We Have to Insist on Rules
Rules of procedure are a sore spot for me.
For several years, now, I’ve been watching at the state and local levels (especially the local level) as laws and procedural rules have been distorted beyond recognition. On Monday, in fact, I presented a case in a four hour hearing before the Tiverton Town Council, making up the rules as it went, concerning a process for Charter Complaints. The Town Clerk had simply invented a new process that hadn’t been done in the past and that wasn’t described in the Town Charter.
Typically the lawyers’ trick goes something like this: The law doesn’t say what the people in office want it to say. It is therefore “ambiguous,” and they can do whatever they, themselves, feel is reasonable.
A more extreme example is when the lawyers simply pretend the rules are clear and in their favor. That’s the case in the argument of the legislative lawyer whom Ted Nesi cites in his review of how House Speaker Gordon Fox “nullified” a committee vote that he didn’t like (ironically concerning the authority of the Ethics Commission over the legislature).
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