using "reasonable care" given whatever the circumstances might have been, then the "damaged property, qua property, is not "a violation of [your] rights." With your consent, you have given permission for that value to be potentially lost. In other words, I would have had your consent for the physical contact. Of course, if I was not using the glass with "reasonable care" then I would not have had your consent, and the damage to the glass would be a violation of your rights.

The same is true of all your property - no matter how little or how great its value - up to and including a priceless vase.

If all of these contextual issues have to be determined prior to the damage, then there would never be any justification for getting the government involved in any particular claim.
Really? Do you mean men cannot come to honest disagreement over the interpretation of an agreement - especially an implied one? The entire contractual court system would seem to stand in contradiction to such a claim.
If someone claims his rights were violated, is it not the function of the courts to determine if, in fact, such a violation did occur?
If the parties cannot agree on this themselves, yes.
On what basis would the courts, or police, take any action with respect to damaged property, if the context that would typically be apart of the trial have to be determined before even claiming that one's rights were violated?
A trial comes after a claim of rights violation has been made and after the collection of evidence has been performed.

For instance, to use your ming vase on a wooden frame in the kitchen example - if I bump it and it breaks, you can certainly try to claim I have violated your rights. And I can certainly disagree. If we cannot settle the issue between ourselves, then the justice system would investigate your claim to determine objectively whether the facts support your claim. If they do, then a determination would be made that your rights were violated and I would be made to compensate you accordingly. On the other hand, if (as you say in the example) the facts do not support your claim, then the courts would make the determination that your rights were not in fact violated and the case against me would be dismissed.

Who would make such a determination?
If the parties involved cannot reach an accord peacefully on their own, then the government is the one who would make such a determination.
Should I take the person who broke my vase out into the backyard and fight about it?
Of course not. Again, if you cannot peacefully resolve the issue between yourselves, then the courts will objectively settle it for you.
The damaged property should be prima facie evidence that the owner has a right to get the government involved in settling the dispute
I do not believe anyone has disputed this fact (or even raised it for that matter). Nor was it your point of contention.

You originally claimed: "The issue was whether damaged property, qua property, was a violation of the rights of the owner who has the right to keep his values." But now you are switching your argument to whether damaged property should be evidence that a violation of rights might have occurred and thus needs to be investigated.

These are two quite different propositions.

I would agree that damage can definitely serve as evidence that a rights violation may have occurred. But, as I have said over the course of many posts here, damaged property is not evidence that a violation of rights has necessarily occurred. Damaged property doesn't tell the govt. who had what consent. It doesn't tell the govt. if the vase was smashed with permission or without it. It doesn't tell the govt. whether the glass was broken with implied consent or against explicit consent. Damaged property doesn't even tell the govt. who was involved in its damage. All of these things require an investigation into the facts of the case. And none of these things is not communicated by the mere fact of damaged property.

So, yes, damaged property can be the impetus for starting an investigation into a potential violation of rights. But damaged property alone does not identify or establish a violation of rights (that is, again, part of that false alternative I mentioned).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Why would you make restitution if the owner put the vase in an unstable position?

I probably wouldn't under that circumstance, but if he was acting reasonably and so was I and I caused the vase to break by accident, I would try to make it right.

But that determination of liability would only be determined after the issue went to trial, which can only happen if there is evidence that the owner's rights were violated.

Actually, the principles and precedents used in the common law are rather commonsensical, like reasonable care, proximate cause, etc., and are based on everday understandings between civilized people. It is pretty hard for a person not to know that you should treat other people's property with care.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But that determination of liability would only be determined after the issue went to trial, which can only happen if there is evidence that the owner's rights were violated.
Not every violation of rights must go to trial - or even to the government. Take one of Stephen's earlier examples. A person playing baseball in his own yard breaks his neighbor's window. That is definitely a violation of the neighbor's rights. Do the police have to be called in? Do the two neighbors have to get lawyers? Do they have to take matter to court? Do they have to have a judge resolve the issue for them?

No.

The neighbors may get together amicably and settle the issue themselves. If they agree between themselves what happened and who is at fault, then the restitution can be taken care of and the violation resolved. A justice system would only have to enter the picture if there was a disagreement between the parties as to who did what and who bears responsibility for it. Resolving such disputes peacefully and objectively is one of the only proper functions of government.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Again, were they totally unaware of the normal occupant of the house, or didn't that matter? Did the 92 year old acquire a gun in order to defend herself against low lifes strong arming her? And this 92 year old is supposed to tell the difference between a local drug dealer and his cronies, and non-uniformed police bashing in her door at night?

Following up on this thread, here's a news story about the legal disposition of the officers involved:

2 Officers Plead Guilty to Manslaughter After 3 Indicted in Botched Raid That Killed Elderly Woman

Part of the story:

ATLANTA — Two police officers pleaded guilty Thursday to manslaughter and other charges in the shooting death of a 92-year-old woman during a botched drug raid at her home last fall.

Officer J.R. Smith, who also agreed to resign from the police department, told a state judge that he regretted what had happened.

"I'm sorry," the 35-year-old said, his voice barely audible. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation, making false statements and perjury, which was based on untrue claims in a no-knock warrant obtained to enter Kathryn Johnston's home on Nov. 21.

Former Officer Gregg Junnier, 40, who retired from the Atlanta police in January, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation and making false statements under the plea deal. Both men are expected to face more than 10 years in prison.

In a hearing later in federal court, both pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to violate a person's civil rights, resulting in death. Their state and federal sentences would run concurrently, and both men agreed to help investigators with their probe into the activities of Atlanta narcotics officers.

The charges followed a Nov. 21 "no-knock" drug raid on Johnston's home. An informant had described buying drugs from a dealer there, police said. When the officers burst in without warning, Johnston fired at them, and they fired back, killing her.

Fulton County prosecutor Peter Johnson said that the officers involved in Johnston's death fired 39 shots, striking her five or six times, including a fatal blow to the chest.

Johnston fired only once through her door and didn't hit any of the officers, he said. That means officers who were wounded likely were hit by their own colleagues, he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Yonette Sam-Buchanan said Thursday that although the officers found no drugs in Johnston's home, Smith planted three bags of marijuana in the home as part of a cover story officers concoted.

A third officer, Arthur Tesler, who is on administrative leave, was charged with violation of oath by a public officer, making false statements and false imprisonment under color of legal process. His attorney, William McKenney, said Tesler expects to go to trial.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Assistant U.S. Attorney Yonette Sam-Buchanan said Thursday that although the officers found no drugs in Johnston's home, Smith planted three bags of marijuana in the home as part of a cover story officers concoted.

Not only that, but the NYT reports: "Officer Smith planted three bags of marijuana, which had been recovered earlier in the day in an unrelated search, in the basement. He called a confidential informant and instructed him to pretend he had made the drug buy described in the affidavit for the search warrant."

So not only did they concoct a cover story to explain their lethally wrongful actions, not only did they plant evidence [how is it they still had this evidence and why wasn't it noticed missing?], but they also used their authority to pressure a private citizen to lie for them [which makes one wonder what promises or, more likely, threats were made against him to get him to originally cooperate].

All in all, these men proved to be corrupt to their core.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites