Article 25

Ask an Unemployed Lawyer

In Uncategorized on 06/06/2013 at 3:36 pm


They Shoot Horses (and Dogs), Don’t They?

By U.L.


Dear U.L.: I read something about the American Civil Liberties Union filing a lawsuit about debtors’ prisons in Ohio. What’s up with that? I thought debtors’ prisons went out of style after Charles Dickens wrote about them like 150 years ago.


Tiny Tim


Dear Tiny:


As Tiny Tim knows, it’s all a matter of perspective.

You know of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), right? Their headquarters are in Norfolk, Va., where they operate a shelter for mostly domestic dogs and cats. In 2012 PETA placed 19 animals for adoption, while killing 1,647 dogs and cats, according to records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

For comparison purposes, in 2009 the Norfolk City Pound killed 54.7 percent of its dogs and cats; in 2008, the Norfolk SPCA killed just over 5 percent and found homes for 86 percent of its domestic pets. The PETA shelter in the same city: in 2009, 0.34 percent adopted, 97.3 percent killed; in 2008, 0.32 percent adopted (seven animals), versus 95.8 percent killed (2,124 animals).

Why would a group of rabid vegans kill so many domestic animals? Ingrid Newkirk, president and co-founder of PETA, says it’s all a matter of … perspective.

In a response to criticism published by The Huffington Post, Newkirk explained that PETA’s efforts are to “help reduce the cost of euthanasia of old and ill animals who belong to people with a low income. (These account for many of the animals that PETA helps.)”

See? Poor people suck, and they do stuff like keep their dogs on chains, which is evil.

“PETA’s statistics are often used, as they are being used now, in a truly perverted way by some ‘no-kill’ evangelists to try to turn people away from the ‘evil’ of what is actually a dignified, merciful release from suffering,” Newkirk wrote.

I bring up the PETA story because I feel about paradox the way Gen. George S. Patton felt about war – God help me, I love it so – but also to show that our moral corruption runs deeper than we’d ever acknowledge. And, of course, this is reflected in our judicial system.

Does Ohio have debtors’ prisons? Of course not – throwing people in jail because they’re too poor to pay would be wrong, as Dickens pointed out two centuries ago. The ACLU suit claims that, in several Ohio counties it studied, people were being sent to jail for not paying their fines without first holding a hearing, although a hearing is required by law.

My problem is even if the ACLU is right – and I’m quite certain it is – what good is it going to do to make sure there is a hearing first? The whole damn system is biased against the poor, because if nothing else they tend to smell bad and keep their dogs on chains until some kind, morally superior middle-class PETA prick gives them a “dignified, merciful release from suffering.”

When I practiced law, Tiny Tim, Christmas season in juvenile court was a special time of year. Who’s late on child support payments? Round those bastards up and throw them in jail, because nobody wants Daddy in jail for Christmas, so someone will find the money. It works surprisingly well. The government gets to add to its coffers, too, of course.

Among lawyers, it was not uncommon to joke about spikes in people being picked up for non-payment of fines: “Hey, somebody’s gotta pay for that damn bridge, or to cut layoffs of firefighters before the election, etc. …” This was usually followed by the reminder of, “Hey, at least they’ll get three squares a day and have some time to relax and play cards.”

In my dealings with child-support agencies, it wasn’t uncommon to even have the mom wonder aloud why we were throwing someone in jail for non-payment of support. As he rots in jail, she knows she’s not getting a cent.

Here’s a pop quiz.

Q: Your child is failing school. How do you try to get him to pass?

A: Confine him to his room for a month or two to keep him from attending school. That’ll teach him.

As I understand it, there have been two presidents who reduced the size of the federal government in my lifetime: Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, also known as two of the least popular presidents ever. The message is clear: The American people want lower taxes, but they don’t want any of their services cut. The obvious answer for the fed is to starve state and local governments to make bankers happy. But somebody has to pay for those local services.

Thus you have Click It or Ticket, cops acting as well-armed meter maids, drink-driving checkpoints and letters from the bureau of motor vehicles automatically suspending your driver’ license for not answering a letter within 14 days – even if you have insurance. And don’t forget making private prisons (aka “campaign donors”) happy by keeping them stocked with fresh souls, almost exclusively from the ranks of the poor. And if you’re a poor kid who wants to play a sport or in the school band – well, good luck with that.

What’s that you say, Tiny Tim? God bless us every one.

Never take the advice of an Unemployed Lawyer. Always consult with an attorney for any legal advice in your situation. If, however, you want to ask, write to



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