On Wednesday I found myself wanting to hum The Circle of Life from The Lion King. I was watching the attorney (Lawyer 1) representing a Humane Society Police Officer (not our organization) attempting to get an emergency injunction to stop an upcoming pigeon shoot at Wing Pointe arguing with the attorney (Lawyer 2) for the “sportsmen’s” club in front of a Judge. The circular argument was worthy of a Disney cartoon.
Lawyer 1: “We seek an injunction to stop illegal pigeon shoots.”
Lawyer 2: “Then why aren’t you charging us instead of asking for an injunction?”
Lawyer 1: “Because the DA refuses to let anyone file charges.”
Lawyer 2: “That’s because shoots are legal.”
Lawyer 1: “No, they aren’t and we could prove it in court.”
Lawyer 2: “Sorry, the DA won’t let you file charges.”
Lawyer 1: “That’s why we are seeking an injunction.”
Lawyer 2: “Then why aren’t you charging us with cruelty?….”
And so the circle of life in the court over pigeon shoots go ever on and on. Meanwhile, District Attorney John Adams, who has forced the withdrawal of strong cases which have a very good chance of demonstrating why pigeons shoots are a violation of Cruelty Law and/or Game code per se and that prior decisions were in error, is somewhere singing Hakuna Matata to himself, without a worry in the world. You can decide if he plays the part of Simba, the Lion King, or Pumbaa, the wart hog.
One major deviation in the perfect circle was that for the second time in a couple months, the case was before a judge who didn’t spout off NRA talking points about the great tradition of pigeon shoots and how America would decline as a great nation should even one shooter ever be charged with cruelty for shooting- let alone stomping, kicking, or ripping the wings off- a pigeon. Both the Judge in the case Wednesday and the Justices in the recent ruling that found a DA could ignore a crime if he chose, expressed disgust for shoots as being poor sportsmanship if nothing else.
But they were all bound by the pesky law. Judges can’t find guilt before the fact, they need to have a charge to weigh before them. They can’t compel a DA to file charges. The DA can choose not to file any charge if he wants. Since only a judge can interpret law, this keeps the charge from being judged on its merit. And another circle goes on.
I don’t blame the lawyers or even the pigeon shooters for making their case in court. That’s what they are supposed to do. I can’t blame a judge for not finding guilt when no case has been made or not filing an injunction when it is not legally appropriate. I can’t even fault, on legal ground, since it’s entirely legal, a DA refusing to allow charges to be filed. I can certainly fault that DA on ethical grounds.
Here’s the deal. Humane Society of Berks County believes there is solid legal reasoning to prosecute pigeon shoots as per se cruelty. We tried to do so once and were ordered to withdraw the charges by the DA, which we did. We still believe we can demonstrate in court why shoots are a violation of law since the laws the violation spans are really, really explicit. When recent video evidence was released showing that shooters were violating not only the law as HSBC believes it to apply but the law as the DA publicly stated he believes it to apply, we offered to prosecute the case on his behalf, under his direction. We’re still waiting for a response.
But there is a DA who is exercising the law which allows him to ignore the law. He ignores the law, he ignores offers by HSBC and others to enforce the law, and he’s ignoring courts which might like a chance to do their jobs and actually judge the merits of the case. When he said it was because his interpretation was that the shoots are legal, it was a difference of opinion. When he ignores the video evidence which shows shooters doing the exact things he himself said would be a violation, one can only wonder if now there is bad faith.
But, hey, he won his election and can do what he wants for the next couple of years. Everyone, now, sing! “It means no worries for the rest of his days (or at least until the next election); it’s his problem-free philosophy- Hakuna Matata!”