Tag: The Common Law

Poll: Disorderly Conduct and Disturbing the Peace

"The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious, even the prejudices which judges share with their fellow men, have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which men should be governed. The law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics."

                                                           Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

The recent arrest of Barack Obama's friend Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in Cambridge, Massachusetts has stimulated an unprecedented volume of discussion about the meaning of charges like disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct, which are famously hard to define, and since nothing much less than an infinity of legal detail can specify how either charge is interpreted by judges in Massachusetts and elsewhere, it may be worthwhile to approach this issue from the other side of the bench, and investigate when and how the public believes these and similar charges should be defined and applied.

So temporarily leaving aside the question of which specific offense should or should not be charged, and in order to accommodate this diary to sites where it's either inconvenient or impossible to post a poll, and focusing solely on shouting, because of the particular episode which prompted so much discussion, and additionally leaving aside complications about whatever an individual may be shouting, with the special proviso that it isn't threats or "Fire!"...

Readers are invited to list their preferences in comments according to designations like A1 or B1 as listed below, and of course anyone is welcome to add his or her own set of conditions.

Do you believe that a citizen should be subject to arrest for...

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