Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Princely Sum for a Minor Infraction

I have had no firsthand encounters or experiences with Justice Cynthia Kern, who sits on the bench of the New York Supreme Court in New York County.  [Note to those of you who have not spent much time in the State of New York:  Do not be too awed or impressed with Judge Kern's title.  In the New York State judicial system, the "Supreme Court" is the lowest court of general jurisdiction, comparable to the Courts of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania, or the Circuit Courts in Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia or Michigan, or the Superior Courts in California or New Jersey, or the District Courts in Texas.].

Justice Kern seems to be above average as far as Manhattan judges go, which is neither shameful nor exemplary.  She is despised by the New York City teacher's union, which, if anything, pushes her ever so slightly towards the righthand side of the bell curve.  She seems to make good rulings more often than not.

But neither does Judge Kern does not impress me as being quite in the same league as Holmes, Cardozo, or even Judge Judy Scheindlin.  And one recent decision of hers has been effectively reversed on appeal, on Constitutional grounds.

Albert Prince is an artist who creates sculptures out of, well, junk.  This is his artistic preference, even if I would not procure his objets d'art for my own home.  Albert became artistically inspired by a rooftop television antenna placed in the refuse pile for collection, and, being so inspired, placed the antenna into his car with the intent of creating a new sculpture from it.  [I parenthetically note that, technologically speaking, rooftop antennae are museum pieces in this day and age of cable television.].

The New York City Administrative Code ยง 16-118[7], translated into English, essentially prohibits anyone except the Department of Sanitation from removing recyclable trash placed at the curb, violators being subject to fines and impoundment of vehicles.

One of the NYC Sanitation Nazis caught Albert in the act of taking the antenna and placing it into his car.  The car was impounded and Albert was fined $2000.  The Environmental Control Board upheld the penalty.  Albert appealed the ECB decision to Judge Kern, who upheld the ECB.  Albert appealed Justice Kern's ruling, and the Appellate Division overturned Kern's decision, ruling that $2000 was an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment for the infraction committed by Albert Prince. 

It is heartening to see that at least one appellate tribunal in New York sometimes understands that the purpose of the U.S. Constitution is to protect the citizenry from the excesses of government.

But another question is begged by Prince's case.  Howcum the government is so quick to fight monopolies, except when it is the government that wields the monopoly power?  Wouldn't competition make the NYC Department of Sanitation more efficient?

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