Legal Thought Of The Day, No. 4

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Legal Thought of the Day, No. 4
Category: Religion and Philosophy

“‘It is established that a law fails to meet the requirements of the Due Process Clause if it is so vague and standardless that it leaves the public uncertain as to the conduct it prohibits….’. The Illinois Supreme Court recognized that the term ‘loiter’ may have a common and accepted meaning, but the definition of that term in this ordinance–‘to remain in any one place with no apparent purpose’–does not. It is difficult to imagine how any citizen of the city of Chicago standing in a public place with a group of people would know if he or she had an ‘apparent purpose.’ If she were talking to another person, would she have an apparent purpose? If she were frequently checking her watch and looking expectantly down the street, would she have an apparent purpose? 23

“23. The Solicitor General, while supporting the city’s argument that the ordinance is constitutional, appears to recognize that the ordinance cannot be read literally without invoking intractable vagueness concerns. ‘[T]he purpose simply to stand on a corner cannot be an ‘apparent purpose’ under the ordinance; if it were, the ordinance would prohibit nothing at all.'”

~Justice Stephens, Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999), criticizing a Chicago ordinance designed to combat the loitering of criminal gang members. The ordinance defined “loitering” as “to remain in any one place with no apparent purpose.” After the Supreme Court struck down the ordinance, Chicago renamed the crime “Gang Loitering” and defined it as: “remaining in any one place under circumstances that would warrant a reasonable person to believe that the purpose or effect of that behavior is to enable a criminal street gang to establish control over identifiable areas, to intimidate others from entering those areas, or to conceal illegal activities.”

6:23 PM – 3 Comments – 2 Kudos – Add Comment – Edit – Remove

I think I’m loitering right now….

Posted by The Dog & Pony Show on Thursday, November 29, 2007 at 6:28 PM
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I like the revised one better. Otherwise, philosophy would certainly be a matter of law… Well, your honor, I feel that my purpose, my real purpose for being on that street corner was not to just stand there, but it was to experience what it was like to be on that corner at that moment in time. Yes, your honor, my purpose was simply to be, and to be is the sixth sense according to that old movie “The Bells of St. Mary.” My purpose was also to breathe and live, but that’s always my purpose, your honor.

Posted by J’Nette on Thursday, December 06, 2007 at 11:27 AM
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There was a dissent in Morales. Some judges didn’t want the law to be struck down, and made appeals to emotion about how dangerous the neighborhood was. The fact was that most Chicagoans liked the old law because they didn’t like all those thugs hanging around. Most Chicagoans didn’t want to see the law struck down. I’m sympathetic to those concerns, but I think it all ended well. A vague law was struck down and a more clear and meaningful one was written in its place.

Posted by Tim on Friday, December 07, 2007 at 2:38 AM
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